Jarace Walker

Scotto’s Latest: J. Smith, Toppin, Weaver, Hartenstein, Huerter, O’Neale, More

Early indications suggest that Pacers power forward Jalen Smith will decline his $5.4MM player option for next season and become an unrestricted free agent, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reports in his latest aggregate mock draft. Sources tell Scotto that a final decision hasn’t been made, but Smith appears to be leaning toward testing the free agency waters. He has a June 29 deadline to opt in for 2024/25.

Smith, 24, appeared in 61 games this season and posted a career high in scoring at 9.9 PPG, along with 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 17.2 minutes per night. He was selected 10th overall by Phoenix in the 2020 draft and was acquired by Indiana at the 2022 trade deadline.

Scotto notes that rival teams are watching to see whether the Pacers will re-sign restricted free agent Obi Toppin. If the fourth-year power forward reaches a new deal, there’s a belief that Indiana might be willing to trade Jarace Walker, who was a lottery pick last June.

Scotto shares more inside information in his aggregate draft:

  • Washington is believed to be a potential destination for former Pistons general manager Troy Weaver, who recently parted ways with the team, Scotto writes, noting that Weaver was once part of Oklahoma City’s front office along with Wizards executives Michael Winger and Will Dawkins.
  • Scotto talked with some NBA executives who believe the Magic should be considered a threat to sign Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein. Orlando could have close to $50MM in cap space to work with.
  • Executives also expect the Kings to explore deals involving Kevin Huerter and Harrison Barnes, Scotto adds.
  • The Raptors plan to work out an extension with Scottie Barnes this summer, sources tell Scotto. The versatile swingman made his first All-Star appearance this year.
  • Scotto echoes other reports in stating that Royce O’Neale is likely to reach a new contract with the Suns. The 31-year-old forward, who was acquired from Brooklyn at the trade deadline, is expected to receive about $10MM per year, according to Scotto.
  • Vice president of basketball operations Brent Barry isn’t expected to return to the Spurs next season, sources tell Scotto. The longtime NBA player has been an executive with San Antonio since 2018.
  • Assistant coach Jason Love will likely leave the Sixers and join Doc Rivers’ staff with the Bucks, Scotto states. Love previously worked for Rivers in Philadelphia.
  • The Hornets are assembling a staff of assistants for new head coach Charles Lee. Scotto hears it will include Lamar SkeeterJosh LongstaffChris JentRyan FrazierZach PetersonMatt Hill and Blaine Mueller.

Pacers Notes: Defense, Toppin, McConnell, Workouts

Having already taken one big swing this year by trading for Pascal Siakam in January, the Pacers aren’t opposed to having a relatively quiet offseason and running it back with a similar group to the one that made this year’s Eastern Conference finals, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star (subscription required).

“You always gotta look and see what’s out there on the market,” general manager Chad Buchanan said this week during his end-of-season press conference. “Is there a player or players out there who are available who make sense for your team? You’re also very excited about the young core we have. It’s a balance. It’s going to be a lot of discussion, a lot of debate. Maybe there’s nothing out there that makes sense, and we’re fine with that. We really like this team. If we come back with this same group next year, we still believe there’s a lot of upside with this group.”

Improving the defense will be an offseason priority in Indiana, though it’s possible that could happen without making any outside additions, according to Dopirak, who points to young players like Aaron Nesmith, Andrew Nembhard, Ben Sheppard, Bennedict Mathurin, and Jarace Walker as guys who are capable of getting better on that end of the court. Buchanan acknowledged that the defense will be a focus for the front office after the team ranked 24th in defensive rating during the regular season.

“As you watch the team that eliminates you, it’s always fresh in your mind what they did to beat you,” Buchanan said. “I think Boston, obviously they have more experience than us, No. 1, but they have a tremendous defensive foundation. When we needed to try to score these last couple of games, it’s been very, very challenging. That’s one thing we take away that’s going to be important for us moving forward if we want to make another step.”

