Kenneth Lofton

Sixers Sign Kenneth Lofton Jr. To Two-Way Deal

6:00pm: Lofton’s signing is official, the Sixers announced in a press release.

12:32pm: Shortly after being waived by the Grizzlies, free agent forward Kenneth Lofton Jr. has agreed to sign a two-way contract with the Sixers, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

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. Lofton was part of the 15-man roster to open the regular season, but lost his spot to Bismack Biyombo, whom the Grizzlies signed when they placed Morant on the suspended list in early November.

Lofton, who went undrafted out of Louisiana Tech in 2022, spent most of his rookie season on a two-way deal with Memphis. He appeared in 24 games for the NBA club, averaging 5.0 points and 2.1 rebounds in 7.3 minutes per contest, and received a promotion to the standard roster near the end of the season.

However, the burly 6’7″ forward failed to establish himself as a regular rotation piece this fall, averaging just 2.6 PPG and 1.0 RPG in 15 appearances (6.6 MPG) and making only 37.8% of his shots from the floor. Because his contract wasn’t guaranteed beyond this season, he became a logical release candidate once the Grizzlies decided they wanted to hang onto Biyombo.

In order to make room for Lofton, the Sixers are waiving guard Javonte Smart, reports Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Smart got into just one game this season for Philadelphia, having spent most of the season with the Delaware Blue Coats in the G League. Across 16 Showcase Cup games for Delaware, he averaged 21.0 points, 5.8 assists, and 3.9 rebounds in 34.5 minutes per game, with an impressive shooting line of .466/.424/.970.

Lofton will add some depth to the 76ers’ frontcourt and will join guards Terquavion Smith and Ricky Council as the team’s two-way players.

Grizzlies Waive Kenneth Lofton Jr.

DECEMBER 18: The Grizzlies have officially waived Lofton, the team confirmed in a press release on Monday night. The move opens up a spot to formally activate Morant.

DECEMBER 17: The Grizzlies plan to release Kenneth Lofton Jr., reports Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

As Cole explains, the Grizzlies need to create a roster spot with Ja Morant nearing a return from his 25-game suspension; that’s expected to occur Tuesday vs. New Orleans. Lofton won’t be traveling on the team’s two-game road trip, which starts Monday in Oklahoma City.

Two different reports from the past week indicated that Lofton was the most likely player to be cut. When Morant was placed on the suspended list following the fifth game of the season, the Grizzlies signed Bismack Biyombo, and they’ll reportedly be keeping him around for now.

Lofton, a second-year forward/center, was promoted from a two-way deal to a standard contract near the end of the 2022/23 season.

The 21-year-old had an opportunity to earn minutes in the frontcourt this season, with Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke sidelined with long-term injuries, plus Xavier Tillman missing extended time. But he was unable to establish himself as a consistent contributor this fall, averaging just 2.6 points per game on 37.8% shooting in 15 appearances (6.6 MPG).

A source tells Cole that Lofton met with head coach Taylor Jenkins earlier in ’23/24 to gain a better understanding of why he wasn’t playing, but Jenkins reportedly told him there weren’t many minutes available.

Lofton has two years left on his contract after this season, but both are non-guaranteed. That means if he clears waivers, the Grizzlies will only be on the hook for his ’23/24 salary, which is $1,719,864.

According to Cole, Lofton is expected to draw interest from rival teams due to his ability to score. He averaged a double-double for the Memphis Hustle (the Grizzlies’ G League affiliate) last season, winning the NBAGL’s Rookie of the Year award in the process.

Western Rumors: Markkanen, Giddey, Mann, Kings, Lofton

After Marc Stein reported that teams around the NBA are keeping an eye on Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports says that several clubs have already contacted Utah to inquire on Markkanen.

Fischer stresses that the Jazz are “by no means expected” to trade Markkanen, who is a favorite of team officials. However, opposing executives have gotten the sense that the All-Star forward is no longer quite as untouchable as he was in the past.

