Jalen Smith

Fischer’s Latest: McCollum, Powell, Simmons, Turner, Hawks, Schroder

Anfernee Simons‘ breakout season is leading to speculation that the Trail Blazers may try to trade CJ McCollum or Norman Powell, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Portland entered the season with plans to be a contender, but injuries and some disappointing performances have left the team in a tight race for a play-in spot. With Damian Lillard sidelined after abdominal surgery, the Blazers may opt to unload some of their assets and take advantage of a high draft pick going into next season.

There have been whispers throughout the league that McCollum might be available, though Fischer wonders how much of a return he’ll provide considering that he’s 30 years old, is in the middle of a down season, and has been out of action for six weeks after suffering a collapsed lung. He also has two full years left on his contract at $33.3MM and $35.8MM.

Powell, who signed a five-year, $90MM extension during the offseason, seems like a more surprising name to be included in trade talks. However, about a dozen teams wanted to acquire him before he went to Portland at last season’s deadline and Fischer found that many league executives see his contract as valuable.

There’s a belief that Powell wouldn’t mind being traded again, as sources tell Fischer that there were “several snags” in his contract negotiations with the Blazers. One of the teams he considered in free agency was the Pelicans, according to Fischer, who notes that New Orleans is seeking to upgrade to improve its chances of reaching the play-in tournament.

Fischer shares a few more trade rumors from around the league:

  • Little has changed on the Ben Simmons trade front since the offseason, as Sixers ownership, the front office, coach Doc Rivers, and star center Joel Embiid are all united in the stance that the team needs to get an elite player in return. Fischer states that Philadelphia is willing to wait for someone along the lines of Lillard, Bradley Beal, James Harden or Jaylen Brown to become available. The Sixers have discussed three-team packages with the Kings, Pacers and Timberwolves, but none of those teams can offer a star that Philadelphia sees as equal value for Simmons.
  • The Pacers are seeking multiple first-round picks in exchange for center Myles Turner. The Mavericks, Timberwolves, Knicks, Kings, Hornets and Trail Blazers have all expressed interest, and several league executives told Fischer that the Raptors might be a team to watch. The Cavaliers and Knicks have asked about Caris LeVert, but Indiana also wants multiple first-rounders for him. The Pacers have gauged the trade value of Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb and Torrey Craig too, Fischer adds.
  • The Hawks are willing to consider a major upheaval before the deadline, with a rival assistant GM telling Fischer that he believes everyone except Trae Young and Clint Capela are available. Atlanta appears willing to move De’Andre Hunter for veteran help, and there may be a market for Danilo Gallinari, who only has a $5MM guarantee next season on his $20MM contract.
  • The Celtics will try to trade Dennis Schröder, who is unlikely to be re-signed next season because of tax considerations. The Knicks, Cavaliers and Mavericks are all possible destinations. Boston has also targeted Suns center Jalen Smith, who will be a free agent after Phoenix declined his third-year option.

Pacific Notes: Fox, J. Smith, Klay, Draymond

The Kings have missed out on the postseason for 15 straight seasons, which is tied for the longest playoff drought in NBA history (with the Clippers, from 1977-1992). Kings owner Vivek Ranadive has reportedly given GM Monte McNair the green light to make any roster moves necessary to improve their playoff chances and give them a pathway to sustained success going forward.

With that in mind, De’Aaron Fox‘s name has started popping up more in trade rumors. The Sacramento Bee’s guest columnist Brenden Nunes makes the case for building around the 24-year-old point guard. Nunes notes that there has been near-constant turmoil in Sacramento during Fox’s time with the team, including a rotating cast of ill-fitting teammates, three head coaches and two general managers.

