Jaren Jackson Jr.

Southwest Notes: Chriss, Okafor, Grizzlies, Mavs

The Rockets hope Marquese Chriss will develop into the type of backup center they thought they acquired when they signed Brandan Wright late last season, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Wright got hurt quickly and only played one game for Houston, but the team sees Chriss as the same style of player, a mobile big man who can attack the rim on pick-and-rolls.

Chriss was acquired from the Suns at the end of August in the trade that sent Ryan Anderson to Phoenix. The former eighth overall pick had a solid debut for the Rockets on Tuesday with 11 points and four rebounds and welcomes a more defined role.

“The difference is they know what they want me to do,” Chriss said of the Rockets. “They’re asking me to do a specific job. I’m trying to do it to the best of my ability. There really is no question about what they want my role to be. They made it straightforward to me when I first got traded here. I embraced it, and I’m working to do it as best as I can. Being on the Suns, it was kind of touch and go what we were capable of doing or I was able to show.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Jahlil Okafor‘s ankle injury won’t prevent him from making the Pelicans‘ roster, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. Okafor is expected to miss a week or two after spraining his right ankle late in Sunday’s game, but coach Alvin Gentry said that won’t affect his decision on Okafor’s status.
  • The Grizzlies should have plenty of minutes for both rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. and JaMychal Green, the returning starter at power forward, writes Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian. Jackson attracted more attention at media day, but Green is entering the final year of his contract at nearly $7.7MM and has incentive to put up big numbers heading into free agency.
  • Mavericks‘ forward Ding Yanyuhang hasn’t practiced yet because of knee tendinitis, but may be able to make his preseason debut in his home nation of China, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Coach Rick Carlisle said Ding has been ruled out for the team’s game in Shanghai, but he may practice and play in Shenzhen. Carlisle also said the next update on Dirk Nowitzki‘s condition will come October 12 (Twitter link).

Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, Nowitzki, Gentile

The Grizzlies will hold their annual media day on Monday and Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian is looking at six key questions that loom over the team’s upcoming campaign. Among them are how much Mike Conley and Marc Gasol can still contribute, what rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. can provide and how the rotation will play out in the backcourt and on the wing.

After a disappointing, injury-riddled 2017/18 season that saw the Grizzlies win just 22 games, the team added Jackson, Kyle Anderson and Garrett Temple (among others) in the offseason in hopes of returning to the playoffs. All of Memphis’ offseason additions point to a return to “grit and grind,” the style of play that brought the Grizzlies a lot of success over the past decade, including four playoff series victories.

Conley will play a deciding role in the team’s success. Back in 2016/17, he was a borderline All-Star averaging 20.5 points and 6.3 assists per game while knocking down over 40 percent of his 3-pointers. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and coming off a significant foot injury, but if Conley can produce at that level this season the Grizzlies will be competitive.

The same can also be said for Gasol, the 33-year-old center who looked disengaged throughout most of last season as the team shifted its focus on developing young players and maximizing its draft pick. With the addition of several veterans in the offseason and the return of his point guard, Gasol should bounce back and continue to be a force in the middle for the Grizzlies.

Despite all of their additions and a clean bill of health, it will be very tough for the Grizzlies to make it back to the postseason given the improvements that several teams in the Western Conference made, including Denver, Dallas, and the Lakers.

There’s more from the Southwest division:

  • While Mavericks big man Dirk Nowitzki has made no clear indications that this upcoming season will be his last, Rick Carlisle told Dwain Price of Mavs.com (Twitter link) that he believes there’s a real chance Nowitzki will call it quits after this campaign. If Nowitzki does indeed retire after the 2018/19 season, he will join another future Hall-of-Famer in Dwyane Wade, who announced that this upcoming season will be his last.
  • Speaking of Nowitzki, Carlisle also revealed that the 40-year-old will likely come off the bench, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link). This would pave the way for Carlisle to start Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Luka Doncic, Harrison Barnes and DeAndre Jordan, and would allow Nowitzki to be an offensive focal point for the Mavericks‘ bench units.
  • With the Rockets starting training camp on Tuesday, the team released the roster of players participating in camp this season. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter) pointed out that Alessandro Gentile is not on that roster, despite previous expectations and wishes for him to join the team and try to make the jump to the NBA this season. Gentile, who was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft, has been recovering from hand surgery and will likely have to wait another year in his attempt to make it to the NBA.