“Do I expect Utah to trade Lauri? No,” one general manager told Fischer. “But they are saying they’re willing to listen. They are willing to listen to calls on everyone, but it’s a matter of meeting their price like Minnesota did for Rudy [Gobert].”

As Fischer notes, even if a deal is unlikely, the fact that the Jazz are open to listening on Markkanen means that there will continue to be plenty of buzz around him as the trade deadline nears. League personnel believe that the Kings, Hawks, and Thunder are among the teams that would have the most interest in the Finnish star, Fischer adds.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Rival teams had begun to zero in on Thunder guard Josh Giddey as a possible trade target before the NBA and California police began looking into allegations that he had an inappropriate relationship with a minor, per Fischer. Depending on the outcome of those investigations, Giddey may still draw interest ahead of the trade deadline. Oklahoma City also explored moving Tre Mann prior to the start of the season, Fischer adds.
  • If the Kings pursue either Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby, the Raptors are expected to ask for Keegan Murray in return, which may be a non-starter for Sacramento, Fischer writes, since the Kings view Murray as an important piece in both the present and the future. However, another former lottery pick, Davion Mitchell, is considered a “strong” trade candidate, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.
  • The Grizzlies have made calls to potential trade partners to gauge those teams’ interest in some of Memphis’ reserves, but if a deal doesn’t materialize in the coming days, the expectation is that the team will probably waive Kenneth Lofton Jr. to open up a roster spot to activate Ja Morant next week, says Fischer. We took a closer look at Memphis’ looming roster decisions earlier in the week.

Roster Decisions Looming For Grizzlies

For much of the season, the Grizzlies have been permitted to carry multiple players beyond the 15 that NBA teams are typically allowed to have on their standard rosters.

Memphis first qualified for an extra roster spot five games into Ja Morant‘s suspension, when the team was able to move him to the suspended list for the remaining 20 games of his ban, opening up a roster spot that the Grizzlies used to sign Bismack Biyombo.

[RELATED: 2023/24 NBA Roster Counts]

A series of injuries resulted in two more additional roster spots for the Grizzlies — they qualified for a pair of hardship exceptions as a result of having players sidelined due to medium- or long-term ailments.

One of those hardship exceptions expired earlier in the month, forcing Memphis to part ways with guard Shaquille Harrison, but the team is still carrying Jaylen Nowell on a hardship deal in addition to Biyombo. It’s just a matter of time though until the Grizzlies will be required to get back down to 15 players.

Let’s take a closer look at the key roster decisions facing the club…

Nowell and the hardship exception:

Nowell’s second 10-day contract with the Grizzlies runs through Wednesday, meaning he’ll be eligible to play in one more game for the team. Once it expires, Memphis could ask the NBA for another 10-day hardship exception, but it’s unclear whether such a request would be granted.

To receive a hardship exception, a team must have at least four injured players who have missed at least three consecutive games and who are expected to remain sidelined for at least two more weeks.

The Grizzlies are currently missing Steven Adams, Brandon Clarke, Marcus Smart, and Luke Kennard. Adams’ and Clarke’s injuries are long-term, with Adams expected to miss the entire season and Clarke unlikely to return until well into 2024. But Smart’s and Kennard’s returns appear much closer.

When Smart first went down with a left foot sprain, Memphis announced that he was expected to miss three-to-five weeks — that was three-and-a-half weeks ago. As for Kennard, the Grizzlies announced nine days ago that he could be back in about two or three weeks. Those recovery timelines may have changed, but if the Grizzlies are expecting either Smart or Kennard back within the next week or two, they won’t qualify for a hardship exception.

Assuming that’s the case, Memphis will have to either let Nowell walk when his 10-day contract expires tomorrow night or waive someone else in order to re-sign him.

Nowell has been playing fairly regular minutes since joining the club, but as Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian tweets, he logged just eight minutes on Monday and didn’t play in the second half, which suggests that the Grizzlies are unlikely to move off one of their players on guaranteed contracts in order to keep him around.

Biyombo, Morant, and the suspended list:

All indications are that Morant remains on track to be activated next Tuesday ahead of the Grizzlies’ game in New Orleans, their 26th of the season. When that happens, someone will have to be waived to make room for the All-Star guard.

