Mike Conley

Williamson, Morant, Barrett Will Go 1-2-3

There won’t be any suspense regarding the first few picks on the draft this evening, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Duke freshman sensation Zion Williamson, who emerged early in the college season as the top talent in this year’s draft will be selected No. 1 overall by the Pelicans.

The Grizzlies will select Murray State point guard Ja Morant with the No. 2 pick. Memphis’ interest in Morant became public shortly after the draft lottery. They opened up the starting point guard spot by agreeing to trade their all-time leading scorer, Mike Conley, to the Jazz.

The Knicks have settled on R.J. Barrett, according to Charania. The Duke swingman was regarded as the likely No. 1 pick before his teammate seized that distinction.

With the Pelicans agreeing to deal the No. 4 pick to the Hawks today, the first four selections seem set in stone. Atlanta reportedly moved up to snag Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter.

Things will get a little cloudier once the Cavaliers, who hold the No. 5 pick, go on the clock.

Latest On The Mike Conley Trade

The Jazz had been targeting Mike Conley for months before pulling off today’s trade with Memphis, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. Utah made a strong push to get Conley before the February deadline, offering Ricky Rubio, two first-round picks and other expiring contracts that would have provided the Grizzlies with cap relief this summer.

Jones cites “frustration” among Jazz management, which believed Conley would be a difference maker in the postseason, when the offer wasn’t accepted. Utah finished with the fifth seed and a first-round playoff ouster.

“What we found out this year,” Jazz executive Dennis Lindsey said after the season ended, “is that while we were a good team, we weren’t a great team.”

The organization sees Conley as a path to becoming great, viewing him as one of the best pick-rand-roll guards in the league and a strong leader in the locker room. The Jazz were willing to pay a heavy price in the deal, giving up Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver and Grayson Allen, plus this year’s first-round pick and a future conditional first-rounder. Sources tell Jones the Grizzlies insisted on Allen because they wanted “a young player with upside” and were impressed by how he improved during the season.

There’s more fallout from today’s trade:

  • The Pistons and Pacers were both contenders for Conley, but were unwilling to surrender two first-round picks, reports Zach Lowe of ESPN. Sources tell Lowe that even if the Pistons had agreed to meet that price, they might have insisted that Memphis take back Reggie Jackson and his $18MM contract. The Pacers, meanwhile, refused to give up the picks plus first-year guard Aaron Holiday.
  • The Jazz needed to send enough salary to Memphis to enable them to guarantee Derrick Favors‘ $16.9MM contract for next season without going over the salary cap, Lowe adds. He states that the decision to include Crowder in the deal instead of Dante Exum shows a lot of faith in the 23-year-old guard.
  • Lowe also notes that the trade will have a ripple effect on free agency. Utah no longer has the cap space for a max-level offer, which means one less suitor for the Sixers’ Tobias Harris. Point guards who had been hoping for an offer from Utah will also be disappointed. In addition, the trade increases the likelihood that the pick the Grizzlies owe the Celtics won’t convey until 2021, when it will be unprotected. The selection has top-six protection next year.
  • Donovan Mitchell is thrilled to have Conley as his new backcourt partner, tweets Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News. “He’s a great player,” Mitchell said. “He’s very underrated in my opinion. He does a lot of getting into the lane and being able to find guys and also I can learn a lot from him so as far as being a point guard.”

Grizzlies To Trade Mike Conley To Jazz

The Grizzlies and Jazz have reached an agreement on a trade that will send standout point guard Mike Conley to Utah, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Memphis will receive a package made up of Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen, the No. 23 pick in the 2019 draft, and a future first-round pick. Per Wojnarowski (via Twitter), that second first-rounder will be a 2020 pick, which features protections through 2024.

Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian provides the full details on those protections, tweeting that the Grizzlies will get the pick in 2020 or 2021 if it falls in the 8-14 range. If it doesn’t convey in either of those drafts, it would become top-six protected in 2022, top-three protected in 2023, and top-one protected in 2024.

The deal will be completed once the new league year begins in July for cap reasons, according to Wojnarowski and ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter). The Jazz will have to absorb Conley using their newly-opened cap room, but won’t have to waive Derrick Favors‘ non-guaranteed contract to make the deal work, Marks notes (via Twitter).

It’s a huge acquisition for the Jazz, who will be able to pair Conley with Donovan Mitchell in their backcourt, with Favors and Rudy Gobert up front and Joe Ingles providing floor spacing on the wing.

[RELATED: Ricky Rubio not counting on return to the Jazz]

Conley, 31, is coming off perhaps the best season of his NBA career, having averaged a career-high 21.1 PPG to go along with 6.4 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG, and a .438/.364/.845 shooting line.

