Mario Hezonja

Free Agency Notes: D. Robinson, Nuggets, Vanderbilt, Hezonja

Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson has told associates that his preference is to remain with the Heat, a source tells Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link). Robinson is a restricted free agent and Miami wants to retain him, so he wouldn’t have had much leverage if he wanted to go to a new team, but the fact that he wants to return is good news for the Heat. They’ll be able to keep his small cap hold on their books while they address other free agent business before circling back to finalize a new deal with Robinson.

Here are a few more updates related to free agency:

  • The Nuggets are unlikely to make any major splashes during free agency, as they’ll focus on re-signing their own free agents, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Singer views Will Barton and JaMychal Green as good bets to return to Denver, and suggests that one of Paul Millsap and JaVale McGee could be back too. If the Nuggets are only able to re-sign one of Green, Millsap, and McGee, they’ll shop for another big man on the open market, according to Singer, who notes that Green’s market is expected to be in the $7-9MM range — a previous report stated a $16MM-per-year deal is a possibility for Barton.
  • The Timberwolves had discussions with forward Jarred Vanderbilt about a possible contract extension, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, but those talks went nowhere. Minnesota tendered Vanderbilt a qualifying offer, so the team will have the ability to match any offer he gets as a restricted free agent.
  • Former fifth overall pick Mario Hezonja, who played for Panathinaikos in Greece last season, won’t be returning to the NBA this offseason. As Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando relays, Russian club UNICS Kazan has signed Hezonja to a one-year contract with an option for a second season.

Rosters Announced For Olympic Qualifying Tournaments

Four qualifying tournaments to determine the final four teams in the men’s basketball pool at the Tokyo Olympics are set to tip off on Tuesday. In advance of the Olympic qualifiers, the 24 teams involved have officially set their 12-man rosters, according to a press release from FIBA.

More than two dozen current NBA players are participating in the tournament, and 11 of the 24 teams competing for Olympic spots have at least one current NBA players on their respective rosters. Of those clubs, Team Canada has the biggest contingent of NBA players — eight of the 12 players on Nick Nurse‘s squad finished the season on an NBA roster. Turkey is next with four NBA players.

The four qualifying tournaments will take place in Serbia, Lithuania, Croatia, and Canada. Only the winner of each six-team group will advance to Tokyo. Those four winners will join Japan, Nigeria, Argentina, Iran, France, Spain, Australia, and the U.S. in the 12-team Olympic tournament.

The teams that move onto the Olympics may tweak their rosters for Tokyo, depending on the availability of certain players. For instance, if Greece were to win its qualifying tournament, perhaps Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo – who remains active in the playoffs for now – would make an effort to join the team in Tokyo next month.

Here are the NBA players on the OQT rosters:

Belgrade, Serbia

Kaunas, Lithuania

Split, Croatia

Victoria, Canada

There are also many former NBA players among the 24 rosters, including Mario Hezonja (Croatia), Milos Teodosic (Serbia), Jan Vesely (Czech Republic), Timofey Mozgov (Russia), and Anthony Bennett (Canada).

To view the full rosters, be sure to visit FIBA’s official site and click through to each team from there.

Olympic Notes: Beal, Booker, Brissett, Doncic

Team USA’s backcourt has been fortified by two All-Stars who pledged on Friday to play in the Tokyo Olympics.

Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal, the league’s second-leading scorer this season, has made a commitment, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Suns shooting guard Devin Booker, who finished 14th in scoring and will be playing in the upcoming Western Conference Finals, has also decided to participate, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Warriors big man Draymond Green are among the other prominent players who have already chosen to play for Team USA.

We have more news regarding the Olympics:

  • Oshae Brissett will not play for Team Canada at the Olympics, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files tweets. The 22-year-old Brissett averaged 10.9 PPG and 5.5 RPG for the Pacers this season.
  • Luka Doncic had 10 points and 17 assists for Slovenia in a friendly game against Croatia on Friday, according to SportandoMario Hezonja scored 37 points for Croatia. The game was a tuneup for the FIBA Qualifying Tournament later this month.
  • In case you missed it, Jimmy Butler will not play for Team USA. Get the details here.

And-Ones: I. Thomas, Hezonja, P. Gasol, All-Star Bonuses

Team USA won two games in convincing fashion over the weekend, defeating the Bahamas and Mexico in the FIBA AmeriCup qualifying tournament, according to an Associated Press story. The team, which advances to the September 2022 tourney, featured familiar names such as Joe Johnson, Brandon Bass and Isaiah Thomas, who was hoping to use the event to boost his chances for an NBA comeback.

Thomas, who hasn’t played competitively since being traded to the Clippers and waived last February, scored 19 points in Friday’s game and nine on Saturday.

