Jonas Valanciunas

Grizzlies Notes: Cho, Valanciunas, Anderson, Assistants

After being let go by Charlotte in 2018, former Hornets GM Rich Cho had been consulting work for the Grizzlies, so it made sense that new Memphis executive VP of basketball operations and former Hornets intern Zach Kleiman contacted him right away last week when a permanent, high-level position opened up in the team’s front office.

“Yeah, he reached out to me pretty quickly,” Cho said, per Peter Edmiston of The Athletic. “Zach did a really good job for us in Charlotte as an intern, he’s a really bright guy and he’s passionate about the game. He’s an extremely hard worker. I’ve watched his career progress from afar and I’m really happy the way things have gone for him, especially that he’s getting this opportunity.”

As for his new role in Memphis, Cho said that he’ll be overseeing the team’s analytics department and all of the salary cap administration. He’ll also be advising the rest of the management group on player personnel issues and acquisitions, as Edminston details. Kleiman will be running the show for the Grizzlies, so Cho is ready to do what he can to assist the 30-year-old executive.

“On a 30,000-foot level, I’ll be helping Zach out wherever he needs help, and advising him accordingly,” Cho said. “As the GM, he’s going to have to wear a lot of hats and be involved in everything, and I’m going to try to help him out wherever I can.”

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • Of players who appeared in at least 10 games in March, Jonas Valanciunas has the league’s 16th-highest usage rate, and averaged 10 more minutes per game than he had been playing in Toronto, writes David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. As Cobb notes, Valanciunas was very happy with his increased role in Memphis, which could have an impact on his contract decision this summer — the big man has until June 13 to decide whether or not to pick up a $17.62MM player option.
  • As expected, Grizzlies forward Kyle Anderson underwent thoracic outlet decompression surgery on his injured right shoulder on Wednesday, the team announced in a press release. According to the Grizzlies, Anderson is expected to make a full recovery and resume full basketball activities before the club opens camp in the fall.
  • The Grizzlies have now lost a pair of assistant coaches to Vanderbilt. After leaving Memphis to become Vanderbilt’s new head coach, Jerry Stackhouse has brought fellow assistant Adam Mazarei to his staff, the school confirmed today in a press release. Grizzlies assistant Chad Forcier also announced earlier this week that he’s moving on, as J.B. Bickerstaff‘s staff disperses in various directions in advance of a new coach being hired.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Valanciunas, Grizzlies, Spurs

A report earlier this week indicated that the Pelicans had David Griffin the go-ahead to hire a general manager underneath him, and that he was likely to choose former Cavaliers executive Trent Redden. However, speaking to reporters, including Scott Kushner of The Advocate, at his introductory press conference on Wednesday, Griffin insisted that he’s more concerned with attracting the right kind of people to New Orleans than with specific titles.

“We need to get all the right people on the bus and we can figure out what we call each other once we are rolling to the right place, and I think that’s a really meaningful thing,” Griffin said, per Kushner. “I think the areas you have the biggest ability to build competitive advantage in infrastructure is very much in performance and player care. It’s an area I put a lot of weight on and area I’m very familiar with re-working and believing in.”

As we detailed on Wednesday, Griffin also talked about Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, the perception of New Orleans as a “small” market, and several other topics during his first meeting with the media. However, according to Kushner, the Pelicans’ new top basketball executive made it clear that his top priority is building a solid, sustainable infrastructure within the organization.

“My biggest goal in all of this is, when I get run out of town on a rail, and we all do eventually, this can sustain itself for [team owner] Mrs. [Gayle] Benson,” Griffin said. “So, the next person she puts in charge will know they’re starting on really solid footing.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Despite rumors that Jonas Valanciunas had to make a decision on player option yesterday, his decision isn’t actually due until June 13, Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian confirms (via Twitter). The Grizzlies‘ center is unlikely to match his $17.62MM salary for 2019/20 if he opts out, but he could easily exceed that total number on a longer-term deal, so it’s not clear yet which direction he’ll go.
  • A team source tells Herrington that the Grizzlies are expected to make more front offices hires even after adding Rich Cho and Glen Grunwald on Wednesday.
  • Veteran point guard Mike Conley wants to play for a championship contender, and it’s not clear whether that can happen in Memphis anytime soon. Still, the Grizzlies have to do what’s best for the franchise, not necessarily what’s best for Conley, as they weigh major roster decisions this offseason, writes Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.
  • In an entertaining piece for ESPN.com, Baxter Holmes takes a deep dive into the secret team dinners that have been a fixture for Spurs coaches, executives, and players throughout Gregg Popovich‘s tenure with the organization, exploring how those dinners influence the club’s culture and success.
  • On Wednesday, we examined the Maverickssalary cap outlook for the coming offseason.