Grizzlies In Limbo Between Contention And Rebuild

The Grizzlies are an interesting franchise to keep an eye on moving forward this season and beyond, as they are somewhat in a state of limbo – not quite rebuilding but not close to being a serious contender either – writes Mark Giannotto of The Commercial Appeal.

To be sure, Memphis had a relatively nice offseason. They drafted a potential future franchise cornerstone in Jaren Jackson, they signed Kyle Anderson to the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception, and traded for veteran guard Garrett Temple. By midseason, all three could possibly join Mike Conley and Marc Gasol in the Grizzlies’ starting lineup.

Yet, as Conley says, because of the new pieces learning to fit in and difficulty of the Western Conference, it may turn out to be an “awkward” year in Memphis.

“This season, expectations are still try to be that playoff team, that team that comes out and really makes it tough on everybody. But it is an awkward year with so many teams getting so much better [with] different acquisitions they made in the offseason.”

In addition to adding Jackson, Anderson, and Temple, the Grizzlies also traded away relative disappointments Ben McLemore, Deyonta Davis and Jarell Martin, while adding rookie Jevon Carter, a potential throwback-type player to the Grit ‘N’ Grind era.

Ultimately, it’s probably still going to be difficult for Memphis to make the playoffs in the West, even assuming a 22-win improvement from last year that would see Memphis literally double the amount of victories from a season ago. As such, a rebuild is probably closer to fruition than title contention.

As Giannotto notes, only seven players (not including Gasol’s player option) are signed beyond this season, and only rookie Dillon Brooks had a meaningful role on last year’s team. Accordingly, one would think that most teams would begin rebuilding this season. Only time will tell if the Grizzlies choosing to do otherwise was the right call.

Grizzlies Sign Jaren Jackson To Rookie Contract

The Grizzlies became the latest team to formally lock up their first-round pick to his rookie scale contract on Sunday, announcing in a press release that they’ve signed Jaren Jackson Jr.

Jackson, the fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft, elected to go pro after spending just one season at Michigan State. As a freshman, the 6’11” forward/center averaged 10.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and an impressive 3.0 BPG in just 21.8 minutes per contest. He also showed an ability to make outside shots, with a .396 3PT%.

As the No. 4 overall pick, Jackson figures to earn a first-year salary of approximately $5.9MM. That’s the maximum allowable 120% of the rookie scale amount for the fourth overall pick. His deal will feature two guaranteed years, with team options on the third and fourth seasons.

Three of this year’s top-five picks have now officially signed their rookie scale contracts, with Jackson joining Marvin Bagley III (Kings) and Trae Young (Hawks).

Draft Updates: Porter, Jackson, Knicks, Doncic

There are conflicting views among lottery teams over the medical report on Michael Porter Jr., tweets ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. Doctors from some teams advised staying away from Porter entirely, but medical staffs from other organizations don’t believe the risk is all that high. Concerns about the long-term condition of Porter’s back have caused ESPN’s Jonathan Givony to drop him to 12th in his latest mock draft.

Porter’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, provided newer and more detailed medical information to lottery teams today, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Bartelstein hopes the updated info will help ease concerns about Porter’s condition.

There are a few more draft notes to pass along:

  • Jaren Jackson Jr. has softened his stance on going to Memphis now that it appears the Grizzlies might select him at No. 4, relays Wojnarowski. (Twitter link). Jackson, who refused to work out for Memphis, has given team officials all the personal information they asked for. Wojnarowski adds that coach J.B. Bickerstaff helped to sell Jackson on his future with the organization.
  • The Knicks have narrowed their focus to Kevin Knox and Miles Bridges if they hang on to their No. 9 pick, reports TNT’s David Aldridge (Twitter link). It’s possible that Aldridge meant to type Mikal Bridges, who has been projected as a possible lottery pick.
  • Luka Doncic confirmed on ESPN’s draft telecast that he plans to play in the NBA next season. That had been widely anticipated, but Doncic’s comments removed any doubt before the draft began.
  • With the draft about to begin, the Jazz are still open to moving up, down or keeping their first-round pick, tweets Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah holds selections No. 21 and 52.

