Suns Rumors

Injury Notes: Murray, Beal, AD, Pistons

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone says Jamal Murray will be traveling with the team during its upcoming road trip, which includes five games from November 17-24.

“I don’t know if on this road trip he’ll play or not, but I know from all the reports I’m getting he’s working really hard to get back and making positive strides every day,” Malone said, per Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette (Twitter link).

A report last week indicated that Murray, who sustained a right hamstring strain on November 4, would likely be sidelined three-to-four weeks. The fact that he’s progressing so quickly is an encouraging sign.

Still, while Murray may have a chance to play on the road trip, that doesn’t necessarily mean he will, observes Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (via Twitter).

Here are a few more injury notes from around the NBA:

  • Bradley Beal missed Wednesday’s game for the Suns after his lower back issue flared up yesterday morning, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link). Head coach Frank Vogel later confirmed that Beal woke up with back tightness that didn’t dissipate in time to play (Twitter link via Rankin). Vogel was evasive about a return timeline for the three-time All-Star guard, simply saying Phoenix has a plan to get him back in the lineup. Beal has only appeared in three games thus far for the 5-6 Suns, whose next two games are in Utah on Friday and Sunday.
  • Lakers big man Anthony Davis admits he was battling left hip soreness during Wednesday’s loss to Sacramento, which was the second of a back-to-back, but he refused to use the injury as an excuse for his performance, writes ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “I just played bad,” Davis said after tying a season low with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting. “I’m not going to put it on anything. … It was just missed shots. I just played like s— tonight. It’s that simple.” Davis, who missed a game-and-a-half last week with left adductor/hip spasms, said he’ll be ready to go for Friday’s matchup in Portland, McMenamin adds.
  • Pistons forward Isaiah Livers has yet to make his 2023/24 season debut after suffering a Grade III left ankle sprain prior to training camp. While there’s still no timeline for his return, the 25-year-old was a full practice participant on Thursday afternoon, head coach Monty Williams told reporters, including Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Williams also said there were “no updates” on veteran guard Monte Morris, who is battling a right quad strain, tweets James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. “Hopefully we can get him to ramp up soon,” Williams said.

Devin Booker To Return On Wednesday

OCTOBER 15, 7:14pm: While Booker will return on Wednesday, Beal has been downgraded from probable to out due to his back issue, tweets Rankin. That means the regular season debut of the Suns’ big three will be postponed by at least one more game.

OCTOBER 15, 8:50am: Booker will be available on Wednesday and the Suns’ big three will play together for the first time this season, per Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

OCTOBER 14: Suns guard Devin Booker is expected to return on Wednesday from the right calf strain that has sidelined him for the past five games, sources tell Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.

According to Rankin, Bradley Beal is also expected to be available on Wednesday vs. Minnesota despite tweaking his back in Sunday’s game against Oklahoma City.

Assuming both Booker and Beal are formally cleared to play, it will be the first time that the Suns’ new big three is in action since the regular season began.

With Booker and Beal both on the shelf for much of the season so far, Phoenix has stumbled out of the gate, losing six of its first 10 games despite Kevin Durant‘s usual All-NBA production. Durant has put up 30.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.6 rebounds per game on .498/.429/.851 shooting, while Beal has been limited to three appearances and Booker has played just twice.

Grayson Allen, Josh Okogie, and Keita Bates-Diop have all been frequent starters during the season’s first three weeks, but as long as Phoenix’s big three is available alongside center Jusuf Nurkic, there will only be room for one of them in the starting five as of Wednesday. Allen, who has yet to come off the bench this season, is probably the best bet to hang onto his starting spot.

Eric Gordon, who missed Sunday’s game due to a shoulder injury he sustained on Friday, is also aiming to be back on Wednesday, Rankin adds.

Pacific Notes: Curry, Clippers, Theis, Barnes, Suns

Warriors star Stephen Curry has been ruled out of the team’s in-season tournament game on Tuesday vs. Minnesota due to right knee soreness, per ESPN’s Kendra Andrews.

In the last meeting between the two teams on Sunday, Curry took a hard fall following a drive to the net in the fourth quarter (Twitter video link via Anthony Slater of The Athletic). Although he remained in the game, the veteran guard was seen rubbing his right knee after that play.

Sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) that Curry is believed to have a sprain in the affected knee. He’s undergoing more testing to determine the severity of the injury, but the initial expectation is that he shouldn’t be out for long, per Charania.

As we detailed on Monday, the Warriors have been relying heavily on Curry on offense this season and will need some of their other players to step up with the two-time MVP unavailable. Dario Saric is the only other player on the roster who has scored at least 20 points in a game this season, according to Andrews.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • There’s a “growing belief” that the Clippers will add Daniel Theis to their roster soon, writes Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files, citing a league source. As Agness acknowledges, Theis would likely need to reach a buyout agreement with the Pacers to get to Los Angeles, since the Clippers aren’t well positioned to trade for him. L.A.’s interest in the veteran center was previously reported.
  • The Kings got a boost on Monday when De’Aaron Fox returned from a five-game absence to lead the team to a 132-120 win over Cleveland. Fox was one of four starters to score at least 20 points, but the fifth starter – Harrison Barnes – continued to struggle, contributing just four points for a second straight game. Head coach Mike Brown isn’t worried about Barnes, praising the forward’s performance on defense, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. “I think he struggled at the beginning of the season, too, and so for me, as long as he continues to show consistency, especially defensively, I’m fine with it,” Brown said. “He’s taking the right shots and all that other stuff, so I kind of like where he is knowing — and I’m sure he feels the same — that he can play much better, especially offensively, and he will.”
  • While expecting Devin Booker‘s presence to heal all that ails the Suns may be unrealistic, the star guard can immediately help the team with his scoring, play-making, and defensive communication, says Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Booker is reportedly on track to return from his right calf strain on Wednesday.

Injury Notes: Vanderbilt, Beal, Magic, Nets

Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt has been cleared by team doctors to begin a return to play progression, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

Vanderbilt, 24, has yet to make his 2023/24 regular season debut, missing all 10 of the Lakers’ games due to left heel bursitis. Since he’s been sidelined for several weeks and has been dealing with a foot injury, it might take him some time to ramp up his conditioning.

Still, it’s obviously a positive update for both Vanderbilt and the team. The Lakers’ defense is currently ranked 22nd in the league, and having one of their top defenders nearing a return should help with that figure.

Here are a few more injury notes from around the NBA:

  • Suns guard Bradley Beal missed Phoenix’s first seven games with a lower back injury, which he tweaked during Sunday’s loss to Oklahoma City, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Beal said his back was “a little tight” throughout the game and he needs to be “smart moving forward” after choosing to play the second half despite being less than 100 percent. “We’ve been trending in the right direction,” Beal said. “This is probably the first day we’ve had, I don’t want to say a setback, but where it’s gotten tight throughout the course of a game. It’s just evaluating that seeing how; recovery is always the biggest question. How I feel afterward. See how I feel (Sunday night), in the morning and hopefully I don’t feel like I got hit by a bus and I’ll be good to go come Wednesday.”
  • Magic guards Gary Harris and Markelle Fultz will be sidelined Tuesday in Brooklyn, but they’re traveling with the team on Orlando’s four-game road trip, according to Dan Savage of (Twitter link). It will be the fifth straight absence for Harris, who is battling a right groin strain, while Fultz is dealing with left knee soreness.
  • Nets center Nic Claxton had a strong performance in Sunday’s victory over Washington, notes Dan Martin of The New York Post. Claxton, who had missed the past eight games with a high left ankle sprain, finished with 10 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks in 28 minutes.
  • Unfortunately, Lonnie Walker aggravated a left knee injury on Sunday, Martin adds, but the Nets guard sounds determined to play through it. “I’ll be ready for the next game,” said Walker. “If my leg’s not broken, I’m gonna keep playing. We’ll see how it goes [Monday]. … It’s a lot of pain. I’ve been playing through it.” Walker is officially questionable for Tuesday’s game with a left knee contusion, while Ben Simmons will miss his fourth straight game with a left hip contusion, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link).

Pacific Notes: Booker, Wiggins, Kerr, Green, Plumlee

All-Star Suns guard Devin Booker continues to progress from his right calf strain injury, which has sidelined him for the past four games, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. He could return at some point this week.

“[Booker is] increasing his work on the floor with his shooting, the intensity, speed and intensity of it, but still not ready yet,” Phoenix head coach Frank Vogel said.

