Justise Winslow

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.

Southeast Notes: LiAngelo Ball, Robinson, Heat, Unseld

LiAngelo Ball is signing a deal to play for the Hornets’ Summer League team, reports Rod Boone of Sports Illustrated. The move will reunite LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball for the first time since they played in Lithuania together during the 2018/2019 season.

The middle Ball brother has been working out with members of the Hornets, notably RFA-to-be Devonte’ Graham. He had joined the Thunder’s G League team in 2020 just days before the league was shut down due to COVID-19, and signed an Exhibit 10 deal with the Pistons in December, but failed to play due to an ankle injury and was subsequently waived.

The Summer League opportunity could be a chance for the third Ball brother to get a foothold in the NBA, writes Boone.

We have more news from around the Southeast Division:

  • Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson, entering his first free agency as a coveted player, isn’t sure what’s going to happen, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I’d love to try to make something work with Miami,” Robinson said. “The reality is, like, I tell this to my family, I don’t know how the next 10-plus days, two weeks, how it’s going to play out. At this point, and I’ve said this already on this podcast, but I think the biggest challenge has been detaching myself from a particular outcome.”
  • Winderman also answered a mailbag question about whether the Heat could bring back former players Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow this summer. Winderman believed that there could be more desire with the team to bring back Richardson than Winslow, but if Richardson declines his $11.6MM player option with the Mavericks, it’s unlikely that the Heat could afford him.
  • Wes Unseld Jr. discussed his on-court plans for the Wizards this week, as Fred Katz of The Athletic writes. Unseld talked about trying to limit early shot-clock opportunities, his philosophy on the intersection between creating a sound defensive scheme and tailoring it to individual personnel’s strengths and preferences, and how he wants to make Bradley Beal even more effective. “A lot of times, he’s gonna see two, sometimes three bodies,” Unseld said. “So, getting him off the ball to get it back, putting him in multiple actions to kinda loosen up defenders I think is gonna be helpful for him.”

Southwest Notes: Rockets, Spurs, Grizzlies, Winslow

Multiple reports and the majority of expert mock drafts have pointed to the Rockets leaning toward G League Ignite wing Jalen Green as their choice with the No. 2 pick in the draft. However, speaking about the draft on Wednesday, general manager Rafael Stone was unwilling to drop any hints about whether that speculation is accurate.

According to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, Stone didn’t even want to commit to the Rockets keeping their current picks (including the 23rd and 24th overall selections) and said he’d rather not make up his mind yet about which player he wants to draft at any of those spots, including No. 2.

“I actually do believe that’s the wrong approach,” the Rockets’ GM said. “I think the right approach is to do the work, work as hard as you can, use every minute, and keep every option open. It’s still not guaranteed that we’re picking (at all) or that we’re picking in that spot. It’s more likely than not. It always is. It’s our job to figure out what possibilities exist.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Kelly Iko and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic discuss what the Rockets will do with their three first-round picks, exploring what sort of trade scenarios might be realistic.
  • In a separate story, Iko reports that the Rockets are expected to continue talking to the Pistons about the No. 1 pick and have received some interest in teams looking to move up to No. 2, but the most likely scenario is that Houston stays put. The club has also fielded “dozens” of calls about the Nos. 23 and 24 picks, Iko adds.
  • Texas big man Kai Jones visited the Spurs earlier this week, per Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee (Twitter link). Jones could be an option for San Antonio at No. 12 in next Thursday’s draft.
  • As the Grizzlies weigh their options in free agency and on the trade market, their decision tree will start with Justise Winslow‘s team option, writes Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian. The club’s decision on that $13MM option will be a major factor in dictating how much cap flexibility Memphis has this offseason. For his part, Herrington would pass on that option.
  • This offseason will be a revealing one for Zach Kleiman and the Grizzlies‘ other top decision-makers, according to Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal, who suggests that decisions on Winslow’s option and a possible rookie scale extension for Jaren Jackson will provide major hints about the team’s direction.

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.

Southwest Notes: Winslow, Mavs, Wood, Marshall

Grizzlies executive VP of basketball operations Zach Kleiman has until August 1 to make a decision on the team’s $13MM option on Justise Winslow, and may still see the forward as part of the team’s future, writes Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“There’s a lot of encouraging things that we saw from Justise,” Kleiman said. “I think he’s a player who can be very valuable and could potentially fit with what we’re doing.”

