Jaren Jackson Jr.

And-Ones: Young, Scola, Breakout Candidates, Salary Cap

Guard Joe Young is taking a proactive approach to getting back in the league. He’ll work out for NBA teams in Houston this week, Kelly Iko of The Athletic tweets. Young, who appeared in 127 games for the Pacers from 2015-18, has been playing in China since the Pacers parted ways with him.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Longtime NBA forward Luis Scola has been named CEO of Italy’s Pallacanestro Varese, Sportando relays. Scola retired after playing for Varese last season and Argentina’s national team in the Tokyo Olympics.
  • Darius Garland, Keldon Johnson and Jaren Jackson Jr. are some of the top breakout candidates for the upcoming season, according to a poll of 15 NBA executives conducted by Hoops Hype’s Michael Scotto.
  • The salary cap could increase significantly when new TV deals are signed, Morten Jensen of Forbes Sports notes. Citing a league source, Jensen writes that a $171MM salary cap is possible, assuming no cap smoothing, by 2025. Even with cap smoothing, the cap will likely increase by $15MM annually. However, it should be pointed out that it’s unknown how much the NBA’s next TV deal will be worth, so these figures are speculative.

Western Notes: J. Jackson, Gasol, Blazers, Kings, Christie

A total of 56 free agents reached contract agreements with teams around the NBA on Monday, but not a single one of those players is signing with the Grizzlies. That’s by design though, according to Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal, who writes that Memphis’ plan was always to have a quiet free agent period and focus on negotiating a potential contract extension with Jaren Jackson Jr.

One of 24 players eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason, Jackson won’t get a maximum-salary deal like Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. But Grizzlies head of basketball operations Zach Kleiman has suggested that the former fourth overall pick remains very much in the franchise’s long-term plans.

“I think we’re going to be our best selves over time with Jaren,” Kleiman said after the draft, per Barnes. “Spacing the floor, attacking, creating, defensively taking advantage of the versatility he brings to the table.”

Here’s more from around the West as we wait for day two of free agency to start heating up:

  • When Marc Gasol signed a two-year, minimum-salary contract with the Lakers last summer, there was some speculation that he might decide to retire after the 2020/21 season. That’s not his plan though. As Brian Windhorst of ESPN tweets, Gasol told reporters following Spain’s elimination from the Olympics on Tuesday that he intends to continue his NBA career and finish his contract with L.A.
  • The Trail Blazers formally announced Chauncey Billups‘ coaching staff in a press release on Monday, confirming that previously-reported assistant coaching hires such as Scott Brooks, Roy Rogers, Steve Hetzel, and Edniesha Curry are now official. Former Long Island Nets assistant Milt Palacio will also be part of Billups’ staff, according to the team.
  • Doug Christie is moving from the broadcast booth to the sidelines, as the Kings officially announced the former NBA player and veteran TV analyst will be joining Luke Walton‘s staff as an assistant coach. Christie, who played for Sacramento from 2000-05, said in a statement that coaching for the Kings has been a “dream of mine.”

Western Notes: Shaw, Jackson, Anderson, Kispert

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue has lost at least two members of his staff from this season, including recently-hired Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups. G League Ignite coach Brian Shaw may be one of the replacements. Shaw is in serious negotiations with the Clippers to become one of Lue’s assistants, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Jaren Jackson Jr. is eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason and Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian believes it would take somewhere in the neighborhood of four years and $100MM for the Grizzlies to sign him. That’s a major commitment to a player who has appeared in just 133 career games, Herrington notes, presenting the franchise with a very difficult decision. Herrington takes a deep dive into Jackson’s strength and weaknesses, suggesting the Grizzlies need to play him at center more often to maximize his value.
  • Ryan Anderson admits it was an emotional struggle when things went sour for him with the Rockets, Matt Young of the Houston Chronicle relays. Anderson, who made his comments on The Long Shot podcast, felt heavy pressure after signing a four-year, $80MM contract and his production declined while his defensive deficiencies sometimes kept him off the court. “It was hard for me to be the guy that was like, ‘You need to do more and we’re paying you a lot for this,’ rather than before it was like, ‘Wow, we got a steal for this guy,’” Anderson said. “It really affected me at home. I felt like every time I was in Houston, I was letting down the fans or something like that.”
  • Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert visited the Kings on Wednesday, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Kispert, a 6’7” small forward, averaged 18.6 PPG and 5.0 RPG and made 44% of his 3-point attempts last season. He’s currently ranked No. 13 on ESPN’s Best Available list. Sacramento holds the No. 9 selection.

