Jonas Valanciunas

Windhorst’s Latest: Grizzlies, Kings, Pelicans, CP3, Siakam, Simmons

Before they agreed to a deal with the Pelicans that sent Jonas Valanciunas to New Orleans and the No. 10 pick to Memphis, the Grizzlies made it “pretty far down the road” in talks with the Kings about a similar trade, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his latest Hoop Collective podcast.

According to Windhorst, the deal the Grizzlies and Kings discussed would’ve involved Marvin Bagley III and the No. 9 pick going to Memphis, with Valanciunas heading to Sacramento. It’s not clear what other pieces were included in those discussions.

Here are a few more items of note from Windhorst’s podcast:

  • Kyle Lowry has frequently been cited as the Pelicans‘ top point guard target in free agency, but the team would also be interested in making a run at Chris Paul, believing his connection to former Phoenix assistant Willie Green could help sell him on a return to New Orleans, says Windhorst. However, according to Windhorst, the feeling around the NBA is that Paul will ultimately stick with the Suns.
  • Discussing the Raptors‘ decision to select forward Scottie Barnes with the No. 4 pick, Windhorst suggested that Toronto has “offered Pascal Siakam around” this offseason. An earlier report indicated that some teams believe the Raptors will become more inclined to pursue a Siakam trade with Barnes in the fold.
  • Confirming some other reports that have surfaced in recent days, Windhorst says the Sixers‘ asking price in Ben Simmons talks has been extremely high. Windhorst’s take on the offers he has heard about: “(They’ve been) so aggressive and outlandish that it makes you walk away saying, ‘They’re not really trying to trade him.'”

More On Grizzlies/Pelicans Trade

The Grizzlies and Pelicans made a significant splash today, agreeing to the first trade of NBA draft week. As we previously relayed, Memphis will ship center Jonas Valanciunas and the Nos. 17 and 51 selections in the 2021 draft to New Orleans for center Steven Adams, guard Eric Bledsoe, the Nos. 10 and 40 picks, plus the Lakers’ top-10 protected 2022 first-round pick.

The top-10 protected 2022 Lakers pick will become two second-rounders if it doesn’t convey in next year’s draft, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. The protection was previously reported, but the two second-rounders element was not.

It appears that the Grizzlies may not be done dealing, as they look to continue to build their roster around promising point guard Ja Morant and intriguing big man Jaren Jackson Jr. Morant led the Grizzlies to their first playoff appearance since the 2016/17 season this year. Memphis fell 4-1 in the first round to the Jazz.

According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (Twitter link), the Grizzlies may be looking to move up even higher in the lottery ahead of Thursday’s draft. Memphis could be trying to add NBA G League Ignite forward Jonathan Kuminga or Connecticut guard James Bouknight, per O’Connor.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN adds (via Twitter) that the Grizzlies also auditioned Arkansas guard Moses Moody during a private Los Angeles work out last week, apparently expecting to move into the lottery even at the time. Givony adds (Twitter link) that Michigan forward Franz Wagner, projected to be selected as high as the No. 7 pick, could be a potential Grizzlies target. Adelaide point guard Josh Giddey is another apparent prospect for Memphis, as previously noted.

New Grizzlies guard Bledsoe, who had a down season during his lone year with the Pelicans, is not anticipated to remain in Memphis next season, tweets Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

It is not at present clear if Bledsoe, a two-time All-Defensive Team selection, will be traded or will be waived (and possibly stretched). The Grizzlies would most likely need to attach assets in any trade of Bledsoe.

Luke Adams contributed to this report.

Grizzlies, Pelicans Finalizing Deal To Swap Valanciunas, Adams, Bledsoe, Picks

The Grizzlies and Pelicans are finalizing a trade that will involve several players and draft picks, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

As Wojnarowski reports, the deal will send Jonas Valanciunas and the Nos. 17 and 51 picks to New Orleans in exchange for Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, the Nos. 10 and 40 picks, and the Lakers’ 2022 first-round pick. The Pelicans will add top-10 protection to that ’22 first-rounder, per Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link).

