Damion Lee

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.

And-Ones: Hard Cap, In-Season Tournament, J.R. Smith, Teammate Award

NBA owners originally sought a hard cap in negotiations with the union regarding the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the idea was taken off the table fairly early, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski says in his latest podcast (hat tip to Real GM). He notes that the proposal was intended to restrain the league’s top spenders, but many franchises in smaller markets were opposed to it as well.

“Even a lot of small market teams were worried about a hard cap in places, like let’s say Cleveland, where all of a sudden you’re good enough to win a championship,” Wojnarowski said. “You have a team and you’re willing to go into the tax to keep that team together. Then all of a sudden with a hard cap and guaranteed contracts, the Cavs, using them as an example, or Oklahoma City four or five years from now, the smaller market teams worried ‘This is going to work against us.'”

Wojnarowski explains that a pure hard cap would make it impossible for the Cavaliers to keep the four players they hope to build the franchise around. They would eventually have to make a choice between re-signing Darius Garland or Donovan Mitchell or between retaining Evan Mobley or Jarrett Allen.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Veteran NBA writer Marc Stein isn’t a fan of the in-season tournament that will begin in 2023/24 under the new CBA, writing in his latest piece for Substack (subscription required) that there’s nothing special about the competition until it reaches its Final Four. All the early rounds will be regular-season games played at NBA arenas, but the semifinals and finals will be held at a neutral site. Stein claims the league failed in its attempt to recreate the excitement of cup competitions in soccer.
  • J.R. Smith spoke about his current projects with Jenna Lemoncelli of The New York Post, but the 37-year-old guard notes that he hasn’t officially retired from the NBA. Smith, who last played for the Lakers during the bubble in Orlando, continues to work out so he’s ready in case another opportunity arises.
  • Last week the NBA announced the 12 finalists for the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award, per a league press release. The finalists are Brooklyn’s Mikal Bridges, Cleveland’s Darius Garland, Miami’s Udonis Haslem, Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday, New York’s Derrick Rose, Boston’s Grant Williams, Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Denver’s Aaron Gordon, Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr., Phoenix’s Damion Lee and Portland’s Damian Lillard. According to the NBA, a panel of league executives selected the finalists, but current players will select the winner. Holiday won the award for the second time last season.

Rory Maher contributed to this post.

Landry Shamet Cleared To Return For Suns

Veteran guard Landry Shamet will be available on Sunday for the Suns‘ game in Oklahoma City, the team officially confirmed today (via Twitter).

It will be the first time Shamet has been active for the Suns since January 16. He has missed the last two months due to a right foot injury. Prior to going down, the 26-year-old was averaging 9.5 points and 2.2 assists in 21.4 minutes per night and had made 37.7% of his three-point attempts in in 30 games.

Shamet has previously suffered stress fractures in both of his feet and said that this injury – which the Suns referred to as “right foot soreness” – could have had the same result if he had continued playing.

“Caught things right before a stress fracture,” Shamet said, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “The buildup process of the discomfort and it’s sore, but you can kind of play through it and then it’s sore. Then it gets worse and worse and worse and worse and then it eventually it just breaks. Luckily we caught that early enough, which is a great thing. So that cleared up.”

Even after averting a stress fracture, Shamet dealt with nagging issues in the foot that delayed his return, as he explained on Saturday.

“Soft tissue, inflammation type situations,” Shamet said. “We worked through it. It was frustrating, very frustrating at times. Very gray. Not knowing what exactly the situation was, but our training staff did a good job of trying to identify things and collaborating with me and my team. Trying to figure it out. So we did a good job and here we are.”

According to head coach Monty Williams, Shamet won’t play a “crazy amount of minutes” immediately upon returning. The Suns have other options on the wing, including Terrence Ross and Damion Lee. Determining which of those players will be part of Phoenix’s playoff rotation will be a major consideration during the final three weeks of the regular season, notes Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports (via Twitter). In the meantime, Shamet’s teammates are just looking forward to seeing him back in action.

“Hell yeah, we’ve been waiting on it,” Devin Booker said, according to Rankin. “He’s been rehabbing. I always say how tough that can be. We want everybody healthy at the right time and it’s a good time to be coming back and getting ramped up.”