Here’s more on the Pacers:

  • While Indiana’s spending power will be limited if Siakam signs a maximum-salary contract, the team hopes to continue its relationship with restricted free agent forward Obi Toppin, per Buchanan. “I thought Obi had a tremendous year for us,” the Pacers’ GM said, per Dopirak. “… I thought he really blossomed this year. We envisioned him being a good with a team that played fast; he was exactly that. His three-point shooting really developed and improved as we saw this year. The way we play, you get a lot of open shots. If you can catch and shoot, you’re going to have some success. His defense grew as the season wore on. He seems to be happy here too. Would like to continue the relationship.”
  • Buchanan also raved about the contributions of backup guard T.J. McConnell, who will be extension-eligible this offseason as he enters a contract year. It sounds as if Indiana will explore an extension for McConnell, as Dopirak relays. “He’s not slowing down. You’re not seeing any sign of an aging player,” Buchanan said. “… His value to us is very, very high, and that has not changed by anything that happened this year and we hope he’s with us for a long time as well.”
  • In a separate story for The Indianapolis Star, Dopirak observes that the Pacers‘ first pre-draft workout on Friday only consisted of prospects who played college basketball for four or more years and started for at least three seasons. As Dopirak writes, Indiana has three picks in this year’s draft but none higher than No. 36, so the team may be targeting seasoned prospects capable of stepping in and contributing right away, rather than focusing on upside. Dopirak notes that head coach Rick Carlisle frequently said during the season that Sheppard’s four years of college experience made it a smooth transition to the NBA for the No. 26 pick in last year’s draft, since he understood his role without requiring much instruction.
  • The Pacers’ second pre-draft workout, scheduled for Tuesday, will feature several more experienced college players, including Reece Beekman (Virginia), DJ Horne (NC State), Lance Jones (Purdue), Cam Spencer (UConn), and Harrison Ingram (UNC), tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. Mantas Rubstavicius, who has played professionally in Lithuania and New Zealand since 2018, will fill out the six-man workout group.

Central Notes: Pacers, Haliburton, Bickerstaff, Bulls

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle has a couple of options to rearrange his starting lineup with the absence of Tyrese Haliburton, who will miss tonight’s Game 3 due to an injured left hamstring, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star.

One obvious choice is backup point guard T.J. McConnell, who would provide a second ball-handler to pair with Andrew Nembhard. Dopirak notes that they have logged a lot of minutes together this season. McConnell finished seventh in the Sixth Man of the Year voting, and he leads all bench players with 76 assists during the postseason.

Dopirak states that Carlisle could choose to go with power forward Obi Toppin or rookie guard Ben Sheppard instead to get more size in the starting lineup. That would keep McConnell in a reserve role and may provide more minutes for Doug McDermott, Jarace Walker and possibly Jalen Smith, who were all used in Game 2.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • In his pregame press conference, Carlisle told reporters that Haliburton lobbied to play tonight, but the medical staff determined that it’s best for him to sit out, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “He very much wants to play. Desperately wants to play,” Carlisle said. “But the decision on tonight was taken out of his hands earlier in the day. It was determined that tonight was not an option. He’s feeling better and we’ll see where he is on Monday. And that’s it.”
  • Carlisle, who serves as president of the NBA Coaches Association, reached out to J.B. Bickerstaff after the Cavaliers fired him on Thursday, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Carlisle said Bickerstaff did “an amazing job” with a “culture makeover” in Cleveland, but all NBA coaches understand the realities of their jobs. “I have great respect for him. I’ve been in touch with him,” Carlisle said. “In our profession, no one likes it, but teams, ownership, they can hire and fire who they want to. Our business has got to be a very resilient one. And he’s been through a lot in his career and he’s grown so much as a coach. J.B. will be fine and he certainly will be a head coach again, sooner than later.”
  • Even if executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas makes the changes he has promised this summer, Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times is skeptical that the Bulls can rise very far in the Eastern Conference standings. Cowley looks at the eight teams that finished ahead of Chicago this season and concludes that they all have staying power.

