A.J. Lawson

Southwest Notes: Sengun, Zion, Mavs, Lawson, Grizzlies

He hasn’t gotten the same sort of press this season as Rookie of the Year candidates Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren, but going up against Wembanyama on Tuesday, Rockets big man Alperen Sengun provided a reminder that there’s another young center on the rise in the Western Conference.

As Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required) details, Sengun didn’t just get the best of Wembanyama on Tuesday — he dominated him, pouring in a career-best 45 points to go along with 16 rebounds and five steals, both personal season highs. After the game, he admitted that he was motivated to go up against the Spurs‘ young star, who went scoreless in the second half and had just 10 points on the night.

“I didn’t play that good last game against him, I can say,” Sengun said. “And I didn’t see that much double-teams. They just leave me one-on-one with Wemby. I just did what I do.
When you score, and score and score at some point, you get some emotion. It was great for me. He is so tall, he’s really tall, but he’s not that strong, yet. So, I was going at his chest and put him under the rim.”

Sengun, who is still just 21 years old (and younger than Holmgren), has taken his game to new heights in his third NBA season, averaging 21.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in 32.4 minutes per game across 60 starts. He’ll be eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2024 offseason.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Asked on Tuesday if he could see himself participating in the NBA’s annual slam dunk contest at some point, Pelicans star Zion Williamson didn’t rule out the possibility. “I gotta do my part and make the All-Star game,” Williamson said with a smile (Twitter video link via Pelicans Film Room). “If I’m in the All-Star game, I’ll do the dunk contest. But if I’m not, not doing it.”
  • On Tuesday, for a third straight time, Luka Doncic had a triple-double and scored 37+ points in a game the Mavericks lost. It’s a troubling trend for the Mavs, who are running out of time to prove they’re better than they’ve shown as of late, according to Tim Cato of The Athletic and Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Dallas has – by far – the NBA’s worst defensive rating since the All-Star break, and Doncic isn’t sure how to reverse that trend. “I don’t know, honestly,” he said. “We know we got to fix it.”
  • Mavericks wing A.J. Lawson had a hard time playing it cool when he found out he was being promoted to the team’s standard roster on a new four-year contract that will guarantee him $1MM for the rest of this season, writes Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com. “I was trying to keep my emotions down at the gym. I didn’t want anybody to see me super-excited or tear up or anything,” Lawson said. “But I got to the crib and I just said ‘Thank God.’ And I screamed off my balcony. Probably the whole uptown area heard it. It was a great feeling and definitely something I’m going to remember the rest of my life.”
  • It has been over a year since the Grizzlies announced on the same day (March 4, 2023) that Brandon Clarke had suffered a torn Achilles and that Ja Morant would be away from the team after a video on social media showed him brandishing a firearm in a Colorado nightclub. As Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes, the impact of those events carried over to 2023/24 and were factors in derailing the team’s season before it really got going.

Contract Details: Lawson, K. Brown, Forrest, Barlow, Bouyea, More

The Mavericks used a portion of their non-taxpayer mid-level exception to give A.J. Lawson a $1MM rest-of-season salary and a four-year contract when they promoted him to their standard roster, Hoops Rumors has learned.

While Lawson’s 2023/24 salary of $1MM – which is well above his prorated minimum – is guaranteed, he’s not necessarily assured of any money beyond this season. His minimum salaries for the following three years are fully non-guaranteed. If he plays out the full contract, the Mavericks wing would earn approximately $7.91MM.