Fox’s statistics of 20.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 5.1 APG on .450/.247/.750 shooting (39 games, 34.2 MPG) are down from last season’s numbers of 25.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 7.2 APG on .477/.322/.719 shooting (58 games, 35.1 MPG). Fox can be frustratingly inconsistent on both ends, but his talent is clear and Nunes believes the Kings should stick with Fox and Tyrese Haliburton as the backcourt of the future and build around the two young guards, as opposed to trading either of them.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns may have a dilemma on their hands with Jalen Smith‘s unrestricted free agency looming this summer, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Smith performed well over a recent six-game stretch while Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee were in the health and safety protocols, averaging 15.8 PPG, 10.2 RPG, and 1.0 BPG on .554/.385/.857 shooting in 25.5 MPG. Phoenix declined Smith’s third-year option of $4,670,160, so it can’t exceed that amount to retain him in free agency. If Phoenix were to trade Smith, the acquiring team also wouldn’t be able to exceed the amount of his third-year option, Hollinger writes. Given his strong play recently, it’s conceivable that a bidder in free agency could come up with an offer higher than the declined option, so any team interested in acquiring him via trade would essentially have Smith as a rental player in that scenario — severely limiting his trade value. Hollinger notes there’s still a chance the Suns could re-sign him relatively cheaply depending on how the rest of the season plays out, but it was a head-scratching move at the time that has come under more scrutiny after he was given actual playing time.
  • Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who recently made his long-awaited season debut, is on a strict minutes limit of 20 per game right now, but he expects that to be bumped up “in a week or two,” writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Thompson has looked spry in his first two games back, averaging 15.5 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 20.0 minutes.
  • Draymond Green is likely to miss at least three more games for the Warriors with calf soreness, Slater tweets. Head coach Steve Kerr said it’s “doubtful” that Green will join the team on its current road trip, which runs through Sunday in Minnesota.

Celtics Rumors: J. Green, Schröder, Nesmith, J. Smith, Hernangomez

The Celtics have expressed interest in reacquiring forward Jeff Green, Michael Scotto said on the latest episode of the HoopsHype Podcast. Green was a Celtic from 2010-15 and was coached by Brad Stevens from 2013-15. Stevens is now Boston’s president of basketball operations.

It’s unclear how motivated the Nuggets would be to trade Green after signing him in free agency this past offseason. He has started 24 games and averaged 24.7 minutes per contest in Denver this season while playing primarily at power forward and center. Still, the Nuggets have other options at power forward – including Aaron Gordon, JaMychal Green, and Zeke Nnaji – and are reportedly in the market for a backup center with more size, so it’s possible Jeff Green could be had.

Here are a few more notes on the Celtics:

  • In addition to reiterating that Boston would be open to moving Dennis Schröder, Scotto said on the HoopsHype Podcast that he’s heard Aaron Nesmith is also available. Nesmith, 2020’s No. 14 overall pick, had a decent rookie year but has seen his playing time and production decline this season.
  • The Celtics have made several trade calls out of due diligence, including inquiring on Suns center Jalen Smith, according to Scotto. Smith had his third-year option for 2022/23 turned down by Phoenix, so he’ll be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but whichever team has his Bird rights won’t be able to offer a starting salary higher than $4,670,160, the amount of that declined option.
  • Scotto suggests Oklahoma City is a team to watch if and when the Celtics look to trade Juan Hernangomez to sneak below the luxury tax line. The Thunder are more than $20MM below the NBA’s minimum salary floor, so any team looking to dump a contract will likely call them first.

Western Trade Rumors: Westbrook, Pelicans, Nuggets, Blazers, More

The Lakers have had internal conversations about the possibility of trading Russell Westbrook, league sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Westbrook hasn’t fit in as well with LeBron James and Anthony Davis this season as the team had hoped.

However, Fischer suggests that any deal involving Westbrook is unlikely. He’s earning $44.2MM, with a $47.1MM player option for 2022/23, and there simply aren’t many players around the NBA who are available and could be used for salary-matching that sort of figure.

Fischer notes that a Cavaliers package centered around Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio would work, but such a deal probably wouldn’t appeal to Cleveland and hasn’t been discussed by the two teams. The Lakers, meanwhile, likely wouldn’t have much interest in acquiring Rockets guard John Wall, whose salary is nearly identical to Westbrook’s.

