Kai Jones

Spurs, Hornets Discussing Jakob Poeltl, P.J. Washington

The Spurs and Hornets have discussed a possible trade that would send center Jakob Poeltl to Charlotte, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

League sources tell Scotto that the proposed deal would see San Antonio acquire Hornets forward P.J. Washington, rookie big man Kai Jones, and a first-round pick. However, the two sides are haggling over the possible inclusion of that draft pick, says Scotto.

Charlotte has long been in the market for a center and is one of the many teams that have been linked to Poeltl. Toronto and Chicago were also mentioned as potential suitors for the big man leading up to the deadline, and Scotto says the Mavericks have expressed interest too.

Poeltl has emerged as a two-way force this season, averaging a career-high 13.1 PPG, 9.0 RPG, and 2.8 APG in 45 games (28.8 MPG). He’s also San Antonio’s top rim protector, with 1.7 BPG.

The Spurs, meanwhile, have been one of the league’s busiest teams in the last month as they look to collect draft assets and young talent. According to Scotto, San Antonio considered drafting Jones at No. 12 last July before ultimately opting for Joshua Primo. Presumably, the Spurs are still high on Jones despite the fact that he hasn’t shown much yet at the NBA level, logging just 46 minutes across 16 games.

Washington has been solid again this season for Charlotte, averaging 9.9 PPG and 5.5 RPG on .446/.386/.729 shooting, but has seen his role reduced. He’s coming off the bench and is averaging a career-low 24.6 minutes per game after averaging 30+ MPG in each of his first two NBA seasons.

COVID Updates: Gobert, Gay, McDermott, Unseld Jr., Testing Procedures

The Jazz got some very good news on Friday, as center Rudy Gobert has exited the league’s health and safety protocols, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. Utah’s defense has fallen apart without Gobert patrolling the middle. The Jazz’s defensive rating has ballooned to 120.8 in the five games he’s missed and they only won one of those contests. Forward Rudy Gay has also exited the protocols, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. Utah plays its next game on Sunday.

We have more COVID-related news:

  • According to the league’s injury report for this evening’s games, Spurs forward Doug McDermott is no longer in the protocols. McDermott has not played since New Year’s Eve.
  • Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. has entered the protocols, according to a team press release. Pat Delany will assume acting head coaching duties for Saturday’s game against Portland.
  • Hornets big man Kai Jones has cleared the protocols and was eligible to play on Friday, the team tweets.
  • Players who remain unvaccinated or who are eligible for a booster shot will remain under daily surveillance and game day testing through February 17, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Those who are currently ineligible for a booster due to having been more recently vaccinated won’t be under those restrictions, NBA Communications tweets. Those restrictions also won’t apply to league staff members, since they are all fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 Updates: Whiteside, Adams, Barton, Hornets, Spurs, More

Jazz center Hassan Whiteside has entered the league’s health and safety protocols, per Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune (via Twitter). Utah’s frontcourt depth is extremely depleted; in addition to Whiteside, Rudy Gobert, Rudy Gay, and Udoka Azubuike are all in the protocols, while 10-day hardship signee Norvel Pelle is out Wednesday against Cleveland with a non-COVID illness, Walden tweets. Whiteside is now the sixth Jazz player currently in the protocols.

Here are more COVID-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Grizzlies center Steven Adams is listed as questionable with a non-COVID illness for Thursday’s contest against Minnesota, Memphis’ PR department tweets, so he has cleared the protocols.
  • The Nuggets received two pieces of good news, as Will Barton has exited the COVID-19 protocols and Markus Howard, who was supposed to be sidelined at least six weeks with a sprained knee, is listed as questionable for Thursday’s contest against Portland, per Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link). Howard has missed the past four weeks.
  • The news out of Charlotte is a mixed bag, as Vernon Carey Jr. has cleared the protocols, but rookie big man Kai Jones has entered for the Hornets, per the team’s PR department (Twitter links).
  • Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell have cleared the protocols for the Spurs and are available Wednesday night against Houston, Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News tweets.
  • Bucks guard Grayson Allen said he was fortunate to have an asymptomatic case of COVID-19 and will be available Thursday against the Warriors, according to Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). Allen also mentioned that the time away helped him recover from the flu.
  • Rockets guard Armoni Brooks has cleared the health and safety protocols and is available Wednesday against the Spurs, tweets Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

Southeast Notes: Anthony, Yurtseven, Dedmon, Hornets

Magic guard Cole Anthony is an early-season candidate for Most Improved Player, Josh Cohen of NBA.com writes. Anthony is averaging 20.2 points and 6.0 assists per game on 43% shooting from the floor, up from last season’s averages of 12.9 points, 4.1 assists and 40% shooting.

“I think it is a reflection of his work ethic,” head coach Jamahl Mosley said. “It’s a reflection of his confidence, and it’s also the confidence that his teammates have in him to be willing to take those shots.

