Nemanja Bjelica

Western Notes: Clippers, Nuggets, Bjelica, Musa

The Clippers will bring in some first-round candidates for a pre-draft group workout on Wednesday, league sources tell Michael Scotto of The Athletic (Twitter link). According to Scotto, Miles Bridges (Michigan State), Kevin Knox (Kentucky), Aaron Holiday (UCLA), and Mitchell Robinson will participate in the session.

The Clippers currently hold the 12th and 13th overall picks in the draft, presenting a number of potential opportunities and directions for the club. Bridges and Knox are viewed as two potential lottery picks who may still be on the board at No. 12, while Holiday and Robinson are ranked slightly lower on most big boards.

Let’s round up a few more Western Conference notes…

  • Speaking last week to reporters, Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said the team will target a strong defensive player with two-way versatility with the No. 14 pick, and didn’t rule out the possibility of trading or waiving highly-paid players to maintain cap flexibility. Matt L. Stephens of The Denver Post has the story and the quotes.
  • The Jazz and Suns are among the teams that could show interest in power forward Nemanja Bjelica this summer, a source tells Orazio Cauchi of Sportando. Bjelica is eligible for restricted free agency, so the Timberwolves have the chance to match any offer he receives, assuming they extend a qualifying offer.
  • Bosnian wing Dzanan Musa, a potential first-round pick who will be keeping his name in the 2018 NBA draft, has workouts on tap with the Trail Blazers, Nuggets, Spurs, and Jazz, tweets Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports.
  • Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News passes along word of a few more of the players who participated in the Timberwolvesveteran mini-camp on the weekend, tweeting that that Hollis Thompson, Dorell Wright, and Jordan McRae took part, among others.
  • Veteran guard Rodney Stuckey is participating in a free agent mini-camp with the Trail Blazers, a league source tells Michael Scotto of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Grant, Huestis, Bjelica, Towns

Fresh off earning All-NBA honors this week, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has reportedly requested another meeting with team owner Paul Allen, according to John Canzano of The Oregonian. The reason for Lillard’s alleged requested meeting is not provided but this is not the first time that Lillard’s camp sought a face-to-face will Allen.

Lillard met with Allen in January to discuss the organization’s plan for the future. For what it’s worth, Lillard responded to this latest report on Twitter and dismissed the report and the source of it.  After being swept by the Pelicans in the postseason, Lillard addressed the possibility of Portland breaking up with the backcourt of himself and C.J. McCollum.

“I don’t agree with it,” Lillard said breaking up the Blazers’ backcourt (via Ashish Mathur of Pro Hoops Digest). “I think it’s that simple. I think it’s the easiest thing to say. I don’t agree with it, though. I’m not the guy making decisions.”

Lillard earned the All-NBA nod after enjoying another productive season in Portland, averaging 26.9 PPG and 6.6 APG.

Check out more Northwest Division notes below:

  • Jerami Grants improvement since he joined the Thunder has been a point a pride for both himself and the organization. As he heads for free agency this summer, Grant — who has admitted he wants to return to the Oklahoma City — may have priced himself out of the team, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes.
  • Josh Huestis proved himself this season but his next NBA chapter may be with an organization other than the Thunder, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes. Huestis’ pending unrestricted free agency — just like Grant’s  — is complicated by the financial complications Paul George‘s free agency presents and how he fits on the roster long-term.
  • Timberwolves big man Nemanja Bjelica cannot wait for the opportunity to suit up for the Serbian national team. “I love to play at home,” he said, “and I can’t wait to do it again, soon. Being supported by thousands of fans is the best, and this unity around the national team gives us a lot of extra energy.”
  • During an appearance on The Lowe Post podcast with colleague’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst, Adrian Wojnarowski said he feels that Minnesota would move on from Tom Thibodeau before trading Karl-Anthony Towns (via UPROXX). “I think their owner would trade management/the coach before he would trade Karl-Anthony Towns,” Wojnarowski said. “I don’t think they would allow that. I just don’t believe they’d allow that kind of decision.”

Free Agent Stock Watch 2018: Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves landed back in the NBA playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons this spring. That comes as no surprise, given that the club has finally paired its stockpile of young stars with a formidable, winning coach and a green light to spend.

The Wolves need not fret that they barely put a dent in the Rockets this postseason as they’ll be back in contention next season and for as long as Jimmy Butler is capable of leading the club’s offense, flanked by Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

It’ll get mighty difficult to afford all three eventually but they won’t need to seriously contemplate how to make all the numbers work until the summer after this one.