Southwest Notes: Jackson, Grizz Roster, Rockets, Pelicans

Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. will be eligible for a contract extension of his rookie deal in August, and Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal contends that Memphis’ executive VP Zach Kleiman should exercise caution with Jackson, who has been healthy for just 126 of a possible 227 regular season games across his three seasons with the Grizzlies.

Barnes notes that the Grizzlies could take some steps to insure themselves against future Jackson maladies, like possibly baking an Exhibit 3 clause into a new contract to temper Jackson’s guaranteed money. The Grizzlies can opt to hold off on inking Jackson to an extension until October 18, the day before the 2021/22 season is set to begin.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • With the young Grizzlies having officially entered their offseason, Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian takes a look at the club’s most valuable players. Point guard Ja Morant, Jackson, and wing Dillon Brooks comprise Herrington’s top three. Herrington wonders about the offensive ceiling of Brooks and the long-term healthy of JJJ.
  • The suddenly-rebuilding Rockets find themselves faced with a variety of offseason questions, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Iko thinks that Houston may look to add some intriguing, cost-effective restricted free agents this summer, along the lines of Bulls power forward Lauri Markkanen and Lakers shooting guard Talen Horton-Tucker, tantalizing role players who may be asked to do more with a developing Houston club. Iko also opines on which of the Rockets’ own restricted free agents will be retained. He notes that, in more minor free agency news, that the Rockets may look to shore up their center depth behind Christian Wood.
  • To get back into the playoff mix, the Pelicans need to add more perimeter shooting this offseason, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. A revamped Pelicans roster in the 2020/21 season, led by new coach Stan Van Gundy, finished the year ranked 25th in three-point attempts and 26th in three-point percentage. The team’s lack of consistent reliable perimeter scorers made it easier for defenses to game-plan against its best players, forwards Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

Grizzlies Notes: Offseason, Morant, Winslow

In the wake of the Grizzlies‘ elimination from the postseason, executive VP of basketball operations Zach Kleiman vowed to “keep pushing forward” and expressed a “massive belief” in the team’s core, as Michael Wallace of Grind City Media writes.

[RELATED: Grizzlies Sign Zach Kleiman To Contract Extension]

Kleiman acknowledged that the team’s growth and progress toward contending for a title may not always be linear, but said he’s confident it’s headed in the right direction and that he believes players will want to be part of what the Grizzlies are putting together.

“The culture we’re building, the way we want to play, the personalities of Ja (Morant) and Jaren (Jackson Jr.), players are going to want to play with these guys,” Kleiman said. “We’re building an organization that’s going to compete at the highest level, have the best medical care, the best player development, no state income tax in Memphis, it’s an incredibly comfortable place to live. We’re building something here guys are going to want to continue to be a part of, and I believe something that players are going to be attracted to.”

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • While the Grizzlies need to continue upgrading the roster around him, Ja Morant‘s leadership and next developmental steps will be a crucial part of the team’s offseason, Wallace writes in a separate story for Grind City Media.
  • Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal weighs the pros and cons of bringing back Justise Winslow for the 2021/22 season. Memphis has until August 1 to make a decision on Winslow’s $13MM team option, though the team could technically re-sign him even after declining his option.
  • In the first part of a two-part series, Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian ranks the Grizzlies’ players in order of their importance going forward, starting with the players who aren’t locks to be part of the team’s future. Herrington speculates that Memphis will pick up Winslow’s team option and suggests that if the club makes a major trade, there’s a good chance that at least one of Brandon Clarke and Xavier Tillman would be on the move.