“But again, you also have a group of guys on the floor that are willing to take shots, That’s what we’ve created and it’s the equalness of each guy willing to want to step in to be able to make the big play, so whoever it is they’re willing to have their number called and step in and make a play.”

Anthony is averaging 34.4 minutes per game (compared to 27.1 MPG in 2020/21), but his shooting marks have also improved across the board. The Magic drafted the 21-year-old with the No. 15 pick in 2020.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

Southeast Notes: J. Johnson, Cooper, Westbrook, K. Jones, Jarreau

Jalen Johnson and Sharife Cooper were both considered risky picks on draft night, but the Hawks‘ rookies appear to be much less of a gamble after strong showings during Summer League, writes Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports. Johnson slipped to No. 20 after playing just 13 games at Duke and leaving school early to prepare for the draft. Cooper fell to No. 48 after a freshman season at Auburn that was delayed 11 games because of eligibility issues.

Both could be steals based on their early performances in Las Vegas, Peek observes. Johnson has been one of the most versatile players in the league and excels in the open court. Cooper has been a reliable playmaker and has eased concerns about his outside shooting.

“This isn’t just Summer League for me,” Cooper said. “Any game where I put on a jersey and represent something way bigger than me in the Hawks, it’s something I don’t take lightly.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard wasn’t planning to trade Russell Westbrook this summer, but he changed course when the opportunity arose to send him to the Lakers, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “I had a heart-to-heart with Russell and it was important to him that I knew and the Wizards knew he wants to play here,” Sheppard said. “If there was ever an opportunity with the Lakers, that would be the one place. I look at his Hall-of-Fame career and all he did for us, certainly, for me, I will try to help a guy as long as it helps the Wizards. In this case, we could do a deal and it did help the Wizards.”
  • Hornets rookie Kai Jones is confident enough to become the first Charlotte player to wear No. 23 since Michael Jordan became owner of the franchise, notes Jonathan M. Alexander of The Charlotte Observer. The 6’11” power forward is getting plenty of his attention in Las Vegas for his athleticism and dunking prowess. “I think until you see him out there with (LaMelo Ball) and the entire group, we won’t have a true sense of what he can be for our program,” coach James Borrego said. “He’s working through our Summer League right now and trying to figure it out along the way, but he’s a tremendous athlete.”
  • The Heat weren’t able to trade for a draft pick to select DeJon Jarreau, but they wound up with the Houston guard anyway and like what they have seen during Summer League, notes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Jarreau, who may be in contention for one of Miami’s two-way contracts, posted 10 assists in a game this week.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Oubre, Dinwiddie, Lawson, Heat

In the weeks leading up to free agency, the Hornets were said to be looking to add multiple centers to their roster and were linked to top free agents like Richaun Holmes and Nerlens Noel in addition to intriguing trade candidates like Myles Turner.

The Hornets ultimately took a quieter approach to addressing the center position, accommodating a salary-dump deal for Mason Plumlee and selecting Kai Jones with the 19th pick in the draft. As Steve Reed of The Associated Press writes, president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak‘ comments to reporters on Tuesday suggested that Plumlee will probably be the starter in 2021/22 but isn’t necessarily a long-term solution.

“Our thought process was to get somebody that’s a veteran under a reasonable contract and also give these young guys a chance to grow a little bit, and maybe a year from now they’re going to be the guys that maybe we should’ve pursued this year in free agency,” Kupchak said.

As Reed notes, besides Jones, the Hornets also have young bigs like Vernon Carey and Nick Richards on the roster, so the team will be focused on developing all of them this season. In the interim, Charlotte was happy to play it safe by acquiring Plumlee rather than trying to make a big splash in free agency.

“Going into free agency, there are 30 teams and there were a couple of centers available, but you don’t know where you rank,” Kupchak said. “You don’t know what the marketplace is going to be like once free agency begins, so there’s a lot of uncertainty going in. … We felt we got somebody (Plumlee) with two years remaining who’s a proven veteran on a good financial contract.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • New Hornets forward Kelly Oubre said the team’s “youth” and “energy” drew him to Charlotte, as Rod Boone of SI.com relays. “We played against them last year on three different occasions and the way they played — the young guys, the athletic ability, the speed they play with, the way they share the basketball and shoot the basketball and then how they defend — it was fun,” Oubre said. “I’m telling you, even playing against them, it was fun to watch them play against other teams, scouting against them.”
  • Newly-signed Wizards guard Spencer Dinwiddie tells Fred Katz of The Athletic that it was excruciating waiting to see whether Washington’s sign-and-trade deal for him – which turned into a five-team trade – would ultimately come together. “They were terrible,” Dinwiddie said of the 48 hours he spent waiting. “They were terrible, because you gotta remember, this wasn’t just, ‘Oh, I’m going to the Wizards and we’re just figuring out the dollars. Is it 58 (million)? Is it 59? Is it 60?’ That wasn’t it. You had to get all these parties to agree, and if any of the parties say no, then the whole trade falls through. … I wasn’t just even relying on Brooklyn and the Wizards to negotiate. I was relying on five, six teams.”
  • Undrafted rookie guard A.J. Lawson has left the Heat‘s Summer League team to join the Hawks‘ SL roster, tweets Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. A report on draft night suggested that Lawson was expected to attend training camp with the Heat, but that no longer seems likely.

