Kyle Kuzma

L.A. Notes: Beverley, W. Johnson, Kuzma, Free Agency

Patrick Beverley is expected to return to the Clippers’ lineup Monday after missing five games with soreness in his right knee, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The injury-riddled team needs to get healthy soon, as it has dropped eight straight games and fallen to 5-10 after a 4-0 start. L.A. has been without its opening-night starting backcourt of Beverley and Milos Teodosic, who remains out indefinitely with a left plantar fascia injury.

Beverley was part of the package the Clippers received from Houston in this summer’s trade for Chris Paul. He was off to a strong start, averaging 12.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists through 10 games, along with elite-level defense.

There’s more this morning from Los Angeles:

  • With Beverley, Teodosic and Danilo Gallinari all sidelined by injuries, the Clippers want more offensive production from Wesley Johnson, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Johnson, who has a player option for next season worth more than $6.1MM, is taking more than twice as many shots as last season at 5.5 per game, but is careful about not forcing things. “I just see how the game feels out and then just go like that,” he said. “But I think they want me to just go out there and just have an imprint on the game. Just go out there and junk it up, do whatever.”
  • After being ignored for most of his basketball life, Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma has become one of the most celebrated rookies in the NBA, notes Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Kuzma wasn’t invited to New York for the draft and he was a little-noticed part of the draft night trade that sent D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn. “I felt like I had to sell myself everywhere,” Kuzma said of the pre-draft process. “Coming out of college, they kind of pegged me as a second-round to undrafted kind of guy. I didn’t really have that many options. Everybody was telling me to go back to school. Literally, everybody did. But I knew I was a lot better than everyone projected me to be. So going through the draft process I was on a mission, super focused. I had to come in every interview, every workout, and pretty much smash it.”
  • Despite months of rumors and a plan to create enough cap room for two max offers, the Lakers shouldn’t be overly confident that LeBron James and Paul George will join them next summer, writes Mark Heisler of The Orange County Register.

Lakers Notes: Ball, Kuzma, Free Agency, Deng

The Lakers were hoping Lonzo Ball would be an instant star who would help lure LeBron James and other free agents next summer, but that hasn’t happened yet, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. That was especially obvious during last night’s game with the Sixers that featured a wealth of young talent on both teams. Ball made just one of nine shots from the field and didn’t play in the final 16 minutes.

“What we know he’s going to become requires a lot of work, and a lot of growth,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton. “He’ll get there, and there’s going to be some ups and downs on that path.”

Ball is only 20 and has enjoyed some success, becoming the youngest player in league history to post a triple-double. But he hasn’t been the finished product the Lakers thought they were getting, averaging 9.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists in 15 games but shooting just 30.3% from the field. L.A. hopes to have enough cap room to offer two max contracts in July, but there’s no guarantee the current roster will be enough to attract elite talent.

There’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • Fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma appears to be more of an impact player than Ball, according to Josh Plantos of The Washington Post. The swingman out of Utah, who was taken with the 27th pick, is second on the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game and ranks third among all rookies in win shares, with Ball at 21st. He is also far ahead of Ball in Player Efficiency Rating and is versatile enough to play three positions.
  • Kuzma’s performance is one of several reasons for optimism in Los Angeles, writes Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders. The Lakers also have a projected $47MM in cap space for next summer, trade chips such as Julius Randle, Corey Brewer and others, a well-run front office under Magic Johnson, the continued development of Brandon Ingram and Bird rights on Brook Lopez.
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report suggests an unorthodox strategy for opening more cap space next summer: an extension for Luol Deng. The proposal would add three years to Deng’s contract with a minimal amount of guaranteed money. The Lakers could then buy him out and stretch his remaining salary over 11 years rather than five, resulting in an annual payment of about $3.3MM. The plan, if Deng is willing to play along, would give L.A. $57.3MM in cap space for 2018/19, almost enough to offer two max contracts. The timing is tricky as Deng isn’t eligible for the extension until July 7, which is a week into free agency.

Lakers Notes: Kuzma, Lopez, KCP, Nance Jr.

Rookie power forward Kyle Kuzma had a feeling the Lakers would draft him after his stock rose, Shams Charania of The Vertical reports. Kuzma, who declared after his junior season at Utah, was originally pegged as second-round material who might even go undrafted. Kuzma wound up getting picked 27th overall and has taken the league by storm, posting three double-doubles and three 20-point games. “I knew I was way better than that, better than how people pegged me,” he told Charania. “After I killed draft workouts and the combine, I knew I would go in the first round. I had a good hint that it would be L.A., just because of the workout and my combine interview with them, but I didn’t know until draft night.”

