Mikal Bridges

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Bridges, Labissiere, Clippers

The Lakers ensured themselves a successful offseason when they signed LeBron James, but they still need to fill a vacancy at center, writes Matt John of Basketball Insiders. The addition of free agent JaVale McGee doesn’t really solidify the position, and the only other choices on the roster are rookie Moe Wagner and Ivica Zubac.

With David West and Brandan Wright as the best free agents left on the market, John identifies several potential trade targets, including Tristan Thompson, James’ former teammate in Cleveland. Thompson is a physical rebounder and defender with whom James had a good rapport. However, John notes that he may not be available unless Cleveland decides to rebuild.

Other possibilities include the Bismack Biyombo, who finds himself in a center logjam after being traded to Charlotte, the Bucks’ John Henson, the Bulls’ Robin Lopez, the Magic’s Nikola Vucevic and the Hawks’ Dewayne Dedmon.

There’s more news from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns rookie swingman Mikal Bridges was a little disappointed he didn’t play more in the summer league, James Blancarte of Basketeball Insiders reports. “It’s tough you know. Coming in mentally, you don’t know what the coach is going to do and how they are going to play you,” Bridges told Blancarte. “Couple of games, not playing as much as I thought I was going to be [playing]. Just staying mentally [tough], going through that.” Bridges averaged 6.2 PPG and 2.6 RPG in 20 MPG during five Las Vegas outings. He will also likely have wait his turn during his rookie campaign but Phoenix thought enough of him to swing a draft-night trade with the Sixers, Blancarte notes.
  • Kings big man Skal Labissiere is looking to improve his durability during his offseason workouts, Jason Wise of the team’s website relays. Memphis-area trainer Raheem Shabazz has made Instagram posts showing the work Labissiere is putting in as he prepares for his third NBA season.
  • Clippers lottery picks Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson showed flashes of potential in summer league games but they were far from perfect, according to Keith Smith of RealGM. Gilgeous-Alexander has a solid all-around game but needs lot of work with his shot. Robinson has to focus more on the defensive end, Smith continues, while undrafted big man Angel Delgado struggled on the perimeter. However, Delgado displayed strong rebounding instincts and toughness on the interior, Smith adds.

Suns Sign Ayton, Bridges; King Gets Two-Way Deal

The Suns have officially signed three of their four 2018 draft picks, according to RealGM’s transactions log. First-round selections Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges have inked their rookie deals with Phoenix, while second-rounder George King has finalized a two-way contract.

Ayton, the first overall pick in the draft, projects to be the Suns’ center of the future, with the team never wavering on using the No. 1 pick to select him over Marvin Bagley III, Luka Doncic, and other top prospects in the 2018 class. As our list of rookie scale salaries shows, Ayton will be in line for a first-year salary of $8MM+ and will earn more than $40MM over the course of his four-year rookie contract.

Bridges, meanwhile, was acquired in a draft-night trade with the Sixers. Phoenix gave up Miami’s unprotected 2021 first-round pick to move up from No. 16 to No. 10 to secure Bridges, an indication of how much they like him. The former Villanova forward will receive a $3.55MM first-year salary and a four-year contract worth $17.63MM in total.

While Bridges’ and Ayton’s first NBA contracts were locked in from the moment they were drafted, that wasn’t the case for King, the 59th overall pick, since there’s no set rookie scale for second-round selections. The former Colorado forward will slot into one of the Suns’ two-way contract openings during his rookie year.

The only unsigned Phoenix draftee now is Elie Okobo, the 31st overall pick. However, the two sides reportedly reached an agreement on a four-year deal shortly after the draft, so it should become official soon after the moratorium ends.

Sixers Notes: Fultz, Smith Trade, GM Candidate

The Sixers’ decision to draft two guards in the first round could mean Markelle Fultz won’t be part of the future in Philadelphia, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The team acquired swingman Zhaire Smith in a trade with the Suns and took point guard Landry Shamet at No. 26, but coach Brett Brown said the selections have nothing to do with Fultz and the difficulties he encountered during his rookie year.

After being the first player taken in the 2017 draft, Fultz missed much of the season with a shoulder injury and an unexplained problem with his shooting motion. Fultz is still limited to “foundational-type” shooting drills, according to Pompey, and probably won’t join the Sixers for summer league.

