Lonnie Walker

Texas Notes: Butler, Capela, Walker, Doncic

The Rockets haven’t given up hope on trading for Jimmy Butler, but they’re planning for the season with their current roster, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. Houston has been among the most persistent suitors for Butler, but hasn’t come close to meeting the Timberwolves’ asking price, which reportedly remains very high.

The Rockets’ front office is skeptical that Minnesota is serious about dealing away Butler, Amick adds. There is a belief that Wolves coach/executive Tom Thibodeau still hopes Butler can be convinced to stay despite his public trade request and the ongoing tension in the locker room. This comes on the heels of a similar report out of Los Angeles that the Clippers have tried to make a deal and objections from Miami about Minnesota’s asking price.

There’s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • His teammates are now calling him “Swiss Bank,” but Rockets center Clint Capela insists he won’t be changed by the five-year, $80MM contract he signed this summer, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. A restricted free agent, Capela was hoping to receive a maximum or near-max offer sheet. Although that never came and negotiations dragged on for nearly a month, he wound up with a sizable deal to stay in Houston. “The money is not weighing him down, I can tell you that,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He’s been great. I think he looks about how he looked halfway through the year.”
  • The torn meniscus that is expected to keep Spurs rookie Lonnie Walker out for six to eight weeks is the second one of his career, notes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express News. He suffered the same injury last July before his freshman season at Miami and was ready for the opening game in November. Walker will have knee surgery Monday and a more exact timetable will be set for his return.
  • Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic has drawn rave reviews during the preseason, but he needs to cut down on turnovers, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Doncic has given the ball up eight times in 60 minutes of action, with four of those coming on traveling calls. “The behind the back [passes] and all that is good when it goes well,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He threw one of them to somebody over in the second row one time. We’ve got to correct that. He’s adapting to the different ways they call traveling in the NBA. In Europe, they had a different interpretation of it.”

Spurs’ Lonnie Walker IV To Undergo Knee Surgery

Spurs first-round pick Lonnie Walker IV will undergo surgery on Monday to repair a right medial meniscus tear, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. The injury was suffered during the fourth quarter of San Antonio’s preseason victory over the Pistons on Friday.

The early timeframe for Walker’s recovery is 6-to-8 weeks, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Walker was expected to play a key bench role at small forward behind Rudy Gay. His injury, at least in the short run, opens up playing time for veterans  Dante Cunningham and Quincy Pondexter.

Walker was the 18th overall pick in the draft.

Spurs Notes: Walker, Duncan, Cunningham, Metu

A Spurs legend is helping Lonnie Walker navigate his first NBA training camp, writes Jabari Young of The Athletic. Tim Duncan has served as a mentor to the rookie guard, helping him refine his game to get ready for the start of the season.

“It’s a little surreal,” Walker said. “But that’s probably one of the best things about being a rookie, especially being drafted by the Spurs. You have players who are [the] previous greatest of all-time, such as him and Manu [Ginobili], and they treat you like family.”

Walker admits to being awe-struck the first time he met Duncan, but their relationship has become much more comfortable. Duncan is seen as a teacher who happy to pass along advice to any Spurs player, and he has become a surrogate to coach Gregg Popovich.

“It’s nothing unusual for us to see,” long-time Spur Patty Mills said. “[It’s] that same characteristic that Manu has of being able to help younger guys for the better of the team. Just because he’s retired doesn’t mean that that trait can’t keep going.”