Hornets Notes: Oubre, I. Smith, Li. Ball, Summer League

Kelly Oubre‘s two-year deal with the Hornets, which was completed using cap space, is worth $12MM and $12.6MM in year two, tweets Keith Smith of Spotrac. That second year is only partially guaranteed for $5MM, however, so the agreement includes just $17MM in total guaranteed money.

Meanwhile, Ish Smith‘s two-year contract with the Hornets uses most of the club’s room exception, according to Smith (Twitter link). It starts at $4.5MM in 2021/22, while the $4.725MM salary for ’22/23 is non-guaranteed.

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • LiAngelo Ball, who is playing for the Hornets’ Summer League team in Las Vegas, said he’s “very thankful” for the opportunity and isn’t taking it for granted, as Rod Boone of SI.com writes. Ball was supposed to play for Oklahoma City’s G League affiliate in March 2020 before the pandemic stopped the season. He impressed Charlotte’s brass while working out in the gym with his brother LaMelo Ball in recent months, Boone writes.
  • Ball’s performance in Las Vegas is one of a handful of Hornets Summer League storylines to watch, according to Jonathan M. Alexander of The Charlotte Observer, who says he’ll also be keeping an eye on James Bouknight‘s three-point shooting and how much time Kai Jones spends at center.
  • In case you missed it, the Hornets are still believed to be eyeing restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen, despite no longer having the cap room necessary to sign him to an offer sheet.

Hornets Sign James Bouknight, Kai Jones

The Hornets have officially signed their two first-round picks, finalizing deals with former UConn guard James Bouknight and former Texas big man Kai Jones, according to a team press release.

Bouknight was taken with the 11th pick after averaging 18.7 PPG and 5.7 RPG in his sophomore season as an athletic shooting guard carrying a major offensive load. He showcased tough shot-making ability, elite athleticism and a nose for getting himself open off cuts and off-ball movement. The highlight of his season was a 40-point game against the ninth-ranked Creighton.

Jones, another sophomore, gained steam as a first-round pick throughout the season, and was at times even considered a potential lottery pick, due to his combination of athleticism, fluidity, and burgeoning offensive skillset, including a promising-looking jump shot. The Hornets traded a protected future first round pick to the Knicks to get the No. 19 pick to select Jones.

According to the team’s press release, Jones became just the fifth Bahamian player ever selected in the NBA draft.

Bouknight’s deal is expected to start at approximately $4.1MM and be worth approximately $19.1MM over its duration, while Jones’ is expected to start at around $2.7MM and will be worth approximately $13.4MM.

Knicks Trade No. 19 Pick Kai Jones To Hornets

JULY 30: The trade is official, according to a Knicks press release.


JULY 29: The Knicks will send the 19th pick to the Hornets in exchange for a future first-round selection, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Charlotte plans to draft Texas big man Kai Jones, Wojnarowski adds (Twitter link).

The Hornets were originally targeting Jones at No. 11 before Connecticut guard James Bouknight became available, states Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). Sources tell Fischer that Jones is one of two prospects who came to Charlotte twice for pre-draft workouts.

The Hornets were searching for centers this offseason, and they’ve filled the position with a pair of trades. Earlier today, they picked up Mason Plumlee from the Pistons in an exchange of draft picks.

New York will receive a heavily protected first-rounder from Charlotte in 2022, tweets Zach Lowe of ESPN, who adds that the protections will decrease over the next three years. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the protections are 1-18 next year, 1-16 in 2023, 1-14 in 2024 and 1-14 in 2025. If not conveyed by then, the pick will become two future second-rounders (Twitter link).

Pacific Notes: Ayton, K. Jones, Lakers, Warriors

Deandre Ayton, fresh off of his first NBA Finals appearance with the Suns, is eligible for a five-year, $168MM max contract that would kick in at the start of the 2022/23 season, and Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic takes a look at what could be next for the big man.

Ayton’s career lows in PPG and APG were a result more of the context of adding Chris Paul and reorganizing the offense, rather than any regression on Ayton’s end, Rankin writes. In fact, Ayton’s growth as a team-first player willing to do whatever it takes for the success of the Suns adds even more appeal for the club as it decides if it will offer him a max deal.

If sacrificing is leading the wins and where we are today, I’ll sacrifice everything, you know what I’m saying,” Ayton said. “Everything (Paul’s) told me has led up to here, so why stop now?

We have more news from the Pacific Division: