Chet Holmgren

Western Notes: Williamson, Powell, Holmgren

Zion Williamson has spent more time at the Pelicans’ practice facility than in previous seasons, hoping to avoid the injuries that have plagued his NBA career, Andrew Lopez of ESPN said on Zach Lowe’s podcast (video link).

Williamson only appeared in 29 games last season, mainly due to a hamstring injury, after sitting out the previous season with foot ailments.

He’s been doing more with them than he has in the past but again, this is going to come down to health,” Lopez said. “They’ve been doing some different things. trying to get him ready. I know that’s been a focus for him and his family, getting his lower body ready to play more than 30 games in a season. … something he’s only done once in his NBA career.”

Ideally, Williamson would suit up in at least 65 games, which would make him eligible for postseason awards.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Mavericks big man Dwight Powell is proud of what Team Canada accomplished in the FIBA World Cup, he told Eddie Sefko of Canada not only qualified for the Olympics, but received a bronze medal for beating Team USA in the third-place game. “We have a really good group of guys – more guys than went to the World Cup that played a big role in qualifying us for the World Cup and eventually the Olympics,” Powell said. “We had a really good, committed group of guys that had a lot of pride and got the job done. It was a long time coming. And then to be able to medal in the World Cup at the same time is huge. So it was a great summer.”
  • There’s plenty for the much improved Thunder to look forward to in the upcoming season, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman, who lists 23 things for fans to get excited about. At the top of the list is Chet Holmgren‘s debut after missing last season with a foot injury.
  • The Mavericks are interested in Buddy Hield but there hasn’t been much movement in trade talks with the Pacers. Get the details here.

Poll: Early Rookie Of The Year Pick

Scoot Henderson declared this week that he intends to take home the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award in 2024, and he should be in a good position to do so.

Assuming the Trail Blazers trade Damian Lillard before the season begins, Henderson is primed to play a key role in the backcourt for a Portland team that figures to take a step back and focus more on developing its young cornerstones than vying for a high seed in the Western Conference. In that scenario, this year’s No. 3 overall pick would have the ball in his hands a lot and would be given the opportunity to take on considerable scoring and play-making responsibilites as a rookie.

Unsurprisingly though, betting site doesn’t consider Henderson the Rookie of the Year favorite. That spot belongs to No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama, widely considered the best prospect to enter the NBA since LeBron James.

Like LeBron in 2003, Wembanyama is considered a safe bet to make an immediate impact. While San Antonio will likely manage his workload, especially in back-to-back scenarios, he should play a significant frontcourt role on a retooling Spurs team that intends to build around him for years to come. It’s possible Wembanyama won’t match Henderson’s scoring numbers as a rookie, but he has a better chance to be a two-way force in his first NBA season.

While Wembanyama (-150) and Henderson (+250) are the two Rookie of the Year frontrunners, considers Thunder big man Chet Holmgren (+325) a legitimate contender too. The No. 2 overall pick in 2022, Holmgren missed his entire rookie season due to a foot injury, putting him in position to essentially get a second rookie year in 2023/24.

Holmgren likely won’t be asked to carry much of the offensive load for an Oklahoma City team that has plenty of scoring options, but his ability to protect the rim and block shots could make him an ideal fit for the Thunder, who could have used that sort of player last season (they ranked 22nd in blocks per game).

Holmgren’s year of NBA seasoning off the court could work in his favor, as could a strong year from the Thunder, who came one play-in game away from a postseason spot last season. Playing a key role on a playoff team helped swing the Rookie of the Year vote in Scottie Barnes‘ favor in 2022, for instance.

While views them as longer shots, other rookies who were drafted in the lottery in June, including Hornets forward Brandon Miller and the Thompson twins, could make a run at Rookie of the Year honors too.

We want to know what you think. Who’s your early pick for Rookie of the Year in 2023/24? Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Northwest Notes: Holmgren, Thunder, Scott, Dunn

Thunder big man Chet Holmgren admits that spending an entire season rehabbing a foot injury was tough, as he told Sam Yip of Hoops Hype.