Utah reportedly tried to land Conley at the trade deadline, putting an offer on the table that featured expiring contracts and a first-round pick, but that wasn’t enough to get Memphis to accept. The Jazz figured to face competition for the point guard from possible suitors like the Pacers, Heat, Celtics, and Mavericks when they circled back this offseason, but they were able to get a deal done early in the summer.

The Jazz can now focus on filling out their roster with complementary players. With Conley’s lucrative contract set to hit their books, they’ll no longer be a player for major free agents, but will have the room exception available. It’s projected to be worth $4.76MM.

Conley is owed $32.5MM in 2019/20 and $34.5MM in 2020/21 before his contract expires in 2021. His deal aligns him with Utah’s other core pieces — currently, Mitchell and Gobert are both on track to reach free agency in 2021 as well.

As for the Grizzlies, they’re expected to shift into rebuilding mode after trading long-time cornerstones Marc Gasol in February and Conley now. They’re poised to select Ja Morant with the No. 2 overall pick in tomorrow’s draft to supplant Conley as their point guard of the future. He and Jaren Jackson Jr. project to be the franchise’s building blocks going forward.

It’s not clear yet whether the Grizzlies intend to keep all the players and draft picks they’re acquiring in exchange for Conley. Crowder and Korver are on fairly modest expiring contracts (Korver’s salary is only partially guaranteed) and could appeal to contenders. Allen and the picks, on the other hand, represent solid assets for Memphis’ rebuild, though David Aldridge of The Athletic (Twitter link) hears that the club will listen to offers for the No. 23 selection.

The Grizzlies are also in position to create a massive traded player exception in the swap, assuming they remain an over-the-cap team. Cap expert Albert Nahmad estimates the value of that exception to be about $25MM (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Stein’s Latest: Durant, Irving, Leonard, Conley

Kevin Durant has long been rumored to end up on the Knicks this summer. Even some within the Warriors’ organization believed that KD would head to the Big Apple, though Marc Stein of the New York Times hears that Golden State’s brass is now cautiously optimistic about convincing Durant to stay.

Durant’s rehab with the Warriors would come with more stability from a logistical standpoint. He would venture on his comeback journey with a staff he’s familiar with rather than entering a new environment in New York or Brooklyn.

The Knicks still desire to sign both Durant and Kyrie Irving, and they have the cap space to pursue both. Stein passes along more on the upcoming offseason in his latest piece:

  • The Nets believe that Irving is leaning toward signing with them. Stein hears that Spencer Dinwiddie has been heavily involved in the recruiting of Kyrie.
  • Most within the league believe the Clippers remain the favorites to sign Kawhi Leonard, Stein writes. The Raptors are not out of the running, as the team up north has a chance to convince Leonard to sign a short-term deal, presumably a two-year contract with a player option on the second year.
  • Many rival teams expect the Grizzlies to trade Mike Conley soon, with the Jazz being the frontrunner. One scenario Stein hears is Utah sending a package headlined by the No. 23 overall pick and a future pick to Memphis in exchange for the point guard.

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.

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.

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: Barea, Ball, Davis, Capela, Conley

Point guard J.J. Barea‘s recovery from a ruptured right Achilles tendon is going well and he’s hopeful of playing for Puerto Rico in the FIBA World Cup this summer, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon tweets. The Mavericks veteran suffered the injury on January 11th and underwent surgery three days later.

“The way I feel right now, it looks pretty good,” Barea told MacMahon. “But I’m not going to make a decision until it gets closer.” Barea is doing non-contact basketball activity under the supervision of Mavericks staff members, MacMahon adds, and took 600 shots in an hour last week.

Barea, an unrestricted free agent this summer, is expected to re-sign with the Mavericks.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • While Anthony Davis‘ representatives said he still wants out after meeting last week with executive VP David Griffin, there’s no need for Griffin to rush out and trade the superstar big man, Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Advocate writes. Griffin can wait as long as February’s trade deadline to deal Davis, leaving open the possibility that the team can convince him to change his mind. If Davis remains firm, his wish is more likely to come to fruition if he’s willing to make a commitment to the trade partner, Kushner adds.
  • Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is intrigued by the possibility of a Lonzo BallJrue Holiday backcourt if Davis is dealt to the Lakers, Andrew Lopez of the Times-Picayune reports (hat tip to the Sporting News).
  • The Hawks, Spurs, Mavericks and Kings are possible destinations for center Clint Capela if the Rockets deal him, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype opines. The Rockets reportedly have made everyone on the roster available at the right price.
  • The Grizzlies should swap veteran point guard Mike Conley while his value remains high after he averaged a career high in points this season, Omari Sankofa II of The Athletic argues.

