Jalen Johnson

Southeast Notes: Johnson, Toppert, Jovic, Heat

Hawks forward Jalen Johnson took a step forward last season into a rotational role with Atlanta and he’s looking to make another leap next season, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Lauren Williams. Williams writes that Johnson has spent most of his time this offseason working out in Atlanta and Los Angeles, which allowed him to cross paths with LeBron James.

Johnson and James share a trainer in Chris Johnson, and the opportunity arose to train with James. The Duke product said he was trying to learn as much as he could from the future Hall of Famer.

Before the workout, seeing how he goes about his business,” Johnson said. “Just once he gets the gym, he’s locked in, laser-focused, does his routine and then, as far as drill-wise, [he’s] the best on court. Everything’s precise. Everything’s the right way. Even if he messes up, he messes up and makes a shot, he’s still coming back and doing it the right way.

And while Johnson spent time trying to pick up on what James was doing from the side, LeBron also outright gave the third-year Hawks forward some advice.

He’s giving me pointers on how to do certain moves, how to be more effective with certain moves, little tricks, just kind of when we’re working out,” Johnson said. “So, just hearing that from him, having that as someone that I can reach out and ask questions to now, you know, it’s cool.

Johnson, 21, went from playing in 22 games and averaging 5.5 minutes in his rookie season to 70 games and 14.9 minutes in his sophomore year in the league. In 2022/23, Johnson averaged 5.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game — he’s in line for even more minutes, following the offseason trade of John Collins.

Atlanta seems primed to blend their veterans with their impressive young talent, including Johnson. Onyeka Okongwu and AJ Griffin appear poised for breakout seasons and the team picked guard Kobe Bufkin with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2023 draft. Trae Young and Dejounte Murray headline the team, which acquired veterans like Wesley Matthews and Patty Mills this offseason.

But Johnson is just one part of that, and he’s keeping everything in perspective.

I put in the same work every summer,” Johnson said. “Even if John doesn’t get traded, I feel like it’s the same mentality of trying to kill everybody that’s in front of me. Just kind of got to have that killer mentality as far as no matter what situation that is, just go control what you can control, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Wizards are hiring LSU assistant coach Cody Toppert to become the head coach of their G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Wojnarowski notes that Toppert previously worked with the Suns in the NBA and as a G League coach. Toppert also spent time with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the affiliate of the Rockets, as well as the University of Memphis as an assistant.
  • Though the Heat don’t have any players on Team USA, Nikola Jovic is putting on a show this summer while playing for Serbia’s national team. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel continues documenting his performances this season. While Jovic has struggled at times, including a five-point showing in a loss to Italy, Winderman suggests Jovic’s stock as a whole continues to rise this summer. Jovic’s best performance of the summer was a 25-point outing against South Sudan. Winderman writes that Jovic’s summer should dispel any notion of the Heat not having enough assets to make a play for Damian Lillard. In another piece, Winderman writes that Jovic’s trade value seems to be comparable to Precious Achiuwa, whom Miami included in the trade for Kyle Lowry.
  • In a separate piece, Winderman writes that the Heat‘s trade history suggests they ultimately won’t be completely picked clean by any potential Lillard trade. While several huge NBA trades have gone down in the past year including dozens of draft picks, from the Rudy Gobert haul last summer to the Kevin Durant package in February, the Heat have never traded more than two first-round picks for a player. That includes the sign-and-trades for James and Chris Bosh, the Shaquille O’Neal trade, and the Alonzo Mourning deal. While Miami may ultimately have to give into Portland’s demands for Lillard, Winderman writes, they’re justified for not wanting to put everything on the table right away.

John Collins Trade Notes, Reactions

It’s easy to understand from a financial perspective why trading John Collins to Utah in a salary-dump deal is the right move for the Hawks, who no longer project to be a taxpayer in 2023/24, writes Jeff Schultz of The Athletic. Still, Schultz views the move as an embarrassing culmination of three years of trade rumors, which began even before Collins signed a five-year, $125MM contract with the team in 2021.

