Kira Lewis

Western Notes: Jazz, Lewis Jr., Oladipo, Kings

Despite opening the season with a red-hot start, the first-place Jazz aren’t satisfied with their situation and remain fully focused on winning the championship, Mark Medina of USA TODAY writes.

Utah owns the best record in the league at 21-5, having won six straight contests entering Saturday’s game against Miami. Prior to this, the team enjoyed an 11-game win streak and now has just one loss in its last 18 games. Outside of a tough road loss in Denver on January 31, the team hasn’t lost in over a month.

“We’re not going to put too much emphasis on it,” guard Donovan Mitchell said, as relayed by Medina. “It’s not like we’re saying this is a make-or-break stretch for us. We’re not playing to be ready by February. We’re playing to be ready in April, May, June, July, whatever. That’s when we want to have our best product.”

There’s more from the Western Conference today:

  • Christian Clark of NOLA.com examines how Pelicans rookie Kira Lewis Jr. is hurting opposing teams with his unique speed. Lewis, whose mother was also a college sprinter, is recognized as one of the quickest guards in the league. He was the No. 13 overall pick in the draft last year. “When I come in, I’m looking to push the pace, get into the paint, make the defense collapse and just make the right read,” Lewis said.
  • Rockets guard Victor Oladipo has been ruled out of the team’s game against New York on Saturday, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. The team is listing him as out with a right foot strain, though the exact severity remains unclear. Oladipo has mostly struggled since joining Houston, averaging 18.4 points on 39% shooting from the floor and 30% from deep.
  • James Ham of NBC Sports examines why the Kings shouldn’t trade Harrison Barnes despite teams being interested in the 28-year-old. Barnes, in his ninth NBA season, is averaging 16.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game in 25 contests.

Southwest Notes: Lewis, Bey/Hinton, Stone, Porter

Rookie Pelicans point guard Kira Lewis Jr. has carved out further playing time with New Orleans, per Scott Kushner of the Times-Picayune. “He’s just so young,” head coach Stan Van Gundy said of the 19-year-old rookie, the No. 13 draft pick out of Alabama in 2020. “But he does so many good things. Trying to figure out how we throw him into that rotation is something we are definitely thinking about.”

Van Gundy expounded on his interest in exploring more time on the court for Lewis as the Pelicans’ 2020/21 season progresses: “Does that mean every single night? Does it mean 20 minutes a game? Does it mean 12 minutes a game? I can’t give you a definitive on that yet. But I do think I want him to play.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Two-way Mavericks rookies Tyler Bey and Nate Hinton have been sent to the NBA G League’s Long Island Nets to participate in the NBAGL 2021 season in Orlando, per an official team tweet.
  • Rockets GM Rafael Stone has exhibited an aptitude for being able to tinker with his roster quickly, Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle writes. Stone’s haul after trading away All-Star James Harden – led by wing Victor Oladipo – has impressed on the court. Houston is currently riding a six-game win streak to climb into the top eight teams within the competitive Western Conference.
  • The Grizzlies are sending forward Jontay Porter to the the club’s G League affiliate, the Memphis Hustle, for the 2021 NBAGL season in Orlando, according to a team press release.

Southwest Notes: Bledsoe, Kleber, White, Samanic

After a report Tuesday that the Pelicans are getting trade calls about guards Lonzo Ball and J.J. Redick, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst adds another name to the list. Appearing on “The Jump” today (video link), Windhorst said Eric Bledsoe is also available and that New Orleans is initiating trade talks with other teams.

With a 5-10 record, the Pelicans have been the most disappointing team in the West. Bledsoe has played a role in that as his numbers across the board are down from last season in Milwaukee. Acquired from the Bucks in the Jrue Holiday deal, Bledsoe is averaging 12.8 points per game, his lowest scoring average in eight years.

According to Windhorst, New Orleans wants to clear away its veteran guards to create more playing time for Nickeil Alexander-Walker and rookie Kira Lewis, who was the 13th pick in last year’s draft. Coach Stan Van Gundy talked to Ball and Redick today about the situation, tweets Will Guillory of The Athletic, and said the players realize that trade rumors are part of life in the NBA.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Maxi Kleber, one of five Mavericks players who were quarantined, has been cleared and has started individual workouts, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Coach Rick Carlisle said Kleber won’t be available for Friday’s game against the Jazz, but may return this weekend. “His clock is ticking at a different rate because his episode was longer,” Carlisle said. “He certainly won’t play in either of these two games (at Utah). Saturday I suppose could be a possibility, but I don’t know.” (Twitter link)
  • Spurs guard Derrick White is close to returning from a fractured toe and could be back in the lineup this weekend, according to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). White, who has played just one game this season, had surgery on the toe in August and reinjured it on New Year’s Day.
  • The Spurs have sent second-year forward Luka Samanic to the G League bubble in Orlando, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Samanic has seen limited playing time in four games this season.