The front office insists it isn’t trying to trade Fultz, but Pompey cites a report of internal discussions about moving him, along with the two first-rounders, in an effort to obtain a top five pick. Several league sources also say Fultz was available for a deal, but his performance as a rookie makes it difficult to get anything of value in return.

There’s more this morning out of Philadelphia:

  • Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated offers an inside look at the draft night deal that sent Smith to Philadelphia and Mikal Bridges to Phoenix. The Sixers turned down several offers from the Suns prior to the deal coming together just before Phoenix made its selection at No. 16. Bridges had a private workout in Philadelphia and Smith participated in two group workouts, and the Sixers considered them “1A” and “1B” as prospects who might be available with the 10th pick. When Smith fell all the way to 16th, Philly reconsidered, seeing an opportunity to stock up on future picks.
  • Brown would like to see the Sixers hire someone already in the organization as the next GM, Pompey writes in a separate story. The top internal candidate is believed to be Marc Eversley, who serves as vice president of player personnel. “I don’t think we need an overhaul,” Brown said. “We’re in deep on this. We have ways we do business. So somewhere out there, we’ll find the balance of those things that I said, and I’m sure that I’ll have a voice in the selection of the next general manager.”
  • Brown compares Smith to Spurs star Kawhi Leonard, another player who was traded on draft night, Pompey notes in another piece. Leonard is Smith’s favorite player and could wind up being a teammate if the cards fall right for the Sixers. “I think somebody said we have the same shooting mechanics,” Smith said. “So I try to do whatever move he does to get his shot off. I try to learn that.”

Suns Rumors: Bridges, Free Agency, Coaches, Williams

The addition of Mikal Bridges gives the Suns a logjam at the forward spots and they still need to address their point guard situation, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic writes.

After the draft-night trade with the Sixers to acquire Bridges’ rights, the Suns now have five recent first-rounders – Josh JacksonT.J. WarrenDragan Bender and Marquese Chriss being the others – angling for playing time in the frontcourt. GM Ryan McDonough said he might add a stretch four in free agency, Bordow continues, so they could use that depth in a trade, with Chriss and Warren the most likely to be dealt.

Despite selecting Frenchman Elie Okobo with the first pick of the second round, the Suns still need another veteran at that spot, and McDonough confirmed they could pursue a floor leader in free agency, Bordow adds.

We have more on the Suns:

  • The Suns consider Bridges a “special player” and that’s why they were willing to deal the No. 16 pick and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder for him, Bob Baum of the Associated Press reports. ‘‘We weighed the pros and cons of trading it heavily and carefully,” McDonough said. ”We were only going to put it in play if we had a chance to get a special player and that’s how we feel about Mikal.”
  • With $15-$20MM available to pursue free agents, the Suns will be proactive in free agency, Baum adds in the same piece. ‘We’re going to continue to be aggressive for the next couple of weeks in free agency,” McDonough said. “We’ve got some money to spend and we’re looking to spend it on the best players we can get.”
  • Joe Prunty, Corliss Williamson, Jamelle McMillan, Jason Staudt and Cody Toppert have officially signed up as assistants for new head coach Igor Kokoskov, Bordow tweets.
  • It’s hard to imagine the Suns will retain center Alan Williams on his current deal, Bordow adds in another tweet. Williams, whose $5.52MM salary is not guaranteed, would get a full guarantee if he’s still on the roster through July 6. He’d be a third-string center behind Deandre Ayton and Tyson Chandler if he sticks.

Atlantic Rumors: Saric, Sixers, Celtics, Knicks

The Sixers didn’t move up in the lottery in large part because they refused to trade Dario Saric, Ian Begley of ESPN tweets. Philadelphia tried to get into the top five of the draft but multiple teams indicated the Sixers had no interest in giving up a forward who averaged 14.6 PPG 6.7 RPG and 2.6 APG last season, Begley adds. Philadelphia wound up staying put at No. 10 and drafted Villanova’s Mikal Bridges, then dealt his draft rights to the Suns for Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith and a future first-rounder.

