Miye Oni

Pelicans Sign Zylan Cheatham, Miye Oni To 10-Day Deals

The Pelicans have signed Zylan Cheatham and Miye Oni to 10-day contracts via a hardship exception, the team announced in a press release.

The Pelicans currently have three players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, per our tracker, making the signings possible. New Orleans subsequently announced (via Twitter) that Cheatham has been assigned to the Birmingham Squadron, the team’s G League affiliate.

Cheatham, who went undrafted out of Arizona State in 2019, spent his rookie season on a two-way contract with the Pelicans. However, he appeared in just four NBA games for the club and was sent to Oklahoma City in a sign-and-trade for salary-matching purposes during the 2020 offseason.

He spent most of this season in the G League, splitting time with the Salt Lake City Stars and the Birmingham Squadron. Through 12 GL games (31.1 MPG), he averaged 15.3 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.3 SPG and 1.2 BPG on .571/.364/.733 shooting.

That performance earned Cheatham a 10-day contract with Miami just before Christmas, but he didn’t play at all for the Heat and entered the COVID-19 protocols before his deal expired. He has since cleared the protocols. A couple weeks later, he signed a 10-day hardship deal with Utah, appearing in one game for five minutes. His contract with Utah expired January 21.

Oni, 24, appeared in 80 games for the Jazz across three seasons, but never developed into a consistent, reliable rotation player. He averaged just 1.8 PPG and 1.4 RPG in 8.4 minutes per contest in those three years.

Utah sent Oni to Oklahoma City last month in order to reduce their projected end-of-season luxury tax payment. The Thunder were incentivized to make the deal because they got a future second-round pick out of it, but Oni wasn’t part of their on-court plans, so they ended up waiving him. After he cleared waivers, he became an unrestricted free agent.

Due to the deals coming via a hardship exception, they won’t count towards the Pelicans’ team salary for salary cap or luxury tax purposes.

Thunder Officially Waive Miye Oni

The Thunder have officially waived forward Miye Oni, according to NBA.com’s transactions log. The move had been expected ever since Oklahoma City acquired Oni in a salary-dump deal on Tuesday, as Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported at the time that he would be released.

Oni, 24, appeared in 80 games for the Jazz across three seasons, but never developed into a consistent, reliable rotation player. He averaged just 1.8 PPG and 1.4 RPG in 8.4 minutes per contest in those three years.

Utah sent Oni to Oklahoma City earlier this week in order to reduce their projected end-of-season luxury tax payment. The Thunder were incentivized to make the deal because they got a future second-round pick out of it, but Oni wasn’t part of their on-court plans.

Assuming Oni goes unclaimed on waivers, the Thunder will carry a dead-money cap hit of $850,331 for a prorated portion of his minimum salary. The 24-year-old would be eligible to sign as a free agent with any NBA team except the Jazz, who wouldn’t be able to immediately re-add him after trading him to OKC.

Jazz/Thunder Trade Notes: Draft Pick, Cash, Deck

The 2028 second-round pick the Thunder acquired from the Jazz in Tuesday’s Miye Oni trade was technically already owed to Oklahoma City conditionally, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter).

When the Jazz sent Derrick Favors to the Thunder in an offseason deal, Utah included a top-10 protected 2024 first-round pick. If that pick falls in its protected range, the Jazz would instead owe the Thunder their top-10 protected first-round pick pick in 2025. If it still hasn’t changed hands by that point, it would become a top-eight protected 2026 first-rounder.

The conditions of the Favors trade called for the Thunder to get Utah’s 2028 second-round pick if that first-rounder fell in its protected range all three years. Now, Oklahoma City will receive the pick unconditionally. If the Jazz’s 2024 first-rounder isn’t conveyed after 2026, the Thunder will instead receive $890K in cash, according to Marks.

Here’s more on the Jazz/Thunder swap:

  • The Thunder sent $1MM in cash to Utah as part of the trade, according to Marks. So not only did the Jazz avoid having Oni’s dead money increase their year-end tax bill — they also received more than enough cash to cover the prorated salary they’d already paid him this season.
  • The Thunder, who had to waive Gabriel Deck to make room on their roster for Oni, will carry a cap hit of $1,690,507 in dead money for Deck. His $3,676,852 salary wasn’t guaranteed, but Oklahoma City paid him a portion of that figure prorated across 80 days.
  • Sarah Todd of The Deseret News considers how trading away Oni and creating another opening on the roster could affect the Jazz’s plans on the trade market in the coming weeks.

