Here are Tuesday’s NBA G League assignment and recalls from across the league:
1:27pm: The Grizzlies have officially signed Washburn to a two-way contract and released Stokes, the club announced today in a press release.
12:57pm: The Grizzlies are among the teams making a change to their two-way players in advance of today’s deadline. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link), the club is signing small forward Julian Washburn from out of the G League to a two-way contract. Jarnell Stokes will be released to open up a roster spot, tweets Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com.
Washburn, 27, has signed a pair of camp contracts with the Spurs – one in 2015 and one in 2018 – but has never appeared in a regular season NBA game. The 6’8″ forward has been a regular start this season for the Austin Spurs, however, recording 10.6 PPG and 4.7 RPG on .444/.371/.789 shooting in 23 G League contests (31.7 MPG).
Washburn is unlikely to see a whole lot of playing time in Memphis, but he’ll provide the team with some depth, serving as a potential three-and-D option on the wing. The Grizzlies recently lost Dillon Brooks for the season and Kyle Anderson for two to four weeks due to injuries, so they could use a player like Washburn more than a big man like Stokes.
The Grizzlies‘ slide down the standings continued on Monday night, as a loss in Houston dropped Memphis’ record to 19-24. The Grizzlies now rank 14th in the Western Conference, four games back of the eighth-seeded Jazz.
The standings in the West are still bunched up enough that even a brief hot stretch could put the club back in the playoff picture. But with so many teams now between them and the top eight, the odds of a Grizzlies postseason push appear to be dwindling by the day. Especially since their next three games come against Milwaukee, Boston, and Toronto.
Given the Grizzlies’ spot in the standings, they’ll face some tough decisions in the coming weeks as the February 7 trade deadline approaches. Here are a few of the latest notes and rumors out of Memphis:
- According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link), there’s a growing belief around the NBA that Marc Gasol will opt for free agency this summer, rather than exercising his $25.6MM player option. A $25.6MM salary will be hard to replicate for a 34-year-old free agent, so Gasol shouldn’t be considered a lock to opt out. Still, Stein wonders if the Grizzlies could explore trading Gasol at the deadline rather than risk losing him for nothing in the offseason.
- In a recent article for The Daily Memphian, Chris Herrington expressed skepticism that the Grizzlies would seriously consider dealing Gasol this season. However, Herrington also believes that the acquisition of Justin Holiday will probably be the last move Memphis makes as a buyer this season. While Herrington doesn’t expect a full-fledged fire sale, he writes that some “smaller, strategic selling” seems realistic.
- If the Grizzlies’ playoff chances keep slipping, it could make sense for the team to embrace the tank and try to keep its first-round pick, which is top-eight protected. However, that may not be the best approach for the franchise, as David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal explains. The 2019 draft class is viewed as fairly average after the top four or five players, and if the Grizzlies keep this year’s pick, they’ll just owe Boston a future first-rounder with fewer protections.
Anderson was one of the main free agency additions for the Grizzlies and had started 38 of the team’s 41 games this season while playing nearly 30 minutes per contest. Anderson joined Memphis as a restricted free agent during the 2018 offseason when the Spurs decided not to match the Grizzlies’ four-year, $37.2MM offer sheet.
Anderson has averaged 7.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game this season. The Grizzlies have struggled in recent weeks, having fallen out of the playoff picture and down toward the bottom of the Western Conference.
- Grizzlies center Marc Gasol has denied that there’s any rift between him and teammate Joakim Noah, David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. A video of Gasol brushing by Noah after the team’s win over the Spurs circulated on social media, with Gasol calling the insinuation “f——” unbelievable.” Noah also played with Marc’s brother, Pau Gasol, for two seasons in Chicago.
- Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff explains his development plan for Jaren Jackson Jr., as relayed by Cobb in a story for the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “There’s moments where it may look like we’re being tough on him,” Bickerstaff said. “But we have expectations of him being a franchise player, and your franchise player has to hold himself to those standards. And you only get one chance to coach him as a rookie.” Jackson Jr., the No. 4 pick in 2018, has averaged 13.4 points in 25.5 minutes per game this season, starting in 40 of 42 contests.
Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Southwest Division:
DeAndre Jordan, Mavericks, 30, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $24.1MM deal in 2018
Jordan has pretty much done his usual thing in his first season with Dallas, ranking second in the league in rebounding and anchoring the defense. One troubling development is his penchant for turnovers — he’s averaging a career-worst 2.4 per game. The one other surprising development is a plus — the career 45.9% free throw shooter has drained 70.3% of his attempts. The always durable Jordan has also answered the bell every game. Early concerns about about “selfish” play have somewhat dissipated. Dallas may not re-sign him but someone will give him another big contract this summer.
Austin Rivers, Rockets, 26, SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1.15MM deal in 2018
The above salary number doesn’t reflect what Rivers is actually making this season, as the Suns bought out his contract after he was traded from the Wizards. He had a $12.6MM salary in the final year of a four-season contract and only gave back $650K. The decision to hook on with the Rockets after he cleared waivers has been good for both parties. With Chris Paul sidelined, Rivers has averaged 12.3 PPG and 3.1 APG in 38.5 MPG in his first eight outings with a championship contender. Still in his prime, Rivers should be able to land a multi-year deal this summer.
