Keldon Johnson

Southwest Notes: Eason, Doncic, Hardaway, K. Johnson

Rockets‘ free agent addition Dillon Brooks recently said he’s looking forward to teaming up with Tari Eason, and Eason tells Kelly Iko of The Athletic that the feeling is mutual. Eason gained a reputation as a tough, aggressive defender during his rookie season, and he wants to build on that with help from Brooks.

“He’s one of the best defenders around and I can learn so many things from him,” Eason said. “There are so many other things to defense besides just guarding your man. There are so many things I can get better at in defense. Just being able to be paired with him and his skill, his approach and how he sees things from a defensive standpoint. I’ll be able to pick his brain, learn and become a better defender.”

Eason quickly earned a rotation spot last season as a rookie on one of the worst teams in the league. Houston is expecting to be much better after signing Brooks and three other veteran free agents, and new coach Ime Udoka has emphasized to Eason that defense will be important for him to keep getting regular minutes.

“Just be vocal. Be in the right spots, things like that,” Eason said of Udoka’s message. “As far as my defensive approach, they want me to be locked in. We have an older team now so for me to be on the floor, I have to be one of the best defenders on the floor at all times. So just really being homed in on defense, that’s the biggest thing. Being able to knock down a consistent shot and play defense.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Mavericks likely have two more seasons to show Luka Doncic that they can build a contender around him before they have to worry about him leaving, Tim Cato of The Athletic writes in a mailbag column. Doncic can opt out of his current deal in 2026, and although Cato is skeptical that the Slovenian star would ask for a trade before then, he acknowledges that the organization is operating under a “Doomsday Clock.” Cato also points out that Dallas has amassed a wealth of young talent, draft assets and tradable contracts to bid for the next big star that becomes available.
  • Cato believes it’s probably a coin flip on whether the Mavericks will trade Tim Hardaway Jr. before training camp, but he says it should become more likely as the season wears on. He points out that the acquisition of Seth Curry makes Hardaway more expendable, and the team needs to find minutes for second-year guard Jaden Hardy.
  • Keldon Johnson has established himself as a starter with the Spurs, but the addition of No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama may push him into a sixth-man role, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “I just want to win,” Johnson said. “Whatever I got to do to win, I am looking forward to that, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Spurs Rumors: Wembanyama, Vassell, Johnson, Draft

While a previous report indicated that Victor Wembanyama likely wouldn’t play in Summer League games this July, he told reporters on Wednesday that he plans to do so, as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press relays (via Twitter).

The Spurs and Wembanyama will likely sort out the specifics after he’s officially drafted on Thursday, but LJ Ellis of Spurs Talk gets the sense that the team will probably allow the big man to suit up if he wants to.

As Ellis explains, while the Spurs will likely want to be as cautious as possible with a player they expect to build their franchise around for the foreseeable future, Wembanyama takes pride in his availability and has conveyed that he wants to play as much as possible after not missing a single game in France this past season. That means he’ll want to take part in Summer League and this year’s World Cup before aiming to play all 82 games as a rookie.

While the Spurs won’t want to push Wembanyama too hard as he adjusts to the more rigorous NBA schedule next season, it sounds like they won’t stand in the way of him playing for France in the World Cup, Ellis writes.

Here’s more on the Spurs:

  • San Antonio is open to the idea of hiring some of the personal trainers that have worked with Wembanyama and kept him healthy so far in his professional career, according to Ellis. Those discussions are expected to begin after he’s officially drafted on Thursday.
  • The Spurs don’t appear inclined to offer Devin Vassell or Keldon Johnson as they continue to look into acquiring an additional 2023 first-round pick, according to Ellis. General manager Brian Wright said as much earlier this week. However, the club has made future draft assets available in an effort to land a second lottery selection, Ellis writes, adding that Anthony Black, Kobe Bufkin, and Bilal Coulibaly have been cited most often as possible San Antonio targets.
  • A scout previously suggested to Ellis that the Spurs may pursue a veteran point guard like Fred VanVleet or Chris Paul this offseason, but a team source essentially shot down that idea. “The plan is to avoid big, costly mistakes and to slowly build this thing out,” the source told Ellis. “See what you have first, see what you need, see what can be grown organically and go from there.”

