Mike Conley

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Russell, Reaves, Beasley, Bamba, Irving

LeBron James likely won’t be back until the final week of the regular season if he returns at all before the playoffs, Jovan Buha of The Athletic said during a discussion about the team with Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. James missed his ninth straight game with a right foot injury Wednesday night, but there have been some positive signs regarding his recovery.

Buha notes that James was able to shed his walking boot this week and was seen dribbling the ball and shooting layups during Tuesday’s shootaround. The Lakers have been cautious about releasing information on James, but Buha hears he’s ahead of schedule and will be reevaluated next week.

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Buha and Scotto believe D’Angelo Russell and the team have mutual interest in a new contract this summer. The Lakers brought back their former draft pick in a trade last month, and he has been productive apart from injury, averaging 18.8 points and 5.9 assists in the eight games he has played for L.A. The Lakers could have received Mike Conley from the Jazz in the trade, according to Buha, but they opted for Russell because they see him as part of their future. Scotto believes Russell is motivated to succeed with the team that drafted him.
  • The Lakers are hoping to re-sign Austin Reaves, but multiple teams are planning to make a run at him in free agency, Scotto states. L.A. can offer up to $50MM over four years, and Scotto believes his floor will be the mid-level exception. Buha points out that Reaves’ flexibility has been extremely valuable for the Lakers, noting that he has played everywhere from point guard to small forward and brings a high IQ to the game. He adds that the team has to be careful about getting into a situation similar what it did with Alex Caruso, adding that another team might be willing to offer Reaves $12-15MM per season. The Lakers would have the ability to match a higher offer via the Arenas provision.
  • Another free agent, Rui Hachimura, is also likely to get offers in the non-taxpayer MLE range, which will be about $10MM per year, according to Buha. He believes the Lakers are willing to make that offer, but another team may be able to outbid them.
  • General manager Rob Pelinka had been interested in Malik Beasley for some time before acquiring him, so the team is likely to pick up his $16.5MM option for next season, Scotto states. Mohamed Bamba, who has a $10.3MM team option, is more “on the bubble,” Scotto adds, because the Lakers can probably find a more affordable backup center.
  • The Lakers were strongly interested in Kyrie Irving when he asked the Nets for a trade in February, but that seems to have changed in light of their moves at the deadline, Buha adds. He hears that the front office likes the current look of the team and doesn’t plan to pursue Irving in free agency.

Northwest Notes: Jokic, Vucevic, Porter Jr., Micic, Prince

Bulls center Nikola Vucevic doesn’t think Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic should be penalized for being a prior Most Valuable Player award winner when voters make their selections this season, he told K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

“I think he deserves to get another one, the way he’s playing. I think you take him out of that team, it’s not even close to the same team,” Vučević said of the Nuggets’ franchise player. “The things that he does, you look at his stats, the efficiency he’s playing at, it’s very impressive. And it’s not like he’s putting up numbers and they’re not winning. They’re (25-0) when he has a triple-double. And he plays in a winning way. He makes the right play. He doesn’t force. He doesn’t try to do something just to do it. It’s all within the flow of the game. It’s winning basketball.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets may finally reach the Finals this season in large part because of Michael Porter Jr’s maturity, Harrison Wind of TheDNVR.com writes. Porter has made himself a force at both ends of the floor after teams previously tried to take advantage of his defensive shortcomings. “I think Michael Porter has been just tremendous on both ends of the floor all season long,” coach Michael Malone said.
  • Serbian guard Vasilije Micic has hired the Wasserman Media Group as his new representative, HoopsHype tweets. Micic, whose draft rights are owned by the Thunder, is a two-time Euroleague Final Four MVP and is considered the best guard in Europe. However, it’s unclear whether the Thunder would have a role for the 29-year-old if he pursued an NBA career next season and he could be traded if he wants to make the jump.
  • Taurean Prince‘s value to the Timberwolves is reflected in their won-loss record, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes.  They are 24-17 when he plays and 10-16 when he doesn’t. “He’s like the ultimate glue guy with a little bit extra spice to it,” guard Mike Conley said. “You think he’s just three-and-D and all of a sudden, coming off pin downs, he’s making plays for guys. He’s being a leader. … He’s got a full game to him that’s really big for our second unit.” Prince has a non-guaranteed salary of $7.455MM next season and Minnesota has to make a decision on his contract status before free agency.