Pacific Notes: Westbrook, Suns Rotation, Durant, Paul

Russell Westbrook only started three games with the Lakers this season but that could change when he signs with the other Los Angeles team. Westbrook, who intends to join the Clippers after clearing waivers, will have an opportunity to start, according to Law Murray of The Athletic.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski confirms in an appearance on NBA Today that Westbrook could be the starter (video link). Terance Mann has been starting for the Clippers, but may be moved to the second unit.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Westbrook could clear waivers in time to practice with the Clippers on Thursday and possibly make his debut on Friday, when the team faces Sacramento, according to Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times. Clippers players lobbied for the addition of Westbrook and feel he’ll be a better fit with them than he was with the Lakers. The Clippers have seven rotation players shooting 37% or better on 3-point attempts, which should help mask Westbrook’s struggles from the perimeter.
  • Suns guard Damion Lee notes that the rotation will be greatly altered in the coming weeks, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. Along with trading for Kevin Durant, they have also added T.J. Warren, Darius Bazley and Terrence Ross. Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet are expected back soon from injuries. “If your minutes are reduced, if your minutes are increased, whatever it is, just doing what you do and try to do it at a high level because even when we get Landry back and C-Payne back as well, guys are just going to have to understand that in order for us to be great and accomplish what we look to achieve and look to accomplish, there has to be sacrifices,” Lee said.
  • Durant is thrilled that he’ll have Chris Paul feeding him the ball with the Suns, Sam Amick of The Athletic relays. Durant says Paul’s passion hasn’t waned over the years. “I think (it’s) his IQ for the game,” Durant said. “I think his enthusiasm for the game. I think that goes underrated. CP really loves ball. He just likes watching the game, like analyzing. Like going through strategy and stuff. It’s been a week there now (in Phoenix). A couple of practices, a few games, and he is always pulling me to the side, and we’re just talking hoop. So I love that about him. Obviously, on the floor, he can create so much for his teammates and for himself.”

Pacific Notes: C. Johnson, D. Lee, Kuminga, Vezenkov

Suns forward Cameron Johnson, who is recovering from knee surgery and has been out since November 4, has played some 1-on-1 but isn’t yet taking contract, head coach Monty Williams said on Wednesday (Twitter video link via Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic).

While Johnson has a few more hurdles to clear before he’s ready to get back onto the court for the Suns, general manager James Jones indicated on Wednesday that the 26-year-old is entering the final stage of his rehab process, according to Kellan Olson of Arizona Sports 98.7.

“He’s in the latter stages of it but as far as a definitive timeline I don’t have anything,” Jones said during a radio appearance on Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo. “I do know at some point soon we should get him back. I just can’t tell you if that’s going to be in five days, 10 days, but every day he’s getting closer.”

The banged-up Suns have also been without Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, Cameron Payne, and Landry Shamet as of late, so getting Johnson back would provide the team with a huge lift.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Current Suns and former Warriors guard Damion Lee, Stephen Curry‘s brother-in-law, finally got his 2022 championship ring when his team played in Golden State on Tuesday. Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic takes an in-depth look at what was a memorable day for Lee, who helped upset his old team by going 14-for-14 from the free throw line and scoring a season-high 22 points.
  • With Jonathan Kuminga getting close to returning from a right foot sprain that has kept him out of action since December 30, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he’ll welcome the “physicality and athleticism” the second-year forward brings to the lineup. “I thought last game against Phoenix (on Tuesday) we were not physical enough,” Kerr said, per Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area. “Phoenix came in and really took it to us. They were physical, they were aggressive on the boards.”
  • In an interview with BasketNews, Kings draft-and-stash prospect Sasha Vezenkov clarified that the extension he recently signed with Olympiacos in Greece doesn’t rule out the possibility of him making a move to the NBA this summer or in a future season, since the deal includes a buyout estimated to be worth $1.5MM. “Before the contract and after the contract, I’m in the same position,” Vezenkov said.

Pacific Notes: Green, J. Jones, Lee, Sabonis, Kings

Draymond Green is on a potential expiring contract, so his NBA future beyond this season remains up in the air. However, he made it clear in a conversation with Marc J. Spears of Andscape that he doesn’t take his lengthy tenure with the Warriors for granted and appreciates that he has gotten to play alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson since entering the league.

“It’s incredible when you look at the amount of guys who’ve played for only one team,” Green said. “You can look around the NBA right now. There are five guys that’s been on a team for 11 years-plus. We have three of them. It’s a very rare thing. There’s 470, 480 players in the NBA? There are five guys that’s been with his team for 11 years plus. That’s amazing. So, you don’t just give that away.”