The trade, our second of the offseason and the first of draft week, is a fascinating move for two Southwest teams looking to make the playoffs in 2022.

The Pelicans had been considered highly likely to trade at least one of Adams or Bledsoe, both of whom are on pricey contracts and weren’t viewed as part of the team’s long-term future. Rather than just moving one of the two, they’ll send both to Memphis, creating significant cap flexibility for this year’s free agent period.

Bledsoe ($18.13MM) and Adams ($17.07MM) will earn a combined $35MM+ in 2021/22, while Valanciunas is on the books for just $14MM. Valanciunas is also entering a contract year, whereas Adams has one more guaranteed season left in ’22/23 and Bledsoe has a partial guarantee, so the Pelicans won’t just be opening up cap room this summer — they’ll create future flexibility as well.

Swapping out Adams for Valanciunas should allow the Pelicans to improve their frontcourt spacing. Valanciunas isn’t exactly a long-distance marksman, but has a solid mid-range game and will shoot the occasional three-pointer, which should create more room for Zion Williamson to operate. The former No. 5 overall pick averaged an impressive 17.1 PPG and 12.5 RPG with a .592/.368/.773 shooting line in 62 games (28.3 MPG) this past season.

Moving Bledsoe’s contract also puts the Pelicans in position to either bring back restricted free agent Lonzo Ball or pursue another point guard in free agency. As Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets, New Orleans could create up to about $36MM in cap space by letting Ball and Josh Hart walk, or approximately $25MM in space by retaining Hart’s cap hold and letting go of Ball. Kyle Lowry is rumored to be among the Pelicans’ potential free agent targets.

As for the Grizzlies, they’ll presumably decline Justise Winslow‘s $13MM team option in order to create the cap room necessary to take on Adams and Bledsoe once the new league year begins in August, Marks notes (via Twitter).

While Adams and Bledsoe didn’t have great seasons in New Orleans, they’ve both been productive in the past and are bounce-back candidates in Memphis if the fit is better. Adams posted 7.6 PPG and 8.9 RPG in 58 games (27.7 MPG) in 2020/21, while Bledsoe put up 12.2 PPG, 3.8 APG, and 3.4 RPG on .421/.341/.687 shooting in 71 games (29.7 MPG).

The Grizzlies also significantly improve their draft assets in the swap, moving up seven spots in the first round and 11 spots in the second while also adding an extra first-round pick for next year. They’re now in position to have three first-rounders in next year’s draft, since they also hold Utah’s top-six protected first-rounder.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN and Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report (Twitter links) have both heard that Australian guard Josh Giddey is the player the Grizzlies are targeting with the No. 10 pick.

Rosters Announced For Olympic Qualifying Tournaments

Four qualifying tournaments to determine the final four teams in the men’s basketball pool at the Tokyo Olympics are set to tip off on Tuesday. In advance of the Olympic qualifiers, the 24 teams involved have officially set their 12-man rosters, according to a press release from FIBA.

More than two dozen current NBA players are participating in the tournament, and 11 of the 24 teams competing for Olympic spots have at least one current NBA players on their respective rosters. Of those clubs, Team Canada has the biggest contingent of NBA players — eight of the 12 players on Nick Nurse‘s squad finished the season on an NBA roster. Turkey is next with four NBA players.

The four qualifying tournaments will take place in Serbia, Lithuania, Croatia, and Canada. Only the winner of each six-team group will advance to Tokyo. Those four winners will join Japan, Nigeria, Argentina, Iran, France, Spain, Australia, and the U.S. in the 12-team Olympic tournament.

The teams that move onto the Olympics may tweak their rosters for Tokyo, depending on the availability of certain players. For instance, if Greece were to win its qualifying tournament, perhaps Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo – who remains active in the playoffs for now – would make an effort to join the team in Tokyo next month.

