Juan Toscano-Anderson

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, Closing Lineup, Nunn, LeBron

While former Lakers head coach Frank Vogel benched Russell Westbrook late in games a small handful of times last season, new coach Darvin Ham will have more power to do so this season, assuming Westbrook remains on the roster and Ham decides there are better fits in crunch time, says Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

Buha expects Westbrook to get opportunities to close out games, but notes that it will depend on his shooting, decision-making, and defense.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis are, of course, locks to be part of the Lakers’ “closing” five, and Buha views Austin Reaves as the next-best bet to join that group because he can be a secondary ball-handler. Buha predicts that Juan Toscano-Anderson and Troy Brown will fill out the closing five in instances when Westbrook is on the bench.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Although Kendrick Nunn recently said he feels 100% healthy after missing the entire 2021/22 season due to a knee injury, he has yet to resume playing five-on-five, which will be the “next big hurdle” in his recovery process, Buha writes. The expectation for now is that Nunn will be ready to go for training camp.
  • Buha believes that the Lakers are done adding veteran free agents this offseason, and that any additional roster changes would come via trade. He notes that the team could also be active on the buyout market after the 2023 trade deadline.
  • LeBron James will become eligible on Thursday to sign a contract extension with the Lakers, but Chris Mannix of SI.com doesn’t believe James will be in any rush to sign that deal, since he can maintain leverage and keep pressure on the team by taking his time. He could sign that extension at any time up until June 30, 2023.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Collison, Monk, Leonard, Wall

The Lakers‘ five additions in free agency were targeted for speed, defense and shooting, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. New head coach Darvin Ham is determined to bring a fresh approach to a team that finished in the bottom third of the league in both offensive and defensive rating last season. All five players who were introduced at today’s press conference talked about how they will blend into that system.

“I think I can fit on any team,” said former Warrior Juan Toscano-Anderson. “I think I can guard one through five. I’ll do whatever it takes to win, and when I say whatever, I mean it. I’ll dive over scorer’s tables. I’ll rebound. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

Along with a renewed emphasis on defense, L.A. hopes its free agency moves will provide increased spacing for its star players. Ex-Spur Lonnie Walker is coming off a season where he connected at just 31.4% from three-point range, but he vows to be better.

“Last year, you can look at the percentages, but I kid you not: Leave me open, we’re going to see what’s happening,” Walker said. “I’m honing into what I got to get better on, and I’m not just strengthening my weakness but I’m strengthening my strengths as well. So, I’m ready to show everyone what I’m about.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Free agent point guard Darren Collison worked out for the Lakers again today, tweets Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Collison, who was at a mini-camp with the team last month, is interested in returning to the NBA at age 34.
  • Malik Monk‘s long friendship with De’Aaron Fox played an important role in his decision to sign with the Kings, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Monk and Fox have been friends since high school and they were backcourt partners at Kentucky. “They speak all the time,” a source told Anderson. “They’re still in their college group chat, so they speak every day. Those guys are real brothers, so I’m excited for them both.”
  • Clippers star Kawhi Leonard hasn’t been cleared to play 5-on-5, but he continues to make progress in his return from an ACL injury, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk said on “NBA Today” (video link). Newly signed John Wall will compete with Reggie Jackson for the starting point guard spot, Youngmisuk adds.

Lakers Officially Sign Jones, Brown, Toscano-Anderson

The Lakers have officially completed three signings, according to a team press release. The trio of players are center Damian Jones, wing Troy Brown and wing Juan Toscano-Anderson.

Jones, Brown and Toscano-Anderson were all signed to minimum-salary contracts. Both Brown and JTA received one-year deals, while Jones got a two-year deal with a player option.

Jones, 27, had a solid season with the Kings in 2021/22 after struggling to find a standard roster spot in ’20/21. In 56 games this season (18.2 MPG), Jones averaged 8.1 PPG and 4.4 RPG while shooting 65.8% from the field and 71.8% from the line.

Brown, 22, was the 15th pick of the 2018 draft and spent his first two-plus seasons with Washington before being traded to Chicago last year. The Bulls declined his qualifying offer after he struggled to make an impact this season, averaging 4.3 PPG and 3.1 RPG on .419/.353/.769 shooting in 66 games (16 MPG).

Toscano-Anderson, 29, spent the last three seasons with the Warriors and recently won a title. In 73 games (13.6 MPG) in ’21/22, he averaged 4.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG and 1.7 APG on .489/.322/.571 shooting.

