Maurice Harkless

LA Notes: Clips Arena, Davis, Harkless, Lakers On 70-Win Pace

The Lakers are off to a terrific 20-3 start, and seemingly in the thick of the hunt for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. All-Star power forward Anthony Davis has been making an early case for some hardware all his own: the Defensive Player of the Year award. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin spoke with Davis about the prospect.

“A couple of years ago, I feel like I should have won it,” Davis told McMenamin, who notes that Davis finished third to Jazz center Rudy Gobert in 2017/18. The Lakers big man has made three All-Defensive teams.

“I think he can and will win Defensive Player of the Year this year,” McMenamin cites Lakers head coach Frank Vogel as saying on Davis earlier in the week. “There’s no one in the league like him defensively in terms of being able to guard all positions, protect the rim the way he does and deflect the basketball,” Vogel said.

Bench point guard Rajon Rondo noted his own high confidence in Davis, with whom he has played on both the Pelicans and Lakers. “I got him as MVP and Defensive Player of the Year,” Rondo said.

There’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • Following a year of negotiations, the Clippers‘ proposed new 18,500-seat Inglewood arena has just been given a fast-tracked green light by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), Jason Henry of The Orange County Register reports. Now that CARB has ruled that the new arena will not yield a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions, the $1.2 billion project should be ready in time for the 2024/25 NBA season. Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to stand by CARB’s decision and approve the project. Owner Steve Ballmer has long been pushing to move his team to their own arena and away from the Staples Center, located in downtown LA.
  • Clippers forward Maurice Harkless has been making his own impressive defensive impact, albeit on a smaller scale than Anthony Davis. The versatile, 6’7″ forward takes pride in guarding multiple positions, as Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register observes. The Clippers landed Harkless and his expiring $11MM contract as part of the four-team sign-and-trade that sent Jimmy Butler to the Heat. Head coach Doc Rivers tells Swanson that Harkless’ defensive range even surprised the seasoned coach. Before the season tipped off, “I thought he was gonna be a defender on the bigs, like the 4s and the 3s,” Rivers said. “But what’s surprised me is his ability to guard 1s and 2s.”
  • The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor tweets that the Lakers and Bucks (each 20-3) are both currently on pace to win at least 70 games a quarter of the way through the 2019/20 NBA season. O’Connor mentions that this marks just the fourth time in the last 40 years that a team in each conference has been on such a lofty trajectory at this point in the year. In each of the last three instances, one of the teams on this fervent win pace wound up an NBA Finals champ.

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Pacific Division

Over the course of the 2019/20 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.

Even as the Warriors have fallen off a cliff this season due to injuries and offseason roster changes, the Pacific has remained one of the more competitive divisions in basketball.

The Lakers and Clippers are among the NBA’s best teams and look like legit championship contenders. The Suns and Kings aren’t in that tier, but they’re currently neck-and-neck for the No. 8 seed in the West. It’s possible there could be as many as four buyers in the division at the trade deadline.

After having initially looked last month at three potential trade candidates in the Pacific, we’re singling out three more today. Let’s dive in…

Trevor Ariza, F
Sacramento Kings
$12.2MM cap hit; $1.8MM of $12.8MM salary guaranteed for 2020/21

Ariza has bounced around the league since leaving Houston during the 2018 offseason, playing for the Suns, Wizards, and Kings since then. None of those teams has been a perfect fit for the veteran forward, who has only logged 32 total minutes for Sacramento since November 8 due to a combination of personal reasons, a groin injury, and general ineffectiveness.

The Kings will have a crowded frontcourt rotation when Marvin Bagley III returns, so it’s unclear whether or not Ariza will have an opportunity to play regular, consistent minutes all season. That could make him expendable.

Since Sacramento is a young team pushing for a playoff team, the front office may decide it’s worth keeping Ariza around for his veteran leadership and for depth purposes — especially if he continues his up-and-down play and doesn’t have much value on the trade market. But it’s not a lock that he’s still on the Kings’ roster by February 7.

Willie Cauley-Stein, C
Golden State Warriors
$2.2MM cap hit; $2.3MM player option for 2020/21

Cauley-Stein could have received a more lucrative deal with another team, but opted to join the Warriors for a chance to play with a contender. Unfortunately, that plan has backfired, as Golden State’s 4-18 record puts the club in the running for the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, not a title.

In addition to being a down year for the Warriors, it’s been a bit of a slow start for Cauley-Stein, whose scoring average is down to just 7.5 PPG. Still, he has started 18 games at center for the Warriors and is blocking a career-best 1.2 shots per contest. No contender would target him as a potential starter, but he could have some value as a backup option.