Draft Rumors: Top 6, Bulls, Kings, Sixers, Suns

The Mavericks, Bulls, Cavaliers, and Clippers are among the teams still exploring the possibility of moving up in the draft lottery, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Wojnarowski adds that the Sixers‘ pick (No. 10) is in play for teams targeting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Wojnarowski currently believes that Deandre Ayton (Suns), Marvin Bagley III (Kings), Luka Doncic (Hawks), Jaren Jackson Jr., Mohamed Bamba (Mavericks), and Trae Young (Magic) are the most likely selections (Twitter link). Interestingly, the Grizzlies are the only team Wojnarowski doesn’t mention in his rundown, suggesting the No. 4 pick is still the most likely selection at the top to be traded.

If the top six plays out like that and Chicago doesn’t trade up, the Bulls would likely opt for Wendell Carter Jr. over Michael Porter Jr., tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune.

Here are several more rumors worth passing along as draft night nears…

  • Kings beat reporter James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area (Twitter link) is also getting the vibe out of Sacramento that Marvin Bagley III is the club’s likely choice at No. 2.
  • Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter link) is hearing some buzz linking Zhaire Smith to the Sixers at No. 10.
  • Although the Heat are exploring opportunities to trade into the first round of tonight’s draft, it’s hard to imagine the club completing a deal for a first-round pick unless it can shed a veteran salary, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.
  • The Suns, who hold Miami’s pick at No. 16, are eyeing Donte DiVincenzo, Zhaire Smith, Jalen Brunson, Aaron Holiday, Lonnie Walker, Troy Brown, Elie Okobo, and Landry Shamet at that spot, per John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link).
  • NBA teams have been impressed with Michael Porter Jr. in interviews, but the club that picks him will have to be “ultra-cautious” with his health, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, who suggests (via Twitter) that sitting Porter for a good chunk of 2018/19 is a real possibility.

Draft Rumors: Bridges, Knox, Nuggets, Jackson, Clippers

Villanova forward Mikal Bridges is at the top of the Sixers’ wish list if they don’t move out of the No. 10 spot, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Kentucky forward Kevin Knox and his college teammate, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, are the likely alternatives if Bridges is off the board, Pompey continues. Knox came in for a solo workout with the Sixers on Tuesday, his second visit with the team. The Sixers are reportedly trying to move into the top five of the draft.

Here’s more draft news to pass along with the big night fast approaching:

  • The Nuggets are actively shopping the No. 14 pick attached to a big salary, Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated tweets. Denver is seeking suitors for the expiring contracts of Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur, Fischer adds. Faried is due to make $13.76MM next season while Arthur has $7.46MM remaining on his deal.
  • The Grizzlies will have a tough decision regarding Michigan State forward Jaren Jackson Jr. at No. 4 if the Hawks select Luka Doncic at No. 3, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN. Doncic has reportedly moved into the lead on the Hawks’ draft board, while Jackson has refused to work out for the Grizzlies and hasn’t provided his medical information, Givony continues. That could increase the chances of Memphis trading the pick, something it has shown little interest in doing up to this point, Givony adds (Twitter links).
  • The Clippers like Jackson and could try to move to the No. 4 spot, but they’ve refused thus far to take Chandler Parsons bad contract as part of any proposed deal, Givony reports in another tweet.

Draft Rumors: Grizzlies, Bamba, Kings, Huerter

One draft-related storyline worth watching on Thursday will be whether top prospects’ apparent efforts to steer themselves to – or away from – certain teams will pay off.

Appearing on 92.9FM in Memphis today, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony suggested that Mohamed Bamba has declined to work out for the Grizzlies, refusing to share his medicals with the team and saying openly that he’d rather not land in Memphis (Twitter link via John Martin). The Grizzlies are the only team in the top half of the lottery with a standout veteran center already on the roster, so it makes some sense that Bamba would prefer to end up elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Givony said during an appearance on Zach Lowe’s ESPN podcast that multiple top prospects may be trying to avoid the Kings (link via Dan Feldman of NBC Sports). According to Givony, Bamba, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Luka Doncic haven’t provided medical information to Sacramento. However, Marvin Bagley III – who wants to be picked as high as possible – seems to have no reservations about landing with the Kings, which may be one reason why the Bagley-to-Sacramento rumors are picking up steam this week.