Here are the NBA players on the OQT rosters:

Belgrade, Serbia

Kaunas, Lithuania

Split, Croatia

Victoria, Canada

There are also many former NBA players among the 24 rosters, including Mario Hezonja (Croatia), Milos Teodosic (Serbia), Jan Vesely (Czech Republic), Timofey Mozgov (Russia), and Anthony Bennett (Canada).

To view the full rosters, be sure to visit FIBA’s official site and click through to each team from there.

Southwest Notes: Thomas, Popovich, Valanciunas, Brooks, Gordon

The multi-year contract the Rockets gave to Khyri Thomas on Friday has no guarantees beyond this season, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets. The contract is non-guaranteed for the next two seasons and includes a team option for the 2023/24 season but the contract is still non-guaranteed even if that option is exercised. However, Thomas did receive $250K for this season, which is $217K more than the prorated minimum.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Gregg Popovich dismissed a report from last August that claimed the Nets were interested in hiring him away from the Spurs, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News tweets. Popovich said the report “had no foundation in reality.” The report, which cited sources familiar with both franchises, came out prior to the hiring of Steve Nash as head coach.
  • The Grizzlies possess two throwback players in Jonas Valanciunas and Dillon Brooks that have improved the team on both ends of the floor this season, Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian writes. The Grizzlies have been far more efficient with that duo on the court, Herrington notes. Valanciunas is averaging 16.9 PPG and a career-best 12.5 RPG, while Brooks is averaging career highs in points (17.2 PPG) and steals (1.2 SPG).
  • Rockets guard Eric Gordon has two more guaranteed years remaining on his contract but he admits he doesn’t know what kind of future he has with the rebuilding organization, as he told Kelly Iko of The Athletic. “I’ve been on losing teams before, but I’ve never been a part of a season where we lose 20 in a row. … So my relationship with (GM Rafael Stone and coach Stephen Silas) is fine, but as I said, we’ll have to see what real direction that they want to go this off-season,” he said. “They could have a lot of new guys, whether they’re younger or older, you just never know.”

Pacific Notes: CP3, Suns, Oubre, Kings, Metu

The Suns, who last made the NBA postseason 11 years ago, remain very much in the hunt for the top seed in the Western Conference, as their 41-16 mark puts them just a game-and-a-half behind the 43-15 Jazz. While the ongoing development of several young Phoenix players has been a major factor in the team’s improvement, the offseason arrival of Chris Paul was arguably the key turning point in making the Suns a legitimate contender.

“I don’t have enough time to talk about everything he’s done,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said of Paul, per Royce Young of ESPN. “He’s brought such a — he’s improved the winning mentality. All of our guys want to win. But when you see a guy that has done it from afar and then you look at how he does it, from his diet to the exercise routine he has every day, and then in game when he’s able to be in those situations and really lift the level of our team, it’s pretty cool to watch.”

In addition to impressing Williams, who said he has “story after story” about the impact Paul has had in Phoenix, the veteran point guard has made a lasting impression on his young teammates, including fellow All-Star guard Devin Booker.

“I’m inspired every day. I tell Chris that every day. It’s not something I’m going to take for granted,” Booker said of his Suns’ backcourt mate. “I pick his brain. I listen to him — closely. I watch how he moves, and even when he’s not talking or leading us, I just watch how he goes about his business. There’s so much respect for him and not just from me, but leaguewide and worldwide.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Warriors forward Kelly Oubre made some comments in March suggesting he wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea of coming off the bench, but he accepted a reserve role in stride upon his return to action on Monday, head coach Steve Kerr told reporters (video link via Anthony Slater of The Athletic). Oubre’s role as a sixth man gives the second unit a boost this season and could be a preview of next season’s rotation if the 25-year-old re-signs with Golden State, writes Kendra Andrews of NBC Sports Bay Area.
  • The Kings have been in a brutal slump this month, but their deadline additions continue to look good, as Delon Wright and Terence Davis played key role in a Sunday win that snapped a nine-game losing streak, writes Jason Jones of The Athletic.
  • Kings big man Chimezie Metu, who missed nearly a month-and-a-half earlier this season due to broken wrist he suffered when he was thrown to the court by Jonas Valanciunas, said he’s not holding a grudge toward the Grizzlies center, as Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee relays. “It is frustrating looking back on it at times because who knows what could have happened in those six weeks for myself and what that could have meant for my career or for the team, for the team’s success,” Metu said. “… It’s tough looking back at it. It was tough in the moment, but I hold no hate in my heart for Valanciunas.”