Northwest Notes: Murray, Barton, Conley, Gobert, Kessler, Simons

Jamal Murray‘s ex-teammate believes he’ll be in top form during the postseason, Michael Grange of Sportnet writes.

Will Barton, who recently signed with the Raptors, says the regular season is just a “tune up” for the Nuggets guard, who didn’t play last season due to a knee injury.

“I know he’s anxious to get back to the playoffs,” Barton said. “The regular season is just a tune up for him to get his confidence back, and I know once he gets to the playoffs he’ll make that leap. He’s so competitive – that’s what I love about him, he competes at such a high level, and he loves the bright lights. That’s one guy they won’t have to worry about, because he’s going to perform.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Having former Jazz teammate Mike Conley on his side again has helped Rudy Gobert settle into a groove with the Timberwolves, coach Chris Finch told Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Twitter link). Gobert is averaging 17.7 points over the last six games. “I think you see it. The chemistry is obvious,” Finch said. “We could’ve played another 40 games (without Conley) and just begin to develop that. … I think Rudy has got a pep in his step.”
  • Walker Kessler still faces an uphill climb for the Rookie of the Year award despite being named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News notes. The Jazz rookie averaged 10.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in February but the Magic’s Paolo Banchero remains the top candidate for the yearly award.
  • Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons missed his third consecutive game during the team’s six-game road trip on Monday due to an right ankle sprain, the team’s PR department tweets.

Trade Breakdown: Lakers/Jazz/Wolves Three-Team Blockbuster

This is the fourth entry in our series breaking down the significant trades of the 2022/23 season. As opposed to giving out grades, this series explores why the teams were motivated to make the moves. Let’s dive into a blockbuster deal between the Jazz, Lakers and Timberwolves.

On February 9, the Lakers acquired D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt; the Jazz acquired Russell Westbrook, Damian Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson and the Lakers’ 2027 first-round pick (top-four protected); and the Timberwolves acquired Mike Conley, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and three second-round picks (one from L.A., two from Utah).

Notes: Westbrook subsequently reached a buyout agreement with the Jazz and signed with the Clippers. All three teams involved in this deal generated traded player exceptions, which can be found right here.

The Jazz’s perspective:

The Jazz weren’t invested in continuing the season with their current roster, despite a surprisingly fun ride in a year that they were expected to be at the bottom of the standings.

The move opened up playing time for Ochai Agbaji, Collin Sexton and Talen Horton-Tucker, three young players who had been in and out of the lineup (Sexton has been a rotation regular, but he’s dealt with injuries – this deal moved him into the starting lineup). Vanderbilt had already been moved to the bench due to the emergence of Walker Kessler, and the two were an awkward fit together offensively because neither is much of a threat to shoot (Vanderbilt compensates for his lack of shooting somewhat by being a good passer and ball-handler for a power forward).

Many fans think the Jazz “lost” this deal. That perception seems to stem from two things: the Lakers only giving up one first-rounder, when it was assumed they’d have to move off one just to trade Westbrook’s $47.1MM expiring salary, and the Jazz’s asking prices not being met.

The Jazz were reportedly looking for first-round picks for all three of Conley, Beasley and Vanderbilt. But that was never a realistic expectation.

Based on the structure of the deal, it’s pretty clear the Jazz were motivated to move off Conley’s contract for ‘23/24, which is partially guaranteed at $14.32MM ($24.36MM base salary), and didn’t at all mind adding Westbrook’s expiring deal to do it (it’s worth noting that the Jazz did add Jones’ $2.6MM player option for next season, which will almost certainly be exercised; Toscano-Anderson is on an expiring minimum-salary deal). I viewed Conley’s contract as having negative value leading up to the trade deadline, as he’ll turn 36 years old next season and has already declined on both ends of the court, particularly defensively.