Pelicans Sign Kira Lewis Jr. To Rookie Contract

The Pelicans have officially signed first-round pick Kira Lewis Jr. to his rookie contract, the team announced today in a press release.

A sophomore at Alabama in 2019/20, Lewis averaged a team-high 18.5 PPG to go along with 5.2 APG, 4.8 RPG, and 1.8 SPG in 31 games (37.6 MPG). After leaving the Crimson Tide to enter the draft pool, Lewis became a lottery pick, going 13th overall to New Orleans.

Lewis will join a solid group of Pelicans point guards that also includes Eric Bledsoe and Lonzo Ball. As the No. 13 pick, he’ll be in line for a four-year contract worth over $17MM, including a first-year salary of $3.64MM.

Nineteen of the 30 players drafted in the first round on November 18 have now signed their rookie contracts, as our tracker shows.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Pelicans, Lewis Jr., Mavericks

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban recently compared Luka Doncic‘s style of play and charisma to that of one the most entertaining and successful point guards in league history — Magic Johnson.

Doncic, 21, is coming off a breakout season that saw him average 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists on 46% shooting. He also led his team to the seventh-best record in the West at 43-32, losing to the Clippers 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs.

“He [Doncic] can pass the ball, see from the top, get where he wants from the court. Knows how to pass to guys on time and on target,” Cuban said in an appearance on the Danger Show (as relayed by Dan Cancian of Newsweek.com).

“Clutch player in crunch time. [He] will take on responsibility against anybody, anytime. Great teammate. Fun Kid. Magic will light things up with a smile, Luka’s the same way for the Mavs. He’s got that charisma that Magic has.”

Here are some other notes from the Southwest Division tonight:

  • William Guillory of The Athletic explores how much spacing could be a concern for the Pelicans this year. New Orleans has transformed its roster ahead of the 2020/21 season, hiring head coach Stan Van Gundy and his staff, inking Brandon Ingram to a multi-year extension and acquiring Steven Adams to bolster the frontcourt. The team possesses the talent needed to reach the playoffs next season, though it remains unclear whether it has enough shooting to be a legitimate contender.
  • Pelicans rookie Kira Lewis Jr. is a student of the game at just 19 years old, Christian Clark of Nola.com writes. Lewis was drafted by the team with the No. 13 pick this month, having spent the past two seasons at Alabama. “He’s a student of the game,” former AAU coach Cory Underwood said. “That’s why he’s going to find a way to succeed in the NBA somehow, someway. He’s been doing things like that since he was young. A lot of guys now, you’ll find NBA guys. The Anthony Edwards thing was a big thing. He said he doesn’t watch basketball. A lot of kids don’t watch basketball. Kira Lewis watches basketball.” 
  • Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News examines the five biggest issues the Mavericks will face entering training camp, beginning with a pair of questions related to Kristaps Porzingis. The team still doesn’t have a concrete timetable for Porzingis’ return from injury, with team president Donnie Nelson recently giving an early-January target range for the 25-year-old. The club must also determine whether he’ll primarily play power forward or center this season.

Draft Rumors: Wolves, Edwards, Ball, P. Williams, Hawks, Knicks, More

With the 2020 NBA draft just two days away, several draft experts are publishing their final mocks of the year, nearly five months after the event was initially scheduled to take place. Jonathan Givony of ESPN, Jeremy Woo of SI.com, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, and Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report are among those who published new mock drafts today. Let’s round up a few of the key pieces of intel from those mocks…

