Nassir Little

Blazers Rumors: McCollum, Simmons, Lillard, Powell, More

Teams are calling the Trail Blazers to inquire on guard CJ McCollum and offering the opportunity for Portland to move into the “top part of the draft,” according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. However, Quick reports that the Blazers aren’t seriously considering those offers, since they’re in win-now mode and are seeking veteran help rather than rookies.

As Quick details, the Blazers are open to a trade that would allow them to acquire an upgrade on McCollum. However, there are no obvious opportunities out there. A swap revolving around McCollum and Ben Simmons has long been the subject of speculation, but Quick suggests the Sixers likely wouldn’t be enticed by such a deal, even if Portland adds a young player like Anfernee Simons or Nassir Little to its offer.

Here’s more on the Blazers from Quick:

  • Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey has met twice with Damian Lillard since the season ended. They had a three-hour sitdown on June 19 at the team’s practice facility and then met in Las Vegas with new head coach Chauncey Billups last Friday, per Quick. During those meetings, Lillard conveyed his publicly-stated preference that the Blazers act with more urgency in upgrading their roster.
  • Despite Lillard’s call for urgency, it remains to be seen whether Portland will do anything drastic with its roster this summer. Quick says “there appears to be an inclination to run this group back again” in the hopes that Billups’ influence and a full season of Powell raise the Blazers’ ceiling. Quick acknowledges that exercising patience would be a risky approach, given Lillard’s unease, but points out there are some similarities to 2018, when the club made few roster changes after being swept in the first round and then reached the Western Finals in 2019.
  • Re-signing Norman Powell is the Blazers’ top priority in free agency. Billups recently met with Powell in Las Vegas and “communicated his vision” to the veteran swingman. The team hopes the hiring of Billups helps convince Powell to remain in Portland.
  • Olshey recognizes that building a bench led by Carmelo Anthony and Enes Kanter contributed to the team’s defensive shortcomings and will aim to add “long, rangy” players who can guard multiple positions and comfortably switch on defense, according to Quick.
  • The Blazers will likely try to buy a second-round pick in next Thursday’s draft, says Quick.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Blazers, Hernangomez, Nuggets

While it doesn’t look at this point like the Trail Blazers will seriously explore Damian Lillard trades this offseason, that doesn’t mean they’re not getting calls about their All-NBA point guard. Front office sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that the Heat, Kings, Knicks, Rockets, and Sixers have been the most aggressive suitors for Lillard as of late.

With no Lillard trade request imminent, the Blazers are more likely to pursue upgrades around the star guard, though O’Connor notes that the team’s trade assets are somewhat limited. Portland doesn’t have any draft picks this year and rival teams aren’t particularly high on young players like Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little, according to O’Connor. The club’s best bet for a deal that reshapes the roster and increases its ceiling might involve CJ McCollum and Ben Simmons, O’Connor adds.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

Western Notes: Gordon, Redick, Walker, Little

Aaron Gordon asked the Magic to trade him because he had grown weary of trying to change that franchise’s culture, he explained to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Gordon is thrilled to play for a prime contender like the Nuggets.

“I felt like it was time,” Gordon said of his trade request. “I spent a good seven years in Orlando doing my best to change the culture, uplift the culture, turn the culture into a basketball mecca. That’s the ultimate goal. It was difficult. I was looking for insight. Looking to be a part of a winning culture, to see what that is really about, instead of being a part of a culture that you’re trying to turn into a winning culture.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • J.J. Redick was in uniform on Monday for the first time since the Mavericks acquired him from the Pelicans at the trade deadline last month, Dwain Price of Mavs.com tweets. He participated in his first full practice with Dallas on Saturday. The veteran guard has been sidelined since March 3 by a sore right heel and Achilles and underwent a non-surgical procedure last month. Dallas traded for Redick to have another outside shooting option heading into the postseason. Redick entered Monday’s game in the first quarter.
  • Spurs forward Lonnie Walker revealed that a wrist injury has nagged him throughout the season, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News tweets. Walker missed nearly three weeks of action before returning this past weekend. “It was extremely frustrating,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with this hand/wrist injury for a few months prior to me sitting down. For me to sit down is probably one of the hardest things in the world for me to do.”
  • Trail Blazers swingman Nassir Little has earned more playing time at shooting guard, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes. The team’s first-round pick in 2019 played 24 minutes against Detroit on Saturday and contributed 11 points. “We’ll be doing it again,” coach Terry Stotts said. “He still has to learn some of the tricks of the trade as far as guarding perimeter players — coming off pin downs, guarding pick and rolls — but I think he is capable of doing that and we have to continue to see how he does in that role.”