Jazz Trade Miye Oni, Second-Round Pick To Thunder

4:51pm: In a press release, the Thunder have confirmed their trade to acquire Oni and the Jazz’s 2028 second-round pick, in addition to the release of Deck. Utah acquired cash in return, according to the announcement.

3:03pm: The Jazz are finalizing an agreement with the Thunder on a trade that will send swingman Miye Oni to Oklahoma City, according to Shams Charania and Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link). The Thunder will also receive Utah’s 2028 second-round pick in the deal, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Oni doesn’t have a fully guaranteed salary for the 2021/22 season, so he can be waived by Friday without his entire $1,782,621 cap hit applying to team salary. Presumably, the Jazz planned to part ways with Oni before Friday’s salary guarantee deadline and will trade him instead of cutting him so that his cap hit won’t apply to team salary at all for cap or tax purposes.

If Utah had released him, Oni would’ve counted against the cap for a prorated portion of his minimum salary — that amount (about $820K as of Monday) would’ve further increased the team’s end-of-season tax penalty. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), the Jazz’s projected tax bill would’ve been about $2.4MM higher if Oni had been waived rather than traded.

Instead, the Thunder will be the ones releasing Oni, according to Wojnarowski. They’re well below the salary floor despite technically operating over the cap, so adding a little dead money to their cap is well worth it to acquire a future second-round pick.

With no players headed from Oklahoma City to Utah in the swap, the Jazz will open up a second spot on their 15-man roster, which they’ll have to fill within the next two weeks.

The Thunder will have to waive someone in order to make room on the roster for Oni, even though they don’t plan to keep him. Gabriel Deck, who has a partially guaranteed salary, will be the odd man out in OKC, according to Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Once they officially release Deck and then acquire and waive Oni, the Thunder will have an opening on their 15-man roster too.

Since Oni is in the final season of a three-year contract, he can’t be acquired using the minimum salary exception, so the Thunder will have to use a traded player exception to absorb his salary. They have two sizeable TPEs expiring next month that would work.

The Jazz will create a small traded player exception worth a prorated portion of Oni’s salary in the deal.

Eight Current NBA Players On Nigeria’s 12-Man Olympic Roster

After making some noise in the exhibition schedule by upsetting Team USA, Nigeria will be looking to become the first African men’s basketball team to win an Olympic medal. And they’ll be doing so with a roster that features eight current NBA players, along with one former NBA player.

Here’s the 12-man squad that will represent Nigeria at the Tokyo games, per the Nigeria Basketball Federation (Twitter link):

Achiuwa, Nwora, Okafor, Okogie, and Okpala are all on guaranteed contracts for next season with their respective teams. Metu and Oni are on non-guaranteed deals, while Vincent will be eligible for restricted free agency after finishing the season on a two-way pact. Udoh, a former sixth overall pick who just finalized a two-year deal with Italian club Virtus Bologna, has appeared in a total of 400 NBA games (regular season and postseason)

While the Nigerian squad isn’t exactly loaded with star power, it’s worth highlighting since it’s rare for any country besides Team USA to send so many current NBA players to the Olympics.

Australia’s team will have seven players who finished the season on NBA rosters, while Spain’s roster features 10 players with at least some NBA experience. But the U.S. team is the only other one in Tokyo that will feature at least eight current NBAers.

Olympic Notes: Nigeria, Morris, Nnaji, Team USA

The Nigerian national team, having originally invited more than 40 players to its training camp, has trimmed its roster to 15 players, according to an announcement earlier in the week (Twitter link).

Three more cuts will be required to set the official roster for the Tokyo Olympics, but it appears there will be no shortage of NBA players on the 12-man squad. Precious Achiuwa, KZ Okpala, Miye Oni, Josh Okogie, Jordan Nwora, Chimezie Metu, Jahlil Okafor, and Gabe Vincent remain in the mix for the final roster.

