Mohamed Bamba

Rockets Notes: Free Agent Targets, Burke, Gordon, Draft

The Rockets will target a backup center when free agency opens at the end of the month, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. The team is short on reliable big men after agreeing to trade Christian Wood to the Mavericks, and although Houston will receive Boban Marjanovic in the deal, the front office plans to explore other options on the free agent market.

Feigen identifies Nic Claxton as one possibility, saying the Nets likely wouldn’t match a full mid-level exception offer (starting at $10MM+) because of luxury tax concerns. Claxton was a part-time starter this season and put up career-best numbers with 8.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per night.

Other free agents that Feigen mentions include former Rocket Isaiah Hartenstein, Andre Drummond, Mason Plumlee, Mo Bamba, Hassan Whiteside, JaVale McGee and Dewayne Dedmon. After a promising rookie year, Alperen Sengun is expected to be Houston’s starting center next season.

There’s more on the Rockets:

  • As expected, Mavericks guard Trey Burke has officially exercised his $3.3MM player option for next season, which is necessary for the Wood trade to be finalized, tweets Keith Smith of Spotrac. The deal still can’t be announced until after Dallas picks at No. 26 on Thursday because the Mavs owe a protected 2023 first-round pick to New York.
  • In his latest piece for Substack, Marc Stein confirms that the Rockets are shopping veteran guard Eric Gordon in hopes of getting a first-round pick in return. Houston also tried to move Gordon at the trade deadline, but couldn’t find an acceptable offer. The 33-year-old will make $19.57MM next season and a non-guaranteed $20.92MM in 2023/24.
  • In a separate story, Feigen examines the information the Rockets use when evaluating draft prospects. The team was among the first to embrace analytics under former general manager Daryl Morey, but current GM Rafael Stone admits there are many times when the numbers don’t match what talent evaluators believe they’re seeing. “There are so many different tools you can look at,” he said. “If you like a particular stat a majority of the time it can easily lie to you in individual instances. You don’t just go back to work with video. You can back to work with the whole thing. It gives you hints about what you need to study more with a particular player.”

Southeast Notes: Ellis, Bamba, Hornets, Hawks

Alabama guard Keon Ellis worked out for the Heat on Monday, according to Jake Weingarten of StockRisers.com (Twitter link). It was previously reported that Ellis is working out for Florida’s other pro club, the Magic, today.

The 6’6″ shooting guard played his first two seasons of college ball at Florida SouthWestern, from 2018–20, before transferring to Alabama. During his second season with the Crimson Tide in 2021/22, Ellis was named to the SEC All-Defensive Team. In 33 games, he averaged 12.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.9 SPG and 1.8 APG with a shooting line of .439/.366/.881.

Ellis is ranked as the No. 66 prospect on ESPN’s big board. The Heat only possess the No. 27 pick this year. Miami lost its 2022 second-round draft pick for a free agency tampering violation. Of course, it’s worth noting that the Heat have had plenty of luck in recent years when it comes to developing undrafted free agent rookies, should Ellis become available that way.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Magic center Mohamed Bamba is a restricted free agent this summer and could be the odd man out in the frontcourt. Orlando is set to add another big man prospect with the top pick in the 2022 draft this summer to complement forward Franz Wagner and big man Wendell Carter Jr., who was extended last summer. With that in mind, Ethan Fuller of Basketball News considers potential landing spots for Bamba. During a breakout fourth NBA season, the 24-year-old showed off his abilities as a high-level finisher and elite rim protector. Fuller considers clubs like the Nets, Heat and Mavericks as possible destinations. Should Bamba remain in Orlando, Fuller projects him to move to the bench to accommodate whichever player the Magic decide to draft.
  • Hornets ownership agreed to extend its lease for the team’s Charlotte home arena, Spectrum Center, through 2045, according to a team press release“Hornets Sports & Entertainment truly values the public-private partnership that we share with the City of Charlotte, including our agreement to manage Spectrum Center, which is a city-owned building,” the statement read in part. “We look forward to continuing to serve as stewards of Spectrum Center to make it the premier destination for sports and entertainment in the Carolinas.”
  • The Hawks are looking at five prospects tomorrow, tweets Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Atlanta will work out Houston big man Josh Carlton, Providence forward Justin Minaya, St. John’s wing Julian Champagnie, VCU forward Vince Williams Jr., and Fresno State forward Orlando Robinson. The Hawks have the No. 16 and No. 44 picks in the 2022 draft at their disposal.