Grizzlies Notes: Bickerstaff, Conley, FAs, Anderson

J.B. Bickerstaff‘s first full season with the Grizzlies may have been a little underwhelming in terms of the team’s win-loss record (33-49), but given all the injury problems that plagued the team throughout the year, it seems the team is happy with his performance. General manager Chris Wallace said as much today, telling reporters that Memphis plans to bring Bickerstaff back for next season, according to David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“J.B. and his staff did a great job keeping everybody together and improving both individually and team-wise down the stretch,” Wallace said.

As for his own future, Wallace said he and owner Robert Pera have yet to sit down for their end-of-season meeting. However, he didn’t sound particularly concerned about his job security, per Cobb.

“That’s between me and Robert,” Wallace said. “I don’t want to go into that publicly. I’m very comfortable here and comfortable working with him and really not worried about my situation at all.”

[UPDATE: The Grizzlies have fired Bickerstaff and re-assigned Wallace]

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • According to Cobb, Wallace said today that he expects the Grizzlies to continue listening to trade offers for point guard Mike Conley this offseason, though that doesn’t mean Conley will be moved. “Teams are going to continue to knock on our door leading up to the draft and into the summer,” Wallace said. “We value Mike. We’d love to keep moving forward with him. We’ll see where it goes.”
  • The Grizzlies would like to retain the players they acquired in exchange for Marc Gasol at the trade deadline, including Jonas Valanciunas and Delon Wright, Wallace said today (via Cobb). Valanciunas has a player option for 2019/20; Wright will be eligible for restricted free agency. According to Wallace, Valanciunas is “a true Memphis Grizzly” who has loved playing in Memphis, while Wright “fit in very well both on and off the floor.”
  • Forward Kyle Anderson will undergo thoracic outlet decompression surgery next week on his right shoulder, the Grizzlies announced in a press release. He’s expected to make a full recovery and should be ready to go for the 2019/20 season, according to the team.
  • Joakim Noah will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and there’s no guarantee he’ll stick with the Grizzlies, but he appreciates that the club was willing to take a chance on him following his disastrous stint in New York. “Memphis was the only team that showed me any consideration,” Noah told ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Asked if he expects to remain on an NBA roster next season, Noah replied, “F— yeah.”

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Southwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Southwest Division:

Dorian Finney-Smith, Mavericks, 25, SF (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $3.4MM deal in 2016
The Mavericks can make Finney-Smith a restricted free agent by extending $1.93MM qualifying offer. That’s small change by NBA standards but there’s no guarantee they’ll do it. Finney-Smith has been a rotation player throughout his third season in the NBA with trades and injuries opening up playing time. He’s averaging 7.4 PPG and 4.7 RPG in 24.4 MPG and still hasn’t developed a 3-point shot (31.9%), though his defensive ratings are on the plus side. Finney-Smith seems like a second-unit player going forward, whether it’s with the Mavs or elsewhere.

Jonas Valanciunas, Grizzlies, 26, C (Up) — Signed to a four-year, $64MM deal in 2016
Valanciunas was putting up silly numbers with Memphis before a Grade 2 ankle sprain sidelined him for the remainder of the season. He was averaging 19.9 PPG, 10.7 RPG and 1.6 BPG in just 27.7 MPG in 19 games since being traded by the Raptors. Of course, it’s easier to do that on a bad team, but it certainly added an element of mystery to Valanciunas’ offseason plans. It seemed a safe bet that Valanciunas would exercise his player option for a guaranteed $17.6MM. He might choose now to test the market and gain long-term security, even if he makes a few million less next season.

Iman Shumpert, Rockets, 28, SG (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $40MM deal in 2015
Shumpert made his money with his current contract. He won’t be receiving any $11MM-per-year offers this summer. His 2017/18 season was a washout due to knee and foot injuries. He’s managed to stay on the court this season but his impact has been minimal. The Kings dealt him to Houston in a three-team trade in February and Shumpert has shot 29% from long range in 18 games with the Rockets. Shumpert’s 34% career average from deep is subpar and he’s never posted a PER above 12 in any season. He’ll likely be looking at veteran’s minimum offers this summer.

Stanley Johnson, Pelicans, 22, SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $12.85MM deal in 2015
Johnson was a colossal disappointment with the Pistons after a promising rookie campaign. A change of scenery, via a deadline trade, offered Johnson a fresh start. But he hasn’t been much better with New Orleans than he was in Detroit. Johnson’s strength is his perimeter defense and ability to guard a variety of positions, but he’s got to become more of an offensive threat for his career to blossom. The Pelicans can make him a restricted free agent by extending a $4.5MM qualify offer. One of the things their new GM must decide is whether to give the 22-year-old Johnson another year to improve his game.