Certainly, if the Hawks had moved Collins a year or two earlier, they could’ve brought back more value from an on-court perspective. As Shams Charania of The Athletic writes, Atlanta had an opportunity to acquire Harrison Barnes from the Kings in a Collins deal last June, but decided against it. The Hawks will instead acquire Rudy Gay and a second-round pick from the Jazz.

Collins’ exit will give young players like Jalen Johnson and AJ Griffin the opportunity to play larger roles going forward, according to Schultz, who adds that the Hawks will continue to explore the trade market. Although Clint Capela and De’Andre Hunter are viewed as possible candidates to be dealt, don’t expect Dejounte Murray to go anywhere. Schultz says a number of teams have inquired on Murray, but GM Landry Fields and head coach Quin Snyder are both fans of the veteran guard.

Here’s more on the Collins trade:

  • Gay is unlikely to actually suit up for the Hawks next season, per Lauren Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (subscription required). People familiar with the situation tell Williams that the team is expected to try to trade Gay. If no favorable deals emerge, he’ll likely be waived.
  • There’s no shame in admitting that the Collins trade is a salary dump, says ESPN’s Bobby Marks (YouTube link), pointing out that the move will give the Hawks flexibility for future deals with players like Saddiq Bey and Onyeka Okongwu.
  • Tony Jones of The Athletic takes a look at what Collins will bring to the Jazz and how adding him to the mix will affect the rest of the roster. Based on the current make-up of the frontcourt, it appears that Collins, Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kessler, and Kelly Olynyk will have major roles, with others – including Taylor Hendricks – vying for playing time, says Jones.
  • The Jazz‘s acquisition of Collins signals that the front office is willing to accelerate the team’s rebuilding process rather than simply continuing to stockpile draft picks and build through the draft, writes Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune (subscription required).
  • Zach Harper of The Athletic is far more bullish on the Jazz‘s side of the Collins deal, giving Utah a grade of A for the move while assigning the Hawks an “F-plus.”

Injury Notes: S. Barnes, Kuzma, J. Johnson, J. Allen

An MRI on Scottie Barnes‘ left wrist came back clean, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link). However, the wrist – which the Raptors forward injured during Sunday’s loss in Milwaukee – is still sore and will likely undergo more testing, Lewenberg adds. For now, Barnes is considered day-to-day, and Lewenberg believes he’ll likely be listed as questionable to play on Wednesday vs. Indiana after not practicing on Tuesday.

Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma has been ruled out for Tuesday’s contest in Orlando due to a right ankle sprain, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. It will be the third time in the last four games that Washington will be without either Kuzma or Kristaps Porzingis.
  • Following an MRI, Hawks forward Jalen Johnson was diagnosed with a mild hamstring and groin strain, a league source tells Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). According to Williams, Johnson will be reevaluated early next week.
  • Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen, who has been out for four games due to a right eye contusion, is nearing a return. According to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter link), Allen was a full participant in Monday’s practice and has a chance to play on Tuesday. He’s currently listed as questionable.
  • After missing four games due to a right ankle sprain, Pacers rookie Bennedict Mathurin returned to action on Monday, as Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star details. Mathurin showed no ill effects following the brief layoff, scoring 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

Southeast Notes: Porzingis, Gafford, Beal, Magic, J. Johnson

The Wizards have strung together four straight wins with a super-sized starting lineup featuring Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Both big men have adapted well to the pairing, enabling Washington to climb back into the race for the play-in tournament.

Hughes notes that both players blocked four shots Friday night at Orlando, becoming the first Wizards teammates to reach that total in the same game in 10 years. With Porzingis getting 13 rebounds and Gafford collecting eight, they are the first Washington players with at least four blocks and eight rebounds in the same game since 1987.

Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said earlier this week that he wanted to watch the Porzingis-Gafford pairing for five games before determining whether to make it permanent, but Hughes suggests that Unseld has probably seen enough already to make a decision. Hughes points out that Porzingis has more freedom on offense with Gafford stationed down low, allowing him to look for three-point shots and post up whenever he has a mismatch.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards guard Bradley Beal missed Friday’s game with a sore left hamstring and is listed as questionable for Sunday night against the Bucks. He has sat out the past two games.
  • After enjoying an 8-2 stretch earlier this month, the Magic have dropped their last three games, observes Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. The Magic are short-handed because of suspensions imposed after a fight with the Pistons this week, but they also have a lot of young players who are still getting used to the rigors of a long season. “It’s a tricky balance,” coach Jamahl Mosley said. “You have a group of young guys that are working every single day but balancing how much they work vs. understanding their bodies need to get the rest. You don’t want to overdo it in practice to the point that in the game that their energy levels are lower. We’ll balance it out.”
  • Hawks forward Jalen Johnson is coming off the best week of his NBA career, averaging 12.3 PPG over his last three games, per Lauren Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Opportunities have arisen for the team’s younger players after injuries to Clint Capela and De’Andre Hunter. “That’s just a part of being an NBA,” Johnson said. “You just got to be prepared for whatever situation like last year, when we had all those COVID cases, like we had a whole new team. So, you just got to be prepared for whatever injuries happen. That’s just a part in this league playing 82 games. So yeah, it’s not really nothing crazy getting adjusted to that.”

Hawks’ Bogdanovic Makes Season Debut Friday; Young Out

Hawks wing Bogdan Bogdanovic made his 2022/23 season debut Friday against Denver, and received a standing ovation from the home crowd when he entered the game off the bench (Twitter video link via Caleb Johnson of 92.9 The Game). He had been recovering for several months after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

Bogdanovic has been a key member of Atlanta’s rotation over the past two seasons, averaging 15.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.1 steals on .448/.398/.862 shooting in 107 total games (54 starts, 29.5 minutes per contest). His long-distance shooting and complementary play-making will definitely be helpful for the 12-10 Hawks, since they currently rank 29th in the league in three-point attempts, 27th in three-point percentage (32.5%), and 21st in assists per game.

The 30-year-old holds an $18MM player option for ’23/24. He’s extension-eligible and could hit free agency next summer if he declines his option.

Unfortunately, star point guard Trae Young was ruled out with right shoulder soreness prior to the game, tweets Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Third-year guard Trent Forrest (concussion evaluation), who’s on a two-way contract with Atlanta, was also ruled out.

With Young and forwards De’Andre Hunter and John Collins sidelined, the Hawks started rookie AJ Griffin, former lottery pick and current two-way player Jarrett Culver, and second-year forward Jalen Johnson. It’s a huge opportunity for all three players to possibly earn bigger roles going forward.

Jae Crowder Rumors: Hawks, Jazz, Celtics, Grizzlies

Rival teams are a little surprised by the way the Suns have handled the Jae Crowder situation, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who notes that keeping a player away from the team generally lowers his trade value. Crowder didn’t join the Suns for training camp this fall as the two sides attempt to find him a new NBA home.

“I thought the way Phoenix played the situation was strange,” a Western Conference executive told Fischer. “You’re not a super deep team. You’re a contender. Doesn’t it seem like there’s some other way to resolve this other than him sitting out and hurting your depth?”

An Eastern Conference exec who spoke to Fischer offered a similar assessment: “For Jae to hold out is pretty rare. It’s pretty extreme. It’s really interesting they didn’t just play hardball with him.”

A Shams Charania report earlier this week indicated that the Hawks are among the teams with interest in Crowder, and Fischer confirms that Phoenix and Atlanta have had conversations about the veteran forward throughout the offseason. The Hawks are believed to be one of Crowder’s preferred landing spots, along with the Heat, Fischer writes.

As for what the Hawks might be willing to give up for Crowder, that remains unclear. Front office personnel have speculated about the possibility of a Crowder/Landry Shamet package for Bogdan Bogdanovic, but one source told Fischer that Shamet isn’t part of the Suns’ discussions with the Hawks. Some league executives have wondered if Atlanta would give up De’Andre Hunter in a deal for Crowder, says Fischer, but there’s no indication the team is exploring that scenario.

As I suggested on Monday, a package of Justin Holiday and a young player such as Jalen Johnson could theoretically work from a salary-matching perspective. According to Fischer, it’s possible that structure would work if a third team were involved, allowing the Suns to acquire a different player on their wish list.

