Thunder Rumors

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/21/19

Here are Thursday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Wizards assigned Isaac Bonga, Admiral Schofield, and Justin Robinson to the Capital City Go-Go, the team announces on its Twitter feed. Bonga was recalled later today, as the team only sent him down for practice.
  • The Raptors are sending Dewan Hernandez back to the Raptors 905, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets. Hernandez saw action with the NBA club on Wednesday.
  • The Thunder have recalled Justin Patton from the Oklahoma City Blue, the team’s website relays. Patton has played six minutes for the Thunder this season.
  • The Clippers have assigned Mfiondu Kabengele and guard Derrick Walton Jr. to the Agua Caliente Clippers, the team announces. Kabengele was the No. 27 overall pick in the 2019 draft (selected by Brooklyn and traded to Los Angeles).
  • The Jazz have recalled Miye Oni and Nigel Williams-Goss from the Salt Lake City Stars, per the team’s Twitter feed. Oni has seen action in four G League games this season while Williams-Goss has played in two games.

Early Check-In On Protected 2020 First-Round Picks

We’re about a month into the NBA’s 2019/20 regular season, and no team has played more than 16 games. Still, based on what we’ve seen so far, we’re starting to get a sense of which teams will be competitive and which teams probably won’t.

As a picture begins to form of which teams will be vying for top seeds in each conference and which might be battling for lottery odds, it’s worth checking in on the traded first-round picks for 2020. Of next year’s 30 first-round selections, 10 have been traded, and all 10 have some form of protection on them, meaning the ’19/20 standings will dictate whether or not those first-rounders actually change hands.

Here’s an early look at which of those picks are safe bets to move, which ones will likely be kept, and which ones are still up in the air:

Likely to change hands:

  • Bucks acquiring Pacers‘ pick (top-14 protected)
  • Celtics acquiring Bucks‘ pick (top-7 protected)
  • Nets acquiring Sixers‘ pick (top-14 protected)
  • Thunder acquiring Nuggets‘ pick (top-10 protected)

The Bucks (11-3) and Nuggets (10-3) are currently competing for the No. 1 seed in their respective conferences. If that continues, the Celtics and Thunder can count on receiving picks in the late-20s.

Meanwhile, the Pacers (8-6) and Sixers (9-5) have been a little shakier since opening the season, but there’s little doubt that they’ll be playoff teams in the Eastern Conference. They’ll send their respective first-rounders to the Bucks and Nets, who will be hoping those picks land in the teens or at least the early-20s.

Unlikely to change hands:

  • Grizzlies acquiring Jazz‘ pick (1-7, 15-30 protected)
  • Nets acquiring Warriors‘ pick (top-20 protected)
  • Sixers acquiring Thunder‘s pick (top-20 protected)

The protections on the Utah first-rounder included in the Mike Conley trade are meant to ensure that the Grizzlies don’t receive too high or too low a first-round pick. Assuming the Jazz (9-5) make the playoffs, as expected, they’d retain their 2020 pick and would owe Memphis their 2021 selection with the same protections.

The Warriors (3-13) and Thunder (5-9) picks are a little more interesting, since they won’t simply roll over to 2021 if and when they’re retained. If Golden State keeps its 2020 pick, the team will only owe Brooklyn its 2025 second-rounder. Oklahoma City, meanwhile, would owe Philadelphia its 2022 and 2023 second-round picks if its 2020 first-rounder falls into its protected range.

Still up in the air:

  • Celtics acquiring Grizzlies‘ pick (top-6 protected)
  • Hawks acquiring Nets‘ pick (top-14 protected)
  • Pelicans acquiring Cavaliers‘ pick (top-10 protected)

The Grizzlies have been frisky so far, but they’re just 5-9 and will likely finish among the West’s worst teams. Whether or not they hang onto their 2020 first-rounder may come down to lottery luck. If it falls in the top six and Memphis keeps it, Boston would be in line to acquire the Grizzlies’ unprotected 2021 first-round selection.

The Hawks will need the Nets to make the postseason to receive their first-rounder in 2020. That’s not a lock, but it still seems likely — despite a modest 6-8 record, Brooklyn holds the No. 7 seed in the East. If the Nets miss the playoffs and keep their first-round pick in 2020, they’ll owe a lottery-protected 2021 first-rounder to Atlanta.

