Keita Bates-Diop

Spurs Notes: Final Roster Spot, Eubanks, McDermott, Walker

There appears to be a three-way competition for the Spurs‘ final roster spot, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. The team has 17 players with guaranteed contracts, and it looks like the decision will come down to forwards Luka SamanicKeita Bates-Diop and Al-Farouq Aminu.

Samanic, 21, was taken with the 19th pick in 2019, but hasn’t established himself in San Antonio, playing just 36 games in two seasons. The Spurs have an October 31 deadline to pick up his option for 2022/23, but they may decide to part with him before then. Coach Gregg Popovich gave Samanic a start in Friday’s preseason game, and McDonald described the results as “mixed.”

“He hasn’t played very much, so his is more of a confidence game and understanding what it takes to be a player,” Popovich explained.

Bates-Diop, 25, signed a two-year, $3.5MM contract before training camp began, but only this season is guaranteed at $1.7MM and he has been slowed by a hamstring injury. Aminu, who was acquired in the DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade, is owed $10.1MM this season in the final year of his contract. Knee injuries have limited him to 41 games over the past two seasons and he recognizes that he has an uphill fight to make the roster.

“That’s your whole life,” he said. “You go to one camp and maybe there are 100 guys. Even from high school, everyone is competing. We understand the business of whatever the case can be.”

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • Drew Eubanks‘ place on the roster appears secure, even though the Spurs could easily afford to unload his $1.76MM salary, McDonald adds. Eubanks has steadily improved throughout his three seasons with the organization, and Popovich recently called him “a poor man’s Dave Cowens.”
  • Free-agent addition Doug McDermott feels suited to the Spurs’ new offensive philosophy, which is based on movement with fewer set plays, McDonald notes in a separate story. The 29-year-old is with his sixth NBA team, and San Antonio is counting on him to boost its outside shooting. “The system is great because it’s a lot of random basketball, and that’s what my game is built for,” he said.
  • Popovich is enjoying the challenge of coaching young players after so many years of having a veteran team, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. The coach also praised the progress of Lonnie Walker, saying he has added game-related knowledge to his athletic skills (Twitter link).

Spurs Notes: Bates-Diop, Roster Crunch, Nielsen, Offseason

Keita Bates-Diop, who recently re-signed with the Spurs, received a two-year contract worth the veteran’s minimum, with only the first year guaranteed, per Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link).

Bates-Diop told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News (via Twitter) that he’s looking forward to the competition of training camp and expects that it won’t be easy to make the final 15-man roster, although his salary being fully guaranteed for the upcoming season is an indication the team likes him. Still, since San Antonio now has 17 players on guaranteed contracts, the situation is worth monitoring.

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • The Spurs announced in a press release that Matt Nielsen has been named an assistant coach for the team after serving as the head coach of their G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs, last season. Nielsen, a native of Australia, had a lengthy playing career in the NBL and then later in Europe prior to becoming a coach. He served as an assistant coach for the Australian National Team at the Tokyo Olympics this summer, where the Boomers won the bronze medal.
  • Zach Harper of The Athletic provided a thorough breakdown of the Spurs’ offseason, including a grade of their roster moves. Harper posits that San Antonio is officially in rebuilding mode and got significantly worse on the wing with the sign-and-trade of DeMar DeRozan to Chicago. DeRozan had one of the best and most efficient seasons of his career last year, and losing him leaves the team without a clear All-Star caliber player.
  • Harper notes that the onus will be on the team’s young core of Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, and Devin Vassell to show significant growth in order to make the play-in tournament again. He thinks selecting Joshua Primo 12th overall in the draft was a reach, as no other teams rated him as highly as the Spurs.
  • Harper did like team’s acquisition of Thaddeus Young, considering him a clear upgrade over the departed Rudy Gay and Trey Lyles. He also thinks that Doug McDermott will help with perimeter shooting and scoring.

Spurs Re-Sign Keita Bates-Diop To Two-Year Deal

7:42pm: The Spurs have officially re-signed Bates-Diop, the team announced in a press release.

