Nikola Vucevic

Southeast Rumors: Bamba, Vucevic, McGruder, Melvin

Magic lottery pick Mohamed Bamba will come off the bench and have his minutes monitored, John Denton of the team’s website reports. Coach Steve Clifford doesn’t feel the 20-year-old 7-footer is ready to jump into the lineup any time soon. “I want him to play 82 (games), and he’s going to be out there and playing quality minutes,” Clifford said. “But he’s just not ready to play starter’s minutes against starting players. (A reserve role) is a big part of how you bring a player along. He’s in a role that’s ideal for him.” The unspecified minutes restriction is designed to have him “playing his best in March and April,” Clifford added.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Magic can be expected to do their due diligence and gauge starting center Nikola Vucevic’s trade value, according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic. Vucevic is in his walk year and will enter unrestricted free agency in July. Vucevic doesn’t fit president Jeff Weltman and GM John Hammond’s desire for length and versatility, Scotto adds.
  • Rodney McGruder and Derrick Jones Jr. have been effective as starters during the first two games, which further complicates the long-range plan for the Heat’s rotation, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel notes. With Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Justise Winslow and Wayne Ellington currently sidelined, finding enough playing time for rotation-worthy players hasn’t been an issue, Winderman continues. When those players return, Miami will have 13 players who arguably should be in the rotation, Winderman adds.
  • Former WNBA star Chasity Melvin has been named an assistant coach with the Greensboro Swarm, the Hornets’ G League affiliate, according to a Swarm press release. Melvin, who played 12 WNBA seasons, is the first female coach in franchise history. She was hired through the NBA Assistant Coaches Program.

Southeast Notes: Vucevic, Winslow, Hornets

With Nikola Vucevic entering a contract year and Mohamed Bamba aiming to become the starting center of the future in Orlando, Vucevic looks like a trade candidate for the Magic. However, Jeff Weltman says his club has “no designs on trading anyone right now,” per Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel.

“That’s something that we’ll worry about later,” said the Magic’s president of basketball operations. “Vooch is a high-quality player and an even higher-quality person. He’s very valuable to our team today, and he’s very valuable to what we want to be about going forward. So I wouldn’t even entertain those thoughts yet.”

In a Q&A with John Denton of, Weltman touched on several more topics, including the Magic’s decision to hire new head coach Steve Clifford, Aaron Gordon‘s new contract, the Bamba pick, and many of the club’s other offseason moves. While Weltman knows that the Magic aren’t expected to make the postseason this season, he doesn’t mind being discounted by the pundits and hopes to see his roster stay healthy and “surprise some people.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Justise Winslow‘s name figures to come up frequently in trade speculation as long as Jimmy Butler is available, but assuming Winslow remains with the Heat, the club intends to explore a possible rookie scale extension. The two sides have yet to discuss financial specifics, but more talks are planned before the October 15 deadline, a team source tells Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.
  • The Hornets are one of several NBA teams that haven’t filled either their 15-man regular season roster or their two two-way contract slots. That’s by design, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, who tweets that GM Mitch Kupchak is keeping an eye out for possible roster casualties around the league who could fit with the Hornets.
  • The Hornets announced a series of additions to their basketball operations staff this week, including adding veteran NBA forward Matt Carroll as a player development assistant. Carroll, who spent most of his playing career in Charlotte, last appeared in an NBA game in 2012.

Southeast Notes: Rivers, Heat, Bamba

When the Wizards exiled big man Marcin Gortat, they did more than simply shed the 34-year-old’s contract, they filled a void that they’ve had for some time, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. The addition of backup combo guard Austin Rivers should alleviate some of the workload on Bradley Beal.

Beal logged the fourth most minutes in the NBA last season but ran out of gas for the Wizards late in the season. Rivers will also slot in behind John Wall at the point, providing capable support at both backcourt positions.