Biyombo, whose one-year, $5MM contract is only partially guaranteed for $1MM, is the most obvious candidate from a financial perspective, since everyone else on the roster has a fully guaranteed 2023/24 salary. But the big man has helped shore up a thin frontcourt following Adams’ season-ending surgery, and Shams Charania reported this week that Memphis would like to hang onto him.

If the Grizzlies do keep Biyombo, Kenneth Lofton Jr. seems likeliest to be waived, according to Herrington (Twitter link). The second-year forward was promoted from a two-way deal to a standard contract near the end of last season, but he hasn’t established himself as a consistent contributor this fall, averaging just 2.6 points per game on 37.8% shooting in 15 appearances (6.6 MPG). And while Lofton has two years left on his contract after this season, both are non-guaranteed.

Waiving a player on a guaranteed contract isn’t the only way the Grizzlies would be able to retain Biyombo (and/or Nowell). A trade could do the trick too, and Charania reported that Memphis has been engaged in talks with teams around the NBA. The trade market usually isn’t too active at this time of the year, but moving a minimum-salary player like Lofton wouldn’t be too complicated, and more options will open up on Friday, when several dozen players across the league become trade-eligible.

Southwest Notes: Irving, Lofton Jr., Murphy, Eason

Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving suffered a right foot injury on Friday when teammate Dwight Powell landed on him. Coach Jason Kidd said he’ll know more on Saturday about the extent of the injury, according to ESPN.

Dante Exum picked up the slack with 23 points, seven assists and six rebounds in a victory over Portland.

“One of the biggest things with our team is our next man up mentality,” Exum told Eddie Sefko of “You see that right now with me as an example. We have (a lot of players) down. And the guys have been able to step up. Hopefully, he (Irving) is not out for too long, but we have a deep roster that’s willing and ready to step up.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Kenneth Lofton Jr. has shed 20 pounds in the past three weeks, he told Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Lofton has played sparingly for the Grizzlies this season despite frontcourt injuries. He’s hoping his improved conditioning will lead to a bigger role. “My mental has been good,” he said. “I’m just pretty much waiting on my time, working off the court and getting better at my strengths. Really just focusing on myself.” He needs to show more, as his $2.02MM salary for next season is not guaranteed.
  • When the Pelicans executed a trade three days before the 2021 draft, Trey Murphy knew the organization was interested in selecting him. In a multi-player trade, New Orleans gave up the 10th pick and received the 17th pick. However, Murphy wasn’t sure if he’d go a little higher. “I knew for sure once they moved back from 10 to 17, they are making a move with the intent of drafting me at 17,” Murphy told Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I knew my draft range was around 14 to 17. That was my range. I was either going to go 14 to the Warriors or go 16 to Oklahoma City at the time. It ended up changing to Houston (in a draft-night trade). One of those three teams.”
  • Second-year forward Tari Eason has endeared himself to Rockets coach Ime Udoka due to his versatility, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic. “Metric-wise or analytic-wise, he’s off the charts for all of those reasons. He defends, can shoot the ball and do some different things with his offensive rebounding, loose balls. Where other guys might touch their hands and lose it, he gets every one of those,” Udoka said. “Just makes the right plays over and over. We’re happy that his minutes are starting to go up. We can play him a little bit more here and there and we understand how impactful he is for us.”

Southwest Notes: Lofton, GG Jackson, Prosper, Rockets

Kenneth Lofton Jr. is playing like he belongs in the Grizzlies‘ rotation, which may lead to some difficult decisions this fall, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. The second-year power forward, who posted 24 points and 10 rebounds on Wednesday, is the team’s leading scorer in Summer League. He has also looked better on defense, which was a goal for the offseason.

Cole notes that Lofton changed the team’s plans with a strong Summer League performance last year. The undrafted rookie earned a two-way contract that was upgraded to a standard deal before the playoffs as the Grizzlies parted with Kennedy Chandler.