Nemanja Bjelica, PF, 30 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $12MM deal in 2015
The Timberwolves are in a much different position now than they were when they inked Bjelica as an international free agent, but the veteran has hung around in large part due to his presence in the locker room. Given that the Wolves already have so much of their 2018/19 payroll tied up in other players, don’t expect them to offer Bjelica much more than the minimum.

Aaron Brooks, PG, 33 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2017
Brooks didn’t exactly take the league by storm in his tenth season but his role and value are clear; he’s a familiar insurance policy for former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. Brooks isn’t likely to have a long list of suitors so it’s well within reason that he ends up back in Minnesota on another veteran’s minimum deal late this offseason.

Jamal Crawford, SG, 38 (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $9MM deal in 2017Jamal Crawford of the Minnesota Timberwolves
Having made over $100MM over the course of his career, including $11MM from a team he didn’t even play for in 2017/18, Crawford won’t accept his $4.5MM player option for next season if he’s not perfectly content playing for Minnesota. I wouldn’t rule out the 38-year-old passing on a second season with the Wolves in order to close out his career as a killer reserve on a team with more realistic short-term title aspirations.

Marcus Georges-Hunt, SG, 24 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1MM deal in 2017
There won’t be significant pressure for the Wolves to bring back Georges-Hunt after a solid but modest first year in Minnesota, but they’ll need to fill out their lineup eventually and he’s a tough, defensive-minded player. Expect the club to keep its options open over the course of the offseason but don’t be surprised if the Wolves bring the familiar 24-year-old back on the cheap.

Amile Jefferson, PF, 25 (Up) – Signed to a one-year deal in 2018
The Wolves converted Jefferson’s two-way contract into a standard deal last month despite the fact that he never even suited up for the big league roster. Still, the team had a spot to spare and had no reason not to add the extra layer of depth heading into the postseason. Jefferson is a stud in the G League so the organization may be intrigued by his eventual fit with the parent club, but he won’t earn more than the minimum.

Derrick Rose, PG, 29 (Up) – Signed to a one-year deal in 2018
Prior to signing on with his former head coach late in the regular season, Rose’s value was at a career low. Fast forward two months later, however, and the wayward guard may have actually stumbled into an opportunity to salvage his career. Rose averaged 14.2 points per game for the Wolves in the postseason and could be a valuable rotation piece in the right situation. We’ve seen Rose flame out in a couple of wrong situations, so the fact that he’s found any sort of momentum reunited with Thibodeau and the rest of the Timberbulls bodes well for all involved. Rose didn’t do enough during the first six months of the season to warrant any more than another speculative one-year, minimum deal, but the postseason resurgence may have earned him one last run at meaningful minutes on a competent team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Wolves Rumors: Butler, Bjelica, Gibson, Rose

Jimmy Butler offered an update on his medical condition at a press conference before tonight’s game. Butler, who had surgery last month for a torn right meniscus, said there’s no projected date for his return, but he hopes to play before the end of the regular season.

“I’m excited at my progression because I know how close I am to returning back to the floor with my guys,” he says in a video tweeted by KSTP Sports. “I have a little bit of [recovery] time left, but I know my guys are going to stick this thing out and do what they’ve been doing. Keep us in that race, and when I come back we’ll see what we have left in the tank.”

There’s more news out of Minnesota:

  • Butler’s injury has provided an opportunity for Nemanja Bjelica, who is increasing his value on the free agent market with his recent performance, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Bjelica was averaging just nine minutes per game before the All-Star break, but has topped 40 minutes three times in March. “To be hon­est, I just try to play as good and hard as I can and at the end of the day, ev­er­y­bod­y will be fine,” Bjelica, who will be a restricted free agent, said about the possibility of staying in Minnesota. “I’m hap­py here. My fam­i­ly is hap­py. Some­times I hate Jan­u­ar­y be­cause it’s so cold, but I kind of got used to it.”
  • Also taking on a heavy workload is veteran forward Taj Gibson, Zgoda notes in a separate story. In his first season with the Wolves after signing as a free agent last summer, Gibson is averaging 33.5 minutes per night, roughly five minutes more than his career peak set four seasons ago. The 32-year-old said he doesn’t mind the extra work. “Life is too short to be holding back,” Gibson said. “I go out there and lay it on the line, just do what I got to do. When I come off the court, I don’t want to have any regrets when I go home. I don’t worry about minutes or how much I play.”
  • Historical trends are working against Derrick Rose ever being an effective player again, according to Zach Kram of The Ringer. His study finds that a small percentage of guards who have made an All-NBA team are ever able to raise their level of play after their first below-average season.