Pacific Notes: Kings, Metu, Holmes, Wiseman, Coffey

The Kings remain upset about a play in their game on Sunday against Memphis, when Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas threw Chimezie Metu to the ground following a dunk. Metu, who is on a two-way contract with Sacramento, fractured his wrist while trying to break his fall and will miss at least the next month.

After dunking, Metu hung on the rim with Valanciunas underneath him and the Grizzlies’ big man responded by grabbing Metu’s legs and throw him to the court. Memphis contends that Metu was trying to show up Valanciunas by hanging over him following the dunk, while the Kings insist the 23-year-old had no place to safely land. Valanciunas was assessed with a technical foul, not a flagrant, a ruling the NBA upheld after reviewing the play, much to the Kings’ displeasure.

“I thought it was a dirty play — still do,” Kings coach Luke Walton said, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. “Watched it a lot since and just disappointed. … He hooked him by the leg and tried to throw him down, so I didn’t understand how that is not, in what today’s NBA is, is not even considered a flagrant foul. I don’t see how that’s a basketball play.”

“There are people who think that was right or (Valanciunas) was in the right by any means, which is also ridiculous,” Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton said. “It’s hard to understand if you think that, because Mezie has nowhere to go. He can’t land on the ground there and the timing between him being thrown to the ground and the timing of the dunk, there’s not a lot of time there. It’s not like he wrapped his legs around and tried to taunt. We were down 20. He’s not trying to taunt him. He’s trying to stay safe.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Asked about his priorities when he reaches free agency this summer, Kings center Richaun Holmes told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, “I want to be able to take care of my family.” While that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll simply accept the most lucrative offer available, it sounds like Holmes won’t be eager to accept any sort of home-team discount.
  • The Warriors issued a formal update on James Wiseman on Thursday, announcing that they hope he’ll return from his left wrist injury at some point during the team’s four-game road trip that begins Friday in Orlando. While it remains to be seen if he’ll be available on Saturday in Charlotte, that game will represent the first checkpoint in what figures to be an ongoing Wiseman/LaMelo Ball redraft debate, notes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Golden State picked Wiseman second overall, leaving Ball – the standout rookie so far this season – for the Hornets at No. 3.
  • Amir Coffey hasn’t played much for the Clippers since signing a two-way contract in the summer of 2019, but injuries have cleared the way for him to earn major minutes this week — he has averaged 14.0 PPG on 76.9% shooting in the last two games (29.0 MPG). As Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register writes, Reggie Jackson observed that Coffey is “trying not to be sent back down” to the G League bubble once L.A.’s roster gets healthier.

Kings Forward Chimezie Metu Has Fractured Wrist

8:44pm: Metu will be re-evaluated in four weeks, according to a team press release.


5:09pm: Kings forward Chimezie Metu has a fractured wrist and will be sidelined for several weeks, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee reports.

The injury occurred on what Kings coach Luke Walton deemed a “dangerous play” by Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas on Sunday.

Metu continued to experience soreness after going through pregame warmups for Monday’s game against the Nets. An X-ray afterward revealed a right wrist fracture.

He’ll be examined by a hand specialist to determine his recovery timeline, Anderson adds.

