Luol Deng

Pacific Notes: Gallinari, Shumpert, Deng, Suns

Danilo Gallinari‘s injury-riddled season has been the Clippers’ biggest issue, coach Doc Rivers told Elliott Teaford of the Orange County Register and other media members. Gallinari hasn’t played since February 22nd and has only appeared in 19 games. He was acquired in a deal with the Nuggets last summer with the expectation that he’d solidify the small forward spot. “Overall, of the guys we’ve missed [most], it’s ‘Gallo,’” Rivers said. “It’s not even close.” Hand and gluteus maximus injuries have sidelined Gallinari, who has averaged 15.9 PPG when he’s been able to take the court.

In other news around the Pacific Division:

  • Kings guard Iman Shumpert will likely opt in to the final year of his contract, according to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee. Shumpert has a $11MM player option but has only appeared in 14 games this season due to knee and foot injuries, which would depress his value on the open market, Jones opines. He is unlikely to play again this season since the Kings are evaluating their younger players, Jones adds. Shumpert is recovering from plantar fasciitis. Shumpert was part of the multi-team trade that sent George Hill to the Cavaliers at the February deadline.
  • The Lakers considered tossing veteran forward Luol Deng into the rotation because of injuries but ultimately decided against it, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register reports. Deng has been in limbo all season, getting benched since a 13-minute appearance on opening night. Deng signed a four-year, $72MM free agent contract two summers ago will probably be waived this offseason under the stretch provision, allowing the Lakers to spread his remaining $36MM cap hit over five seasons.
  • Suns forwards Marquese Chriss and Jared Dudley were fined $25K apiece by the league for an dustup against the Jazz last week, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets.

Lakers Notes: Magic, Deng, Ball, Hart, Lopez

The Lakers had a busy trade deadline, swinging a blockbuster deal that sent Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to the Cavaliers for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and Cleveland’s first-round pick. With the trade, the Lakers created significant cap space that enables them to pursue two top-tier free agents this summer.

Speaking to reporters, including ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk, on Thursday, team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka spoke about the team’s moves. Both Johnson and Pelinka stated that the team’s goal is to acquire elite talent and make a run at the playoffs next season.

“There’s so many different ways you can use that [cap space],” Pelinka said, “And then, of course, the obvious way is we now have in July of 2018 and July of 2019, we now have real 100 percent space to do two max players if that’s what we decide to do, or one in 2018 and then following it up with another one in 2019. So the flexibility is really amazing.”

The Lakers 22-31, are currently 6.5 games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference, so a playoff appearance seems out of the cards. However, Johnson reiterated that Thursday’s moves were made with the intention of getting better.

“I don’t want to stay where we are. I don’t want to be on the outside of the playoffs looking in,” Johnson said. “We have to take another step, right? So this move allows us to position ourselves to hopefully take that next step.”

Check out other news and notes surrounding the Lakers:

  • Johnson was asked by reporters if the Lakers had any substantiative talks at the deadline about moving Luol Deng and his albatross contract. Johnson was brutally honest as he lets out a few laughs and said “we wish, right?tweets Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times. Deng has appeared in just one game with the Lakers this season.
  • Lonzo Ball has not played since January 13 as a knee injury has sidelined the Lakers’ rookie point guard. Bill Oram of the Orange County Register writes that Ball is progressing well but that he still cannot sprint or jump at full strength. Until that happens, Ball will remain a spectator — and may miss the 2018 Rising Stars Challenge.
  • The Lakers won their last three games with Josh Hart — the 30th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft — starting. Hart has played well for the Lakers and is showing himself to be a draft steal, Mike Trudell of writes. “I don’t think you ever plan on counting on a late first round pick in their rookie season,” head coach Luke Walton said. “You try to get them minutes where you can, and develop them. But he’s done a nice job every time he’s been called on, being ready, and helping us win.”
  • Despite the Lakers being out of contention, center Brook Lopez does not plan on pursuing a buyout to latch on with a contender, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Lopez is personally having the worst season of his career, and while his plans may change, he is set on playing out the final year of his contract in purple and gold.

Kyler’s Latest: Knicks, Jazz, Magic, Bucks, Lakers

The Knicks may use the trade market to open a roster spot for G League guard Trey Burke, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. New York is reportedly in “serious talks” about signing Burke, who has been with the organization’s Westchester affiliate since being waived during the preseason.

The Knicks have a full roster and there is speculation that veteran point guard Ramon Sessions could be waived to clear the way for Burke. However, Kyler says the Knicks have received interest in backup centers Kyle O’Quinn and Willy Hernangomez. They may be able to get a draft pick in return for O’Quinn, but not many teams can take on his $4.08MM salary without sending another player back to New York, which wouldn’t help with signing Burke.

Burke has been outstanding in the G League and has attracted interest from other organizations. According to Kyler, Burke’s representatives have told the Knicks he will consider other offers if they don’t sign him soon. So while there’s not a definite deadline to open a roster spot, there is an incentive to get something done.

