Grizzlies Rumors

Hassan Whiteside Plans To Opt In For 2019/20

4:21pm: There’s a growing belief that if and when Whiteside opts in, he may do so while asking for a trade, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Given his $27MM+ salary, it won’t be easy for the Heat to make a deal.

11:24am: Barring an unforeseen development in the coming days, Heat center Hassan Whiteside intends to opt into the final season of his contract, exercising his 2019/20 player option, a league source tells Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

Picking up that option will make Whiteside the Heat’s highest-paid player for next season, locking in a salary of $27,093,018, per Basketball Insiders. The veteran big man will subsequently be on track to reach unrestricted free agency during the summer of 2020.

Whiteside, who turned 30 years old last Thursday, averaged 12.3 PPG and 11.3 RPG with 1.9 BPG in 72 games (53 starts) for the Heat last season. While his numbers were solid, Whiteside’s 23.3 minutes per game represented his lowest mark since he arrived in Miami in 2014.

Whiteside hasn’t been thrilled about his reduced role and inconsistent minutes over the last two seasons. Still, despite expressing a little dissatisfaction with his playing time, he was always considered a virtual lock to exercise his player option to stick with the Heat — he’d have no chance of matching his $27MM salary for ’19/20 on the open market.

With option salaries for both Whiteside and Goran Dragic on their books for next season, the Heat’s guaranteed salary commitments will increase to nearly $130MM for just eight players, plus a $3.64MM cap hold for their first-round pick. The team figures to thoroughly explore ways to cut costs during the offseason to avoid ending up in tax territory with a roster that missed the playoffs this past season.

As our player option decision tracker shows, 10 players have already opted in for the 2019/20 season, with Whiteside and Dwight Powell (Mavericks) both planning to do so as well.

Here are a few more brief Heat notes:

  • According to Jackson, the Heat and Grizzlies discussed a possible Mike Conley trade, but didn’t see eye to eye on compensation and those talks went nowhere. The two sides didn’t rule out the possibility of revisiting discussions later in the summer.
  • Jimmy Butler has told confidants that he’d be happy to meet with the Heat in free agency if the team wants to make a pitch, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Miami doesn’t project to have any cap room available this offseason though, so the idea of Butler joining the team is an extreme long shot.
  • University of Miami prospect Dewan Hernandez cancelled a workout with the Heat due to scheduling issues and an overcrowded workout calendar, writes Jackson.

Are Grizzlies, Jazz A Match For Conley Trade?

Latest From Charania: Davis, Beal, Irving, Conley, Suns

The Knicks discussed a trade package for Anthony Davis that included Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith, Thursday’s No. 3 overall pick and other draft compensation, but they never fully offered forward Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports. The Pelicans weren’t particularly high on either Knox or Robinson anyway but the Knicks were reluctant to jeopardize their future flexibility because they weren’t convinced Davis would re-sign with them.

Contrary to other reports, the Celtics were open to discussing Jayson Tatum and the future first-rounder owed by the Grizzlies in a trade package for Davis but didn’t want to part with both of those assets, Charania continues. Boston’s unwillingness to give up multiple major assets tipped the scale in the Lakers’ favor. The Nets also made a bid, Charania adds, but the Pelicans weren’t enamored with their available assets, especially since the Nets couldn’t include restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell.

Here are more highlights from Charania:

  • The Rockets were willing to get involved in three-team scenarios in Davis trade talks with Clint Capela being dangled.
  • The Pelicans are monitoring the Wizards’ interest in trading All-Star guard Bradley Beal.
  • The Celtics and impending free agent Kyrie Irving will meet soon, possibly before the draft, to discuss his future with the organization.
  • The Grizzlies have ramped up trade talks involving point guard Mike Conley. The Jazz are the leading contenders for Conley’s services.
  • The Suns have discussed moving the No. 6 pick, as well as forwards T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson, in separate trade packages.

Kings Not Expected To Chase Nikola Vucevic

The Kings are hoping for an upgrade at center, but they won’t pursue Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic when free agency starts June 30, according to James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Vucevic is in line for a huge raise after posting his best NBA season and his first All-Star appearance. The 28-year-old averaged 20.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.1 blocks in 80 games this year. Despite reports that Sacramento might be one of his free agent suitors, Ham states that he doesn’t fit the up-tempo approach that the Kings prefer.

That’s also true of fellow free agent big man Jonas Valanciunas, who opted out of his deal with the Grizzlies last week. He’ll be seeking a significant raise over the $17.6MM salary he bypassed.

Ham suggests the Kings might opt for a short-term solution, seeking a one- or two-year contract with the Knicks’ DeAndre Jordan or the Hawks’ Dewayne Dedmon. Jordan will turn 31 this summer and Dedmon is almost 30, so neither is viewed as a long-range option.

Sacramento also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of keeping Willie Cauley-Stein, as Ham notes the team is expected to make him a restricted free agent by issuing a qualifying offer before June 30. GM Vlade Divac said the front office still sees potential in the former No. 6 pick, but has been frustrated by his up-and-down performance.

“We would like to keep Willie in terms of his talent potential,” Divac said, “but he still needs to show us the consistency that we are looking for. We are talking.” 

Jonas Valanciunas Won’t Pick Up Player Option

Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas won’t opt into the final year of his contract, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports that Valanciunas intends to turn down his 2019/20 player option. June 13 represented the deadline for the veteran big man to make his decision.

The player option would have paid Valanciunas a salary of $17,617,976 next season if it had been exercised, per Basketball Insiders. Instead, he’ll head to the open market on June 30 in search of a new contract, though his priority will be to negotiate a new deal with Memphis, says Wojnarowski.

According to Woj, new Grizzlies VP of basketball operations Zach Kleiman and Valanciunas’ agent Leon Rose are set to work “aggressively” on finding a new agreement that works for both sides.

Valanciunas, 27, spent the first six and a half years of his NBA career in Toronto, but was sent to the Grizzlies in February in the deadline deal that saw the Raptors acquire Marc Gasol.

After putting up the best numbers of his career on a per-minutes basis through 30 games with the Raptors, Valanciunas continued that trend with the Grizzlies while taking on an expanded role. In 19 games (17 starts) down the stretch with his new team, he averaged a double-double (19.9 PPG, 10.7 RPG) with 2.2 APG and 1.6 BPG in just 27.7 minutes per contest.

Although Valanciunas has always been a strong interior scorer and rebounder, as last year’s numbers showed, he doesn’t have a ton of shooting range and isn’t an elite defender. As such, there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to match his $17.6MM option salary on a new contract.

However, opting out and signing a new deal will allow Valanciunas to gain more long-term security. Even if his new annual salary doesn’t represent a raise, he certainly should be able to surpass $17.6MM in total value on his next contract. The Grizzlies will have his Bird rights, so they won’t face any restrictions in what they can offer him.

To keep tabs on all of this offseason’s player option decisions, be sure to check out our tracker.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ja Morant To Meet With Knicks

While top prospect Ja Morant remains the favorite to be selected No. 2 overall by the Grizzlies (link), he’s apparently taking no chances, as Jordan Schultz of ESPN reports that the 19-year-old Murray State product will meet with the Knicks in New York City. The meeting is expected to take place on Friday, per Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

Morant, who recently underwent a preventative surgical procedure on his right knee, also met the the Grizzlies over the weekend. His two reported meetings fit with his projected draft position, as virtually nobody believes Morant will last beyond the Knicks’ pick at No. 3.

One of the reasons that Morant could feel that Memphis is not a sure thing may be a recent rumor that the Grizzlies are looking harder at other options with the No. 2 pick, primarily sparked by the team’s unsuccessful attempt(s) in trying to get R.J. Barrett to come to Memphis for a private workout.

Woj’s Latest: Durant, Conley, Pacers, Draft Rumors

On Tuesday night, we relayed a pair of rumors from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who said on the network’s televised mock draft special that the Lakers, Mavericks, and Knicks are among the teams interested in pursuing point guard Kemba Walker, but also cautioned that the Lakers aren’t considered frontrunners for any top free agents.

During ESPN’s draft special, Wojnarowski offered up several more tidbits worth passing along, so we’ll round them up in the space below (all links via Sagar Trika unless otherwise indicated):

  • Picking up his 2019/20 player option with the Warriors is probably a “last resort” for Kevin Durant, since he should still receive maximum-salary or near-max offers as a free agent, Wojnarowski said this morning on Get Up (video link via ESPN). We heard on Tuesday that Durant’s Achilles injury isn’t expected to deter suitors, even if it keeps him out for all of next season. Marc Berman of The New York Post confirmed today that the Knicks remain very interested in signing Durant.
  • Wojnarowski identifies the Jazz, Pacers, and Celtics as potential suitors for trade candidate Mike Conley (Twitter link). Of course, Boston would only make sense as a trade partner for the Grizzlies if Kyrie Irving leaves.
  • According to Wojnarowski, the Pacers are interested in bringing back Bojan Bogdanovic and would also like to re-sign Thaddeus Young, assuming the price is right (Twitter link).
  • The Hawks are a team to watch on draft night and may be a candidate to move up to No. 5, in Wojnarowski’s view (Twitter links). Woj expects GM Travis Schlenk to be creative and would be surprised if Atlanta ends up using both the No. 8 and No. 10 overall picks.
  • Even if the Suns and Bulls draft point guards with their first-round picks, they’d each likely try to sign a veteran in free agency, says Wojnarowski (Twitter link).
  • The Thunder are in “absolute win-now mode,” and Wojnarowski believes they’ll be aggressive with the No. 21 pick in trade talks (Twitter link).

Southwest Notes: Morant, Zion, Valanciunas

Ja Morant met with the Grizzlies over the weekend, as Shams Charania of The Athletic passes along (Twitter link). Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian confirms that the meeting took place and hears that the point guard remains the favorite to be selected with the No. 2 overall pick.

Morant recently underwent surgery on his right knee in a procedure that was deemed preventative. The health of Morant doesn’t appear to be an issue for Memphis, though it’s not certain if the team has seen the 19-year-old’s medical records.