Beasley provides something that every team wants: high volume 3-point shooting. However, he’s a very streaky shooter, and doesn’t offer a ton in other areas. He makes $15.56MM this season with a $16.52MM team option for ‘23/24. I thought Beasley had slightly positive value, but nothing special – maybe a heavily-protected first-round pick or a few seconds.

Vanderbilt was the player who had the most value of the three, in my opinion, due to his age (23), rate of improvement, versatility, strong defense, and team-friendly contract – he makes $4.37MM this season and $4.7MM in ‘23/24 (only partially guaranteed at $300K). I thought Utah could get a late first-rounder this season or a lottery-protected first in the future for him.

In aggregate, that’s one player with solid value, one with slightly positive value, and one with negative. Not a ton of overall value despite the three being rotation players for a decent team.

Obviously, the Jazz highly valued the lightly protected pick from the Lakers. Even in a scenario where the Lakers have the worst record in ’26/27 (they probably won’t, but you never know), there would still be a 47.9% chance the pick lands at fifth overall and goes to Utah. The major downside – and the upside for the Lakers – is if it does fall in the top four, the Jazz only receive the Lakers’ 2027 second-rounder.

Another factor in this trade from Utah’s side of things that I thought was interesting is also pretty cynical. If the Jazz believe Minnesota going from Russell to Conley is a downgrade — and it is at this point in their careers, which is why the Wolves got second-rounders back — then that increases the odds of the Wolves missing the playoffs. In that scenario, the Jazz would get a lottery pick in 2023 (they control Minnesota’s pick due to the Rudy Gobert trade).

They could also reasonably view the deal as a short-term upgrade for the Lakers, which would increase L.A.’s odds of passing Minnesota and Utah in the standings, and thus increase the odds of the Jazz controlling two lottery picks. For the rest of the season, the better the Lakers do and the worse the Wolves and Jazz do, the better it is for the Jazz as far as those first-rounders go.

The Jazz held out for a long time to get the best deal they could. This turned out to be it.

The Lakers’ perspective:

I think the Lakers made out well in this deal, but it did reduce their draft arsenal to go for a star in the future (that may or may not have been realistic). Still, they upgraded their roster, got younger, and the players make sense for what they need.

Los Angeles replaced one player who was a poor fit and two little-used reserves for three potential starters; at worst they’re rotation regulars. None of the outgoing players were shooters, and they picked up a couple pretty good ones.

Russell, 27, is having a strong year from an efficiency standpoint, shooting career highs from all over the court (54.3% on twos, 38.9% on threes, 85.0% from the line). However, he is not a great rebounder or defender, and his decision-making can be questionable as a lead ball-handler.

That’s less of a concern with the Lakers, as he can play alongside James and/or Dennis Schroder. That allows Russell to function both on and off the ball, which is ideal for his skill set. Unfortunately, he sprained his ankle in his fourth game back with Los Angeles, but the injury isn’t considered a long-term concern.

As I’ve mentioned previously, Beasley is a feast-or-famine type shooter who can go off at any given time. It’s a bit of roller coaster ride watching him from game-to-game because you never know if he’s going to be on that day or not, and he doesn’t stop shooting even if he’s off.

While he doesn’t provide a whole lot else, opponents treat the 26-year-old like a sharpshooter who has to be accounted for at all times, and that creates space for teammates. The Lakers didn’t have anyone like that on the roster before the deal, even if Beasley is more of a very willing good shooter than a great one.

Vanderbilt is the player I think fans will be most excited about of the three, despite being the least well known. He brings a much-needed infusion of speed, length, defensive versatility, hustle and rebounding the team has lacked all season.

Still just 23 years old, Vanderbilt instantly becomes the best wing defender the Lakers have had since they decided not to re-sign Alex Caruso in 2021 free agency. His energy is infectious and can swing the tide of games – he was absolutely instrumental in the team’s huge comeback victory over Dallas on Sunday.

The three players were teammates on the Wolves from 2020-22, so they already have some built-in chemistry (strangely, Beasley and Vanderbilt have now been packaged together in three separate trades). Only Vanderbilt has a small partial guarantee for next season, which gives the Lakers the flexibility to move on from any of them in the offseason, though I think that’s unlikely.