Trade Rumors: T. Jones, Hawks, Spurs, Wolves, Jazz, Sexton

The Grizzlies are exploring the possibility of trading reserve point guard Tyus Jones, league sources tell Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

It’s an interesting rumor, given that starting point guard Ja Morant is expected to miss at least the first 25 games of the 2023/24 season due to a suspension. Jones, one of the league’s top backups, would presumably be promoted to the starting five if he remains in Memphis through the offseason, but apparently that’s not a given.

According to Fischer, with Dillon Brooks expected to move on in free agency, the Grizzlies are making it a priority to upgrade their wing depth. Fischer notes that the Spurs talked to Jones last summer before he re-signed with Memphis, but are probably unlikely to pursue him again this offseason after his brother Tre Jones emerged as San Antonio’s starter.

The Raptors (OG Anunoby) and the Clippers (several wings) are among the other teams that could make sense as destinations for Jones, Fischer writes, though Toronto may re-sign Fred VanVleet and has set a high asking price for Anunoby. Eric Gordon, Norman Powell, and Marcus Morris are among the veterans the Clippers could offer in a deal for Jones, according to Fischer, adding that Morris has been viewed as a trade candidate by rival teams since he fell out of the rotation near the end of last season.

Here are a few more trade rumors from around the NBA:

  • According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, league sources have linked the Hawks to several teams in trade discussions, including the Celtics, Raptors, and Mavericks. O’Connor reiterates that Pascal Siakam is a player of interest for Atlanta, which Fischer previously reported.
  • There are rumblings that the Spurs are looking to acquire a second lottery selection in addition to their No. 1 pick, according to O’Connor, who wonders if the team might package its second-round picks (Nos. 33 and 44) with a “rising player” to try to move up. For what it’s worth, Spurs GM Brian Wright was asked if the team would consider moving Devin Vassell or Keldon Johnson in a deal for a first-round pick and said no, according to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. “With this team we want to see what we have,” Wright said. “We have a group that has worked really hard. Where they were last year may not be what they are in the future. We want to see how things blend together.”
  • The Timberwolves, who currently hold only the No. 53 pick in Thursday’s draft, have been making inquiries to see if they could get into the first round, but haven’t gained traction on a deal, reports Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
  • As ESPN suggested earlier today, the Jazz have contacted the Pistons about the possibility of trading up to No. 5 in the draft using the Nos. 9 and 16 picks, according to Fischer. However, while ESPN’s report indicated that Jarace Walker may be Utah’s target, Fischer suggests rival teams think the Jazz are after Anthony Black.
  • The Jazz have made veteran guard Collin Sexton available in trade talks, sources tell Fischer. Sexton has three years and $54.5MM left on the contract he signed a year ago.

Southwest Notes: Walker, Morant, Rose, Johnson, Daniels, Giddey

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban hopes Kemba Walker can be a dynamic offensive presence for the team, as he told Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link).

We wanted to add some flexibility to our offense,” Cuban said. “Like last year at this point, we have great shot quality, particularly from the three, but we have struggled to make enough of them. Kemba will give (head coach Jason Kidd) more offensive flexibility.”

Townsend adds (via Twitter) that Walker’s contract, which hasn’t been officially signed yet, will be for the veteran’s minimum, as that’s all the Mavericks have to offer — they’re over the salary cap and used their taxpayer mid-level exception to sign JaVale McGee and give second-rounder Jaden Hardy a three-year deal.