The oft-injured 25-year-old appeared in just 26 of a possible 72 games this season for Memphis due to a variety of maladies. He was out of the Grizzlies’ rotation in their first-round playoff series loss to the Jazz.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle acknowledged that, after a 45-point outburst from Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard in Game 6 of the teams’ first-round series, Dallas will need to get creative in a crucial Game 7, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “We have done everything in this series, and we’ll have to be ready with the kitchen sink in Game 7.” The Mavericks’ lone All-Star, Luka Doncic, has pushed his team to the brink of an upset thanks to his incredible play. Thus far in the series, he is averaging 40.8 PPG, 9.7 APG, 9.5 RPG, and 1.5 SPG.
  • When he was available, Rockets center Christian Wood proved his mettle during his first season with the club, says Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. The 25-year-old Wood, who has two years and $28MM left on the three-year contract he signed with Houston before the season, averaged 21.0 PPG (shooting 51.4% from the field and 37.4% from deep) and pulled down 9.6 RPG in 41 games.
  • Undrafted Pelicans rookie small forward Naji Marshall grew up as an underdog, which has served him well on his journey to the NBA, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Clark notes that the Pelicans are hoping that Marshall could prove to be a sharpshooting swingman capable of fulfilling a variety of needs. Last month, New Orleans inked Marshall to a four-year contract (including the rest of the 2020/21 season). The deal is non-guaranteed for the 2023/24 season.

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.”

Free Agent Stock Watch: Southwest Division

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Southwest Division:

Justise Winslow, Grizzlies, 24, SF/PF (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $39MM extension in 2019

The Grizzlies waited a long time to see what they had in Winslow after acquiring him from the Heat last February. The 25-year-old was injured when he was traded and never returned to action last season. During the summer restart in Orlando, he suffered a left hip displacement, which also caused him to miss the first 25 games this season.

Winslow appeared in 16 games off the bench since returning to action and hasn’t provided much punch, averaging 7.1 PPG and 4.8 RPG with a woeful PER of 5.28. He’s currently sidelined by a sore thigh. The team holds a $13MM option on his contract for next season and Winslow, whose career seemed to be taking off two seasons ago as a point forward, will be hunting for another fresh start this summer.

Gorgui Dieng, Spurs, 31, PF/C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1MM deal in 2021

The Grizzlies couldn’t find a trade for Dieng because his contract was too big but after he cleared waivers, he reportedly had at least eight teams interested in signing him. The Spurs, who had just reached a buyout with LaMarcus Aldridge, won him over with a recruiting pitch. Dieng’s popularity as a free agent last week bodes well for him this summer, though he’s currently sidelined by a sore shoulder. Minnesota overpaid him for him in 2017 (four-year, $62.8MM). Dieng’s next contract will probably be closer to veteran’s minimum numbers but he’s still valued as a quality second-unit big.

Boban Marjanovic, Mavericks, 32, C (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $7MM deal in 2019

Boban still has enough star power to land a Goldfish cracker commercial. In another era, Marjanovic might have been one of the game’s biggest draws. Alas, there’s little use for a slow-footed 7’4’’ center the way the game is played today. Marjanovic can still dominate in spurts against certain opponents but those opportunities are few and far between. The gentle giant is always fun to watch when he gets a chance to play but he’s only seen spot duty in 22 games. Hopefully, Dallas or another team will give him at least a minimum deal this summer so he can make a few more commercials with his pal Tobias Harris.

Avery Bradley, Rockets, 30, PG, (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $11.6MM deal in 2020

Bradley started 44 games for the Lakers last season, then opted out of the restart and watched the team win the championship from afar. He declined a $5MM option to stay with the Lakers and signed a two-year deal with Miami to join its guard rotation. That didn’t go well, as Bradley has been injured most of the season. His salary was thrown into the Victor Oladipo trade and he now finds himself on one of the league’s worst teams. It’s hard to imagine that Houston will exercise its $5.9MM option on Bradley’s contract for next season, so he’ll be shopping his services again this summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Heat Notes: Dinwiddie, Ariza, Gay, Bjelica, Winslow

The Heat are among the teams with interest in Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv, who previously reported that Detroit is eyeing Dinwiddie as well.

Miami’s interest in Dinwiddie is curious — the Heat presumably want to make a push to get back to the NBA Finals, and the 27-year-old is considered likely to miss the rest of the season due to a partially torn ACL. It also may be tricky for Miami to make a deal with another Eastern Conference contender, lest they risk strengthening a potential playoff opponent.

On top of that, the Heat have the ability to open up some cap space this offseason, so Dinwiddie’s Bird rights wouldn’t be as valuable to them as they would be to teams without any projected room. So while it’s not impossible to imagine Brooklyn and Miami making a deal involving the veteran guard, it seems somewhat unlikely.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • In the wake of Miami’s acquisition of Trevor Ariza, Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald breaks down what the deal means for the team, while Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald gets some feedback from an NBA scout on the 35-year-old’s fit. Ariza has typically played the small forward position, but Jackson’s source expects him to be a de facto power forward in Miami. “In today’s day and age, Ariza can be a four,” the scout said. “There’s so little distinction between threes and fours when you look at who’s on the floor. I don’t think that’s a problem at all.”
  • Within the same story, Jackson suggests that it may no longer make sense for the Heat to pursue some veteran forwards who were previously believed to be targets, such as Rudy Gay and Nemanja Bjelica. And while LaMarcus Aldridge remains a possibility in a buyout scenario, Jackson is unsure the Spurs big man would get a ton of playing time in Miami if Kelly Olynyk continues to play well and Ariza establishes himself as a rotation player.
  • Before playing his old team for the first time on Wednesday, Grizzlies forward Justise Winslow expressed gratitude to the Heat, with whom he spent the first four-and-a-half years of his NBA career. “More than anything, I want to see those faces, just to tell them, ‘Thank you,'” Winslow said, per Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com. “Because I wouldn’t be here without their guidance and without their support. It’s no hard feelings, just a lot of gratitude from me.”