“Anything like that is gonna be challenging for anybody, but I feel like I’ve stayed the course really well, and I didn’t let my focus, attention to detail or confidence waver,” he said. “It was a challenging year, but I feel like I made the most out of it.”

Holmgren could battle Victor Wembanyama and the rest of the 2023 rookie class for the Rookie of the Year award, since he sat out last season. However, he’s only interested in team goals.

“My focus is on helping this team win games,” he said. Things like Rookie of the Year, and everything else are not important, so I’m just focused on helping the team. Everything else follows the team’s success.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Despite all the assets that Thunder executive Sam Presti has hoarded in recent years, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman doubts he’ll cash a bunch of them in to land a star. Mussatto believes OKC will most likely focus on retaining Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams and Holmgren on rookie scale extensions when they’re eligible, as the team did with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
  • The Timberwolves have named Ernest Scott as head coach of the Iowa Wolves, the team’s G League affiliate, according to a team press release. Nathan Bubes has been named an assistant coach for Iowa, while Michael DiBenedetto will have to dual title of assistant coach and director of operations for the G League team. Scott replaces Jeff Newton, who was previously promoted to assistant coach/quality control coach for the NBA team.
  • Kris Dunn could begin the season in the Jazz‘s starting lineup, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News opines. Todd views Dunn as Utah’s best point guard. However, with Talen Horton-Tucker, Collin Sexton and rookie Keyonte George also in the mix, head coach Will Hardy could go a number of different ways with that key position. Dunn signed a multi-year contract with the Jazz in March.

Thunder’s Williams, Holmgren Among Players Joining USA Select Team

Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren of the Thunder and Jalen Green of the Rockets are among the young players joining the USA Select Team ahead of the upcoming FIBA World Cup, league sources tell Shams Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Those three players will be eligible to travel with Team USA to the Philippines and could potentially be added to the 12-man national team roster in the event of an injury, per The Athletic.

Williams, Holmgren and Green will be joined by Pistons guard Cade Cunningham and Kings forward Keegan Murray for Team USA’s training camp in a couple of weeks, where they will practice and scrimmage against the main roster, according to Charania and Vardon. As many as 12 players could end up being named to the Select Team.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported (via Twitter) that Cunningham would attend the training camp. The 2021 No. 1 overall pick was actually offered a spot on the senior team’s roster, according to Wojnarowski, but decided to forgo the opportunity in order to focus on the 2023/24 season. Cunningham was limited to 12 games last season due to a shin injury which required surgery.

Williams, the runner-up for the ’22/23 Rookie of the Year award, is coming off a stellar first season with OKC, averaging 14.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.3 APG and 1.4 SPG on .521/.356/.812 shooting in 75 games (30.3 MPG). Holmgren, the No. 2 overall pick last year, missed the entire season due to foot surgery, but he’s healthy again and recently played during Las Vegas Summer League.

Green, the No. 2 overall pick in 2021, averaged 22.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 3.7 APG on .416/.338/.786 shooting in 76 games (34.2 MPG) for Houston last season. Murray was the fourth pick of last year’s draft. The former Iowa product averaged 12.2 PPG and 4.6 RPG while shooting 41.1% from three-point range during his All-Rookie First Team campaign.

The Americans will start training camp for the World Cup on August 3 in Las Vegas, with their first game scheduled later that month in the Philippines.

Thunder Notes: Holmgren, Mann, Williams, Presti

No matter what else happened for the Thunder, the highlight of Summer League was seeing Chet Holmgren back on the court, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. After missing all of last season with a Lisfranc injury to his right foot, the No. 2 pick in the 2022 draft showed off his potential in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, averaging 16.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists in four games.

While he looked rusty in some areas, such as committing 15 turnovers and shooting 1-of-9 from three-point range, Mussatto notes that the most encouraging part of Holmgren’s game was watching him protect the basket. He averaged 3.5 blocks per game and used his 7’1″ frame to alter numerous other shots.