For the addition to work, Rivers will have to change his game slightly. For instance, he’ll have to tone down the volume shooting as part of a larger, competitive Wizards team.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Heat will bring back their “captain”, 38-year-old Udonis Haslem, for the 2018/19 season. Now, an Associated Press report states, he’ll get to work convincing Dwyane Wade to join him in fending off retirement. “My mindset has always been for us to finish it together,” Haslem said. “I want us to do a whole season together. Experience the road, dinner on the road, go through that whole process. I want us to experience that together.” Wade, of course, played half of last season with the Cavaliers after initially leaving Miami for the Bulls in the summer of 2016.
  • The Magic are expected to open the season with Nikola Vucevic as their starting center, team scribe John Denton writes, but the club will make sure that Mohamed Bamba has plenty of time to demonstrate his potential. According to Denton, the rookie has already “greatly impressed” the squad with the improvement he’s made since the end of the NCAA season.
  • The Heat have a number of options that Erik Spoelstra will need to mix and match in order to fill his frontcourt. Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes in a mailbag with readers that he views Kelly Olynyk as a change-of-pace backup center behind Hassan Whiteside and James Johnson as the club’s power forward.

Magic To Make Nikola Vucevic Available?

Having re-signed Aaron Gordon and drafted Mohamed Bamba this summer, the Magic head into the 2018/19 season with a crowded frontcourt. In addition to Gordon and Bamba, the big men seeking roles in Orlando’s rotation will include Nikola Vucevic, Jonathan Isaac, Timofey Mozgov, Jarell Martin, and Khem Birch.

Given the logjam up front, not to mention his expiring contract, Vucevic is “expected to be available on the trade market” prior to the February deadline, according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic. As Scotto observes, the veteran center doesn’t really fit team management’s desire for “length and versatility,” meaning he’s unlikely to be part of the Magic’s long-term plans.

Vucevic, who made 57 starts for Orlando last season, remains a productive frontcourt player, having averaged 16.5 PPG and 9.2 RPG in 2017/18. The 27-year-old also continues to evolve as an offensive player — he posted a career-high 3.4 APG last year and made an effort to become an outside shooting threat. Vucevic knocked down 64 three-pointers in ’17/18 after making a total of 30 in his first six NBA seasons.

Still, Gordon, Bamba, and Isaac represent the building blocks of the future in the Magic’s frontcourt, making another contract for Vucevic a long shot. The former USC standout will earn $12.75MM in 2018/19 before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer, so he could appeal to a team that wants to add a big man to its roster without compromising future cap flexibility.

The Lakers immediately come to mind as one club that fits that bill, though there are others that could qualify, especially if teams are hit by the injury bug or if the Magic are willing to take on multiyear contracts in a hypothetical trade.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Bridges, Labissiere, Clippers

The Lakers ensured themselves a successful offseason when they signed LeBron James, but they still need to fill a vacancy at center, writes Matt John of Basketball Insiders. The addition of free agent JaVale McGee doesn’t really solidify the position, and the only other choices on the roster are rookie Moe Wagner and Ivica Zubac.

With David West and Brandan Wright as the best free agents left on the market, John identifies several potential trade targets, including Tristan Thompson, James’ former teammate in Cleveland. Thompson is a physical rebounder and defender with whom James had a good rapport. However, John notes that he may not be available unless Cleveland decides to rebuild.

Other possibilities include the Bismack Biyombo, who finds himself in a center logjam after being traded to Charlotte, the Bucks’ John Henson, the Bulls’ Robin Lopez, the Magic’s Nikola Vucevic and the Hawks’ Dewayne Dedmon.

There’s more news from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns rookie swingman Mikal Bridges was a little disappointed he didn’t play more in the summer league, James Blancarte of Basketeball Insiders reports. “It’s tough you know. Coming in mentally, you don’t know what the coach is going to do and how they are going to play you,” Bridges told Blancarte. “Couple of games, not playing as much as I thought I was going to be [playing]. Just staying mentally [tough], going through that.” Bridges averaged 6.2 PPG and 2.6 RPG in 20 MPG during five Las Vegas outings. He will also likely have wait his turn during his rookie campaign but Phoenix thought enough of him to swing a draft-night trade with the Sixers, Blancarte notes.
  • Kings big man Skal Labissiere is looking to improve his durability during his offseason workouts, Jason Wise of the team’s website relays. Memphis-area trainer Raheem Shabazz has made Instagram posts showing the work Labissiere is putting in as he prepares for his third NBA season.
  • Clippers lottery picks Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson showed flashes of potential in summer league games but they were far from perfect, according to Keith Smith of RealGM. Gilgeous-Alexander has a solid all-around game but needs lot of work with his shot. Robinson has to focus more on the defensive end, Smith continues, while undrafted big man Angel Delgado struggled on the perimeter. However, Delgado displayed strong rebounding instincts and toughness on the interior, Smith adds.