Southwest Notes: Oladipo, Porter, Ball, Winslow

Word broke over the weekend that Victor Oladipo had turned down a contract extension offer from the Rockets, but the two-time All-Star actually passed on that offer a while ago, he confirmed on Monday. As Oladipo explained, the proposal was just a formality, since the team understood he wouldn’t sign it.

“It was more along the lines, ‘We know you’re not going to accept it, but we still want you to understand we want you here,'” Oladipo said of the Rockets’ offer. “… It was put in front of me or given to me to show me that they want me to be here. I didn’t get a chance to say yes or no. They already knew I wasn’t going to accept it anyway.”

Oladipo’s decision to decline the offer doesn’t necessarily mean that he has no interest in remaining with the Rockets long-term — it’s more about his desire to reach the open market this summer as a free agent. He had previously turned down a more lucrative offer from Indiana for the same reason.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Before he makes his debut for the Rockets, recently-acquired guard Kevin Porter is getting back up to speed in the G League, and his stint with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers is going well so far. Porter was officially named the NBAGL Player of the Week on Tuesday after averaging 27.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and 2.0 steals in his past four games.
  • Lonzo Ball has been the subject of some trade rumors this season, but the Pelicans guard thinks that he, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram could be the start of a formidable long-term core for the franchise, as Christian Clark of NOLA.com writes. “I love playing with those guys,” Ball said of the two standout forwards. “I’m really cool with them off the court as well. We’re all young. I think we can do some big things.”
  • It took nearly a year for him to finally take the court for the Grizzlies, but now that he’s healthy, Justise Winslow is grateful that the team traded for him and stuck with him during his lengthy injury rehab process, as Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal details. “This trade was one of the best things to happen in my life on and off the court for me,” Winslow told sideline reporter Rob Fischer on Sunday. “This organization just being so patient with me. I’m just so thankful. A lot of gratitude and a lot of joy in my heart right now.”

Southwest Notes: Winslow, Spurs, Van Gundy, Finney-Smith

Justise Winslow was thrilled to be back on the court Saturday night, making his debut for the Grizzlies and playing for the first time since January 8, 2020. Although he started slowly, missing his first nine shots from the field, Winslow got more comfortable as the game went on and finished with nine points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes.

“I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time,” Winslow said (video link from the Memphis Commercial Appeal). “I was excited, a lot of nerves, to be honest, but just being out there competing was a lot of fun. In the first half, I was just trying to get that first bucket, you know, a little excited. But once I settled down, settled into my game, I felt pretty comfortable out there. But a lot of praise to this organization, helped me get back out there, and my teammates. They kept me very confident while I was out there playing.”

Winslow was sidelined with a hip injury when Memphis acquired him at last year’s trade deadline. The pandemic prevented his projected return in March, and he suffered a left hip displacement during the summer that he’s just recovering from.

Looking ahead, Winslow could be a valuable contributor to the Grizzlies’ reserve unit as a shot creator, slasher and perimeter defender, notes Evan Barnes of The Commercial Appeal.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • With the Spurs in the middle of an unexpected break due to COVID-19, Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News talks to other coaches who have guided their teams through the same experience. San Antonio hasn’t played in a week after four players tested positive for the virus. The team is set to resume its season Wednesday at Oklahoma City if enough players are available. “It’s as mentally challenging as anything I’ve ever had to deal with,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “… There’s nothing I can take from a past experience or even another coach’s past experience to be able to navigate through it. It’s something nobody has had to do.”
  • Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy doesn’t believe youth should be an excuse for a fourth-quarter meltdown Friday against Phoenix, according to Scott Kushner of NOLA.com. New Orleans was outscored 41-12 as a big lead slipped away. “A lot of teams in this league have quarters like that,” Van Gundy said. “I’ll never throw the young card out there. We’re a basketball team with really talented people, and we didn’t get the job done in the fourth quarter.”
  • Getting back on the court after a week-long break will be a relief for Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith, writes Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. After testing positive for COVID-19 and spending two weeks in a Denver hotel last month, Finney was among the many who lost power this week amid freezing conditions in Texas.