Phoenix has struggled without Booker in general, but has really had difficulty during the minutes All-Star forward Kevin Durant has sat. As Rankin notes, the Lakers went on a 19-2 run against the Suns on Friday with Durant on the bench, en route to an eventual 122-119 comeback victory.

Although Phoenix is just three weeks into the 2023/24 season, the team’s issues are already at least somewhat concerning, writes Doug Haller of The Athletic. Phoenix has blown three fourth quarter leads already this year, and fissures seem to be appearing with regards to the team’s chemistry among its new players, plus its lackluster defense. Booker remains doubtful for Sunday’s matchup against the Thunder, Rankin writes in a separate piece.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Despite forward Andrew Wiggins early-season struggles, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr will not consider removing the swingman from his starting five, reports Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area (Twitter link). Through 10 games, the 6’7″ swingman is averaging just 11.0 PPG on .411/.167/.529 shooting.
  • The Warriors were frustrated by a retroactively called technical foul that caused the ejection of power forward Draymond Green in a 118-110 loss to the Cavaliers, writes Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Referees assessed Green his second technical foul minutes after a confrontation with Cavs guard Donovan Mitchell. “I am the same person that got suspended from the [2016] NBA Finals for flagrant fouls that were all called from after the game,” Green told Andrews. “Nothing surprises me.”
  • Clippers reserve center Mason Plumlee will be reassessed in four weeks as he continues to recover from an MCL sprain, per Mark Medina of The Sporting Tribune (Twitter link). The 6’11” big man is reportedly expected to miss “multiple months” with the ailment.

Largest Trade Exceptions Available This Season

As the NBA’s 2024 trade deadline approaches, it’s worth keeping in mind which teams hold traded player exceptions that could come in handy to grease the wheels on an in-season deal.

As we explain in our glossary, a traded player exception allows a team to take on salary in a trade without sending out any salary in return. The amount of the exception (plus $250K) is the amount of salary the team is permitted to take back without salary-matching – either in a single deal or in multiple trades – for one year.

[RELATED: Salary-Matching Rules For Trades During 2023/24 Season]

For instance, a team with a $10MM trade exception could acquire a player earning $4MM and a player earning $6.25MM without having to worry about sending out any outgoing salary.

In recent years, sizable traded player exceptions have served as wild cards that helped accommodate both pre-deadline and offseason deals. For example, after creating a $17MM trade exception when they sent Davis Bertans to the Thunder and moved down a couple spots in the 2023 draft lottery, the Mavericks used that TPE to acquire Richaun Holmes along with an additional first-round pick later in the night.

Many trade exceptions expire without being used, but as our tracker shows, there are many sizable ones available this season that could be useful when trade season begins in earnest.

Here are the 20 most valuable trade exceptions around the NBA for now, along with their expiry dates in parentheses:

  1. Atlanta Hawks: $23,019,560 (7/8/24)
  2. Brooklyn Nets: $19,928,571 (7/8/24)
  3. Brooklyn Nets: $18,131,946 (2/9/24)
  4. Washington Wizards: $12,354,400 (6/24/24)
  5. Washington Wizards: $9,800,926 (7/8/24)
  6. Miami Heat: $9,450,000 (7/8/24)
  7. Portland Trail Blazers: $8,778,377 (9/27/24)
  8. Portland Trail Blazers: $8,300,000 (2/9/24)
  9. Memphis Grizzlies: $7,492,540 (7/8/24)
  10. Miami Heat: $7,243,842 (7/8/24)
  11. Philadelphia 76ers: $6,831,413 (11/1/24)
  12. New York Knicks: $6,803,012 (7/8/24)
  13. Brooklyn Nets: $6,802,950 (7/8/24)
  14. Phoenix Suns: $6,500,000 (7/17/24)
  15. Boston Celtics: $6,202,500 (7/12/24)
  16. Washington Wizards: $5,379,250 (6/24/24)
  17. Phoenix Suns: $4,975,371 (2/9/24)
  18. Dallas Mavericks: $4,953,980 (7/8/24)
  19. Miami Heat: $4,700,000 (2/7/24)
  20. Houston Rockets: $4,510,000 (10/17/24)

Those Hawks and Nets trade exceptions are big enough to be genuine assets, but I wouldn’t expect either club to make full use of them during the season. Both Atlanta and Brooklyn are about $8-10MM away from the luxury tax line and would move even closer to becoming taxpayers if certain players on their rosters earn bonuses currently considered unlikely.

