Gordon Hayward

Northwest Notes: Williams, Blazers, Wolves, Hayward

As Bulls forward Patrick Williams heads into restricted free agency, look for the Thunder to make a run at him, The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry reports. A league source tells Mayberry that Oklahoma City has “great interest” in the 22-year-old.

Williams, who has failed to live up to his draft billing as the No. 4 pick in 2020, would give the Thunder more size at power forward. Oklahoma City’s stash of draft picks could entice Chicago to negotiate a sign-and-trade with the Thunder. Williams was limited to 43 games this season due to a foot injury.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Trail Blazers hosted six draft prospects on Tuesday — Daniss Jenkins (St. John’s), Dillon Jones (Weber State), Spencer Jones (Stanford), Jared McCain (Duke), Noah Penda (JA Vichy-Clermont) and Armel Traore (Ada Blois), Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report tweets. Out of that group, McCain is the most highly regarded by draft pundits. The point guard is currently rated No. 15 overall on ESPN’s Best Available list. Portland controls the seventh and 14th overall picks, along with No. 34 and No. 40.
  • The Timberwolves were also busy evaluating draft prospects on Tuesday, according to the team’s PR department (Twitter link). Sy Chatman (Buffalo), Enrique Freeman (Akron), Pelle Larsson (Arizona), KJ Simpson (Colorado), Justin Webster (UNLV) and Moses Wood (Washington) visited Minnesota’s practice facility. Larsson (No. 44), a shooting guard, is the highest-ranked prospect among that group on ESPN’s list.
  • In his latest player report card, The Oklahoman’s Joe Mussatto evaluates the forgettable half-season that Gordon Hayward spent with the Thunder. Hayward is headed to unrestricted free agency and Mussatto opines that the forward might be looking at veteran’s minimum offers the remainder of his career.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers

If Kentavious Caldwell-Pope picks up his $15.4MM player option or declines it and signs a new, more lucrative deal with Denver, the Nuggets will be over the second tax apron in 2024/25. That means they would be limited to offering free agents minimum-salary contracts.

With that in mind, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports lists 10 ring-chasing veterans who might be able to help the Nuggets next season (the players have to be at least 30 years old in ’24/25 and potentially available for the minimum). Some players on Wind’s list include Gary Harris (a former Nugget), Gordon Hayward and Jae Crowder.

According to both Wind and Bennett Durando of The Denver Post (subscriber link), several people within the organization are fans of Hayward’s game, though it’s unclear if he’d actually accept a minimum deal after making $33.3MM last season. The 34-year-old was largely a non-factor with Oklahoma City and has a lengthy injury history, however, so his market is tricky to gauge.

Durando answers a handful of offseason questions related to the Nuggets, writing that the team will likely make small tweaks to the edges of the rotation instead of doing anything drastic.

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune (subscription required) argues the Timberwolves should pay the luxury tax to keep the core of the current roster together for next season no matter which ownership group ultimately prevails in their ongoing dispute for majority control. As Souhan writes, the Wolves just made the Western Conference finals for the second time in franchise history, and this team is much better positioned for continued success than the group from 2004.
  • The Timberwolves‘ roster should look similar in ’24/25, assuming ownership is willing to spend, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune (subscriber link). “They’ve been nothing but supportive with us,” head coach Chris Finch said of the team’s owners. “In many ways, this run that we’ve been on has pushed all of that to the background, and they’ve been 100 percent committed to the team, the team’s efforts and enjoying the success. That stuff will be what it will be. They’ve all pledged that no matter how it shakes out, that they’re going to give us every opportunity to be successful and continue to build, build a winner and a champion and all the things that we’re all trying to do together.”
  • The Trail Blazers held a pre-draft workout with six prospects on Thursday, tweets Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report. Those players were French wing Melvin Ajinca (No. 48 on ESPN’s big board), Minnesota guard Cam Christie (No. 34), G League Ignite guard Thierry Darlan (No. 85), Michigan State forward Malik Hall (unranked), North Carolina forward Harrison Ingram (No. 42) and Arizona forward Keshad Johnson (No. 49). Portland controls four picks in the 2024 draft, including a pair of second-rounders (No. 34 and No. 40).

