Damion Lee

Suns Notes: Lee, Durant, Eubanks, Watanabe, Tournament

Suns wing Damion Lee, who underwent right knee surgery last month, is still using crutches, but will be “off of them very soon,” head coach Frank Vogel said on Thursday (Twitter video link via Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic).

At the time of Lee’s procedure, the Suns didn’t offer any sort of timetable for his recovery process, simply stating that more updates would be provided “as appropriate.” Asked on Thursday if he had a sense of whether the 31-year-old might be able to return in December or January, Vogel still wasn’t able to share any specifics.

“This year hopefully though,” Vogel said, referring to the 2023/24 season (Twitter link via Rankin).

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Star forward Kevin Durant has been listed as questionable for Friday’s game in Memphis due to right foot soreness, Rankin writes for The Arizona Republic. It sounds like a decision will be made on his availability closer to game time.
    [UPDATE: Durant has been ruled out, per Rankin.]
  • Suns big man Drew Eubanks, who left Wednesday’s game due to a left ankle injury, has been ruled out for Friday, with the team designating the ailment as a sprain, tweets Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports. In addition to Lee and Bradley Beal (back), who are sidelined with longer-term injuries, the Suns will also still be without Yuta Watanabe, who will miss a fourth consecutive contest due to a quad contusion.
  • Phoenix is playing its final in-season tournament game on Friday vs. Memphis and remains in the hunt for the Western Conference’s wild card spot despite losing Group A to the Lakers, Rankin writes. A victory would result in a 3-1 record in group play, but it may need to be a blowout win to advance to the tournament quarterfinals, since they’d almost certainly need to win a point differential tiebreaker (Twitter link).

Suns’ Damion Lee Undergoes Right Knee Surgery

Suns guard/forward Damion Lee underwent successful surgery on Wednesday to repair the meniscus in his right knee, the team announced (Twitter link via Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic).

According to Phoenix, updates on Lee’s recovery timeline “will be provided as appropriate.”

Lee, who turns 31 next week, was injured at the Suns’ practice facility a couple weeks ago and ruled out indefinitely. The swingman re-signed with Phoenix as a free agent this summer, inking a two-year, minimum-salary deal that includes a player option.

In 2022/23, Lee averaged 8.2 PPG and 3.0 RPG on .442/.445/.904 shooting in 74 regular season contests (20.4 MPG) with the Suns. The six-year veteran has also played for the Hawks and Warriors, winning a championship with Golden State in ’21/22.

It’s a tough setback for Lee, but being on a guaranteed two-year contract likely means his spot on the roster is safe. The Suns are currently carrying 17 players on standard contracts, so they’re facing a roster crunch. Previous reports from Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports indicated that Keon Johnson and Ish Wainright may be on the chopping block.

In other Suns injury news, Wainright continues to be hampered by a right calf strain and has been ruled out for Thursday’s preseason game against Portland. Jordan Goodwin, meanwhile, was a full practice participant on Wednesday and has been upgraded to probable vs. the Blazers (Twitter links via Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports). Goodwin has been battling right hamstring tightness.

Damion Lee Out Indefinitely With Meniscus Injury

Suns shooting guard Damion Lee injured the meniscus in his right knee during a workout at Phoenix’s practice facility and will be sidelined indefinitely, the team announced in a press statement. Further details of the exact nature of the injury were not revealed.

Lee re-signed with the Suns this summer on a two-year, veteran’s minimum contract following a productive 2022/23 season with the team. The 6’5″ swingman has a player option for the 2024/25 season. He had been expected to play rotation minutes as a sharpshooting wing for a top-heavy Phoenix team.

Last year, the 30-year-old carved out a major rotation role with a fourth-seeded Phoenix squad. Across 74 regular season contests (20.4 MPG), Lee averaged 8.2 PPG on .442/.445/.904 shooting splits, along with 3.0 RPG and 1.3 APG.

While this is certainly a blow, Phoenix still has plenty of depth on the wing even with Lee out. Beyond All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker, the team also has Grayson Allen, Josh Okogie, Eric Gordon, Yuta Watanabe, Keita Bates-Diop, and Nassir Little at its disposal at the shooting guard and small forward spots.

Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic notes that the team is currently carrying 17 players on its 15-man standard roster, meaning it will need to release or trade two of them prior to the start of the regular season.

Suns Notes: Okogie, Lee, Goodwin, Title Keys

Forward Josh Okogie‘s positive experience with the Suns last season convinced him to re-sign with the franchise on a one-year deal, he told Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Okogie carved out a major role with Phoenix, appearing in 82 games, including 10 postseason contests.