  • Sources tell Vecenie that the Timberwolves still haven’t finalized a decision on what they’ll do with their No. 1 pick, as they expect “real” trade offers to start coming in during the next couple days. However, Givony and Woo have both heard that most teams around the NBA are operating as if the Wolves will select Anthony Edwards if they stay put.
  • LaMelo Ball‘s private workouts with teams last week were strong, according to Givony, who suggests that the Warriors were among the teams impressed by what they saw from Ball. Still, Givony and other draft experts view James Wiseman as Golden State’s most likely pick at No. 2.
  • There has been plenty of chatter about Florida State forward Patrick Williams, whose ceiling is as high as No. 4 to the Bulls, according to both Woo and Givony.
  • Opposing front offices say the Hawks (No. 6) have been the most active team in trade talks, according to Givony, who says Atlanta could push for an impact player (such as Jrue Holiday or Victor Oladipo) or trade down and pick up another young player.
  • Sources tell Wasserman that the Knicks (No. 8) appear to be “looking hardest” at Devin Vassell, Isaac Okoro, and Kira Lewis Jr. Sources have also linked Obi Toppin to New York for some time, per Woo, though the Dayton forward is less likely to be on the board at No. 8.
  • Assuming the Suns keep the No. 10 pick, sharpshooter Aaron Nesmith is thought to be high on their list, says Wasserman.
  • While the Celtics have looked into packaging their three first-rounders (Nos. 14, 26, and 30) for a mid-lottery pick, interest in that sort of deal appears to be lukewarm, according to Woo, who says Boston may be more likely to make smaller trades with their picks.
  • Sources tell Wasserman that the Trail Blazers (No. 16) have expressed interest in Serbian forward Aleksej Pokusevski, while Vecenie says Jay Scrubb‘s name is the one he has heard linked most frequently to Portland.
  • The Bucks‘ pick at No. 24 is one to watch in trade talks as Milwaukee tries to upgrade its roster, writes Vecenie. If they keep the pick, Josh Green is among the options the Bucks are eyeing, per Wasserman.

Atlantic Notes: Ujiri, Raptors, Lewis Jr., Sixers

The Raptors have provided proposals for how they – and visiting teams – could safely play in Toronto this season, president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri wrote in an article for The Toronto Star.

The organization has explored temporary homes in the United States due to the border being closed to non-essential travel as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Raptors’ strong preference is to play its games in Toronto if permitted.

“We’ve provided detailed proposals to governments about how we, and the teams that visit us, could play safely in Toronto,” Ujiri wrote. “Our plan builds on things we learned in the bubble, such as daily testing, limiting contact, and safe travel. It’s constructed to keep our players, staff, their families and Canadians healthy, because that has to be the starting point and the end point.”

The Raptors are considering a number of options in America, with a recent report indicating that Tampa Bay, Florida would be a frontrunner to host the team this season.

“We have to look at other options, because the preseason is coming up fast — Dec. 1,” Ujiri explained. “We are proud to represent our city and our country, and we hope to be able to do that while playing in Toronto. Cities in the United States have been very kind to us — they’ve offered us a home away from home. To them I say: Thank you. To you, I say that I hope we get to tell them we won’t be able to take them up on their generous offer.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Despite Ujiri and the Raptors presenting a good plan to host games in Toronto this season, concerns remain over cross-border travel amid the coronavirus pandemic, Canada’s deputy chief of public health Dr. Howard Njoo said, as relayed by ESPN. The team remains without a finalized home despite training camps beginning in roughly two weeks.
  • The speed of Alabama point guard Kira Lewis Jr. has attracted the interest of the Knicks, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Lewis, who’s largely considered to be the fastest player in the draft, worked out for the team last month. “Getting to the rim, finishing over length and showing my shot as well,” Lewis said of what he tried to show the team. “I try to bring every aspect I can whether it’s ball handing, passing, shooting, defense, rebounding,. Anything I can do to help the team. I’m trying to get better [in] being more physical with my size and handling bigger defenders, cutting to the basket and making great reads.”
  • Daryl Morey‘s rebuilding of the Sixers could ultimately start with the draft, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. The Sixers own the No. 21, No. 34, No. 36, No. 49 and No. 58 picks in the draft, which is set to commence on Wednesday.

Draft Notes: International Prospects, Wolves, Suns, Lewis, Terry

The NBA’s deadline for early entrants to withdraw from this year’s draft has now passed, which means it should just be a matter of time before we get an updated official list from the league of the early entrants who have kept their names in this year’s pool.

In the meantime, updates on a handful of international prospects continue to trickle in. According to Nicola Lupo of Sportando, Estonian forward Henri Drell – who is currently playing for Pesaro in Italy – has withdrawn his name from the 2020 draft.

On the other hand, Isralie point guard Yam Madar, a member of Hapoel Tel Aviv, has elected to keep his name in the draft, per Barak Haklai of ynetsport (Twitter link). And after initially announcing that his client Marko Simonovic would be pulling out of the draft, agent Misko Raznatovic has clarified (via Twitter) that Simonovic will remain in the draft after all.