Fischer’s Latest: Magic, Holmgren, Bamba, Kings, Sharpe

Rival executives and league personnel view Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren as the most likely pick for the Magic at No. 1 in next month’s draft due to the front office’s affinity for length, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and general manager John Hammond have gravitated toward lanky players with huge wingspans since arriving in Orlando and did the same during their days in Milwaukee, Fischer observes, citing Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Henson, Thon Maker, Jonathan Isaac, and Mohamed Bamba as examples.

Fischer also points to Holmgren’s good relationship with last year’s No. 4 overall pick Jalen Suggs – they played together at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis – as another reason why the Magic may be leaning toward the Gonzaga star.

Whether the Magic end up drafting Holmgren or another top big man prospect like Auburn’s Jabari Smith, league personnel increasingly believe that Bamba is increasingly likely to leave the team this summer, Fischer says. Bamba is eligible for restricted free agency, but there may not be room for him in a frontcourt that would include Holmgren or Smith, Wendell Carter, and the returning Isaac.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • There’s a “strong belief” among rival executives that the Kings, who badly want to get back to the playoffs, will explore trading the No. 4 pick, according to Fischer. Holmgren, Smith, and Paolo Banchero are the consensus top three players in the draft class, but a number of prospects are in play at No. 4, so there may be a team that feels compelled to move up to snag its preferred target, Fischer writes.
  • League personnel view the Trail Blazers at No. 7 and the Pelicans at No. 8 as other good candidates for trades among lottery teams, per Fischer. The Thunder, Grizzlies, and Spurs, all of whom own multiple first-round selections, are worth monitoring for possible trade-up scenarios, and there are a few teams that may want to move their first-rounders for future picks due to salary cap or luxury tax concerns, Fischer adds.
  • Shaedon Sharpe is considered the wild card of the lottery and could come off the board as high as No. 4, Fischer says. Some executives told Bleacher Report that Sharpe could realistically have been a candidate for No. 1 overall if he had played at all at Kentucky. Given how little Sharpe has played in the last year, he’s regarded as a high-risk, high-upside pick.

Deveney’s Latest: A. Davis, Schröder, Bulls, Knicks

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said last week that “numerous” league executives suggested to him that Lakers star Anthony Davis doesn’t have significant trade value due to his injury history. However, execs who spoke to Sean Deveney of Heavy.com scoffed at that idea.

One general manager told Deveney that there would be “29 teams ready with offers” if the Lakers made Davis available. An Eastern Conference executive said the idea of Davis not having much value is “crazy.”

“Look, it is beauty in the eye of the beholder. But he is an elite talent and he is 29 years old,” the East exec told Deveney. “Everybody wants him, everybody thinks that if they get their hands on him, they can keep him healthy, etc., etc.

“Now, can you get the kind of offer the Lakers gave up when they traded for him (in 2019)? No, of course not. But a team like Chicago, where he is from, they would bend over backwards to get him. Dallas, putting him with Luka (Doncic)? Of course, they would. Phoenix, Miami, any team that really wants to take that next step. The injury is a risk, but the payoff you get if you can keep him on the floor is worth it.”

While there seems to be no real consensus on Davis’ value, it may be a moot point this offseason, since there’s no indication the Lakers would consider moving him.

Here’s more from Deveney:

  • It’s possible the Rockets will re-sign free agent point guard Dennis Schröder and then look to trade him during the 2022/23 season, like Boston did this past year, a source tells Deveney. Although Deveney suggests Houston could use part of its mid-level exception to retain Schröder, the Non-Bird exception would allow an offer up to about $7MM, which could be enough. It’s also worth pointing out that signing a one-year deal with the Rockets would give Schröder the ability to veto a trade next season.
  • The Bulls are one team to watch as a potential free agent suitor for Schröder, but probably only if they trade Coby White, according to Deveney, who notes that Schröder had his best year playing for Billy Donovan in Oklahoma City in 2019/20.
  • Executives around the NBA believe the Knicks – who added Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker last summer – are more likely to pursue “young-ish” players with some upside this offseason rather than going after veterans again. Deveney mentions Tyus Jones, Mohamed Bamba, Chris Boucher, and Schröder as possible targets, though he acknowledges that some of those players aren’t particularly young.

