Keon Johnson

Blazers’ Nassir Little Out Six Weeks With Hip Fracture

Forward Nassir Little exited Tuesday’s loss to the Clippers with what was initially deemed a right hip strain. Further imaging revealed that Little had sustained a mild femoral head impaction fracture, and he’s expected to miss six weeks, the Trail Blazers announced in a press release.

Little, 22, signed a four-year, $28MM rookie scale extension before the 2022/23 season started (it kicks in next season). Through 21 games (15.3 minutes per night) for Portland, he’s averaging 5.5 points and 2.4 rebounds on .473/.372/.667 shooting.

Part of the reason Little accepted a relatively team-friendly deal is because he wanted “security” and “peace of mind.” But he also admitted that his injury history had played a factor.

I’m not gonna lie, I think my talent level is worth more than that,” Little said of his $28MM contract. “But with me having an injury history, and them still taking a chance on me, I want to be here. I’ll probably perform at a level that’s worth more than that, but being in Portland is what I want.”

Little was having a breakout third season in ’21/22 but it came to an early end when he underwent surgery on February 1 to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. In May, he underwent abdominal surgery to repair a core muscle injury.

Overall, he averaged 9.8 points and 5.6 rebounds on .460/.331/.734 shooting in 42 games (25.9 MPG) last season.

The Blazers are dealing with several injured players at the moment (Twitter link). In addition to Little, second-year guard Keon Johnson (left hip pointer), star guard Damian Lillard (right soleus strain), and guard Gary Payton II (return to competition conditioning) are out Saturday at Utah, while wing Josh Hart (left ankle sprain) is doubtful and center Drew Eubanks (right hip contusion) is questionable.

Lillard is reportedly targeting a Sunday return at home against Indiana.

Payton, a key free agent addition, has yet to play this season after undergoing core muscle surgery in September. It was initially thought that he’d be available for the start of the regular season, but his progress has been slower than anticipated. The last update on his status was two weeks ago.

Portland had a great start to the season, going 10-4, but has lost seven of its past eight games to currently hold an 11-11 record, the 10th seed in the West.

Trail Blazers Exercise 2023/24 Option For Keon Johnson

2:55pm: The Blazers have officially picked up Johnson’s option, per the team.


2:12pm: The Trail Blazers are exercising their third-year team option on guard Keon Johnson, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Johnson’s $2,808,720 salary for the 2023/24 season will now be guaranteed.

The No. 21 overall pick of last year’s draft after one season at Tennessee, Johnson was technically drafted by the Knicks, who traded his rights to the Clippers for No. 25 overall pick Quentin Grimes and a 2024 second-rounder (via Detroit). Johnson was later sent to Portland in February as part of the deal that saw Robert Covington and Norman Powell head to Los Angeles.

An explosive athlete who broke the combine records for both the standing vertical (41.5 inches) and max vertical leap last year (48 inches), Johnson didn’t see much playing time as a rookie for the Clippers, appearing in just 15 games for a total of 135 minutes. However, he got more playing time for the Blazers who went in full-blown tank mode after injuries to Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic decimated the roster, averaging 9.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.9 APG and 1.0 SPG in 22 games (25.5 MPG).

Many talent evaluators thought Johnson would be a top-10 pick last year but he wound up falling mostly due to concerns about his shooting and overall skill level. He struggled mightily with his shot in ’21/22, posting an overall slash line of .353/.340/.804 (.453 true shooting percentage).

With Lillard and Simons back healthy, and the additions of Josh Hart (trade deadline), Gary Payton II (free agent) and Shaedon Sharpe (No. 7 overall pick in June), Johnson might struggle to crack Portland’s rotation in year two.

Northwest Notes: Watford, Walker, K. Johnson, KCP, Bolmaro

Strong showings by Trendon Watford and Jabari Walker in the Las Vegas Summer League may have eased any concerns the Trail Blazers have about front court depth, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.

Watford, who signed a two-way contract with Portland last summer and was converted to a standard deal in February, was outstanding late in the season when injuries to teammates pushed him into a more prominent role. He remained productive in Las Vegas, averaging 13.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks per game as the Blazers captured the Summer League title.