If the Warriors believe Cauley-Stein will likely opt out at season’s end and return to the open market, it makes sense to see if they can get anything for him this season. His minimum-salary contract can be dealt without taking any salary back and he could be replaced with a smaller minimum-salary cap hit, freeing up some much-needed flexibility for the Dubs under their hard cap.

Maurice Harkless, F
Los Angeles Clippers
$11MM cap hit; UFA in 2020

Harkless, acquired by the Clippers in one of my favorite moves of the summer, has been starting games and playing consistent minutes for a title contender despite being viewed as a salary dump five months ago. It’s still hard to believe that the Clips were able to acquire a first-round pick in the deal that netted them Harkless, who is shooting a career-best 51.0% with a 37.9% three-point rate so far.

As a reliable three-and-D option for the Clippers, Harkless probably isn’t on the trade block. However, he’s also the only mid-level type player on the roster who would realistically be expendable if L.A. wanted to acquire another piece.

Lou Williams ($8MM) and Montrezl Harrell ($6MM) aren’t going anywhere, and it seems relatively safe to assume Patrick Beverley ($12.3MM) and Ivica Zubac ($6.5MM) aren’t either. That leaves Harkless as the only other player on the books with a cap hit between $5MM and 32MM. Throw in the fact that he’s on an expiring contract and he’s the most logical salary-matching piece the Clippers have.

Of course, there’s a decent chance the Clippers simply stand pat at the deadline and hope that possible reinforcements emerge in the following weeks on the buyout market. In that scenario, Harkless is a good bet to finish the season with the club.

Revisit the rest of our 2019/20 Trade Candidate series right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

California Notes: Green, Harkless, Training Camp, Kings

The Warriors enter this season a slightly different version of the dominant Golden State squads from recent years. While mainstays Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson remain, the departure of Kevin Durant and a slew of new faces has changed the landscape in Oakland.

While Thompson’s outlook is unclear given his recovery from a torn ACL, the presence of Curry and Green — to go along with the new addition of D’Angelo Russell and others — keeps the Warriors in the discussion of top Western Conference teams. However, given the roster turnover, Green says adjusting to the new personnel has been a focal point early in training camp, ESPN’s Nick Fridell writes.

“Just the lack of familiarity,” Green said. “You get used to a certain thing for so long, and then it’s not that. The normal reads that you would make, just kind of second nature, you got to make sure they’re there. It’s just a lot more making sure everyone’s on the same page, or getting there. Everybody’s not on the same page, which is to be expected, so just getting everybody there is the difference.”

Check out more notes related to California teams:

  • The change within the Warriors‘ organization has not been limited to just the players. Anthony Slater of The Athletic explores how Golden State’s coaching staff is getting acclimated, especially defensive specialist Ron Adams, who remained with the team but in a reduced role.
  • Ethan Strauss of The Athletic writes that despite the perception of the Warriors acquiring Russell just to eventually trade him, Golden State is operating under the belief that the All-Star guard will be a fixture of the team for the future.
  • Given the Clippers‘ active offseason, the addition of Maurice Harkless flew under the radar. However, now that training camp has begun, Harkless is hoping to stand out as an effective role player, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes. “Like about a month ago when we first started meeting together as a coaching staff, you start thinking, ‘Oh, we got Mo Harkless.’ We have more on our team. And then you watch what he can do,” head coach Doc Rivers said.
  • While superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are set in stone, along with Patrick Beverley and Ivica Zubac as starters, other positions for the Clippers will feature training camp competition. Jovan Buha of The Athletic examines all the competition in L.A. and how the team’srotation may shake out.
  • After finishing just outside the postseason picture last season, the Kings entered the offseason looking to acquire veteran players who have experience in a winning culture. As Jason Jones of The Athletic writes, the additions of Cory Joseph, Trevor Ariza and Dewayne Dedmon all aligned with that goal.

And-Ones: Lillard, Role Players, Seattle, Lawson

During a recent appearance on The Joe Budden Podcast (h/t to Dan Feldman of NBC Sports), Trail Blazers superstar point guard Damian Lillard, who recently signed a super-max extension to stay in Portland through 2025, explains his thoughts as to why more players don’t do the same.

“I think people walk away from it because of the media… the outside influence, people talking about their legacy… so (the players) say, ‘It’s not about the money. I want to win the championship. And I want to do this.”

