Kenneth Lofton

NBAGL All-League, Defensive, Rookie Teams Announced

The NBA announced all of the major All-NBA G League teams on Thursday (All Twitter links found here), including the First Team, Second Team, Third Team, All-Defensive Team, and All-Rookie team.

Several current and former NBA players are among the honorees. Here is the full list of winners for the 2023/24 season.

All-NBA G League First Team:

All-NBA G League Second Team:

All-NBA G League Third Team:

G League All-Defensive Team:

G League All-Rookie Team:

* Denotes two-way contract

^ Denotes standard contract

Northwest Notes: Thunder, Dieng, Murray, Blazers, Lofton

The Thunder‘s 57-25 record and No. 1 finish in the Western Conference represents an ahead-of-schedule arrival for a team that looked two years ago like it might be rebuilding for a few more seasons, writes Tim Cato of The Athletic. Still, Oklahoma City isn’t doing a victory lap after going from 24 wins in 2021/22 to 40 last season to 57 this year.

“When we wake up Tuesday morning, we’re 0-0,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said on Sunday. “It’s a new season. Everything that we did in the regular season doesn’t matter except opponent and seeding. … We’ll go into it with great respect for our opponents, but great respect for ourselves.”

While the Thunder prepare for their first playoff series since 2020, the team’s G League affiliate – the Oklahoma City Blue – won its first ever championship on Monday, closing out the Maine Celtics in Game 3 of their best-of-three series (story).

As Cato points out, the Thunder’s entire starting lineup consists of players aged 25 or younger, but not all of the team’s recent lottery picks are playing major roles at the NBA level. Ousmane Dieng, the 11th overall pick in 2022, played limited minutes in just 33 games for the Thunder this season, but he helped the Blue secure its NBAGL title on Monday, earning Finals MVP honors by putting up 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting to go along with six rebounds, four assists, and two blocks in the deciding game.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Speaking to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Nuggets guard Jamal Murray explained why he wants to spend his entire career in Denver, how he feels about not having made an All-Star team, and why he thinks he and Nikola Jokic are the best duo in the NBA. “I think (other duos are) in a bigger market and people have more interest in LeBron and AD in L.A., or what Dame and Giannis could be, or what Luka and Kyrie could do,” Murray said. “If we’re talking about the best duos in getting the job done and how they play for each other and with each other, I think me and Jokic are undoubtedly number one.”
  • Bill Oram of The Oregonian (subscriber link) looks ahead at some of the difficult decisions facing the Trail Blazers this offseason, including whether the front office wants to push for a play-in spot in 2024/25 or rebuild slowly and seek another high draft pick. If Portland takes the latter route, the club may need to look into moving some veterans, including perhaps Anfernee Simons, Oram suggests. Blazers management will also have to make sure it’s on the same page as head coach Chauncey Billups, Oram adds, given that he has talked about wanting to get the club back to the playoffs next season.
  • Kenneth Lofton Jr.‘s play down the stretch was a bright spot for the Jazz, writes Riley Gisseman of The Salt Lake Tribune. Lofton averaged 16.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists off the bench in the final three games, making a strong case for a spot on next season’s roster. Lofton’s deal with Utah includes non-guaranteed salaries for two seasons after this one, so if he continues to show promise, the team is in position to retain him on the cheap.

Jazz Notes: Zanik, Future, Markkanen, Hardy, Lofton

Speaking to Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune (subscriber link) last week, general manager Justin Zanik said the dearth of appealing options in free agency will have the Jazz looking upgrade via the trade market this offseason.

If you study the free agent trends — and this is not unique to the Jazz, this is every other team that’s not on a coast — that the actual depth and quality of the free agents is not great, and it’s not going to get any better,” Zanik said. “That doesn’t mean it’s completely out, but it’s just not going to be a main driver of how you build teams. The main driver of how you’re building teams is developing your players and adding by trade.

We’re in a more unique position than some other teams that are faced with the same free agent list that we’re looking at,” he continued. “Not only just the flexibility we have but just the multiple assets we have to deal.

The Jazz have several additional future first-round picks from Minnesota and Cleveland due to the Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell trades, Larsen notes. Zanik made clear Utah is looking to add star players who may find themselves at odds with their current teams in the future.

We’ve talked before about trying to predict the NBA drama that happens,” Zanik said. “You just sit there and wait for it to come, but we’re ready.”