Another positive aspect of the deal is the Lakers added more desirable contracts. Almost their entire roster was on minimum- or maximum-salary deals before the deadline, but now they have more variety in that regard, assuming they retain all three players.

I don’t think this trade suddenly transformed the Lakers into title contenders this season, but I do think it made them much better than they were — now and going forward.

My biggest question mark from the Lakers’ side is, if this trade was available in February, could they have done it earlier in the season? Because they have to dig themselves out of a hole to climb up the standings, and there aren’t many games left in which to do it – a task made even more difficult by the foot injury to James.

The Wolves’ perspective:

One of the downsides of dealing away multiple starters at once — Patrick Beverley and Vanderbilt last year in the Gobert trade — is that it can erode a team’s chemistry. The Wolves clearly got on well last season. That matters for a young team, especially one that historically has been a bottom dweller in the standings.

The Gobert trade upended that chemistry, transforming a fun up-and-coming team with low expectations into a win-now team with high expectations. It’s pretty clear some of the remaining players were less than thrilled with the deal, especially at the start of ‘22/23. Some moved on and slowly learned how to work with Gobert. Some did not.

Russell was in the latter group. He frequently had terrible body language this season, specifically anytime Gobert made a mistake (fumbled passes, etc.).

Perhaps more than anything else, this deal was a pretty clear vote of no confidence in Russell. Obviously, the Wolves did not value him at whatever he was asking for in contract extension negotiations.

The Wolves could not have easily cleared a significant amount of cap space in the offseason even if they had let Russell walk in free agency. Instead, they decided to push that decision a year down the line and replace his salary slot with Conley, a mature veteran who should be able to provide leadership for a team that, from the outside looking in, is lacking in that department.

Minnesota is trying to remedy some of the chemistry issues by adding a calming, professional locker-room presence in Conley. The fact that Conley played with Gobert for three seasons was obviously a motivating factor as well. They already have some built-in chemistry, which was clearly lacking with Russell.

He’s also a much better decision-maker than Russell on the court, with his assist-to-turnover ratio at 4.4-to-1, which ranks fifth in the NBA (Russell’s is 2.31-to-1, which ranks 112th). That’s important for a Wolves team that ranks 28th in the league in turnovers per game.

I have a lot of respect for how Conley carries himself, both on and off the court. He was one of the league’s most underrated players during his 12 years with Memphis, and his teams have consistently been better when he’s playing — that was true for Utah this year too (better on offense and worse on defense, but still plus overall). He has a high basketball IQ and generally doesn’t beat himself with careless mistakes.

Alexander-Walker was likely more of a throw-in for salary-matching purposes, but the Wolves will get a closer look at him for the rest of the season (he can be a RFA if they give him a qualifying offer). The former 17th overall pick is having a solid year from an efficiency standpoint and has impressed me in some late-game situations with his defense, even if he wasn’t consistently in Utah’s rotation.

While I understand the logic behind the move from Minnesota’s side of the deal, I also think the Wolves took on the most short- and long-term risk.

Make no mistake, the Wolves knew this was was a downgrade from a production standpoint — that’s why they got back three second-round picks in the deal. Considering his age, size (6’1″, 175 pounds) and contract, if Conley declines any further, it will be very difficult to move him next season.

Russell may have his flaws, but he was also clutch this season, having bailed them out on several occasions during second-half collapses (a season-long problem). He was the team’s second-leading scorer with Karl-Anthony Towns sidelined for most of the season, and removing him from the equation puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the roster to replace Russell’s scoring – the Wolves are just 21st in the league in offensive rating.

The early returns haven’t been promising. Minnesota has gone 1-4 since the deal was finalized, though in fairness some key rotation players have been in and out of the lineup.