“I took the deal looking at the long-term,” Okogie said. “Just in terms of being able to build, not only this year, but just my career. I’ve had a lot of success here, kind of revamped my career here last year, and they were able to give me a chance and be gracious on how they move in this organization. So I decided to take a chance on them again.”

We have more from the Suns:

  • Guard Damion Lee expressed similar feelings after returning to the franchise on a two-year, minimum-salary contract, which includes a player option for the second year. “It feels good,” Lee told Rankin. “I’m excited. I took a chance coming here last year on a one-year deal and being able to turn that into a multiyear deal. So, that’s huge for myself and my family. A little bit of security, but still trying to continue to find my way in this league and learn my teammates.”
  • The team has been taking a cautious approach to recently-acquired Jordan Goodwin during Summer League action, Rankin tweets. Goodwin, who was part of the Bradley Beal blockbuster, has been dealing with left knee soreness. He was ruled out of the team’s game on Tuesday, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports tweets.
  • In a column, Rankin weighs in on what he thinks it will take for the Suns to win the championship next season. Good health, Devin Booker‘s play-making, and Deandre Ayton taking advantage of his offensive opportunities will be some of the key ingredients, he writes.

Suns Sign Four Free Agents

JULY 11: The Suns have officially signed Okogie, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports tweets.

“Josh plays with relentless energy. His grit, intensity and athleticism are vital to the success of our team,” Jones said in a statement. “He consistently makes winning plays on both ends of the floor. He is truly unique.”

JULY 7: After officially signing Eubanks and Bates-Diop earlier in the week, the Suns have finalized Lee’s deal as well, per a press release.

“Damion’s elite three-point shooting, championship experience and toughness help elevate our team,” general manager James Jones said in a statement. “His leadership and professionalism are pivotal as we pursue an NBA title.”

JUNE 30: The Suns have reached agreements with four free agents, including two of their own.

Forward Josh Okogie is re-signing with the Suns, Chris Haynes of TNT and Bleacher Report tweets. Guard Damion Lee is also returning on a two-year deal with a player option for the second season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Power forward Drew Eubanks is leaving the Trail Blazers to sign a two-year deal with a player option, The Athletic’s Shams Charania tweets. Spurs forward Keita Bates-Diop is signing with Phoenix on a two-year, $5MM contract that also features an option, Wojnarowski tweets. Bates-Diop will have a chance to earn a starting spot — presumably, he’ll battle Okogie to start alongside Kevin Durant.

Okogie started in 26 of 72 regular-season games last season for the Suns, averaging 7.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in 18.8 minutes. He also started in half of their 10 postseason games.

Lee saw action in 74 of Phoenix’s regular-season games and averaged 8.2 points in 20.4 minutes. He made a career-best 44.5% of his 3-point attempts.

Eubanks averaged 6.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 20.3 minutes while appearing in 78 of Portland’s games, including 28 starts. He figures to play backup minutes at power forward and perhaps center. Bates-Diop started 42 of the 67 games in which he played for San Antonio last season. He averaged a career-best 9.7 points and 3.7 rebounds in 21.7 minutes.

Western FA Rumors: D-Lo, Lakers, H. Jones, Suns, Warriors

There are “strong” indications that the Lakers are trending toward a new two-year deal with free agent point guard D’Angelo Russell, reports Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. According to Fischer, that two-year contract could be worth in the neighborhood of $40MM in total, though the second season may be a team option or non-guaranteed.

While the Lakers have interest in re-signing both Dennis Schröder and Lonnie Walker, it’s unclear which one the club is prioritizing, Fischer writes. Schröder will likely require a raise that exceeds the Non-Bird exception, so if Los Angeles uses its mid-level exception on an outside free agent, the team may have to allot its bi-annual exception to him, Fischer explains. In that scenario, it’s unclear whether the team would have enough room to re-sign Walker to a market-value deal as well while remaining below a hard cap.

Another potential path would see L.A. splits its mid-level between Schröder and a frontcourt player such as Mason Plumlee, sources tell Yahoo Sports. If Schröder doesn’t end up back with the Lakers, a reunion with Bulls coach Billy Donovan in Chicago is possible, Fischer writes. Donovan previously coached the point guard in Oklahoma City.

Finally, Fischer is one of a handful of reporters who have linked free agent forward Cam Reddish to Los Angeles. The Lakers were said to have some trade interest in Reddish – a Klutch Sports client – during each of the past two seasons. He’d be a minimum-salary target, Fischer notes.