Here’s more on Crowder from Fischer:

  • The Suns have inquired about acquiring Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson in exchange for Crowder, sources tell Fischer. It’s unclear whether Phoenix would be willing to attach a draft asset to Crowder to land Clarkson. The rebuilding Jazz wouldn’t have much interest in Crowder as a player, so they’d need to be enticed to make a deal.
  • The Suns are believed to have interest in Celtics guard Derrick White, but Boston hasn’t entered the mix for Crowder so far, according to Fischer.
  • While the Grizzlies could theoretically build a package for Crowder around Danny Green‘s expiring contract, there are a couple roadblocks, as Fischer explains. The Suns don’t want to take on Green while he recovers from a torn ACL and are reluctant to send Crowder to a Western Conference rival unless the deal makes Phoenix significantly better. Sources tell Fischer that Memphis isn’t actively pursuing Crowder.

Hawks Exercise 2023/24 Options On Okongwu, Johnson

The Hawks are picking up their team options on center Onyeka Okongwu and forward Jalen Johnson for the 2023/24 season, according to reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim Bontemps (Twitter links).

The moves will lock in a fourth-year salary of $8,109,063 for Okongwu, the sixth overall pick in the 2020 draft, and a third-year salary of $2,925,360 for Johnson, last year’s 20th overall pick.

Okongwu has had his season debut delayed by injuries in each of his first two years in the NBA, having dealt with a foot issue as a rookie and shoulder surgery last season. However, he has shown intriguing promise when he’s been healthy, averaging 8.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 1.3 BPG in 48 games (20.7 MPG) in 2021/22. He could be in line for a larger role going forward.

Johnson is also expected to see more action in his second NBA season, according to Bontemps. As a rookie, the former Duke standout logged just 120 total minutes in 22 games, averaging 2.4 PPG and 1.2 RPG.

Okongwu will now become eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2023 offseason. As for Johnson, he has a $4.51MM team option for 2024/25, which the Hawks will have to make a decision on by October 31, 2023.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, M. Williams, Fultz, Krejci, Korver

Josh Robbins of The Athletic takes a look at the Wizards‘ projected depth chart and rotation, predicting that former Nuggets Monte Morris and Will Barton will join Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma, and Kristaps Porzingis in the starting five to open the season.

Assuming Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. decides to roll with a 10-man rotation to open the season, Robbins projects Delon Wright, Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura, and Daniel Gafford to be part of the second unit, with either Corey Kispert or Johnny Davis slotting into the second backcourt spot.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Longtime Hornets forward Marvin Williams has rejoined the franchise in a basketball operations role, tweets Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer. In his new position, Williams will assist with player programs and with player development off the court, according to Boone.
  • Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel spoke to Dr. David Lee, a local orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon, to get a sense of how long it might take Magic point guard Markelle Fultz to return from a fractured toe. Lee estimated that Fultz could potentially return to Orlando’s lineup in about four to eight weeks, which would be anywhere from mid-October to mid-November. However, the team hasn’t provided a specific recovery timeline.
  • Hawks head coach Nate McMillan liked what he saw from newly added guard Vit Krejci in the 22-year-old’s first practice with the team on Thursday. “He knows how to play,” McMillan said, per Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). “I think he has a high basketball IQ. We put him right out there. It was good to see him be available to play and practice with our guys today. So that was exciting.”
  • Although Kyle Korver is technically part of the Hawksfront office and not the coaching staff, he has been working with players – including Clint Capela and Jalen Johnson – on their shooting during training camp, as Williams writes in a full story for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (subscription required). “I’ve worked with him quite a few times actually,” Johnson said on Wednesday. “Kyle has helped me make a few adjustments in my shot. You know, having him around has helped a lot. He’s been helping a lot of these guys, giving them pointers and things they can work on, so it’s good.”

Hawks Notes: Murray, Young, J. Johnson, McMillan

The Hawks are committed to fixing the defensive issues that held them back last season, and trading for Dejounte Murray is an important part of that effort, writes Aaron Wilson of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta paid a high price for Murray, sending three first-round picks and a future pick swap to the Spurs, but it landed a 26-year-old All-Star guard with a team-friendly contract.

