Dereck Lively

Mavericks Notes: Exum, Doncic, Lively, Kleber, Green

Dante Exum credits pre-draft advice he received from Kobe Bryant for helping him withstand the many challenges of his career, writes Mark Medina of Sportskeeda. Exum’s NBA path was derailed by numerous injuries and he spent two seasons playing in Europe before signing with the Mavericks this summer.

“There will be a lot of distractions off the court,” Exum said Bryant told him. “It’s about how you handle those and focus on the court. That’s what’s going to define my career.”

The Australian guard was projected to be a star when Utah selected him with the fifth pick in the 2014 draft. However, his second season was wiped out completely by a torn ACL, and after appearing in 66 games in his third year, he hasn’t been available for more than 42 in a season since then. He had brief stops in Cleveland and Houston, and it appeared his NBA career might be over when he left the league after the 2020/21 season. But Exum reestablished himself in Spain and Serbia and got another chance with Dallas.

“Definitely through the injuries, I stayed motivated to stay that way,” Exum said, referring to Bryant’s advice. “A lot of days were hard. I didn’t want to be there [for rehab]. I felt like life was unfair. But it’s something I have to go through and something that I have to keep pushing through. It made me mentally strong.”

There’s more on the Mavericks:

  • Luka Doncic admitted to being exhausted after Saturday’s game, and it wasn’t just because he played 46 minutes and put up incredible numbers with 36 points, 15 rebounds and 18 assists, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Doncic became a father for the first time this week and only got four or five hours of sleep before the game. The team considered giving him a night off, but he insisted on playing because Kyrie Irving, Tim Hardaway Jr. and several other rotation players were already out of action. “It was the happiest day of my life with the baby, but then today’s game was a big roller coaster too,” said Doncic, who led a comeback that included a 30-0 run but fell short. “I’m so sad we didn’t win this game, but man, we gave a big, big effort.”
  • Rookie center Dereck Lively II has been a major reason for the Mavericks’ early-season success, notes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Coaches have been urging Lively to take a larger role in the offense, Hollinger adds, and he responded by making all nine of his shots from the field Saturday, scoring 20 points to go with 16 rebounds and seven blocks.
  • Maxi Kleber‘s absence with a dislocated toe appears as though it will last for a while longer, as coach Jason Kidd tells Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News that Kleber still hasn’t been cleared to start running (Twitter link). Kidd also expressed concern that Josh Green‘s elbow injury could be a long-term concern.

Eastern Rumors: Nets, Quickley, Hawks, Hayward, Martin

Executives around the NBA continue to monitor Nets forwards Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale, who were considered trade candidates during the offseason, writes Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

Rival executives believe Brooklyn will seek the equivalent of two first-round picks for Finney-Smith, though they hope that cost will drop closer to the deadline, according to Scotto, who adds that some execs who spoke to HoopsHype think the Nets would want a protected first-round pick for O’Neale. Finney-Smith still has multiple years left on his contract, while O’Neale is on an expiring deal.

Teams are also eyeing Nic Claxton and are curious to see whether Brooklyn is willing to roll the dice on re-signing him as an unrestricted free agent next summer, since he won’t become extension-eligible before then. For now, the Nets view Claxton as part of their core and wouldn’t be inclined to move him unless they get an offer that blows them away, Scotto explains.

Finally, some NBA executives think that veteran guard Spencer Dinwiddie might be available on the trade market later this season — and they think he’d have some value. “Dinwiddie can help a team and make big shots,” one exec told Scotto.

Scotto has more trade rumors and notes from around the Eastern Conference. Let’s dive in…

  • Rival teams are keeping an eye on whether or not the Knicks will make Immanuel Quickley available, according to Scotto, who says the guard was seeking about $25MM per year on a rookie scale extension before the season, while New York offered approximately $18MM annually. “I think Quickley might be New York’s best trade asset besides Jalen Brunson,” one league executive told HoopsHype.
  • The Hawks still have some trade interest in Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, says Scotto. De’Andre Hunter and Clint Capela were mentioned during the offseason as possible trade candidates for Atlanta and Scotto believes one or both players could be available again before February’s deadline. However, the Mavericks‘ interest in Capela has diminished due to the strong play of rookie Dereck Lively, Scotto notes.
  • Multiple “playoff-caliber” teams have been in touch with the Hornets to gauge the potential availability of veteran forward Gordon Hayward, per Scotto.
  • Scotto also reports that teams have expressed some exploratory interest in Sixers wing KJ Martin, who was part of the James Harden blockbuster earlier this month. Martin has played a limited role in Philadelphia but is coming off a solid year in Houston.