9:34am: Restricted free agent forward Keita Bates-Diop has agreed to re-sign with the Spurs on a two-year contract, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Bates-Diop spent last season on a two-way deal with San Antonio. At season’s end, the club made him an RFA by tendering a qualifying offer that was equivalent to a one-year, two-way contract with a $50K partial guarantee. Based on Wojnarowski’s report, it sounds as if the 25-year-old was able to work out a new standard deal with the Spurs rather than accepting that QO and playing on a two-way contract again.

The 48th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Bates-Diop began his career with Minnesota and has since spent time in Denver and San Antonio. In 2020/21, he averaged 2.6 PPG and 1.6 RPG on .448/.294/.667 shooting in 30 games (8.2 MPG) for the Spurs.

Given Bates-Diop’s underwhelming numbers in his first three NBA seasons, it’s a little surprising that the Spurs were willing to give him a two-year deal, even if it’s almost certainly not fully guaranteed. San Antonio waived Chandler Hutchison over the weekend, but still has 16 other players on guaranteed contracts — adding Bates-Diop to the mix does nothing to clear that roster crunch.

We’ll have to wait for more details on Bates-Diop’s agreement with the Spurs to get a better sense of whether the team envisions him claiming a spot on the 15-man regular season roster. If so, San Antonio will have to trade or release two other players by opening night.

Checking In On Remaining Restricted Free Agents

When Lauri Markkanen finally came off the board over the weekend, it left just two standard restricted free agents who are still unsigned, as our FA list shows. Both of those players are Timberwolves free agents: Jordan McLaughlin and Jarred Vanderbilt.

Restricted free agents never have a ton of leverage, especially this deep into the offseason. Some players who remain on the market for weeks, like Markkanen, can still land player-friendly deals, but if McLaughlin or Vanderbilt have been drawing interest around the NBA as coveted sign-and-trade candidates or potential offer sheet recipients, we probably would’ve heard about it by now.

McLaughlin looked like he might be in position to secure a favorable commitment from the Timberwolves after the team traded Ricky Rubio to Cleveland, but Minnesota’s recent move to acquire Patrick Beverley adds depth to the point guard spot and clouds McLaughlin’s future.

A year ago, McLaughlin ultimately decided to accept his qualifying offer and play on a two-way contract for a second consecutive season. This time around, his QO is the equivalent of a one-year, minimum-salary deal, but only a very small portion of that offer (about $84K) has to be guaranteed, so accepting it isn’t a great option.

The Wolves are likely willing to offer a more significant guarantee in 2021/22, but probably want to tack on at least one or two non-guaranteed, minimum-salary years to any deal for McLaughlin. With two-way player McKinley Wright in the picture as a potential third point guard, Minnesota has the roster flexibility to play hardball in its negotiations with McLaughlin.

Vanderbilt may be in a slightly better negotiating position, since he’s likely a higher priority for the Wolves. He started 30 games last season, earning a regular rotation role and showing the ability to handle minutes at power forward, the team’s most glaring weak spot.

Minnesota has a few options at the four, but Taurean Prince and Jake Layman won’t move the needle much, and Jaden McDaniels remains pretty raw. Vanderbilt would be a useful depth piece at the right price, which – in the Wolves’ view – is probably something not far above the veteran’s minimum.

As we wait to see what happens with McLaughlin and Vanderbilt, it’s also worth noting that there are technically four other restricted free agents still on the market. The following four players were made RFAs after finishing the season on two-way contracts:

For these four players, accepting a qualifying offer would mean getting another two-way contract with a $50K partial guarantee.

Signing that qualifying offer would provide no security, even though the Spurs, Clippers, Rockets, and Cavaliers do all have two-way slots open right now. Given the modest guarantee, a team likely wouldn’t hesitate to replace one of its two-way players in October with a camp invitee who has an impressive preseason. And as McLaughlin’s situation shows, even playing out a second year on a two-way QO wouldn’t necessarily give a player additional leverage in his next foray into restricted free agency.

Nico Mannion, Saben Lee, Others Receive Qualifying Offers

The Warriors have issued a qualifying offer to two-way player Nico Mannion, making him a restricted free agent, tweets Keith Smith of Spotrac. Because Mannion, the 48th overall pick in the 2020 draft, was on a two-way contract during his rookie season, his qualifying offer will be the equivalent of another two-way deal, with a partial guarantee worth $50K. The QO will give Golden State matching rights in the event that another team signs Mannion to an offer sheet next week.