Knicks Notes: Randle, Bonuses, J. Jackson

A report last week indicated that Julius Randle and the Knicks are expected to discuss a contract extension for the standout forward this offseason. While it remains to be seen if the two sides will strike a deal, Randle sounds very open to getting something done with New York sooner or later. Appearing on “Victory The Podcast,” the 26-year-old expressed a desire to be a Knick long-term, as Marc Berman of The New York Post relays.

“I love playing in New York,” Randle said. “I want to retire as a New York Knick.”

Although Randle becomes extension-eligible this offseason, he may ultimately opt to wait until 2022 to sign a new contract, even if he wants to remain with the Knicks. His starting base salary on a four-year extension could only be worth 120% of his 2021/22 base salary ($19.8MM), whereas he’d be eligible for more money (and one extra year) if he waits until he’s a free agent.

Here are a few more Knicks-related notes:

  • While Randle’s base salary next season will only be $19.8MM, a pair of incentives will now be considered likely, instead of unlikely, boosting his cap hit for 2021/22 to $21.78MM, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. In 2020/21, Randle has earned both bonuses (worth $945K apiece this year) by making the All-Star team and being part of a playoff team.
  • The Knicks clinched their playoff spot on Wednesday, but they have more ambitious goals this spring, as Marc Berman of The New York Post details. The club still has a shot to move up to No. 4 in the East, and will be looking to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs.
  • In another story for The Post, Berman says there have been whispers that the Grizzlies aren’t yet fully sold on Jaren Jackson Jr., who has had some durability issues throughout his pro career so far. While I’d be surprised if Memphis plans to move on from Jackson anytime soon, Berman notes that the big man used to be represented by Leon Rose at CAA and his father (Jaren Jackson Sr.) works for the Knicks. Jackson Jr., who is extension-eligible this offseason, is one of a number of players New York will keep an eye on, just in case.

Southwest Notes: Jackson, Cuban, Porter, Bilas

Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. has proven worthy of reclaiming his starting role with the club, writes Mark Giannotto of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“The plan was always for me to just get the rhythm with the guys that are out there,” Jackson said of his acclimation back onto the Grizzlies roster. “It doesn’t really matter what rotation it is because we have so many guys playing.”

“The big picture is we’re having a lot of dialogue about what our rotations are going to look like,” Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins said.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • With new Rockets wing Kevin Porter Jr. scoring a career-high 50 points against the Bucks in a 143-136 win, it’s become clear that head coach Stephen Silas feels confident in the promising 20-year-old, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “I was just so proud of him,” Silas raved. “He’s been through quite a bit. To see him free and almost getting into the zone, … it was so fun to watch.” Porter registered his respect for his coach as well. “Really, he just gives me that confidence to go out there and play how I play, play how I’ve been playing all my life,” Porter said. “Once a coach gives you basically a green light and the keys, the sky’s the limit.”
  • Mavericks team owner Mark Cuban sat down for a conversation with Tim Cato of The Athletic to discuss the NBA’s new play-in tournament, the relationship between All-Star Dallas guard Luka Doncic and former All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis, and the team’s approach to building around its two most high-impact players.
  • Before ultimately hiring Daryl Morey as the Rockets‘ new general manager in 2007, former Houston owner Leslie Alexander apparently gave serious consideration to former player and current college analyst Jay Bilas for the position. Bilas told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski during a recent interview on Woj’s podcast that the Rockets offered him the job, but that the two sides couldn’t agree to terms (hat tip to RealGM).

Southwest Notes: Bledsoe, Louzada, Porzingis, Jackson Jr.

Eric Bledsoe‘s season has gone from bad to worse, as Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune details. Bledsoe admitted he “wasn’t paying attention” to Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy when the team was instructed to intentionally foul while up by three points against the Knicks in the closing seconds last Sunday. That led to a game-tying 3-pointer. He was benched for a good portion of the second half against Brooklyn on Tuesday, then saw action in 22 minutes against Orlando on Thursday.

Attempts to unload Bledsoe’s contract could prove troublesome for New Orleans. He’ll make a guaranteed $18.1MM next season, though his $19.375MM salary for 2022/23 is only partially guaranteed.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Didi Louzada‘s contract with the Pelicans is expected to be a two-year deal and he’ll sign it sometime next week, Will Guillory of The Athletic tweets. Louzada, a second-round pick in 2019, most recently played in Australia with the Sydney Kings. The news that the swingman was signing with New Orleans broke on Sunday. He averaged 8.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG and 24.1 MPG in 20 contests with Sydney this season, shooting 39% from the field and 26% from behind the arc.
  • Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis left Thursday’s game against the Lakers with a sprained left ankle but it’s not believed to be serious, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. Porzingis, who was playing the second end of a back to back, rolled the ankle while pursuing a loose ball in the third quarter. He was walking in the locker room afterward.
  • Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. made his long-awaited season debut on Wednesday and looked sharp. He had 15 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in 18 minutes during a 12-point loss to the Clippers. He was relieved to finally play after rehabbing from knee surgery, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk writes. “This is a big win,” he said. “It’s been a long stretch for me.”

Jaren Jackson Jr. Could Return On Wednesday

Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. could make his season debut on Wednesday. He’s been upgraded to questionable on the team’s injury report for its game against the Clippers, the team’s PR department tweets.

Jackson suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee during the summer and has spent the season rehabbing the injury after undergoing surgery in mid-August. He could provide a major boost to a team sitting in the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.

Last season, Jackson averaged 17.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 1.6 BPG in 57 starts. The team exercised its option on his contract for next season prior to this season. He’ll make $9.18MM in 2021/22 and then head into a free agency, either restricted or unrestricted, in the summer of ’22 unless he signs a rookie scale extension prior to opening night next season.

In terms of this season, Jackson’s return could impact the playing time of Xavier Tillman, Brandon Clarke and Justise Winslow.

Jackson will be on a minutes restriction, according to Mark Giannotto of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“We’re not going to just throw (Jackson) into the fire and play a heavy load,” coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We’re going to be smart about his minutes and his integration, obviously trying to find the right combinations for him to be successful, for our team to be successful.”

Southwest Notes: Van Gundy, Redick, Jackson Jr., Rockets

Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy has chimed in on the comments made by former New Orleans guard J.J. Redick, who was dealt to the Mavericks last week in a trade deadline day agreement.

Redick claims Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin promised the team would move him to a situation he liked after he requested a trade last fall. As previously reported, the 36-year-old asked to play for a team in the Northeast with hopes of being closer to his family. New Orleans struggled to find a suitable package and traded him to Dallas instead.

“[J.J.] had some things that he wanted to happen. But I think Griff cared very much about what J.J. wanted, but he has a responsibility to Gayle Benson and to the organization that supersedes all of that,” Van Gundy said as part of a larger quote, as relayed by ESPN’s Andrew Lopez.

Van Gundy and Redick have a history dating back to Orlando from 2007-12. Regardless of what was communicated between Redick and the Pelicans, the sharpshooter’s focus has surely shifted to helping the Mavericks secure a postseason berth for the second straight season. Dallas currently holds the seventh-best record in the Western Conference at 25-21.

There’s more from the Southwest Division today:

  • Speaking of Redick, the 15-year veteran has yet to play for the Mavericks due to a right heel injury, as relayed by The Associated Press. No timetable has been set for his return. “My understanding is that things are going in a very good direction,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “We obviously hope he can be back 100% sooner than later.” Redick underwent a non-surgical procedure over three weeks ago to relieve inflammation and soreness.
  • Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. expects to return from a torn meniscus this month, Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian tweets. Jackson suffered the injury last August and was ruled out for the remainder of the 2019/20 season. The 22-year-old averaged 17.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 28.5 minutes per game during the campaign, appearing in 57 contests.
  • Various players and staff from the Rockets recently received COVID-19 vaccines, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle notes. As we previously relayed, the NBA has relaxed its league-wide protocols and restrictions for those who receive the vaccine.