In other draft news involving Atlantic Division teams:

  • With coach and GM Brett Brown running the show, the Sixers were very active in the second round. They traded the No. 38 pick to the Pistons and the No. 39 pick to the Lakers, then parlayed two late picks to move into the Mavericks’ No. 54 spot, where they drafted SMU guard Shake Milton. The Sixers picked up three future second-rounders and cash in the first two second-round deals. “I feel like the trades that we made to acquire future picks and to move up closer to somebody that we really like like Shake Milton, I think that the room was fantastic in organizing and allowing us to do that,” Brown said during a press conference.
  • The Celtics decided against trading for a second-round pick after drafting enigmatic Texas A&M big man Robert Williams with the No. 27 pick, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reports. “We don’t need more young players, really,” GM Danny Ainge told Bulpett and other media members. “We feel good about adding one positional player that has something that we don’t have, that does something that we don’t have.”
  • Knicks GM Scott Perry doesn’t expect the team to be “highly active” in free agency, Begley reports in a separate tweet. That’s not surprising, considering the team’s salary commitments for next season. Kyle O’Quinn gave them a little more breathing room by deciding to decline his option but unless Enes Kanter also chooses to decline his $18.62MM option, they’ll be operating over the cap.

Draft Notes: Sixers, Magic, Doncic, Walker

The Sixers‘ coaching staff and front office had “serious conversations” about selecting Michael Porter Jr. before deciding on Mikal Bridges, tweets ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. The Sixers were intrigued by Porter’s potential to become a star, but bypassed him for a safer choice. Porter went four picks later to the Nuggets, while Bridges was traded to the Suns.

Because former president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo resigned in the wake of a controversy involving Twitter burner accounts, the Sixers are relying on a group effort between coaches and executives to decide on their picks.

There’s more from an active draft night:

  • The Magic’s selection of Mohamed Bamba at No. 6 doesn’t mean Nikola Vucevic is headed out of town, tweets Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Vucevic is heading into a contract year, making $12.75MM next season. Orlando has a potential logjam at center with Bismack Biyombo signed for $17MM next year with a $17MM player option for 2019/20. “He’s a good pick,” Vucevic said of Biyombo. “He’s talented and he’ll be a big presence.”
  • The Mavericks won’t ask Luka Doncic to go through a full summer league schedule after just finishing up his season in Europe, relays ESPN’s Tim MacMahon (Twitter link). “He needs a break,” said coach Rick Carlisle. The Mavs will meet soon to determine how much they want Doncic to do this summer.
  • A medical issue may have caused Lonnie Walker to drop to the Spurs at No. 18, according to Doug Gottlieb of Fox Sports Radio (Twitter link). However, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony states that health concerns regarding Walker were exaggerated and had little effect on where he was taken (Twitter link).
  • The Cavaliers are hoping to buy a pick in the second round, sources tell Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). The club can’t send out any more cash in trades during the 2017/18 league year, but could reach an agreement tonight and finalize it in July. The Cavs don’t own any picks beyond No. 8.
  • The Bulls made an effort to move up, but decided it was “too expensive,” a source tells Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). Any move would have cost them the 22nd pick and future selections.

Suns Acquire Mikal Bridges From Sixers

After selecting Deandre Ayton with the first overall pick to kick off the draft, the Suns have agreed to acquire another top-10 prospect. According to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), Phoenix has reached a deal with the Sixers that will send No. 10 overall pick Mikal Bridges to the Suns, with No. 16 pick Zhaire Smith heading to Philadelphia.

In addition to Smith, the Sixers will receive the Heat’s 2021 first-round pick from Phoenix, tweets Charania. The trade is now official.

The Suns were just about to select Donte DiVincenzo when a call came through from Philadelphia about a trade, tweets John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7.

By moving from the 1oth pick to the 16th, the Sixers will save about $1MM in cap space, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), who notes that the extra money will be helpful if Philly decides to make a max offer in free agency.

The first-rounder from Miami will remain unprotected, according to Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). A 2021 selection could be even more valuable if the NBA does away with its one-and-done rule that year, since that year’s top high-school seniors and college freshman could both be draft-eligible for the first time.

[RELATED: NBA: Draft Eligibility Rules Could Change By 2021]

The trade puts an unexpected twist on what was nearly a storybook night for Villanova’s Bridges, who hails from the Philadelphia area. He and his mother both seemed thrilled at the prospect of having him join the Sixers. Instead, Bridges heads west to join a rebuilding franchise in Phoenix.

Arthur Hill contributed to this post.