In other items concerning the Lakers:

  • The offense has perked up in recent games and center Brook Lopez has played a big role in that improvement, as Joey Ramirez of the team’s website notes. Lopez, who was acquired in an offseason deal with the Nets, is the NBA’s sixth-highest scorer over the last three games, averaging 27.3 PPG. Kuzma believes improved health has led to Lopez’s offensive outburst, as he told Ramirez. “The whole preseason he was really bad with a back injury and little nicks and bruises,” Kuzma said. “You can tell he’s getting back to the Nets version of Brook Lopez.”
  • Lopez and shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have helped to stabilize a mostly youthful roster, coach Luke Walton told NBA.com’s David Aldridge. Lopez has provided a steadying force on offense, while Caldwell-Pope has helped establish a defensive mindset, Aldridge adds. Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year, $18MM free agent contract after the Pistons renounced his rights during restricted free agency. “I think KCP coming over, just a hard-nosed player,” Walton told Aldridge. “He’s been in that Eastern Conference, hard worker. He kind of helps set that tone. Brook’s been a solid vet in this league for a long time.”
  • Larry Nance Jr. is frustrated by his latest injury setback, as he told Bill Oram of the Orange County Register and other media members. Nance Jr., who missed multiple games with knee injuries the last two seasons, is out 4-6 weeks with a fractured left hand. He was averaging 10.6 PPG and 7.4 RPG in 23.1 MPG before suffering the injury Thursday. “I was given a really good chance, was making the most of it,” he said. “So I’m just anxious to get back and keep making a good impression.”

Lakers Notes: Ball, Kuzma, Blue, Bogut

Lonzo Ball‘s NBA debut brought an electric atmosphere to Saturday’s preseason opener, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. The second overall pick had a rough shooting night, going 2 for 9 from the field and finishing with five points, but he contributed eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals and showed a sell-out crowd his triple-double potential. “He is so unselfish that sometimes he has good shots for himself and he tries to get someone else a shot,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton. “We want him taking those. We are looking for him to be a little more aggressive to score the ball, especially early on. I thought he was great the way he was moving around out there and getting people involved.”

There’s more news out of Los Angeles:

  • Fellow first-rounder Kyle Kuzma had no shooting problems, sinking 9 of 12 shots and scoring 19 points. The 27th pick out of Utah sparked the Lakers’ offense in the third quarter with four buckets in 91 seconds and showed the same explosiveness he displayed during summer league. “It’s not so much 100 miles per hour like you’d think it is,” Kuzma told Joey Ramirez of NBA.com about the adjustment to the pro game. “It’s really pace, stop and go — I definitely learned a lot out there just in that one game.”
  • Reigning G League MVP Vander Blue is trying to use every advantage as he competes for a roster spot, Ramirez writes in a separate story. Blue has been showing up to practice three hours early each day and scouted all his potential teammates on video before camp began. Blue has been a productive G League player over the past three years, but has just five NBA games on his resume since leaving Marquette in 2013.
  • Andrew Bogut has resolved his visa issues and is ready to join the Lakers, the veteran center tweeted. Bogut agreed to a one-year, minimum-salary deal with L.A. in mid-September but hasn’t been able to come to the United States because of the visa problem. Bogut is eager to prove that he is fully recovered from a fractured tibia that ended his season in March.

And-Ones: Rookies, All-Stars, Breakouts

A number rookies appear poised to outperform their draft slot, Mike Schmitz of ESPN Insider writes, including one Dennis Smith Jr. whose impressive summer league performance and prime situation with the Mavs have already been discussed ad nauseam.

The scribe makes compelling cases for five other breakout candidates, however, ranging from Jazz lottery pick Donovan Mitchell to the LakersKyle Kuzma, selected 27th overall. Schmitz cites Mitchell’s length and defensive ability, arguing that the wing will work his way into Utah’s still-relevant rotation.

Schmitz also speculates that Justin Jackson will thrive with the Kings considering that he’s a poised perimeter option that doesn’t need the ball in his hands on offense.

Although the profiles are hidden behind Insider’s paywall, they discuss the upside and various situation’s that these first-year players find themselves. In addition to the abovementioned, John Collins of the Hawks and Nets big man Jarrett Allen are also featured.