There’s more tonight from San Antonio:

  • Popovich used numerous combinations in the preseason opener, but he seems fond of a second unit that provides a lot of floor spacing, Young adds in a separate story. The group had Mills on the floor along with Jakob Poeltl, Davis Bertans, Marco Belinelli and Bryn Forbes“It’s a unit that can score,” Popovich said. “With Jakob in the post and shooters all around, it can be pretty interesting. We’re blessed with some people who can put it in the basket, and we want to put them in situations where they can use those skills.”
  • The Spurs like the toughness that veteran forward Dante Cunningham brings to the court, relays Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. San Antonio gave Cunningham a one-year, $2.5MM contract after deciding not to match the Grizzlies’ offer sheet for Kyle Anderson. Cunningham has been with six other teams during his nine-year NBA career, including the Pelicans and Nets last season. “I like to think I am more of a ball player than a position kind of guy — kind of short to be a center, kind of tall to be in a guardish-type situation,” he said. “But I kind of battle around and do a little bit of everything, I guess.”
  • Second-rounder Chimezie Metu has made a quick impression on his teammates with his shot-blocking skills, with LaMarcus Aldridge calling him “a pogo stick,” Orsborn notes in another piece.

Southwest Notes: Spurs, Holiday, Watanabe

After playing 16 seasons in the NBA, former Sixth Man of the Year Manu Ginobili retired earlier this week. His departure now opens the door for increased roles on the Spurs for both Derrick White and Lonnie Walker, writes Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype.

As Kalbrosky notes, Ginobili was used as the primary ball handler in pick-and-rolls for a majority of his possessions last season, and was also used as a spot-up shooter. White also excelled on these play types during his 17 games as a rookie for the Spurs last season. White was also dominant in the G League, meaning he may be ready for an increased role in his second season in the NBA.

Walker, meanwhile, has shown tremendous flashes of potential. At Miami, he was also thrust into the role as a spot-up shooter and ball handler. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich does not generally give a lot of playing time to rookies, but with Ginobili gone, it’s possible he may change his tune with Walker.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Pelicans caught up with starting point guard Jrue Holiday to discuss the team’s 2017/18 playoff run, the team’s acquisitions like Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton, his off-season preparation, and what he expects for this upcoming season.
  • According to Michael Wallace of Grind City Media, Grizzlies rookie Yuta Watanabe is a perfect developmental prospect for today’s NBA because of his combination of length, shot-blocking and three-point range. Watanabe, 23, is trying to become only the second Japanese player to see action in an NBA game.
  • In another article for HoopsHype, Kalbrosky looks at how even though the Spurs have always been at the forefront of basketball analytics, they will now heavily rely on two of the most mid-range-happy jump shooters in the NBA in LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan.

Fellow Rookies Pick Ayton, Sexton As RoY Favorites

For the 10th time in 12 years, John Schuhmann of NBA.com got the opportunity to ask the NBA’s incoming crop of rookies a series of questions related to their fellow draftees.

Historically, the NBA rookies haven’t been particularly clairvoyant when it comes to their predictions — they haven’t accurately identified a Rookie of the Year winner since Kevin Durant in 2007/08. Still, it’s an interesting exercise, and one that occasionally results in a dead-on prediction, like when last year’s rookie class named Donovan Mitchell the steal of the 2017 draft.

Here are a few of the most interesting responses from this year’s rookies about the 2018/19 class:

  • Deandre Ayton (Suns) and Collin Sexton (Cavaliers) are viewed as the co-favorites for the Rookie of the Year award this season, with each player earning 18% of the vote. No other rookie had more than a 9% share of the vote.
  • Opinions were a little more divided on which player would have the best long-term NBA career, with Wendell Carter Jr. (Bulls) narrowly earning that title by receiving 13% of the vote. Interestingly, reigning EuroLeague MVP Luka Doncic (Mavericks) wasn’t picked by a single player for this question.
  • No. 48 overall pick Keita Bates-Diop (Timberwolves) was named the steal of the 2018 NBA draft by his fellow rookies, edging out 14th overall pick Michael Porter Jr. (Nuggets) and 18th overall pick Lonnie Walker (Spurs).
  • Trae Young (Hawks) is widely considered the best shooter and play-maker in this year’s class. Jevon Carter (Grizzlies) earned the most votes for best rookie defender, while Zhaire Smith (Sixers) is viewed as the most athletic rookie.
  • Be sure to check out Schuhmann’s full piece for the rest of the rookie survey results.