Finally, it may just be a matter of time before we can move the Cavaliers’ first-rounder into the “unlikely to change hands” group. The team is putting in a good effort under new head coach John Beilein, but is just 4-10 so far. Unless things improve, the Cavaliers’ pick will remain in the top 10 and they’ll keep it, instead sending their 2021 and 2022 second-rounders to New Orleans.

Early Results Reduce Market For Chris Paul

If the Thunder are hoping to trade Chris Paul soon, the first month of the NBA season hasn’t done them any favors, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman, who notes that the teams most likely to be interested have all gotten off to strong starts.

The Heat were the focus of trade rumors after Oklahoma City acquired Paul from the Rockets in July, but Miami sits at 10-3 after winning tonight. Offseason addition Jimmy Butler is the team’s assist leader at 7.2 per game as they are succeeding without a traditional point guard. The Heat have already made it clear that their interest in Paul is tied to a return of the draft picks they owe OKC, and they may be even more reluctant now to break up a winning combination.

The Lakers have also been mentioned as a possibility because of Paul’s friendship with LeBron James. However, they hold the NBA’s best record at 12-2 and James leads the league in assists at 11.1 per game as he has developed an instant chemistry with Anthony Davis.

The Timberwolves, who chased D’Angelo Russell in the offseason, are off to a better-than-expected 8-7 start, Tramel notes, while the Bucks, who have incentive to gamble for a title before Giannis Antetokounmpo can become a free agent in 2021, are 11-3 and are reluctant to become a taxpaying team.

Paul’s contract remains an impediment to any deal, as he is signed for $41.3MM next season with a $44.2MM player option for 2021/22. He has played well for OKC, averaging 15.8 points and 5.6 assists through 14 games, but the Thunder appear to need at least one prospective trade partner to stumble before any progress can be made on a deal.

Thunder Notes: George Trade, SGA, Adams

Although the Thunder didn’t initially want to move Paul George during the summer when he requested a trade, the franchise was widely lauded for the package it extracted from the Clippers in the deal the two teams eventually made. Among those who thought the Thunder did well? George himself, who spoke about the trade this week when he faced his old team.

“I thought it worked out great for them,” George said (video link via Ben Golliver of The Washington Post). “I think Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) is a future star and he’s proven that he can carry a load. … He works hard, works on his game. And then him just being under CP (Chris Paul), he’s going to learn so much. So they got a star. And Danilo (Gallinari) is a proven scorer, a big-time scorer.

“And then, I mean, the 100 picks that they got,” George continued with a laugh. “Their future’s bright. (Thunder general manager) Sam Presti‘s a proven expert at drafting and they’re going to be great in the future.”

As George noted, the Thunder received five first-round picks in the trade, including four unprotected first-rounders, along with the ability to swap two additional first-rounders with L.A. While it wasn’t quite “100 picks,” it was a massive haul for OKC, and a price the Clippers were willing to pay because they knew it would mean securing a commitment from Kawhi Leonard as well.

Here’s more on the Thunder:

  • George isn’t the only member of the Clippers who believes Gilgeous-Alexander has star potential. As Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman relays, Lou Williams said his former backcourt mate is “gonna be a star,” while head coach Doc Rivers went one step further, calling SGA a potential “superstar” and lamenting the fact that he had to be dealt to OKC to get George. “Obviously it’s the price of doing business in the NBA and it’s a trade you have to do, right?” Rivers said. “But as excited as I was when we knew that the whole deal was going through, when (president of basketball operations) Lawrence (Frank) told me the Shai name was still in it, you were sad. You were disappointed.”
  • Veteran Thunder center Steven Adams is still limited by a knee injury that sidelined him for a handful of games earlier this season, Mussatto writes for The Oklahoman. Nerlens Noel was OKC’s center down the stretch on Tuesday while Adams sat. “Obviously we’re dealing with Steven’s knee still,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I don’t want to say he’s on a minutes restriction, but we’re trying to be mindful and keep him in a range.”
  • In case you missed it, we identified Chris Paul as one veteran to watch in our first look at potential 2019/20 trade candidates in the Northwest division.

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Northwest Division

Over the course of the 2019/20 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.

All five Northwest teams entered the 2019/20 season with playoff aspirations, which could create an interesting situation by the trade deadline. Will several of these clubs be competing with one another for the top trade candidates on the market? Or will a couple Northwest teams fall short of their goals and pivot to selling as the deadline nears?