Pacers Notes: Haliburton, Carlisle, Bench, More

After Tyrese Haliburton left Game 2 early due to left hamstring soreness on Thursday, the Pacers have listed the star guard as questionable to play in Saturday’s Game 3 (Twitter link). While Haliburton was also said to be dealing with a chest issue in Game 2, the hamstring soreness is his only ailment mentioned on the official injury report.

Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star (subscription required) explores how the Pacers might try to make up for Haliburton’s absence in the event that he’s unable to play in Game 3. As Dopirak notes, the team has solid alternatives at point guard in Andrew Nembhard and T.J. McConnell but might have to dig deeper into its rotation at other positions to cover Haliburton’s minutes. Nembhard and McConnell also wouldn’t be able to replicate the play-making and outside shooting that the All-NBA guard provides.

“He does so many things for our team where everyone just has to move the ball more and get in the paint more,” McConnell said. “The ball movement, like I said, just has to be at another level. He gets 10 assists in his sleep. It’s hard for another person on our team to replicate that. It’s a group effort when he goes down to kinda get people the ball and get moving.”

Here’s more on the Pacers:

  • Whether or not Haliburton is healthy, the Pacers won’t have any hope of beating pulling off a comeback and beating Boston in the Eastern Conference finals if they play like they did on Thursday, Gregg Doyel writes in a column for The Indianapolis Star (subscription required).
  • Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle raised some eyebrows in Game 2 by leaning on little-used bench players like Doug McDermott, Jarace Walker, Kendall Brown, and Jalen Smith in the fourth quarter while sitting Myles Turner, Aaron Nesmith, and Pascal Siakam for most or all of the final period. Carlisle explained why he went to his bench so early despite facing a deficit that didn’t seem insurmountable. “To look at some guys that I thought needed a look,” Carlisle said, per Dopirak. “McDermott went in there and played well. Isaiah Jackson brought a lot of fight to the game. Jalen Smith hasn’t had much of an opportunity to play in the playoffs, so I wanted to see where he was at. We weren’t giving up, but it was an opportunity to get some energetic fresh guys in there to fight. They did some good things. … The guys who had played to that point, Pascal was very tired. Aaron had four fouls and he was tired. That was it.”
  • Prior to Game 2, Haliburton told reporters that Indiana has the “best bench in the NBA,” Dopirak writes in another Indy Star story (subscription required). McConnell, Obi Toppin, and Ben Sheppard are the Pacers reserves who have seen the most action this postseason, leading a second unit that ranks No. 1 in the playoffs with 33.4 points per game.
  • While many NBA fans didn’t assign much meaning to the league’s first in-season tournament earlier this season, making the championship game in that tournament benefited a Pacers team that hadn’t made the playoffs since 2020, says Joe Vardon of The Athletic. “There were some real playoff simulations — our quarterfinal game at home, on a Monday night, against (the Celtics), had the feel of a conference finals-matchup atmosphere,” Carlisle said. “The part about going to Vegas and playing there, that was different, but there was certainly the exposure, the stage, all that. So, all those experiences help a young team.”

Central Notes: Cunningham, Weaver, Toppin, Walker

A lot of things have gone wrong for the Pistons this season but there’s at least one promising development: Cade Cunningham is playing like an All-Star, James Edwards III of The Athletic writes.