Here are more details on recently signed contracts around the NBA:

  • The three-year contract that Kendall Brown signed with the Pacers features a starting salary of $1.1MM, which came out of the team’s room exception. This season is the first year that the room exception can be used to sign players for up to three years instead of just two, and Indiana took advantage of that flexibility to give Brown non-guaranteed minimum salaries in 2024/25 and ’25/26, with a team option on that final year. He’ll receive a partial guarantee of $250K if he makes the Pacers’ regular season roster in the fall.
  • The new contracts for Hawks guard Trent Forrest and Spurs forward Dominick Barlow are just rest-of-season, minimum-salary deals, which suggests that those two players just got standard conversions from their two-way contracts rather than negotiating new terms. Forrest will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, while Barlow will be eligible for restricted free agency.
  • As expected, both Shake Milton (Knicks) and Mike Muscala (Thunder) signed rest-of-season, minimum-salary contracts with their new clubs.
  • Like fellow San Antonio newcomer RaiQuan Gray, Jamaree Bouyea signed a two-year, two-way deal with the Spurs, so his new contract runs through the 2024/25 season.
  • The two-way deals recently signed by Jeff Dowtin (Sixers), Jacob Gilyard (Nets), Jacob Toppin (Knicks), Ish Wainright (Suns), Quenton Jackson (Pacers), Harry Giles (Lakers), and Dylan Windler (Hawks) are all one-year (rest-of-season) contracts, so those players will be eligible to become restricted free agents this summer.

Mavericks’ A.J. Lawson Promoted To Standard Roster

4:55pm: Lawson’s promotion to the 15-man roster is official, the Mavericks confirmed in a press release.

3:05pm: Two-way Mavericks shooting guard A.J. Lawson is being elevated to a standard roster deal, his agent, Elias Sbiet of Tandem Sports + Entertainment, informs Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Lawson has already appeared in 28 contests with Dallas this season. The 23-year-old is averaging 3.8 points, 1.2 rebounds and 0.5 assists in 8.3 minutes per game. For the Mavericks’ NBAGL affiliate club, the Texas Legends, he’s averaging 20.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 1.9 APG.

Dallas has one open spot on its 15-man standard roster, so the team won’t need to make any corresponding move on that end to accommodate Lawson.

Promoting Lawson will open up a two-way slot, which the Mavs will have until Monday at the latest to fill. Greg Brown and Brandon Williams occupy the club’s other two-way roster slots.

A 6’6″ swingman, Lawson went undrafted out of South Carolina in 2021 and joined the Hawks’ NBAGL affiliate, the College Park Skyhawks, in 2021/22.

In ’22/23, he signed a pair of short-lived two-way contracts with the Timberwolves. He then inked a two-way deal with Dallas and returned to the club in the 2023 offseason.

Mavs Waive Tyler Dorsey, Sign A.J. Lawson To Two-Way Deal

3:35pm: The moves are now official, the Mavericks announced (via Twitter).

12:25pm: The Mavericks are waiving Tyler Dorsey, who is on a two-way contract, and plan to sign A.J. Lawson to fill the open two-way spot, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Lawson, a 6’6″ wing, went undrafted out of South Carolina in 2021. He signed a training camp deal with the Hawks last fall, but was waived before the season started and spent his first year as a pro with the College Park Skyhawks, Atlanta’s G League affiliate.

The 22-year-old has had a busy 2022. He attended a free agent mini-camp with the Mavs over the summer and then played for their Summer League squad. At the end of July, the Wolves signed him to a two-way deal, waived him before the season started, and then re-signed him to another two-way contract in mid-November.

However, he was waived again on December 6 to make room for Matt Ryan, and thus became a free agent. Lawson has only made one NBA appearance (for two minutes), so he’s technically still a rookie, but he has been a G League fixture over the past two seasons and obviously the Mavs liked what they saw from him during Summer League action as well.

Dorsey, the 41st pick of the 2017 draft, played 104 games over two seasons with the Hawks and Grizzlies from 2017-19. The former Oregon star averaged 6.7 points and 2.3 rebounds before heading overseas in 2019.

The 6’5″ shooting guard had strong showings for Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv and Greece’s Olympiacos before returning stateside over the summer and inking his two-way deal with the Mavs. He only appeared in three NBA games for Dallas, but he put up big numbers for the Texas Legends, the Mavs’ G League affiliate, averaging 24.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG and 2.2 APG on .466/.467/.842 shooting.