Here are a few more free agency rumors from around the Western Conference:

  • Two forwards who had their team options declined by the Pelicans on Thursday figure to take very different paths this summer. According to Fischer, Herbert Jones will likely end up back in New Orleans on a four-year deal worth a little more than $50MM, which would presumably be his Early Bird maximum. Willy Hernangomez, on the other hand, is considered a good bet to accept a lucrative offer from a EuroLeague team rather than seeking another minimum-salary NBA deal, Fischer reports.
  • The Suns intend to bring back several of their own free agents, including Torrey Craig, Damion Lee, Jock Landale, and Josh Okogie, according to Fischer, who says agent big man Drew Eubanks is another strong candidate to end up in Phoenix. Fischer is also the latest reporter to link Yuta Watanabe and Mike James to the Suns.
  • The Lakers and Warriors are among the teams eyeing free agent guard Shake Milton, per Fischer. Free agent forward Dario Saric has also received “strong” interest from Golden State, sources tell Yahoo Sports.

Stein’s Latest: Barnes, Reaves, Rockets, Harden, Irving, More

The Pacersinterest in signing Max Strus may be an indication that free agent forward Harrison Barnes will remain with the Kings, Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack column.

Stein reported recently that Indiana was interested in adding Barnes, who has huge supporters in Rick Carlisle, his former coach in Dallas, and Tyrese Haliburton, his ex-teammate in Sacramento. However, the Pacers only have $30MM in cap space, and Stein assumes Barnes is no longer in their plans if they’re preparing an offer for Strus in the $16MM range.

Sacramento radio host Carmichael Dave tweets that Barnes’ return to the Kings is “picking up major steam,” but the final details of a new contract still have to be worked out.

Stein offers inside information on a few more free agents:

  • Even though the Lakers are reported to have significant interest in Bruce Brown, Stein believes somebody will offer the Nuggets free agent more than the mid-level exception. L.A. appears certain to match any offer for restricted free agent Austin Reaves, who is eligible for nearly $102MM over four years from a rival team. A source told Stein that it should be considered an “automatic match.”
  • Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks are increasingly expected to commit to the Rockets shortly after the start of free agency, according to Stein, who says there would be “legitimate leaguewide surprise” if it doesn’t happen. Stein hears that Brooks will likely get a two-year contract with an annual salary in the $14-16MM range, while Houston is prepared to make a two-year, maximum-salary offer of $83.6MM for VanVleet. Stein states that the Rockets are confident new coach Ime Udoka can maximize Brooks’ game while limiting his excesses, while VanVleet is viewed as a leader and culture setter for a young roster.
  • The “prevailing expectation” is that Sixers guard James Harden and Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving will re-sign with their current teams, according to Stein. He added that it remains difficult to project the length and dollar value of their new contracts as of Thursday morning.
  • According to Stein, multiple rival teams expect Andre Drummond to join the Mavericks, who added two new centers last week by drafting Dereck Lively II and trading for Richaun Holmes. Sources tell Stein that free agent Christian Wood and JaVale McGee are no longer in the team’s plans, though McGee has one more guaranteed year left on his contract, along with a $6MM player option for 2024/25.
  • Free agent guard Damion Lee is considered likely to sign a new deal with the Suns, Stein adds.

Suns Notes: Beal, Paul, Ayton, Draft Picks

The Suns realized the NBA’s new second tax apron was already going to be an issue for them, so they decided not to let it stand in the way of pursuing Bradley Beal when the Wizards made him available, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN (subscription required). Phoenix reached an agreement on Sunday to trade for Beal, adding the $208MM he’s owed over the next four years to an already expensive roster.

Suns management had been considering cost-cutting moves, according to Windhorst, including a recent meeting with Chris Paul to discuss the possibility of waiving him and saving half the cost of his $30.8MM salary for next season. They decided to reverse course when the opportunity with Beal arose and will likely guarantee Paul’s entire salary before sending him to Washington, sources tell Windhorst.

New owner Mat Ishbia appears to be committed to the super-team philosophy despite a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that was designed to impose heavy sanctions against free-spending teams. The trades for Beal and Kevin Durant have created a significant jump in salary since Ishbia took over the team in February.

The Suns’ spending spree is likely to continue, according to Windhorst, who says they will try to re-sign free agents Torrey CraigJosh OkogieDamion LeeJock LandaleBismack Biyombo and Terrence Ross. Windhorst also expects Phoenix to retain Cameron Payne, who only has a $2MM guarantee on his $6.5MM salary for next season through June 29, and the Suns may add to their roster with a $5MM trade exception that doesn’t expire until February.