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Grizzlies star Ja Morant views Derrick Rose as a trailblazer for athletic point guards, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “He really made it to where people believe in guys like me,” Morant said after recording 27 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists in Sunday’s victory over the Knicks. “Coming in, athletic guards, I felt like he was pretty much the one who kind of made it more famous. With how acrobatic his finish is, his touch around the rim, and how explosive he was. Coming in, he was my comparison. It’s crazy to be out there on the floor sharing a court with him.”
  • Spurs forward Keldon Johnson had a mature approach to being benched last week, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “I was letting myself down, my team down, my coaches down,” he said. “I just knew I had to play better.” Johnson signed a four-year, $74MM rookie scale extension in the offseason that begins in 2023/24. He’s averaging a career-high 20.4 points per night through 19 games.
  • Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels and Thunder guard Josh Giddey could make history on Monday. If they both play in their matchup, they would be the first NBA Global Academy teammates to play against each other in an NBA game, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The two Australian point guards have been friends for several years and competed together for the Global Academy in Canberra, Australia, Mussatto notes. Pacers rookie Bennedict Mathurin, another lottery pick, is the third Global Academy alumnus to make it to the NBA.

11 Players Affected By Poison Pill Provision In 2022/23

The term “poison pill” doesn’t actually show up in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, but it’s used colloquially to refer to a provision in the CBA that affects players who recently signed rookie scale contract extensions.

As we explain in our glossary entry, the so-called poison pill provision applies when a player who signed a rookie scale extension is traded before the extension takes effect.

In that scenario, the player’s incoming value for the receiving team for matching purposes is determined by averaging his current-year salary and the salaries in each year of his new extension. His current team, on the other hand, simply treats his current-year salary as the outgoing figure for matching purposes.

For instance, Heat guard Tyler Herro is earning a $5,722,116 salary in 2022/23, but signed a four-year, $120MM extension that will begin in ’23/24. Therefore, if Miami wanted to trade Herro this season, his outgoing value for salary-matching purposes would be $5,722,116 (this year’s salary), while his incoming value for the team acquiring him would be $25,144,423 (this year’s salary, plus the $120MM extension, divided by five years).

[RELATED: 2022 NBA Rookie Scale Extension Recap]

Most of the players who signed rookie scale extensions aren’t candidates to be traded anytime soon. But even in the event that a team does want to look into trading one of these recently extended players, the gap between the player’s incoming trade value and outgoing trade value could make it a real challenge to find a deal that works for both sides.

The “poison pill” provision applies to 11 players who signed rookie scale extensions in 2022. Here are those players, along with their outgoing salaries and incoming salaries for trade purposes:

Player Team Outgoing trade value Incoming trade value
Zion Williamson NOP $13,534,817 $34,639,136
Ja Morant MEM $12,119,440 $34,403,240
RJ Barrett NYK $10,900,635 $23,580,127
De’Andre Hunter ATL $9,835,881 $19,967,176
Darius Garland CLE $8,920,795 $33,870,133
Tyler Herro MIA $5,722,116 $25,144,423
Brandon Clarke MEM $4,343,920 $10,868,784
Nassir Little POR $4,171,548 $6,434,310
Jordan Poole GSW $3,901,399 $26,380,280
Keldon Johnson SAS $3,873,025 $15,574,605
Kevin Porter Jr. HOU $3,217,631 $15,234,726

Once the 2023/24 league year begins, the poison pill provision will no longer apply to these players. At that time, the player’s ’23/24 salary would represent both his outgoing and incoming value.

Until then though, the gap between those outgoing and incoming figures will make it tricky for these players to be moved, with one or two exceptions.

The small difference between Little’s incoming and outgoing trade figures, for instance, wouldn’t be very problematic if the Blazers wanted to trade him. But the much larger divide between Poole’s incoming and outgoing numbers means there’s virtually no chance he could be moved to an over-the-cap team in 2022/23, even if the Warriors wanted to.

Texas Notes: Wood, Doncic, Garuba, Spurs

All-Star Mavericks guard Luka Doncic is off to a high-scoring start for Dallas, but it hasn’t entirely translated to team success for the 6-5 club. Seth Partnow of The Athletic explores whether Doncic may be carrying too big a burden for the Mavericks in the team’s heliocentric offense.

Through 11 games, Doncic is averaging 33.6 PPG for the club. Partnow notes that so much of the Mavericks’ offensive attack revolves around Doncic, operating as the team’s primary play-maker and scorer, that he is already showing signs of exhaustion late in games. Partnow writes that the effects of handling so much of the team’s offense are even visible in the second halves of recent games, when Doncic’s output subsides somewhat.

