Darius Miller

Thunder Waive Darius Miller

APRIL 9: The move is official, according to the Thunder. Miller is on track to clear waivers on Sunday.

APRIL 8: The Thunder will release veteran wing Darius Miller to accommodate the previously-reported addition of former Real Madrid swingman Gabriel Deck on what is expected to be a three-year contract, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Miller, currently day-to-day with a groin injury, has appeared in just 18 games with Oklahoma City this season.

The Thunder took a chance on Miller after he missed a full season of action recovering from an Achilles tear while with the Pelicans. Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets that the small forward was a well-liked locker room present for a rebuilding OKC club.

This season, Miller averaged just 10.9 MPG, but carved out a respectable slash line of .458/.405/1.000. During 2019/20, his last mostly-healthy season with the Pelicans, Miller averaged a career-best 8.2 PPG and 2.1 APG, plus 1.9 RPG, in a career-most 25.5 MPG.

Tomorrow is the last day players can be waived by their teams and remain playoff-eligible for their next club, so it’s possible someone takes a flier on Miller’s shooting ability as a deep bench option with a 10-day or rest-of-season signing.

Northwest Notes: McDaniels, Miller, Hampton, Muscala

20-year-old rookie Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels is turning heads with his play as he continues to carve out more playing time, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

“I think he’s way better than people are realizing,” Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell raved. “He knows the game better than people expect. He makes these exciting plays out of nowhere.”

McDaniels was selected by the Wolves with the No. 28 pick out of Washington in the 2020 draft. He is averaging 17.4 MPG in 17 games. McDaniels played nearly 24 minutes in last night’s 120-118 loss to the Thunder, scoring 8 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the floor.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Veteran Thunder forward Darius Miller is relishing his time back on a basketball court after missing all of the 2019/20 season due to a ruptured Achilles, as Joe Mussato of the Oklahoman details. “I was trying to figure out how to walk again last year around this part of the season,” Miller said, “so I’m just happy to be able to get out here and compete and play basketball again.” The 30-year-old got injured in a three-on-three game in August 2019 while with the Pelicans. He has played in six games for the Thunder. Miller scored a season-high nine points on three made three-pointers in a 106-103 Friday loss to the Timberwolves.
  • Nuggets rookie point guard R.J. Hampton has shown enough flashes to potentially convince the club he deserves more playing time, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “He’s proven he’s trustworthy,” head coach Mike Malone said after Hampton played a career-high 27 minutes last night in a 119-114 loss to the Kings. The No. 24 pick in the 2020 draft, who spent his age-18 season with the New Zealand Breakers, scored a career-high 7 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
  • Veteran Thunder center Mike Muscala has entered the league’s concussion protocol after suffering a concussion during the club’s 120-118 defeat of the Timberwolves last night, per Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman (Twitter link).

Northwest Notes: Conley, Anthony, Barton, Miller

Mike Conley is one of two Jazz players in the COVID-19 protocol, though he has tested negative for the virus. He had close contact with a family member who tested positive, which has forced him to the sidelines. He has to produce seven consecutive negative tests before he can exit quarantine, according to the Salt Lake Tribune’s Eric Walden (Twitter links). The other player who is not currently allowed to practice has yet to be named publicly.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Carmelo Anthony realizes he’ll probably be coming off the bench this season with the Trail Blazers but he admits it’s a difficult adjustment for a longtime All-Star, ESPN’s Royce Young tweets. “I tried it in Houston but it was only seven or eight games,” he said. “This is new for me. … I had to take a deep breath and figure it out. We’ll make it work.”
  • Swingman Will Barton believes he should be part of the Nuggets’ starting five, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. “I’m a starter in this league. … I think it’s clear cut,” he said. “I’m a starter. At the end of the day, (it’s up to Coach (Michael) Malone).” Barton missed all of the restart, including Denver’s playoff run, with a knee injury. Barton could wind up competing with Michael Porter Jr. for the small forward spot, though Porter will also see action at power forward.
  • Darius Miller expects to be fully recovered from his Achilles injury by the start of the season, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. “I’m feeling pretty good,” Miller said. “Unfortunately with COVID I haven’t had a chance to play a lot, but the team’s working with me, and they’ve got me going at a pretty good pace.” Miller, who was on the Pelicans roster, missed all of last season due to the injury. He was dealt to the Thunder in the four-team deal that sent Steven Adams to New Orleans.