“Conditioning wise, there’s millions of hurdles you have to go through in the process of returning to play,” Holmgren said after his Summer League return. “Not being able to play a game for a year, it’s really hard to test and see where you are. … It’s definitely something I have to continue to work on, and I’ll be ready by the time training camp starts. I feel like I’ll have myself prepared to be in in-season shape.”

There’s more on the Thunder:

  • Tre Mann was shut down in Las Vegas due to an avulsion fracture in his right middle finger, but it’s not believed to be a long-term concern, Mussatto adds. The Thunder expect the backup point guard to resume basketball activities by the end of July.
  • The selection of Jaylin Williams in the second round of last year’s draft will allow Holmgren to spend more time at power forward and avoid the physical contact that comes with playing center, notes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Williams is a rugged 6’10” big man who led the NBA in drawing charges last season and shot 40.7% from beyond the arc. “It’s good because it allows my length to be found in the game in different ways,” Holmgren said of playing alongside Williams. “When he’s at the five, he’s in (screen) coverage more, and I’m able to kind of move around and roam the court a little more on defense, be the low man in help and be able to come over for blocks if somebody gets beat or use my length in the passing lanes and as an on-ball defender.”
  • General manager Sam Presti didn’t add anyone this summer who projects as a long-term keeper, Slater observes in the same piece. Presti opted to use his cap room to collect more draft assets while taking on the contracts of Davis Bertans, Victor Oladipo and Rudy Gay. Slater views Oladipo and Gay as buyout options, while Bertans may reach that status eventually with just $5MM guaranteed for 2024/25. Presti also traded for former first-round picks Usman Garuba and TyTy Washington, but Slater doubts that they’ll see much playing time considering the talent that’s already in place.

Northwest Notes: George, Nuggets, Lillard, Holmgren

Rookie Jazz shooting guard Keyonte George, the No. 16 pick in this summer’s draft out of Baylor, injured his ankle midway through a Wednesday Summer League contest against the Nuggets, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News.

There is no official diagnosis of the ailment as of this writing, but there’s also no indication to suggest it will adversely impact his status for training camp in the fall.

“It’s a gut punch for us, but the absolute biggest gut punch for him, especially with how well he was playing,” Utah’s Summer League team head coach Evan Bradds said. “It’s terrible, it sucks. Whenever you see somebody go down it sucks no matter where you’re at, what you’re doing.”

Sources have informed Todd that George won’t be available for the rest of Summer League.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The reigning champion Nuggets‘ Summer League run has been a bit of mixed bag. The team has gone 0-3 thus far in Las Vegas, but the performance of Peyton Watson in particular has given president Calvin Booth hope that he can help replace the output of Bruce Brown, who left Denver in free agency, per Parker Gabriel of The Denver Post. “Really excited about Peyton Watson,” Booth said. “I think we have some guys that can come in and try to replace some of what Bruce did.”
  • As Damian Lillard trade chatter continues, Pelicans executive David Griffin weighed in on how the Trail Blazers can take advantage of their All-Star’s demand to be moved, as Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald relays. The Heat are known to be Lillard’s preferred destination. “I want people to invent as many different scenarios as they can and put them out into the universe because it gives you leverage,” Griffin told Amin Elhassan and Justin Termine of SiriusXM NBA Radio (Twitter video link). “If there’s actually a chance that you would trade him somewhere other than Miami, you get a much better deal.”
  • A right foot surgery postponed Thunder lottery pick Chet Holmgren‘s NBA debut for an entire season. Ahead of 2023/24, the 7’1″ big man seems to be gearing up for an impactful rookie run, says Mark Medina of Sportsnaut.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Holmgren, Micic, Edwards

Since Damian Lillard made his trade request on Saturday, it has been made clear by various reporters that he’s focused on landing with the Heat, but that the Trail Blazers don’t seem overly enthusiastic about what Miami can offer. The belief is that if the Blazers are going to make a deal with Miami, they would want to involve a third team in order to secure more assets that appeal to them, likely in place of Tyler Herro, who would be redundant in Portland’s crowded backcourt.