There’s more out of the Lone Star State:

  • Mavericks reserve center Christian Wood missed his second consecutive game tonight due to a left knee sprain, the team announced (via Twitter). Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News writes that Wood injured his knee in the second half of the team’s 96-94 win against the Nets on Monday, and did not travel with Dallas for its back-to-back road games against the Magic and Wizards, both losses.
  • Rockets backup big man Usman Garuba, who played for Spain in the EuroBasket tournament earlier this year, spoke with Toni Canyameras of Mundo Deportivo about his current role in Houston. “They told me that if I played as in the EuroBasket, with that intensity, I would be playing minutes and it is what I am doing, trying to give everything on the court and improving, knowing that I can give more and improve and be ready for everything,” Garuba said. The 6’8″ 20-year-old is averaging 3.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, and 0.4 BPG through the team’s first 10 contests.
  • Young Spurs swingmen Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell have been struggling to convert their jump shots in key moments recently, but both players are hoping to learn from their misses, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. “I’ll be in the gym tomorrow,” Vassell said after missing an overtime buzzer-beater try against the Grizzlies last night. “Don’t worry about it.” Both players are averaging over 20 PPG for the first time in their NBA careers, having become primary focal points in San Antonio’s offense.

Spurs Notes: Langford, Primo, Johnson, Poeltl

Romeo Langford beat out Joe Wieskamp for the final roster spot during the Spurs‘ training camp. Due to injuries and the release of Joshua Primo, Langford found himself in the starting lineup on Sunday, Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News writes. Langford played 34 minutes in the victory over Minnesota.

“He might be our best on-ball defender,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “He has a knack for it. He enjoys it. It was good to find that out.”

Langford is headed for free agency next summer, though San Antonio can make him a restricted free agent if the team extends a qualifying offer.

We have more on the Spurs:

  • Despite the troubling circumstances surrounding the franchise’s decision to cut ties with Primo, the Spurs have stuck together and continued to play inspired basketball, McDonald reports in a separate story. “They’re young enough they don’t know any better,” Popovich said. “They just keep playing hard. They enjoy playing with each other, and they’re pretty much obeying the basketball gods and doing all the simple things that help win games.”
  • Keldon Johnson signed a four-year, $80MM this summer and that deal is looking better every game. Johnson is averaging career highs in scoring (23.9 points), assists (4.1) and steals (1.3) per game while making 43.5 percent of his 3-point attempts, McDonald notes. “He’s been unreal to me,” center Zach Collins said. “It seems like every time he shoots the ball, it’s going in.”
  • It’s unlikely that Jakob Poeltl will sign an extension, since he could probably do better in the open market, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his Hoop Collective podcast (hat tip to RealGM). That also makes Poeltl a trade candidate. The veteran center, who is pulling in just under $9.4MM this season, will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. “From what I’m told, the Spurs discussed a contract extension with him, but he’s limited by how much he can sign for,” Windhorst said. “It’s the same reason they traded Dejounte Murray. They did such a good job on the contract that it almost works against you because when you want to sign a player, the player wants more than you can give him because you’re limited on how much of a raise you can give in an extension.”

Southwest Notes: Mavs, Campazzo, Spurs, Rockets, Pelicans

Argentinian point guard Facundo Campazzo has arrived in Dallas, league sources tell veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein (Twitter link). As previous reports indicated and as Stein confirms, Campazzo is on track to sign a one-year contract with the Mavericks after he completes a physical with the team.

The signing will likely become official on Monday or Tuesday, ahead of Dallas’ regular season opener in Phoenix on Wednesday, Stein adds. Because the Mavericks are currently only carrying 14 players on standard contracts, no corresponding roster move will be necessary to sign Campazzo as the team’s 15th man.