One notable player missing from that list is Monte Morris. According to Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link), the Nuggets guard has been bothered by a nagging knee injury and wants to focus on getting fully healthy for the 2021/22 season. He’s sitting out of the Olympics for precautionary reasons.

Nuggets forward Zeke Nnaji received consideration for Team Nigeria as well, according to Singer (Twitter link), but the 2020 first-rounder decided to focus on individual development this season. Nnaji has interest in representing Nigeria in future international competitions, Singer notes.

Here’s more on the Tokyo games:

  • Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich said on Wednesday that he has yet to decide on a captain for the U.S. squad (Twitter link via Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press). Given his résumé, his veteran status, and his previous international experience, Kevin Durant seems like the most obvious choice, though Draymond Green and Damian Lillard could also be candidates.
  • Asked how likely it is that members of the U.S. Olympic squad will talk during the next month about teaming up in the NBA, Bradley Beal acknowledged that “probably a lot” of those conversations will take place. “Depends on who’s a free agent or not,” Beal said (Twitter link via Fred Katz of The Athletic). “But for the most part, we can’t mix that in right now. We’re focused on one goal at hand, and that’s bringing back a gold medal. Granted, we all have our respective, individual goals and talents once this is done. We can address those issues then.”
  • Organizers confirmed on Thursday that the Tokyo Olympics will be held without spectators due to a recent increase in coronavirus cases in the area. Ayano Shimizu of Kyodo News has the full story.

Olympic Notes: Spain, Simmons, Nigeria, Turkey, Garland

Veteran center Pau Gasol, who has represented Spain in four Olympic tournaments so far, remains on track to be part of the team in Tokyo, per an Associated Press report. Gasol was one of 18 players included on Spain’s preliminary roster for the Tokyo games, joining his brother – Lakers center Marc Gasol – and Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio.

Timberwolves forward Juan Hernangomez, Pelicans big man Willy Hernangomez, and projected first-round pick Usman Garuba are among the other notable names on Spain’s preliminary roster, according to The Associated Press.

Here’s more on the Tokyo Olympics:

Northwest Notes: Hollis-Jefferson, Horford, Barton, Jazz

Veteran forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is making a strong impression on the Timberwolves so far, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Hollis-Jefferson is on a non-guaranteed contract, but made a case for a regular season roster spot with his play on Monday night, when he scored 17 points on 6-of-6 shooting and made several plays on defense.

“Since Day 1 Rondae has been great,” Timberwolves wing Josh Okogie said. “He tells me all the time we got to be the ones that anchor the defense down. Just seeing him play is very inspiring. The energy he brought out (Monday), and he just makes you ask yourself, what kind of guy wouldn’t want to play with a guy like Rondae?”

The Timberwolves are only carrying 12 players with fully guaranteed salaries and don’t have a ton of depth at the power forward spot, so Hollis-Jefferson looks like a good candidate to be retained for the start of the season.

“I’m a competitor at the end of the day,” Hollis-Jefferson said, per Hine. “Any time I come out and compete it shows with how I play, the energy. I feel like everything else will naturally come when the time is right. I’m definitely looking forward to being out there competing in the regular season.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Al Horford was traded by Philadelphia just one year into his four-year contract with the club, but the veteran big man is looking forward to making the most of his new role with the Thunder, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. “I wasn’t expecting (to be traded),” Horford said. “But I’ve known the type of organization the Oklahoma City Thunder is. That was the one thing that was positive for me when I looked at it. And now that I’m here I’m actually really excited and looking forward to getting the regular season started.”
  • Nuggets guard Will Barton hasn’t played a game since March due to knee and back issues, but he appears to be on the verge of returning and he’s very happy about it, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post details. “I’m just ready to go out there and compete and play,” Barton said. “I just love the game. Being away from it, it’s very, very, very tough for me to just watch and not be able to play. I can’t wait. I’m excited. I’m just looking forward to it.”
  • Jazz forward Georges Niang and guard Miye Oni are focusing on improving their defense as they look to claim roles in the team’s regular season rotation, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Niang is entering a contract year, while Oni’s 2020/21 salary remains non-guaranteed, so both players will be motivated to prove they deserve to play.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Thunder, Booker, Bazley, Jazz

When the Nuggets rested all five of their starters for the entire fourth quarter in a close loss to the Lakers on Monday night, it was clear that the team was prioritizing health over its playoff seed, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Having been shorthanded throughout the restart, Denver will want to make sure it keeps key players like Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Paul Millsap off the injured list with the playoffs around the corner.