Thunder GM Presti: I “Missed” On Hayward Trade

Thunder general manager Sam Presti said he made a mistake by trading for Hornets forward Gordon Hayward, according to ESPN.

Hayward was supposed to provide a veteran presence to the rotation but barely played in the postseason. Oklahoma City gave up three players and two second-round picks for Hayward.

“I missed on that,” Presti said Tuesday during his end-of-season press conference. “That’s on me. But I’m learning, I’m trying to learn this team, I’m trying to learn the pace of the team a little bit. And trying to be a great observer of the team as it’s going through its paces, knowing that it’s really going to change on its own in and of itself.”

Hayward, who is headed to free agency, expressed frustration over his role after the team was eliminated.

“Obviously disappointing with kind of how it all worked out. This is not what I thought it would be. Certainly frustrating. … We have a great team here with great young players, a great coach. So the future is bright,” Hayward said, adding, “I feel like as a player I have a lot to offer. I just wasn’t given much of an opportunity to do that.”

As Presti pointed out, the move at least created some cap flexibility going forward for the Thunder, since all three of the players they sent to Charlotte in the deal are owed guaranteed money for 2024/25, whereas Hayward’s $33MM+ salary will come off OKC’s books this summer.

Here’s more from Presti’s press conference, per Justin Martinez of The Oklahoman:

  • Presti is happy with the team and coaching staff in place. “It’s not a matter of knowing what you need,” he said. “It’s a matter of knowing what you have. … I think one of the things that we learned is we have a really good base to work with.” As usual, Presti is armed with plenty of draft capital and approximately $35MM in cap space. And once again, he doesn’t feel the need to get a star player to complement what he already has on the roster. “I think we learned that we do have some guys in (Chet Holmgren) and (Jalen Williams) who are certainly not there yet, but I wouldn’t bet against them,” Presti said. “We didn’t mortgage our future to get that result. We didn’t do anything performative to accelerate that process. … But I’m glad we took the path that we did. Ultimately, we trusted the team.”
  • Presti wouldn’t tip his hand regarding Josh Giddey, who is extension-eligible this offseason but was removed from the starting lineup in the second round of the playoffs. “He is tough, and he is clutch,” Presti said. “He has been asked to change some things and adjust to different things, and he hasn’t flinched one time. He’s trying to figure out how to best help the team. … We’ll sit down and have those conversations relative to his contract when those are appropriate. But we also don’t have to do anything right now either because he has another year. I’m super open-minded about all of our players and where I think they can get to.”
  • With the No. 12 pick in the draft, Presti is wide open about the type of player he’ll pick. “We’re not looking for something specific, like an on-court need,” he said.

Northwest Notes: Hayward, Thunder, Wolves’ Size, Wolves’ Future

Gordon Hayward was added by the Thunder from the Hornets at the trade deadline but wound up having no impact during the postseason. He only made seven appearances in the playoffs, averaging 6.6 minutes in those contests. That was a source of frustration for Hayward, who is headed for free agency, Rylan Stiles writes in a story at Sports Illustrated.

“Obviously disappointing with kind of how it all worked out. This is not what I thought it would be. Certainly frustrating. … We have a great team here with great young players, a great coach. So the future is bright,” Hayward said, adding, “I feel like as a player I have a lot to offer. I just wasn’t given much of an opportunity to do that.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Thunder were the youngest team in NBA history to clinch a No. 1 seed. Though they were eliminated in the second round, the best is yet to come for this franchise, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. “I feel like we can do anything we want to do,” Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said.
  • The Timberwolves’ Game 7 triumph over the Nuggets on Sunday was a tribute to Tim Connelly‘s decision to build with size, according to Rob Mahoney of The Ringer. The trio of Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert, and Naz Reid wore down Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic. No team can match Minnesota’s collective size, Mahoney notes, which allows the Timberwolves to play superior defensive coverage.
  • Another columnist, Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune, also heaped praise on the team president, declaring the Timberwolves are built to win this year and also to contend for years to come. Souhan notes that Kyle Anderson is the only member of the Wolves’ regular eight-man rotation who is not signed long-term.