Kyler offers info on several other potential deals as the trade deadline draws nearer:

  • The Jazz would like to get something in return for the expiring contracts of Derrick Favors [$12MM] and Joe Johnson [$10.5MM]. Utah is among the teams linked to Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic, who becomes eligible for a deal Monday. Kyler says the Bulls are willing to make a deal and would be happy to get draft picks and expiring deals in return.
  • The Magic could be active at the deadline, as sources say they have received inquiries on nearly all their players. They would like to deal guard Evan Fournier, but haven’t received any offers they consider attractive. Despite being a non-contender at 12-28, Orlando isn’t overly interested in draft picks because it already has a lot of young talent and its own pick is likely to fall in the top five. It would take a proven All-Star to land Aaron Gordon, according to Kyler, and the Magic don’t expect to receive that kind of offer. They are also resigned that no one is going to take Bismack Biyombo with two years and $34MM left on his contract beyond this season.
  • The Bucks continue to need frontcourt help and might give up Jabari Parker in the right deal. However, with Mirza Teletovic sidelined with blood clots in his lungs, the organization would have difficulty matching a big salary. Sources believe Malcolm Brogdon or Thon Maker would have to be included in any significant trade.
  • The Lakers may have to deal Larry Nance Jr. as an incentive to get teams to take on other salaries. They would love to get rid of Luol Deng‘s contract, but are finding no options without giving up a hefty package of first-rounders.

Kyler’s Latest: Lakers, Mavs, Grizzlies, Magic

The Lakers and Mavericks both currently sit comfortably in the lottery, with little chance of making a run at a playoff spot this season. Still, there’s a sense in NBA circles that the two teams could be logical trade partners, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.

Kyler cautions that there have been zero talks between the Lakers and Mavericks about a potential Luol Deng trade, but he suggests that if any team is willing to roll the dice on Deng and his exorbitant contract, Dallas might be that team. The Mavericks have some expiring contracts that would appeal to L.A., and if the Lakers attached Julius Randle and a future draft pick to Deng, that could pique the Mavs’ interest, Kyler writes.

Of course, within the last month, we’ve heard that the Lakers aren’t interested in parting with future first-round picks in order to move Deng, and a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski suggested that the club had essentially given up hope of another team taking on the veteran forward’s unwieldy contract. So even if the Mavericks represent the best potential fit, the odds of a deal remain slim.

Kyler’s latest piece for Basketball Insiders includes several other items of interest on a handful of lottery teams, so let’s round up a few highlights…

  • The Grizzlies are unlikely to make any franchise-altering moves before next month’s trade deadline, which means Marc Gasol probably isn’t going anywhere. Still, they’re a team worth watching, according to Kyler, who points to Tyreke Evans as a potential Memphis trade candidate.
  • The “dream scenario” for the Magic would be to move Bismack Biyombo before the deadline, but they’re highly unlikely to find a taker for that contract. Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier may also emerge as trade chips, but Aaron Gordon almost certainly isn’t going anywhere — the “prevailing thought” is that he’ll be retained by Orlando as a restricted free agent this summer, says Kyler.
  • The Hawks appear open to listening to inquiries on Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore, but their current asking prices are probably too high to work anything out, reports Kyler.

Lakers Abandon Hope Of Luol Deng Trade

The Lakers have given up hope of trading veteran forward Luol Deng, deciding the price would be too steep, Adrian Wojnarowski said on ESPN’s Full Court Press. Other teams are aware of L.A.’s desire to unload Deng’s hefty salary and are demanding a lot in return for taking it on.

“You talk to teams around the league, no one is bailing the Lakers out with Deng’s contract,” Wojnarowski said. “They’re not. Teams have asked for multiple first-round picks. They’ve asked for Brandon Ingram. They’ll ask for Kyle Kuzma. The Lakers have essentially given up on the idea that they can trade Deng.”

Deng has two more seasons and $36.81MM left on the four-year, $72MM deal he signed in the summer of 2016. The Lakers have received very little for that money, as Deng was limited to 56 games last season and has only gotten off the bench once this year.

A report this week said the organization is unwilling to part with even one first-rounder to get rid of Deng, so a trade was never realistic. As we outlined on Friday, the most likely step is for the Lakers to stretch the final two years of Deng’s contract. If they do it before August 31 of next year and stretch the money over five seasons, it would provide a $7.362MM cap hit each year. If they hold onto Deng for another year and stretch the final season across three years, it would count $6.27MM annually.

The Lakers are hoping to be major players in the free agent market next summer and would like to clear as much cap room as possible in hopes of offering two max contracts.

Lakers Not Interested In Using First-Round Pick To Move Deng

While clearing Luol Deng‘s salary from their books would be the most effective way of clearing cap room to sign two maximum-salary free agents in 2018, the Lakers don’t intend to sacrifice any future first-round picks to facilitate a Deng deal, source tell Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link).

As Marks notes, this past offseason, the Lakers were able to move one of the two ill-advised contracts they signed in the summer of 2016, sending Timofey Mozgov to Brooklyn. However, that deal cost the team a former second overall pick in D’Angelo Russell.

