Kai Jones

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:

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.

Kings Notes: Holmes, Trade Ambitions, Workouts

Richaun Holmes had a breakout season with the Kings this year, averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, assists and blocks and emerging as one of the better defensive centers in the league. But the 27-year-old is entering unrestricted free agency, and as Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee writes, it may be difficult for the Kings to retain him without freeing up cap space via a trade of Harrison Barnes or Buddy Hield.

Anderson takes a look at some of the options GM Monte McNair could choose from to address the massive hole Holmes’ departure would leave, both in the draft – where the Kings have the ninth overall pick – and in free agency, where cheap but productive veterans such as Nerlens Noel, Daniel Theis, and others could come into play.

Jason Jones of The Athletic has similar concerns, and details why the Kings may want to look at centers Alperen Sengun and Kai Jones in this year’s draft.

We have more from out of Sacramento:

  • The Kings have been reported to be one of the more aggressive suitors for Blazers star Damian Lillard, but even if a deal between the Kings and Blazers doesn’t materialize, McNair may look to get involved from a different angle, Anderson writes. The Kings have also been linked to Sixers point guard Ben Simmons, and are generally expected to be aggressive pursuing upgrades this summer. If they don’t believe they’re in a position to land Lillard, they could try to facilitate a deal with the Blazers and Sixers, Anderson writes, in order to land Simmons in a blockbuster three-team trade.
  • The Kings worked out Isaiah Todd and Jaden Springer on Sunday, tweets James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. While neither are expected to be in play for the ninth pick, Todd could be available at No. 39 and Springer could be a trade-up candidate. Todd, a gifted shot-creator at 6’10”, could hold interest as a home-run swing in the second round if he’s still on the board.
  • The Kings are also working out potential undrafted free agent targets. Scottie Lewis, a defensive specialist out of Florida and Jose Alvarado, the 2020/21 ACC DPoY worked out on Monday, according to Jason Jones of The Athletic, and Jason Anderson reports that the Kings will work out sharpshooter Marcus Burk on Wednesday.

Southeast Notes: Unseld Jr., Wizards, Hawks, K. Jones

Wes Unseld Jr. put in plenty of time before earning his first chance to be a head coach, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. Unseld, who was formally hired by the Wizards on Saturday after weeks of speculation, was also a finalist for the head coaching vacancy in Orlando.

He comes to Washington from Denver, where he served as associate head coach under Michael Malone. Unseld was in charge of the Nuggets’ defensive schemes and is known for working closely with players, often customizing the approach to make them more comfortable, Katz notes. He has been an NBA assistant for 16 years and spent eight years as an advance scout with the Wizards, where he worked with general manager Tommy Sheppard.

“Becoming a head coach in the NBA is a goal that I have pursued my entire adult life and to have that dream realized by coming full circle back to Washington is truly special,” Unseld said in a press release announcing his hiring. “I look forward to representing the DMV (Washington, D.C., metropolitan area), connecting with our fans and establishing a new standard for Wizards basketball.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

Pacific Notes: Oubre, Kings Workouts, Lakers Workouts, Suns Arena

Warriors free agent wing Kelly Oubre sat down with Stadium’s Shams Charania for an interview on Wednesday to discuss his up-and-down season with in Golden State, as well as his free agency plans.

This season obviously wasn’t my best showing, but at the end of the day, I know what I’m capable of and I think the whole world knows what I’m capable of,” Oubre said.

Oubre, who has never lacked confidence, spoke on why he feels he stands apart from other free agents in this year’s class: “I’m a worker. I wouldn’t always get better and you wouldn’t be able to see improvements in my game somewhere each and every year if I wasn’t working continuously and staying locked in and focused on my craft. I think that puts me at an advantage over a lot of other free agents.

An unrestricted free agent, the 25-year-old will try to find a permanent home after bouncing around from the Wizards to the Sunsto the Warriors over the last few seasons.

We have more from around the Pacific Division: