Grizzlies Rumors

Southwest Notes: Leonard, Okafor, Benson, Grizzlies

The strange injury situation with the Spurs and superstar Kawhi Leonard took an unexpected turn earlier this week. Head coach Gregg Popovich said that it is unlikely that Leonard returns this season. A separate report indicated that Leonard — who has been medically cleared to resume his return — has personally made the decision to remain inactive.

Leonard, last year’s third-place finisher in MVP voting, has missed all but nine games this season. The Spurs have not missed much of a step without Leonard, wielding the third-best record in the Western Conference (35-24). Leonard’s longtime teammate and Spurs legend, Manu Ginobili, weighed in on the situation.

“Nobody is in his body,” Ginobili said, per Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News (via Twitter). “He feels the way he feels and we don’t know. Yeah, we know he has been cleared. But, again, if he is feeling pain, isn’t sure, he is not ready to come back, then he’s not.”

Check out other Southwest Division notes:

  • Emeka Okafor has fought his way back to the NBA and earned a pair of 10-day contracts with the Pelicans, Rod Walker of The New Orleans Advocate writes that Okafor, a former first overall pick, is glad to be back in the league. “It’s been an awesome ride so far,” Okafor said. ” I’m happy to be here trying to earn my way back in. Now that I’m back, it feels good and it feels natural. I’m going to keep on going until I’m told otherwise.”
  • Pelicans owner Tom Benson was recently admitted to a Louisiana medical facility after experiencing flu-like symptoms, according to the team’s Twitter feed. Benson, 90, is resting comfortably and is receiving top-notch care, per the statement.
  • The Grizzlies are finishing up a poor season that will not end in a postseason berth, but the team – led by veteran Marc Gasol and interim head coach J.B Bickerstaff – wants to finish the year well, Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal writes.

Martin, Harrison Playing Well Despite Grizzlies Poor Season

Brice Johnson Recalled

  • The Grizzlies recalled forward Brice Johnson from the Memphis Hustle, the team’s NBA G League affiliate. Johnson, who was acquired in a trade from Detroit on Feb. 8, has seen action in nine NBA games this season, but has yet to appear in a contest for the Grizzlies.

NBA Teams With Open Roster Spots

Now that the dust has settled on last Thursday’s trade-deadline deals and the first round of veteran buyouts and cuts has been completed, it’s worth taking stock of which NBA teams have the flexibility to add a player or two without waivers anyone else.

With the help of our roster counts page, which we update all season, here are the NBA teams with open spots on their 15-man rosters. Open two-way contract slots aren’t included here, since teams are ineligible to sign new two-way contracts at this point in the season.

Teams with a player on a 10-day contract filling their open spot:

  • Phoenix Suns
  • Utah Jazz

Both the Suns and Jazz have 14 players on fully guaranteed NBA contracts, leaving one potential opening. For now, Josh Gray is filling that 15th spot in Phoenix and Naz Mitrou-Long is doing the same in Utah. However, they’re only on 10-day contracts, so both of these teams could soon create an open spot if necessary.

Teams with one open spot:

  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • New York Knicks
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Orlando Magic
  • Sacramento Kings
  • Toronto Raptors

The teams listed above represent a mix of playoff-bound squads and rebuilding non-contenders. Teams like the Bulls, Mavericks, and Knicks could use their open roster spots to take fliers on young players via 10-day contracts, while clubs like the Timberwolves, Thunder, and Raptors may be eyeing the buyout market for veterans who could fortify their respective benches.

Teams with two open spots:

  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • Washington Wizards

NBA rules generally prohibit teams from carrying fewer than 14 players on their 15-man squads. However, clubs are permitted to dip to 13 – or even 12 – in special circumstances, as long as they get back up to 14 within two weeks. Roster moves made last week by the Hawks, Cavaliers, Trail Blazers, and Wizards left them below the limit, so they’ll each have to add at least one player by the end of the All-Star break.

Note: Roster info current as of Tuesday, February 13 at 2:00pm CT.

Buyout Details For Belinelli, Johnson, Wright

Several veteran players have been waived by their respective teams since Thursday’s trade deadline, with guard Marco Belinelli, forward Joe Johnson, and big man Brandan Wright receiving buyouts. As those vets prepare to sign with new teams, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link) passes along details on how much money they gave back to their old clubs.

According to Wojnarowski, Belinelli gave up $300K to get out of his deal with the Hawks, Johnson surrendered $1MM in his buyout agreement with the Kings, and Wright gave up $776K to the Grizzlies.

[RELATED: 2017/18 Buyout Market Summary]

As Woj observes in his tweet, a player who agrees to buy out typically does so knowing that he’ll earn back most or all of his lost salary once he signs a new deal. With that in mind, it’s worth noting that Wright’s buyout amount doesn’t appear to be arbitrary — if he signs a minimum salary deal with the Rockets today, Wright will earn approximately $776K for the rest of the season with Houston.

