Dalano Banton

Northwest Notes: Wolves Ownership, Banton, Williams, Jazz

The 56-25 Timberwolves, battling for the No. 1 seed in the West, have emerged as one of the best teams in the league this season. But Minnesota’s fraught ownership situation has suddenly taken center stage in the club’s best season over the last 20 years, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

As the Wolves look to advance beyond the first round of the postseason for just the second time ever, the grievance between majority owner Glen Taylor and minority owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore has uncomfortably remained persistent. The two sides seem destined for mediation or arbitration, and Krawcyznski believes their very public dispute could linger far beyond the end of the 2024 postseason.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Trail Blazers point guard Dalano Banton is doing the most to maximize his play with Portland, per Libaan Osman of The Toronto Star. “I think everyone wants the chance to show what they can do and make a name for themselves,” Banton said. “I just looked at it that way. I know I’ve been sitting on the bench for three years in this league, I know that time was of the essence in my third year.” Osman notes that Portland is expected to exercise its $2.2MM team option on Banton’s contract. Thanks to injuries to many of the Trail Blazers guards who are ahead of him in the team’s rotation, Banton has been averaging 16.7 PPG on .418/.339/.777 shooting in his 29 games with the team, along with 4.8 RPG, 3.5 APG and 0.9 SPG.
  • Center Robert Williams III played just six contests with the Trail Blazers before tearing his right knee ligament in November, which required a season-ending surgery. He spoke with reporters this week for the first time since then, writes Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report. “It was pretty tough,” Williams said. “But it was eye-opening. I got a chance to work on stuff while I was put down for a minute.”
  • The rebuilding Jazz have been immersed in something of a half-hearted tank since Danny Ainge began offloading Utah’s franchise cornerstones, but the team hasn’t always been making the right decisions with its personnel-building thus far, opines Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Northwest Notes: Murray, Edwards, Holiday, Hayward, Banton

A Northwest division showdown in Denver on Wednesday night will go a long way toward determining which team controls the No. 1 seed in this year’s Western Conference playoffs. The Nuggets and Timberwolves will enter the evening with matching 55-24 records and only three games left to play.

Both teams will be on the second end of a back-to-back set. On Tuesday, the Nuggets picked up a 16-point win in Utah, with Jamal Murray scoring 28 points in just 27 minutes of action in his second game back following a seven-game injury absence. Murray is still on a minutes restriction, but looked fresh in the fourth quarter when Denver needed him most, writes Bennett Durando of The Denver Post.

“Seven games off will do that for you,” Murray told reporters in his post-game media session. “So I feel good. It’s just good to get a flow out there. It’s more conditioning. Your breathing and muscle fatigue throughout the game. … Felt good, comfortable and just ready to play.”

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, the Timberwolves kept pace in the race for No. 1 by registering a 130-121 victory over Washington. It was a memorable night for Anthony Edwards, who scored a career-high 51 points while also dishing seven assists. After the win, Edwards credited head coach Chris Finch for making sure he didn’t let up against one of the NBA’s worst teams.

“He put me in the office two, three days ago and said, ‘Look man, we’ve got this Washington game, and we need to win it, need to come ready to play and you can’t treat it like any other game,'” Edwards said (story via ESPN).

The Timberwolves hold the tiebreaker edge over the Nuggets, so if they can pick up a win tonight, their magic number for the top seed in the West will be down to just one.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Although Nuggets head coach Michael Malone was noncommittal on Tuesday when asked if Justin Holiday will be part of his playoff rotation, he indicated he would be comfortable leaning on the veteran swingman, Durando writes for The Denver Post. “I trust him 100%,” Malone said. “He’s a veteran. He’s been around the league for a long time, and he’s proven in the one year with us, he’s proven himself to be trustworthy. Disciplined. Stays ready. Makes open shots. Guards. He’s done everything that’s been asked of him. For a while, he was a guy that would play if there was an injury, and then for the last month or so he’s been a rotation player for us.”
  • The Thunder likely envisioned Gordon Hayward being part of their playoff rotation when they acquired him from Charlotte in February, but it has been a rough adjustment period for the veteran forward, who has averaged just 4.5 points in 16.5 minutes per game in his 23 appearances since the trade. As Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman writes, Hayward is still trying to get comfortable in his new reduced role. “Obviously would be probably better if I was here at the beginning of the year with everybody,” Hayward said. “Every team across the league will tell you that midseason trades are difficult to get everybody adjusted to everybody. Gotta work with what you’re given.”
  • After the Raptors declined to issue him a qualifying offer last June and the Celtics didn’t find room in the rotation for him in the first half of the season, Dalano Banton‘s NBA future appeared tenuous. However, as Jared Weiss of The Athletic details, Banton has enjoyed a career renaissance with the Trail Blazers, averaging 16.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 3.5 APG in 28 games (28.5 MPG) since being sent to Portland in a salary-dump deal at the trade deadline. The Blazers hold a minimum-salary team option for 2024/25 on Banton, who says he “learned a lot” as a reserve in Boston earlier this season.