Four-Team Jrue Holiday, Steven Adams Trade Officially Complete

The Pelicans, Thunder, Bucks, and Nuggets have officially completed the four-team trade that will send Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee and Steven Adams to New Orleans, the Pelicans announced today in a press release.

In total, the mega-deal involves 10 players, five draft picks, and two future pick swaps. The trade breaks down as follows:

  • Bucks acquire Holiday and the draft rights to Sam Merrill (No. 60 pick; from Pelicans).
  • Pelicans acquire Adams, Eric Bledsoe, the Bucks’ 2025 first-round pick (unprotected), the Bucks’ 2027 first-round pick (unprotected), and the right to swap first-round picks with the Bucks in 2024 and 2026.
  • Thunder acquire George Hill, Darius MillerKenrich Williams (sign-and-trade), Josh Gray (sign-and-trade), Zylan Cheatham (sign-and-trade), the Nuggets’ 2023 first-round pick (top-14 protected), the Wizards’ 2023 second-round pick (from Pelicans), and the Hornets’ 2024 second-round pick (from Pelicans).
  • Nuggets acquire the draft rights to RJ Hampton (No. 24 pick; from Bucks).

The deal began when the Bucks and Pelicans reached an agreement on a trade sending Holiday to Milwaukee last week. From there, the Thunder got involved when New Orleans agreed to flip Hill to Oklahoma City in a trade for Adams.

A draft-night deal between the Nuggets and Pelicans that involved the Nuggets’ 2023 first-rounder and the Bucks’ No. 24 pick (sent to New Orleans as part of the original Holiday agreement) was folded in to make it a four-team trade when the Pels agreed to flip Denver’s ’23 pick to OKC as part of the Adams package.

As cap expert Albert Nahmad has pointed out (via Twitter), it’s an intricate, complex transaction that had to make use of a slew of CBA rules. The Pelicans, who are signing Adams to a two-year extension as part of the trade, needed to sign-and-trade Williams, Gray, and Cheatham to Oklahoma City and guarantee most or all of Miller’s $7MM salary in order to abide by salary-matching rules.

Meanwhile, Adams gets a trade bonus worth a little over $2MM as part of the deal, while the Thunder create the largest trade exception in NBA history, worth $27.5MM, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link).

Unfortunately, as Nahmad observes (via Twitter), Oklahoma City will likely have to use that massive TPE immediately to accommodate the acquisition of Al Horford. Still, as John Hollinger of The Athletic writes, the Thunder should come out of their series of transactions with a handful of usable trade exceptions, including one worth $15.4MM.

A full breakdown of this offseason’s trades – including the ones not yet made official – can be found right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Thunder Trading Steven Adams To Pelicans

9:00am: Wojnarowski has another update on this deal, reporting (via Twitter) that George Hill will indeed end up with the Thunder rather than the Pelicans. New Orleans will also send Oklahoma City Darius Miller‘s $7MM expiring contract, Washington’s 2023 second-round pick, and Charlotte’s 2024 second-round pick, Woj adds.

New Orleans is still acquiring Bledsoe in the multi-team trade, per Woj (Twitter link), so Miller’s contract will likely need to become fully guaranteed for salary-matching purposes and the Pelicans will still probably have to send out a bit more salary. So I expect there are still more parts of this deal to be reported.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter) that Adams may also need to amend his trade kicker to make the money work.

12:41am: The lottery-protected 2023 first-round pick that the Nuggets agreed to send to the Pelicans on draft night in order to land RJ Hampton will be rerouted to Oklahoma City as part of this deal, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). The Thunder will also receive two future second-round picks from New Orleans, per ESPN.

12:00am: Having already traded away guards Chris Paul and Dennis Schröder, the Thunder are now finalizing a trade that will send veteran center Steven Adams to the Pelicans, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The deal is becoming a part of the Jrue Holiday blockbuster that New Orleans and the Bucks previously agreed upon, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that the Holiday trade will expand to include more teams and players. It still has “a lot of moving parts” and will take some work to finish, tweets Wojnarowski.

The Thunder will be receiving a first-round pick and second-round picks as part of the expanded swap, per Woj (Twitter link).

While it’s tricky to evaluate the deal before we know all those moving parts, we can at least break down Adams’ fit in New Orleans. He’ll fill the hole in the frontcourt created by the free agent departures of Derrick Favors and Jahlil Okafor earlier this evening. The Pelicans were said to have interest in Aron Baynes, among other big men, but it looks like Adams will be the team’s new man in the middle.

