Michael Porter Jr.

NBA Announces 2020/21 Rising Stars Rosters

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the pared-down nature of the NBA’s 2021 All-Star weekend, a Rising Stars Game showcasing the league’s top rookies and sophomores won’t be played this year.

However, the league has still announced the rosters for the event, via NBA Top Shot, naming the 20 players who would have been selected to participate if the game was taking place. Here are those rosters:

U.S. Team:

World Team:

The 20-man group includes eight rookies and 11 sophomores. The 20th player, Porter, made the cut as a sophomore since he missed his entire rookie season in 2018/19 due to an injury — this is technically his third year of NBA service.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Rosas, Horford, Nuggets

While most people around the NBA expected Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas to bring in his own head coach at some point, many believed it wouldn’t happen until the offseason, when it would be easier to pursue someone an assistant on a rival team like Chris Finch, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic.

Addressing the timing of the move, Hollinger wonders if Rosas felt some urgency to act quickly because he’s starting to feel his own seat getting hotter. Many of Rosas’ major moves since he arrived haven’t been major successes so far, including his deal for D’Angelo Russell and the decision to trade up in the 2019 draft for Jarrett Culver.

That doesn’t mean that Rosas’ job is in any danger, particularly since some of his moves – including the acquisition of Malik Beasley and the signing of Naz Reid – have worked out well. Still, his honeymoon period is probably over, so he may have felt he couldn’t afford to wait another half-season to make a head coaching change if he’d already decided to move on from Ryan Saunders.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer and Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report examine what’s next for the Timberwolves after their coaching change, with Tjarks focusing on what changes Finch could consider implementing in the short term and Pincus exploring how Minnesota could upgrade its roster.
  • It will be a challenge for the Thunder to get much in a trade for Al Horford, given his pricey contract, but his play this season has boosted his value, contends Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City has struggled this season without Horford on the court, particularly defensively.
  • Though Michael Porter Jr. has struggled to find an offensive rhythm since returning from a bout with COVID-19, the Nuggets are not inclined to deal him unless they get a Bradley Beal-style difference-maker in return, according to Nick Kosmider of The Athetic. However, they might be interested in making a more modest non-Porter trade involving a defensive stalwart such as the Thunder’s Luguentz Dort or the Cavaliers’ Larry Nance Jr.

Dana Gauruder contributed to this post.

Northwest Notes: Diallo, KAT/D-Lo, MPJ, Lillard

Thunder wing Hamidou Diallo has displayed such improvement this season that he could be a leading candidate for Most Improved Player honors, argues Jenni Carlson of the Oklahoman.

Diallo’s output has dramatically increased across the board. The third-year swingman out of Kentucky is averaging career-highs in points (12.7), rebounds (5.5), assists (2.4), field goal percentage (48.9%) and minutes (24.2) for a chippy Thunder squad. “I would say the biggest thing is just opportunity,” he said of his progress this year. “Sometimes, when you have opportunity and you have people around you that believe in you, it just makes the game much easier.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • A variety of health and injury problems have conspired to limit marquee Timberwolves players Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell to just five games together since Minnesota acquired Russell last season. Towns recently vented his frustration, as Chris Hine of the Star Tribune details. “Obviously we want to play with each other,” Towns said. “I finally come back [from a COVID-19 absence] and now he’s out [with a knee injury], so he was emotional too because it’s been bothering him, wanting to play together.” Britt Robson of The Athletic wonders if the Towns-Russell tandem, light on defense, will live up to fan expectations once it finally does appear more consistently.
  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. has shown off his impressive scoring abilities this season, but his defensive flaws (especially at the rim) are clear too, writes Michael Pina of Sports Illustrated. Porter, 22, is averaging 13.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.2 BPG and 1.0 SPG this season. He is also shooting well, with a slash line of .475/.379/.786.
  • Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is set to compete three-point shooting contest at this year’s Atlanta All-Star Game, sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Haynes notes that Lillard currently ranks third in the league when it comes to made three-pointers this season. Lillard’s 105 made triples rank behind only Buddy Hield (106) and Stephen Curry (140).

Amick’s Latest: J. Collins, OKC, Pistons, Cavs, Kings, Nuggets

It will be worth keeping an eye on John Collins‘ situation with the Hawks as next month’s trade deadline approaches, says Sam Amick of The Athletic. The two sides were unable to reach a contract extension agreement prior to the season, with Atlanta reportedly offering $90MM+ while Collins viewed himself as a max player.

Given the gap in negotiations and Collins’ upcoming restricted free agency, a deal could make sense — sources tell Amick that the Hawks have shown a willingness to listen to offers for the big man. However, the 23-year-old, who is averaging 18.5 PPG and 7.8 RPG on .559/.407/.841 shooting in 24 games (31.9 MPG), has been a major part of Atlanta’s success so far this season. The club has a +6.0 net rating when he’s on the court, compared to -11.0 when he’s not, per NBA.com.