Thunder Notes: SGA, Giddey, Hayward, Wiggins, Joe

The young Thunder may not quite be ready to win a tough playoff series, but there’s little doubt that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is, writes Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman. SGA was at his best in Saturday’s Game 6, scoring a series-high 36 points and hitting numerous clutch shots down the stretch. He also handed out eight assists, the biggest of which was an alley-oop that Chet Holmgren slammed home to give OKC a one-point lead with 20 seconds remaining.

But Gilgeous-Alexander made a critical mistake, committing a foul that sent P.J. Washington to the line for three free throws to decide the series. Washington made his first two shots to give Dallas the lead, then missed the third on purpose to take time off the clock and force Oklahoma City into a long heave on its final possession.

“We talk about it all year, the little things that go into winning games. And being disciplined. It sucks,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of his foul on Washington. “Obviously if I had the moment back I wouldn’t have fouled him and just let him make or miss the shot.” 

At the post-game press conference, Gilgeous-Alexander told reporters that he isn’t interested in watching a replay of the foul. Thunder coach Mark Daigneault challenged the play, which cost him his final timeout, but officials determined that SGA’s contact warranted a foul.

Even if it’s part of the learning process for a team that appears to have an incredibly bright future, the loss was painful in the moment as the players feel like they let an opportunity slip away.

“It’s hard to tell what you remember more, the wins or the losses, but this definitely stings,” Holmgren said. “It doesn’t feel great. Nobody wins 12 straight championships, so the chances I’m gonna feel this at some point again is definitely there. But I’m gonna do everything in my power to avoid this feeling again.”

There’s more on the Thunder:

  • The series highlighted the decision that OKC will eventually have to make about Josh Giddey‘s fit with the rest of the team, notes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Gilgeous-Alexander’s rise to an MVP candidate and the addition of Jalen Williams have significantly cut into Giddey’s usage rate, and he doesn’t shoot well enough from long distance to be an effective complementary player. Slater notes that Giddey was replaced in the starting lineup for Games 5 and 6 and didn’t start the second half in Games 2 and 4. Giddey will make $8.3MM next season in the final year of his rookie contract, but he’s extension-eligible this summer and Slater suggests he may be a trade candidate if the Thunder go shopping for veteran help.
  • There may not be a future in Oklahoma City for Gordon Hayward, whose $33.3MM salary will come off the books this summer, Slater adds. The team sent unwanted contracts to Charlotte to acquire Hayward at the trade deadline, but he wasn’t a factor in the playoffs, going scoreless in 46 total minutes.
  • The Thunder have a two-year window to upgrade their roster before future extensions start to kick in for their stars, Bobby Marks of ESPN states in his offseason overview of the team. Marks suggests that general manager Sam Presti might decline modest team options for Aaron Wiggins and Isaiah Joe and try to reach long-term deals with both players.

Northwest Notes: Daigneault, Edwards, Wolves, Nuggets, Jazz

A day after Mark Daigneault was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year for 2023/24, Thunder center Chet Holmgren lauded his head coach for his “crazy X’s and O’s” and his ability to connect with one of the NBA’s youngest rosters, per Rylan Stiles of SI.com.

“Shoutout to Mark man. Helluva coach,” Holmgren said. “… (He) puts us all in position to be successful. … He’s not that much older than us. He’s one of the bros.”

As John Hollinger of The Athletic, the world of NBA coaching is a “thankless” one, so now that he has shown the sort of success he can have in the regular season, Daigneault will be judged going forward on how and the Thunder perform in the postseason. Daigneault is off to a promising start on that front, notes Hollinger, pointing to an instance in Saturday’s win in which the Thunder extended their lead by using Gordon Hayward as a small-ball center.