While it’s too early to make any sweeping judgments on the five Northwest squads, all of whom have won between five and nine games, here are three players who could emerge as trade candidates as the season progresses:

Chris Paul, PG
Oklahoma City Thunder
$38.5MM cap hit; increasing guaranteed cap hits through 2021/22

When the Thunder officially acquired Paul from Houston on July 16, many NBA observers assumed his stint in Oklahoma City would be short-lived. Four months later though, Paul is still on OKC’s roster and has played pretty well in the early going, averaging 16.7 PPG, 5.3 APG, and .462/.426/.873 shooting through 13 games.

It’s still possible that Paul will be part of two consecutive trades – no NBA teams have completed a deal since that July 16 blockbuster – but it has become increasingly obvious that his contract will be a major impediment. Even after this season, CP3 still has another two years and $85MM+ left on his deal, and the fact that it extends into the 2021/22 campaign is problematic. Given how star-studded the 2021 free agent class is expected to be, teams are reluctant to surrender significant cap space in that summer.

While the Heat have been linked to Paul most often, I’d be surprised if Miami and Oklahoma City strike a deal. A team without major free agent aspirations for 2021 would be a better fit, so perhaps a club like the Timberwolves ultimately emerges as a more serious suitor.

Jeff Teague, PG
Minnesota Timberwolves
$19MM cap hit; UFA in 2020

Speaking of the Timberwolves, they’ve made it clear that they’re seeking a long-term answer at the point guard spot, which doesn’t bode well for Teague’s long-term future in Minnesota.

Another sign Teague’s days with the Timberwolves may be numbered? When Gersson Rosas took over as the club’s president of basketball operations last summer, nine Wolves were eligible for free agency and a 10th had a non-guaranteed contract. None of those 10 players returned. Rosas will be aggressive in shaping the sort of roster he wants in Minnesota, and so far it doesn’t appear as if his vision overlaps much with that of the team’s previous decision-makers.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that Teague is a goner, but his $19MM expiring contract would make him an ideal salary-matching piece if Rosas gets aggressive at this season’s trade deadline, since it’d be easier to move than the pricey multiyear contracts belonging to Gorgui Dieng and Andrew Wiggins.

Hassan Whiteside, C
Portland Trail Blazers
$27.1MM cap hit; UFA in 2020

At this point, the Trail Blazers still badly need Whiteside. Jusuf Nurkic remains sidelined for the foreseeable future, Zach Collins figures to miss most of the season with a shoulder injury, and Pau Gasol has yet to make his Portland debut.

However, Whiteside is essentially a temporary placeholder in the middle until Nurkic is able to return. Once Nurkic is healthy, he’ll reclaim his starting spot, relegating Whiteside to a bench role. If Gasol is healthy and Collins is close to returning at that point, there will be even fewer minutes to go around in the frontcourt. And, of course, dissatisfaction with his playing time was what led Whiteside’s stint in Miami to go south.

Whether or not Whiteside ends up on the trade block will hinge in large part on the health of those other three big men. If the Blazers are comfortable with their depth up front, Whiteside’s $27MM+ expiring contract could be a useful trade chip as the club seeks much-needed help at the forward spot. But if Portland is still shorthanded at center when the deadline arrives, moving Whiteside may not be a viable option.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patterson Reflects On What Went Wrong For 2018/19 Thunder

  • Ahead of tonight’s ongoing tilt against the Thunder, Clippers power forward Patrick Patterson reminisced about his two injury-plagued years logged in Oklahoma City. In speaking with The Oklahoman’s Joe Mussatto, Patterson had a laundry list of causes for the Thunder’s underwhelming 2018/19 season. “I don’t think it was just one thing,” Patterson reflected. “Coaching staff, not everyone on the same page from the heads up top to the players on the bottom. Effort on the players’ part. Focus, playing together, playing good solid defense with communication. We missed a lot of shots.” Patterson’s candor on the team is refreshing to see. He continued, “It’s pretty much everyone that was within the organization’s fault.”
  • On the other side of the trade that landed Patterson in Los Angeles, former Clippers teammates and coaches of Clipper-turned-Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander gave SGA rave reviews before tonight’s tipoff. The Oklahoman’s Maddie Lee reports that LA coach Doc Rivers had this to say about his former point guard: “He’s the greatest kid… I don’t know if I’ve had a more favorite young player, like, he’s the best.” Atlanta guard Tyrone Wallace also raved about his former running mate. “Everybody loved Shai,” Wallace said. “It was one of those things, I think a lot of fans were kind of upset (that he was traded).”