There’s more from Phoenix:

  • Paul was flying to New York for an appearance on “Good Morning America” when he learned about the trade, tweets Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report. “In this league, anything can happen, so you just figure out what’s next,” said Paul, who was on the morning show to promote his new book.
  • The Suns could avoid the second apron by trading Deandre Ayton for little to no salary in return, which would give them access to the mid-level exception, according to Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype. However, he believes it’s more likely that Ayton will be shopped for low-salaried role players, which would help ease the potential tax bill. According to Gozlan, Phoenix is currently looking at a payroll in excess of $190MM, which would result in a luxury tax penalty of about $90MM.
  • Once the Beal trade is complete, the Suns won’t control any of their first-round picks for the rest of the decade, tweets NBA writer Evan Sidery. The Nets own their selections in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029, along with the right to swap picks in 2028. The Wizards are expected to get pick swaps in 2024 and 2026.

Suns Notes: Lee, Vanderbilt, Hachimura, Williams

Damion Lee saw his playing time diminish after the trade deadline, but the Suns guard still appeared in 74 games during the regular season and posted solid offensive numbers, averaging 8.2 points in 20.4 minutes while shooting a career high 44.5% on 3-point attempts and 90.4% from the foul line.

After signing a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Suns last offseason, Lee feels confident as he heads back into free agency, Dana Scott of the Arizona Republic writes.

“You guys know the numbers: essentially top five all year in NBA 3-point percentage, that’s huge on a team that finished top four in the West; and the number one 3-point percentage in the fourth quarter all year. That stuff matters,” Lee said of his year with the Suns. “That’s not something I’m saying to toot my own horn, but that stuff to me matters because it put away all doubt that he’s here for a favor, stepped out by the grace of God. A lot of people counted me out that, ‘He’ll go to Phoenix, he won’t do anything, he’ll fizzle out.'”

We have more on the Suns:

  • Phoenix was involved in trade talks for Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt, both of whom wound up in Los Angeles and helped the Lakers end their season, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic notes. The Suns tried to acquire Vanderbilt from Utah along with Bojan Bogdanovic prior to the season while attempting to deal Jae Crowder. That proposal fell through when Utah balked at trading Vanderbilt. In January, the Suns tried to work out a three-team deal involving Crowder and Hachimura.
  • Monty Williams developed a winning culture within the organization. That’s now threatened by the Suns’ dismissal of Williams last week, according to Gerald Bourguet of GoPhnx.com. If new owner Mat Ishbia wants to sustain what Williams built, he and the front office will have to nail this coaching hire, Bourguet writes.
  • The Suns are casting a wide net for their head coaching opening with as many as 10 candidates on the early internal list, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweets. Mike Budenholzer, Nick Nurse and Suns assistant Kevin Young are among the candidates who have previously been mentioned as potential candidates.
  • In case you missed it, Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul could also head out of door as the Suns desperately search for a championship.

Suns Notes: Durant, Bench, Paul, Payne, Shamet

Kevin Durant‘s playoff résumé – including 29.4 PPG in 155 games and a pair of Finals MVP trophies – was a major part of why the Suns traded for him in February. Durant performed at his usual postseason level in the first round against the Clippers, but has been a minus-24 in Phoenix’s first two games vs. Denver, making just 3-of-15 three-pointers (20.%) and committing nine turnovers.

As Gerald Bourguet of GoPHNX.com writes, the Suns need more from Durant if they hope to erase their 2-0 deficit and knock off the top-seeded Nuggets. Still, head coach Monty Williams isn’t concerned about his star forward’s production, chalking up Durant’s 10-of-27 showing on Monday to an off night.

“He just missed a ton of shots, but we got a lot of the shots we wanted,” Williams said. “He and Book took most of the shots, we just didn’t shoot a great percentage tonight. And that kind of stuff happens. They only scored 97 points. Our defense was much better tonight, we just couldn’t put the ball in the hole.”

Here’s more out of Phoenix ahead of Friday’s Game 3:

  • The Suns’ bench production was dismal in Game 2, as Damion Lee, Cameron Payne, Torrey Craig, Bismack Biyombo, Jock Landale, and Ish Wainright combined for just four points on 2-of-16 shooting (0-of-9 on threes). While the team would presumably like to see those numbers improve going forward, Dana Scott of The Arizona Republic notes that Phoenix ranked last in the regular season among playoff teams in bench points, and Williams has said the roster is designed for the starters to do most of the scoring while the reserves contribute in other ways.
  • After Shams Charania reported on Tuesday that Chris Paul is expected to miss at least one week of action, the Suns officially listed their point guard as day-to-day due to his left groin strain (Twitter link). Although the team’s designation leaves the door open for a quicker return, I’d still be surprised if Paul makes it back before the one-week mark.
  • Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic, who also hears that Paul will miss at least a week, examines how the Suns can cope with the veteran’s absence. As Rankin observes, if Phoenix doesn’t want to move Payne into the starting lineup, the club could opt to shift Devin Booker to the point and start a player like Landry Shamet alongside him. Shamet was a DNP-CD in Game 2 after logging 14 minutes in Game 1.