Southeast Notes: Bamba, Wizards, Winston, Todd, Hawks

Magic center Mohamed Bamba, who is eligible for restricted free agency this summer, hopes to stick around in Orlando long term, writes Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel.

“I want to be here,” Bamba said of his NBA future. “I just want to make that clear. I’ll let that stuff handle itself and continue to work.”

As Price details, Bamba enjoyed his best year as a pro during the 2021/22 NBA season, averaging a career-best 10.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.7 BPG and 1.2 APG across a career-most 25.7 MPG as a starter alongside fellow big man Wendell Carter Jr., who was drafted one slot behind Bamba in 2018. Bamba also did a good job protecting the rim, Price notes. A career 68.5% free-throw shooter, the 7’0″ Bamba also connected on a career-best 78.1% from the charity stripe on a modest 1.0 attempts per game.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • After a disappointing 35-47 season, the Wizards face a fascinating summer. Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) provides a thorough preview of Washington’s offseason, contending that it all starts at finding a reliable point guard to play alongside shooting guard Bradley Beal, who could decline his $36.5MM player option this summer and enter free agency. Center Thomas Bryant will also be an unrestricted free agent. Marks notes that, when it comes to assets, the team possesses 10 tradable player contracts and a lottery pick in the upcoming draft.
  • Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. intends to monitor the development of the team’s two most recent second-round selections, reserve point guard Cassius Winston and backup forward Isaiah Todd, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington“It’s a big offseason for those two,” Unseld said. “It’s a big offseason for all of our young guys. You’re going to have a season of ebbs and flows. Consistency is the thing we’re searching for and that’s one thing that young players at times have difficulty with… I thought Cash had some really good moments. Not a ton of sample size with the Wizards, but even with [Washington’s NBAGL affiliate the Capital City Go-Go]. Both he and Isaiah had big games and great opportunities to learn and grow.” Winston averagd 12.7 PPG and 4.6 APG as a reserve with the Go-Go, while Todd logged 12.1 PPG and 5.2 RPG for Washington’s G League club.
  • While the Hawks won Game 3 on Friday to pull to within 2-1 in their first-round series, the Heat’s performance so far is showing Atlanta what the team still needs in order to make consistently deep playoff runs, writes Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Kirschner opines that finding a great perimeter defender needs to be a top priority for the Hawks in their roster-building, as Miami All-Star small forward Jimmy Butler has largely been dominant against Atlanta wings De’Andre Hunter, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter.

Magic Notes: Carter Jr., Cannady, Suggs, F. Wagner, Offseason

Big man Wendell Carter Jr. is having the best season of his young career with the Magic, according to Mark Schindler of BasketballNews.com, who takes an in-depth look at Carter’s breakout season and interviewed him for the article. Carter is averaging career-highs of 15.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists this season in 62 games (29.9 minutes per night). He boasts a shooting line of .525/.327/.691, including a career-best 61.5% on two-pointers.

Carter said the team’s coaching staff has empowered and challenged him to improve his game.

They’ve kind of instilled in me like, ‘Man, you’re a great player. We’ve seen plenty of flashes. We know what Wendell can really be. Can we see you do this for a whole 48-minute game? Can we see you play like those little spurts we’ll see every now and then? Can you do that more often?’

Here’s more on the Magic:

  • Devin Cannady, who signed a 10-day contract last week, is grateful for his second chance with Orlando, per Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. Cannady had a 10-day and then a two-way contract with Orlando last season and appeared in eight games, but his season came to an early end in April of 2021 when he suffered a significant ankle injury and underwent surgery. “I remember what it felt like laying on that floor less than a year ago. A lot of thoughts went through my mind. I remember praying on the floor that day. A lot of late nights, early mornings, frustrations, excitements and just to be back here is a testament to the work I put in. Whether I made it back here or not, I was going to be fine, but this is where I believe I belong,” Cannady said.
  • Rookies Jalen Suggs (right ankle bone bruise) and Franz Wagner (left ankle sprain) returned for Tuesday’s win over Cleveland after absences of 10 games and one game, respectively. However, Wagner suffered a right ankle sprain in the game and didn’t return (Twitter links).
  • Bobby Marks explores the team’s options for the offseason in his guide for ESPN (Insider link). Much of Orlando’s financial flexibility is tied to Mohamed Bamba, who would be a restricted free agent this summer if the team tenders him a qualifying offer of $10.1MM.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Morris, Bamba, Ball, Thomas

Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. blasted his team’s defensive effort after Saturday’s 127-118 loss to the Blazers, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post writes. Washington allowed Portland to shoot 52% from the floor and 37% from three-point range. The Blazers were led by Josh Hart, who scored 44 points.

