Justin James

Southwest Notes: Morant, Porter, Pelicans, James, Chriss

While there has been some debate this season about whether Grizzlies guard Ja Morant will make his first All-Star team, teammate Desmond Bane believes the answer to that question is obvious. In Bane’s view, Morant should be the subject of another discussion, as Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes.

“People debate whether or not he should be an All-Star, but I think we should be debating whether he’s the best point guard in the league,” Bane said. “I don’t think it’s any question he’s an All-Star. The real conversation is, ‘Is he the best point guard in the league?'”

While it may be premature to place Morant above the likes of Stephen Curry and Luka Doncic, he matches up favorably with the Western Conference’s star point guards this season — and he looks like a good bet to join them on this year’s All-Star team. In 27 games (32.5 MPG), Morant is averaging a career-high 25.1 PPG on .489/.400/.772 shooting while also contributing 6.7 APG, 5.7 RPG, and 1.4 SPG.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. said on Tuesday that he apologized both “to the group” and “individually” following the locker-room incident that resulted in him being suspended for Monday’s game, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “I think just as a man and as a human, that’s the right thing to do,” Porter said. “Even if you feel like you’re in the right, there’s ways to approach things in situations, and I felt as a man, I didn’t approach it the right way. So I apologize. I feel like that’s just something you need to do as a principled thing.” Porter added that he still feels supported by the organization.
  • The Pelicans don’t plan to re-sign Justin James, whose 10-day contract expired overnight, sources tell Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link). With the team getting healthier, there wasn’t an immediate need to retain James, Lopez explains.
  • Marquese Chriss, currently on his second 10-day contract with the Mavericks, would love to remain in Dallas beyond the expiration of his current deal on January 9, writes Dwain Price of Mavs.com. However, even if he isn’t retained, the big man is happy to be back in action after losing nearly an entire season due to a broken leg. “Being able to be back on the court, I’m just thankful for that,” Chriss said. “And I’m just trying to make the most out of the opportunity that I can. Hopefully it’s here (in Dallas).”

Pelicans Sign Justin James To 10-Day Contract

3:52pm: The signing is official, according to a team press release.

12:46pm: The Pelicans are signing swingman Justin James to a 10-day contract using the hardship exemption, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

New Orleans has three players — Nickeil Alexander-Walker , Jose Alvarado and Naji Marshall — in the league’s health and safety protocols.

James appeared in 72 games off the bench for Sacramento the past two seasons. averaging 3.2 PPG in 7.5 MPG. He has been playing for the Cavaliers’ G League affiliate, the Cleveland Charge. James was averaging 15.7 PPG and 2.3 APG in 29.0 MPG through 14 games for the Charge.

Cavs Convert Fall, Nembhard To Two-Way Deals; Waive Three Players

1:13pm: The Cavaliers have officially announced all the moves outlined below.

10:45am: The Cavaliers are signing center Tacko Fall to a two-way contract, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. The team is also converting RJ Nembhard‘s contract to a two-way deal, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets.

Additionally, Cleveland is trimming its roster by waiving Justin James, Kyle Guy and Mitch Ballock, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets. They are expected to join the Cleveland Charge once they clear waivers, Fedor adds.

Fall was signed to a non-guaranteed contract in early September. The 7’6” big man appeared in three preseason games and made enough of an impression to earn the two-way deal.  He spent two seasons with the Celtics, averaging 2.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG and 0.9 BPG in 26 games.

Nembhard was also signed to a non-guaranteed contract in early September. He played for Miami’s summer league team after going undrafted. Nembhard was a redshirt junior for TCU in 2020/21 and averaged 15.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 4.0 APG in 24 games (34.9 MPG).

Brodric Thomas, who had been a two-way deal last season, was waived this week.

Cavs Notes: Davis, James, Rubio, Garland, Rotation

The Cavaliers‘ signing of Ed Davis on Wednesday came as a bit of a surprise, given the timing of the move and the fact that Cleveland already has a good amount of frontcourt depth. However, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, head coach J.B. Bickerstaff pushed for the addition of Davis, who is considered one of the NBA’s best locker-room presences and mentors.

Davis’ one-year, minimum-salary contract is non-guaranteed, per Fedor. However, the expectation is that the veteran center will be part of the Cavaliers’ 15-man roster to start the regular season.