Raptors Notes: Boucher, Olynyk, Poeltl, Quickley, Banton

Entering Thursday’s contest in Phoenix, Raptors big man Chris Boucher hadn’t played more than 12 minutes in a game since January. However, he scored 11 points in nearly 24 minutes of action vs. the Suns, and after Toronto quickly fell behind by double-digits in the opening minutes in Portland on Saturday, another opportunity emerged for Boucher, who helped lead a fourth-quarter comeback that sent the game to overtime

Although the Raptors ultimately lost the game, Boucher finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, and three blocked shots in a season-high 31 minutes. Speaking to reporters later in the night, Boucher said that head coach Darko Rajavkoic has been open with him as his minutes have fluctuated this season, adding that he understands why his role hasn’t been consistent.

“We talk. He knows me and knows what I can bring and all,” Boucher said, per Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. “Sometimes things don’t go the way you want. The team’s had a lot of changes and I got caught in the middle. I know they know what I’m able to do, and everyone knows that I can change the game and all. I don’t think anyone thinks I can’t play, it’s about more than me.”

Boucher is under contract with the Raptors for one more season beyond this one, with a $10.81MM guaranteed salary for 2024/25. However, it’s possible – especially following last month’s acquisition of Kelly Olynyk – that he’ll emerge as a trade candidate this summer.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • From a team-building perspective, the Raptors might prefer that their top two centers – Jakob Poeltl and Olynyk – were a little younger, but having those two veterans under contract for at least the next two seasons gives the club some certainty and stability at the position, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic, who notes that the team will be able to focus its efforts and resources on upgrading other positions.
  • In a separate story for The Athletic, Koreen highlights Immanuel Quickley‘s recent strong play, writing that the guard is increasing his price tag ahead of restricted free agency. In nine games since the All-Star break, Quickley is averaging 21.8 points, 8.1 assists, and 6.1 rebounds per contest while making 43.0% of his three-point attempts.
  • Former Raptor Dalano Banton helped lead the Blazers to a victory on Saturday, racking up 25 points in 42 minutes against his old team. As Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca tweets, one of Masai Ujiri‘s gripes about the previous coaching staff was that it didn’t do enough to develop its young players, including Banton. With that in mind, it was a little surprising that Toronto didn’t do more last summer to retain Banton – who could have been a restricted free agent if the Raptors had given him a qualifying offer – in order to see how he might’ve developed under Rajakovic, Lewenberg observes.

Celtics Trade Dalano Banton, Cash To Trail Blazers

9:39pm: The Trail Blazers have officially acquired Banton and cash considerations from the Celtics for that heavily protected 2027 second-rounder, the teams confirmed in a pair of press releases.

2:26pm: The Celtics have agreed to trade guard Dalano Banton to the Trail Blazers, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

According to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), Boston will receive a top-55 protected 2027 second-round pick in the swap, so it’s essentially just a salary dump from the Celtics’ perspective.

Banton spent his first two NBA seasons with Toronto before signing with the Celtics last summer. Portland will hold a $2.2MM team option for the 24-year-old in 2024/25.

At 6’9″, Banton has terrific length for a guard, but he has struggled mightily with offensive efficiency, posting a career shooting line of .410/.254/.670, including just .373/.125/.800 in 24 games with Boston this season (7.1 minutes per night).

It’s unclear if Banton will be in the Blazers’ future plans, but they’ll be able to evaluate him for at least the rest of the season if they so choose.

Celtics Notes: Brown, Trade Candidates, Tatum, Porzingis

Celtics wing Jaylen Brown and head coach Joe Mazzulla weren’t happy about the reversal of a foul call in the closing seconds of Monday’s 133-131 loss to Indiana. As Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe details, with the scored tied at 131 and three seconds to play, Buddy Hield was initially whistled for a foul on Brown’s shot attempt (video link), but the call was overturned after the Pacers challenged it.