Neither team is close enough to title contention to warrant becoming a taxpayer this season unless it’s for a major, major acquisition, so don’t count on either the Hawks or Nets using a TPE to bring in a $15MM role player with no outgoing salary.

The luxury tax looms as an issue for some of the other teams on this list as well, but there are some intriguing TPEs to keep an eye on. Would-be contenders like the Sixers, Celtics, and Suns may consider using their exceptions to try to fortify their benches ahead of the postseason, while a rebuilding team like the Wizards – with nearly $30MM in breathing room below the tax – could be a dumping ground for an unwanted contract — as long as that contract comes attached to a draft asset or two.

Teams like the Lakers and Pelicans, who are just narrowly over the tax threshold and could duck below by trading a single player, are potential trade partners to watch for Washington.

It’s worth noting that some of these exceptions may be used in a deal that could otherwise be completed using salary matching. For instance, a team with a $10MM trade exception that swaps one $8MM player for another could use the exception to take on the incoming player and create a new $8MM exception using the outgoing player.

Injury Notes: Booker, Nets, Celtics, Fox, Magic

Suns guard Devin Booker (calf) remains unavailable for Friday’s in-season tournament game vs. the Lakers, as Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic tweets.

Shams Charania of The Athletic reported earlier this week that the Suns are optimistic about getting Booker back at some point during their three-game home stand, which begins tonight. While Charania suggested a Friday return was a possibility, it appears that’s not in the cards — Phoenix’s home stand continues with games on Sunday (vs. Oklahoma City) and Wednesday (vs. Minnesota) before the club heads back out on the road.

Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Nets wing Cameron Johnson (calf) will be available on Friday in Boston for the first time since opening night, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter links). However, Ben Simmons will remain on the shelf for a second consecutive game due to left hip soreness.
  • Celtics big man Al Horford, who didn’t play both ends of back-to-back sets last season, will be held out of Friday’s game, which is part of the team’s first back-to-back of 2023/24, notes Jay King of The Athletic (Twitter link). However, Horford’s frontcourt partner Kristaps Porzingis says he intends to play both Friday and Saturday, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Boston is listing Horford as out due to right knee injury management.
  • Kings star De’Aaron Fox will be unavailable for Friday’s in-season tournament game vs. Oklahoma City, as Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee tweets. It’s the fifth straight contest Fox has missed as a result of his sprained right ankle.
  • While Magic wing Gary Harris missed his third consecutive game due to a right groin strain on Thursday, Markelle Fultz returned from the left knee ailment that cost him three games and reclaimed his spot in the starting lineup (Twitter link). Orlando didn’t appear to have any restrictions on Fultz during the Mexico City showcase — his 29 minutes were right in line with season average.

And-Ones: Self, 2024 FAs, G League, Harrison, More

Longtime University of Kansas head coach Bill Self has signed an amended lifetime contract with the school’s basketball program, according to a press release. The deal is worth approximately $53MM over the next five years, a source tells Jeff Goodman of The Messenger (Twitter link).

Self, who has never coached in the NBA, was mentioned a few years ago as a possible successor for Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. However, he shot down those rumors on multiple occasions and said he had no intention of leaving the Jayhawks — this latest contract agreement confirms that’s still the case.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report looks ahead to 2024 NBA free agency, previewing the potential top stories and attempting to forecast landing spots for the best free agents in the class. Three Clippers stars – Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and James Harden – headline Pincus’ list.
  • The NBA G League announced this week that it has entered into a streaming partnership with Tubi, an ad-supported video-on-demand service. “NBA G League TV” will be the result of the union and will air more than 75 live NBAGL games on Fridays and Saturdays each season, starting tomorrow with the opening night of this year’s Showcase Cup.
  • After initially reporting that veteran NBA guard Shaquille Harrison was on track to finalize a contract with Olimpia Milano, Fabrizio Lorenzi of La Repubblica now says that talks between the two sides have stalled, as Sportando relays.
  • Following up on the report that the NBA is considering expanding its draft from one day to two days, Zach Harper of The Athletic offers his other suggestions for draft-related changes, including moving it to after free agency.
  • Hawks forward Jalen Johnson, Pelicans wing Matt Ryan, and Suns center Drew Eubanks are among 10 players singled out by John Hollinger of The Athletic as names who are “emerging from obscurity” and making themselves worth watching in the early going this season.