Walker didn’t have flashy statistics in Vegas, but he showed he can be a valuable role player, Fentress states. Walker rebounded, played defense, set screens and did other things that will be necessary for him to earn consistent minutes in the NBA.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Trail Blazers shooting guard Keon Johnson also stood out during Summer League, Fentress adds. Johnson, who was acquired from the Clippers in February, looked like a former first-round pick, leading Portland’s squad in scoring at 14.2 PPG. Fentress doesn’t expect Johnson to be part of the rotation this season, barring injuries, but said he could see spot duty.
  • Although Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has found a new home with the Nuggets, who gave him a two-year extension last week, he didn’t expect to be traded by the Wizards, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post. It marked the second straight offseason that Caldwell-Pope has been part of a significant trade. “My initial reaction was surprise because what me and my team and the Washington Wizards was talking about and communicating was different,” he said. “It was a surprise.”
  • Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune examines what the Jazz can expect from Leandro Bolmaro, who was part of the return in the Rudy Gobert trade. Bolmero, a 21-year-old swingman, is a 2020 first-round pick who made his NBA debut last season with the Timberwolves. Larsen notes that Bolmaro is an outstanding defender and a capable rebounder and playmaker, but there are questions about his ability to score.

Blazers Notes: Johnson, Allen, Covington, Powell, Bledsoe

Rookie shooting guard Keon Johnson said on Monday that he’ll be out at least a couple more weeks due to an ankle injury, Casey Holdahl tweets.

Johnson was acquired by the Trail Blazers in the deal with the Clippers than sent Robert Covington and Norman Powell to L.A. The 21st pick of last year’s draft, Johnson has appeared in 15 games this season. He hasn’t seen action in an NBA game since January 9.

We have more on the Trail Blazers:

  • The incentive for the Blazers to make the deal with the Clippers was to cut payroll and get under the luxury tax, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes, but there might have been ulterior motive. It could be the first step toward Jody Allen selling the team, Quick speculates. Quick notes that the ground lease for the Moda Center runs through October 2025 and Blazers must notify the city by September 2024 of their intentions to extend or renegotiate the lease. However, there haven’t been any ongoing negotiations.
  • The fact that the Blazers didn’t get a first-round pick for Powell and Covington shows that offers they received weren’t as strong as anticipated, John Hollinger of The Athletic opines. He speculates that the back end of Powell’s five-year contract – he’ll take in $20.5MM in 2025/26 – likely scared some suitors. Additionally, many teams likely wanted to get a pick attached to Covington from Portland, which was eager to get out of the luxury tux.
  • Eric Bledsoe is unsure if he’ll remain with Portland after the trade deadline, Sean Highkin of the Bleacher Report tweets. He was also part of the deal with the Clippers, added for salary purposes. “It’s up in the air. I’m being professional,” Bledsoe said. “Come in and do my job like I always have, see where it goes.”
  • In case you missed it, the Knicks are reportedly interested in acquiring CJ McCollum.

Trail Blazers Trade Powell, Covington To Clippers

5:37pm: The trade is now official, Portland announced in a press release.


1:29pm: The Trail Blazers and Clippers have agreed to a trade that will send swingman Norman Powell and forward Robert Covington to Los Angeles in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, and Detroit’s 2025 second-round pick, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter links).

It’s a fascinating move for a Clippers team that is currently missing Kawhi Leonard (ACL) and Paul George (elbow). As we relayed this morning, there’s a belief that Leonard probably won’t return this season, while George’s recovery timeline remains up in the air.

However, there’s little reason for the Clippers to throw in the towel on this season. Despite its modest 27-27 record, the club is firmly in the play-in picture, holding the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. Additionally, Los Angeles doesn’t control its own 2022 first-round pick, having sent it to Oklahoma City in the George trade, so there’s no incentive to finish in the lottery.

Powell is a talented scorer and shooter who is averaging a career-high 18.7 PPG in 40 games (33.3 MPG) this season, along with a .406 3PT%. His three-point rate has been at 39.9% or higher in each of the last four seasons. Covington, meanwhile, is more limited on offense and has been inconsistent as a shooter this season (.381 FG%, .343 3PT%), but is a versatile defender with plenty of postseason experience.

Powell, a Southern California native who will reunite with former Toronto teammates Leonard and Serge Ibaka, signed a five-year, $90MM contract with Portland in August, so the Clippers will control him for the long term. Covington will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but L.A. will have his Bird rights, allowing the team to go over the cap to re-sign him.

The Clips already project to be way over the luxury tax line next season, so the club may be reluctant to commit to Covington beyond 2021/22 without moving off another contract, such as Marcus Morris‘. That decision won’t have to be made for at least a few months though. In the meantime, this deal will increase L.A.’s projected tax bill this season by about $19MM, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

The move will also open up a spot on the Clippers’ 15-man roster, potentially allowing them to promote Amir Coffey from his two-way contract. That had been a goal for the team as it approached the deadline, tweets Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

It looks at first glance like a modest return for the Blazers, but they’ll get a chance to take a flier on a young prospect in Johnson and will benefit financially from the move. According to Marks, the deal takes Portland out of tax territory for this season.