Here’s more from around the Southwest Division:

  • Zion Williamson met with the Pelicans earlier this week, Charania tweets. The Duke star is still expected to go No. 1 overall.
  • Veteran center Jonas Valanciunas has a decision to make on his $17.6MM player option and David Cobb of The Commerical Appeal contends that it may be beneficial for both sides if Valanciunas elects to play out the year under that deal. The 27-year-old may not make that kind of annual salary with a new deal and the Grizzlies would have an opportunity to see if he can be a long-term fit with the club.
  • Austin Rivers recently went on ESPN and spoke about the “frustrating” Rockets offense, as Ameer Tyree of Sporting News relays. Rivers said playing alongside James Harden‘s ball dominant game was difficult at times. “I think it works. We just have to mix it up. I think we have to a better job of mixing it up just a little bit,” the guard said.

Grizzlies Hire Taylor Jenkins As Head Coach

2:21pm: The Grizzlies have officially confirmed that they’ve hired Jenkins as their new head coach.

“We are excited to welcome Taylor Jenkins to the Grizzlies organization,” Kleiman said in a statement. “Taylor has an excellent coaching pedigree and we are confident he will lay the groundwork of developing the young players on our roster while having the elite basketball acumen and forward-thinking positive vision to be a high-level NBA head coach.”

10:48am: The Grizzlies‘ lengthy coaching search has come to an end, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports that the club is hiring Bucks assistant Taylor Jenkins as its new head coach. Memphis had been the last NBA team with a head coaching vacancy.

Jenkins spent several seasons with the Spurs beginning in 2007, eventually being promoted to the head coach of the franchise’s G League team in Austin. Following his time in San Antonio, he joined Mike Budenholzer‘s staff in Atlanta, serving as a Hawks assistant beginning in 2013. A year ago, he made the move to Milwaukee, once again working under Budenholzer as an assistant for the Bucks.

As Wojnarowski points out, Jenkins will become the third NBA head coach to be hired directly off Budenholzer’s staff. Quin Snyder (Jazz) and Kenny Atkinson (Nets) were assistants in Atlanta before joining their current teams.

Jenkins, who met with the Grizzlies three times during their search process, per Wojnarowski, was one of several reported candidates to interview the position. Alex Jensen, Jarron Collins, Igor Kokoskov, Nate Tibbetts, and Adrian Griffin were among the others who spoke to Memphis about the job, while Sarunas Jasikevicius was said to have received consideration as well.

Word of J.B. Bickerstaff‘s dismissal broke on April 11, so the Grizzlies spent two months searching for his replacement. It’s the first major decision made by the new management group led by team president Jason Wexler and executive VP of basketball operations Zach Kleiman.

Jenkins will assume control of a Grizzlies team that appears headed for a rebuild around 2018’s No. 4 overall pick Jaren Jackson Jr. and 2019’s probable No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant. Franchise point guard Mike Conley remains under contract for two years, but he’s expected to be a trade candidate this summer if Memphis looks to reboot around its young cornerstones.

Raptors Notes: Leonard, Load Management, Gasol

Kawhi Leonard is becoming a destroyer of dynasties, writes Michael Lee of The Athletic. The Raptors star has a chance to end the Warriors’ run at the top of the NBA five years after doing the same thing to the Heat when they were led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Leonard is also making a case to be called the league’s best player, although Lee notes it would be more impressive if he were dueling Kevin Durant instead of an injury-slowed Andre Iguodala and Alfonzo McKinnie. Still, Leonard has put himself in that conversation, even though he doesn’t fit the mold of a flashy superstar.

“I just want to play and just let people remember that I played hard at both ends of the floor, I was a winner and that’s basically it,” said Leonard, who will move on to an important free agency decision once the Finals are done. “I’m just here enjoying my dream, having fun. I mean, legacy is opinionated by each person, but I’m just playing right about myself really, and what I feel makes me happy.”

There’s more from Toronto:

  • Leonard’s success after playing just nine games last season will lead more teams to practice “load management,” predicts Frank Isola of The Athletic. Leonard missed 22 games this year, with most pre-planned to reduce his regular season wear and tear. He wasn’t used on both ends of any of Toronto’s 13 back-to-backs and never played more than nine straight games. Although Leonard has seemed hobbled at times in the playoffs, he has taken on a full workload. “You do your warmup, get treatment before the game, off days and after the game whatever that can help speed your recovery up so you’re able to play the next day,” he said.
  • Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN imagines the case the Raptors might make to Leonard when free agency arrives in 22 days. He expects management to focus on the talent already on hand, the success of Nick Nurse everywhere he has coached and the organization’s willingness to adjust Leonard’s regular season minutes to keep him fresh. Toronto may also have an NBA title by then as a selling point.
  • Marc Gasol has adjusted his game to become a modern, 3-point shooting center in recent years, writes Jackie MacMullan of ESPN. She talks to Knicks coach David Fizdale, who recalls that his efforts to get Gasol to change was one of the reasons they clashed in Memphis.