There’s more from throughout the NBA:

  • In a comprehensive account of Darko Milicic‘s life after basketball, ESPN’s Sam Borden revealed that Milicic had made up his mind about never playing in the NBA again when he left the Celtics. It was said, at the time, that he was returning to be with his ailing mother.
  • It may be early to speculate about the 2018 NBA All-Star Game but that didn’t stop A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England from stringing together a potential squad. Familiar faces make up the starting lineup but new additions Jimmy Butler and Paul George make the case for qualifying as a reserve ever more difficult for the players in the conference.
  • With a new season comes new opportunity and David Yapkowitz of Basketball Insiders has pieced together a summary of Pacific Division players that he thinks may be able to take the next step in 2017/18.

Lakers Sign Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart

3:14pm: The Lakers have officially signed Ball and have also announced the signings of their other two first-round picks, Kyle Kuzma (No. 27) and Josh Hart (No. 30). Kuzma’s four-year deal will be worth about $8.65MM, while Hart’s will be worth approximately $8.475MM.

9:40am: The Lakers will formally sign second overall pick Lonzo Ball to his first NBA contract today, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link). Like other rookie deals for first-round picks, Ball’s pact will feature two guaranteed years followed by two team options.

As our chart for this year’s rookie scale shows, Ball is in line to make about $6.287MM in his rookie season. Assuming he plays out his full four-year deal, he’ll earn more than $33MM over the life of the contract. The UCLA product will be eligible for an extension in 2020, and would otherwise reach restricted free agency in 2021.

In past years, teams have been patient when it comes to signing first-round picks, since cap holds for those draftees counted for 100% of their rookie scale figure, despite the fact that virtually every player signed for 120% of the rookie scale. The league’s new CBA adjusted those cap holds to count for 120% of the rookie scale figure, so there’s now little incentive for teams to wait.

Jayson Tatum (Celtics), Jonathan Isaac (Magic), Malik Monk (Hornets), Luke Kennard (Pistons), and Bam Adebayo (Heat) are among the other first-rounders who have already officially signed contracts with their new teams.

Lakers Acquire Brook Lopez For Russell, Mozgov

JUNE 22: The trade is finally official, the NBA announced tonight during the draft. The Lakers used their newly-acquired 27th overall pick on Kyle Kuzma.

JUNE 20: The Lakers and Nets have reached an agreement on a trade that will send Brook Lopez to Los Angeles, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (Twitter link). Wojnarowski reports that the Lakers will also receive the No. 27 pick in this week’s draft, and will send D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Nets.BrookLopez vertical

This deal is a fascinating one on several levels. For the Lakers, they manage to cut long-term costs by getting out from under Mozgov’s contract, which still has three years and $48MM left on it. In Lopez, the Lakers will acquire a more productive player on the court, and one whose deal expires at the end of the 2017/18 season, setting the franchise up to create an extra chunk of cap room when LeBron James, Paul George, and other stars reach free agency.

In addition to picking up Lopez, the Lakers will also get a third first-round pick in this Thursday’s draft. The team now holds the second, 27th, and 28th overall selections, and with Russell no longer in the fold, it appears more certain than ever that Los Angeles has its eye on Lonzo Ball with that No. 2 overall pick.

Meanwhile, the Nets will finally bring years of Lopez trade speculation to an end, sending him to Los Angeles with one year remaining on his contract. In exchange for Lopez, a first-round pick, and their willingness to assume Mozgov’s huge contract, the Nets will land their point guard of the future in Russell, the second overall pick from the 2015 draft. The team also hangs onto its second 2017 first-round pick (No. 22).

Russell, who is still just 21 years old, has faced scrutiny about his work ethic and his drive, but his talent is undeniable. In 63 games last season for the Lakers, the young point guard averaged 15.6 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.5 RPG, and 1.4 SPG in a modest 28.7 minutes per contest. He has also developed into a reliable three-point threat, averaging 2.1 threes per game at a rate of 35.2%. He’ll be under contract for at least two more years, becoming extension-eligible in 2018 and RFA-eligible in 2019.

With Russell and Jeremy Lin now in the mix, the Nets are unlikely to be in the market for a point guard this summer, which means another potential suitor is off the board for top free agents at the position seeking a payday. Brooklyn had been viewed as a potential player for George Hill, among other free agent point guards.