Here’s more on the Cavs:

  • Justin James, who also signed with the Cavs on Wednesday, will likely play in the team’s preseason finale on Friday and will get a chance to earn one of the team’s open two-way slots, says Fedor. If James doesn’t get a two-way contract, he could still become an affiliate player for the Cleveland Charge.
  • In another story for Cleveland.com, Fedor takes an in-depth look at how the Cavaliers acquired Ricky Rubio early in the offseason and what role they expect him to play in 2021/22. Although Rubio won’t be part of the starting five, Bickerstaff will be counting on him for starter-type minutes, and one member of the organization told Fedor that he thinks the Spaniard will work his way into Cleveland’s closing five.
  • Fedor adds in the same story that Rubio has taken starting point guard Darius Garland “under his wing.” The two guards, whose lockers are next to each other, talk daily and watch film together, writes Fedor.
  • After indicating earlier this month that he planned on a 10-man rotation for the regular season, Bickerstaff now thinks the Cavs’ regular rotation could include just nine players, tweets Fedor. Bickerstaff believes the versatility of Evan Mobley and Lauri Markkanen, along with his desire to have Rubio play starter minutes, reduces the need for a 10th regular.

Cavaliers Sign Ed Davis, Justin James

The Cavaliers have announced a pair of signings, stating in a press release that they’ve added big man Ed Davis and guard Justin James to their roster. Cleveland now has a full 20-man squad.

Davis, 32, spent the 2020/21 season with the Timberwolves, playing a limited role in the team’s frontcourt. The center averaged 2.1 PPG and 5.0 RPG in 23 games (13.0 MPG).

Davis, an 11-year veteran who has 691 career regular season games under his belt, isn’t the kind of player who typically gets signed and quickly waived this week for G League purposes, so it will be interesting to see what the Cavs’ plan for him is. The team only has 11 players on fully guaranteed contracts, so there’s room for Davis to make the 15-man regular season roster.

As for James, he spent his first two NBA seasons with the Kings after being selected 40th overall in the 2019 draft out of Wyoming. He didn’t play a regular role for Sacramento, but appeared in 72 games across two seasons, averaging 3.2 PPG and 0.9 RPG with a shooting line of .446/.343/.544 in 7.5 minutes per contest.

The 24-year-old was waived by the Kings earlier this offseason, signed a two-way deal with Utah, and then was released by the Jazz as well. The Cavs may view him as a potential affiliate player for the Cleveland Charge.

Jazz Release Justin James

The Jazz have waived swingman Justin James, the team announced today in a press release. James had been occupying one of Utah’s two-way slots.

James spent his first two NBA seasons with the Kings after being selected 40th overall in the 2019 draft out of Wyoming. He didn’t play a regular role for Sacramento, but appeared in 72 games across two seasons, averaging 3.2 PPG and 0.9 RPG with a shooting line of .446/.343/.544 in 7.5 minutes per contest. The 24-year-old was waived by the Kings earlier this offseason and signed a two-way deal with Utah last week.

The decision to waive James comes as a bit of a surprise, given how recently he was signed. If the Jazz had been aiming to secure his G League rights, they would’ve inked him to an Exhibit 10 contract, so perhaps the team had a change of heart about how it wants to fill its second two-way slot. Trent Forrest is Utah’s other two-way player.

With James on waivers, the Jazz now have 19 players under contract.

Jazz Sign Justin James To Two-Way Contract

The Jazz have filled their open two-way slot by signing free agent swingman Justin James to a two-way contract, the team announced today in a press release.

James, 24, spent his first two NBA seasons with the Kings after being selected 40th overall in the 2019 draft out of Wyoming. He didn’t play a regular role for Sacramento, but appeared in 72 games across two seasons, averaging 3.2 PPG and 0.9 RPG with a shooting line of .446/.343/.544 in 7.5 minutes per contest.

James’ contract with the Kings covered the 2021/22 season, but his salary for the coming year wasn’t guaranteed, giving the team the opportunity to waive him last month without being on the hook for any dead money.

In Utah, James will occupy the Jazz’s second two-way slot alongside Trent Forrest. With James under contract, the team is now carrying 18 players, including 13 on guaranteed deals and Miye Oni on a non-guaranteed contract. James, Forrest, and Exhibit 10 recipients MaCio Teague and Derrick Alston round out the current group. The Jazz have room for two more camp invitees if they so choose.

Justin James Released By Kings

Kings small forward Justin James has been waived by Sacramento, per Jason Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Jones notes that today marked the deadline for James’ $1.78MM salary for the 2021/22 season to become fully guaranteed. Sacramento won’t be on the hook for that money, while James will now hit the market as an unrestricted free agent, assuming he goes unclaimed on waivers.

James, 24, was selected by the Kings with the No. 40 pick in the 2019 draft out of Wyoming. James never quite carved out significant rotational time during his two seasons with the Kings. The 6’7″ wing holds NBA career averages of 3.2 PPG, 0.9 RPG, and 0.6 APG.

Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee reports that James was the odd man out in the club’s wing rotation. Elsewhere on the roster, the Kings did guarantee the next year for big man Damian Jones. They also partially guaranteed the deal for power forward Chimezie Metu.