In an ESPN appearance (YouTube link), Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed that the Blazers are “not impressed” by the assets that the Heat have to offer, adding that Portland has been fielding calls from various teams around the NBA who are inquiring to see what it might take to land Lillard. While the Blazers could potentially get a stronger package from another team, it also remains to be seen how the star guard might respond if he’s sent somewhere he doesn’t want to be, which may give suitors outside of Miami pause about putting their best assets on the table.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter video link), the Blazers have explored multi-team trade scenarios that would send Lillard to the Heat and net Portland more draft assets than Miami has to offer directly.

“There are three- or four-team scenarios in a potential deal with the Heat that would potentially net the Blazers several first-round draft picks,” Charania said during an appearance on The Rally.

While Charania didn’t offer any further details, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report tries his hand at putting together some hypothetical multi-team Lillard deals that he believes are at least somewhat plausible.

As we await more signs of forward progress in the Lillard talks, here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • After missing his entire rookie season due to a Lisfranc injury in his right foot, Thunder big man Chet Holmgren made his 2023 Summer League debut in Salt Lake City on Monday. As Tim MacMahon of ESPN writes, last year’s No. 2 overall pick looked a little rusty, but ended up with 15 points, nine rebounds, and four blocks — more importantly, the foot felt “great,” according to Holmgren. “It’s like the injury never happened, other than everything I had to go through obviously,” he said. “But at this point, if you erased my memory, I wouldn’t know that anything had happened to my foot other than the scars from surgery.”
  • Numerous EuroLeague veterans have flopped in the NBA, but Vasilije Micic will try to buck that trend with the Thunder, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes. Only 10 Europeans have debuted in the NBA at age 29 or older and a majority had limited success. Micic agreed to a three-year, $23.5MM contract over the weekend.
  • With Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards set to sign a massive new maximum-salary extension, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic takes a look at some of the on- and off-court responsibilities that will come with Edwards’ new deal.

Northwest Notes: Reid, Lillard, Wallace, Holmgren

The Timberwolvesdecision to re-sign Naz Reid before the start of free agency stemmed from an edict by owner Glen Taylor, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “Get it done,” Taylor reportedly told his front office after meeting with partners and eventual owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez. They also talked to president of basketball operations Tim Connelly and head coach Chris Finch, who agreed there was too much risk in letting Reid reach the open market.

The 23-year-old center is one of the team’s best developmental projects and has become a valuable member of the reserve unit. Krawczynski notes that Reid was given a player option in the third year of his $42MM contract in case he becomes dissatisfied with his progress and playing time with Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert on the roster. Krawczynski adds that the Spurs and Kings could have been threats to sign Reid because of their available cap space and their ability to offer him a larger role.

Negotiations with Reid began shortly after Connelly joined the front office last summer, Krawczynski states. Reid worked out in Minnesota during the offseason and reported to camp with an improved perimeter game that enabled him to be effective alongside either Towns or Gobert.

The Wolves agreed to pay Reid more than they had originally expected, which Krawczynski notes will lead to difficult decisions in the future. Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels are both likely to receive extensions this summer, which will make it tough to keep three high-salaried centers on the roster for the long term.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • If the Heat acquire Damian Lillard, it will probably be the last significant move the team can make for a while, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer writes in an examination of the trade market for the Trail Blazers star. A deal with Portland would likely require Miami to give up most of its remaining assets, which include first-round picks in 2028 and 2030 and pick swaps in 2027 and 2029, along with Tyler Herro, Nikola Jovic and Jaime Jaquez. Either Kyle Lowry or Duncan Robinson will have to be involved if a trade happens after July 1, O’Connor adds. O’Connor also looks at a potential deal with the Nets, but states that there aren’t many other teams in need of a point guard who have the assets to make a serious offer for Lillard.
  • The Thunder were attracted to Cason Wallace because of his unselfish approach to the game, according to Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman. General manager Sam Presti said he noticed that quality even when Wallace was playing in all-star contests. “He plays no-agenda basketball,” Presti said. “… All players have stories, and I think his story is a great one because in today’s world in, basketball, there’s so many people saying, ‘You’ve got to get more shots, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to be more out in front, you’ve got to draw more attention to yourself.’ This guy got drafted in the top 10 by just being an incredible team player.”
  • Presti said Chet Holmgren continues to make progress in his recovery from foot surgery and there’s hope that he’ll be able to play for the Thunder during Summer League, according to Cody Taylor of The Rookie Wire.

