Meyers Leonard

Heat Notes: Paul, Beal, Expiring Contracts, Waiters

The Heat and Thunder never came close to making a deal involving Chris Paul, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

Miami was pursuing Russell Westbrook before Oklahoma City agreed to trade him to Houston last week. The focus shifted to a possible deal that would bring Paul to the Heat, but they don’t have the same level of enthusiasm about acquiring him that they did for Westbrook. (Twitter link). A report today indicates that Oklahoma City is pessimistic about its chances of moving Paul and may keep him on the roster for the entire season.

The Heat were only willing to take on the three years and $124MM left on Paul’s contract if OKC met certain demands, including the return of Miami’s draft picks for 2021 and 2023, Jackson adds. The Heat are reluctant to absorb that much salary because it would restrict their flexibility for the summer of 2021.

There’s more from South Florida:

  • Miami’s next chance to add a star could come if Bradley Beal turns down an extension offer from the Wizards, according to Jackson (Twitter link). He suggests the Heat will be among the teams contacting Washington about Beal if they don’t reach an agreement. Beal will become eligible for the extension, which would pay him $111MM over three seasons, on July 26. Jackson notes that the Wizards have turned aside all trade offers involving Beal so far, but he will become a free agent in 2021 without the extension.
  • Some of the Heat’s expiring contracts don’t look so bad after this summer’s spending and may prove to be valuable trade assets, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson both have 2020/21 player options, but Winderman states that Olynyk might opt out of his $13.2MM salary in view of this year’s market. Johnson is more likely to opt in for $16MM because of his age. Goran Dragic and Meyers Leonard have expiring deals with no options and are expected to be trade chips.
  • Frustrated by jokes over his body last season, Dion Waiters showed off his leaner, stronger physique in an Instragram post Monday, as relayed in an ESPN story. Waiters admits to being in a “dark place mentally & physically” during the past season as he tried to shake off the effects of an ankle injury.

Woj: Heat “Team To Watch” For Russell Westbrook

The Heat are a “team to watch” in the Russell Westbrook situation, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said today during the network’s broadcast of a Summer League game (video clip).

“Russell Westbrook at 30 years old is still a high-level player, but it is a lot of money and he’s going to take up a great deal of your salary cap,” said Wojnarowski, who predicts Miami will be among several to talk to the Thunder about Westbrook’s availability.

A source confirms to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald that Heat officials “absolutely like” Westbrook, but there’s no indication of how hard they plan to pursue him (Twitter link). He adds that the Thunder own Miami’s first-round pick in 2021 and don’t have any incentive to help the Heat.

Westbrook’s availability was made public in the wake of the surprising overnight trade that sent teammate Paul George to the Clippers to team up with Kawhi Leonard. Westbrook will make $170MM over the next four seasons and the Thunder are interested in cutting costs now that they longer have two stars in place.

There’s more today from Miami:

  • New Heat center Meyers Leonard told Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel that he has gotten over the shock of being traded from the Trail Blazers. Leonard said he was in the middle of a workout when his trainer told him to call his agent after seeing a tweet from Wojnarowski about the deal. “There are numerous things I’m excited for — the culture, the kind of get-in-there-and-work-hard grit mentality,” Leonard said. “I can only say I’m very, very excited for this opportunity, to help the Heat win.”
  • The Heat are risking their ability to surround Butler with more talent in the future with today’s decision to stretch the $15.6MM still owed to Ryan Anderson, Winderman notes in a separate story. They had to cut salary before they could accommodate Butler’s new contract, but the deal will keep Anderson on the payroll for three more years at $5.2MM per season.
  • The Heat expect rookie forward KZ Okpala to make his Summer League debut tomorrow, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. With the moratorium lifted, the 32nd pick in the draft officially traveled the circuitous route that took him from the Pacers to the Suns to the Heat. “The process has been different,” Okpala said of the long wait. “It’s not what I expected, for sure. But I think it’s just all a part of the process. You just have to control the things you can control.”

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.

Heat To Trade Hassan Whiteside To Blazers

The Heat have reached an agreement on a trade to send center Hassan Whiteside to the Trail Blazers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com, who reports (via Twitter) that Portland is giving up Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard in the deal.

[UPDATE: Harkless to be re-routed to Clippers in four-team trade]

In acquiring Whiteside, the Blazers will secure a replacement at the five for Enes Kanter, who looks like a good bet to sign elsewhere. Whiteside figures to start at center for the Trail Blazers while Jusuf Nurkic continues to recover from a leg injury that is expected to sideline him well into the 2019/20 regular season.

Whiteside, 30, saw his role in Miami decline over the last couple years, but continued to put up strong numbers on a per-minute basis. In 72 games in 2018/19, the big man averaged 12.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG, and 1.9 BPG in just 23.3 minutes per contest.

While the Blazers will fortify their center position in the deal, their perimeter defense will take another hit. Having already lost Al-Farouq Aminu in free agency to Orlando, Portland will now part with Harkless as well. Newly-acquired forward Kent Bazemore will be leaned on heavily to help replace that duo.