Injury Notes: McCollum, Markkanen, Luka, Nuggets, Williams

Pelicans guard CJ McCollum has been ruled out of Monday’s contest in Utah, which will be his 12th consecutive missed game. However, the 32-year-old veteran is aiming to return to action later this week, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that McCollum could play either Wednesday against Philadelphia or Friday vs. San Antonio.

McCollum, who has been out since Nov. 4 with a collapsed lung, is averaging 21.7 PPG, 5.7 APG, 4.8 RPG and 1.5 SPG on .440/.380/.742 shooting through six games this season. He was a full practice participant last week.

Another marquee player will be also sidelined for the matchup between the Pelicans and Jazz. Lauri Markkanen has been ruled out for the second straight game, tweets Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune.

As Larsen observes (via Twitter), Markkanen was previously listed as having a sore left hamstring, but the injury is now classified as a strain — it’s possible the All-Star forward may have undergone some imaging to confirm the diagnosis. On a more positive note, Jordan Clarkson will return tonight after missing the previous game due to an illness.

Here are some more injury notes from around the NBA:

  • The Mavericks received good news on Monday, as the left thumb injury that Luka Doncic sustained on Saturday isn’t serious. After undergoing an MRI, Doncic was diagnosed with a low-grade sprain and he will be available for Tuesday’s matchup with Houston, though he did wear a wrap on his thumb during Monday’s practice, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (subscriber link). Rookie center Dereck Lively practiced as well, but he’s questionable with a lower back contusion, Townsend adds.
  • Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon will miss his second straight game on Monday due to a right heel strain, while reigning Finals MVP Nikola Jokic is questionable due to lower back pain, tweets Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette. As we previously relayed, Jamal Murray is out tonight, but he could return later this week.
  • Thunder wing Jalen Williams is available for Tuesday’s matchup vs. the Wolves, according to Rylan Stiles of Locked on Thunder (Twitter link). Last season’s runner-up for Rookie of the Year has missed three consecutive games with a left hip strain.

And-Ones: Okafor, Ferrell, Rookies, Player Empowerment

Signing with Zaragoza in Spain hasn’t gone exactly according to plan for former No. 3 overall pick Jahlil Okafor, with the team stumbling out to a 3-7 record after he signed this summer. According to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia, Okafor is now departing Zaragoza to sign with a Chinese club, the Zhejiang Lions, who will pay for his buyout.

It sounds like the magnitude of the offer received from Zhejiang was the biggest sticking point for Okafor, and that it was more than he could’ve received from Zaragoza, as detailed in a piece from

Zaragoza head coach Porfirio Fisac openly discussed his thought process on the matter before Okafor left, as relayed by

If he leaves, for me right now in his career, it’s a mistake,” Fisac said. “I think he’d be mistaken. He’s played 15 or 20 games and is in good physical condition. It is true that he still has a lot to improve, but we cannot put more pressure on him in terms of changes of pace and efforts.

We are taking care of him. If he stays here, his career will be extended by 10 years. If he goes somewhere else, he will play five more years. It all depends on where the money is or whether you want to earn it today or later. Everyone has their own way of thinking.

Okafor, 27, holds six seasons of NBA experience across stints with the Sixers, Nets, Pelicans and Pistons. His last NBA appearance came in 2020/21 with Detroit. He averages 10.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 247 games (116 starts) for his career.