Memphis’ power rotation appears to be set, according to Cole, so any minutes Lofton earns will come at the expense of an established player. Steven Adams and Jaren Jackson Jr. are both expected to be healthy heading into training camp, while Santi Aldama and Xavier Tillman saw regular playing time last season. Coach Taylor Jenkins typically uses four big men, so Lofton will have to battle for a larger role.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Rookie forward GG Jackson has also impressed Jenkins during Summer League, Cole adds in a separate story. Jackson will likely spend most of the upcoming season in the G League, but he has displayed the potential that made him a highly touted prospect coming out of high school. “I’ve been super thrilled with what he’s shown,” Jenkins said. “You see the physical tools with the capability to make plays on both sides of the floor, defensively I’m loving his rebounding. … Each game he is making progress.”
  • Summer League coach Jared Dudley believes Olivier-Maxence Prosper could make an immediate impact with the Mavericks, tweets Mavs reporter Grant Afseth. Dudley said the rookie power forward understands the game and can score without having plays called for him. “I could see him easily playing for the Mavs this season just because of his defense and his aggressiveness,” Dudley said. “Anytime I tell him to do something, He does it automatically, and it’s no second-guessing it. He does it a hundred miles an hour, so I respect that.”
  • Jabari Smith and Tari Eason only appeared in two Summer League games, but Rockets officials were very happy with what they saw from both second-year players, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Smith was one of the best players in Las Vegas with a total of 71 points (35.5 PPG), while Eason averaged 23 PPG and looked comfortable at either forward position.

Grizzlies Notes: Morant, Jackson, Bane, Adams

Adam Silver will wait until after the NBA Finals to announce Ja Morant‘s punishment for his latest gun-related incident, but the commissioner dropped some hints about the length of a potential suspension during his press conference last week, writes Mark Giannatto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Giannatto examines five statements from Silver to get an idea of what Morant’s suspension might look like. He suggests that the commissioner seemed more disappointed than angry about Morant’s behavior when he talked about creating “better circumstances going forward” for the Grizzlies star.

Silver mentioned the involvement of the players’ union in the process, which Giannatto believes may be encouraging for Morant. He points out that no player has ever been suspended for more than 30 games without being charged with a crime and theorizes that the NBPA won’t let that happen to Morant without putting up a fight.

There’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • Appearing on Paul George‘s podcast, Jaren Jackson Jr. expressed support for Morant and said he’s holding up well amid the likelihood of suspension, relays Damichael Cole of The Commercial Appeal. “He’s good,” Jackson said. “That’s my brother, though. No matter what, I stand by my brother, and I think that’s the lesson everybody should take away from this. … Everybody is going to say whatever, but they’re everybody. It never matters at the end of the day. This is your family. This is your brother.”
  • The absence of Morant will make this an especially important season for Desmond Bane, Cole adds in a separate story. Bane, who will be on the final year of his rookie contract, will have to assume a larger leadership role on the team and Cole states that he might have All-Star potential. Cole also points to Santi Aldama, Ziaire Williams, Kenneth Lofton Jr. and Tyus Jones as players to watch heading into next season.
  • The Grizzlies never fully recovered after losing Steven Adams to a right knee injury in January, Cole states in another Commercial Appeal piece. The team’s starting center appeared in a career-low 42 games this season and was especially missed in the playoffs when Memphis was outmuscled in a first-round loss to the Lakers. Cole adds that in addition to his rebounding, the Grizzlies also missed Adams’ screen setting and his leadership as the oldest player on the team.

NBAGL Announces 2022/23 All-League Awards

The NBA G League named the recipients of its All-League, All-Rookie, and All-Defensive teams on Thursday (all Twitter links found here). Many of the honorees are on standard NBA or two-way contracts.