NBA Suspends Arron Afflalo Two Games

The NBA has suspended Magic guard Arron Afflalo two games for his role in an altercation with Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica, Shams Charania of The Vertical tweets.

On Tuesday night, Afflalo got tangled up with the 29-year-old Wolves forward and ended up launching a wild haymaker that careened off the back of Bjelica’s head and neck. Bjelica put Afflalo in a headlock before the two were eventually separated.

The suspension, which will be in place for tonight’s Magic-Cavaliers game, targets Afflalo and not Bjelica presumably because Afflalo appeared to be the one to escalate the situation, while Bjelica looked content containing Afflalo and defusing the situation.

Northwest Notes: Anthony, Bjelica, Hill

It’s been an emotional week for the Thunder and that’s only going to continue through the weekend as Carmelo Anthony makes his return to New York for a battle with the Knicks. As Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports writes, the week could help give the new-look Oklahoma City squad much-needed closure.

We can focus on what’s ahead of us. We can focus on being [the] Thunder. It’s no more Pacers. It’s no more Knicks,” Anthony’s newest superstar teammate Paul George said, having narrowly defeated his own former squad in his first game back in Indiana on Wednesday. “We can focus on what we have to do, to get better as a team and get better as Thunder players. That story, that chapter, and that book is over with.

One difference between Anthony’s exit and George’s exit is that there was somewhat of an understanding between all parties that his tenure in the Big Apple had run its course. George’s hasty departure, the trade request that triggered his deal to the Thunder, left plenty of Pacers fans betrayed.

At the end of the day, it’s business to me. But I’d be lying if I said I’m not ecstatic to be going back and playing there,” Anthony, who has averaged 17.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game for the Thunder, said. “Like I said, I got a different feeling with New York. A different relationship, different bond with the city, with the fans, with the people. It’s a little bit special for me.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

Western Notes: Leonard, Hood, Bender, Bjelica

Kawhi Leonard‘s long-awaited season debut will likely take place on Tuesday. The Spurs All-Star forward is listed as probable for Tuesday’s road game against Dallas, ESPN’s Michael C. Wright relays. Leonard has endured a longer-than-expected recovery period from right quadriceps tendinopathy. He averaged a career-high 25.5 PPG last season and led his club to the Western Conference finals.

In other developments around the Western Conference:

  • Jazz shooting guard Rodney Hood hopes to return to action Wednesday, Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. Hood, averaging a career-best 17.7 PPG, has been sidelined seven games with a left ankle injury.
  • Suns second-year power forward Dragan Bender will have to earn his way back into the regular rotation, as Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic reports. Bender has totaled just 12 points and 11 rebounds over the last seven games while shooting 20% from the field, as his playing time has diminished. “I don’t think competition is bad especially when you’re a young player and you’re not guaranteed minutes,” coach Jay Triano said of the lottery pick. “He has to play better. … If you want to say Dragan is not playing well enough to be on the court right now, that’s fine. I want it to be competition.”
  • Timberwolves power forward Nemanja Bjelica has missed the last nine games with a foot injury and it’s still uncertain when he’ll return. Coach Tom Thibodeau provided an update on his status to Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Jerry Zgoda (Twitter link) and other media members.  “We don’t want to put a timetable on it,” Thibodeau said. “We thought it would be sooner, but when he’s healthy, he’s healthy. We don’t want to go back and forth with it. He has ramped it up conditioning-wise, so that’s a good sign.”

Northwest Notes: Durant, Wolves, Thunder

More than a year after leaving Oklahoma City for Golden State, Kevin Durant can’t seem to escape the drama that came with that decision. As Weston Shepherd of Daily Thunder outlines, a pair of tweets sent from Durant’s Twitter account earlier this week suggested that the star forward “didn’t like the [Thunder] organization or playing for Billy Donovan” and that OKC’s roster wasn’t talented enough to win a championship.