Bucks’ Sign-And-Trade For Bogdanovic In Peril

The agreement between the Bucks and Kings that would send Bogdan Bogdanovic to Milwaukee in a sign-and-trade is in peril, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic, who reports that there was never an agreement from Bogdanovic to join the Bucks.

That element of the deal has become a major issue, according to Amick, who hears from a high-ranking team official that it’s not clear whether the move will be completed when free agency opens. The deal, which was reported late on Monday night, would send Bogdanovic and Justin James to the Bucks in exchange for Ersan Ilyasova, D.J. Wilson, and Donte DiVincenzo.

It’s hard to know what to make of this update. As I pointed out on Monday night when the story broke, it’s very unusual for a deal that involves a free agent changing teams to be reported several days before free agency actually begins. The NBA’s tampering rules would technically prohibit the Bucks from having any contact with Bogdanovic before Friday, so on one hand, a miscommunication wouldn’t be a major surprise.

On the other hand, it’s very unlikely that the Bucks and Kings would have agreed to a deal involving five players and overlooked the fact that Bogdanovic wasn’t fully on board with it. If Bogdanovic never agreed, it’s also odd that there wasn’t any real pushback on Monday’s reporting until now.

As Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report observes (via Twitter), it sounds like either someone “badly” messed up or the Kings and Bucks took heat from the NBA for leaking a deal involving a free agent well before the start of free agency and are now trying to walk it back.

Needless to say, we’ll be keeping a close eye on this situation this week to see if the Bucks, Kings, and Bogdanovic eventually work something out or if it falls apart entirely.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucks To Acquire Bogdan Bogdanovic From Kings In Sign-And-Trade

UPDATE: This deal has fallen apart. Read the details here.

The Bucks will acquire restricted free agent swingman Bogdan Bogdanovic from the Kings in a sign-and-trade deal once free agency opens, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Sources tell Wojnarowski that Milwaukee will send Donte DiVincenzo, D.J. Wilson, and Ersan Ilyasova to Sacramento in the deal, while the Bucks will also receive forward Justin James from the Kings (Twitter links).

Multiple reports in recent weeks indicated that the Bucks had interest in Bogdanovic and would pursue him in a sign-and-trade scenario. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reiterated that interest tonight in the wake of Milwaukee’s agreement to acquire Jrue Holiday, tweeting that Bogdanovic was also being eyed by the Hawks.

Still, even in the wake of O’Connor’s report, we didn’t expect to learn so early in the week that the Kings and Bucks have already reached an agreement. Since Bogdanovic will technically be a free agent, he and Milwaukee aren’t supposed to have any contact until Friday, so the NBA likely won’t be thrilled that news of this deal has already leaked.

Bogdanovic enjoyed arguably the best season of his three-year NBA career in 2019/20, averaging 15.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, and 3.4 APG on .440/.372/.741 shooting in 61 contests (29.0 MPG). He earned a promotion to the starting lineup in January, displacing Buddy Hield, and helped lead the Kings to a 16-12 record during his 28 games as a starter.

Re-signing Bogdanovic was believed to be a priority for the Kings, so it’s a little surprising that the team is prepared to move him in a sign-and-trade deal. However, former general manager Vlade Divac seemed more committed to the 28-year-old Serbian than new GM Monte McNair.

The Kings’ willingness to move on from Bogdanovic is good news for the Bucks, who have reshaped their lineup with this move and the acquisition of Holiday, putting themselves in a great position to sell Giannis Antetokounmpo on signing a five-year, super-max contract extension this fall.

As for the Kings, they’re likely not viewing Ilyasova’s expiring $7MM contract as a major asset, and Wilson is coming off a disappointing third season. DiVincenzo is the headliner of their package, having averaged 9.2 PPG and 4.8 RPG on .455/.336/.733 in 66 games (23.0 MPG) last year for Milwaukee. He’s a strong perimeter defender who – at age 23 – still has plenty of room to improve and is under contract for two more years before reaching restricted free agency.

It’s not yet clear what Bogdanovic’s new contract with the Bucks will look like, but the deal must span at least three seasons, with a guaranteed first year. Based on Milwaukee’s outgoing salary, he could receive a starting salary of up to approximately $18MM, assuming Ilyasova’s salary becomes guaranteed. However, the Bucks will have to be conscious of the hard cap — as a result of acquiring a player via sign-and-trade, they’ll be unable to surpass a team salary of $138,928,000 in 2020/21.

The base year compensation rule will also apply to Bogdanovic’s new deal and will complicate salary-matching to some extent, though the inclusion of James should prevent it from becoming an issue for Sacramento.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.