Cunningham, who is eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason, is averaging 25.8 points, 7.9 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game since the All-Star break while shooting 47.6% from 3-point attempts. The Pistons combo guard has become a legitimate three-level scorer, Edwards notes, and has particularly been on the mark as a pull-up 3-point shooter over his last nine games.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Pistons general manager Troy Weaver had a verbal exchange with a heckler in the stands during Saturday’s loss to Dallas and Edwards reports that the fan had been pestering Weaver in the build-up to what was captured on video. Weaver ignored the fan’s comments when he approached Weaver the first time. The second time, Weaver said something along the lines of, “I don’t come to your work and harass you.” The heated exchange, which was partially captured on video by another fan, showed the fan’s third time at provoking Weaver, according to Edwards.
  • Obi Toppin, who is headed to restricted free agency this offseason, has continued to be productive coming off the bench after the Pacers acquired Pascal Siakam to take his starting spot, Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star writes. Toppin contributed 17 points in a win over Orlando on Sunday and has generally delivered offensively by finishing at the rim and making enough 3-pointers to keep opponents honest. “The guy gets out and runs better than anyone I’ve ever seen. He creates so much energy and disadvantages for the other team,” guard T.J. McConnell said.
  • With Bennedict Mathurin out for the season due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder, rookie Jarace Walker has a path to steady playing time, Dopirak notes. The Pacers have a need for another wing on the second unit. “Jarace can play 3 and 4,” coach Rick Carlisle said. Walker has appeared in 23 games, averaging 9.9 minutes in those outings.

Central Notes: Mathurin, Gibson, Pistons Guards, Bulls

Losing Pacers reserve shooting guard Bennedict Mathurin for the year will have an intriguing ripple effect on the team’s bench as it prepares for the postseason, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star.

As Dopirak notes, Indiana is now without two of its top-scoring reserves from the start of the season, between Mathurin and Buddy Hield, who was dealt to the Sixers at the trade deadline. Forward Doug McDermott, the Pacers’ own sharpshooting acquisition added at the deadline, continues to rehabilitate his right calf strain, though he’ll be a big part of the bench when he does play. Rookies Ben Sheppard and Jarace Walker seem likely to get significantly more responsibility as the season winds down.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Workaholic new Pistons veteran power forward Taj Gibson, 38, is over a decade older than most of his new teammates. Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press writes that the 10-53 club appreciates Gibson’s daily grind, even in his 15th NBA season, and hopes that he can inspire the Pistons’ young, talented lottery pick core. Gibson is on a 10-day deal, so there’s no guarantee he’ll remain with in Detroit for the rest of the season.
  • The Pistons’ decision to, at last, stagger young guards Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey so that one of them remained on the floor at all times seemed to work wonders on Thursday in a 118-112 win over the Nets, writes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. Head coach Monty Williams opted to employ a lineup of Cunningham alongside his second unit in the third quarter that really helped the club hold serve against Brooklyn.
  • Young Bulls guards Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu have each taken big leaps in their development this season, with White in particular enjoying a breakout year. A lot of their growth has happened with star shooting guard Zach LaVine, the team’s priciest player, sidelined due to injury. Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic thinks the improvement of the young guards could be negatively impacted by a LaVine comeback next year, and wonders if the Chicago front office will look to offload the two-time All-Star.

Pacers Notes: Sheppard, McDermott, Nesmith, Walker, Haliburton, Siakam

An illness forced Ben Sheppard to remain in New Orleans after missing Friday’s game, and the Pacers aren’t sure if he’ll be ready for Sunday’s contest in San Antonio, according to Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Sheppard will also stay in New Orleans tonight, and the team won’t decide his availability for the matchup with the Spurs until Sunday morning.

“If he feels better in the morning, he may join us here,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “If not, he’ll meet us in Dallas (for a game Tuesday).”

The Pacers have already announced that they’ll be without Doug McDermott, who will miss his third straight game with a strained right calf. The game marks a homecoming for McDermott, who was acquired from San Antonio at the trade deadline.

“It’s going to be a few more games,” Carlisle said of McDermott’s status. “He’s not doing any activity other than rehab.”