Draft Updates: Porter, Jackson, Knicks, Doncic

There are conflicting views among lottery teams over the medical report on Michael Porter Jr., tweets ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. Doctors from some teams advised staying away from Porter entirely, but medical staffs from other organizations don’t believe the risk is all that high. Concerns about the long-term condition of Porter’s back have caused ESPN’s Jonathan Givony to drop him to 12th in his latest mock draft.

Porter’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, provided newer and more detailed medical information to lottery teams today, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Bartelstein hopes the updated info will help ease concerns about Porter’s condition.

There are a few more draft notes to pass along:

  • Jaren Jackson Jr. has softened his stance on going to Memphis now that it appears the Grizzlies might select him at No. 4, relays Wojnarowski. (Twitter link). Jackson, who refused to work out for Memphis, has given team officials all the personal information they asked for. Wojnarowski adds that coach J.B. Bickerstaff helped to sell Jackson on his future with the organization.
  • The Knicks have narrowed their focus to Kevin Knox and Miles Bridges if they hang on to their No. 9 pick, reports TNT’s David Aldridge (Twitter link). It’s possible that Aldridge meant to type Mikal Bridges, who has been projected as a possible lottery pick.
  • Luka Doncic confirmed on ESPN’s draft telecast that he plans to play in the NBA next season. That had been widely anticipated, but Doncic’s comments removed any doubt before the draft began.
  • With the draft about to begin, the Jazz are still open to moving up, down or keeping their first-round pick, tweets Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah holds selections No. 21 and 52.

Draft Rumors: Rockets, Spurs, Knicks, Bridges

Based on conversations with executives and agents, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (Twitter link) is getting the sense that there’s far more uncertainty than usual entering Thursday’s draft. As O’Connor notes, it’s not just a matter of there being so many teams who are willing to move up, down, or out of the draft — there’s also no consensus on which players are the best available outside the lottery, which should make for an interesting night.

Here are more draft-related notes and rumors as we look forward to draft day:

  • The Rockets appear to be exploring a trade that would net them a mid-lottery pick, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, who tweets that the club has apparently been trying to bring in prospects for workouts. This is worth keeping an eye on, but seems like a long shot, considering how limited Houston’s trade assets are.
  • The Spurs are “throwing out feelers” on trading the No. 18 selection in their conversations with teams, tweets Jabari Young of The San Antonio Express-News. While the pick could be had in the right deal, the team will likely keep it, according to Young.
  • While Kevin Knox has received serious consideration, sources tell Marc Berman of The New York Post that Mikal Bridges remains the best bet to be the Knicks‘ pick at No. 9 on Thursday. Even if Michael Porter Jr. is available when the Knicks are on the clock, the team may have “cold feet,” given the forward’s health questions, per Berman.
  • Jeremy Woo’s latest article for SI.com includes plenty of scuttlebutt about the draft’s top picks and which way those teams appears to be leaning.

Draft Rumors: Bridges, Knox, Nuggets, Jackson, Clippers

Villanova forward Mikal Bridges is at the top of the Sixers’ wish list if they don’t move out of the No. 10 spot, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Kentucky forward Kevin Knox and his college teammate, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, are the likely alternatives if Bridges is off the board, Pompey continues. Knox came in for a solo workout with the Sixers on Tuesday, his second visit with the team. The Sixers are reportedly trying to move into the top five of the draft.

Here’s more draft news to pass along with the big night fast approaching:

  • The Nuggets are actively shopping the No. 14 pick attached to a big salary, Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated tweets. Denver is seeking suitors for the expiring contracts of Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur, Fischer adds. Faried is due to make $13.76MM next season while Arthur has $7.46MM remaining on his deal.
  • The Grizzlies will have a tough decision regarding Michigan State forward Jaren Jackson Jr. at No. 4 if the Hawks select Luka Doncic at No. 3, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN. Doncic has reportedly moved into the lead on the Hawks’ draft board, while Jackson has refused to work out for the Grizzlies and hasn’t provided his medical information, Givony continues. That could increase the chances of Memphis trading the pick, something it has shown little interest in doing up to this point, Givony adds (Twitter links).
  • The Clippers like Jackson and could try to move to the No. 4 spot, but they’ve refused thus far to take Chandler Parsons bad contract as part of any proposed deal, Givony reports in another tweet.