Spurs Sign First-Rounder Lonnie Walker

The Spurs have officially signed first-round pick Lonnie Walker to his first NBA contract, the team announced today in a press release. San Antonio has been formally finalizing many of its contract agreements today, having already confirmed new deals for Rudy Gay and Davis Bertans.

Walker, the 18th overall pick in this year’s draft, played his lone college season at Miami, averaging 11.5 PPG, 2.6 RPG, and 1.9 APG for the Hurricanes. Though his numbers as a freshman weren’t great, the 6’4″ shooting guard always projected as a first-rounder due to his impressive upside and wingspan.

Like other first-round picks, Walker will get a rookie contract that features two guaranteed seasons, with team options on years three and four. Assuming he signed for the full 120% of the rookie scale, Walker will be in line for a first-year salary of approximately $2.36MM. His four-year deal will be worth about $12.46MM in total.

With Walker officially locked up, only one 2018 first-rounder – 29th overall pick Dzanan Musa (Nets) – remains unsigned.

Draft Notes: Sixers, Magic, Doncic, Walker

The Sixers‘ coaching staff and front office had “serious conversations” about selecting Michael Porter Jr. before deciding on Mikal Bridges, tweets ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. The Sixers were intrigued by Porter’s potential to become a star, but bypassed him for a safer choice. Porter went four picks later to the Nuggets, while Bridges was traded to the Suns.

Because former president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo resigned in the wake of a controversy involving Twitter burner accounts, the Sixers are relying on a group effort between coaches and executives to decide on their picks.

There’s more from an active draft night:

  • The Magic’s selection of Mohamed Bamba at No. 6 doesn’t mean Nikola Vucevic is headed out of town, tweets Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Vucevic is heading into a contract year, making $12.75MM next season. Orlando has a potential logjam at center with Bismack Biyombo signed for $17MM next year with a $17MM player option for 2019/20. “He’s a good pick,” Vucevic said of Biyombo. “He’s talented and he’ll be a big presence.”
  • The Mavericks won’t ask Luka Doncic to go through a full summer league schedule after just finishing up his season in Europe, relays ESPN’s Tim MacMahon (Twitter link). “He needs a break,” said coach Rick Carlisle. The Mavs will meet soon to determine how much they want Doncic to do this summer.
  • A medical issue may have caused Lonnie Walker to drop to the Spurs at No. 18, according to Doug Gottlieb of Fox Sports Radio (Twitter link). However, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony states that health concerns regarding Walker were exaggerated and had little effect on where he was taken (Twitter link).
  • The Cavaliers are hoping to buy a pick in the second round, sources tell Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). The club can’t send out any more cash in trades during the 2017/18 league year, but could reach an agreement tonight and finalize it in July. The Cavs don’t own any picks beyond No. 8.
  • The Bulls made an effort to move up, but decided it was “too expensive,” a source tells Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). Any move would have cost them the 22nd pick and future selections.

Draft Rumors: Top 6, Bulls, Kings, Sixers, Suns

The Mavericks, Bulls, Cavaliers, and Clippers are among the teams still exploring the possibility of moving up in the draft lottery, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Wojnarowski adds that the Sixers‘ pick (No. 10) is in play for teams targeting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Wojnarowski currently believes that Deandre Ayton (Suns), Marvin Bagley III (Kings), Luka Doncic (Hawks), Jaren Jackson Jr., Mohamed Bamba (Mavericks), and Trae Young (Magic) are the most likely selections (Twitter link). Interestingly, the Grizzlies are the only team Wojnarowski doesn’t mention in his rundown, suggesting the No. 4 pick is still the most likely selection at the top to be traded.

If the top six plays out like that and Chicago doesn’t trade up, the Bulls would likely opt for Wendell Carter Jr. over Michael Porter Jr., tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune.