While Mazzulla was clearly irritated, he didn’t have much to say in his postgame presser, according to Himmelsbach, who notes that the Celtics coach repeatedly referred to waiting until Tuesday afternoon to see what the league has to say in its Last Two Minute report. Mazzulla also mentioned that Hield admitted to him that he thought he fouled Brown.

“I mean, I told Joe what I told Joe,” Hield said. “But they have three refs out there and they had the replay center, and that’s what replay is for, I guess. I was thinking I might have hit (Brown) a little bit, but they have three refs out there and they have cameras and they slow down the angles of it. I felt like it was not excessive contact. I know I touched the ball, I maybe nicked Brown in the head a little bit. I’m not too sure.”

Brown was more vocal in expressing his frustration and was upset in particular because he was told by referee James Williams that the replay hadn’t shown Hield hitting him in the head. The Celtics star said he thought the call should be the subject of an investigation.

“That’s what pissed me off, because I know I got hit in the head,” Brown said. “And you see on the replay, it’s pretty obvious I got hit in the head. Then you look me in my eye and tell me that I didn’t. I think that needs to be investigated. Cost my team a game and of course I’m pissed about it.”

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Although the 2023/24 salaries for Luke Kornet, Dalano Banton, Svi Mykhailiuk, and Lamar Stevens will now be fully guaranteed, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll finish the season in Boston, a source tells Brian Robb of MassLive.com. Robb suggests it’s possible that one or more of those players could be used for salary-matching purposes in a trade. It’s also worth noting that attaching a future second-round pick or some cash to one (or more) of them would allow the team to reduce its projected luxury tax bill.
  • After signing a super-max extension over the summer, Jaylen Brown entered this season looking to improve his play on defense and said he wanted each member of Boston’s starting five to earn All-Defensive votes. As Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston details, Brown has delivered on his personal goal so far, with advanced statistics suggesting he has been one of the NBA’s better defensive players in the first half of 2023/24.
  • Celtics star Jayson Tatum missed Monday’s loss due to what the team called left ankle sprain injury management. Tatum also sat out games on December 20 and 29 as a result of that left ankle issue, so it appears that the club is just being cautious with his workload. Kristaps Porzingis, meanwhile, was back in action on Monday after leaving Saturday’s contest early due to an eye issue.

Fischer’s Latest: Hawks, Murray, Knicks, Wizards, Celtics

Echoing recent reporting from Adrian Wojnarowski, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports confirms that the Hawks are “certainly open for business” ahead of the trade deadline and says Atlanta has been one of the NBA’s most active teams in recent trade conversations.

According to Fischer, the Hawks have told multiple teams in recent discussions that the only untouchable players on their roster are guard Trae Young and forward Jalen Johnson. Notably missing from that group is guard Dejounte Murray, whom Atlanta has “made widely available,” sources tell Yahoo Sports.

While the pairing of Murray and Young in their backcourt hasn’t been as successful as the Hawks hoped, the former Spur would presumably still have significant value on the trade market, in large part due to the relatively team-friendly four-year extension he signed during the offseason. That deal, which begins in 2024/25, can be worth up to $120MM with incentives.

Pointing out that the Hawks control their own 2024 first-round pick and owe their 2025 first-rounder to San Antonio, Fischer suggests that it’s possible the team will move some veterans this year, add a 2024 lottery pick to a core headed by Young and Johnson, and look to get back to the playoffs next season.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • The Knicks made some calls to potential trade partners about veteran big men following Mitchell Robinson‘s injury, per Fischer, but after they added Precious Achiuwa in their trade with Toronto, rival executives now think the Knicks may be more focused on exploring backcourt trade targets ahead of the deadline. Fischer mentions Alec Burks of the Pistons and Malcolm Brogdon of the Trail Blazers as a couple possibilities, though it’s unclear if New York has actually expressed interest in either player.
  • The Wizards have let teams know that they’re open to trading veterans for draft assets, sources tell Fischer. That list of veterans may include Kyle Kuzma, who signed a new four-year contract with the club last summer, though there’s a sense that Washington would seek multiple first-rounders for the forward, Fischer writes.
  • The Celtics are expected to hang onto big man Luke Kornet through this weekend’s salary guarantee date, according to Fischer, who says that the team’s other non-guaranteed playersSvi Mykhailiuk, Dalano Banton, and Lamar Stevens – are also more likely than not to stick around through that deadline. Fischer adds that rival front offices are preparing for Boston to explore trades that improve the team’s bench.
  • In case you missed it, we also rounded up a few Pascal Siakam-related rumors from Fischer in a separate story.