Fortunately for the Nuggets, two of their missing rotation players may be nearing a return. As Singer relays (via Twitter), TNT’s Jared Greenberg said on Monday night’s broadcast that the club is hoping to have Gary Harris and Will Barton available on Friday for the last of eight seeding games. Neither player has suited up so far this summer.

Meanwhile, rookie Vlatko Cancar, who is recovering from a foot fracture, has arrived at the Walt Disney World campus and is in quarantine, according to Singer (Twitter link). Although Cancar isn’t expected to play, the Nuggets can now say their entire team is in Orlando, Singer notes.

Let’s round up a few more notes from around the Northwest…

  • Former Suns GM Ryan McDonough, who drafted Devin Booker with the No. 13 pick in 2015, tells Chris Mannix of SI.com that the Thunder tried to trade up one spot from No. 14 in what he believes was an effort to nab Booker themselves. “You could kind of hear or sense the air come out of the (OKC) room,” McDonough said of the moment when he told the Thunder he was drafting Booker. “You could tell they wanted him.”
  • Although he has been part of the Thunder‘s rotation for most of his rookie season, Darius Bazley has received a bump in minutes this summer and has responded well, with his first career double-double (22 points, 10 rebounds) on Monday. Nick Gallo of OKCThunder.com notes that Bazley’s play in the restart bodes well for his long-term potential, while Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman points to the 20-year-old’s shot selection as a key reason for his breakout.
  • Like Denver, the Jazz are prioritizing staying healthy and developing their bench players as the postseason nears, says Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Miye Oni, Jarrell Brantley, and Rayjon Tucker are among the beneficiaries, playing at least 23 minutes apiece on Monday vs. Dallas.

Northwest Notes: Hood, Craig, Timberwolves, Jazz

After tearing his left Achilles on December 6, Trail Blazers wing Rodney Hood began pondering his life after the league and joined a small support group of fellow NBA players currently on or recently off the rehab trail from the injury, according to ESPN’s Eric Woodyard.

“I reach out to Kevin Durant or Wesley Matthews, DeMarcus Cousins,” Hood said. “The guys who have been through it, and I just get confident more and more every day.”

With the encouragement of his wife Richa, a fellow Duke alum, Hood re-enrolled in school to complete his undergraduate degree: “I want to do something special… And getting a degree from Duke is special, especially coming from where I come from.” Prior to his injury, the 6’8″ southpaw sported a slash line of 11.0 PPG/3.4 RPG/1.5 APG across 21 games in 2019. He connected on 50.6% of his shots from the floor, a whopping 49.3% on 3.4 three-point attempts, and 77.8% from the charity stripe.

Here’s more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets forward and 2020 restricted free agent Torrey Craig could parlay his play in Orlando into a big contract when the NBA resumes its season this summer, according to The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider. Craig, a two-way threat in spot minutes on a deep Denver squad whose counting stats belie his skills, is currently a steal as he wraps up a two-year, $4MM contract.
  • Due to the financial impact caused by COVID-19 closures, Glen Taylor and the ownership group behind the Timberwolves, Lynx, and Iowa Wolves has laid off 18 members of their full-time staff and reduced pay for employees making $70K or more, per a statement cited by The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski (Twitter link). ESPN echoes the news.
  • Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell has been conducting workouts with teammates Royce O’Neale, Jordan Clarkson, Rayjon Tucker and Miye Oni at the Sports Academy in Newbury Park, California, according to Sarah Todd of the Deseret News. Mitchell, 23, has been having a breakout season in Utah, setting career highs in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and three-point percentage. The Jazz are 41-23, the No. 4 seed in the West, thanks especially to the sterling offense of Mitchell and the stellar defense of center Rudy Gobert.