Western Notes: Johnson, Redick, Blazers, Jensen

Mavericks forward James Johnson missed five games for Dallas due to both traveling for a family emergency and then needing to enter COVID-19 protocols, but the veteran enforcer rejoined the Mavericks for a team practice today, according to Dwain Price of Mavs.com. Johnson can return to the hardwood tomorrow for the club’s game against the Timberwolves, Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com (Twitter link) adds.

“We don’t get that much chemistry going on throughout this [COVID-19] thing, and how we have to be separated a lot,” Johnson noted of this unique 2020/21 season. “The times that we can get it are at practice and on the road, and I miss that.”

There’s more out of the Western Conference:

  • Veteran Pelicans wing J.J. Redick is most likely to be bought out of his expiring $13MM contract after the trade deadline passes, and ink a deal with a team on the East Coast to be near his family, sources tell Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons and forward Nassir Little have entered the NBA’s coronavirus health and safety protocols and are missing at least this evening’s contest against the Nets, Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com tweets.
  • Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen has been given the go-ahead by the team to interview for the head coaching gig with his alma matter, the University of Utah, according to Jeff Goodman of Stadium (via Twitter). Brandon Judd of the Deseret News notes that Jensen, a former Utes player, has been on the Jazz’s bench since 2013.

Northwest Notes: Roby, Green, Little, Dort

During a 118-107 loss to the Magic on Tuesday, Thunder power forward Isaiah Roby demonstrated why Oklahoma City kept him on their regular season roster despite having a scoreless rookie year, according to James Jackson of The Oklahoman. Roby scored 19 points and pulled down seven rebounds in his first NBA start.

“I was really happy for him tonight, he played a phenomenal game,” center Mike Muscala said of Roby’s performance for the Thunder. “I thought he played great defense too and rebounded well. … After not playing in the first two games and then coming out and starting against [Magic center Nikola Vučević], I thought he did a really good job.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • New sharpshooting Nuggets power forward JaMychal Green is set to play in his first game for Denver tonight, hosting the Suns, after missing the first five games of the season due to a calf strain, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Green signed a two-year, $15MM deal with the Nuggets during the offseason.
  • 20-year-old Trail Blazers forward Nassir Little suffered through an intense 22 days with COVID-19, as Jason Quick of The Athletic details. He lost 20 pounds, experienced grinding headaches, and lost his senses of smell and taste. “For me, I was on the worst part of the spectrum, the hard end of the disease,” Little said. “It hit me really bad. For about seven to 10 days, I was just really miserable.”
  • Upstart second-year Thunder wing Luguentz Dort could nab an All-Defensive team inclusion this season despite being on a rebuilding squad, according to Nick Crain of Forbes. Veteran teammate George Hill thinks Dort is well on his way to carving out a niche on that end of the ball. “He’s going to be one of the best defenders in this league,” Hill said.

Trail Blazers Pick Up 2021/22 Options For Simons, Little

The Trail Blazers have picked up the 2021/22 season options for third-year guard Anfernee Simons and second-year forward Nassir Little, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

After appearing in just 20 games during his 2018/19 rookie campaign, Simons, 21, earned a slot in Portland’s rotation during his second season with the club, 2019/20. The 6’3″ guard averaged 8.3 PPG, 2.2 RPG, and 1.4 APG in 20.7 MPG across 70 games.

The team has now locked in the $3,938,818 2021/22 season salary for Simons. If the Trail Blazers and Simons do not reach an agreement on a rookie scale extension next offseason, the guard will become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2022.

Little, 20, was drafted with the No. 25 pick in 2019 after one season at North Carolina. The 6’5″ forward appeared in 48 games during his rookie season, averaging 11.9 MPG. He is set to earn $2,316,240 next season.

The league deadline for teams to exercise third- and fourth-year team options on rookie scale contracts is December 29.

Northwest Notes: Porter, Harris, Barton, Bryant, Little

The first round of the playoffs is an educational experience for young Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., as Mike Singer of the Denver Post details. Porter had 13 points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes in the team’s postseason opener against Utah on Monday but was also targeted on defense and saw extra attention offensively.