Murray excelled at both ends of the court in San Antonio, averaging 21.1 points per game and leading the NBA in steals with 2.0 per night. He seems like an ideal backcourt partner for Trae Young and said he’s ready to set the defensive tone for his new teammates.

“Defense is about showing effort,” Murray said. “I will bring what I learned both as a leader and vocally as everyone buys in. Everyone has to buy in and push each other and seeing everyone showing up was good. Ready to go compete and earn my team’s trust in training camp.”

There’s more from Atlanta:

  • Young was a strong advocate for acquiring Murray and he believes they can succeed together, per Lauren Williams of The Journal-Constitution. In four NBA seasons, Young has never played alongside another guard with Murray’s defensive skills. “It’s hard to point out what he’s great at, but he’s good at everything — like defense, scoring, passing, rebounding,” Young said. “I mean, he’s really good at everything. So just having somebody who’s going to be just as dependent as I am in the backcourt, which is going to be the fun, I can’t wait to get started.”
  • Jalen Johnson looks forward to carving out a larger role after an offseason procedure to deal with tendinitis in his left knee, Williams adds in a separate story. The 20-year-old forward averaged just 5.5 minutes in 22 games as a rookie, and playing time may be even harder to come by with the offseason additions of Maurice Harkless and Frank Kaminsky. “He’s got to earn that opportunity,” coach Nate McMillan said. “He’s been here since August, and he’s working on doing that. He’s been playing and looking good. I thought last year, his play in the G League, he’s showing maturity and he’s showing some confidence and he’s looking forward to the challenge.”
  • McMillan visited Young’s Oklahoma City home in June to talk about improving their communication for the upcoming season, according to Paul Newberry of The Associated Press. McMillan wants to see Young become more of a team leader on and off the court. “He’s the face of the franchise and it’s something that he has just inherited,” McMillan said. “He will have to work at it and become better.”

Hawks Rumors: Collins, Hunter, Injuries, Murray

The Hawks kicked off the NBA’s Media Day season this morning, with general manager Landry Fields telling reporters that John Collins is “still here for a reason” after a summer of trade speculation, tweets Atlanta reporter Brad Rowland.

Trade talk is nothing new for Collins, who has seemingly been on the block since signing a five-year, $125MM deal last offseason. There were numerous rumors involving Collins leading up to this year’s draft, and he was reportedly part of the package the Hawks offered to Brooklyn in an attempt to acquire Kevin Durant.

Fields said Collins understands the situation and has remained professional (Twitter link). The GM added that Collins has expressed his opinion on the constant trade talks, but he understands what the team is doing (Twitter link).

There’s more from the team’s media session:

  • Fields said negotiations are continuing with De’Andre Hunter and the team hopes to have an rookie scale extension in place before the October 17 deadline, tweets Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. According to head coach Nate McMillan, Hunter has been able to go through normal workouts this summer, which he couldn’t do last offseason because of a medical procedure (Twitter link).
  • Fields also provided health updates on a few players, saying Bogdan Bogdanovic is “not going to be 100% for training camp” after having surgery on his right knee in May (Twitter link). The team is focused on getting Bogdanovic back to full health at some point during the season, Fields added. He also said first-round pick AJ Griffin has been “full go” for a few weeks following a foot injury that prevented him from playing in Summer League (Twitter link), and second-year power forward Jalen Johnson will also be ready for camp after a non-surgical procedure on his left knee (Twitter link).
  • McMillan was in constant contact with Trae Young as the Hawks worked out a trade with the Spurs for Dejounte Murray, Williams tweets. The coach added that Young is looking forward to having a chance to play off the ball this season. Fields admitted having two traditional ball-handlers in the backcourt might be “a little clunky at first,” but he expressed confidence that Young and Murray will figure out their roles (Twitter link).
  • Fields plans to keep the 15th roster spot open due to luxury tax concerns, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. The Hawks are about $1MM over the tax line, and Fields indicated the team’s performance will determine whether he tries to get back under the threshold. “It’s going to be a day-to-day thing,” he said.