The key takeaway from the Wolves’ end is that they preferred to get something back for Russell rather than losing him for nothing in free agency. Not wanting to make a significant investment in Russell makes sense to me if they didn’t view him as a long-term fit. Still, if they miss the playoffs and the Jazz get extremely lucky and that pick lands early, it would be an unmitigated disaster for Minnesota.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Conley, Gilgeous-Alexander

Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard became the second player to reach the 70-point mark this season, torching the Rockets for 71 points on Sunday, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Playing for the first time since the All-Star break, Lillard made 13 three-pointers on the night, one short of the NBA record, and reached 41 points by halftime.

“I think any hooper enjoys those moments when you’re hot, you’re in attack mode, you’re feeling good,” Lillard said. “But it’s the stuff afterward that I struggle with, like when I walked off the court, was I supposed to be overly excited, or what?”

Lillard set a career high for scoring and broke the single-game franchise record of 61 points, which he had reached twice. Speaking to reporters after the game, including Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian, coach Chauncey Billups marveled at the performance by Lillard, who is in the midst of the highest-scoring season of his career at age 32.

“He just wasn’t forcing at all,” Billups said. “He understood what they were going to come out and do. And that takes some incredible discipline to know, all right, I’m not gonna force it. I’m just gonna fall back. And that was just so impressive to me.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Lillard hasn’t wavered in his commitment to the Trail Blazers, but the opportunity to compete for a title remains very important to him, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN. Lillard points to Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee and Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas as examples of players who were able to get a ring after critics said they needed to move on to another team. “We devalue people’s body of work if you don’t win a championship,” Lillard said. “I’ve shown up for 11 straight years. Just think about how much time that is. When you really think about 11 straight years and I’ve given them something to cheer for. We’ve won a lot of games. I’ve given them great performances. I don’t give excuses. I give them my all.”
  • Timberwolves guard Mike Conley sees a lot that the team needs to correct before it can make a playoff run, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Minnesota let a lead slip away Sunday night while losing to the shorthanded Warriors. “We can talk about the last two minutes, but there’s a lot of things that go on … that set us up for those positions,” Conley said. “Youth will do that. You get guys worried about missing a shot and they turned it over and might be thinking about that particular play too long. Then they miss an assignment on the defensive end. It’s all little things that can be fixed.”
  • The Thunder are optimistic that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander won’t be sidelined much longer, states Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The star guard missed his second straight game on Sunday with an abdominal strain and right ankle soreness, but there’s hope that he might return Tuesday.

Finch: Still No Timeline For KAT, But In “Final Stages” Of Recovery

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is making progress in his recovery from a Grade 3 calf strain, with head coach Chris Finch referring to it as the “final stages,” but there’s still no official timeline for his return to action, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

He’s itching to play,” Finch said after practice Thursday. “I don’t think that it’s a question of anything like going off path right now. I think it’s just literally just going through the final stages of what that looks like.

I don’t know how long it’s going to be, but talking to him, I definitely sense more so than any other conversation I’ve had with him up until this point that he’s chomping at the bit to get back and ready to help this team when that time comes.”

Finch went on to say Minnesota wouldn’t rush Towns back until he’s fully healthy, per Hine.

For sure it’s getting short,” Finch said, referring to the fact that the Wolves only have 21 regular season games left. “But I couldn’t put a marker on when [his return] is. I just know mentally he’s there. You’ll have to ask him this, but I don’t get a sense that he’s at a place where he feels like he’s held back by anything unnecessarily. I think he feels like he’s just finishing off the process.”

Towns has been out since November 28 with the injury and has missed the team’s past 40 games. He was averaging 20.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, and a career-high 5.3 assists per game through 21 contests at the start of the season (33.8 MPG).

According to Hine, veteran point guard Mike Conley, who was acquired for D’Angelo Russell at the trade deadline, has already noticed multiple areas of improvement for trying to close out games. Conley says the Wolves force too many turnovers when opponents are making runs, and Finch agrees.

We’re not going to make every shot … So when we don’t make shots, what can we run?” Conley said. “How can we get to the free-throw line and not turn it over. Those things that we’re all capable of doing individually. Guys can get better at decision-making. Guys can get better at giving guys the ball and getting back in urgency on defense late in games.”