Rudy Gay, Spurs, 32, PF (Up)– Signed to a one-year, $10.1MM deal in 2018
Quietly, Gay has delivered one of the best seasons of his career. His field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage are career highs. His rebounding average (6.8) is second only to his 7.4 mark in 2013/14, when he played 8.7 more minutes per game. His PER is a rock-solid 17.8. All the more impressive is that Gay tore his Achilles two seasons ago at age 30, an injury from which many players never fully recover. Gay may attract some interest from a contender seeking another veteran piece but the likely scenario is San Antonio rewarding him with a two- or three-year deal.

Southwest Notes: Valanciunas, Spurs, Doncic, Miller

Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas is done for the season after suffering a grade II right ankle sprain during Sunday’s game against the Clippers, the team announced on Monday. While the veteran big man won’t suit up again, he made a strong first impression in Memphis after coming over in a February trade, averaging 19.9 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, and 1.6 BPG in his first 19 games (27.7 MPG) with the team.

Of course, as Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian notes, there’s no guarantee Valanciunas will be back with the Grizzlies next season. He has a player option for 2019/20, which means he could opt out and elect to sign elsewhere. Still, in an examination of the free agent market for centers, Herrington makes the case that that’s an unlikely scenario. A more probable outcome would involve Valanciunas opting into his $17.6MM salary for next season, or reaching a deal on a longer-term extension with Memphis.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • It has been a week and a half since the Spurs were said to be nearing a deal with Donatas Motiejunas, and Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas tweets that visa issues are holding up an agreement (hat tip to Sportando). The Spurs have gotten involved to try to push the process along, per Urbonas. That’s an indication that San Antonio still wants to get Motiejunas on its roster before the end of the regular season.
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and GM R.C. Buford are two of the longest-tenured high-level executives in the NBA, in part due to their strong relationship with team ownership. As Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News details, with a new generation of the Holt family set to succeed their parents Julianna Hawn Holt and Peter M. Holt on the Spurs’ board of managers, Popovich and Buford are expecting a smooth transition. “We have full confidence in them,” Popovich said of siblings Peter J. Holt and Corrina Holt Richter. “They’re really intelligent, hard-working people who understand the organization. They’ve grown up with it.”
  • Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic has missed the team’s last two games with a right leg injury, but head coach Rick Carlisle remains hopeful that Doncic will get back on the court before the end of the season, writes Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News.
  • Pelicans swingman Darius Miller is dealing with a grade 1 left adductor strain, and isn’t a lock to return to the court this season. The team announced last Friday that Miller will be sidelined for a week or two.

Southwest Notes: House, Porzingis, Grizzlies

After having his two-way deal officially converted into a standard NBA contract today, Danuel House is happy to be back with the Rockets, telling reporters he’s “really excited that we got everything done,” as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. Head coach Mike D’Antoni is also glad to have House on the 15-man roster, per Feigen.

“It’s good,” D’Antoni said. “There’s no downside; there’s only upside. He played really well for us. As soon as we can work him back in the rotation, if he’s as good as he was, then it’s all positive. If it doesn’t work out, it is what it is and we still have the same team.”

While House played a regular rotation role for the Rockets earlier in the season, even starting 12 games, the team has a healthier roster and a deeper bench at this point. Feigen notes in a separate article that it will be interesting to see how Houston manages all its pieces the rest of the way.

Currently, the Rockets’ bench features Austin Rivers, Gerald Green, Kenneth Faried, Nene, Iman Shumpert, and House, among others, so the club figures to use the final month to assess how many of those players will see regular minutes in the postseason.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Thirteen months after undergoing ACL surgery, Kristaps Porzingis participated in his first 5-on-5 practice for the Mavericks on Wednesday. And according to Dwain Price of Mavs.com, all indications are that it was a very successful return for the big man. “He went through a full practice with no issues, so very encouraging,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s made tremendous progress with his rehab, with his conditioning, his strength, and (playing 5-on-5) was the next logical progression. He played 3-on-3 yesterday morning with some of the other guys and did extremely well there. So this went really well.” Porzingis still isn’t expected to return to game action until 2019/20.
  • Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas has made a strong early impression on his new club in Memphis, as Blake Murphy of The Athletic details. David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal also takes a look at Valanciunas’ first month with the Grizzlies and looks ahead to assess whether or not the 26-year-old will exercise his $17.6MM player option for next season.
  • In a column for The Memphis Commercial Appeal, Mark Giannotto argues that the Grizzlies have been better off without Marc Gasol in recent weeks, as they’ve played at a faster pace and appear to be having more fun on the court. While it was painful to see Gasol go, it’s becoming clear that the two sides needed to move on from one another to move forward, Giannotto writes.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Davis, Grizzlies, Mavs

While Anthony Davis is back on the court for the Pelicans after last week’s trade deadline drama, things don’t look quite right in New Orleans. On Tuesday night, the Pelicans were run off their home court by the Magic, suffering a 118-88 loss to a team outside the playoff picture in the East.