In 2019/20, Adams averaged 10.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG, and 2.3 APG in 63 games (26.7 MPG) as Oklahoma City’s starting center. His contract is somewhat onerous, with a $27.5MM cap hit for 2020/21. However, it’ll be an expiring deal and will come off the Pelicans’ cap next summer.

With the Pelicans now taking on Adams’ salary, it seems likely that at least one of the point guards they were set to receive in the Holiday trade – Eric Bledsoe and George Hill – will be rerouted elsewhere — most likely to OKC.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Western Notes: Kings, Atkinson, Pelicans, Thunder

Pelicans general manager Trajan Langdon reportedly informed the Kings on Wednesday that he will not be involved in their search for a new head of basketball operations.

With Langdon pulling his name out of the Kings’ search, that leaves Sachin Gupta, Adam Simon, Calvin Booth, Monte McNair, and Wes Wilcox as potential replacements for Vlade Divac. Jason Jones of The Athletic looks at each candidate’s resume, exploring why they would make sense for Sacramento.

As Jones points out, the Kings head into the offseason with four picks in the 2020 NBA draft, including the 12th overall selection, but do not have a lot of cap space. Therefore, whoever Sacramento chooses will have a tall task ahead of them to break the team’s 14-year playoff drought.

Here’s more from across the Western Conference:

  • The Pelicans are one of the many teams looking for a brand new head coach after firing Alvin Gentry. One potential candidate who could be of interest to New Orleans is former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, according to William Guillory of The Athletic, who evaluates Atkinson’s fit in New Orleans. As Guillory details, Atkinson has a relationship with Langdon, who was the Nets’ assistant general manager, and could help further the development of New Orleans’ young roster like he did with Brooklyn.
  • After just missing out on the playoffs, the Pelicans hold the 13th overall selection in the 2020 NBA draft. But unlike the other teams in the lottery, New Orleans does not necessarily need its first-round pick and could use it to acquire veteran players. William Guillory of The Athletic draws up three trades that the Pelicans could execute to upgrade their roster. One trade Guillory created has the Nets giving up Taurean Prince and their 2020 first-rounder for Darius Miller, Nicolo Melli, and the No. 13 pick.
  • The Thunder will be looking for a new head coach after parting ways with Billy Donovan on Tuesday. Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman takes a deep dive into potential replacements, listing 50 possible candidates for OKC’s vacancy. Outside of the known options, Mussatto mentions multiple internal candidates, including Maurice Cheeks and Mark Daigneault.

Pelicans Sign Sindarius Thornwell As Substitute Player

6:25pm: Miller has been officially ruled out as he continues his rehab from right Achilles surgery, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez tweets.

1:04pm: The Pelicans have officially signed free agent guard Sindarius Thornwell for the rest of the season as a substitute player, the team announced today in a press release.

Thornwell, 25, was selected with the 48th overall pick in the 2017 draft and spent the first two years of his professional career with the Clippers. He appeared in 137 total games for Los Angeles, averaging 2.5 PPG and 1.3 RPG on .415/.342/.689 shooting in a limited role (10.7 MPG).

After being waived by the Clippers last July, Thornwell spent the 2019/20 season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the G League, averaging 9.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 4.5 APG in 40 games (28.9 MPG). The 6’5″ guard is considered a strong perimeter defender.

It remains to be seen which player on the Pelicans roster is being replaced by Thornwell. According to Christian Clark of NOLA.com (Twitter link), swingman Darius Miller isn’t traveling to Orlando with the team due to his ongoing Achilles recovery, but an injured player like Miller isn’t eligible to be replaced by a substitute player.

At this point, a substitute player can only be signed to replace a player who voluntarily opts out of the NBA’s restart or who has tested positive for COVID-19. No Pelicans players have announced they plan to opt out, but three tested positive for the coronavirus in June. We’ll have to wait for further updates to confirm which player is being replaced by Thornwell and why — the player in question will be ineligible to return this season.

Southwest Notes: Williamson, Mavs, Spurs, Miller

Pelicans star Zion Williamson is ready to continue his impressive rookie season when the NBA resumes in Orlando this month, explaining his thoughts on the team’s mindset in a media availability posted on NBA.com.

“That’s a simple answer – we’re trying to make a playoff push, and we’re trying to get back into our full game condition within those eight [seeding] games,” Williamson said.

Williamson played just 19 games before the NBA suspended its season in mid-March, averaging 23.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 29.7 minutes per contest. He’s since taken a leadership role with the club, recognizing the importance of being successful both on the court and off.