As Hollinger writes, it would have been easy for Oklahoma City to take a conservative approach on Saturday with a 2-0 lead in the series, but Daigneault has shown repeatedly that he “doesn’t do safe and predictable.” His unorthodox strategies – which lean heavily on data and analytics, Hollinger points out – have the Thunder one win away from their first second-round series since 2016.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Fourteen-time All-Star Kevin Durant, who was on the receiving end of plenty of trash talk from Anthony Edwards during the Timberwolves‘ four-game sweep of Phoenix, had nothing but praise for the young star after Game 4, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “I’m so impressed with Ant. So impressed with Ant,” Durant said of Edwards, who averaged 31.0 PPG during the series. “My favorite player to watch. Just grown so much since he came into the league.”
  • The Timberwolves‘ dominant first-round victory over the Suns serves as a reminder that many NBA analysts were wrong about the Rudy Gobert trade, according to Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune. There was skepticism about the ability of Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns to be effective alongside one another, but they’ve proven over the course of this season that’s not a problem, Souhan adds.
  • While both Nuggets point guards are banged up, neither Jamal Murray (left calf strain) nor Reggie Jackson (left ankle sprain) has missed a game yet during the team’s first-round series vs. the Lakers. That streak is up in the air with Murray still considered questionable for Monday’s Game 5, but Jackson seems good to go — he’s listed as probable to play, tweets Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette.
  • In a report for The Salt Lake Tribune, Andy Larsen, Blake Apgar, Kevin Reynolds, and Robert Gehrke take a look at how the Delta Center – the Jazz‘s home arena – might be affected by team owner Ryan Smith‘s plan to bring the NHL to Utah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

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

Southeast Notes: F. Wagner, Rozier, Butler, Hayward

The Magic got good news on Monday, according to Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel, who reports (via Twitter) that Franz Wagner will be questionable for Tuesday’s contest in Houston. An MRI confirmed the initial diagnosis of a right ankle sprain, Beede adds, but the fact that the third-year forward has a chance to suit up tomorrow after exiting Sunday’s contest with the injury is a positive development.

Wagner, who helped Germany win a gold medal at last year’s World Cup, will be eligible for a rookie scale extension in the offseason. The 22-year-old has averaged 19.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.8 APG and 1.0 SPG through 70 games (32.4 MPG) for Orlando, which is currently 46-32, the No. 3 seed in the East.

Here’s more from the Southeast:

  • Heat guard Terry Rozier said he hurt his team by suiting up in Sunday’s loss to Indiana due to a neck injury that limited his effectiveness and caused him to sit out the entire fourth quarter. He’s questionable for Tuesday’s game vs. Atlanta, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald (subscriber link).
  • Wizards guard Jared Butler was recently promoted from a two-way deal to a three-year standard contract. His new contract pays him $1.25MM for 2023/24, but it doesn’t feature any guaranteed money beyond this season, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Washington, which completed the signing using a portion of its mid-level exception, will hold a team option on Butler for ’25/26, Scotto adds.
  • Sunday marked a homecoming of sorts for Gordon Hayward, who signed a lucrative long-term deal with the Hornets four years ago before being traded to the Thunder in February, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Perhaps fittingly in an unfortunate sort of way, the oft-injured veteran sat out the game with a lower left leg injury. Boone argues Hayward’s $120MM contract should be a cautionary tale for the new front office to spend wisely when signing free agents going forward.

Northwest Notes: Ayton, Henderson, Billups, Murray, Hayward, Conley

Deandre Ayton and rookie point guard Scoot Henderson are developing the on-court chemistry that the Trail Blazers have been hoping to see, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. That duo led Portland to a pair of road victories this week, combining for 46 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists on Wednesday at Charlotte and 53 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists on Friday at Washington.