We have more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA guard Yogi Ferrell is receiving overseas interest, with Serbian club Partizan reaching out to the 30-year-old guard, according to Partizan is currently dealing with injury issues in the backcourt, leading to their interest in Ferrell. Ferrell appeared in 259 games (53 starts) across five seasons in the NBA with the Nets, Mavericks, Kings, Cavaliers and Clippers. His last NBA appearance came in 2020/21 and he holds career averages of 7.7 points and 2.3 assists.
  • While Chet Holmgren and Victor Wembanyama have seemingly made the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award a two-man race early in the season, the entire crop of first-year players has been impressive. The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie took stock of rookies across the league, ranking Dereck Lively, Brandon Miller, Ausar Thompson, Jordan Hawkins and Cason Wallace as the next five (in order) behind Holmgren and Wembanyama on the league’s rookie ladder. It’s a different take on the rookie class than what ESPN’s Bobby Marks and Kevin Pelton offered last week — ESPN’s duo was a touch higher on Detroit’s Marcus Sasser and lower on Lively, though all of Marks, Pelton and Vecenie agreed Holmgren was the overall most impressive rookie so far.
  • This summer’s trade requests from Damian Lillard and James Harden added another chapter to the NBA’s player empowerment saga. According to Heavy Sports’ Steve Bulpett, NBA owners are seeking ways to prevent or minimize the practice of players demanding trades in the fashion we’ve been accustomed to. “I think the whole player empowerment piece that has been running in the league for last couple of years? I think it’s about run its course, because so many just haven’t worked out,” Bulpett’s Eastern Conference source said.

Southwest Notes: H. Jones, Grizzlies, A. Holiday, Lively

Pelicans wing Herbert Jones wants to make sure he doesn’t take his foot off the gas pedal this season after signing a four-year, $54MM deal as a restricted free agent over the summer, according to Christian Clark of

I think the biggest thing for me was after I signed, I never got complacent,” Jones said. “I know it’s not the most somebody has signed for in the NBA. But it’s still a lot of money.

A lot of people, once they get to the first one, a lot of guys back off the gas a little bit. I just wanted to continue to work hard and show my true love for the game. There really was no dollar amount that could slow the grind down.”

With a well-deserved reputation as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, Jones is off to a pretty remarkable start on that end of the court in 2023/24, especially from a play-making perspective. As Clark notes, Jones is currently averaging 2.1 steals and 1.6 blocks per game, trailing only Anthony Davis in “stocks” (steals plus blocks).

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal details how Jaren Jackson Jr. helped Bismack Biyombo quickly acclimate to the Grizzlies, writing that the two big men had a preexisting relationship, as they’re both vice presidents of the National Basketball Players Association. Following a season-ending knee injury to Steven Adams, the Grizzlies signed Biyombo once Ja Morant was placed on the suspended list. The Congolese center has played a prominent role for the injury-ravaged team, starting eight of his nine games while averaging 7.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 1.1 BPG in 25.1 MPG. “He can fit in any locker room,” Jackson said of Biyombo. “He’s a great leader. That’s why he’s doing what he does for his country and does what he does for the union. I know how much he cares about the league. That care carries over to the locker room.”
  • Rockets guard Aaron Holiday, a free agent addition over the offseason, has been playing a regular role with No. 4 overall pick Amen Thompson sidelined due to an ankle sprain, writes Danielle Lerner of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). “He’s a guy that can play on and off the ball,” head coach Ime Udoka said of Holiday. “Stronger, tougher than his size and then also shoots the ball well, so he’s been invaluable to us with the guys out. He’s been really good lately.”
  • In a conversation with Mark Medina of Sportskeeda, Mavericks first-rounder Dereck Lively touched on his influences, his rookie season thus far, and playing with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, among other topics. Lively will be sidelined for Friday’s matchup against the Clippers due to a lower back contusion he sustained on Wednesday vs. the Lakers, per the NBA’s official injury report.

Southwest Notes: Sochan, Alvarado, Rockets, Mavs

The Spurs‘ efforts to turn forward Jeremy Sochan into a point guard have been a bit bumpy so far, but the team has shown a willingness to stick with it and Sochan has been open to learning, writes Andrew Lopez of The 20-year-old admits it’s “going to be a process” to adapt to the new position, but he’s been getting advice from last season’s starter Tre Jones and said the transition has been “fun.”

“There have been moments where it’s like, ‘Yo, I don’t want to.’ It’s like, ‘f–k this s–t.’ I’m going to be honest,” Sochan said earlier this month. “There have been moments where there isn’t confidence. But there are moments of being confident and just working. Knowing the trust I have from the coaches and players, it helps.”

As Lopez details, the Spurs didn’t have Sochan watch film of any specific point guards when he moved into the role, since they still want him to play like himself rather than trying to emulate someone else.

“He can’t play like Chris Paul or he can’t play like John Stockton,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s got to be Jeremy.”

Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins, who said his team “studied” Sochan ahead of the 2022 draft, referred to him as a “Swiss Army Knife-type player” with strong play-making skills, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required). Jenkins isn’t surprised that Popovich is thinking outside of the box by experimenting with Sochan at the point.