Here’s more on the Jazz:

  • Star forward Lauri Markkanen turns 27 next month, meaning he’s theoretically entering his prime. 2024/25 is also the final season of his current contract — he’ll make a little over $18MM next season. While Zanik said the Jazz will be opportunistic in building around Markkanen, they’re also not in a rush just to become mediocre in the next season or two, Larsen writes in the same story. “Lauri’s a hugely important piece for us now and going forward,” Zanik said. “I don’t want to waste any years of that, but you also have to do it within the timeline. We’re not trying to say, ‘Hey, Lauri, we’ll make you happy because you’ve never made the playoffs, so we’re going to burn all our picks and get some marginal improvement from an overpaid player so that maybe we’ll be a seven seed.’ Our goal is to make the playoffs and then grow from there. … (We want to) add people that are complementary to Lauri and to Walker (Kessler). That doesn’t have to be Mr. Alpha on whatever team. I’d love them to be as good or better than Lauri, but they could be a couple of really, really good role players.”
  • Next year’s draft is considered to be much stronger than the class that will be selected in June. Would the Jazz consider tanking all of next season to secure the best chance to add a prized prospect like Cooper Flagg? According to Larsen, Zanik thinks there’s too much talent on the current roster for that to be feasible, and he also thinks it’s unnecessary. “We have distinct holes on this team and roster balance stuff that has taken a couple of years to address,” he said. “We’re also betting on our own development, let alone with the rookies but the rest of our group.” Zanik also praised head coach Will Hardy and said he’s on board with the Jazz’s plans, Larsen adds.
  • In another subscriber-only story for The Salt Lake Tribune, Larsen examines the strong performance Kenneth Lofton Jr. turned in during Thursday’s victory over Houston. Larsen is particularly high on Lofton’s passing ability, writing that the 21-year-old could be a legitimately good NBA player if he gets in better shape to be more mobile defensively while also developing his three-point shot. The second-year forward/center, whose salary for 2024/25 is non-guaranteed, put up 14 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block in 27 minutes yesterday, which was only his second appearance for Utah.

Mac McClung Wins G League MVP Award

Mac McClung hasn’t been on an NBA roster since October, but the 25-year-old won a second straight Slam Dunk contest in February and has now earned another notable honor: McClung is this season’s NBA G League Most Valuable Player, the league announced today (Twitter link).

McClung spent the 2023/24 season playing for the Osceola Magic, Orlando’s NBAGL affiliate. In 27 regular season games, he averaged a league-high 25.7 points to go along with 6.6 assists, and 4.7 rebounds in 35.4 minutes per contest, with a shooting line of .509/.396/.843. Osceola finished as the No. 1 seed in the East at 22-12 and will face the Long Island Nets on Friday in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

McClung also appeared in 14 Showcase Cup games for the Magic’s G League team earlier this season, averaging 25.2 PPG, 6.4 APG, and 4.3 RPG on .464/.357/.851 shooting.

McClung has only appeared in four career NBA games since going undrafted out of Texas Tech in 2021. However, he has made a name himself as a Slam Dunk champion and has had stints with some of the league’s marquee franchises, including the Lakers, Sixers, and Bulls.

McClung’s G League MVP award is also the latest addition to an increasingly decorated NBAGL résumé — he was the G League’s Rookie of the Year in 2022 and won a title with the Delaware Blue Coats in 2023.

Sioux Falls Skyforce guard Alondes Williams, who is on a two-way contract with the Heat, was the runner-up in the NBAGL MVP vote, which was conducted by the league’s 31 head coaches and GMs.

The third-place finisher was forward Kenneth Lofton Jr., who played for the Grizzlies and Sixers earlier this season and is now a member of the Jazz. He suited up for the Memphis Hustle in the Showcase Cup and the Blue Coats and Salt Lake City Stars during the G League’s regular season.

Northwest Notes: Lofton, Thunder, Porter, Holiday, Billups

The Jazz used a portion of their room exception to sign Kenneth Lofton Jr. to a three-year contract that includes a $500K rest-of-season salary, Hoops Rumors has learned. Lofton’s deal is worth approximately $4.9MM in total, with minimum salaries in the second and third seasons.

However, the agreement doesn’t currently include any guaranteed money beyond this season. If Lofton remains under contract through July 25, he’d be assured of a $400K partial guarantee for 2024/25, and that partial guarantee would increase to $600K on the first day of the regular season, but if he’s waived on or before July 25, the Jazz won’t be on the hook for any ’24/25 salary.