As for the Heat, they’ll move on from Whiteside, who hadn’t been thrilled about having his minutes cut back during the last two seasons, publicly griping about his role on more than one occasion. Miami won’t have to take back any long-term salary in the deal, as all three players are on expiring contracts, and will save about $4.8MM based on the difference in salaries between Whiteside ($27.1MM) and the combo of Leonard ($11.3MM) and Harkless ($11MM).

Those savings could come in handy, since the Heat will face a hard cap of $138.9MM by acquiring Jimmy Butler via sign-and-trade. Speaking of that Butler trade, cap expert Albert Nahmad notes (via Twitter) that moving Whiteside won’t help solve the salary-matching issue Miami faces in that deal, so at least one more move will be required.

With Whiteside out of the picture, Bam Adebayo projects to take an ever larger role in Miami’s frontcourt.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Blazers Notes: Ownership, Nurkic, Hood, Kanter

While there’s a perception in NBA circles that the Trail Blazers‘ ownership situation is unsettled in the wake of Paul Allen‘s death last fall, the team’s head of basketball operations, Neil Olshey, doesn’t subscribe to that notion, as Jason Quick of The Athletic relays.

“Nothing is unsettled. Jody is our owner,” Olshey said during the Blazers’ exit interviews, referring to Paul’s sister Jody Allen. “She has been fantastic in terms of engagement. She has addressed the team when we’ve asked her to. She was really emotional after the OKC series, that was the validation, knowing how much Paul believed in the core of this group and to see it come to fruition.

“Jody stepped up and spoke to the team in a way that resonated with everybody and struck a chord with the players and staff and everyone there that she has our back, she has a vision for the franchise, she believes in the group, she cares about the players, and the magnitude of what she has had to take on,” Olshey continued, per Quick. “At a time when we needed ownership to show solidarity with the front office, the coaching staff, the business division, she was there for us.”

Allen has exhibited that commitment to the franchise since Portland’s season ended earlier this month, having locked up Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts to contract extensions.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • According to Olshey (via Quick), injured Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is making “great progress” from his broken left leg. While the team hasn’t offered a specific recovery timetable for Nurkic, Quick speculates that the big man could be ready to return to action sometime just before next season’s All-Star break. “Guys can’t believe where he is relative to what they saw only four weeks ago,” Olshey said of Nurkic. “He is a core piece to this roster, a foundational piece going forward, and we are going to drive him. But also knowing we are going to do what’s best for Nurk on a long-term basis in terms of his recovery and his timeline.”
  • The Blazers aren’t expecting to be able to retain Rodney Hood or Enes Kanter using the taxpayer mid-level exception (projected to be worth about $5.7MM), writes Quick. If the club can shed enough salary to gain access to the full mid-level exception – or Hood and Kanter don’t receive as much interest as anticipated – Hood would likely be the priority over Kanter, in Quick’s view.
  • Quick doesn’t expect the Blazers’ three big expiring contracts for Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, and Maurice Harkless to garner a ton of interest on the trade market this offseason, contending that they could become more intriguing trade chips during the season.
  • Former St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds is set to work out for the Trail Blazers on Friday, tweets Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com. According to Quick, Portland will likely only hold “three or four” pre-draft workouts since the club has just one pick (No. 25) in this year’s draft.

Western Notes: Morris, Fournier, Kanter, Booker

Celtics forward Marcus Morris believes Thunder coach Billy Donovan made a big mistake by using his brother Markieff Morris sparingly during their playoff series against Portland, Jay King of The Athletic reports.

Markieff Morris chose to play with Oklahoma City after reaching a buyout with New Orleans, which acquired him from the Wizards at the trade deadline. Markieff played just four minutes in Game 5 and between 13 and 15 minutes in the other games of the series won by the Trail Blazers, 4-1.

“I’m not a coach or anything like that, but I feel like they just didn’t utilize their bench enough. I feel like my brother went over there for no reason,” Marcus said. “He never got an opportunity to play. I thought that he would really help them in the playoffs, but from what I seen he should have went somewhere else just to be able to show that veteran leadership and that experience.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Trail Blazers made an offer for Magic swingman Evan Fournier that Orlando passed on prior to the trade deadline, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders tweets. Portland was willing to ship a roster player and a protected first-rounder for Fournier, who will make $17MM next season and holds a player option on his $17MM salary for the 2020/21 season.
  • Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter played with a separated left shoulder in Game 5, Kevin Pelton of ESPN reports. Kanter suffered the injury during the opening quarter but managed to play 32 minutes. He received a pain-killing injection at halftime. Kanter averaged 13.2 PPG and 10.2 RPG in the series as the primary replacement for injured Jusuf Nurkic. Portland would have to rely more on Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard in the conference semifinals if Kanter is forced to miss any games.
  • Suns star guard Devin Booker had no input in the firing of coach Igor Kokoskov, GM James Jones told the Arizona Republic’s Katherine Fitzgerald and other media members. “I speak to Devin, I speak to all of our players, about our organization. But in these instances, this isn’t a decision for Devin to make. This is my decision,” Jones said. That’s curious, since Booker indicated after signing his five-year maximum salary extension that he’d have a say in all major moves going forward.  I think it’s a collective agreement. Moving forward, throwing in any advice I can, stay in the loop and watch what’s going on and know what’s going on,” Booker said last month.
  • The Rockets held a predraft workout on Wednesday that included Mississippi guard Quinndary Weatherspoon, Washington guard Jalyen Nowell and Campbell guard Chris Clemons, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets.  Houston does not currently own a pick in this year’s draft. Nowell is the highest-ranked prospect among the trio, as he’s ranked No. 87 by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