Because the three players are on minimum contracts, the deals can be completed before the transaction moratorium ends on July 6.

Juan Toscano-Anderson To Sign With Lakers

Free agent wing Juan Toscano-Anderson, who just won a championship with the Warriors, has agreed to a deal with the Lakers, agent Erika Ruiz told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

It’ll be a one-year, minimum-salary contract, tweets Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

As Haynes details, Toscano-Anderson went undrafted out of Marquette in 2015 and spent the next three seasons playing in the Mexican league prior to receiving a tryout with the Warriors’ G League affiliate in Santa Cruz. Obviously, he impressed Golden State with his athleticism and versatility, having spent the last three seasons with the Warriors’ NBA squad.

Across 139 games (17.1 MPG) from 2019-2022, JTA holds career averages of 4.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG and 2.2 APG on .523/.361/.613 shooting. At 29, his upside might be a bit limited, but his energy and enthusiasm should help a Lakers team that was quite old and lethargic last season.

Otto Porter, Gary Harris, T.J. Warren Among Lakers’ Potential FA Targets

The Lakers‘ options on the free agent market this week will likely be limited, since the team will only be able to offer the $6.5MM taxpayer mid-level exception or a minimum-salary contract to potential targets. However, as Jovan Buha of The Athletic writes, the team will still aim high, hoping to sell players on the opportunity to start and the ability to increase their stock with a strong year in Los Angeles, like Malik Monk did in 2021/22.

According to Buha, youth, length, athleticism, and shooting are among the traits the Lakers will be prioritizing. Two-way wings who could come in and potentially start alongside Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook will be a priority, sources tell The Athletic.

Here are some details on the types of players the Lakers will be eyeing in free agency:

Lonnie Walker, Anfernee Simons Get QOs; Kevin Knox Doesn’t

The Spurs have issued a qualifying offer to guard Lonnie Walker, making him a restricted free agent, according to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). The qualifying offer will be worth $6,311,564.

Unlike some of this summer’s top restricted free agents, Walker wasn’t a lock to receive that qualifying offer, given the up-and-down season the 23-year-old had in 2021/22. He averaged a career-high 12.1 PPG and 2.2 APG, but saw his shooting percentages dip to 40.7% from the floor and 31.4% on threes, well below his career rates. Furthermore, a report earlier today stated that Walker was unlikely to remain in San Antonio.

By issuing the qualifying offer, the Spurs are at least opening up a path for Walker to return, either by accepting the one-year QO or by negotiating a new deal with the team. However, McDonald says there’s an expectation that Walker will “fully” test the market.

Spurs swingman Joe Wieskamp also received a qualifying offer, making him a restricted free agent, tweets McDonald. Because Wieskamp was promoted from his two-way deal to a standard contract last season, his qualifying offer will be worth approximately $1.8MM ($200K more than his minimum salary).

Here are a few more qualifying offer updates from around the NBA:

  • The Trail Blazers have formally issued a qualifying offer to guard Anfernee Simons, making him a restricted free agent, the team announced in a press release. Simons’ QO is worth $5,758,552, but the 23-year-old is expected to negotiate a far more lucrative long-term deal. Multiple reports have suggested a four-year contract worth in the neighborhood of $80MM is possible.
  • Hawks forward Kevin Knox isn’t getting a qualifying offer and will become an unrestricted free agent, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Knox didn’t get regular minutes last season and his qualifying offer would have been worth $7,228,448, so it comes as no surprise that Atlanta is passing.
  • The Warriors aren’t giving qualifying offers to either Juan Toscano-Anderson ($2,126,991) or Chris Chiozza ($1,968,175), according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link). Both players will be unrestricted free agents and are unlikely to remain in Golden State, Slater adds.
  • The Celtics have tendered a two-way qualifying offer to guard Brodric Thomas, making him a restricted free agent, a source tells our JD Shaw (Twitter link). Boston hasn’t reached a deal to fill either of its two-way slots for next season yet, so Thomas could end up taking one of them.
  • Two-way players Jay Scrubb (Clippers) and Trevelin Queen (Rockets) won’t receive qualifying offers and will become unrestricted free agents, according to reports from Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links). Queen, the 2021/22 NBA G League MVP, is expected to receive interest on the open market, per Haynes.