“The world knows I’ve got what it takes. So, it’s just about showing that I’m healthy,” he said. “My skill didn’t go anywhere, it was just about getting a hundred percent healthy, which I am right now.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Mario Hezonja, who was in training camp with the Grizzlies, has reached a deal to play for Panathinaikos in Greece, writes Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. The new contract will cover the rest of the season with an option for next year. The fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft, Hezonja played for the Magic, Knicks and Trail Blazers in five NBA seasons. He averaged 4.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in 53 games with Portland last year.
  • Veteran center Pau Gasol denied rumors over the weekend that he’s close to signing with Barcelona, but Spanish national team coach Sergio Scariolo hasn’t given up hopes of seeing him play again, relays Alessandro Maggi of Sportando. “It’s a rumor, obviously we hope to see Pau on a basketball court again,” said Scariolo, an assistant coach for the Raptors. “Our desire is to see him still play at the top level and we will keep our fingers crossed.”
  • With the All-Star reserves set to be announced Tuesday, ESPN’s Bobby Marks takes a look at the five players whose contracts include bonuses for making the team. The largest, at $1.3MM, belongs to Jaylen Brown of the Celtics, who Marks believes is virtually certain to be selected. Jazz center Rudy Gobert, with a $1MM bonus, also seems like a sure thing. The PacersDomantas Sabonis ($1MM bonus) and the KnicksJulius Randle ($945K) face more difficulty because of the competition in the Eastern frontcourt. Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, who has been to six straight All-Star Games, would earn a $500K bonus for making it again, but he appears to have little chance of being chosen.

Grizzlies Waive Mario Hezonja, Sign Ahmad Caver

1:14pm: The Grizzlies have officially waived Hezonja, the team confirmed in a press release. Additionally, Memphis announced that it has signed free agent guard Ahmad Caver to fill the newly-opened roster spot.

Terms of Caver’s deal weren’t disclosed, but it’s likely an Exhibit 10 contract designed to get him a $50K bonus if he plays for the Memphis Hustle in the G League again this season, as he did last year.


12:50pm: The Grizzlies are waiving veteran forward Mario Hezonja, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Hezonja, 25, averaged 4.8 PPG and 3.5 RPG on .422/.308/.814 shooting in 53 games (16.4 MPG) for Portland last season. After he exercised his minimum-salary player option for 2020/21, he was sent to Memphis in a three-team trade that saw the Trail Blazers acquire Enes Kanter.

The Grizzlies were carrying 17 players with guaranteed contracts into training camp, leaving Hezonja and Marko Guduric as the likely odd men out for the regular season. Neither player was in camp with the club.

Hezonja hasn’t developed into a reliable and productive rotation player since being selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft, but being cut by the Grizzlies doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t play in the NBA at all this season. According to Charania, multiple teams are expected to express interest in the Croatian once he clears waivers and training camp ends.

Hezonja, Guduric Won’t Be In Camp With Grizzlies

Veteran forward Mario Hezonja and guard Marko Guduric won’t be in training camp with the Grizzlies, tweets Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian.

Memphis is currently carrying 17 players on guaranteed contracts and must cut that number down to 15 before the regular season begins later this month. Herrington, who previously identified Hezonja and Guduric as the probable odd men out, says this is further confirmation that they’re the favorites to be waived if the Grizzlies don’t make a trade or two to trim the roster in the next couple weeks.

Hezonja, 25, averaged 4.8 PPG and 3.5 RPG on .422/.308/.814 shooting in 53 games (16.4 MPG) for Portland last season. After he exercised his minimum-salary player option for 2020/21, he was sent to Memphis in a three-team trade that saw the Trail Blazers acquire Enes Kanter.

As for Guduric, he signed a two-year, $5.4MM contract with the Grizzles in 2019. However, he fell out of the club’s rotation early last season and ended up just averaging 11.0 minutes per contest in 44 games. The Serbian shooting guard scored 3.9 PPG on .395/.301/.923 shooting.

As Herrington notes (via Twitter), assuming the Grizzlies release both Hezonja and Guduric, they won’t have to stretch either player’s guaranteed salary across three seasons in order to stay out of luxury-tax territory. However, the team could still decide to stretch one or both cap hits to create a little extra flexibility below the tax threshold.

Southwest Rumors: Harden, Westbrook, Grizzlies, Porzingis, More

The Rockets still expect to begin the season with former MVPs James Harden and Russell Westbrook on their roster, despite a handful of November trade rumors, Shams Charania of The Athletic said during an appearance on Complex’s Load Management podcast.