Ayton said Henderson, who hit a game-winning shot to beat the Wizards, is learning how to impose his will on teams in his first NBA season.

“We’ve seen glimpses of it right now,” Ayton told reporters. “Scoot’s being extremely poised in certain situations in the game no matter the momentum and he’s just really taken over.”

The short-handed Blazers have relied on Ayton to become their on-court leader, Fentress notes. Jerami Grant, Anfernee Simons, Shaedon Sharpe, Matisse Thybulle and Malcolm Brogdon are all out of the lineup, leaving Ayton as the only player with significant NBA experience.

“DA doesn’t get the credit for being as smart as he is on the floor,” coach Chauncey Billups said. “He’s understanding the angle in which he has to set the screens for Scoot as teams try to go under him. I say it all the time with that pick-and-roll, it’s the point guard and the big guy, it’s a two-way relationship. It takes some time to get used to. You can see them starting to develop some chemistry in the coverages that teams play against us and against Scoot, which obviously is totally different than with (Simons). So, it takes some concentration to be honest with you, but I just love to see that chemistry developing between those two guys.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Billups called his selection to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall a Fame a bright spot in a difficult season for the Trail Blazers, Fentress adds in a separate story. “This definitely comes at a good time,” Billups said. “I think not just from me but just our group. Just to have some positivity. To have some good things to talk about about our organization, about our team. Because it has been a very tough year. But this has come at a really good time for all of us.”
  • Jamal Murray returned to the Nuggets‘ lineup on Saturday after missing seven games with inflammation in his right knee, per Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. Durando notes that Murray wore wraps on his knee and back during part of his pre-game warmup.
  • Thunder forward Gordon Hayward exited Friday’s game early due to soreness in his lower left leg, tweets Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman. He and Jalen Williams are both listed as questionable for today’s game at Charlotte.
  • Timberwolves guard Mike Conley flew from Phoenix to Memphis on Saturday so he could be part of a jersey retirement ceremony for former teammate Marc Gasol, according to Chris Hine of The Star-Tribune (Twitter link). Conley will catch a flight to Los Angeles in time for tonight’s game with the Lakers.

And-Ones: Harding, Cooper, All-NBA, Kaba, Bronny

Stockton Kings head coach Lindsey Harding has been named the NBA G League Coach of the Year in a vote by G League head coaches and general managers, NBA Communications tweets. Harding is the first woman to win the Coach of the Year award in the NBA G League. She’ll receive the Dennis Johnson Trophy.

Harding was hired to coach Sacramento’s NBAGL affiliate last June. Harding spent the past four seasons as an assistant/player development coach with the NBA’s Kings.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Sharife Cooper has signed with China’s Liaoning Flying Leopards, according to Sportando. Cooper signed a 10-day contract with the Cavaliers in late February but didn’t play at all and didn’t receive a second 10-day contract. He has spent the bulk of this season with the Cavs’ G League team, the Cleveland Charge.
  • Who are the highest-paid players who have never received All-NBA honors? HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto ranks the top 50 in that category, with the TimberwolvesMike Conley ($276.5MM), the Thunder‘s Gordon Hayward ($271MM) and the CelticsJrue Holiday ($259.4MM) topping the list.
  • Alpha Kaba, a 2017 draft-and-stash prospect, has signed with Valencia, the Spanish team tweets. The Rockets acquired the NBA rights to Kaba in a five-team trade last summer, though it appears unlikely that Kaba is planning on an NBA career. The big man had been playing with China’s Jiangsu Dragons.
  • Bronny James has entered the transfer portal, college basketball expert Dick Weiss tweets. Following an underwhelming freshman year at USC, Bronny is considered more likely to stay in college for another year than to be drafted in 2024. LeBron James‘ son posted averages of 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 36.6% from the field in 25 games for the Trojans.
    [UPDATE: Weiss has since walked back his report on Bronny entering the transfer portal, tweeting that it’s not yet confirmed.]