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/16/19

Here are Saturday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA G League:

  • The Hornets sent rookie Caleb Martin to their Greensboro affiliate, the team announced in a press release. He is averaging 23 points, six rebounds and four assists in two G League contests and has seen limited time in three games for Charlotte.
  • The Thunder assigned Deonte Burton and Justin Patton to the Oklahoma City Blue, according to a release from the team. Burton is averaging 7.7 minutes in five games with the Thunder, while Patton has gotten into just one NBA game this season.
  • The Magic assigned Melvin Frazier Jr. and Amile Jefferson to Lakeland for tonight’s game, the team tweeted.
  • The Jazz assigned Nigel Williams-Goss to the Salt Lake City Stars, according to a tweet from the team.
  • The Bucks recalled Dragan Bender from their Wisconsin affiliate after assigning him yesterday, the team announced in a press release. He is averaging 21.5 points and 9.8 rebounds in four G League games, but hasn’t played for the Bucks yet.
  • The Spurs recalled Keldon Johnson from their Austin affiliate, tweets Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/15/19

Here are Friday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA G League:

  • The Bucks have once again assigned power forward and former lottery pick Dragan Bender to the Wisconsin Herd, the team’s PR department tweetsBender is averaging 20.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.3 APG and 1.3 BPG in 29.9 MPG while shooting 55.3% in three games with the Herd. He’ll play against Raptors 905 on Friday. Bender has yet to make his Bucks debut.
  • The Jazz assigned rookie guard Miye Oni to the Salt Lake City Stars, the team’s PR department tweets. The former Yale guard made his NBA debut on Monday. This is his sixth assignment to the G League club.
  • The Thunder assigned center Justin Patton to the Oklahoma City Blue for practice and then recalled him, according to a team press release. Patton has already played two games with the Blue, averaging 6.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 4.5 APG and 4.5 in 23.4 MPG. He’s appeared in one game with the Thunder this season.

Few Roster Spots Still Open Around NBA

Once the Trail Blazers make their deal with Carmelo Anthony official, only seven teams around the NBA will have open spots on their rosters. Six of those clubs have openings on their standard 15-man squads, while the seventh has an available two-way slot.

Typically, in the first half of an NBA season, some teams keep a roster spot open to retain flexibility and to avoid paying a player who hardly ever actually sees the court. However, whether it’s a result of an increased focus on player development or a steady stream of injuries league-wide, most clubs this season have taken advantage of all 17 roster spots (15 standard, two two-way) available to them.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN observes (via Twitter), the six teams that haven’t signed a 15th man are all somewhat limited by their cap situations. Here are those six teams:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Denver Nuggets
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Miami Heat
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Orlando Magic

The Heat and Warriors literally can’t sign a 15th man unless they cut salary costs elsewhere, since they’re right up against the hard cap. The Thunder are already in the tax and – as Marks notes – the Cavaliers and Nuggets would go into the tax by signing one more player. The Magic wouldn’t technically become a projected taxpayer by adding a 15th man, but they’re close enough to that threshold that it makes sense for them to hold off until they really need to fill that spot.

There’s just one team that hasn’t used both of its two-way contract openings:

  • Phoenix Suns

The Suns have their own G League affiliate, so it’s not clear why they haven’t yet taken advantage of that second two-way contract slot. The deadline for teams to sign players to two-way contracts is January 15 — it’s a pretty safe bet that Phoenix will sign a second two-way player by that point.

In total, 450 standard roster spots and 60 two-way slots are typically available during the NBA season, for a total of 510 players on 30 teams. Currently, 504 players are on standard contracts or two-way deals (the Nets are carrying an 18th man while Wilson Chandler serves his 25-game suspension), leaving few NBA job opportunities up for grabs unless teams start making cuts.

Thunder Recall Justin Patton From Oklahoma City Blue

  • The Thunder have recalled Justin Patton from the Oklahoma City Blue, according to a team press release. The injury-plagued third year center out of Creighton has also played just six minutes in one game this season, a 120-92 October 27th rout of the Warriors.