If Lofton plays out the first two years of the contract, the Jazz would face a team option decision for the 2025/26 season.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The fact that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a legitimate MVP candidate while Chet Holmgren is in the running for Rookie of the Year is emblematic of how unique the young, contending Thunder are, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic, who notes that an NBA club hasn’t had a top-two finish in both MVP and Rookie of the Year voting since the 2001/02 Nets. Before that, the last time it happened was in 1979/80, when Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won MVP while Magic Johnson finished second in ROY voting.
  • Monday’s game between the Nuggets and Raptors marked the first time that brothers Michael Porter Jr. and Jontay Porter shared an NBA court for meaningful minutes, writes Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette. In honor of the occasion, Benedetto looks back at the role that Michael played in convincing Jontay not to give up on his NBA dream despite recurring injury issues.
  • Jrue Holiday was only a member of the Trail Blazers for a few days last fall between stints in Milwaukee and Boston, but he tells Jay King of The Athletic that a discussion he had with Chauncey Billups during that time “meant a lot” to him. Billups gave Holiday advice on how to handle the transition period and assured the veteran guard that the team wanted him to end up in a favorable landing spot.“I love Jrue, man. I love Jrue,” Billups said. “And we got him very briefly obviously. And I had a conversation — a long, good conversation with him — just about I know it was a little tough spot for him, being traded, kind of being blindsided by that. I’ve been there before. So just being able to rap with him like that because I know him. And it was important for me that a good person like him, who’s been great on every team and every community that he’s lived in, for him to be treated properly and be put in a great position and a great spot.”

Darius Bazley Signs With Jazz

MARCH 12: Bazley has officially signed with the Jazz and they’ve terminated the 10-day contract of guard Kinsey, according to a team press release.

As we relayed in a separate story, Lofton officially signed his contract with Utah on Monday when the team waived Porter.

MARCH 11: The Jazz will sign Darius Bazley to a three-year, non-guaranteed contract, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Utah will also add Kenneth Lofton Jr. under the same terms, Wojnarowski tweets.

Bazley, a 23-year-old center/power forward, made a brief NBA appearance last month when he signed a 10-day contract with the Sixers. He saw limited playing time in three games and didn’t receive a second 10-day deal.

Bazley returned to the Delaware Blue Coats in the G League, where’s he’s averaging 20.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in 22 regular season games.

The Jazz will be third team this season for Lofton, a 21-year-old power forward. He began the season in Memphis, where he played on a two-way contract in 2022/23, but he was waived in mid-December after appearing in 15 games.

The Sixers signed him to a two-way contract five days later, but released him at the beginning of March. He’s averaging 2.4 points and 1.1 rebounds in 17 total games this season.

Utah currently has a full roster, but that includes Taevion Kinsey, whose 10-day contract began on Saturday. Kinsey may be released early from that deal, or the Jazz could wait a few days to make the Bazley or Lofton signings official.

Veteran forward Otto Porter, who hasn’t played since being acquired from Toronto at the trade deadline, seems likely to be waived to open another roster spot.

Jazz Waive Otto Porter, Sign Kenneth Lofton

3:20pm: Porter has officially been waived and Lofton has been signed, the Jazz announced in a press release.

12:41pm: The Jazz intend to waive veteran forward Otto Porter Jr., sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Porter will not eligible to participate in the playoffs with the new team, since he was waived after March 1, which is the deadline for players to be released while maintaining postseason eligibility.

A report earlier today said Utah plans to sign young big men Darius Bazley and Kenneth Lofton Jr. to three-year contracts that are mostly non-guaranteed. Since the Jazz have 14 players on standard contracts and a 15th — Taevion Kinsey — on a 10-day deal, they needed to cut someone to create roster space. Porter will be that roster casualty, while Kinsey’s 10-day contract is also likely to be cut short.

Porter, 30, was traded from Toronto to Utah at the deadline in the deal that saw Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbaji moved to the Raptors. He never actually played in a game for the Jazz, who have been prioritizing young players for the second consecutive season after being in the hunt for the play-in tournament prior to the deadline.

A former No. 3 overall pick, Porter developed into a quality three-and-D player with the Wizards early in his career, which has unfortunately been derailed by injuries over the past six seasons. After helping the Warriors win a title as a key reserve in 2021/22, he signed a two-year, $12.3MM contract with Toronto, but only appeared in 23 combined games for the Raptors the past two seasons.

Assuming Porter clears waivers, which is a virtual certainty, the Jazz will carry a $6.3MM dead-money cap hit.

Sixers Waive Kenneth Lofton Jr.