Deng’s four-year, $72MM deal was the Lakers’ other misstep from 2016’s free agent period, with that massive contract quickly turning into a negative asset. Moving it in a trade similar to the Mozgov swap would likely mean attaching at least one future first-round pick, if not more. For a rebuilding team, parting with so many first-rounders would be “reckless,” Marks writes.

Assuming the Lakers’ stance on Deng doesn’t change, working out a buyout and/or waiving him via the stretch provision look like the most viable paths to creating cap room. I examined the stretch provision in detail on Thursday, using Knicks center Joakim Noah as a case study, but Deng – whose contract is very similar to Noah’s – is another top candidate to be stretched.

Deng is owed $18MM in 2018/19 and $18.81MM in 2019/20. If the Lakers stretch him anytime before August 31, 2018, his salaries for those two seasons would be spread across five years at a rate of $7.362MM annually. If L.A. decides to roll its cap room over to 2019, the team could keep Deng for one more season, then waive him later and spread the final year of his deal across three seasons at a rate of $6.27MM per year.

There’s also a scenario in which the Lakers could extend and stretch Deng, potentially further reducing his annual cap hits by stretching them across more seasons. Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report broke down that idea last month, though it’s not clear if the franchise is considering it.

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.

Pacific Notes: Deng, Beverley, Randolph

Luol Deng‘s four-year, $72MM contract that he signed in 2016 has become one of the NBA’s biggest albatross contracts. The Lakers signed the 32-year-old to essentially become a more expensive version of what Metta World Peace was to last year’s team.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times writes that Deng, who spent parts of his first 10 seasons with the Bulls, no longer wants to play for the Lakers. He has played in just one game this season, recording 2 points and 1 assist in 13 minutes of action. As he awaits a resolution on his future, Deng told Ganguli he does not regret his contract.

“I just know that for me, I never really [took] the contract and said I just want to shut it down, I just don’t want to do anything,” Deng said. “I’m still working as hard as I can trying to figure it out and trying to be the best player I can be. It was never, let me go and relax and not do anything. That was never the case. So I don’t regret it at all.”

The Lakers are heavily invested in a youth movement, highlighted by their first-round picks from the past seasons in Brandon Ingram and Lonzo BallDeng could help the team as a mentor to the upstarts but minutes will be hard to come by unless he is traded.

Check out other news from the Pacific Division:

  • A sore right knee has sidelined Clippers’ point guard Patrick Beverley, head coach Doc Rivers told reporters, including Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. Despite initial concern, Rivers said the team expects their catalyst to miss about one week.  “It’s the same thing that kept him out of the second half of camp,” Rivers said. “But he’ll be fine, that’s the good news. We were worried that it could be worse and it’s not. But he’s still probably going to miss a week of games. So, it’s just another guy out.”
  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee writes that Zach Randolph, who endured a tough offseason that included an arrest for marijuana possession, is slowly getting back into shape. The Kings’ hoped the veteran would bring his toughness and grit to a young team and he spoke highly of the team’s core and what he can teach them.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Howard, Deng

The Hornets will soon be charged with the task of working Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Nicolas Batum back into their lineup, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. The former will return to action after a three-game absence tonight.

Batum, sidelined since October with a left elbow injury, could return to the court as early as next Wednesday. Both will be welcome additions to a Hornets lineup that has moseyed out to a 5-6 start this season.

With Batum and Kidd-Gilchrist back in the lineup, head coach Steve Clifford will need to figure out what to do with the likes of Jeremy Lamb, Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon, all of whom have stepped up with recent opportunities.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

Pacific Notes: Clippers, Deng, Looney, Kings

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were the Clippers‘ leaders for years, but the two stars weren’t always on the same page, and Austin Rivers acknowledges that the dynamic between the two players was “weird,” as Lee Jenkins of relays.

“I don’t know why. It was just strange,” Rivers said. “No one knew who the leader was, and if you had something to say, it would turn into an argument. I think people were sometimes scared to say something to Blake, because you didn’t know how he’d react. [Now] he’s a whole different person, more approachable, and I think it’s because we’ve embraced him. We know who our leader is. We’re all-in with Blake Griffin.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific division:

  • While the Lakers and Luol Deng are both open to getting a trade or buyout done, actually completing a deal will be difficult, according to Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. The trade market for Deng is “non-existent,” a source tells Oram, and unless the Lakers can convince the veteran forward to give back a significant chunk of money, there’s little incentive for the team to release him.
  • After having his 2018/19 option declined by the Warriors, Kevon Looney admits that he wasn’t surprised by the decision, and says he isn’t stressed about it. Logan Murdock of The Bay Area News Group has the details, along with the quotes from Looney.
  • The Kings have multiple young prospects capable of playing center, including starter Willie Cauley-Stein, but the team has performed well when veteran Zach Randolph shifts to the five. As Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee writes, it will be interesting to see whether Sacramento continues to focus on developing their youngsters and only uses Randolph as an “emergency” option at the center, or if he’ll start to play more consistent minutes at the five.