Although there’s no momentum toward a trade involving either player, Charania dropped a couple interesting tidbits during his podcast discussion about the Rockets stars, mentioning that the Warriors “made a call” about Harden and that the Cavaliers talked to Houston about Westbrook. Based on Charania’s comments, it doesn’t sound like any traction was gained in either case.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • The Grizzlies are currently carrying 17 players on guaranteed contracts, meaning a couple of those players will have to be traded or released before the start of the regular season. Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian suggests that Mario Hezonja and Marko Guduric appear to be the most likely odd men out.
  • Confirming a previous report, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle reiterated today that Kristaps Porzingis (knee) won’t play until at least January, per Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). Carlisle did say that Porzingis’ rehab is going well and that the big man is doing “light court work.”
  • Mavericks rookie guard Tyrell Terry will receive $4.6MM in guaranteed money on his four-year contract, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. While we don’t know the exact terms of Terry’s deal, it sounds like his first three seasons will be guaranteed.
  • The three-year, minimum-salary contract that second-rounder Tre Jones signed with the Spurs is fully guaranteed for the first two years, as Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports details (via Twitter).

Trail Blazers Acquire Enes Kanter From Celtics

10:21pm: The trade is now official, according to press release from the Celtics and Grizzlies.

The deal will send Kanter to Portland, Hezonja and the rights to Bane to Memphis, and two future second-round picks to Boston. The Grizzlies will also send cash to Portland in the move.

One of the two second-rounders headed from Memphis to Boston is the Grizzlies’ own 2025 pick. The other will be the more favorable of the following:

  • Houston’s 2023 second-rounder.
  • The less favorable of Memphis’ and Dallas’ 2023 second-rounders.

2:46pm: The Trail Blazers are reuniting with veteran center Enes Kanter, having reached a deal to acquire him from the Celtics, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

As Wojnarowski explains, the deal will be folded into the draft-night agreement between the Celtics and Grizzlies that saw Memphis land the No. 30 pick and select TCU’s Desmond Bane. The Grizzlies will receive Mario Hezonja from Portland in the swap, while the Celtics will get a future draft consideration from Memphis.

[RELATED: 2020 NBA Offseason Trades]

Kanter, 28, enjoyed a brief, productive stint in Portland to finish the 2018/19 season, averaging 11.4 PPG and 9.7 RPG in 16 playoff games that year as the team made it to the Western Conference Finals. The two sides were unable to come to an agreement in free agency a year ago, resulting in Kanter signing with the Celtics. A year later, he’s back with the Blazers.

The move will give Portland a veteran backup for starting center Jusuf Nurkic and is probably a strong signal that free agent big man Hassan Whiteside isn’t coming back.

The Celtics, meanwhile, having already traded away Vincent Poirier this week, have created a little extra cap and roster flexibility in advance of free agency, though they’ll need to add a frontcourt player or two to make up for losing a pair of centers.

Hezonja and Kanter both exercised player options for 2020/21 earlier this week, so they’re on expiring contracts. Hezonja will earn $1.98MM, while Kanter will make just over $5MM. The Grizzlies will take on Hezonja using one of their trade exceptions and Portland will do the same for Kanter.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Blazers’ Mario Hezonja Opting In For 2020/21

Trail Blazers swingman Mario Hezonja will pick up his player option, opting in for the 2020/21 season, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). As a result, Hezonja will forgo free agency until 2021 and will lock in a $1,977,011 guaranteed salary with Portland for the upcoming season.

[RELATED: NBA Player Option Decisions For 2020/21]

Hezonja, 25, averaged a career-worst 4.8 PPG in a part-time role for the Blazers in 2019/20. In 53 games (16.4 MPG), he chipped in 3.5 RPG and shot just 42.2% from the field, including 30.8% on three-pointers.

Although he was the fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft, Hezonja has failed to develop into a reliable rotation player in Orlando, New York, or Portland since entering the league. It’s not even a certainty he would have received minimum-salary offers if he had opted for free agency this fall, so his decision to exercise his option comes as no surprise — we’ll see if he sticks with the Blazers or gets included in a trade before the 2021 deadline.

Accounting for Hezonja’s modest salary doesn’t impact the Blazers’ cap outlook in any real way. Portland projects to be an over-the-cap team this offseason.

Rodney Hood, who is coming off an Achilles tear, is the other Blazer who holds a player option for 2020/21. The expectation is that he’ll pick up his $6MM option.

Batum, DeRozan Among Players With Earlier Option Decision Deadlines

Most veterans who have player options in their contracts for the 2020/21 season will have an October 17 deadline to either exercise or decline that option. That Saturday represents the second-last day of the 2019/20 league year under the NBA’s new calendar, meaning it would coincide in a normal year with June 29, the usual player option decision deadline.

However, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, some of the players who have to make option decisions for 2020/21 have slightly earlier deadlines. For instance, if the Spurs don’t make the postseason, DeMar DeRozan will be required to make his decision within seven days of the team’s last game, per Marks.

The full list of player options for ’20/21 can be found on our free agents page, but here are the options which must be exercised or declined before October 17, according to Marks:

The rest of this season’s player option decisions must be made by October 17, a deadline that applies to nearly every team option for 2020/21 as well. The only team options with earlier decision dates are minimum-salary ones for Deonte Burton (Thunder) and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Pistons), which are due by October 15, per Marks.