Here are several more draft-related rumors:

  • Givony’s latest mock draft at ESPN.com includes some interesting changes, particularly in the back half of the lottery, where Trae Young falls all the way to the Clippers at No. 12. Givony also notes that there “seems to be a significant market” for Kevin Knox in the 7-11 range.
  • Jeremy Woo of SI.com has a new mock draft of his own up today, and it’s filled with intriguing tidbits. Among them: Maryland’s Kevin Huerter shut down his workouts weeks ago, and league sources tell Woo that the Lakers are the team that gave him a promise at No. 25. Whether or not that’s true, Woo doesn’t think Huerter will be available that late in the first round.
  • After winning an ACB championship today with Real Madrid, Luka Doncic‘s season is over, freeing him up to attend the NBA draft this Thursday. Doncic will be present in the Green Room for the event, tweets Givony.
  • Armed with four second-round picks in this year’s draft, the Sixers figure to trade at least one or two of those selections. If they do, they’d prefer future second-rounders in return rather than cash, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Appearing on ESPN Radio this week, Michael Porter Jr. said that he’s “feeling great” and that concerns about his health have been overblown. ESPN.com has the story and the quotes from the Missouri forward.

Draft Updates: Green Room, Sexton, Gilgeous-Alexander, Shamet

The names of several green room invitees for Thursday night’s draft have been leaked, relays Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Only college players will be in the room this year, as Luka Doncic is still involved with his season for Real Madrid.

The projected top picks will be well represented with Arizona’s Deandre Ayton, Duke’s Marvin Bagley III, Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr., Texas’ Mo Bamba, Alabama’s Collin Sexton, Oklahoma’s Trae Young, Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr., Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr., Villanova’s Mikal Bridges, Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Michigan State’s Miles Bridges all on hand.

Joining them will be Kentucky’s Kevin Knox, Texas A&M’s Robert Williams, Miami’s Lonnie Walker, Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo, Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith, Boston College’s Jerome Robinson, Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison and UCLA’s Aaron Holiday.

There’s more pre-draft news to pass along:

  • Sexton doesn’t have any more workouts on his schedule after completing today’s session with the Magic, tweets Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Sexton has been limiting his workouts to teams in his projected range, as the only others were for the Cavaliers (No. 8 pick), Knicks (No. 9) and Hornets (No. 11).
  • Gilgeous-Alexander is a rare mid-level prospect who hasn’t conducted a single publicized workout, notes Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype. Although a team or two may have brought him in for a secret session, there are also organizations that tried to work him out but were denied. Kalbrosky speculates Gilgeous-Alexander’s representatives may be trying to steer him to a large-market team like the Clippers, who hold the 12th and 13th picks.
  • The Sixers will work out Wichita State’s Landry Shamet on Tuesday, Kalbroksy tweets, adding that Philadelphia may consider him at No. 26.
  • The Suns held a workout today with Texas Tech’s Smith as the biggest name in the group. Also participating, according to a tweet from the team, were Georgia Tech’s Josh Okogie, Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson, Wake Forest’s Bryant Crawford, Oregon State’s Drew Eubanks and Bosnia’s Markus Loncar. This is the Suns’ final scheduled session before the draft, tweets Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic.

Mavs Notes: J. Jackson, Ferrell, G League, Barea

The Mavericks will face a tough decision this summer, ESPN’s Bobby Marks writes in his offseason preview for the team. While the franchise typically hasn’t had to be patient when it comes to rebuilding, the conservative play would be to do just that, since it’s better for the team’s long-term health, Marks argues.

Dallas has the cap space make a splash in free agency, but the club might be better off viewing 2018/19 as a bridge year in which to continue developing its young players before entering the 2018 free agent period with even more room available.

As we wait to see which direction the Mavs go, let’s round up more items out of Dallas…

  • Michigan State big man Jaren Jackson Jr. will be among the prospects who works out for the Mavericks before the draft, according to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News, who notes that Deandre Ayton is the only top college prospect known not to be working out for the club.
  • Yogi Ferrell will be a free agent for the first time in his NBA career this summer and said recently that he’d like to remain with the Mavericks, as Sefko writes in a separate Dallas Morning News article. “I want to be here,” Farrell said. “And I think they want me to be here. I’m just going to wait and see how it works out.” If the two sides both want to work something out, there shouldn’t be many roadblocks, since Farrell is a restricted free agent.
  • In his latest newsletter, Marc Stein of The New York Times reports that Mavs owner Mark Cuban has secured majority control of the Texas Legends, the Mavericks’ G League affiliate. Cuban has since officially named longtime equipment manager Al Whitley the owner’s liaison to the Legends. “He reports directly to me,” Cuban said of Whitley.
  • Veteran guard J.J. Barea has received the 2017/18 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award from the Pro Basketball Writers Association, per a press release. Barea earned the award, which is given for community service work, after spending much of the year assisting with disaster relief in Puerto Rico.