Northwest Notes: Micic, Williams, Holmgren, Wolves, Blazers’ Pick

Former EuroLeague MVP Vasilije Micic is in Oklahoma City to discuss a potential contract with the Thunder, Aris Barkas of reports. Negotiations can commence after the draft, Barkas adds.

Micic, who plays for Anadolu Efes, hired the Wasserman Media Group as his new representative in March. Micic, whose draft rights are owned by the Thunder, is a two-time Euroleague Final Four MVP. However, it’s unclear whether the Thunder would have a role for the 29-year-old guard, whose rights could be traded if he wants to make the jump to the NBA.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Coming off an excellent rookie season, Jalen Williams will play in Summer League games for the Thunder in Salt Lake City next month, Thunder reporter Rylan Stiles tweets. Ousmane Dieng will also play and it’s “very possible” Chet Holmgren, who missed all of last season with a foot injury, could participate.
  • The Timberwolves hosted six prospects in a pre-draft workout on Monday, the team tweets. They took a closer look at Tosan Evbuomwan (Princeton), Jazian Gortman (Overtime Elite), D’Moi Hodge (Missouri), Gabe Kalscheur (Iowa State), Mojave King (G League Ignite) and Jalen Slawson (Furman).
  • Rumors have been flying that the Trail Blazers will deal their lottery pick. Bill Oram of The Oregonian argues that the Blazers need to hold onto the No. 3 overall selection and choose their next star, regardless of whether Damian Lillard remains with the team or requests a trade.

And-Ones: Sarr, Sharavjamts, 2022 Re-Draft, Bradbury

French big man Alex Sarr is joining the Perth Wildcats of Australia’s National Basketball League for the 2023/24 season as part of the NBL’s Next Stars program, he tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

A promising young prospect who began his playing career with Real Madrid’s youth team in 2019, Sarr has spent the last two years with Overtime Elite. The 18-year-old – who currently projects as a top-20 pick in 2024, per Givony – told ESPN that he was seeking a “new challenge” before becoming draft-eligible next year.

“The OTE experience was great,” Sarr said. “I had all the resources in the world and improved a lot the past two years. I need to take the next step with my game now; the NBL is what I need.”

As Givony observes, the NBL’s Next Stars program has been a popular choice for top French prospects in recent years. Ousmane Dieng played for the New Zealand Breakers before being drafted 11th overall by Oklahoma City in 2022, while Rayan Rupert – a projected first-rounder in 2023 – spent this past season with the Breakers.

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

  • Dayton forward Mike Sharavjamts, who declared for the draft following his freshman year, is leaning toward turning pro but has entered the NCAA’s transfer portal so that he has an opportunity to explore his options if he decides to continue his college career, reports Givony (via Twitter). Sharavjamts is among the prospects attending this weekend’s G League Elite Camp, which should give him a better idea of where he stands in the 2023 draft class.
  • Thunder forward Jalen Williams and Jazz center Walker Kessler are among the biggest risers in a re-draft of the 2022 draft conducted by Sam Vecenie of The Athletic. Williams jumps from No. 12 to No. 2 in Vecenie’s exercise, while Kessler moves from No. 22 to No. 9. Vecenie remains high enough on Chet Holmgren to keep the Thunder big man at No. 3 despite his lost rookie season.
  • Veteran agent Kevin Bradbury, who represents players like Patrick Beverley and Robert Williams, has agreed to join LIFT Sports Management, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Bradbury will become the head of basketball for the agency, which was founded by Donnie McGrath and former NBA sharpshooter Mike Miller.