Here are a few more notes from around the Southwest:

  • While San Antonio’s current players say they’re not thinking about next year’s draft and will be focused on winning games this season, the Spurs figure to be a key player in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, with head coach Gregg Popovich acknowledging that the team won’t be a contender this season, per Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. “To be a championship program, you have to have a couple superstars on your team,” Popovich said. “That doesn’t exist (here) right now. … It’s just a fact, and to avoid that fact seems kind of senseless to me.”
  • With Dejounte Murray no longer in San Antonio, the Spurs may be the “Keldon Johnson show” this season, John Hollinger of The Athletic writes, noting that the team’s options on offense will be limited — especially if veterans Doug McDermott and Josh Richardson are traded before the deadline. Hollinger forecasts a 24-58 finish for the rebuilding Spurs, who currently have five teenagers on their roster.
  • Like San Antonio, Houston doesn’t have championship aspiration this season, but the Rockets want to make things hard on their opponents as they focus on player development and growth, says Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “There’s a lot of teams around this league that think we’re still in rebuild and we’re still trying to figure things out,” Jae’Sean Tate said. “Our whole mindset is … trying to punch guys in the mouth, try to be the aggressors and I think you … are going to see that this year.”
  • Zion Williamson will likely have plenty of different frontcourt partners this season, with Jonas Valanciunas, Larry Nance Jr., Jaxson Hayes, and Willy Hernangomez among the bigs he could play alongside. Will Guillory of The Athletic takes a closer look at how the pieces might fit together for the Pelicans.

Western Notes: Davis, Johnson, Murray, Paschall, Kings

The Lakers enter the season without the pressure of being one of the favorites to win the championship. Anthony Davis relishes being in that position, he told Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“We’re treating this season like we have a chip on our shoulder. We’re the underdogs,” Davis said. “Obviously, the world is looking to see what we do. But … they’re not talking about us, and that’s fine. You know, we’d rather be under the radar.”

We have more from the Western Division:

  • Keldon Johnson suffered a separated shoulder this month but Spurs coach Gregg Popovich expects him to return by opening night, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News tweets. Pop anticipates Johnson will return “four or five days” before the opener, adding “I think he will be fine.”
  • Jamal Murray has his “swagger” back, according to Nuggets coach Michael Malone, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. Murray spent last season rehabbing from a knee injury. “He looks really good,” Malone said. “The thing I look for, obviously, is how confident is he? He’s out there playing. I don’t see him thinking about anything. He’s just playing the game.”
  • Eric Paschall pondered retirement this summer before signing a two-way contract with the Timberwolves, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets. Donovan Mitchell, his former teammate in Utah, gave him steady encouragement through the process.
  • New Kings coach Mike Brown wants to play with pace and he believes there’s enough shooting around their dynamic point man to aid that cause, Anthony Slater of The Athletic writes. “We want to play fast and give (De’Aaron Fox) an opportunity to get downhill,” Brown said. “If we’re asking Fox to get downhill, he needs space to do it. In order to create space around him, you need shooters. When you’re talking about Kevin Huerter, Malik Monk, Keegan Murray, Harrison Barnes, Terence Davis, Trey Lyles, you’re talking about some high-level shooters.”

Keldon Johnson Suffers Dislocated Shoulder

Spurs forward Keldon Johnson suffered a dislocated right shoulder during open gym and has started rehabbing, the team announced on Saturday. Johnson will miss the start of the preseason schedule. However, San Antonio expects him to be ready by the time the regular season tips off next month.

Johnson is coming off the best season of his short career. In 75 games, he averaged 17.0 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, shooting 47% from the floor, 40% from three-point range and 76% from the charity stripe. He also provided versatile defense for San Antonio at 6’6″.

Johnson was drafted No. 29 overall by the Spurs in 2019. He’s widely regarded to be the best player on the team’s young roster, especially after Dejounte Murray was traded to the Hawks in June. The Spurs locked him up to a four-year rookie scale extension earlier this offseason.

In addition to Johnson, the Spurs sport a young core that includes Joshua Primo, Devin Vassell, and 2022 first-rounders Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham, and Blake Wesley. San Antonio finished with the 10th-best record in the Western Conference at 33-39 last season.