Western Notes: Jazz, Markkanen, Joe, Westbrook

The Jazz will be adding at least two players in the coming days. Now that they’ve bought out and waived Russell Westbrook and Leandro Bolmaro, they’re down to 12 players on the 15-man roster. Teams are only permitted to dip below 14 players on standard contracts for up to two weeks at a time.

The Jazz have a multitude of financial options to expand the roster, including the use of $5.5MM of its midlevel exception available to split up and sign players to multiyear contracts, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • After his All-Star appearance, the Jazz want to see more growth from Lauri Markkanen, Tony Jones of The Athletic writes. Now that they’ve traded Mike Conley and Malik Beasley, they will put the ball in Markkanen’s hands more often during crunch time, seeing how he makes decisions for himself and others. The coaching staff also wants to see him in more isolations.
  • Isaiah Joe‘s perimeter shooting has been a critical factor for the Thunder‘s offense, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The reserve guard has knocked down 45.2% of his 3-point attempts. “Giving a guy like him the freedom to take some tough ones and show the other team that he’ll make some tough ones, it opens things up for the offense and I think we’ve benefited from that,” coach Mark Daigneault said.
  • The Clippers are making a foolish mistake by adding Westbrook, who plans to join them once he clears waivers, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times opines. The issues that Westbrook had with the Lakers — poor shooting, ball hogging, sullenness and selfishness — won’t go away when he joins Los Angeles’ other team, according to Plaschke. Adding him negates the Clippers’ strong trade deadline moves and the fact that their lineup was finally playing together, Plaschke adds.

Timberwolves Notes: Conley, Trade Targets, Reid, Edwards

The Timberwolves brought in veteran Mike Conley to run the point and dealt impending free agent D’Angelo Russell. Coach Chris Finch believes Conley will be a better fit to initiate their offense, Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes.

“(Russell has) grown to have a lot of fans around the league and we were able to make a move that we felt matched us up a little bit better as we grow into this roster, get a little bit healthier,” Finch said. “We get KAT (Karl-Anthony Towns) back, Ant’s (Anthony Edwards‘) ascendancy — we just kind of needed a connector. I felt we needed a guy who was a connector there. When you have a chance to get a guy like Mike, you don’t think too much about it.”

We have more from the Timberwolves:

  • Minnesota was looking to make more deals, particularly for shooters, before the deadline passed on Thursday, according to The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski. Among the players the Wolves pursued were Denver’s Bones Hyland, Phoenix’s Jae Crowder, Detroit’s Saddiq Bey and Miami’s Max Strus. All of those players except Strus got traded elsewhere.
  • In the same story, Krawczynski reports that the Timberwolves fielded many inquiries regarding center Naz Reid. More than a dozen teams asked about his availability but the Wolves didn’t come close to moving him. He’ll be an unrestricted free agency after the season.
  • Conley is not only busy meshing his on-court skills with his new teammates — he’s also quickly establishing himself in the locker room, Krawczynski writes in a separate story. “Leadership. Just being that veteran in the locker room that we needed,” Edwards said. “He can shoot the ball really good. Pass the ball. Him and Rudy (Gobert) got a really good connection, so I think it should be pretty good.”
  • The fact that Conley is signed through next season also added to the appeal of acquiring his services, GM Tim Connelly told Hine. “There was some appeal of the contract of Mike as well,” Connelly said. “You’re always trying to think for the here and now and think of next year and beyond. It was not done lightly, and (Russell) was not a guy we were looking to move just to move.” Conley’s $24.36MM salary for next season is partially guaranteed for $14.32MM.

Lowe’s Latest: Durant, Grizzlies, Anunoby, Pelicans, Warriors, Clippers

In the wake of the NetsKevin Durant trade agreement with the Suns, reports indicated that Brooklyn only really negotiated with Phoenix rather than canvassing the NBA to generate a bidding war. The Nets likely already knew what teams were willing to offer after discussing Durant deals for nearly two months in the offseason, and liked the combination of players and picks the Suns were willing to offer.