“When you have been around Pop, competed against Pop, he is very open-minded to trying a lot of different things,” Jenkins said. “In the eras he has been here, playing big, playing small, emphasizing the three-ball, emphasizing the paint, emphasizing faster pace, slower pace, not a surprise.”

Here are a few more notes from around the Southwest:

  • Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado said today during a media session that he’ll make his season debut on Monday night vs. Sacramento, per Christian Clark of “I’m back,” Alvarado said. “I feel good. I will go through pregame. But I’m back. That’s the plan.” Alvarado has yet to play this fall due to a right ankle sprain.
  • Mark Medina of Sportsnaut spoke to Rockets head coach Ime Udoka about the strides his team has made so far this season, the impact that newcomers like Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks have had, and the improvement he’s seen from youngsters like Alperen Sengun. “We knew what he was offensively in a lot of ways and how he impacts the game for us,” Udoka said of Sengun, who is averaging a career-best 20.1 PPG, 8.4 RPG, and 5.7 APG. “He can control things there. But defensively, he has taken a huge step. He’s bought in and has improved on that side of the ball.”
  • While the Mavericks are off to a strong start this season, losses like Sunday’s to Sacramento show that they’re still very much a work in progress on the defensive side of the ball, writes Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News (subscription required). Rookie center Dereck Lively II has exceeded expectations but has struggled to slow down star bigs such as Domantas Sabonis, who had 32 points on Sunday. “If we’re not scoring 130, it’s hard to win,” head coach Jason Kidd acknowledged.

Community Shootaround: Early Season Surprises

For the most part, it’s easy to tell who the NBA’s contenders and bottom-feeders are before the season. Similarly, fans can usually predict what a large part of a team’s given rotation is going to look like. But every year, there are several instances of unexpected players and teams breaking out or disappointing.

This season is no different and, through the first portion of the season, there are already some surprising trends and storylines.

In my view, the most disappointing start to the season for any team has to be the Grizzlies. Teams like the Pistons, Wizards, Spurs and Trail Blazers were expected to trend toward the bottom of the standings with young cores and growing pains. But the Grizzlies were the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last year and acquired former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart. Of course, Memphis has been dealt an incredibly difficult hand with the 25-game suspension of Ja Morant and injuries to Brandon Clarke, Steven Adams and Smart, along with many more, and any team would be hard-pressed to overcome that.

Seasons are all about hot and cold streaks, and both the Clippers and Warriors are going through slumps after respective strong starts to the year. The Clippers began the year 3-1 and have gone 1-6 since acquiring James Harden, including losing six straight. The Warriors began the year 6-2 but have now also lost six in a row. I didn’t anticipate there to be as many growing pains with the Clippers and Harden from the jump, but I still expect they’ll get into form.

Not all surprises are bad though, and there have been plenty of pleasant ones to begin this year. The Timberwolves share the top spot in the west with the defending-champion Nuggets, which is eye-popping at first until you consider their elite defensive play and Anthony Edwards‘ unsurprising breakout.

The Rockets and Thunder look well ahead of the development curve, and hold two of the top six spots in the west. Chet Holmgren immediately looks like a star in his first NBA season for Oklahoma City while the Rockets have been aided by the additions of their veteran players and coach Ime Udoka.

For my money, the most surprising early season development is Dereck Lively IIs immediate importance to the 9-4 Mavericks. In his one season at Duke, Lively averaged just 20.6 minutes per game, though his role grew exponentially as the year went on. Still, when Dallas drafted him, I expected the franchise to bring him along slowly and allow him to get adjusted to the NBA.

Instead, Lively surged to the top of the depth chart, taking a choke-hold on the starting center position at just 19 years old. He’s averaging 8.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.7 stocks (steals plus blocks) in his first 12 games. His rise to the top has opened up so many things for the Mavs’ offense and Lively is a huge part of what looks like a top dog in the conference.

That brings us to our topic of the day: What early season trends have most surprised you the most? Do you agree with any of our choices? What players and teams have most exceeded or fallen short of expectations?

Take to the comments to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to reading your input.