“But I don’t think just because you decide to stay and not pass up on that money, that don’t mean you ain’t trying to win it. When you’re 42 years old and your career [is] over, and you ain’t won it, anyway, and you walked away from 60 million dollars more than what you got, they ain’t even going to be talking about you then. The joke is going to be on you.”

Lillard’s point is an interesting one, and it begs the question as to how many players eligible for a super-max turned it down for this reason. Even though he won a championship in Toronto, Kawhi Leonard almost certainly did not. But, it’s conceivable Anthony Davis felt pressure to leave the Pelicans because outside influences convinced him he couldn’t win a title in New Orleans and that outcome would be bad for his legacy.

We have more content from around the basketball world, below:

  • Quinn Davis of Basketball Insiders takes a look at three role players who could make an impact on a team with championship aspirations next season: Sixers forward James Ennis, Clippers forward Maurice Harkless, and Jazz big man Ed Davis.
  • Newly inducted Hall-of-Famer, big man Jack Sikma, said during his induction speech last night that it’s time for the NBA to return to Seattle, writes Anthony Olivieri of ESPN. “Speaking for all Sonics fans, it’s our great hope that the NBA will soon find a pathway to bring a franchise back to Seattle. It’s time.”
  • The Xinjang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association are considering the signing of former NBA guard Ty Lawson because Ian Clark cannot report to the team yet due to an injury, per Emiliano Carchia of Sportando.

Blazers Notes: Hood, Kanter, McCollum, Aldridge

Shooting guard Rodney Hood surprised the Trail Blazers by accepting the $5.72MM taxpayer mid-level exception, Jason Quick of The Athletic reports.

Portland was hoping to bring back center Enes Kanter at that number, but he balked. Blazers GM Neil Olshey thought Hood wanted more in free agency but was pleasantly surprised by Hood’s decision.

Olshey then shifted gears to finding a starting-quality center and got involved in the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade to Miami, winding up with Hassan Whiteside by dealing Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard.

We have more on the Blazers:

  • Backcourt partners CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard are now locked up long-term after McCollum signed a three-year, $100MM extension and they’re excited about that prospect, as he told Quick in a separate story. “It’s a special time,” McCollum said. “(Lillard and I) talked about being in Portland, making a staple here and winning a championship here, and all those things. We’ve crossed off a lot of goals individually and collectively, but I think that both of us being here for the long haul, and both of us being able to grow together and win together is something that people will remember for a long time.”
  • Pau Gasol, who recently signed with the Blazers, said former Spurs teammate LaMarcus Aldridge has spoken highly of Portland and may want to play there again, Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report tweets. Aldridge said last season he and Lillard had spoken about the prospect of becoming teammates again. Aldridge’s $24MM contract for the 2020/21 season is not guaranteed, so it’s conceivable that could occur as soon as next summer.
  • If you missed the details on McCollum’s extension, you can find it all here.

Latest On Andre Iguodala

The Rockets and Clippers continue to be the two teams most seriously pursuing Grizzlies swingman Andre Iguodala, Shams Charania of Stadium reports (video link). However both Houston and Los Angeles “seem to be at a standstill” in talks with Memphis, per Charania.

According to Charania, the Rockets aren’t entirely comfortable with the idea of going deep into luxury-tax territory for Iguodala. While Charania doesn’t specify what exactly Houston’s package would look like, he refers to “a potential sign-and-trade” — that would likely involve Iman Shumpert attached to a draft pick, as I wrote last Friday.

Currently, Houston’s team salary is below the tax line, but taking on Iguodala’s $17MM+ salary without sending out any guaranteed money could bump the Rockets’ projected tax bill up to about $20MM, says Charania.

As for the Clippers, Maurice Harkless‘ expiring contract is the most logical salary-matching trade chip for L.A. in any deal involving Iguodala. However, Charania hears that the Clips don’t want to part with Harkless in an Iguodala trade.

Both the Rockets and Clippers have explored three- or four-team scenarios that might work for Iguodala, per Charania, but that’s probably a long shot. Meanwhile, the Mavericks and Nuggets have also engaged with the Grizzlies on Iguodala, but neither team has really gained any real traction in trade discussions.

Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link) previously suggested there’s a belief in league circles that the Grizzlies may be leaning toward keeping Iggy on their roster into the season unless they receive a trade offer that includes a first-round pick. We’ll see if that ends up being the case if no potential suitors meet their asking price.

Cavaliers Notes: Love, Smith, Iguodala, Bolden

The Cavaliers aren’t making an effort to deal Kevin Love, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. On the surface, Love appears to be a prime trade candidate. He’s nearly 31 on a rebuilding team, is coming off toe surgery that limited him to 22 games last season and has a four-year, $120MM extension that’s about to kick in.