As Fischer writes, Sixers star Ben Simmons is one player whose salary could make him a candidate to be moved in a trade for Westbrook, and a Monday report indicated the Lakers have interest in Simmons. But Westbrook isn’t on Philadelphia’s wish list and conversations between the 76ers and Lakers haven’t gotten very far, says Fischer.

Here are a few more trade rumors from around the Western Conference, via Fischer:

  • Despite their slow start, the Pelicans haven’t given up on the idea of vying for a spot in the play-in tournament and could be buyers at the trade deadline, according to Fischer, who says former lottery pick Jaxson Hayes is considered to be available via trade.
  • The Nuggets are seeking wing upgrades and may put JaMychal Green on the trade block, sources tell Bleacher Report.
  • Jusuf Nurkic and Robert Covington, who are both on expiring contracts, are viewed as perhaps the most obvious trade candidates for the Trail Blazers, but Larry Nance Jr. may also be a prime target for rival front offices, says Fischer.
  • The Rockets would like to create an opening on their 15-man roster to promote two-way player Garrison Mathews, Fischer writes. Houston has a number of veteran trade candidates on its squad, including Eric Gordon, Danuel House, D.J. Augustin, and Daniel Theis.
  • The Spurs have been “frequently linked” to Suns center Jalen Smith, who is on the trade block, according to Fischer. Phoenix has previously been reported to have interest in San Antonio forward Thaddeus Young.

Trade Rumors: Schröder, Reddish, Ross, Knox, Forbes, J. Smith

Rival teams anticipate that the Celtics will be willing to discuss Dennis Schröder in trade talks this season, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Boston unexpectedly signed Schröder to a one-year, $5.9MM deal in the offseason using the taxpayer mid-level exception after the bottom fell out of the point guard’s market. He has enjoyed a strong season so far, averaging 17.5 PPG and 4.9 APG through his first 26 games (33.4 MPG) with the Celtics, which may ultimately price the club out of being able to re-sign him as a free agent in 2022.

The Celtics won’t have cap room in 2022 and would only be able to offer Schröder a 20% raise using his Non-Bird rights. As such, it might make more sense to recoup some value by getting what they can for him at the trade deadline — especially since the C’s don’t look like a legitimate contender at this point.

Here are a few more trade rumors from around the NBA, courtesy of Charania:

  • The Hawks are believed to be seeking a first-round pick in any trade involving Cam Reddish, while the Magic are taking a similar stance with Terrence Ross, says Charania. Neither team should face significant pressure to lower its asking price, since both players are under contract for one more season beyond this one.
  • Sources tell Charania that teams have called the Knicks to ask about former lottery pick Kevin Knox, who is in his fourth season and will be a free agent in 2022. Knox had a nice game on Sunday, with 18 points and five rebounds vs. Milwaukee, but has otherwise barely played this season, prompting teams to wonder what New York’s plan for him is.
  • Spurs guard Bryn Forbes, who is on a one-year, $4.5MM deal, is expected to receive trade interest from contenders, according to Charania. Forbes played a role for Milwaukee’s championship team last season.
  • Suns center Jalen Smith has drawn a little interest and is a candidate to be moved before this season’s trade deadline, per Charania.

Suns Notes: Kaminsky, Ayton, Sarver, Smith

The stress reaction that Suns big man Frank Kaminsky suffered in his right knee won’t keep him out for the rest of the season, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Kaminsky didn’t join the team for its current four-game road trip as doctors are trying to determine the best way to deal with the injury.

“We’re going to miss him for sure, but we’re hopeful he can get back sooner rather than later,” coach Monty Williams said. “He’s a huge part of our team, culture and we just have to wait and see, but just feel for him cause he was playing so well.” 

Kaminsky is coming off one of the most productive stretches of his career. When starting center Deandre Ayton missed six games with a right leg injury, Kaminsky averaged 14.6 points per game in that stretch, including a career-best 31-point outing. He averaged just 6.6 PPG in 15.2 minutes per night last season for Phoenix, but his role has expanded with Dario Saric rehabbing a torn ACL.