Here’s the full list:

All-NBA G League First Team

All-NBA G League Second Team

All-NBA G League Third Team

NBAGL All-Defensive Team

NBAGL All-Rookie Team

  • Kenneth Lofton
  • Lester Quinones – Santa Cruz Warriors *
    • Note: Quinones placed second in ROY voting.
  • Darius Days
    • Note: Days placed third in ROY voting.
  • Jamaree Bouyea
  • Moussa Diabate

(^ denotes standard NBA contract)

(* denotes two-way contract)

(# Bouyea signed 10-day deals with the Heat and Wizards, but is now an NBA free agent)

Both Dunn and Samanic signed standard contracts with the Jazz, while Harrison signed with the Lakers at the very end of the season after playing with Portland on a 10-day deal. Duke and Lofton recently had their two-way contracts converted into standard deals.

Cooper, Chiozza and Anderson all hold NBA experience as well. Cooper spent 2021/22 — his rookie season — on a two-way deal with the Hawks; Chiozza has played for the Rockets, Nets and Warriors, and recently signed with a Spanish team; Anderson has appeared in 242 NBA games with six teams in as many seasons.

Southwest Notes: Adams, Lofton, McCollum, Vogel, Borrego

Grizzlies center Steven Adams has slowly progressed during his recovery from a sprained right knee, which is why he’s likely to sit out the postseason, coach Taylor Jenkins told Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“We thought we were making headway with the process and all that, but each evaluation we had with the doctors kind of revealed it’s not progressing like we need it to. … No setbacks, no reinjuries, it was just not progressing to a level,” the Grizzlies’ head coach said. “Obviously some unfortunate news, but that’s why we’re going to try to do everything possible to try to get the best decision possible for him.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Due to Adams’ injury, the Grizzlies wound up signing G League Rookie of the Year Kenneth Lofton Jr. to a standard contract. It wasn’t a given, Cole tweets. Jenkins said the Grizzlies did their “due diligence” on bringing in a free agent big man for the playoffs, but ultimately decided to reward Lofton for how well he’s played and his knowledge of the system.
  • Pelicans guard CJ McCollum will undergo right thumb surgery next week, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune tweets. McCollum, who previously revealed the injury and the likelihood of surgery, said it’s been an issue for several months. McCollum also indicated his shoulder has bothered him in recent games and he’ll have it evaluated, Will Guillory of The Athletic adds in another tweet.
  • Frank Vogel, the Lakers’ head coach during their championship run in the Orlando bubble in 2020, was interviewed for the Rockets’ head coach position on Wednesday, Kelly Iko of The Athletic tweets. The Rockets are interviewing a number of former head coaches, as well as some prominent assistants, for the job.
  • In a separate piece, Iko takes a closer look at whether former Hornets coach James Borrego would be a good fit as the Rockets’ head coach. Iko spoke at length with former Hornets assistant Nick Friedman to get a better feel for Borrego’s coaching style.

Southwest Notes: Williamson, Nance Jr., Harrison, Lofton

Pelicans star forward Zion Williamson, who won’t play in the play-in tournament and is considered unlikely to be available in the first round if the team makes it that far, admits that his hamstring issue is more mental than physical at the moment, according to Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

“I can pretty much do everything,” said Williamson, who hasn’t suited up for the Pelicans since Jan. 2. “It’s just a matter of the level that I was playing at before my hamstring. I’m just a competitor. I don’t want to go out there and be in my own head and affect the team. I can just be on the sidelines supporting them more. I know myself. If I was to go out there, I would be in my head a lot. I would hesitate on certain moves. And that could affect the game.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Pelicans have added Larry Nance Jr. to the injury report for their play-in game against the Thunder on Wednesday, according to a team press release. The forward is listed as questionable due to left ankle soreness. He’s averaging 6.8 points and 5.4 rebounds this season.
  • Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison vows that the team won’t miss the postseason next season, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News tweets. “They (the fans) should be frustrated. I’m frustrated. This year was unacceptable. … We’re going to evaluate everything, and we’re not going to be in this situation again.”
  • Kenneth Lofton Jr.‘s four-year contract with the Grizzlies is guaranteed for next season and is worth a total of $6,927,014, but it’s non-guaranteed for 2024/25 and includes a team option in 2025/26, Hoops Rumors has learned. He received a $1MM salary for 2022/23, which was well above his prorated minimum. The remaining three years are at the minimum salary. Lofton had his two-way contract converted over the weekend.