While those tweets were sent from Durant’s account, they referred to him in the third person, so it’s possible that someone with access to his Twitter published them without realizing which handle he was using. The tweets were quickly deleted, but there has been no explanation from KD, which may be a sign that his(?) comments on the Thunder weren’t far off the mark.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News passes along a couple updates from Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, tweeting that Taylor has spoken personally to Dante Cunningham and is waiting on the forward’s free agent decision. Wolfson adds that Nemanja Bjelica believes he’s ready to go after suffering a broken foot last season, but the club will take things slow with him in camp.
  • The Thunder don’t yet have recovery timelines for Alex Abrines and Patrick Patterson, who are dealing with knee injuries, but both players are making progress, as Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman details.
  • While Shabazz Napier is one of 21 fourth-year players eligible for a rookie scale extension, he’s not a great candidate for a new deal. As Joe Freeman of The Oregonian writes, Napier is “little more than an insurance policy” for the Trail Blazers this season, and will have a hard time earning extended minutes.

Wolves Rumors: FAs, Muhammad, Wiggins, Roth

The Timberwolves are still carrying just 11 players on guaranteed contracts for 2017/18, but head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau expects that number to increase in the near future. As Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune details, Thibodeau and the Wolves plan to add three players on guaranteed minimum contracts, retaining some flexibility with the 15th and final roster spot.

As has been the case for more than a month now, the Wolves intend to add a backup point guard and two wings to their roster. While the market for backup point guards has thinned out considerably, there are still several interesting wings on the market, including Tony Allen, Gerald Green, Anthony Morrow, and Mike Dunleavy.

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • Of course, as Minnesota looks to add a couple wings, Shabazz Muhammad remains an option, if he’s willing to settle for a minimum salary contract, writes Zgoda. “There’s an opportunity here for him,” Thibodeau said of Muhammad. “He has several opportunities to look at.”
  • The process of signing Andrew Wiggins to a contract extension will be delayed by his agent change, but Thibodeau and the Wolves still expect that deal to get done in the “next few weeks,” as Zgoda details.
  • Nemanja Bjelica and Justin Patton continue to recover from foot injuries. According to Zgoda, Thibodeau is hopeful that Bjelica will be ready for training camp and Patton will good to go for the Wolves’ regular season opener.
  • Thibodeau confirmed that the Wolves explored the possibility of acquiring Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers, per Zgoda. “You have the responsibility to explore every possibility,” Thibodeau said. “If it makes sense for us, we’ll do it. If it doesn’t, we move on. We love the players we have. We know there’s a lot of work to do.”
  • Former Timberwolves player and current scout Scott Roth is set to become the first head coach of the Iowa Wolves, Minnesota’s newly-purchased G League affiliate, according to Zgoda. Roth will be tasked with his helping to develop young players for the Wolves, as well as implementing Thibodeau’s strategic concepts in Iowa.

Western Rumors: Bjelica, Watson, Crawford

Timberwolves big man Nemanja Bjelica underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a fractured navicular bone in his left foot, the team announced in a press release. Bjelica’s season-ending injury occurred during Minnesota’s 117-104 loss to Boston on March 15th. He was averaging 6.2 PPG and 3.8 RPG in 18.3 MPG while appearing in 65 games. The club did not announce how long it would take for Bjelica, who will make a guaranteed $3,949,999 next season, to recover from the injury.

In other developments around the Western Conference:

  • Suns coach Earl Watson brushed aside speculation that might leave Phoenix if the UCLA coaching job opens up, Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic reports. Current UCLA coach Steve Alford is considered a top candidate for the vacant Indiana job because of his ties to the school. Watson, a UCLA alum, would be a logical choice to replace him if that happened. “I’m more focused on creating value for our [organization], to give management and ownership many options to build a championship contender here,” Watson told Haller. “What I mean by that is, building the value of the young players so that their value and their game and their confidence give them the option to be financially secure in this league when they become free agents; giving our ownership the option to build around them or give ownership and management the option to make moves because their value is so high to put us in contention quicker.”
  • Jordan Crawford has become a potent force for the Pelicans, William Guillory of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes. Crawford averaged 14.3 PPG in his first seven games with the club while shooting 51.9% on 3-point attempts, giving it a much-needed boost on the perimeter. Crawford’s production allowed the 28-year-old guard to turn a 10-day contract into a two-year deal“When I got the 10-day, that was the accomplishment,” Crawford told Guillory. “I didn’t really feel like I was on a 10-day once I was here. The hard part was getting the 10-day.”
  • Lakers power forward Larry Nance Jr. wants to remain with the organization on a long-term basis, as he relayed to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype.com in a Q&A session. Nance is still on his rookie contract and will make $1,471,382 next season. The club will have to decide whether to make him a qualifying offer in the summer of 2018. “We’re on the up-and-up as a team and we’ve got a bright future,” Nance said. “And would I love to be a part of that future? Man, I’d love nothing more than that.”