Magic Likely Done In Free Agency

After re-signing Aaron Gordon to his four-year, $76MM deal, using part of their mid-level exception to reach agreements with rookies Melvin Frazier and Isaiah Briscoe, and adding a reliable backup point guard in Jerian Grant to spell incumbent starting point guard D.J. Augustin, the Magic are likely finished adding players to their roster through free agency this summer, reports Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.

“We’re in a pretty good place with our financial flexibility, all things considered, but the roster is done as we sit here today,” Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman says. “We don’t feel like there are any holes that we need to shore up. We can always get better, and we’ll always be on the lookout for ways to get better. At this point, that would come probably more in the form of a trade if we were to do anything for the remainder of the summer.”

The Magic are currently projected to have a team salary around $110.9MM, assuming the team retains the services of backup guard Rodney Purvis, whose $1.4MM salary is non-guaranteed. Per Robbins, Orlando will also look to fill its open slots for two-way contracts and could bring in additional players on training camp deals.

The statement from Weltman all but puts to rest the speculation surrounding Isaiah Thomas, who was reported to be “negotiating a possible deal” with the Magic last week. Per Robbins, Orlando considered Thomas, but negotiations never took place, as the club believes Augustin is fully capable of leading this year’s squad.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve our roster at every position, but we are in capable hands with D.J.,” Weltman said. “D.J. is a very good player and he’s coming off the best year of his career under trying circumstances. D.J. represents what we want to be about: a professional who prepares, who plays for his teammates and who always brings the same personality to the team irrespective of the highs and lows of the season.”

Weltman also added that newly-acquired center Timofey Mozgov is not currently a candidate to be bought out, despite likely being buried on the depth chart behind Nikola Vucevic and heralded rookie Mohamed Bamba. Rather, the team hopes Mozgov will impact the team off the court through his experience and professionalism.

Should the Magic change their mind and decide to re-enter the free-agent fray, they still have nearly $7MM of their mid-level exception remaining after signing both Frazier and Briscoe to deals exceeding two seasons.

Draft Notes: Sixers, Magic, Doncic, Walker

The Sixers‘ coaching staff and front office had “serious conversations” about selecting Michael Porter Jr. before deciding on Mikal Bridges, tweets ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. The Sixers were intrigued by Porter’s potential to become a star, but bypassed him for a safer choice. Porter went four picks later to the Nuggets, while Bridges was traded to the Suns.

Because former president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo resigned in the wake of a controversy involving Twitter burner accounts, the Sixers are relying on a group effort between coaches and executives to decide on their picks.

There’s more from an active draft night:

  • The Magic’s selection of Mohamed Bamba at No. 6 doesn’t mean Nikola Vucevic is headed out of town, tweets Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Vucevic is heading into a contract year, making $12.75MM next season. Orlando has a potential logjam at center with Bismack Biyombo signed for $17MM next year with a $17MM player option for 2019/20. “He’s a good pick,” Vucevic said of Biyombo. “He’s talented and he’ll be a big presence.”
  • The Mavericks won’t ask Luka Doncic to go through a full summer league schedule after just finishing up his season in Europe, relays ESPN’s Tim MacMahon (Twitter link). “He needs a break,” said coach Rick Carlisle. The Mavs will meet soon to determine how much they want Doncic to do this summer.
  • A medical issue may have caused Lonnie Walker to drop to the Spurs at No. 18, according to Doug Gottlieb of Fox Sports Radio (Twitter link). However, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony states that health concerns regarding Walker were exaggerated and had little effect on where he was taken (Twitter link).
  • The Cavaliers are hoping to buy a pick in the second round, sources tell Joe Vardon of (Twitter link). The club can’t send out any more cash in trades during the 2017/18 league year, but could reach an agreement tonight and finalize it in July. The Cavs don’t own any picks beyond No. 8.
  • The Bulls made an effort to move up, but decided it was “too expensive,” a source tells Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). Any move would have cost them the 22nd pick and future selections.