“Just being out there, learning, going through it, you can’t put a dollar sign on that,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “That’s the best teacher that Michael is going to have. We can tell him, we can prepare him, but he has to go out there and feel it for himself and learn from it, which I know he will.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets will once again be down two starters in Game 2 of their first-round series on Wednesday, Kendra Andrews of The Athletic tweets. Wings Gary Harris (hip) and Will Barton (knee), both of whom missed the opener, will sit out. Porter and Torrey Craig started in their place, though Jerami Grant and Monte Morris played heavy minutes off the bench.
  • Johnnie Bryant will remain on the Jazz’s coaching staff through the playoffs, Steve Popper of Newsday tweets. Bryant has reportedly reached an agreement with the Knicks to become the club’s associate head coach.
  • Trail Blazers rookie forward Nassir Little experienced a syncopal episode (fainting) on August 12 while attending an optional practice in Orlando, the team tweets. He was diagnosed with dehydration and further tests have been negative. He will remain with the team and undergo precautionary health monitoring for two weeks. Little has appeared in 48 games, but none during the restart.

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Dort, Jazz, Wolves

The Trail Blazers, who already had one open spot on their 15-man roster, will now have the opportunity to sign two players if they want to, since Trevor Ariza‘s decision to opt out of the summer restart makes him eligible to be replaced by a substitute player.

Despite their roster flexibility, it’s not a lock that the Trail Blazers will add a rotation player before heading to Orlando, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. As Quick explains, Gary Trent Jr. appears to be the most likely candidate to replace Ariza in the starting lineup, and rookies Nassir Little and Jaylen Hoard could be wild cards.

Quick also speculates that Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts could get creative with his lineups to cover for the fact that the team will be without its top two small forwards (Ariza and Rodney Hood). Quick suggests we could see three-guard lineups featuring Anfernee Simons alongside Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, or bigger five-man units that utilize Zach Collins at the four and Carmelo Anthony at the three.

Here’s more from out of the Northwest:

  • With the NBA’s transaction window now open, it’s decision time for the Thunder and two-way player Luguentz Dort. Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman takes a closer look at the club’s options as it weighs whether to move Dort to the 15-man roster.
  • Tony Jones of The Athletic discusses whether the Jazz might make any changes to their 15-man roster for the summer restart and explores how two-way players Jarrell Brantley and Justin Wright-Foreman fit into the team’s plans.
  • After wearing a Fitbit patch on their jerseys since 2017/18, the Timberwolves are seeking a new sponsor for next season that will help “create impact in our community” and “be a champion for social advancement,” COO Ryan Tanke told Jabari Young of CNBC.

Blazers Sign First-Rounder Nassir Little

The Trail Blazers have signed their first-round pick, small forward Nassir Little, according to a team press release.

Little will make approximately $2.1MM in his first NBA season if he receives the max on the rookie scale.

The 25th overall pick played one season at North Carolina, where he averaged 9.8 PPG and 4.6 RPG and 18.2 MPG over 36 games as the team’s top reserve.

Draft-Night Notes: Bazley, Thunder, Bulls, Suns

Some teams holding mid-first-round picks have expressed interest in forward Darius Bazley and he could go earlier than projected, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today tweets. A McDonald’s All-American, Bazley didn’t go to college and instead spent the year preparing for the draft.

We have more draft nuggets:

  • The Thunder are engaged in trade talk with teams to move back in first round from the No. 21 pick, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.
  • The Bulls didn’t shop shooting guard Zach LaVine when they explored ways to move up in the lottery, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune tweets. Chicago wound up holding onto the No. 7 pick and selecting North Carolina point guard Coby White. LaVine has three years and $58.5MM remaining on his contract.
  • The Suns’ selection of North Carolina power forward Cameron Johnson at No. 11 after trading down from the No. 6 pick earlier in the day was the surprise of the lottery. According to SInow’s Jake Fischer, it was an even bigger surprise due to injury concerns. Several teams red-flagged Johnson out of the first round due to his history of ailments on both hips (Twitter link).
  • The Sixers are trying to move up from the No. 24 pick, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. They’re hoping to snag either UNC small forward Nassir Little or USC shooting guard Kevin Porter Jr. and could wind up with one of them even if they don’t make a deal, Pompey adds.