After Metu dunked during the fourth quarter on Sunday, he hung from the rim with Valanciunas standing beneath him. Valanciunas appeared to pull Metu down by his left leg, according to Anderson, causing him to crash to the floor. Metu extended his right hand to break his fall.

Valanciunas was given a technical foul on the play for unsportsmanlike conduct, but not a flagrant foul.

Metu is on a two-way contract with the Kings. A 2018 second-round pick of the Spurs, Metu has appeared in 11 games for the Kings this season. He’s averaging 3.4 PPG and 2.1 RPG in 6.5 MPG.

Southwest Notes: Lonzo, Valanciunas, Eubanks, Terry

The offensive output of Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball on a given night this season often dictates the team’s overall performance, according to Scott Kushner of the Times-Picayune. The Pelicans are 5-1 when Ball scores at least 16 points in a game. When he scores fewer than 16 points, New Orleans sports a 2-9 record.

“It’s absolutely huge,” Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy said of Ball’s contribution to the club. “I mean he’s got the ball in his hands, controlling the action. When he’s taking care of the ball, making good decisions, and, obviously, knocking down shots, our offense is going to be a lot better.”

There’s more out of the NBA’s Southwest Division:

  • The NBA’s coronavirus health and safety protocols continue to keep Grizzlies starting center Jonas Valanciunas unavailable to play with the team, though he has traveled with the club and appeared on the team bench during recent contests, according to Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Valanciunas has been unavailable since January 17.
  • Spurs reserve forward Drew Eubanks recently went through an intense experience with COVID-19, and now seeks to caution others about the risks of the highly variable disease, writes Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. “It can really affect people, and you don’t know how it can affect you,” Eubanks said. The virus has limited the 24-year-old third-year big man to just six games this season.
  • The Mavericks have sent rookie point guard Tyrell Terry to join the Memphis Hustle of the NBA G League ahead of the NBAGL’s Orlando “bubble” season, according to a team tweet. The Mavs’ G League affiliate, the Texas Longhorns, will not be participating in the 18-team 2021 NBAGL season.  Dallas drafted Terry with the No. 31 pick in the 2020 NBA draft out of Stanford.

Western Notes: Schroder, Allen, Grizzlies, Kennard

Dennis Schroder‘s contract situation is one of the reasons why Alex Caruso isn’t logging more minutes, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register speculates. After acquiring Schroder from the Thunder during the offseason, the Lakers are hoping to convince him to sign an extension instead of allowing him to enter unrestricted free agency this offseason. That’s why it is in the team’s best interests to keep Schroder in a starting role and give him steady minutes even though his offensive production has dipped significantly compared to last season.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Grizzlies guard Grayson Allen will not be active on Saturday against San Antonio due to the league’s health and safety protocols, according to Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Allen joined center Jonas Valanciunas on the list, as Memphis prepares to play for the first time since January 18. Valanciunas indicated on social media he’s recovered from COVID-19 and rejoined the team, though he’s not expected to play until next week.
  • The Grizzlies will allow MVP season ticket holders to attend games starting on February 4 against Houston, Barnes indicates in a separate story. That will raise capacity inside FedExForum to just under 2,000 fans, or 11% capacity. The Grizzlies have allowed up to 74 season ticket holders to sit courtside, as well as 220 additional fans in suites and club boxes.
  • Luke Kennard missed a good chunk of last season with Detroit due to tendinitis in both knees. Now a key reserve for the Clippers, Kennard is grateful for all the rehab he last season, as he told Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times. “It helped so much more than I could have thought and now I’m feeling great, my body feels great and I’m moving well,” Kennard said. “I hated it at the time — didn’t hate it, but it just took a while. It was pretty hard. Looking back now, I’m grateful and thankful I went through it.” Kennard signed a four-year extension in December.
  • Even if the Warriors show improvement over the course of the season, they’re no better than the best of a mediocre group of Western Conference teams contending for a playoff berth, Anthony Slater of The Athletic writes.