Moving off Powell’s long-term money and taking back Bledsoe’s pseudo-expiring contract (only $3.9MM of his $19.4MM salary next season is guaranteed) will give the Blazers more financial flexibility going forward and will create more room in the backcourt for emerging guard Anfernee Simons, who is in the midst of a breakout year and will be a restricted free agent in the offseason.

I wouldn’t expect Bledsoe to be part of the Blazers’ long-term plans, but Winslow could stick around beyond this season. He’s under contract for about $4.1MM in 2022/23. Johnson’s rookie contract runs through 2024/25.

Having parted ways with one of their leading scorers and one of their top defensive players, the Blazers will see their playoff odds for this season dip a little. The team currently holds a play-in spot, but only has a 1.5-game cushion on the 11th-place Pelicans and has an underwhelming record of 21-31.

Portland would send its 2022 first-rounder to Chicago if the pick lands outside of the lottery. Taking a longer-term view, the front office – led by interim general manager Joe Cronin – may actually prefer to miss the playoffs, since it would allow the team to keep that first-rounder and would give Damian Lillard more time to recover from his abdominal surgery — it’s a safe bet Lillard won’t rush back from that injury to join a lottery-bound squad for the home stretch.

It’s unclear what this deal will mean for CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, two of Portland’s other top trade candidates. The club still has six more days to continue making trades, but it wouldn’t be shocking if one or both of those longtime Blazers stays put through the February 10 deadline. McCollum is under contract for two more seasons beyond this one, while Nurkic will be an unrestricted free agent in July.

Portland will create a $6.5MM trade exception in the deal, tweets Marks.

Clippers Seek Point Guard; Bledsoe, Ibaka, Morris Available

The Clippers are shopping for a play-making point guard and are willing to move several veterans in order to achieve that goal, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reports.

The Clippers believe a starting point guard is the missing piece to become a championship contender when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George return to action, even though it’s uncertain whether they’ll be back this season or next year.

The front office has made Eric Bledsoe, Serge Ibaka, and Marcus Morris available to acquire another floor leader, O’Connor says. The team views current starter Reggie Jackson as more of a scorer than a pure point guard.

Bledsoe is signed through next season but his $19.38MM salary next season is only guaranteed for $3.9MM. Ibaka is making $9.7MM this season and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Clippers would prefer to hold onto Morris, who is in the second year of a four-year, $64MM contract, but the forward may be their most attractive trade piece.

O’Connor suggests the Clippers would also be willing to part with Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, Ivica Zubac, Jason Preston, Brandon Boston Jr., or Keon Johnson if the right deal came along.

As O’Connor notes, the Clippers have been linked in some fashion to Jalen Brunson, Dennis Schröder, Kemba Walker, Goran Dragic, Spencer Dinwiddie and John Wall in recent weeks. Brunson would seemingly be the best fit, though the Mavericks aren’t inclined to deal him, despite the fact that he’ll be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Dragic, currently in limbo, might be a good short-term fit. Wall, who hasn’t played this season while the Rockets seek a new home for him, could also be an intriguing possibility. The salaries of Bledsoe, Ibaka and Morris could be matched up to obtain Wall. The Clippers could also simply wait to see if Wall winds up on the buyout market and make a play for him at that point.

Pacific Notes: Kerr, Buss, Clippers, Durant, Green

The mantra for the Warriors this coming season appears to be “balance,” writes Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area. According to Johnson, the way the team has re-balanced through its veteran signings and draft class is one of the main things that excites head coach Steve Kerr coming into the season.

I think this year’s team will offer a much better mix of mentors and veterans to go along with those young guys,” Kerr said on the latest episode of Dubs Talk podcast. “… It’s real exciting to think of the structure of the team and the balance and what we can accomplish.”

After two straight years of missing the playoffs, Kerr says he feels the team is back to a level where it can compete every night, especially once star Klay Thompson returns from his two-year hiatus due to ACL and Achilles injuries.

It’s really hard to gauge where we are against the rest of the Western Conference,” Kerr said. “Obviously there’s a lot of great teams. We haven’t even had a practice to put the group together. But I’m very excited about the potential.”