Southwest Notes: Irving, Mavs, Adams, Murphy

Kyrie Irving is known for being mercurial, but he seems pleased with his new role on the Mavericks, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (subscriber link). It’s a small sample size (six games), but Irving has been acting as more of a facilitator and secondary play-maker alongside Luka Doncic, with the 31-year-old averaging a career-high 7.3 assists and 18.2 shots per game, his fewest attempts since 2017/18.

I feel like that’s kind of a cop-out,” Irving said of emphasizing individual statistics. “The focus is really on our team wins, our team camaraderie — and how do I make sure I get the best out of my teammates every single night, despite what I’m doing out there scoring-wise.”

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • The Mavericks are off to a strong start, currently sitting at 6-2. However, one of their weaknesses was exposed in Wednesday’s loss to Toronto with rookie center Dereck Lively sidelined due to an illness, according to Townsend (subscriber-only). Dallas was obliterated down low, outscored by 32 in the paint and outrebounded by 12. “We were soft in the interior, in the paint,” Irving said. “When you have your head coach (Jason Kidd) calling you soft, you’ve got to take that personally and take that as a challenge.” As impressive as Lively has been at times, it’s unreasonable to expect a 19-year-old with limited experience to be the primary anchor of a top-end defense, and the Mavs will need to figure out how to control the paint when he’s unavailable, Townsend writes.
  • Steven Adams underwent successful surgery on Thursday to repair his right posterior ligament and is expected to make a full recovery prior to next season, the Grizzlies announced (via Twitter). The team’s starting center will unfortunately miss the entire 2023/24 season.
  • Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link) provides an injury update on Pelicans wing Trey Murphy, who is recovering from meniscus surgery on his left knee. According to Guillory, Murphy has been running prior to games, playing 1-on-1 against assistant coaches and is making good progress, but he’s still “at least a few weeks away” from returning to action.

Southwest Notes: Thompson, Holiday, Lively, Grizzlies, Sochan

Rockets rookie guard Amen Thompson sprained his right ankle on Wednesday, with the team ruling him out of the contest shortly after he suffered the injury in the third quarter. According to Ben DuBose of Rockets Wire, head coach Ime Udoka said Thompson suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain.

Thompson also sustained a Grade 2 left ankle sprain over the summer and that injury had a two-to-four week recovery timetable, according to DuBose, so it’s likely he’s looking at a similar return timeline for this injury.

The No. 4 overall pick is Houston’s primary backup point guard behind Fred VanVleet, so Aaron Holiday absorbed the brunt of Thompson’s minutes following his departure from the game. However, Udoka didn’t turn to Holiday right away, moving Jae’Sean Tate to the backcourt before bringing Holiday in, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle observes (subscriber link). Udoka wasn’t ready to fully commit to the idea of Holiday always being the backup in a three-guard rotation.

I think we’ll go by committee a little bit,” Udoka said. “I think, the lineup that we had out there, even Amen was out there, we had Jae’Sean as another guy that can initiate, so we do have some guys I can kind of play up or down and fill different roles. We’ll look at it as game-to-game.

Udoka praised Holiday’s playing ability and said he believed Holiday and VanVleet could play together. Feigen writes that improving the bench play of the Rockets is crucial and playing Holiday may be important to finding a consistent rotation.

Depending on the team, for sure,” Udoka said. “Teams that have bigger wings, obviously that’ll pose some threats. But Aaron is a guy, similar to his brother, doesn’t have the height of Jrue, but he is a very physical, tough guy that can play on or off the ball. Fred does as well.

According to Feigen, Udoka said there may be situations where he calls on Reggie Bullock, rookie Cam Whitmore or Tate to fill in some of the backcourt minutes.