Here are several more rumors worth passing along as draft night nears…

  • Kings beat reporter James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area (Twitter link) is also getting the vibe out of Sacramento that Marvin Bagley III is the club’s likely choice at No. 2.
  • Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter link) is hearing some buzz linking Zhaire Smith to the Sixers at No. 10.
  • Although the Heat are exploring opportunities to trade into the first round of tonight’s draft, it’s hard to imagine the club completing a deal for a first-round pick unless it can shed a veteran salary, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.
  • The Suns, who hold Miami’s pick at No. 16, are eyeing Donte DiVincenzo, Zhaire Smith, Jalen Brunson, Aaron Holiday, Lonnie Walker, Troy Brown, Elie Okobo, and Landry Shamet at that spot, per John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link).
  • NBA teams have been impressed with Michael Porter Jr. in interviews, but the club that picks him will have to be “ultra-cautious” with his health, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, who suggests (via Twitter) that sitting Porter for a good chunk of 2018/19 is a real possibility.

Teams Lining Up For No. 3 Pick If Kings Pass On Doncic

The Mavericks, Magic, Bulls, Knicks, and Clippers have expressed interest in moving into the Hawks’ No. 3 slot to select either EuroLeague guard Luka Doncic or possibly Texas center Mohamed Bamba if the Kings pass on Doncic at No. 2, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Those teams, along with the Nuggets, have also talked to the Grizzlies at the No. 4 spot. The Celtics don’t appear to be a serious contender for either pick, O’Connor adds.

Here’s some other tidbits from O’Connor’s story:

  • The Hornets’ willingness to deal Kemba Walker has waned since they reached an agreement with the Nets to trade Dwight Howard for Timofey Mozgov. The Cavaliers have shown interest in solving their point guard dilemma by acquiring Walker.
  • The Clippers could select Miami (Fla.) guard Lonnie Walker with one of their first-rounders and then ship him to the Hawks. The Clippers have the No. 12 and No. 13 picks in the lottery.
  • The Bucks are trying to package the No. 17 pick with point guard Matthew Dellavedova‘s contract. Dellavedova has two years and $19.2MM remaining on his deal. Milwaukee would trade down in the draft in that scenario and not exit altogether.
  • The Timberwolves have a strong interest in Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo with the No. 20 pick.
  • There are rumblings that the Bulls made a promise to draft Boise State shooting guard Chandler Hutchison. That would have to be at No. 22 unless they make a deal.
  • The Trail Blazers and Lakers are interested in IMG Academy shooting guard Anfernee Simons with their late first-round picks.
  • Kentucky small forward Jarred Vanderbilt, Latvian forward Rodions Kurucs, and Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham are believed to have received draft promises.

Mavs Optimistic About Signing DeMarcus Cousins

The Mavericks believe they have a strong chance of signing DeMarcus Cousins in free agency, according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic. Cousins, coming off a season-ending Achilles tendon injury, will be an unrestricted free agent next month. While the Mavericks’ interest in Cousins has previously been reported, Scotto’s story suggests the Mavericks are ready to make him a hefty offer to lure him away from the Pelicans. If the Mavs pass on Texas big man Mohamed Bamba with the No. 5 pick, that would reinforce the notion they’ll go all in to secure the services of either Cousins or the Rockets’ restricted free agent center, Clint Capela.

Scotto also has several other notable items to pass along:

  • The Sixers discussed the possibility of packaging the No. 10 and 26 picks, along with last year’s top pick Markelle Fultz, to move into the top five of the draft with Michael Porter Jr. as their target. However, lingering concerns over Porter’s back have cooled their interest in making that move.
  • Tobias Harris expiring contract is part of the package the Clippers are dangling to move up in the lottery. They have back-to-back picks at Nos. 12 and 13.
  • The Hawks are trying to make a deal with the Clippers or Nuggets (No. 14) in order to nab Miami (Fla.) guard Lonnie Walker IV. They are looking to package their picks at Nos. 19 and 30.
  • The Nets are dangling point guard Spencer Dinwiddie and the No. 29 pick in order to move into the middle of the first round.
  • The Rockets have received calls on guard Eric Gordon and could move him in order to get a mid-first-rounder.