Since Belinelli, like Wright, has at least 10 years of NBA experience too, his minimum salary deal would also be worth about $776K if completed today. Those two contracts would count for only about $490K against the cap. As for Johnson, if he signs with Houston on Tuesday, he’d earn about $763K on a minimum salary deal, with a cap hit of approximately $482K.

Johnson, whose salary had been $10.5MM+ before his buyout, apparently agreed to give up a little more salary than he’ll earn the rest of the way with the Rockets. But that trade-off is certainly worth it, since he’ll make the move from the NBA’s worst team to the club with perhaps the best shot at knocking off the defending-champion Warriors.

As for Belinelli, his relatively modest buyout signals that the Hawks were ready to move on from the veteran and hand his minutes over to younger players. He’ll come out ahead financially after signing with the Sixers.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 2/11/18

Here are Sunday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA.

10:04pm: 

  • The Warriors have assigned Patrick McCaw to their affiliate in Santa Cruz, the team announced (Twitter link).

2:52pm:

  • The Grizzlies have assigned forward Brice Johnson to their G League affiliate, the Memphis Hustle, the team announced in a press release. Johnson was acquired by the Grizzlies prior to the trade deadline on Thursday. In 24 G League games this season, Johnson has averaged 13.4 PPG and 9.5 RPG.
  • The Thunder have recalled guard Terrance Ferguson and center Dakari Johnson from their G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, the team announced in a press release. Ferguson has appeared in 41 games with the Thunder this season while Johnson has racked up 24 appearances.
  • The Pacers recalled center Ike Anigbogu from their G League affiliate in Fort Wayne, the team announced on its website. While the rookie has played sparingly with the big league club, he’s averaged 6.3 PPG, 6.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game in 12 games with the Mad Ants this season.

Two Factors Prevented A Tyreke Evans Trade

The Grizzlies‘ desire for a first-round pick and their insistence on not taking back unwanted salary were behind the failure to trade Tyreke Evans before the deadline, according to Chris Herrington of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Memphis is counting on using its $8.6MM mid-level exception to sign a free agent this summer and doesn’t want to get close to the luxury tax threshold. The team already has more than $101MM in committed salary for next season.

Herrington adds that GM Chris Wallace wanted a quality first-rounder in exchange for Evans, rather than multiple second-rounders, because the roster is already stuffed with young players. The Grizzlies were disappointed that the offers they got for Evans were no better than what they received for Courtney Lee two years ago.

Memphis won’t be able to offer Evans more than the MLE this offseason, but he may find that enticing as a way to build up Bird rights, which allow teams to exceed the cap to re-sign their own players. He doesn’t have them now because he joined the Grizzlies on a one-year contract, but he can get Early Bird rights if signs with Memphis for one more season or full Bird rights if he stays two more.

Grizzlies Waive Brandan Wright

The buyout is complete for Brandan Wright, who has already indicated his intention to sign with the Rockets. The Grizzlies waived him this afternoon, announcing the move on their website.

The 30-year-old forward has been slowed by injuries since signing with Memphis in 2015, appearing in a combined 67 games over nearly three seasons. He played 27 games this year, averaging 5.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in 13.6 minutes per night.

Wright will now go through the waiver process, and expects to sign with Houston once he clears on Monday. The Rockets will have a roster spot available after waiving veteran guard Bobby Brown.

Terms of Wright’s buyout were not released, but he was making nearly $5.96MM on an expiring contract. The move leaves Memphis with an open roster spot.

2017/18 Buyout Market Summary

With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, much attention is being paid to what is expected to be several weeks of busy buyout market activity. The last day that a player can be waived from their current team and still be eligible to play in the postseason with a new team is March 1.

Below are a series of lists breaking down the veterans who have already been bought out – or simply waived – by their respective teams since the trade deadline, along with those who are expected to be, and several more who really ought to be considered possible buyout candidates even if no reports have come out explicitly stating as much.

As the weeks unfold, we may see new names surface as buyout candidates, in such cases (and whenever a player is formally bought out) we’ll update the list.

Potential buyout candidates:

Expected to be bought out or released:

  • None

Veterans who have been bought out or released:

Grizzlies, Brandan Wright Working Toward Buyout

The Grizzlies are working toward a buyout with forward Brandan Wright, Chris Haynes of ESPN tweets. The 30-year-old big man has played the last three season in Memphis but has struggled to stay on the court.

Across the 67 games that he has suited up for the club, Wright has averaged 6.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game in just 15.3 minutes of action.

While Wright may not carry with him the clout that some of the other veterans set to hit the buyout market do, he could be a valuable addition for teams interested in frontcourt depth.

A full-fledged breakout never came for Wright but the former lottery pick has shown glimpse of impressive production in the past. He may not have lived up to the $17MM, three-year deal he inked with the Grizz back in 2015 but he can certainly help a contender for cheap if he does ultimately clear waivers.

 

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