“It’s not something schematic, it’s some of the same issues,” Unseld explained. “We talked about the one-on-one containment, there’s no scheme for transition defense. “You can say okay, well, let’s take care of the ball, we can do that better. But when the shot goes up, there’s no scheme to say, ‘You have to be here, you have to be here, you have to be here,’ it’s an effort, a level of focus, communication that takes care of that.”

The Wizards also allowed 122 points in a loss to the Lakers on Friday. Los Angeles, led by LeBron James (50 points), shot 53% from the floor. On the season, Washington ranks just 24th in defensive rating and 18th in points allowed per game (111.2).

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Heat veteran Markieff Morris returned on Saturday for the first time since November 8, but the forward has no interest in hearing from Nikola Jokic, as relayed by Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Jokic’s hard shot on Morris caused whiplash for the 32-year-old, forcing him to miss most of the season. The hit came after Morris delivered a hard foul just seconds earlier. “F– nah, I don’t want to hear from him,” Morris snapped, according to Vardon. “He did what he did and it is what it is.”
  • Magic center Mohamed Bamba has stepped up for the team in recent games, specifically in the paint, Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Bamba recently finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks against the Timberwolves on Friday, helping his club win 118-110. He was drafted No. 6 overall in 2018 and is in his fourth season with the organization.
  • Hornets veteran Isaiah Thomas is impressed with young star LaMelo Ball, Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer writes. “I mean, he’s going to be the face of this league,” Thomas said of Ball. “He’s already an All-Star. Give him two or three years and he’s going to be top-five, top-10 in this league easily. He’s a special talent. He’s very young. He has great energy. His pace to the game, you can’t teach his pace. And he’s, what, 6-foot-7? He has the full package.” Thomas is currently on his second 10-day deal with the Hornets and could be part of the rotation moving forward, Boone notes (via Twitter).

Southeast Notes: Collins, Wright, Bamba, Thomas

Hawks power forward John Collins has continued to play for Atlanta even as he deals with lingering foot pain and now sports a protective wrap around his finger, per Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Collins recently returned to Atlanta’s active roster following a seven-game absence as he dealt with his strained right foot.

“I’m not going to tell you everything,” Hawks head coach Nate McMillan said regarding the health of Collins. “I just respect him for his effort and he does have some things that are going on that he’s trying to play through.”

Through 54 games for the 32-34 Hawks, the 6’9″ big man is averaging 16.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 1.8 APG and boasts shooting splits of .526/.364/.793. Atlanta is currently the tenth seed in the Eastern Conference, mere percentage points behind the ninth-seeded Hornets, who sport a 32-34 record. An extended absence for the Hawks’ second-leading scorer in Collins could spell trouble for the Hawks’ play-in chances.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks reserve combo guard Delon Wright, an unrestricted free agent this summer, is currently out of Atlanta’s rotation. Hawks head coach Nate McMillan explained his thinking behind Wright’s exclusion from the present lineup, per Chris Kirschner of The Athletic (Twitter link). “He’s been playing well,” McMillan said. “It’s nothing he’s done. He’s been playing well. It’s really difficult to play a 10-man rotation because everyone gets squeezed. What I did was went to Lou [Williams] at that backup [point guard spot] — the rotation we had last year.” The 6’5″ veteran is in his seventh NBA season.
  • Hornets backup point guard Isaiah Thomas discussed his fight for an NBA future with Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Currently on his third NBA club this season, following prior 10-day contracts with the Lakers and Mavericks, Thomas is excited for his opportunity with Charlotte, with whom he recently signed a second 10-day deal. “It’s just a blessing for me to be able to be where I’m at today with how bad my hip was, because I never thought I would be in this space again where I have no pain and I can play free and I can just live free,” Thomas said. “Not just play, like, I don’t have no pain on a daily basis.” Thomas has had multiple surgeries on his troublesome hip, but says he has been pain-free since a 2020 operation. The 5’9″ veteran is averaging 9.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.7 APG and 1.0 SPG in just 13.7 MPG over the course of his three games with Charlotte. “I don’t ice my hip, I don’t do any pre-workout for it. I don’t do anything,” he said. “It’s the same as before I got hurt. I know I can do those things again, but I’m not chasing those moments.”
  • Magic center Mohamed Bamba has an interesting summer ahead of him. Orlando will have to tender the former No. 6 pick in the 2018 NBA draft a $10.1MM one-year qualifying offer this summer for him to reach restricted free agency — otherwise he will become an unrestricted free agent. Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link) expects the qualifying offer to be a foregone conclusion. Given Bamba’s uneven play during his first NBA seasons, it seemed possible that he could reach unrestricted free agency, hoping to catch on with a club in a reserve role at a rate below the qualifying offer. However, Bamba is enjoying by far the best statistical season of his NBA career thus far, averaging 10.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 1.7 BPG across 57 games for Orlando, including 55 starts.