Western Notes: Looney, Payton, Wolves, Mavs’ Targets, Rockets

The Warriors have made re-signed center Kevon Looney their top free agent priority and are expected to meet with his agent, Todd Ramasar, in the early hours of free agency, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Gary Payton II profiles as the Warriors’ second-most important priority but he’ll have other suitors, with the Mavericks expected to be among them, per Slater. Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damion Lee are the players most vulnerable to losing their roster spots, Slater adds.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Timberwolves wound up with two first-round draft picks but it won’t alter their plans for free agency, according to Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. GM Tim Connelly said they’ll be looking for players who can make an immediate impact. “I don’t think it has a huge impact,” Connelly said. “Again, the draft is for the next two, three, four, five, six, seven years.”
  • While re-signing Jalen Brunson looms as their top free agent priority, the Mavericks could go shopping for other free agents. Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News looks at some other potential targets, including Gary Harris, Otto Porter Jr. and Goran Dragic.
  • By reaching a buyout agreement with John Wall, the Rockets now have 18 players on the roster, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. They’re $30MM below the luxury tax threshold, with Eric Gordon — a prime trade candidate — as the lone player earning more than $10MM.

Otto Porter Jr. To Miss Game 4

The Warriors will hold injured forward Otto Porter Jr. out of tonight’s Game 4 against the Mavericks, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Porter hurt his left foot in the second quarter of Sunday’s Game 3 after an awkward landing on an attempted layup. He tried to remain in the game, but eventually had to be taken out. X-rays on the foot were negative, but he continues to undergo treatment and coach Steve Kerr said it’s the prudent decision to not try to rush him back into the lineup.

“He’s still sore. Gotta make the wise decision here,” Kerr said. “This gives him a couple of days to prepare for a possible Game 5.”

Golden State holds a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference finals, which makes the decision to rest Porter easier. The Warriors were able to close out their second-round series against Memphis without Porter, who was suffering from an injured right foot at the time.

Porter’s absence tonight could result in more minutes for Juan Toscano-Anderson, notes Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area. Toscano-Anderson hasn’t played at all in six of the Warriors’ games this postseason, but Kerr liked how he responded on Sunday night.

“Juan was good,” Kerr said. “He’s aggressive defensively, made some really nice plays offensively. He helped free up some shooters, and he plays with such great energy and intensity. It was fun getting him out there. It’s been a rough go for Juan. In the postseason he hasn’t really had much of a chance. I loved seeing him have that opportunity and come in and do a good job.” 

Poll: Who Will Win The 2022 Slam Dunk Contest?

The 2022 Slam Dunk Contest takes place Saturday night and features four participants (betting odds courtesy of SportsLine.com):

Rockets rookie Green, the second pick of the 2021 draft, is the favorite, followed by last year’s runner-up, second-year Knicks forward Toppin. Second-year guard Anthony of the Magic is third, and Toscano-Anderson, a third-year reserve forward for the Warriors, brings up the rear. Green, Anthony and Toscano-Anderson are all first-time participants.

Anthony and Green played in the Rising Stars event Friday night, losing a 50-49 nail-biter for Team Worthy against Team Isiah. Anthony flushed an impressive lob dunk off the backboard from teammate Jalen Suggs during the game.

ESPN recently released a video with a short sampling of some of the contestants’ in-game dunks this season. My personal favorite was Toscano-Anderson’s epic poster over JaVale McGee, but all four have certainly had some impressive jams.

If you think shorter players have a stylistic edge given they have to jump that much higher, Anthony is the shortest participant at 6’2″, followed by Green (6’4″), JTA (6’6″) and Toppin (6’9″).

What do you think? Who will win this year’s Slam Dunk Contest? Will the electric rookie favorite come out on top? Will the underdog Toscano-Anderson pull off the upset?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

NBA Announces Slam Dunk, Three-Point, Skills Challenge Contestants

The NBA has announced a full list of the participants for its three-point, slam dunk and skills challenge competitions ahead of the upcoming 2022 All-Star Weekend in Cleveland.

Per the NBA (Twitter link), the following players will partake in the Mountain Dew Three-Point Contest, which appears to have outpaced the dunk contest as the premiere event for established stars at All-Star Weekend. Four 2022 All-Stars will compete:

According to the league (via Twitter), these are the contestants in the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest:

Below are the NBA’s announced players for the newly revamped Taco Bell Skills Challenge (Twitter link). This year, the Skills Challenge will be divvied up into three teams: Antetokounmpo brothers (“Antetokounmpos”), Cavaliers players (“Cavs”), and rookies (“Rooks”).

These three events will take place on All-Star Saturday on February 19.