Suns Notes: Beal, Booker, Bates-Diop, Goodwin

The Suns didn’t consider exceeding Bradley Beal‘s minutes restriction when Wednesday’s game at Chicago went into overtime, writes Jamal Collier of ESPN. Beal was making his season debut after missing the team’s first seven games with a back injury, so there was no chance he was going to play more than 24 minutes, even with the game in doubt.

“I can be hard-headed and go play 30 minutes when I know I’m not supposed to,” Beal said. “But how will I feel after that? Probably not the greatest. So that’s why I lean on our staff and our doctors to be the voice for me. Because I’ll be hard-headed and go out there and play.”

Beal posted 13 points, four rebounds and four assists in his first regular season contest since being acquired from Washington in an offseason trade. Even on a subpar shooting night that saw him go 3-of-12 from the field, he showed the benefits he can provide for Phoenix’s offense.

“Just somebody else the defense is scared of,” Kevin Durant said. “Somebody who can score at all three levels. Brad going downhill is a problem. So, as much as we can get him going downhill and also just setting him up in iso so he can beat his man will be great for us. Tonight, he just got his feet wet. He’s on a restriction minute-wise, but as he comes off of that he’s going to be more and more confident. We’ve just got to give him the ball more.”

There’s more on the Suns:

  • Devin Booker worked out before Wednesday’s game, but there’s no indication of when he might play again, tweets Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. A report on Wednesday suggested that Booker may be able return from his right calf strain as soon as Friday, but coach Frank Vogel said he’s “making progress, but no firm timetable.”
  • Keita Bates-Diop‘s overtime heroics showed why Vogel has been trusting him as a starter for the past three games, Rankin adds in a full story. The 27-year-old forward, who was added in free agency this summer, sparked the Suns’ late comeback by drilling a three-pointer with 1:06 left in overtime to cut the Bulls’ lead to one point. He also forced DeMar DeRozan to take a difficult shot on Chicago’s final possession.
  • Jordan Goodwin wore a mask in Wednesday’s game after suffering a jaw contusion Sunday in Detroit, Rankin tweets.

Western Notes: Booker, Vassell, Jazz Starters, Jackson

The Suns are optimistic that Devin Booker might return for the team’s upcoming homestand, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports (Twitter video link via The Rally).

As Charania notes, Phoenix has home games on Friday, Sunday and next Wednesday. According to Charania, Friday is a possibility.

Booker has battled three different injuries this fall, with the latest being a right calf strain. He has appeared in just two of the Suns’ eight games thus far in 2023/24.

Fellow guard Bradley Beal made his Suns regular season debut on Wednesday after battling a back injury.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • After previously being listed as doubtful, Spurs guard Devin Vassell returned to action on Wednesday in New York, as first reported by Charania (via Twitter) and later confirmed by the team (Twitter link via Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News). However, Vassell did not return to the starting lineup: second-year guard Malaki Branham will continue in that role for now. Vassell missed the past two games with a left adductor strain.
  • Jazz center Walker Kessler is out at least two weeks with an elbow injury. Instead of replacing him with another big man, head coach Will Hardy decided to make a couple changes to the team’s starting lineup on Wednesday vs. Indiana. Rookie Keyonte George replaced Talen Horton-Tucker at point guard, while second-year wing Ochai Agbaji started at small forward, as Sarah Todd of The Deseret News relays. “Keyonte has played really well,” Hardy said. “I think he’s shown a very quick learning curve on both ends of the floor.” Jordan Clarkson remained the starting shooting guard, with Lauri Markkanen (power forward) and John Collins (center) each sliding up a spot in the frontcourt.
  • G.G. Jackson, who is the youngest player in the NBA, likely won’t see many minutes for the Grizzlies. In fact, he’s only played one minute over their first seven games. However, the second-round pick is expected to have an expanded role with the Memphis Hustle, the Grizzlies’ G League club, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “I kind of got a little bit more lenience, so I got to become comfortable,” said Jackson, who is on a two-way contract.