“We sucked,” Davis said after the game, per Brett Martel of The Associated Press. “Nobody was interested in playing, is what it looked like.”

It certainly seems possible that Davis’ trade request and all the speculation about his future continues to impact the Pelicans’ performance on the floor. Head coach Alvin Gentry was in no mood to have that discussion though, as Martel relays.

“What we’re trying to do is just move on from it. We need to bury it,” Gentry said of Davis’ decision to request a trade. “Whatever our new normal is, we want to get back to that and put all the other stuff behind us and just start playing and trying to win basketball games, and trying to compete and try to get our young players better. That’s all I want to do. That’s it. And I’m not going to talk about it anymore. I’m done talking about it.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • In a column for The Advocate, Scott Kushner argues that the Davis saga – particularly his return to the court – has been a “prolonged, smug jab at the intelligence of Pelicans fans.” In Kushner’s view, the Pelicans and Davis are no longer invested in one another, and the team should either stand up to the NBA by benching Davis or have someone from management or ownership publicly address the situation.
  • Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley appeared likely to be traded leading up to last week’s deadline, and admitted that he had trouble sleeping and checked his phone “a thousand times,” as Royce Young of ESPN.com details. Conley, who described Thursday as a long, emotional, and difficult day, has been fairly quiet on the court since the deadline, scoring 11 points on Saturday and then missing Tuesday’s game with an illness.
  • In advance of Jonas Valanciunas‘ debut with the Grizzlies on Tuesday, David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal explored how the team’s newest big man would fit in. The plan is for Valanciunas to come off the bench behind Ivan Rabb, but if he keeps playing like he did last night (23 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes), that plan may be short-lived.
  • During a radio appearance on KESN-FM 103.3 ESPN in Dallas, Bobby Marks examined how the Mavericks might use their cap room this summer after moving Harrison Barnes, suggesting that Nikola Vucevic will be among Dallas’ top targets (link via The Dallas Morning News). The Mavs’ interest in Vucevic was previously reported.

Grizzlies Trade Marc Gasol To Raptors

9:05pm: The Raptors have officially acquired Gasol from the Grizzlies, sending Valanciunas, Wright, Miles and a 2024 second-round pick to Memphis in return, the teams announced on Thursday.

“Marc [Gasol] brings significant playoff experience to our team, which along with his savviness and leadership skills really helps position us for our ultimate post-season goal,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said. “We look forward to welcoming Marc to our city and team.”

12:55pm: The Raptors and Grizzlies are finalizing a trade agreement that would send Marc Gasol to Toronto, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Memphis is expected to receive Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, and a 2024 second-round pick in exchange for Gasol, according to Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

It’s the latest major development in what has turned into an arms race among the Eastern Conference’s top contenders. The Sixers acquired Tobias Harris on Wednesday morning, and the Bucks reached a deal to acquire Nikola Mirotic earlier today.

The Raptors will surrender some depth in the trade by giving up three rotation players, but none of Valanciunas, Wright, and Miles were starters. In acquiring Gasol, Toronto will add more firepower to its frontcourt, acquiring a veteran center who has been linked to the club for years.

A former Defensive Player of the Year, Gasol has slowed down a step or two at age 34, but he’s still a productive scorer (15.7 PPG), rebounder (8.6 RPG), and rim protector (1.2 BPG). He has also added an outside shot to his game in recent years, making 35.7% of his attempts and 1.4 threes per game over the last three seasons. It will be interesting to see how the Raptors manage his minutes in a frontcourt that also features Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam, both of whom are having excellent seasons.

The Grizzlies, meanwhile, will move on from a three-time All-Star who has been in Memphis since 2008. Despite Gasol’s long tenure with the franchise, it appeared this week as if he was ready to move on, having cleared out his locker when it looked as if a trade to the Hornets was a possibility. That deal with Charlotte never got too close to being finalized, notes Sean Deveney of Sporting News (Twitter link).