Here’s more on the 2020 NBA draft:

  • An NBA general manager who spoke to Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link) this morning said he doesn’t envy the Timberwolves and their efforts to maximize the value of the No. 1 pick. The teams at the top are desperate to try and trade down, but there just isn’t much value with the top few picks this year,” the GM said.
  • Within a piece on Kira Lewis Jr., Mike Mazzeo of Forbes says the Timberwolves and Suns are among the teams that have watched the Alabama guard work out in person. Lewis also worked out in person for Detroit, Chicago, New York, and Orlando, as previously reported.
  • Few prospects have increased their stock in recent months as substantially as Stanford’s Tyrell Terry, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, who notes within a profile of Terry that the 20-year-old has interviewed virtually with all 30 NBA teams.
  • In an Insider-only article, Kevin Pelton of ESPN uses advanced stats to break down this year’s prospects into tiers. Pelton has LaMelo Ball on his own in tier one, followed by Anthony Edwards and Tyrese Haliburton in tier two, with Deni Avdija, Onyeka Okongwu, and James Wiseman in tier three.

Draft Rumors: Avdija, Warriors, Okongwu, Trades, More

The list of teams that have talked to Israeli wing Deni Avdija includes the Hawks, Pistons, Cavaliers, Spurs, and Bucks, according to Ethan Strauss of The Athletic.

Those first three teams all have draft picks in the top seven and San Antonio could theoretically move up from No. 11, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Milwaukee would have a shot at Avdija. Strauss adds that Avdija is believed to prefer to land with the Warriors, who worked him out last month.

Speaking of the Warriors, as they mull the possibility of trading down from No. 2, Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report says there are definitely players they like who will be available in the mid-to-late lottery range. If they remain at No. 2, James Wiseman is probably the favorite, according to Wasserman, who hears Golden State is higher on Wiseman than Anthony Edwards. The team is also believed to be high on Avdija and Devin Vassell, Wasserman adds.

Here’s more on the draft:

  • Wasserman provides a few more interesting tidbits within his latest mock draft for Bleacher Report, writing that Patrick Williams has become a “coveted target” for the Pistons, the Suns have legit interest in Kira Lewis, and the Kings are heavily weighing analytics as they mull their draft options. Previous reports indicated that Williams is in play for Detroit at No. 7 and that Phoenix has interviewed Lewis more than once.
  • Projected lottery pick Onyeka Okongwu has recently met with the Hornets, Spurs, and Wizards and will meet with the Cavaliers this week, tweets Wasserman. Teams believe that Okongwu could come off the board as high as No. 3 to Charlotte and is unlikely to fall past Washington at No. 9, Wasserman notes (via Twitter).
  • ESPN’s Zach Lowe doesn’t expect any teams with first-round picks to sell them, but wouldn’t be surprised if some clubs look to swap a late first-rounder for a “roughly equivalent” future pick. He also says it’s a safe bet that a number of second-rounders will be sold for cash.

Kings Notes: Bogdanovic, Lewis, Trade Proposals, Achiuwa

Deciding whether to keep Bogdan Bogdanovic will be one of the most important offseason decisions for new Kings general manager Monte McNair, writes James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. The shooting guard is a restricted free agent, meaning Sacramento can match any offer he receives on the open market. ESPN’s Bobby Marks estimates that Bogdanovic’s new contract will start at $14-16MM, which translates to a total investment of $63-72MM on a four-year deal.

Bogdanovic is coming off his most productive season, averaging 15.1 points per game and shooting 37.2% from three-point range. The Kings don’t want to lose an important part of their offense, but they have to be careful about overpaying with so many other young players whose contracts will be up soon. De’Aaron Fox is likely to receive an extension this fall that will take effect during the 2021/22 season.

Ham suggests offering Bogdanovic a front-loaded contract that declines in value each year, as the team did with Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield. That would help control costs in the future and make Bogdanovic easier to move if the Kings ever decide to trade him.

There’s more from Sacramento:

  • With the Kings reportedly interested in drafting Kira Lewis Jr., Ham examines the potential fit for the Alabama point guard. His speed blends well with the up-tempo style that Sacramento prefers, and Lewis could allow the team to play fast when Fox is on the bench. Ham states that Lewis projects as an instant-offense player off the bench.
  • Richard Ivanowski of The Sacramento Bee offers six hypothetical trades for the Kings to pursue if McNair wants to shake up the roster before the draft. Ivanowski suggests Sacramento should chase a star such as Washington’s Bradley Beal with a package of Hield, Marvin Bagley and the No. 12 pick, or possibly try to get the No. 1 selection and James Johnson from the Timberwolves in exchange for Hield and No. 12. Ivanowski also has trade proposals involving the Hawks, Bucks, Celtics and Sixers.
  • Jason Jones of The Athletic believes the Kings might use their first-round pick to add frontcourt depth and identifies Precious Achiuwa of Memphis as a potential selection. Jalen Smith of Maryland may also be under consideration.