However, Cleveland doesn’t view Love’s contract as burdensome. A five-time All-Star, he’s easily the team’s best player if he can stay healthy and provides a positive role model for a young roster. New coach John Beilein wants to keep Love around because he’ll take pressure off his teammates to develop quickly.

Cavs management will listen to offers for Love, but it would take a formidable deal to move him anytime soon. Fedor sees the Heat as a possibility because they are searching for a second star to team with Jimmy Butler and have both young players such as Tyler Herro, Meyers Leonard, Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow who would interest Cleveland, plus big contracts in James Johnson, Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters to help match Love’s $28.9MM salary. Fedor expects the front office to hold onto Love for a while and reassess its options closer to the trade deadline.

There’s more out of Cleveland, all courtesy of Fedor:

  • Tomorrow is the new guarantee date for J.R. Smith, but it can be pushed back to August 1 if the Cavs can’t work out a trade. The original date had been June 30, but Smith agreed to an extension last month in exchange for an increase in guaranteed money from $3.9MM to $4.37MM. Smith’s trade value can be counted at the full $15.68MM because he signed his contract before that rule was changed, but Cleveland hasn’t been able to find any takers for the 33-year-old guard. Management has been surprised by the lack of interest in Smith, Fedor adds, believing its offers in salary-dump situations were better than the ones that were accepted. The Cavs have also been “shocked” by some of the bad contracts teams are trying to get them to take.
  • The Cavaliers tried to obtain Andre Iguodala from the Warriors, and sources tell Fedor they asked for less than the future first-rounder and cash that Memphis received for taking on Iguodala’s $17.1MM contract. However, Golden State wanted to create a large trade exception and saw that as more valuable than the cap relief Smith would have provided. Cleveland was also involved in talks to facilitate the Butler trade by taking Maurice Harkless from the Trail Blazers, but he wound up with the Clippers, who received a 2023 first-rounder from Miami.
  • Former Duke big man Marques Bolden is receiving strong consideration for a two-way contract. The Cavaliers believe he never got a full chance to display his talents in college and can develop into an effective NBA center. “In college you don’t have space,” said Summer League head coach Antonio Lang. “Here you have space and he can create space if he continues to roll hard. Everything you look for in a big he has, he just has to be more efficient with his footwork and learn the game more. That comes with practice and time. He’s more suited for the NBA game.”

Iguodala Drawing Interest From At Least Five Teams

1:53pm: In addition to the Rockets, Clippers, and Mavericks, the Nuggets and Lakers also have interest in Iguodala, tweets Stein.

Stein first mentioned Denver’s interest in Iguodala in his newsletter last week, though Amick tweets that the Nuggets view Memphis’ asking price as too high. If they do make a play for Iggy, Mason Plumlee‘s expiring $14MM contract would be their best salary-matching piece.

As for the Lakers, they have no clear path to matching Iguodala’s salary until after December 15, so they’re an unlikely suitor unless he’s bought out.

11:32am: After acquiring Russell Westbrook from Oklahoma City, the Rockets‘ top priority will be to find a way to land veteran forward Andre Iguodala, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic.

According to Amick, Houston continues to push to acquire Iguodala from the Grizzlies via trade. The Clippers are also known to be among the most serious suitors for the former Warrior, Amick adds.

In order to match Iguodala’s $17,185,185 salary, the Rockets or Clippers would have to send out at least $12,185,185 in salary of their own, which will be difficult, but not impossible.

Los Angeles could use Maurice Harkless‘ $11,511,234 expiring contract, but would have to include at least one more piece — likely either Jerome Robinson or one of their 2019 draftees. Those two 2019 draft picks (Mfiondu Kabengele and Terance Mann) can’t be dealt until at least August 9 after signing on Tuesday.

The Rockets, meanwhile, probably wouldn’t want to move Clint Capela, P.J. Tucker, or Eric Gordon for Iguodala, so a sign-and-trade involving Iman Shumpert could be their most viable path for matching salaries. Shumpert would have to sign a three-year contract in that scenario, but only the first year would need to be fully guaranteed. He could sign for exactly $12,185,185, and presumably he’d be open to the idea, since he won’t receive that kind of money from any other team as a free agent.

Although Amick doesn’t name any other suitors for Iguodala, Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com suggests that the Mavericks are interested in the former Finals MVP too, and are willing to offer Courtney Lee‘s expiring contract and a second-round pick. Lee has a $12,759,670 cap hit, so no additional players would need to be added to such an offer for matching purposes. However, the Grizzlies don’t appear to have interest in taking on Lee, according to Fisher.