Finally, the Celtics will be watching the outcome of this trade with a close eye, since Boston may end up with both the Nets’ and Lakers’ first-round picks in the 2018 NBA draft. With the draft and free agency still to play out, it’s hard to tell at this point whether either team will improve significantly in 2017/18, but Lopez was the Nets’ most productive player last season, so this isn’t exactly a win-now move for Brooklyn — that bodes well for the C’s.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Notes: Smith Jr., Collins, Leaf, Sixers

The Lakers have a short list of players they’re said to be targeting with the No. 2 pick in this year’s NBA Draft but they opted to bring North Carolina State guard Dennis Smith Jr. for a workout just in case they trade down, Mark Medina of the Orange County Register writes.

Smith Jr., a possible top-10 pick, participated in a group workout this weekend with a series of other draft hopefuls, including Syracuse’s Tyler Lydon. The guard impressed in the audition, his talent a cut above the rest.

Smith Jr. was sure to do his homework prior to his day with the Lakers and thinks that he can fill a void.

I checked one of the stats and they’re bottom 10 in almost everything relative to pick-and-roll scoring,” he said. “I think I can contribute to that.

There are more draft notes from around the league:

  • While he may not be around when the Jazz pick 24th in this month’s draft, TJ Leaf believes he would be a good fit with the franchise, Jody Genessy of the Deseret News writes. “Obviously draft number’s a big deal as well, but if I drop a couple of places and go to a team with a perfect fit, that’s who we want,” Leaf said after a recent workout in Utah. “We see a team like this — great coach, great system — and I think I’d fit well here, so that’s why I scheduled this one.
  • After an unexpectedly dominant first season at Gonzaga, Zach Collins is a potential one-and-done lottery pick. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee recently profiled the sharp-shooting big man, offering him up as a legitimate option for when the Kings pick at No. 10.
  • The Sixers will bring in Kyle Kuzma of Utah and Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame for workouts tomorrow, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Kuzma is projected as a late first-round pick by NBADraft.net, while Blossomgame is expected to drop into the second round. Billy Garrett (DePaul), Jalen Moore (Utah State), V.J. Beachem (Notre Dame), and Dominique Hawkins (Kentucky) will also audition for Philadelphia.

Draft Notes: Ball, Lakers, Pre-Draft Workouts

There has been much innuendo and rumor in recent weeks that Lonzo Ball would not necessarily be taken by the Lakers with their second overall pick. Still, a majority of executives at the adidas EuroCamp expect the Lakers to draft Ball second, reports Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com (link via Twitter). Howard goes on to state that these executives believe that the purple and gold like De’Aaron Fox and Josh Jackson, but still lean towards Ball.

Check out the latest news in pre-draft workouts here:

Southeast Notes: Hayward, Hornets, Hawks, Workouts

The Heat have the flexibility to sign Gordon Hayward and create room for another top-level free agent, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. A report Friday said the Jazz consider Miami a legitimate threat to sign the free agent forward, who is coming off the best season of his career. In response to a reader’s question, Winderman notes that the Heat can give $30MM to Hayward and open up another $23MM or so by trading Tyler Johnson, Josh McRoberts and Justise Winslow. However, he cautions that the team tried to find a taker for McRoberts’ contract last summer, and that was before he missed more than half a season with injuries. If Miami were able to pull off such a scenario, it would be in the range for players such as Serge Ibaka, Paul Millsap or the combination of Zach Randolph and a re-signed Dion Waiters.

There’s more this morning out of the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets have limited resources to work with as they try to improve on this year’s 36-46 record, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. With six players who have salaries topping $12MM, Charlotte is already over the salary cap for next season, leaving GM Rich Cho with little to offer prospective free agents. The team will have its mid-level exception [worth about $8.4MM] and its bi-annual exception [about $3.3MM], but neither will be enough to add a difference maker. The Hornets own both of their picks at 11 and 41, but the team’s draft record has been mixed in recent years. Trade assets are limited, with only Kemba Walker able to bring a significant return. Bonnell cites depth, defense and closing out games as areas in which Charlotte needs to improve.
  • Duke’s Amile Jefferson is among six players who will work out for the Hornets today, Bonnell relays in a separate story. He will be joined by Antonio Blakeney of LSU; Torian Graham of Arizona State; Kyle Kuzma of Utah; Derrick Walton of Michigan; and Nigel Williams-Goss of Gonzaga. Several more workouts are planned for next week.
  • Kuzma held a second pre-draft workout for the Hawks on Thursday, tweets Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Joining him at that session were Dwayne Bacon of Florida State, Nigel Hayes of Wisconsin and Nik Slavica of Croatia.
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