There’s more on the Pacers:

  • Aaron Nesmith was able to return to the court Friday night after sitting out the previous four games with a sprained right ankle, Dopirak adds. The team’s starting small forward said he’s “never felt that sensation before” when he injured the ankle on February 14, but tests showed the damage wasn’t as serious as he feared it might be. “I put a lot of work in the last couple of weeks so wind-wise, I felt pretty good,” Nesmith said after posting nine points and three rebounds in 20 minutes. “I didn’t feel out of shape or out of breath. It took a second to get warmed up and catch up to the game and let the game come to me.”
  • A depleted bench and a lopsided loss provided extended playing time for rookie forward Jarace Walker, Dopirak adds in a separate story. The lottery pick logged nearly 27 minutes, and Dopirak notes that it’s the first time since January 21 that he has played more than seven minutes in an NBA game. “He’s got much more solid defensively,” Carlisle said. “In his last stint with the G League team, we asked him to concentrate more on rebounding. He did that. He had double figure rebounds in at least a couple of those games. I like his feel and his vision in playmaking, and there were a couple of times he got to the rim tonight and that’s another thing we’ve been talking to him about. He did many good things and he was ready.”
  • Earlier this week, Tyrese Haliburton talked about building chemistry with Pascal Siakam, who was acquired from Toronto in a mid-January trade (YouTube link).

Scotto’s Latest: Mavs, Washington, Grimes, Pacers, Hornets, Hyland, More

The Mavericks and Hornets have discussed various P.J. Washington trade concepts that include a future first-round pick from Dallas, league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

According to Scotto, if Charlotte is going to agree to take back Richaun Holmes, who holds a $12.9MM player option for next season, in exchange for Washington, the Hornets want that Dallas first-rounder to be unprotected. The Mavs have resisted that idea so far, Scotto writes, adding that Seth Curry has also been part of those trade discussions between the two teams.

While Scotto doesn’t say that Grant Williams has come up in the trade talks between the Mavs and Hornets, he suggests it wouldn’t be a surprise if that’s the case, since Dallas has talked about Williams with multiple teams already.

In addition to Washington, the Mavs have expressed interest in Raptors wing Bruce Brown and Knicks wing Quentin Grimes, among others, Scotto reports. League sources tell HoopsHype that Dallas explored acquiring Grimes in exchange for a package headlined by Josh Green, but New York turned down the proposal.

Here’s more from Scotto, with just hours to go until Thursday’s trade deadline:

  • Although Buddy Hield is considered Indiana’s top trade candidate, rival executives think the Pacers might move some of their frontcourt depth, with Obi Toppin and Jalen Smith among the players believed to be available, Scotto writes. Lottery pick Jarace Walker, on the other hand, remains off limits based on what the Pacers are telling other clubs, league sources tell HoopsHype.
  • The Hornets have expressed interest in Bones Hyland, according to Scotto, who says the Clippers are seeking a pair of second-round picks in exchange for the third-year guard.
  • Despite some speculation that the Nets are interested in D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn hasn’t had any “substantive” talks with the Lakers and/or Hawks about getting involved in a potential Dejounte Murray trade to acquire Russell, Scotto reports.
  • The Pistons and Grizzlies continue to talk about a possible Killian Hayes trade, with second-round draft compensation serving as the sticking point, per Scotto.

Central Notes: Bates, LaVine, Walker, Williams

Cavaliers rookie second-rounder Emoni Bates and Gabe Osabuohien were each suspended for two games without pay for entering the spectator stands while playing for the G League Cleveland Charge, according to an NBA Communications press release.

The incident occurred at the conclusion of the Charge’s 126-105 loss to the Birmingham Squadron on Saturday. Bates, who is on a two-way contract with the Cavaliers, will lose over $7,700 in pay during the G League suspension, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link).

Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff defended the actions of the two players, claiming that they were subjected to nasty and inappropriate comments from the stands, Peter Dewey of CavaliersNation.com relays.