Green went on to say that, while he recognizes the NBA is business, he’d “absolutely” be interested in spending the rest of his career in Golden State. The four-time All-Star, who has a player option for 2023/24, said he’d let agent Rich Paul handle his contract situation, but added that he’d like to play for four or five more seasons before calling it a career.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Having been promoted to president of basketball operations by the Suns, James Jones expects to step away from some of the day-to-day aspects of running the team and delegate more of those tasks as he focuses on bigger-picture goals, per Gerald Bourguet of GoPhnx.com. Jones said this week that there are no plans to hire a general manager to work under him in the front office hierarchy, but he also didn’t rule out that possibility down the road.
  • In a separate story for GoPhnx.com, Bourguet examines how offseason signee Damion Lee became such an important part of the Suns‘ second unit. Lee, who is making a career-best 49.4% of his three-point attempts so far this season, is only on a one-year contract, so he’ll return to the open market next summer.
  • Speaking to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, Kings center Domantas Sabonis said that he and point guard De’Aaron Fox are on the same page on and off the court, with the two stars determined to snap Sacramento’s 16-year playoff drought. “Fox is unselfish, I’m unselfish. I love to play in the pick-and-roll, he loves to play in the pick-and-roll. We want to show people that we can win, and win consistently, apart from everything that goes on in the NBA,” Sabonis said. “I think that’s the most important thing, is to show that we can turn this franchise around.”
  • Returning to Sacramento for the first time since being traded from the Kings to the Pacers, Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield got wildly different receptions on Wednesday, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Haliburton, who was caught off guard and upset when he was traded last season, received a standing ovation; Hield, who made it clear before being traded that he’d welcome a change of scenery, was met with boos. Hield was unfazed by the crowd’s reaction, as Dopirak relays. “I didn’t give a (expletive),” he said. “I go to sleep happy and I make a lot of money.”

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Clippers, Conley, CP3, Suns

Even though they lost their first five games of the season, the Lakers were playing fairly solid defense during that slump, but their defensive numbers have dropped off substantially during their recent three-game losing streak. Head coach Darvin Ham is convinced that those struggles won’t last, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I would say this, man. And write it, quote it, however,” Ham told reporters on Monday. “This may be happening now at the outset of what we’re trying to force to be a culture change in terms of getting us back to being highly competitive on a highly consistent basis, but it’s not going to always be like this.

“We’re going to turn the corner. I didn’t come here to lose. They didn’t bring me here to lose.”

As McMenamin writes, Ham believes that significant roster turnover from last season to this season is a factor in the Lakers’ 2-8 start, as are injury issues — three starters, LeBron James, Patrick Beverley, and Lonnie Walker, sat out Monday’s loss to Utah.

“There is a process involved where we have to go through tough times,” Ham said. “Like, I want to bottle this up. I want to embrace it. I want to have it and store it so when things are turned around and we get too comfortable and we start complaining about some problems that are not even necessarily problems — problems that winning teams go through — I want to be able to reflect on these times.”

Anthony Davis told reporters on Monday that a 2-8 start is “a hard pill to swallow,” but noted that there’s still plenty of time to turn things around.

“I think New Orleans was 1-12 or something last year, come back and go on a run,” Davis said. “We’ve got to put it together. Offense has found its rhythm. It seems like we’ve lost all our defensive intensity. And that’s what’s killing us.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Jazz point guard Mike Conley believed at one point during the offseason that he was headed to Los Angeles, according to Tony Jones of The Athletic. As Jones reports, Conley received a message from someone he trusted saying that he could be traded to the Clippers, but the team ultimately signed John Wall instead to fortify the point guard spot.
  • Already missing one starter, the Suns lost another in Monday’s game, as point guard Chris Paul exited in the second quarter due to right heel soreness and didn’t return. However, Paul doesn’t believe the injury will be a long-term concern, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Asked if not returning to Monday’s game was mostly about he and the team taking a cautious approach to the injury, Paul replied, “Yeah.”
  • Suns head coach Monty Williams said on Monday that the team may take a committee approach to replacing Cameron Johnson‘s minutes at power forward, Bontemps writes. Torrey Craig has gotten the first chance to take Johnson’s spot in the starting five, but Damion Lee, Dario Saric, and Jock Landale are also candidates for an eventual promotion, according to Williams.

Suns Sign Damion Lee To One-Year Deal

The Suns have signed Damion Lee to a contract, per NBA.com’s official transactions log.

Because the deal is already official, we can deduce it’s a minimum-salary pact, since those can be signed during the July moratorium. The contract will be for one year, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Lee, 29, went undrafted out of Louisville in 2016. He made his rookie debut with the Hawks in 2017/18, first signing a 10-day deal and then a rest-of-season contract, appearing in 15 games for Atlanta.

Lee has spent the last four seasons with the Warriors, winning a title with Golden State this season. In 201 regular season games (20.6 MPG) with the Warriors, Lee averaged 8.1 PPG and 3.4 RPG on .437/.366/.880 shooting.

While Lee isn’t a great defensive player, he is an impressive shot-maker when he gets rolling, capable of scoring points in bunches. Lee joins Gary Payton II, Otto Porter, Nemanja Bjelica and Juan Toscano-Anderson as role players who are departing the defending champions.

Phoenix gets a decent depth piece at shooting guard, although Lee probably won’t receive many minutes behind star Devin Booker.