The Grizzlies acquired Iguodala as a salary dump, receiving a future first-round pick and cash from the Warriors for their troubles, so if they’re able to flip him and acquire positive assets, they’ll be coming out ahead.

Still, Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link) says there’s a belief in league circles that Memphis may be leaning toward keeping Iggy on their roster into the season unless they receive a trade offer that includes a first-round pick.

Heat Acquire Jimmy Butler In Sign-And-Trade

The Heat have officially acquired Jimmy Butler from the Sixers in a sign-and-trade deal that also includes the Trail Blazers and the Clippers, according to press releases from Miami and Philadelphia.

The Heat also acquired big man Meyers Leonard from the Trail Blazers and cash considerations from the Clippers. Miami sent shooting guard Josh Richardson to Philadelphia, center Hassan Whiteside to the Blazers and a conditional first-round pick to the Clippers. The Clippers also received forward Maurice Harkless from Portland and the draft rights to 2017 second-round pick Mathias Lessort from the Sixers.

The Clippers and Blazers have also confirmed the swap.

The 2023 first-rounder that the Heat forwarded to the Clippers, which is lottery-protected through 2025 and unprotected in 2026, was subsequently moved to the Thunder as part of the agreed-upon Paul George blockbuster.

Butler inked a four-year, $141MM contract with the Heat. Miami waived forward Ryan Anderson and stretched his contract in order to stay below the hard cap and complete the sign-and-trade.

“Jimmy’s leadership, tenacity, professionalism, defensive disposition and his ability to create his own shot will improve our roster immediately,” Miami president Pat Riley said in the press release. “Any time you can add a four-time All-Star to your roster, you make that move. Meyers is a versatile big, a great shooter, can play inside and block shots. The addition of both men puts us in a great position to win.”

The disgruntled Butler was dealt by Minnesota to Philadelphia last season. The Sixers wanted to retain Butler but couldn’t convince him to stay and got something for him via the sign-and-trade mechanism. In 65 total games for the Wolves and Sixers last season, Butler averaged 18.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.0 APG, and 1.9 SPG with a .462/.347/.855 shooting line. Richardson averaged a career-high 16.6 PPG and 4.1 APG last season.

Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey called the acquisition of Whiteside an “impact move for our roster.” The Blazers were looking for a starting center with Jusuf Nurkic on the mend from a serious leg injury.

Heat’s Jimmy Butler Sign-And-Trade Deal To Include Clippers, Blazers

7:58pm: The 2023 first-round pick being sent from the Heat to Clippers will be lottery-protected through 2025, then unprotected in 2026, tweets Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald.

5:00pm: The Clippers will receive a protected 2023 first-round pick from the Heat in the deal, according to ESPN’s full report.

4:17pm: The sign-and-trade deal that will send Jimmy Butler to the Heat and Josh Richardson to the Sixers has been agreed upon, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe (Twitter link).

As Wojnarowski explains (via Twitter), the trade between the Trail Blazers and Heat that will send Hassan Whiteside to Portland is becoming part of the transaction, with Maurice Harkless being re-routed to the Clippers to make it a four-team deal.

The Clippers will also receive a future first-round pick from Miami, according to Wojnarowski. Since the Heat have already traded their 2021 first-round selection to the Clippers and can’t give away consecutive future first-rounders, the next one that is trade-eligible would be the 2023 selection, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

As part of the four-team swap, the Sixers will send the draft rights to 2017 second-rounder Mathias Lessort to the Clippers, reports Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link).

As of now then, this is what the deal would look like:

After acquiring Harkless, the Clippers will still have a maximum-salary slot available in the event that Kawhi Leonard decides to join them, tweets Marks. It would be a tight fit though, notes ESPN’s Zach Lowe, who tweets that the club might have to renounce a couple of small cap holds. Obviously, if Leonard decides to go elsewhere, that wouldn’t be necessary.

As for the Heat, they had let Goran Dragic‘s camp know that they’d likely to need to move the point guard in order to complete the Butler acquisition, but that shouldn’t be necessary after all, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

Still, as Marks points out (via Twitter), Miami will have to make an additional move to make sure it gets below the hard cap $138.9MM that applies to teams that acquire a player via sign-and-trade. Waiving and stretching Ryan Anderson‘s contract looks like the most logical path for the Heat.

We have more details in other stories on the Butler/Richardson aspect of this deal, as well as the Blazers’ Whiteside acquisition.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.