Ivan Rabb, Grizzlies, 21, PF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $2.3MM deal in 2017
An early second-rounder in 2017, Rabb has been a force in a handful of G League games, averaging 23.4 PPG and 10.2 RPG. That hasn’t translated into NBA playing time. He hasn’t played meaningful minutes in 14 games with the Grizzlies. Interior defensive issues and the lack of 3-point shot are the main reason why the athletic big man hasn’t carved out a role. Unless they’re convinced he can improve those areas, the Grizzlies will likely cut ties with him after the season.
Darius Miller, Pelicans, 28, SF (Down) — Signed to a two-year, $4.3MM deal in 2017
Miller receives lots of playing time but his offensive contributions boil down to an occasional 3-point attempt. To be fair, Miller is the No. 5 option when he’s on the floor and he’s an above-average long-range shooter (38.7 percent). His defensive metrics are subpar, which partially explains his paltry 8.42 PER, so the 3-and-D tag doesn’t necessarily fit. Miller’s 3-point shooting could be enough to land him a veteran’s minimum deal or something slightly higher next summer but there’s no big payday ahead.
Quincy Pondexter, Spurs, 30, SF (Down)– Signed to a one-year, $2.16MM deal in 2018
Pondexter remained on the roster past January 10th, fully guaranteeing his salary for this season. Pondexter, whose career has been sidetracked by knee injuries, has been praised as a positive locker room influence but he hasn’t contributed much on the court. He’s appeared in 31 games but averaged just 5.9 MPG with a majority of his playing time coming in blowouts. Pondexter will likely struggle to find another veteran’s minimum deal in the summer.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
JANUARY 11th, 5:56pm: Brooks underwent surgery to repair a ruptured ligament in his right big toe, according to a team press release relayed by Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix in a tweet. He’ll miss the rest of the season, but a full recovery is anticipated prior to training camp.
JANUARY 9th, 2:34pm: The Grizzlies haven’t provided an official recovery timeline yet for Brooks, but confirmed today (via Twitter) that he has ruptured a ligament in his right big toe and will undergo surgery this week.
11:25am: Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks is set to undergo a procedure on a right toe injury and will likely miss the rest of the season, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). A Grizzlies source confirmed to Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian (Twitter link) that Brooks is likely out for the season.
Although Brooks may be done for 2018/19, he’s expected to make a full recovery and go through a full summer of workouts, according to Charania. The 22-year-old remains under contract with Memphis for one more season at a bargain rate of $1.62MM, so he figures to be back on the court for the club in the fall.
It’s a tough blow for the Grizzlies, who saw Brooks emerge last season as the club’s starting small forward in his rookie year. He averaged 11.0 PPG and 3.1 RPG with a .440/.356/.747 shooting line in that role, playing in every game and showing promise as three-and-D wing.
Brooks was displaced from the starting lineup in 2018/19 due to the arrival of a handful of new additions, including Kyle Anderson and Garrett Temple, and has battled health issues for much of the season. Before suffering his toe injury, Brooks also dealt with a sprained left MCL. He played just 18 games this season and many of his numbers were down, though he remained a three-point threat (37.5%).
Of course, the biggest Brooks-related story of this season was his involvement – or lack thereof – in the failed three-team trade the Grizzlies negotiated with the Wizards and Suns last month. The Grizzlies believed they were giving up Wayne Selden and MarShon Brooks in the deal, while the Suns thought they were getting Selden and Dillon Brooks. The agreement fell apart over the miscommunication and Memphis is now without all three of those players for the rest of the season — Selden and MarShon Brooks were sent to Chicago in a subsequent deal for Justin Holiday.
Critics have called on coach Jim Boylen to make the 3-point shot a greater part of his offense, but the Bulls don’t have the personnel to make that strategy work, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.
“What we haven’t done is finished very well at those plays at the rim,” Boylen said in response to a question this week. “That’s where we have to grow. Then it’s finishing at the rim, maybe the defense takes it away, and now you spray out [to the 3-point line]. Who are we spraying out to? Well, we’re going to keep working at that.”
Lauri Markkanen has been the team’s most efficient 3-point shooter, but he doesn’t rank in the league’s top 20. The Bulls are 19th in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage at 34.7%, but are 26th in the number of shots taken and tied for last in makes.
“Sometimes you don’t have the personnel to become a team that’s in the top 10 in 3-point attempts, and makes, and field-goal percentage,” Zach LaVine said. “I think we can take more, but we’d have to be hunting them, and certain guys have to hunt them.”
There’s more news out of Chicago:
- The Bulls shouldn’t be so quick to commit to Boylen beyond this season, argues Jon Greenburg of The Athletic. He notes that the organization didn’t really conduct a coaching search before hiring Fred Hoiberg in 2015 and contends that Boylen is too similar to what management decided it didn’t want when it fired Tom Thibodeau. Greenburg mentions current Grizzlies assistant Jerry Stackhouse as a bold hiring the team could make.