Since the Hawks badly want to make the playoffs this season and Collins has been so crucial to keeping them in the hunt, an in-season trade may be unlikely, according to Amick, who notes that Atlanta may end up having to decide what to do with the young power forward in the offseason, when his contract expires.

Here’s more from Amick:

  • The Thunder, Pistons, and Cavaliers are among the teams expected to be “open for business” as potential trade deadline sellers, though their most promising young players will be off limits, sources tell Amick. A 5-10 start to the season had the Kings looking like probable sellers too, but they’ve bounced back and are very much in the playoff hunt. A source with knowledge of the team’s thinking tells The Athletic that Sacramento hasn’t ruled out being a deadline buyer.
  • If the Kings do sell, Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield, and Nemanja Bjelica will be among the players to monitor. Barnes is known to be on the Celtics‘ radar, while the Sixers – who have long been tied to Hield – are also considering Bjelica, says Amick.
  • After bowing out of the James Harden sweepstakes last month, the Nuggets are focused on in-house improvements. Michael Porter Jr.‘s development will be crucial to that process, per Amick, who notes that the temptation to move Porter for a more proven veteran will always be there until he takes another leap. Amick identifies Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine, and Aaron Gordon as some impact players who could pique Denver’s interest, though he cautions that rival executives don’t expect them to be available at this season’s deadline.

Michael Porter Jr. Returns To Nuggets, Will Play Friday

JANUARY 22: Porter will be active and will play against Phoenix on Friday night, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

JANUARY 21: Michael Porter Jr., who hasn’t played in a game since December 29 due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, has reported back to the Nuggets and will be listed as questionable for Friday’s game against Phoenix, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

Porter was originally held out for seven days for contact tracing purposes, then tested positive for the coronavirus, extending his quarantine period by another two weeks.

The young forward will have to ramp up his conditioning and complete additional testing – including a cardio exam – before he’s formally cleared to return to the Nuggets’ lineup (Twitter links via Singer and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN).

While it’s not clear if Porter will be game-ready by tomorrow, head coach Michael Malone said today that he’s optimistic the 22-year-old will be able to play at some point during Denver’s five-game road trip, which begins on Friday in Phoenix and runs through next Friday (January 29) in San Antonio.

Malone stated earlier this week that Porter’s spot in the starting lineup is safe, though he referred to Will Barton today as “a starter,” noting that he feels the Nuggets have more than five starter-caliber players, tweets Singer. As such, it remains to be seen whether MPJ will immediately supplant Barton as the team’s starting small forward or if he’ll be gradually eased back into that role.

Northwest Notes: Porter Jr., Horford, Jerome, Krejci, Saunders

Michael Porter Jr. missed his 10th consecutive game on Tuesday due to the league’s health and safety protocols but he could join the Nuggets on their five-game road trip that begins Friday in Phoenix, according to an Associated Press report. Porter hasn’t played since he racked up 30 points and 10 rebounds against Sacramento on December 29. “He’s a big part of what we’re trying to do here,”  coach Michael Malone said. “When we do get him back, he will be a welcome sight.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Al Horford and Ty Jerome did not travel with the Thunder at the start of their road trip this week, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. Horford’s wife just gave birth to their fourth child and it’s uncertain if Horford will rejoin the team during the trip. Jerome, who was acquired from Phoenix as a throw-in to the Chris Paul deal, has yet to make his Oklahoma City debut. He’s rehabbing from a left ankle sprain.
  • The Thunder’s second-round pick, Vit Krejci, will be stashed on the roster of their G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, Mussatto tweets. Krejci is rehabbing from an ACL injury that he suffered in September.
  • Ryan Saunders deserves more time to get the Timberwolves righted, Jim Souhan of The Minneapolis Star Tribune opines. The current roster doesn’t seem capable of competing without a healthy Karl-Anthony Towns and the young coach should be given a chance to show what he can do when Towns returns after testing positive for COVID-19. Towns had a wrist injury earlier in the season and has only appeared in four games.