Grizzlies Notes: Jasikevicius, Valanciunas, Conley

It looks like the Grizzlies will have to scratch one name off their list of potential head coaches. Lithuanian basketball journalist Donatas Urbonas is reporting that Zalgiris Kaunas is confident Sarunas Jasikevicius will return to coach the team next season (Twitter link). Memphis, the only NBA team currently without a head coach, reportedly has interest in Jasikevicius if he decides to leave Europe.

“Today it seems like everything is OK and Saras is staying in Zalgiris,” team executive Robertas Javtokas said in a TV interview. “I think last year we had even bigger headache due to Saras’ future status. Of course, if [an] NBA offer comes, we will be very glad for him. It would be an issue for us, but we know Saras won’t be here forever and we must be ready for this.” (Twitter link)

Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin was the latest candidate to interview for the Grizzlies’ vacancy. He joins former Suns coach Igor Kokoskov, Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts, Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Warriors assistant Jarron Collins.

There’s more out of Memphis:

  • By conducting a thorough coaching search, the Grizzlies are making up for their mistake last summer when they didn’t talk to anyone outside the organization before giving the job to interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff, writes Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian. Herrington recommends that the team look for someone relatively young who has head coaching experience at some level and a track record of player development.
  • Center Jonas Valanciunas recently indicated that the coaching hire will affect whether he decides to opt in to a $17.6MM salary next season, Herrington notes. Valanciunas, who averaged 19.9 points and 10.7 rebounds per game after being acquired from the Raptors midway through the season, has a June 13 deadline to make his decision.
  • A Mike Conley trade is more likely to happen after July 1 because more teams will have cap room to absorb part of his salary, Herrington writes in a separate story. The Grizzlies will be well stocked at point guard if they draft Ja Morant and keep free agent Delon Wright, so Herrington expects the club to focus on players who get drafted next month, along with future draft picks and young players with affordable contracts for the next few years. The Timberwolves, Heat, Pistons, Jazz and Pacers are considered the most likely landing spots for Conley, according to Herrington, but the Knicks, Lakers, Clippers and Celtics are candidates to enter the mix depending how free agency turns out.

Heat Notes: Conley, Nunn, Dragic

The Mike Conley-to-the-Heat talk is just that at the moment. It’s strictly speculation, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel, though the scribe wonders if there’s a potential deal that makes sense for both Miami and Memphis.

Matching salary would be easy if Hassan Whiteside opts in and the Grizzlies are willing to take back the center as a main pillar of the trade. However, what would Miami have to add as an incentive for Memphis to make the move? The Grizzlies would get out of Conley’s contract, which runs through the 2020/21 season, though the franchise would undoubtedly want more than just cost savings if they deal their long-time point guard.

The Heat are not in a position to trade away their first-rounder this year (No. 13 overall), having given away their 2021 selection in the Goran Dragic deal. The organization could offer Dragic (assuming he opts in) in place of Whiteside, but that kind of deal doesn’t really move the needle for Miami.

Then there are the financial repercussions for Miami in taking back Conley. He’ll collect approximately $32.5MM and $34.5MM in each of the next two seasons (Conley has an ETO on the 2020/21 season, but it would be shocking if he opts out). As it currently stands, the Heat’s first shot at sizeable cap space is prior to the 2020/21 season and trading for Memphis’ point guard would delay that eureka moment by an entire calendar year.

Here’s more from Miami:

  • Kendrick Nunn is guaranteed $50K if he’s on the roster come July 1 and Winderman contends (in the same piece) that Nunn’s future with the Heat could be tied to the team’s draft. If Miami acquires a second-round pick—Minnesota owns their 2019 selection—then Nunn’s spot on the team may be in jeopardy.
  • A source close to Dragic would be “very surprised” if the point guard opts to hit the free agent market this summer, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald relays. Dragic likes playing for the Heat, though the decision could come down to whether his camp gets the sense that a long-term lucrative deal awaits him this offseason.
  • The Heat are operating under the assumption that both Whiteside and Dragic will opt into their respective deals for next season, Winderman writes in a separate piece. Whiteside’s player option for 2019/20 is worth approximately $27.1MM while Dragic’s comes in at roughly $19.2MM.
  • Patience with Dion Waiters and James Johnson was wearing thin during the 2018/19 campaign, Winderman adds in the same article. Both players have had injury woes throughout their respective contract with the Heat, though Winderman writes that it doesn’t mean there isn’t an “avenue for redemption” next season. Each players’ contract runs through the 2020/21 season, though Johnson’s pact contains a player option on that final season.