Holiday signed a one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Rockets this offseason that has just $1MM guaranteed. If Holiday is on the roster on Jan. 10, that contract will become fully guaranteed.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Mavericks rookie center Dereck Lively II is a huge part of Dallas’s early season success, averaging 7.6 points and 7.0 rebounds while starting in four of the team’s five games so far. Lively said he’s learned from former Mavs champion Tyson Chandler, who joined the organization via the Mavs Legend Program, according to Marc J. Spears of Andscape. Chandler works with Mavericks centers in his role with the team, including the 19-year-old Lively. “He has a willingness to actually learn, listen and take in information,” Chandler said. “He has a great spirit. He reminds me a lot of myself. I feel the duty to actually be there for him and guide him as much as necessary.”
  • The Grizzlies are a league-worst 0-6 to begin the season, facing a lengthy suspension to Ja Morant and injuries to key players like Steven Adams. Still, the Grizzlies were expected to be more competitive even with their early season issues, considering they brought in former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart and have current reigning DPOY Jaren Jackson Jr., as well as Desmond Bane. Kelly Iko and John Hollinger of The Athletic dive into why Memphis’ struggles go deeper than suspensions and injuries, including Smart being a step slower on defense thus far and the younger players on the roster not taking a step forward. I recommend checking out the article in full if you have a subscription to The Athletic, as the pair explore the intriguing trade options Memphis has, along with a deeper look into the club’s problems.
  • Experimenting with starting Jeremy Sochan at point guard has produced a mix bag of results for the Spurs. Even still, head coach Gregg Popovich expressed his appreciation with what the second-year guard/forward brings to the table, as relayed by Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). Popovich said Sochan is “trending in the right direction” and has stood out defensively, adding that he likes how the former lottery pick is “taking care of the ball,” according to Orsborn. “It doesn’t matter who he guards, he does a wonderful job, creates a lot of chaos for us,” Popovich said.

Southwest Notes: Ryan, Murphy, Wembanyama, Lively, Bane

Matt Ryan, whose two-way contract was claimed off waivers by New Orleans after being released by Minnesota, had a strong debut with the Pelicans, writes Christian Clark of (subscriber link).

The 26-year-old forward converted a trio of three-pointers in under three minutes during the second quarter, shifting the momentum of the game. While he only played 14 minutes, Ryan was a game-high plus-20 in the Pelicans’ 111-104 victory over Memphis, Clark notes.

After the game, Ryan reflected on his experience as a DoorDash driver once his college career ended, which coincided with the NBA shutting down the season due to the pandemic in March 2020.

I was kind of getting bored going from home to the gym,” Ryan said. “I wanted to do something that was easy to drop and go play right away. I had a car. Was capable of delivering food. I did that for a little bit. But I stayed in the gym. Stayed focused on my goals. When the opportunity came, I was ready.”

Ryan is now on his fourth team, having made previous stops with the Celtics, Lakers and Wolves. He remains steadfast in his belief that he’s an NBA player, and he should have more opportunities to showcase his long-range shooting with Trey Murphy sidelined, Clark adds.

I truly believed I could play at this level,” Ryan said. “It would have been easy to stop or take a mid-level job in Europe. I wanted to play in the NBA. I always did. I believe that I can. I’m going to continue to try to show it.”

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Murphy’s return timeline is up in the air due to a torn meniscus in his left knee, which required surgery, but he already feels like an essential piece for the Pelicans, Clark writes in another subscriber-only story for Murphy, who was the 17th pick of the 2021 draft, is now in his third season. In 2022/23, he averaged 14.5 PPG and 3.6 RPG in 31.0 MPG across 79 appearances (65 starts), posting an impressive shooting line of .484/.406/.905. The Pelicans exercised their ’24/25 team option on Murphy, making him eligible for a rookie scale extension next summer. Clark suggests the 6’9″ sharpshooter could land a nine-figure payday on his next contract.
  • While Spurs No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama had some moments of brilliance against Dallas in his regular season debut, recording 15 points (on 6-of-9 shooting), five rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block, he also committed five turnovers was limited to just 23 minutes in the loss due to foul trouble, notes Jonathan Givony of ESPN.
  • In the same story, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon says Mavericks center Dereck Lively II, who was the No. 12 overall pick, was the more impactful big man, notching 16 points (7-of-8 shooting), 10 rebounds, a steal, a block and a game-high plus-20 in 31 minutes off the bench. “He played f—ing amazing,” Mavs superstar Luka Doncic said.
  • Desmond Bane is finding his voice as a leader of the Grizzlies, particularly with Ja Morant suspended and Steven Adams out for the year with a knee injury, as Kelly Iko of The Athletic relays. Not only has the fourth-year guard become more vocal, he leads by example as well — he has an “obsessive work ethic,” according to Iko. “He’s the one on the team who I call ‘Cap’ for captain,” said rookie GG Jackson. “You can tell from his vibe in practice or even around the facility that he’s the lead dog, the most mature professional on the team. I still try to act a little goofy to add positivity, but he always has his head on the straight and narrow. He’s very serious about his craft. When it’s time to get to it he’s locked in.”