In exchange for Gasol, Memphis gets a productive center in Valanciunas, who is set to return from a hand injury, a promising young point guard in Wright, who will be a restricted free agent season’s end, and Miles, a sharpshooter who has had a down year. The Grizzlies will also acquire a future second-round pick, though it’s hard to determine how much value that selection will have by 2024.

Valanciunas has a $17.62MM player option for next season, while Miles has a $8.73MM player option. Both players look like solid bets to opt in. It’s not clear yet what Gasol will do with his own $25.6MM player option for 2019/20. The Raptors would have his Bird Rights if he opts out.

Gasol also has a 15% trade kicker, which will be applied to his 2018/19 cap hit, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN.com. That bonus would increase Gasol’s cap figure by close to $1.3MM if he doesn’t waive it.

Marks also observes that this deal will leave the Raptors with just 11 players under contract after they also sent Malachi Richardson to Philadelphia. The club will have two weeks to get back to the league-mandated minimum of 14 players, so it could be an active month in Toronto.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raptors Made Offer For Mike Conley, Marc Gasol?

3:44pm: The Grizzlies would be looking for more than Lowry and Valanciunas in return for Conley and Gasol, according to Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News, who hears that Memphis asked for Pascal Siakam (Twitter link). The Raptors aren’t trading Siakam, but would be willing to include Delon Wright and a future first-round pick, says Lawrence.

Toronto’s 2019 first-round pick is committed to San Antonio, so the 2021 first-rounder would be the next one available.

2:18pm: While the Grizzlies have reportedly been primarily engaged in talks with the Jazz and Pistons for Mike Conley, another potential suitor has entered the mix, according to Jake Fischer of SI.com. League sources tell Fischer that the Raptors have contacted Memphis and offered Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas in a deal for both Conley and Marc Gasol.

It’s a fascinating offer from Toronto’s perspective, as the second-best team in the East appears willing to give up an All-Star guard and an important rotation piece in a proposal that would reshape its roster. Lowry has been made aware of the Raptors’ trade talks involving him, per Fischer.

On the other hand though, it’s hard to see why the Grizzlies would jump at Toronto’s offer, unless the franchise isn’t totally committed to rebuilding. Lowry has a cap number similar to Conley’s, albeit with a contract that expires a year earlier. Valanciunas has a $17.62MM player option for next season.

By comparison, Utah’s offer for Conley reportedly includes a sizable expiring contract (Ricky Rubio‘s) and a first-round pick. It could also feature a prospect like Dante Exum or Grayson Allen, according to Fischer. Detroit’s offer for Conley is said to include Reggie Jackson and a first-rounder. The Grizzlies are believed to be seriously considering both teams’ offers, per Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link).

According to Fischer, the Grizzlies turned down the Raptors’ initial offer and would prefer to receive younger players – such as OG Anunoby – and/or draft assets from Toronto.

Meanwhile, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca provides a different perspective, tweeting that he’s heard the talks between the Grizzlies and Raptors were initiated by Memphis and didn’t progress very far.

While Grange’s and Fischer’s accounts on which team initiated the talks seem contradictory, it’s possible both are accurate — perhaps Memphis made the first call and the Raptors, in turn, returned the Grizzlies’ call to let them know what they’d be willing to offer. If the Grizzlies didn’t like what they heard, discussions may not have advanced from there.

Jonas Valanciunas Out At Least Four More Weeks

Jonas Valanciunas‘ left thumb injury continues to heal and his condition keeps improving, but the Raptors center is still several weeks away from returning to the court, the team announced today in a press release.

According to the Raptors, Valanciunas is now wearing a splint on his left thumb for basketball activities only. He’ll use the splint on that thumb – which he dislocated on December 12 – for about four more weeks and will be regularly evaluated as he rehabs the injury over that period.

Although Valanciunas will likely be sidelined until about the All-Star break, he’s not behind schedule in his recovery. In fact, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca observes (via Twitter), the veteran big man was supposed to be in a cast for four weeks, but he had that cast replaced with a smaller brace two weeks ago, so he appears to actually be ahead of schedule.

With Valanciunas out of the lineup, Serge Ibaka has seen a slightly increased role, while Greg Monroe has received regular minutes. Pascal Siakam has also spent some time at center, with two-way player Chris Boucher occasionally making his way into the rotation too.

The Raptors currently have two open roster spots after cutting Lorenzo Brown on Monday, and will have to fill at least one of those openings within the next couple weeks. Signing a big man to a 10-day contract or two is an option if the club is concerned at all about its frontcourt depth. Toronto could also promote Boucher to the 15-man squad and use his two-way slot on someone else, though that’s just my speculation.