Atlantic Notes: Grimes, Holiday, Porzingis, Sixers

Knicks starting shooting guard Quentin Grimes is downplaying a sore wrist that seems to be impacting his play, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post.

After missing two games with the ailment, Grimes didn’t look quite like himself in a loss to the Timberwolves on Monday. He went scoreless on 0-of-6 shooting from the floor, while logging a -18 plus-minus, the worst such mark on the team.

“I feel good,” Grimes said. “Everybody didn’t shoot the ball and make shots, and we’re kind of [on the] last game of a road trip, so everybody was a little fatigued like that, but overall it feels good… It’s a little sore and everything. But I got four, five days to kind of just calm back down.”

Grimes struggled again on Friday, compiling as many fouls as points (3) and recording a minus-20 mark in a two-point win over Miami.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics star guard Jrue Holiday has sat out Boston’s last two contests with a right ankle sprain, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link). Head coach Joe Mazzulla opted to promote guard Dalano Banton into the club’s starting lineup. During his first season with Boston, Holiday is averaging 12.3 PPG on a .420/.338/.792 slash line, plus 7.4 RPG, 4.9 APG and 1.0 BPG.
  • Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis sat out Boston’s 113-103 win over the Hawks on Sunday with a calf injury. Joe Mazzulla revealed that the 7’2″ big man will be reassessed in “a week or so,” though there is not currently a set timeline for his return, per ESPN News Services. This season, the 28-year-old is averaging 18.9 PPG on .547/.324/.800 shooting splits for Boston, along with 6.7 RPG, 1.9 APG and 1.7 BPG. Al Horford started in his stead against Atlanta.
  • The 11-5 Sixers have gotten off to a stellar start in 2023/24, and are currently missing a surprising key scorer in starting small forward Kelly Oubre Jr. In a new column, Keith Pompey of The Inquirer considers whether a fully healthy Philadelphia club would be a serious title contender this year. No Joel Embiid-era Sixers team has ever advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs.

Celtics Notes: Hauser, Banton, Pritchard, Porzingis

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown sat out Wednesday’s game, but the Celtics scored 112 points in a win over Philadelphia because of the performance of several complementary players, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Jrue Holiday made his first start, and he and Derrick White kept the offense humming, but Weiss points to Sam Hauser and Payton Pritchard as the stars of the night.

Hauser finished with 15 points and three assists and showed an improved ability to switch effectively on defense, Weiss states. He also observes that the third-year small forward appears crisper in releasing his jumper and is moving with more purpose on offense. Weiss believes free agent addition Svi Mykhailiuk is on his way to earning a rotation spot, so Hauser will have to keep producing in the preseason to have a chance at regular minutes.

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Dalano Banton is trying to earn a roster spot, but he didn’t help his cause with Wednesday’s performance, Weiss adds. Banton started the second half, but was pulled from the game after 34 seconds after failing to dive for a rebound that landed at his feet. “Listen, there’s nothing more important than holding people to a high standard, especially when you believe in them and know they can be really, really good,” coach Joe Mazzulla said. “… Everybody on the roster competes at a high level and understands that taking pride in defense is number one.” 
  • Pritchard is making his new four-year, $30MM extension look like a bargain, Weiss notes. He had 17 points and three assists in 24 minutes Wednesday and looks like he’ll be an important component in Boston’s offense. Bobby Marks of ESPN breaks down Pritchard’s new contract, which will pay him $6.7MM in 2024/25, followed by $7.2MM, $7.8MM and $8.3MM the following seasons (Twitter link). His salary will range from 4.7% to 5.1% of the cap.
  • The Celtics are using the preseason to experiment with the different possibilities that Kristaps Porzingis brings to the offense, Weiss writes in a separate story. Porzingis displayed his versatility in Sunday’s opener, Weiss observes, successfully executing rim rolls, pick-and-pops and spot-up three-point shots. “I thought we passed up some open shots, but he gives us a different dynamic,” Mazzulla said. “(He) makes the game easier for all the guys, and it’s gonna continue to get better.”

Celtics’ Stevens: Brogdon, Porzingis Healthy For Camp

Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens expects his entire roster to be healthy for training camp, including guard Malcolm Brogdon and big man Kristaps Porzingis, he tells Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.