According to Aris Barkas of Eurohoops (Twitter link), Dorsey is expected to draw significant interest from EuroLeague clubs, including Olympiacos, once he becomes a free agent in a couple days.

Timberwolves Sign Matt Ryan To Two-Way Deal, Waive Lawson

DECEMBER 8: The Timberwolves have put out a press release officially announcing that they’ve signed Ryan to a two-way contract and waived Lawson.

DECEMBER 6: The Timberwolves are signing forward Matt Ryan to a two-way contract, Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweet. Minnesota will waive A.J. Lawson to make room for Ryan, Krawczynski adds in another tweet.

Ryan was waived by the Lakers last week.

Minnesota ranks 28th in 3-point shooting at 32.6% and hopes that Ryan can help in that area. He joined the Lakers on a non-guaranteed minimum-salary contract in September and earned a spot on the regular season roster.

Ryan made 13-of-35 attempts 3-point attempts (37.1%) for L.A. this season but only converted 2-of-14 two-pointers. In total, he averaged 3.9 PPG in 12 appearances (10.8 MPG).

Ryan went undrafted out of Chattanooga in 2020 and eventually landed with the Grand Rapids Gold in the G League in 2021/22. He made his NBA debut with the Celtics this past spring.

Lawson appeared in just one game for the Timberwolves after signing a two-way contract in mid-November. He was playing for the Hawks’ G League affiliate prior to inking that contract.

It’s the second time Minnesota has waived Lawson. He was previously signed on a two-way deal in July. The Wolves initially waived him to add Luka Garza in mid-October.

Timberwolves Sign A.J. Lawson To Two-Way Deal

NOVEMBER 16: The Timberwolves have officially signed Lawson to a two-way contract, the team announced today in a press release.

NOVEMBER 14: The Timberwolves are signing forward A.J. Lawson on a two-way contract, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Lawson has averaged 22.3 points for the G League’s College Park Skyhawks, the Hawks’ affiliate. He is expected to join Minnesota for Wednesday’s game against Orlando.

Minnesota has an empty two-way slot and won’t have to make a corresponding roster move.

The Timberwolves previously signed Lawson on a two-way deal in July. However, they waived him to add Luka Garza in mid-October. At the time, Eric Paschall occupied the other two-way slot but Minnesota soon waived him as well.

Lawson excelled during the Las Vegas Summer League for the Mavericks, averaging 15.6 PPG and 6.0 RPG in five games.

Lawson, a 6’6” guard, was waived by the Hawks during training camp in 2021. He then averaged 11.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 1.8 APG in 31.8 MPG for the Skyhawks while appearing in 33 games.

Lawson went undrafted that summer despite putting up 16.6 PPG and 4.1 RPG with a .351 3PT% in 21 games (31.3 MPG) as a junior for South Carolina.

Timberwolves Waive Dozier, Elleby, Lawson

The Timberwolves reached the 15-man roster limit by waiving guard PJ Dozier, forward CJ Elleby and guard A.J. Lawson, according to a team press release.

Dozier was signed to an Exhibit 10 contract last month. He spent the last three seasons with the Nuggets, where he averaged 6.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game in 97 games (six starts).

Elleby received an Exhibit 10 contract in early August and appeared in two preseason games. He spent the last two seasons with the  Trail Blazers. Last season, he averaged 5.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game in 58 games.

Lawson held one of the team’s two-way contracts but Minnesota chose to give big man Luka Garza his two-way spot. Lawson signed his two-way deal in July. The Garza signing was officially announced in a press release on Saturday.

Lawson saw action in three preseason games for the Wolves and also played for the Mavericks’ summer league squad, for which he averaged 15.6 PPG and 6.0 RPG in five games.

Given Dozier and Elleby’s NBA experience, it wouldn’t be a surprise if either gets claimed. Dozier returned to basketball activities this summer after tearing his ACL last December.