Western Notes: Valanciunas, Lee, Porter Jr., Huestis, Spalding

Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas missed Monday’s game against the Suns due to the league’s health and safety protocols, the team’s PR department tweets. It’s uncertain how long Valanciunas will be sidelined. He was instructed to leave the bench area 10 days ago due to COVID-19 contact tracing but it turned out to be a “false alarm,” as Valanciunas described it. Rookie Xavier Tillman started in his place.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Warriors might take a longer look at Damion Lee with Kelly Oubre Jr. off to a slow start, Ethan Strauss of The Athletic writes. Lee’s skills mesh more seamlessly with Stephen Curry, so Golden State could even try Lee in a starting role. He had a pair of double-digit scoring outings last week and has shot the ball well from deep (44.7%) with a low turnover rate. Oubre has shot an icy 19.7% on his 3-point tries but the Warriors dipped deeper into the luxury tax by acquiring him, so they’ll likely exercise plenty of patience and hope he returns to last season’s form.
  • Michael Porter Jr.‘s starting spot is safe, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said on Monday, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post (Twitter link). Porter hasn’t played since December 29 after being placed on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list. “Bottom line is, he’s the starting small forward at 6’10”, averaging close to 20 points a game and seven rebounds,” Malone said. “Not only are you whole, but you have a really talented player who’s a big part of your current team and also your future.”
  • NBA veterans Josh Huestis and Ray Spalding are among the players on the Rockets’ G League roster, according to a tweet from the Rio Grande Vipers. Huestis played in Germany last season after appearing in 76 career games with the Thunder, including 69 during the 2017/18 season. Spalding was waived by the Hornets in November. He played 13 games with the Suns in 2018/19.

Michael Porter Jr. Tested Positive For COVID-19

After starting Nuggets small forward Michael Porter Jr. cleared his initial quarantine due to COVID-19 contact tracing last week, he saw his isolation window extended for an extra 10-to-14 days. The team did not disclose the reason for the new quarantine period when it was announced last week.

Tonight, head coach Michael Malone finally verified that Porter’s continued absence from the team was a result of his testing positive for the novel coronavirus, according to Kendra Andrews of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The Nuggets could certainly use the 22-year-old’s contributions on the floor. After a 122-116 loss to the Nets tonight, Denver fell to 5-6 on the season and currently hold the No. 11 seed in a talented Western Conference.

Across four games, the 6’10” forward out of Missouri is averaging 19.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.5 BPG, and 1.0 SPG in 29.4 MPG during the 2020/21 season. Veteran swingman Will Barton has started in Porter’s stead thus far. Denver is next scheduled to host the Warriors in a TNT broadcast on Thursday.

Michael Porter Jr. Out At Least 10 More Days

9:47pm: Because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Porter will have to quarantine for an additional 10-to-14 days, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

The reason for the additional quarantine is unclear. It’s possible that Porter was exposed to an additional person who later tested positive for the coronavirus, violated the league’s protocols, or perhaps recorded a positive test himself.

3:49pm: The Nuggets had expected forward Michael Porter Jr. to clear his seven-day quarantine for COVID-19 contact tracing on Wednesday night and to be available for Thursday’s game vs. Dallas, but it seems they’ll have to wait a longer to get him back in their lineup.

Porter has been ruled out of tonight’s contest due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, reports Mike Singer of The Denver Post. According to the latest injury report from the Nuggets, the 22-year-old still wasn’t back with the team on Thursday, though a league source tells Singer that his absence isn’t a result of his contact-tracing quarantine being extended.

The Nuggets have yet to comment on the exact reason for Porter’s unavailability and it’s not clear when he’ll be available, Singer adds. The team will be in action in Philadelphia on Saturday and in New York on Sunday, so we’ll have to wait to see if Porter is able to play in either of those contests.

Porter had gotten off to a strong start this season, averaging 19.5 PPG on .566/.423/.875 shooting in his first four games (29.3 MPG). As long as MPJ remains out, Will Barton figures to continue starting at small forward.

Northwest Notes: Jazz Roster, Saunders, Smith, MPJ

Despite an impressively deep roster that includes 2020 All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz roster still needs a player who can defend scoring guards, per Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. Nets point guard Kyrie Irving exploited this weakness when he scored 29 points in 29 minutes against the Jazz in a lopsided 130-96 Brooklyn victory on Tuesday night.

Current go-to Jazz wing defender Royce O’Neale is solid, but Tjarks contends that O’Neale lacks the athleticism necessary to contend with high-level guards like Irving. New addition Shaquille Harrison is another defensive perimeter option.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders is excited for the development of No. 1 draft pick Anthony Edwards out of Georgia, whose understated production (5 points, 4 assists) in a 123-116 Sunday loss to the Nuggets masked his game-reading improvement. “Even if it wasn’t your highest-scoring game, that was your best game as an NBA player because of the way he was reading defenses, the things that we’ve been trying to fast track for him over the last month,” Saunders said of the rookie swingman, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.
  • New Jazz owner Ryan Smith spoke with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on his podcast the Woj Pod, and indicated that he has some ideas for how he would like to help Utah build on its recent playoff appearances (h/t to Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune via Twitter). “Not a lot’s been broken,” Smith said. “But I would just say I think we’re gonna have to get a little more aggressive as we think about how to take this to the next level.”
  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. will be clearing the league’s health and safety protocols-necessitated quarantine tonight and should be available for Denver tomorrow against the Mavericks, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post.