There’s more from Phoenix:

  • Ayton was upset over not getting an extension before the deadline, but he has put aside any hard feelings because the Suns are winning, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype states in a podcast with Rankin on several Suns-related topics. Ayton felt disrespected to be left out while some of his teammates were extended, Rankin reveals, but as long as he keeps playing well, he’ll be in position to demand a huge contract next summer.
  • Also on the podcast, Rankin says the investigation of owner Robert Sarver will likely last for several months. He notes that it’s being done by the same law firm that recently investigated the Mavericks, which took about eight months to complete. Rankin says the players have talked about the allegations against Sarver and are doing their best to prevent them from becoming a distraction.
  • Questions about Jalen Smith‘s work ethic led to the Suns’ decision not to pick up his third-year option, Rankin adds. It’s significant that when Ayton was sidelined, most of his minutes went to Kaminsky instead of the 2020 lottery pick. Rankin notes that Smith has an unusual combination of skills and the Suns don’t have a G League affiliate where he can develop his talents.

Suns Declining 2022/23 Option On Jalen Smith

The Suns won’t exercise the 2022/23 option on 2020 lottery pick Jalen Smith, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

[RELATED: Suns Exercise Cameron Johnson’s 2022/23 Option]

As a result, Smith will become an unrestricted free agent during the summer of 2022, two years before his rookie contract normally would have expired and two years after being drafted 10th overall. Phoenix – or whichever team finishes the season with Smith on its roster – won’t be able to offer him a starting salary that exceeds $4,670,160, the amount of his declined option.

Smith, 21, appeared in just 27 games as a rookie last season, averaging 2.0 PPG and 1.4 RPG in 5.8 minutes per contest. The big man flashed some promise in recent months with his play in Summer League (16.3 PPG, 12.5 RPG) and during the preseason (9.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG).

It’s rare for teams to decline options (especially third-year options) on rookie scale contracts, since it’s still so early in the player’s career and the price is typically pretty reasonable. As our tracker shows, Smith is the first player still on a rookie contract whose third-year option is being turned down this year. Jarrett Culver‘s fourth-year option is reportedly being declined by Memphis.

Passing on Smith’s ’22/23 option should allow the Suns, who project to be a taxpayer, to replace him with a minimum-salary player next season.

Reports during the offseason indicated that Smith was a potential trade chip. It’s safe to assume Phoenix will continue shopping him leading up to this year’s trade deadline, though the fact that the team turned down his option signals that he doesn’t have a ton of value.

Pacific Notes: Poole, Moody, Lakers, Crowder

The Warriors are being supportive of Jordan Poole, who has been erratic in his first experience as a full-time starter, writes Alex Didion of NBC Sports Bay Area. Poole has turned in a mix of good and bad games, and although he’s averaging 14.0 PPG, turnovers have been an issue and he’s shooting just 40.8% from the field and 22.6% from 3-point range.

In a radio appearance Friday, coach Steve Kerr said ups and downs are normal for a third-year player, adding that he “couldn’t be happier” with how Poole is handling his new role. Backcourt partner Stephen Curry echoed those sentiments and said they talk frequently about what it takes to be a consistent NBA player.