Here are more updates on players on two-way contracts receiving qualifying offers:

  • Saben Lee, a 2020 second-round pick who spent his rookie season on a two-way deal, has received a qualifying offer from the Pistons, making him a restricted free agent, tweets Smith. As expected, Detroit also officially renounced the draft rights to Jaylen Hands, Smith notes.
  • The Bulls issued a qualifying offer to two-way player Devon Dotson, making him a restricted free agent, tweets Smith. Chicago also gave a QO to Lauri Markkanen on Friday.
  • Nuggets guard Markus Howard, another two-way player, received a qualifying offer that makes him a restricted free agent, tweets Smith. Howard appeared in 37 games for Denver last season as an undrafted rookie out of Marquette.
  • The Spurs extended a qualifying offer to forward Keita Bates-Diop to make him an RFA, tweets Smith. Like the other players listed above, Bates-Diop has fewer than four years of NBA experience and is therefore eligible to sign another two-way contract after spending the 2020/21 season on a two-way deal.
  • The Cavaliers gave a qualifying offer to two-way shooting guard Brodric Thomas, tweets Chris Fedor of (Twitter link). Thomas appeared in a total of 32 games for Houston and Cleveland as a rookie in 2020/21.
  • The Grizzlies announced they’ve issued a qualifying offer to big man Killian Tillie, making him a restricted free agent. Tillie appeared in 18 games for Memphis as a rookie on his two-way deal.

Since all of these players are coming off two-way contracts and have only spent one season with their respective teams, their QOs are one-year, two-way offers with $50K guarantees.

Spurs Sign Keita Bates-Diop To Two-Way Deal

NOVEMBER 29, 1:20pm: The Spurs have officially announced the signing of Bates-Diop to a two-way contract.

NOVEMBER 23, 8:20am: The Nuggets officially waived Bates-Diop on Sunday, per the NBA’s transactions log. Assuming he clears waivers on Tuesday, he’ll be free to sign with San Antonio at that point.

NOVEMBER 22, 9:54pm: The Spurs and forward Keita Bates-Diop have agreed to a two-way deal, according to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

Bates-Diop is technically still a member of the Nuggets. However, Mike Singer of The Denver Post has reported that the club intends to waive the 24-year-old before his salary for 2020/21 becomes fully guaranteed this week in order to clear a spot on the 15-man roster for Bol Bol.

Denver likely gave Bates-Diop and his reps a chance to seek out a new opportunity before that move becomes official. He’ll still have to clear waivers, but I don’t expect any team will make a surprise claim.

The 48th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Bates-Diop began his career with the Timberwolves before being tradd to Denver at last season’s deadline. In 74 career games as a pro, he has averaged 5.9 PPG and 2.8 RPG on .426/.303/.699 shooting.

Quinndary Weatherspoon is expected to fill San Antonio’s other two-way contract slot.

Nuggets Sign Isaiah Hartenstein

NOVEMBER 30: The Nuggets have officially signed Hartenstein, the team announced in a press release.

NOVEMBER 22: The Nuggets intend to sign free agent center Isaiah Hartenstein to fill their final roster spot, a league source tells Mike Singer of The Denver Post. He’ll receive a two-year deal, Singer adds (via Twitter).

Hartenstein’s deal will include a second-year player option, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic (Twitter link). It’ll be a minimum-salary contract, adds Singer (via Twitter).

Hartenstein, 22, spent the first two years of his NBA career in Houston before being waived in June. In 51 total games, he averaged 3.1 PPG and 2.7 RPG in 9.5 minutes per contest.

He’s expected to compete with Zeke Nnaji for Denver’s backup center job following the departure of Mason Plumlee, Singer notes. I’d expect Paul Millsap and JaMychal Green are also candidates to play some minutes at the five in smaller lineups when Nikola Jokic is off the floor.

Another player who could be in the mix for playing time at center is 2019 second-rounder Bol Bol, who will be promoted from his two-way contract to the standard roster, according to Singer. Bol will fill the roster spot previously occupied by Keita Bates-Diop, who will be waived before his salary for 2020/21 becomes guaranteed, per Singer.

Bol, once considered a probable 2019 lottery pick, dropped to No. 44 in last year’s draft due to health concerns. The 21-year-old was limited to seven NBA appearances and eight G League games as a rookie.