- Markkanen is still finding his way after missing the first part of the season with an elbow injury, relays Sam Smith of NBA.com. The second-year forward is averaging 17.0 PPG since returning to action, but hasn’t become the focus of the offense that many had hoped, taking just 14.6 shots per night.“I’d rather have plays where I get good shots rather than trying to force something up,” he explained. “I think it all starts from being aggressive and getting to my spots, try to make the right basketball plays.”
- Taking a chance on Cameron Payne wasn’t a bad gamble, Smith writes in a question-and-answer column. The Bulls waived Payne last week after giving up Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott and a second-round pick to acquire him in 2017. But Smith says the front office never intended to re-sign Gibson or McDermott, so it didn’t hurt to take a chance on a former lottery pick.
After Shams Charania of The Athletic reported on Wednesday that Dillon Brooks would likely miss the remainder of the 2018/19 season due to a toe injury, head coach J.B. Bickerstaff was put on the spot during his usual media availability. As David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal details, Bickerstaff was frustrated by the fact that he was asked about the report on Brooks before the team was able to put out an official update.
“I think the bigger issue [than Brooks’ status] is we need to be concerned with how information is getting out,” Bickerstaff said. “There are things that should remain in-house until, as an organization, we decide to put out a statement with everyone on the same page. I think first and foremost, we need to address that and make sure the people with information are the people who need to have information.”
While the news on Brooks’ injury would have been announced a few hours later anyway, there have been a number of other instances within the last month where leaks impacted the Grizzlies more significantly. The most obvious cases involved the failed three-team trade with the Suns and Wizards, as well as a locker room altercation between Garrett Temple and Omri Casspi.
After word of that Temple/Casspi incident broke, GM Chris Wallace said his team would deal internally with the leak.
Here’s more on the Grizzlies:
- Justin Holiday is off to a slow start with the Grizzlies, averaging 4.0 PPG on 22.2% shooting in his first three games, but he’s excited to be in Memphis after spending most of the first half with the lowly Bulls. “To be right there in the mix, it’s exciting to be here,” Holiday said, per Cobb. “I know we’re struggling right now, but there’s been a lot of changes, a lot of adjustments and sometimes it’s just that time of the year. … Hopefully we can turn it around and do some big things and get back on track.”
- In another recent article for The Commercial Appeal, Cobb explored whether rookie Jevon Carter will take over for Shelvin Mack as the Grizzlies’ regular backup point guard. Carter appeared poised to claim that role, but struggled on Monday in New Orleans, prompting the club to turn back to Mack on Wednesday vs. San Antonio.
- Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian took a deep dive into the Chandler Parsons situation in Memphis, exploring whether the Grizzlies should have known better than to give Parsons a big contract in 2016, whether the team has handled recent developments correctly, and what’s next for the forward.
After a 12-5 start, the Grizzlies‘ season has taken an unfortunate turn, with the team having lost 17 of its last 23 games, including the last six in a row. Memphis is now tied for 13th in the West, 3.5 games back of the eighth seed, which creates an interesting dilemma for the organization as next month’s trade deadline nears.
The Grizzlies owe their 2019 first-round pick to the Celtics, but that pick is top-eight protected, meaning Memphis will hang onto it if it ends up at No. 8 or better. Currently, the Grizzlies are tied for the ninth-worst record in the NBA, as our reverse standings show. If Memphis’ struggles continue, it might be in the franchise’s best long-term interests to prioritize keeping its draft pick for next season rather than attempting to push for the No. 8 seed.
As David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal relays, general manager Chris Wallace was noncommittal when asked if the Grizzlies expect to convey that first-round pick to Boston this year or potentially keep it: “We’ll see where the season takes us at this point in time. We still have half a season to go. We’ll be prepared for either eventuality.”
Memphis is in a tough spot, since bottoming out and hanging onto that 2019 first-round pick wouldn’t necessarily guarantee that the team eventually sends the Celtics a less favorable pick. That first-rounder will become top-six protected in 2020 and unprotected in 2021 if it’s not conveyed in ’19, Cobb notes.
Here’s more from Wallace on some of the issues facing the Grizzlies, via Cobb:
On whether acquiring Justin Holiday signals that the team remains in win-now mode:
“Absolutely. We paid the price of a couple second-round draft picks to do so, and we think Justin is going to be a very productive player for us on both ends of the floor. He can shoot the three, he can score in addition to shooting the three. He can handle the ball, and he can guard on the other end. He’s someone also who our research tells us is a very high-character, winning individual.”
On whether the Grizzlies are prioritizing winning in the short term or focusing on the long term:
“We’re trying to strike a middle ground of being as good as we can in the here and now and also preparing for the future and not sacrificing anything for the future as well. That’s how you would characterize us, as a team that’s got a foot on both sides of that conundrum. Trying to be good right now and also have an outstanding future as well. I think, obviously, with Jaren [Jackson Jr.] here, that gives us a bridge to the future.”
“Obviously, Chandler had done some interesting things as a player during his time in Houston and Dallas, and his skill-set fit what we needed. He was by far the best option at that time, so we took him. Unfortunately, he’s been injured since then, and it’s where we are today after those injuries.”