Wolves Converting Luka Garza To Two-Way Deal

10:50pm: Lawson will be waived to make room for Garza, sources tell Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link). Minnesota was high on Lawson, but didn’t want to lose Garza, per Krawczynski.

10:26pm: The Timberwolves are signing center Luka Garza to a two-way deal, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

While Charania says “signing,” Garza is already under contract with the team, so the Wolves are technically converting his Exhibit 10 contract into a two-way deal. Minnesota’s two-way slots are currently occupied by A.J. Lawson and Eric Paschall, so they’ll need to waive one of them in order to convert Garza.

Garza, 23, was selected by the Pistons with the 52nd overall pick in the 2021 draft and spent his rookie season in Detroit, averaging 5.8 PPG and 3.1 RPG in 32 games (12.2 MPG). He was a standout for the Motor City Cruise, Detroit’s G League affiliate, putting up 20.6 PPG and 9.5 RPG in 16 games (29.8 MPG) and earning a spot on the All-NBAGL Third Team.

The former Iowa star’s contract with the Pistons was for two years, but the 2022/23 season was a team option, which Detroit declined, making him an unrestricted free agent. Garza signed an Exhibit 10 deal with the Wolves in August.

Wolves head coach Chris Finch recently stated that he likes what Garza has brought to the team during training camp.

He’s the perfect system fit for us. Great acquisition by our front office,” Finch said. “He’s a guy I think can really grow into our system here. He can stretch the floor and he can score around the basket. That’s a great combo. Not a lot of bigs can do that.”

Timberwolves Sign A.J. Lawson To Two-Way Contract

JULY 26: The Timberwolves have officially signed Lawson to his two-way deal, per NBA.com’s transactions log.

JULY 19: The Timberwolves are signing free agent wing A.J. Lawson to a two-way contract, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Lawson excelled during the Las Vegas Summer League for the Mavericks, averaging 15.6 PPG and 6.0 RPG in five games.

Lawson, a 6’6” guard, was waived by the Hawks during training camp last fall. He then averaged 11.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 1.8 APG in 31.8 MPG for the College Park Skyhawks, Atlanta’s G League affiliate, while appearing in 33 games.

Lawson went undrafted in 2021 despite putting up 16.6 PPG and 4.1 RPG with a .351 3PT% in 21 games (31.3 MPG) as a junior for South Carolina in 2020/21.

Both of Minnesota’s two-way slots are empty, though the team has a two-way qualifying offer out to Nathan Knight.

Dion Waiters, Tyreke Evans Among FAs Attending Mavs’ Mini-Camp

The Mavericks are hosting a free agent mini-camp this week that will have over 30 players in attendance, our JD Shaw reports (via Twitter).

The list of participants includes a handful with extensive NBA experience, including veteran guards Dion Waiters, Tyreke Evans, and Langston Galloway.

Jalen Lecque, Chris Clemons, Emanuel Terry, Grant Riller, Jay Huff, and Tyler Hall are among the other mini-camp invitees who have played in at least one regular season NBA game. A.J. Lawson, Andrew Andrews, Isaiah Brown, Justin Gorham, and Sekou Wiggs are some of the participants without NBA experience (Twitter links).

Teams are permitted to carry up to 20 players during the offseason, giving them some flexibility to take fliers on veterans or youngsters who could come to training camp on non-guaranteed contracts and compete for a 15-man roster spot.

It’s possible one or more of the players at Dallas’ mini-camp this week will make a strong enough impression to earn a camp invite. As Shaw notes, some of the mini-camp participants could also be invited to join the Mavericks’ Summer League team next month.

It’s worth noting that even after agreeing to trade four players for Christian Wood, the Mavs don’t project to have a ton of open 15-man roster spots for 2022/23. Dallas will have nine players on guaranteed salaries, plus Maxi Kleber and Frank Ntilikina on non-guaranteed contracts. Jalen Brunson and Theo Pinson are free agents, but the team reportedly wants to bring back both. If all of those players return, it would leave just two openings on the Mavs’ standard regular season roster.