The Nuggets will also aim to sign forward Greg Whittington to a two-way contract, per Singer, though a league source tells JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors that Whittington has yet to agree to a deal. Undrafted Marquette free agent Markus Howard is on track to fill one on Denver’s two-way slots.

Nuggets Rumors: Grant, Bates-Diop, Bol, Craig, Nnaji

Jerami Grant‘s decision to join the Pistons had a lot to do with his role with the Nuggets, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

Grant received similar offers of three years and $60MM from Detroit and Denver and decided to take an expanded offensive role with the rebuilding Pistons. Grant wasn’t thrilled with being the fourth option on a prime championship contender. He served on the second unit a majority of last season behind Paul Millsap and Grant viewed that as a sacrifice.

Singer offers more info on the Nuggets

  • They filled one of their two remaining roster spots by agreeing to a contract with Millsap on Saturday afternoon. But they don’t intend to keep forward Keita Bates-Diop, so that will open up another roster spot. It will likely be filled by second-year center Bol Bol. The team plans to convert his two-way contract into a standard deal.
  • With Millsap coming back, the next priority is restricted free agent Torrey Craig. His perimeter defense increases his value due to Grant’s departure.
  • If Craig signs elsewhere, they’ll look to add a mobile big man to replace Mason Plumlee, who is also headed to Detroit. If that plan falls through, the role may be filled by first-round selection Zeke Nnaji.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Lillard, Jazz, Wolves

The Nuggets have been one of the most short-handed teams at the NBA’s campus so far, having been limited to just eight players in each of their first two scrimmages this summer. However, reinforcements are on the way for Monday’s game against Orlando.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told reporters this afternoon that Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr., and Keita Bates-Diop will all be available to play in tonight’s game, increasing the team’s roster count to 12 (Twitter link via Kendra Andrews of The Athletic).

While he won’t be active tonight, Nuggets guard Monte Morris moved one step closer to getting back on the court as well, having cleared quarantine, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post tweets. He seems likely to be ready by the time Denver plays its first seeding game vs. Miami on Saturday.

Let’s round up a few more Northwest items…

  • Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard missed Sunday’s scrimmage against Toronto due to inflammation in his left foot, but head coach Terry Stotts said the club doesn’t expect it to be “a long-term thing,” writes Tim Bontemps of
  • Sarah Todd of The Deseret News takes a deep dive into the Jazz‘s ability to retain both Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert long term, exploring the odds of the team doing so and speculating about what their contracts might look like.
  • University of Denver guard Ade Murkey, a Minnesota native, has interviewed with his hometown Timberwolves during the pre-draft process, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). Murkey averaged 18.6 PPG and 6.3 RPG with a .481/.400/.731 shooting line as a senior.

Morris, Bates-Diop Joining Nuggets In Orlando

Nuggets backup point guard Monte Morris is scheduled to arrive at the NBA’s Disney World campus on Friday, per Kendra Andrews of The Athletic (Twitter link). Andrews went on to note that deep-bench forward Keita Bates-Diop touched down in Orlando for the league’s season restart on Thursday.

The reason for either player’s delay in joining the Nuggets has not been provided. They’ll both be required to quarantine and take a physical, as well as testing negative for COVID-19 for two straight days, before joining their squad for team practices.

Morris was previously rumored to be missing from the Orlando campus, having not been spotted in team photographs or videos at all since the team touched down earlier this month.

Morris had developed into being an integral part of the Nuggets’ rotation during 2019/20. The 6’2″ third-year guard out of Iowa State logged averages of 8.4 PPG, 3.5 APG and 1.7 RPG in 21.6 MPG across 65 games for Denver. He connected on 37.5% of his 2.2 three-point looks and 82.3% of his free throw attempts.

At 43-22, the Nuggets are the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. Their first seeding game during the NBA’s season restart is scheduled for Saturday, August 1 against the Heat.

The 6’8″ Bates-Diop, the No. 48 pick out of OSU in 2018, appeared in just two games for Denver this year prior to the suspension of the season, after being traded to the team from the Timberwolves in a larger deal. The Nuggets occasionally sent Bates-Diop to the G League’s Windy City Bulls to accrue in-game reps.