Nikola Vucevic Interested In Long-Term Deal With Magic

Magic center Nikola Vucevic is happy in Orlando and can see a long-term future with the franchise, as he told Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype. Vucevic has one year and $12.75MM remaining on his contract, then becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. Vucevic would like to see progress from the team next season but has faith that it’s headed in the right direction.

“I believe we aren’t too far away and we can compete very soon,” he said. “When you win in this league, that’s the best feeling. So that’s what is most important to me. I do believe we can get there, though.”

There’s more nuggets from Kennedy’s interview with Vucevic:

  • The 7-footer is focused on expanding his 3-point game in a league that increasingly demands that big men stretch the floor. Vucevic didn’t venture out much to the 3-point line until last season, when he averaged 3.6 attempts per game and connected on 31.4% of them. “This is something that I’ve wanted to add to my game to help our team get better, so I think that’s going to be the biggest thing for me this summer. I’ll continue to focus on that. I’ll also be playing with my national team, and I’ll continue to work on that while I’m with them.”
  • Vucevic had dinner with new coach Steve Clifford and was very impressed by the ex-Hornets head man. “You can tell he knows the game really well. He’s really creative. He’s going to do a really good job of putting our guys in positions to be successful and making us better. Everything we talked about throughout our conversation was very positive.”
  • Forward Aaron Gordon‘s steady improvement was a product of hard work, rather than simply his athleticism, according to Vucevic. “He works as hard as any guy on our team – if not harder. He’s always showing up early and staying late. … Some people may think he’s just a freak athlete, but they don’t realize how much work he has put in to improve the way he has year after year, especially this past season.”

Magic Notes: Isaac, Gordon, Vucevic, Ross

As we relayed on Thursday, rookie Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is on track to play on Friday night for the first time in 2018. Speaking today to reporters, head coach Frank Vogel confirmed that Isaac will make his return to the court, but cautioned that last year’s sixth overall pick will be on a minutes limit. As Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel tweets, Isaac will play about 15 minutes in his first game back from an ankle injury.

Here’s more on the Magic:

  • Aaron Gordon recently admitted that it’s a challenge to stay in the present and not think about his upcoming free agency, as John Denton of the team’s official site writes. “Of course, of course, I worry,” said Gordon, who will be a restricted free agent in July. “It’s natural and it’s human to worry. But you work on your mentality so that you can enjoy the present moment instead of worrying. If you’re so caught up in what’s happened or what’s going to happen, you can’t fully enjoy what’s happening right now.”
  • Elsewhere at the Magic’s official site, Dan Savage takes an in-depth look at Nikola Vucevic‘s recovery from a broken bone in his hand, detailing how even a fairly common injury for an NBA player can result in a long, arduous rehab process. Vucevic, who suffered the injury just before Christmas, returned to action after the All-Star break.
  • Speaking of injured Magic players, Terrence Ross – who has been on the shelf since the end of November with a knee injury – had a small setback in February and is probably still a few weeks away from returning, Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel wrote earlier this week.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Walker, Magic, Wall

Speaking to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, Hornets vice chairman Curtis Polk said he doesn’t expect to discuss the team’s coaching staff until a new general manager is hired. However, asked if he expects Steve Clifford to return for the 2018/19 season, Polk replied, “I would today.”

Polk also addressed a few other topics in his conversation with Bonnell, including the Hornets’ salary cap situation. With approximately $118MM in guaranteed salary on the books already for 2018/19, it will be very difficult for Charlotte to upgrade its roster this offseason. However, Polk told Bonnell that the team’s next GM will be tasked with keeping team salary below the tax line while improving the roster’s depth.

Here’s more from around the Southeast division:

  • Whoever becomes the next Hornets general manager may have a ticking time bomb on their hands in the form of Kemba Walker‘s 2019 free agency, says Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. As Bonnell observes, it will be virtually impossible for Charlotte to extend Walker before his contract expires, so the standout point guard willcha almost certainly reach the open market.
  • The Magic will get a pair of key players back in their lineup tonight, with Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon set to return from hand and hip injuries, respectively. John Denton has the details at the club’s official website.
  • Wizards point guard John Wall is still only 27 years old, so he has a long basketball career ahead of him and doesn’t yet known what he’ll do when his playing career is done. However, he intends to enter that stage of his life armed with a business degree. As Candace Buckner of The Washington Post writes, Wall will return to the University of Kentucky this summer to work toward that degree.