10:02pm: Lofton has been released, the 76ers confirmed in a press release.

9:45pm: The Sixers intend to waive Kenneth Lofton Jr., who is on a two-way contract, reports Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports (via Twitter).

A burly forward/center, Lofton went undrafted out of Louisiana Tech in 2022. He caught on with the Grizzlies, signing a two-way contract before being converted to a standard deal at the end of his rookie season in 2022/23.

Lofton became the victim of a roster crunch in Memphis when the team needed to open up a roster spot to activate Ja Morant following the completion of his 25-game suspension. He was released in December, signing a two-way deal with Philadelphia a few days later.

After averaging 5.0 PPG and 2.1 RPG while shooting 52.7% from the floor in 24 games (7.3 MPG) as a rookie, the 21-year-old has struggled in his brief NBA minutes this season, averaging a combined 2.4 PPG and 1.1 RPG while making just 34.9% of his field goal attempts in 17 games with Memphis and Philadelphia (6.4 MPG). He only played two games for the 76ers, having spent most of his time with the Delaware Blue Coats, their NBA G League affiliate.

In 10 regular season games with the Blue Coats, Lofton put up big numbers, averaging 27.2 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 4.0 APG and 1.8 BPG on .577/.324/.746 shooting (29.8 MPG). He was named to the NBAGL’s Up Next Game, but wound up being replaced last month due to an injury.

Philadelphia has two openings on its standard roster and will have one open two-way spot once Lofton is officially released.

And-Ones: MVP Race, 2024 Draft, Korkmaz, Okafor, More

With Joel Embiid no longer eligible for this season’s MVP award due to the number of games he has missed, the race appears wide open, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN, who conducted another version of his straw poll ahead of the All-Star break.

The 100 media members polled over the weekend by MacMahon selected Nuggets center Nikola Jokic as the current MVP favorite, with Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as the runner-up. Jokic earned 69 first-place votes and was the only player selected by all 100 voters on their five-player ballots, while Gilgeous-Alexander was listed on 99 ballots and was the top choice on 24 of them.

Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, and Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard rounded out the top five in Bontemps’ latest poll, with Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, and Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell also appearing on double-digit ballots. Notably, while just four of 100 media members had Anthony Edwards in their top five, one made the Timberwolves guard their MVP choice.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Although Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of ESPN (Insider link) still feel as if the 2024 draft class is short on high-end talent, they believe it could end up being a relatively deep draft. Givony and Woo suggest that some teams will be able to find rotation players later in the first round or in the second round, even if there are no sure-fire stars at the top of the class.
  • After being traded from Philadelphia to Indiana and then waived by the Pacers, veteran swingman Furkan Korkmaz has turned down interest from Turkish club Besiktas for now and is hoping to remain in the NBA, according to a report from Eurohoops. Korkmaz didn’t play much for the Sixers the past two seasons, but is still just 26 years old and is a 36.1% three-point shooter over the past five years.
  • Former lottery pick Jahlil Okafor is on the move again, having recently signed with Puerto Rican team Capitanes de Arecibo, as Dario Skerletic of Sportando relays. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Okafor played in Spain and China earlier this season. He last played in the NBA with Detroit in 2020/21.
  • Grizzlies guard Vince Williams has been chosen to replace injured Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels in this Friday’s Rising Stars game at All-Star weekend, while Indiana Mad Ants guard Kyle Mangas will replace Sixers two-way player Kenneth Lofton Jr. in the G League Next Up game, according to a pair of announcements from the NBA and NBAGL.

NBA G League Announces Up Next Participants

A pool of 28 players has been selected for the NBA G League’s Up Next Game at All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis, the NBAGL announced in a press release.

According to the release, the event features “four teams of seven players competing in two semifinal games. The winner of each semifinal will face off in a Championship game.

“The teams will be made up of 28 NBA G League players, including 10 selected by a fan vote. The remaining 18 players will be selected by the NBA G League and will include eight members of NBA G League Ignite and at least one member of the Indiana Mad Ants, the G League affiliate of the All-Star hosting Indiana Pacers. Each team will be coached by a head coach from the NBA G League.”

Players marked with an asterisk (*) are on two-way contracts.

Fan vote:

Former Kentucky guard Hagans received the most votes.

NBAGL selections:

G League Ignite:

They aren’t currently on NBA teams, but it’s worth noting that Labissiere and Bazley are ineligible for two-way deals because they each hold four years of NBA experience. Weatherspoon (three years), Hagans (one) and Williams (one) also hold at least some NBA experience.