According to Zach Lowe of ESPN (Insider link), another team that was prepared to put a strong package of draft picks on the table for Durant was the Grizzlies. Sources tell Lowe that the Nets were aware since July that Memphis was willing to trade every available draft pick and swap of its own for Durant (it’s unclear if that offer would’ve included Golden State’s lightly protected 2024 first-round pick or just the Grizzlies’ own first-rounders).

However, the Suns’ inclusion of Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson helped tip the scales in their favor. Sources around the league have said that the Grizzlies have kept Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and Jaren Jackson Jr. entirely off-limits in any trade talks, according to Lowe, so the players in Memphis’ offer wouldn’t have been as valuable as the ones in the deal Brooklyn ultimately accepted.

Here’s more from Lowe:

  • After mentioning on his podcast that the Grizzlies and Pacers each offered three first-round picks for Raptors forward OG Anunoby, Lowe says the Pelicans – another presumed suitor – didn’t hold any serious talks with Toronto about him. As Lowe reiterates, the Raptors were seeking a high-level player or prospect in an Anunoby deal; Will Guillory of The Athletic says New Orleans didn’t show much interest in discussing Dyson Daniels or Trey Murphy in trade talks.
  • The Warriors also engaged with the Raptors about Anunoby, Lowe confirms, but he says the two teams don’t appear to have gotten all that close to an agreement. Golden State likely would have had to include Jonathan Kuminga as the centerpiece of its offer, sources tell ESPN.
  • The Clippers never ended up having any serious trade talks for D’Angelo Russell or Kyle Lowry, and the Mike Conley bidding was out of their price range, Lowe says. They also got nowhere close on Fred VanVleet, since the Raptors would have wanted Terance Mann and possibly more draft equity than L.A. could’ve offered, Lowe adds.

Northwest Notes: Payton, Blazers, Hyland, Clarkson, Conley, Gobert

It got a bit lost in the shuffle of Thursday’s trade deadline activity, but one of the more interesting moves at the deadline was the Trail Blazers trading away guard Gary Payton II after he had appeared in just 15 games with the team. Payton was dealt just seven months after Portland beat out rival suitors to sign him to a three-year contract as a free agent.

One source tells Jason Quick of The Athletic that one key reason for the move was that Payton had indicated he didn’t want to be in Portland anymore — he was “ecstatic” to be sent back to the Warriors, according to that source.

It’s a worrying sign that so many players the Blazers trade seem so enthusiastic about leaving Portland, Quick writes, pointing to Norman Powell, Robert Covington, Larry Nance Jr., and Josh Hart as other recent examples.

Quick also questions how Damian Lillard and Jerami Grant (who has been offered an extension) might view the Blazers’ deadline moves, which included trading Payton and Hart and acquiring flawed or unproven young players like Cam Reddish, Matisse Thybulle, and Kevin Knox.

Head coach Chauncey Billups had been hoping to add size and experience to the roster, but Portland’s deals this week accomplished neither and may result in the team taking a step back in the short term. As Quick writes, the Blazers will have to hope that Lillard and Grant still believe in the team’s long-term plan.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • When Bones Hyland left the Nuggets‘ bench out of frustration in the fourth quarter of a Jan. 22 game against Oklahoma City, it represented a tipping point, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post, who says that incident didn’t sit well with a number of Denver’s veterans and led to the team exploring Hyland’s trade market in earnest. According to Singer, Hyland’s poor fit alongside Jamal Murray, his defensive lapses, and his displeasure with his role were all factors that led to him being dealt. Still, trading the second-year guard was a difficult decision that went up to ownership, sources tell The Denver Post.
  • The Jazz and guard Jordan Clarkson aren’t expected to reach an agreement on an in-season extension, but sources tell Tony Jones of The Athletic that Utah remains very open to continuing its relationship with Clarkson beyond this year. The 30-year-old can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer by turning down a $14.3MM player option for 2023/24.
  • The Timberwolves‘ acquisition of Mike Conley signals the team’s commitment to improving the fit for Rudy Gobert, who developed chemistry with Conley in Utah, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “I love Mike,” Gobert said on Wednesday. “I just love the way he plays the game — the way he makes people around him better, his professionalism, the way he plays to win and his selflessness, and I love him as a person too, so obviously I’m happy.”