“He wants it really bad. He wants to be great in this league. You can see it,” Curry said. “But it takes time, and for him, it’s understanding that you don’t have to press every night, especially when you’re on other teams’ scouting reports and they are going to try to take you away from your patterns and sweet spots.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Moses Moody was recalled to the Warriors today after a one-game stint in the G League, notes Rusty Simmons of The San Francisco Chronicle. NBA playing opportunities have been scarce so far for the rookie guard, but team officials like what they’ve seen. “He’s mature beyond his years, both as a human being and as a player,” Kerr said. “It’s mostly just getting in reps since he hasn’t been able to play much for us.”
  • Frustrated with their early-season defensive effort, Lakers players took steps to fix it Friday night, according to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times“I come in to talk to the guys at halftime and they’re already watching film, talking to each other,” coach Frank Vogel said after Friday’s win over Cleveland. “(Rajon) Rondo was in there, LeBron (James), (Russell Westbrook), (Anthony Davis). They’re all talking and figuring things. We’re looking at our clips that we pull as well. So, they were just motivated. It’s not happening on the defensive side the way we want, but we’re working towards it.”
  • Jae Crowder is serving as a mentor to Suns‘ second-year power forward Jalen Smith, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Smith hasn’t seen much playing time since being taken with the 10th pick in last year’s draft, so Crowder has become his personal instructor. “He does a great job of just telling me what he sees and what he feels,” Crowder said. “What he wants to add to his game and how he wants to try to get on the court. I’m just trying to help. Be a big brother. Be a good teammate. Help my brother out.

Scotto’s Latest: Cavs, Bulls, J. Smith, D. Jordan, Dudley, More

There were some “intense” talks in the Lauri Markkanen sign-and-trade negotiations between the Cavaliers and Bulls for several days leading up to their agreement last week, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype said in his latest podcast with Yossi Gozlan.

According to Scotto, Cleveland originally wanted to include three second-round picks in their offer for Markkanen, but Chicago insisted on receiving a first-rounder, and the Cavs were able to get one from Portland for Larry Nance Jr. and reroute it to the Bulls.

Even after securing that first-round pick, the Bulls held out for a second-rounder on top of that, according to Scotto, who says some of the parties involved in those negotiations were frustrated by what they perceived to be a moving of the goal posts. Eventually though, the Cavs sent a protected second-round selection to Chicago to get the deal done.

Here’s more from Scotto:

  • Second-year big man Jalen Smith has been made available by the Suns, multiple sources tell Scotto. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report stated last month that Phoenix was gauging interest in Smith, and I speculated earlier this week that the former lottery pick could be in play if the Suns make a trade offer for Spurs forward Thaddeus Young.
  • Scotto reports that the Nets have offered a first-round pick swap in trade talks involving center DeAndre Jordan, but haven’t found any takers. The two sides are reportedly exploring a buyout.
  • Jared Dudley told Scotto that he planned to retire if the Lakers didn’t re-sign him, since he didn’t want to play anywhere else. When L.A. chose to move on, Dudley accepted an assistant coaching job with the Mavericks.
  • The Bulls are among the teams that have shown some interest in free agent wing James Ennis, according to Scotto.
  • When he re-signed with the Knicks, Nerlens Noel wasn’t assured the starting center job, but he’ll get a chance to compete for that role and will “definitely” play meaningful minutes, says Scotto.

Suns Eyeing Thaddeus Young

The Suns are among the contending teams that have pursued veteran forward Thaddeus Young, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Young, who will earn $14.19MM in a contract year in 2021/22, was sent from the Bulls from the Spurs in the sign-and-trade deal that landed DeMar DeRozan in Chicago.

Young is coming off a productive season, having averaged 12.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 4.3 APG with a career-best .559 FG% in 68 games (24.3 MPG) for the Bulls in 2020/21. And his expiring contract at a reasonable rate makes the 33-year-old a relatively safe investment.

However, it’s unclear whether he’s in the Spurs’ plans or if the team simply acquired him as part of the DeRozan return for salary-matching purposes and would happily flip him. Charania suggests that San Antonio is expected to receive “strong interest” in Young from playoff teams.

Phoenix could use some extra depth at the power forward spot since Dario Saric is expected to miss most or all of the 2021/22 campaign while recovering from a torn ACL. Any offer the Suns make for Young would likely start with Saric (who is earning $8.51MM) for salary-matching purposes and would have to include another asset or two.

The Suns would have to add a little more salary to Saric’s $8.51MM to sufficiently match Young’s cap hit, and many of their lesser-paid players aren’t yet trade-eligible since they were recently signed. As such, second-year center Jalen Smith looks like a potential candidate to be included in any offer for Young, though that’s just my speculation.