We have more news from around the Pacific Division:

  • Lakers owner Jeanie Buss recently sat down with Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic. In the interview, she describes why the legacy of her father’s Showtime Lakers impels her to build not just a great basketball team, but a stylish one. She talks about why she doesn’t like the play-in tournament, why Kobe Bryant‘s 20-year run with a single team is unlikely to be repeated, and says “our fans are going to be just cuckoo for (Russell Westbrook), are going to be so happy that he’s here.
  • The Clippers may not have shaken up their roster in a major way, but Summer League provided some reasons for excitement, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. No. 51 pick Brandon Boston outperformed expectations, knocking down shots and creating off the dribble, No. 33 pick Jason Preston overcame a rough start to show his ability to orchestrate the offense and get into the paint, while hyper-athletic wings Jay Scrubb and Keon Johnson both showcased why they’re intriguing talents while also laying bare the flaws that could keep them off the floor early on.
  • In a much-discussed interview with Bleacher Report, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green explored the last year of their time together with the Warriors, as well as their infamous blow-up in November of 2018. As Nick Friedell of ESPN explores, Durant and Green blamed head coach Steve Kerr and president of basketball operations Bob Myers for mishandling the response to that dust-up. “Y’all are about to f— this up,” Green said he told the Warriors front office. “I said, ‘The only person that can make this right is me and (Durant). And there is nothing that y’all can do, and y’all are going to f— this up.’ And in my opinion, they f—ed it up.” In response, Durant said, “I think so too.”

Clippers Sign Keon Johnson To Rookie Contract

The Clippers have officially signed first-round pick Keon Johnson to his rookie contract, the team announced today.

[RELATED: 2021 NBA Draft Pick Signings]

Johnson was the No. 21 pick in last Thursday’s draft and was technically selected by the Knicks on behalf of the Clippers. New York and Los Angeles agreed to a draft-night deal that saw the Clips give up a future second-round pick to move up from No. 25 to No. 21 to secure Johnson.

A 6’5″ wing, Johnson spent a single season at Tennessee, averaging 11.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 2.5 APG on .449/.271/.703 shooting in 27 games (25.5 MPG).

Back in April, when he declared for the draft, he was listed as the No. 6 prospect on ESPN’s big board and was viewed as a probable lottery pick. However, he remains very raw, especially on the offensive end, and slipped a little as teams in the middle of the first round opted for safer picks.

Unless he signs for less than 120% of his rookie scale amount, which is unlikely, Johnson will earn $2.55MM in 2021/22, as our breakdown of rookie scale salaries shows.

Clippers Acquire No. 21 From Knicks, Select Keon Johnson

11:59pm: The trade is now official, according to a Knicks press release.


9:23pm: After trading the No. 19 pick to Charlotte, the Knicks have agreed to trade away their No. 21 selection as well, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). It’s going to the Clippers, who have used it to select Tennessee wing Keon Johnson, per Charania.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter), New York will receive the No. 25 pick and a future second-rounder from Los Angeles in the deal. That second-round pick will be Detroit’s 2024 selection, Woj adds (via Twitter).

Johnson had been viewed as a potential lottery pick, but some teams had concerns about his medical records, according to Jeremy Woo of SI.com, who notes (via Twitter) that the swingman still has significant upside.

Meanwhile, although Knicks fans may be disappointed that the team traded away one of its first-rounders and moved down four spots with the other, the moves allowed the team to add two extra future draft picks and will create even more cap room for free agency — New York will only have to account for the cap hold for the No. 25 pick now, rather than Nos. 19 and 21.

O’Connor’s Latest: Nuggets, Grizzlies, Warriors, Kings, Hornets

Within his latest mock draft, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer confirms a few items we’ve heard elsewhere in recent days. According to O’Connor, Jalen Green‘s workout with the Pistons last week was “outstanding,” the Jazz are willing to attach the No. 30 pick to Derrick Favors in a potential trade, and league sources widely expect Scottie Barnes to be the Magic‘s pick at No. 5.

O’Connor also reiterates that the Rockets continue to explore moving up to No. 1 and says the Thunder have made efforts to trade up, with Green, Cade Cunningham, and Evan Mobley among their presumed targets.

Here are a few more notes of interest from O’Connor’s latest article:

  • League sources tell O’Connor that the Nuggets are trying to move up from No. 26 into the top 20, dangling young bench players or future draft assets in those talks.
  • Although O’Connor confirms that the Grizzlies are interested in Josh Giddey after trading up to No. 10, he says Memphis could try to move up even further, with an eye on Jonathan Kuminga or James Bouknight.
  • Giddey, Kuminga, and Bouknight could also be in the mix for the Warriors at No. 7, according to O’Connor, who says Giddey is thought to be one of Golden State’s “main targets.” O’Connor adds that Keon Johnson‘s ceiling may be the Warriors’ pick at No. 7.
  • The Kings continue to be active in shopping the No. 9 pick, Buddy Hield, and Marvin Bagley III in separate trade scenarios, per O’Connor.
  • League sources continue to connect the Hornets, who will be seeking a center this summer, to Myles Turner, Richaun Holmes, and Nerlens Noel, according to O’Connor.