“We talked to Emoni and I want to be clear about the circumstances of that and I don’t think it’s been clear. It was an ugly incident from the fan standpoint,” the Cavaliers coach said. “Emoni and Gabe , they draw the attention and I understand the league’s hard and fast rule on approaching the stands and that type of thing, but there’s also a line that needs to be drawn between how fans believe they can interact with players, how they can interact with players’ families and the things that were said to Emoni and his family. I let him know we’ve got his back, we’re still supporting him and as a league there needs to be more done to protect those guys. They should never have to go through what they went through and be called the names they were called.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls revealed on Friday that Zach LaVine would miss at least a week due to a right ankle sprain. The Athletic’s Shams Charania said on FanDuel’s Run It Back program (Twitter link) that LaVine’s injury is worse than a Grade 1 (mild) sprain.
  • In light of the Pascal Siakam acquisition, Pacers’ rookie forward Jarace Walker would seemingly have an even smaller role. However, coach Rick Carlisle has been giving Walker more opportunities to play small forward, Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star notes. “Once we acquired Pascal, you gotta take a hard look at how this thing is shaping up,” Carlisle said. “With the realities about the importance of playing with size to being a good defensive team, it makes sense to put him in that equation somewhere. It doesn’t mean he will always play 3. The more I’m going through this, I like playing with size, size that can move and make plays and stay in front of people is even better.” Walker, the eighth overall pick of last year’s draft, has averaged 21.3 minutes of playing time over the last three games.
  • Patrick Williams, a restricted free agent after the season, remains a work in progress when it comes to decision-making on offense, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic writes. Bulls coach Billy Donovan gave Williams a quick hook on Saturday when he made two passive decisions instead of being aggressive. “Guys grow and develop at different rates. It’s not like he doesn’t want to do it. I just think he’s got to be more decisive when the ball comes,” Donovan said.

Central Notes: DeRozan, J. Carter, Garland, Giannis, J. Walker

It has been up-and-down season so far for the Bulls, who got off to a 5-14 start and have gone 14-9 since then to move into a play-in spot in the East. Viewed back in the fall as a candidate to blow up their roster prior to the trade deadline, the Bulls no longer have a clear path at the deadline, especially with Zach LaVine generating little interest.

While fans and league observing will be keeping a close eye on the Bulls in the coming weeks to see which direction they go, DeMar DeRozan – a possible trade or extension candidate – made it clear he won’t be checking Hoops Rumors for updates.

“I don’t sit up here refreshing my apps in the morning to see what’s what, rumors or anything,” DeRozan said, per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “Should we, shouldn’t we . . . it’s a tough question for me because being in the league so long, I can really be at a point where that [expletive] doesn’t bother me.

“… My focus is making sure we’re trending in the right direction, no matter what happens. … For me, I just have learned not to carry that emotion with me because it will drive you crazy, constantly worrying about what somebody else is going to do, blah, blah, blah. I really don’t worry about it. I can’t.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • A regular contributor off the Bulls‘ bench for most of the season, guard Jevon Carter was a DNP-CD twice last week before returning to the team’s rotation for the past two games. He’s unfazed by his inconsistent role, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). “In and out of the rotation, that don’t really mean nothing to me,” Carter said. “I’m in the NBA. I’m blessed to be here. I’m ready whenever my name is called. Whether that’s for 82 games or 2 games, I’m ready whenever.”
  • As expected, Cavaliers guard Darius Garland was cleared this week to resume basketball activities, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscription required). The former All-Star, who has been out for over a month due to a fractured jaw, will need some time to get back into game shape, but the hope is that he’ll be back on the court before the end of the month.
  • Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo will be sidelined for Wednesday’s contest in Cleveland due to a right shoulder contusion, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. The two-time MVP was not previously listed on the injury report. There’s no indication yet of how long he might be out.
  • After being drafted eighth overall last June, Pacers forward Jarace Walker hasn’t played regular minutes as a rookie, but he logged a season-high 26 minutes in Monday’s loss to Utah. As Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star writes, Walker showed signs of promise, racking up four steals and two blocks, but also showed why the team has been reluctant to feature him more consistently — he made just 3-of-11 shots from the floor and Indiana was outscored by 17 points while he was on the court. With the Pacers poised to acquire Pascal Siakam, Walker will likely remain out of the rotation for the foreseeable future.