Northwest Notes: Carmelo, Westbrook, Leonard

During the offseason, the Thunder added two forces in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to play alongside reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, but the offense has yet to look explosive. The team is scoring just 102.5 points per game, a figure that ranks 23rd in the league.

George, who can become a free agent at the end of the season, believes the team’s struggles are due to playing too much iso-ball.

“We put pressure on individuals,” George said after the team’s loss to the Kings on Tuesday (via Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman). “When we get stagnant, we put pressure on individuals, and we’re too good of a team one through 14 – especially with that starting five – we’re too good of a team to allow ourselves to put pressure on one another.”

According to Dawson, Anthony ranks second in the league in isolation possessions with 6.6 per contest. Westbrook comes in at 3.2 per game (ranked 19th in the league) and George is at 3.0 (21st).

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Westbrook isn’t concerned about the Thunder’s lack of cohesion on the court, Dawson adds in the same piece. “I’m encouraged by the group of guys we have in that (locker) room,” Westbrook said. “I will be better. I take ownership in how we’re playing. I will be better and we will be better, so I’m not worried.”
  • Meyers Leonard could return to the court next week, which is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a right lateral ankle sprain, Mike Richman of the Oregonian relays. The Trail Blazers center sustained the injury on October 25 and was expected to miss four-to-six weeks.

Meyers Leonard Out 4-6 Weeks With Ankle Injury

Trail Blazers center Meyers Leonard, who was in a walking boot in the team’s locker room on Thursday, underwent an MRI on his injured right ankle and got some good news and bad news. According to the Blazers (Twitter link via Casey Holdahl), Leonard avoided major structural damage, but a lateral ankle sprain will keep him sidelined for about four to six weeks.

Leonard suffered the injury on Wednesday, before Blazers practice officially got underway. He was participating in some one-on-one work with Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan when he landed awkwardly, per Joe Freeman of The Oregonian.

“I went to block Zach’s shot and landed on his big old size 19’s,” Leonard said.

Leonard, who is in the second season of a lucrative four-year deal with the Blazers, has been struggling to work his way into the team’s regular rotation this season. Through five games, the 25-year-old center has played just 17 total minutes, appearing in two contests. Ed Davis has handled backup duties at center behind starter Jusuf Nurkic.

The Blazers should get a boost to their frontcourt depth soon, with Noah Vonleh aiming to return to the court next week. Outside of Leonard and Vonleh, both of Portland’s two-way players – Wade Baldwin and C.J. Wilcox – are also sidelined due to injuries.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Durant, Abrines, Leonard

Having missed out on free agent forward Dante Cunningham, the Timberwolves remain on the lookout for a couple more veterans to fill out their roster, and Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News suggests (via Twitter) that it’s worth keeping an eye on Aaron Brooks. While Minnesota wants to sign a wing player, the team also continue to seek a backup point guard, and Tom Thibodeau has a history with Brooks, a former Bull.

Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune also identifies Brooks as a potential target for the Timberwolves, suggesting that C.J. Watson and Kirk Hinrich – another player with a Thibodeau connection – may be options as well. As for possible fits at the forward spot, Zgoda indicates that Gerald Green and Thomas Robinson are among the veteran free agents who could be in play for Minnesota.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Appearing at a tech conference in San Francisco this week, Kevin Durant expressed remorse for the tweets sent from his Twitter account earlier this week, calling them “idiotic” and “childish,” as Mark Medina of The Bay Area News Group details. The messages, in which Durant was critical of his former Thunder teammates and head coach Billy Donovan, drew a response from Enes Kanter. According to Andrew Joseph of USA Today, Kanter said he wasn’t mad about the tweets, but said it was “really sad” to see Durant express those views about an organization that “gave everything to him.”
  • After injuring his knee this summer, Alex Abrines is pain-free and feels like he can do “everything” on the court, but he’s still waiting to receive full clearance from the Thunder, as Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman details.
  • After signing a lucrative new four-year deal with the Trail Blazers last summer, Meyers Leonard had a disappointing 2016/17 season, but there’s reason to believe better things are in store for Leonard going forward, writes Jason Quick of CSNNW.com.