Brogdon reportedly suffered a torn tendon in his right elbow in the Eastern Conference Finals, while Porzingis dealt this summer with plantar fasciitis that forced him to miss the 2023 World Cup.

“Everybody’s in Boston, everybody’s healthy, knock on wood,” Stevens said. “If everybody gets through the rest of the week, we should be full next Tuesday when we start practice. We’re excited about that.”

Despite not being able to play, Porzingis remained with the Latvian team during the World Cup and completed most of his rehab work while with the club. He recently arrived in Boston and, as Washburn notes, the Celtics have posted social media video this week of the big man working out at the team’s facility.

“Kristaps has been running up and down the court the last few days,” Stevens told Washburn. “I thought the progression that his trainers there (in Latvia), our trainers here, and everybody came up with to get him back so that he could avoid anything lingering was a key. He feels great. I just literally talked to him on the phone on my way here. He said he feels good.”

Here’s more from Stevens on the Celtics:

  • Before they sent Marcus Smart to Memphis in their three-team deal for Porzingis, the Celtics nearly moved Brogdon to the Clippers in a different iteration of the trade. Stevens acknowledged that Brogdon was upset about his near-inclusion in that deal, but said he has spoken to the veteran guard to resolve his displeasure. “I would say he had every right to feel (upset),” Stevens said, per Washburn. “We said that this summer. But he’s a real pro and so we’ve had several discussions. He’s looking forward to getting started. We’re looking forward to getting started and here we go.”
  • The Celtics haven’t drafted a player in the first round since 2020, but Stevens said the team made an effort this offseason to devote some of its back-end roster spots to young players, pointing to free agent addition Dalano Banton as one example. “We haven’t had a first-round draft pick in three years, so can you find a young guy that you can invest in and really work with,” Stevens said. “And he’s excited to be here. Those guys are important. We’re trying to win it but we’re also trying to make sure we are using our other roster spots to make sure we’re investing in younger players.”
  • Stevens admitted that he feels a “sense of urgency” to compete for a title and suggested he feels good about the championship potential of the current group. “Our goal is to win and so ultimately we always have to keep our ears to the ground and our eyes open but we do like our team heading into the season,” he told Washburn. “I’m interested to see how it all plays out. To be there standing at the end, a lot’s got to go your way but we know the path. We know how to get knocking on that door and there’s nothing we want more than to knock it down.”

Celtics Notes: Lillard, Tatum, Porzingis, Griffin, Banton

Jayson Tatum has reached out to Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard in an attempt to sell him on the benefits of playing for the Celtics, Marc J. Spears of Andscape said on a recent podcast with Bill Oram of The Oregonian (hat tip to HoopsHype).

Lillard, whose future has been in limbo since making his trade request nearly two months ago, remains determined to get to Miami and join a perennially successful organization that is coming off an NBA Finals appearance. Lillard would love to team up with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler and go to a warm-weather city with no state income tax, Spears says, but mostly he wants a chance to compete for a title. Although his preference for the Heat hasn’t changed, it appears players from other teams are making an effort to recruit him, including Tatum.

“I know that Boston, I know Jayson Tatum has called him, try to get in his ear, but his focus is definitely on Miami,” Spears said.

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • President of basketball operations Brad Stevens isn’t worried about the health of Kristaps Porzingis despite a plantar fasciitis issue that prevented him from playing in the World Cup, relays Conor Ryan of The Boston Globe. Appearing on WEEI’s “Jones and Mego” show, Stevens said team officials weren’t aware of Porzingis’ condition when they acquired him from the Wizards in a three-team trade, but there’s no reason to think it will prevent him from playing. “He’s at the FIBA Tournament with the (Latvian) team so he’s doing his rehab there,” Stevens said. “We were with him in the 10 days, our training staff was with him (before the tournament) as he was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. He went through all the progressions and he really tried to ramp up and play. He just determined he didn’t want to deal with lingering effects down the road. This is something that we should be able to navigate and manage in the next few weeks and be ready for training camp. We’re planning on having him for Day 1 of training camp.”
  • Blake Griffin remains unsigned and it’s uncertain if the Celtics will reach out to him again, but Stevens appreciated his performance last season, per Brian Robb of MassLive. In the same radio interview, Stevens complimented all the back-up big men for helping the team stay in contention after Robert Williams‘ early-season injury, saying, “Blake was as good as it gets both on and off the court.”
  • Growing up, new Celtic Dalano Banton patterned his game after former Boston point guard Rajon Rondo, according to Taylor Snow of NBA.com.