“I’m preparing by bonding with my teammates once again,” Williamson said. “Talking to them, saying ‘We’re going to get through this,’ and we’re just going to battle the [mental challenges surrounding this]. As far as me also getting ready for that, it’s just conditioning and honing my skills.”

New Orleans is tied for the 10th best record in the Western Conference with Sacramento at 28-36, trailing the No. 8 seed Grizzlies by 3.5 games. The team’s first game in Orlando will commence on July 30 against Utah.

Here are some other notes from the Southwest Division today:

  • Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis is confident the team can surprise people during the NBA’s resumed season, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News writes. Porzingis is holding per-game averages of 19.2 points and 9.5 rebounds after taking a full year off to rehab from a torn ACL.
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News explores how the Spurs are mentally preparing themselves for the rest of the season. San Antonio owns the third-worst record of all 22 teams heading to Orlando, going 27-36 through 63 games on the season. “I think we’re all aware of the risk [of resuming play],” Spurs center Jakob Poeltl said. “Everybody individually had to really think about the situation. From what I’m hearing, the NBA is going above and beyond to create the safest possible environment for us. I’m hearing that possibly it’s going to be safer for us to be in that bubble than maybe even being at home. But it’s definitely still a risk.”
  • Pelicans forward Darius Miller is unsure if he’ll be able to play in Orlando due to COVID-19, Will Guillory of The Athletic tweets. Miller has been unable to play 3-on-3 or 5-on-5 due to the virus. He suffered an Achilles tear in the summer of 2019, last appearing in an NBA game during the 2018/19 season.

Western Notes: Thompson, Miller, Brunson, Williamson

It’s been nearly a year since Warriors guard Klay Thompson suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during last year’s Finals. However, GM Bob Myers isn’t sure if Thompson can be listed as fully recovered until he tests the knee in 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 situations, Mark Medina of USA Today tweets. Myers added, “He’s recovering fine; he hasn’t had any setback.”

Myers is also unsure whether the Warriors will be big players in the free agent and trade markets this summer, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets“Depending on the economics, we have to be pragmatic and smart…I have no idea what the future holds, but we have an ownership group that’s aggressive and pushes the limits,” Myers said.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • It’s possible Pelicans forward Darius Miller could return to action this summer after suffering a torn right Achilles tendon last August, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez tweets. Miller has continued his rehab throughout quarantine and his status will be determined during the team’s training camp prior to heading to Orlando. If he can’t go, a two-way player will likely fill his roster spot, Lopez adds.
  • The Mavericks still don’t plan on guard Jalen Brunson returning this season, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News tweets. Brunson underwent right shoulder surgery this same week that play was halted. He hasn’t played since February 22.
  • A Florida judge ruled last week that Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson must answer questions regarding alleged benefits he received before and during his one season at Duke, Mark Schlabach of ESPN reports. Williamson is being sued for $100MM for alleged breach of a marketing agreement. A Florida appeals court subsequently granted a temporary stay and paused proceedings in the lawsuit from Prime Sports Marketing and company president Gina Ford, whose attorneys must respond within 10 days, according to an Associated Press report.

Western Notes: Paul, Jazz, Miller, Zion

While Oklahoma City is exceeding expectations this season, GM Sam Presti is still operating with the franchise’s long-term future in mind, Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman writes. Chris Paul is unlikely to be dealt before the deadline, but his play could be increasing his trade value and that helps the team’s long-term position, whether a trade happens this season or down the road. On Monday night, Paul had arguably his best game as a member of the Thunder, scoring 19 points in the fourth quarter as the team beat the Bulls.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Tony Jones of The Athletic wonders if the Jazz can turn their season around on their own or if the team needs to make a trade. While Utah could use additional depth, the franchise doesn’t have many assets that would make a trade worthwhile.
  • Darius Miller, who is recovering from a torn Achilles, spoke with William Guillory of The Athletic about his journey back to the court as well as the differences between the Pelicans this season vs. last. “Of course, we’ve had our ups and downs, but it’s a great group of guys,” Miller said. “Griff (head of basketball operations David Griffin) did a great job putting great teammates here, great people. Not just great basketball players, but great people. It’s been good getting to know all these guys. We’re still young, so we’re really just trying to figure out everything.”
  • Paul Pierce believes that the Pelicans should shut down Zion Williamson for the season, as he explains on ESPN’s The Jump. The 2019 No. 1 overall pick hasn’t played for New Orleans yet this season because of a knee injury.