Eastern Notes: Bamba, Gafford, Sabonis, Kyrie

Magic center Mohamed Bamba made his 41st start of the season on Saturday, reaching the starter criteria for restricted free-agents-to-be, as Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report tweets. A player meets the starter criteria when he makes at least 41 starts or logs 2,000 minutes in the season prior to his restricted free agency, or if he averages 41 starts or 2,000 minutes across the two seasons before he becomes a restricted free agent.

If Bamba hadn’t achieved the starter criteria, his qualifying offer this offseason would’ve dipped to $7,228,448. Now that he has met the criteria, his QO amount will remain at $10,096,703.

In many cases, the amount of an RFA’s qualifying offer isn’t all that important, since a player who intends to sign a longer-term deal won’t seriously consider accepting it. But that’s not always the case. For a player with a somewhat limited NBA résumé like Bamba, a $10MM+ qualifying offer wouldn’t be a mere placeholder — the Magic would have to decide whether they’re comfortable making that offer, and if they do, Bamba could realistically accept it if he doesn’t get a multiyear deal he likes.

Here are a few more items from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Wizards center Daniel Gafford entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Sunday, tweets Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Thomas Bryant and Montrezl Harrell figure to share center duties for as long as Gafford remains sidelined.
  • Pacers center Domantas Sabonis exited the COVID-19 protocols on Sunday, per James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter link). The big man had a relatively quiet return to the lineup, scoring just nine points in a loss to Cleveland — it was only the fifth time this season that Sabonis hasn’t had double-digit points.
  • Nets guard Kyrie Irving said on Sunday that he remains hopeful about his ability to play in home games at some point, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN. I’m keeping a positive mindset that anything can happen in these next few days or the next week,” Irving said. “Just crossing my fingers that something can come up either before the All-Star break or even just after.” Of course, Irving would become eligible to play games in Brooklyn if he received the COVID-19 vaccine, but it sounds like he’s hoping for the city to change its rules related to unvaccinated individuals.

Southeast Rumors: Harris, Ross, Bamba, Washington, Knox, More

The Magic are believed to be asking for a first-round pick in exchange for each of Gary Harris, Terrence Ross, and Mohamed Bamba, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. That asking price is more justifiable for some of those players than others, but I’m skeptical that Orlando will be able to get a first-rounder for any of the three unless the pick is heavily protected or the Magic take back some bad money.

Fischer says rival teams with interest in those players believe Orlando’s asking price may drop as the trade deadline nears. In some cases, the Magic could end up seeking two second-rounders, which was what they accepted in return for Evan Fournier at last season’s deadline.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • According to Fischer, Hornets forward P.J. Washington is a candidate to be moved at the February 10 trade deadline. Fischer suggests Charlotte may be facing a bit of a roster crunch this summer with team salary on the rise, and Washington could be the odd man out. The third-year forward is extension-eligible in the 2022 offseason and would reached restricted free agency in 2023 if he doesn’t sign a new deal this year.
  • The protected first-round pick the Hawks received in exchange for Cam Reddish was the primary motivator to make the trade, but Kevin Knox may not have just been a salary throw-in. Sources tell Fred Katz and Chris Kirschner of The Athletic that Atlanta has no plans to trade or release Knox right now.
  • According to Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link), The Hawks sent the Knicks $834,589 in cash in the Reddish trade. That amount covers the salary still owed to Solomon Hill, so Atlanta didn’t save any money as a result of including Hill in the deal — the team did open up a roster spot though.
  • Wizards guard Spencer Dinwiddie has been cleared to play in both ends of back-to-backs after not doing so during the first half, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Dinwiddie, coming off an ACL tear in 2020/21, played on both Tuesday and Wednesday for Washington.