Lauri Markkanen

Jazz Notes: Frustration, Markkanen, Hendricks, George, Porter

Following the Jazz‘s 129-107 loss to Golden State on Monday, Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune wrote that the team’s locker room was as frustrated as he’d seen it following a regular season game. As Larsen explains, Utah players weren’t just upset about the loss but by the trade-deadline deals that sent out three rotation players (Kelly Olynyk, Ochai Agbaji, and Simone Fontecchio) and returned none.

Asked prior to the 2023/24 season about Lauri Markkanen‘s desire to make the playoffs, Jazz CEO Danny Ainge said the front office shared that desire and was on board with it, Larsen notes. But with the team in a play-in position in the West entering last Thursday’s deadline, Ainge essentially sold off players for draft picks, leaving the remaining players feeling as if “they were sold a bill of goods,” Larsen writes.

Jazz general manager Justin Zanik explained the front office’s thinking in a post-deadline press conference last week, essentially saying that the goal is to build a roster capable of legitimate contention in the long term rather than focusing on sneaking into the play-in tournament in the short term.

“All of us want to win,” Zanik said, per Tony Jones of The Athletic, pointing out that Utah hasn’t won more than a single playoff series in a season since 2007. “But I want to win for a long time. We don’t want to just have a year where we had a good run. The goal isn’t the play-in or the first round of the playoffs. Those aren’t the goals. The goal is to win a championship.”

Since the trade deadline, the Jazz have gone 0-2 while the Warriors have gone 3-0, pulling ahead of Utah by 1.5 games for the No. 10 seed in the West.

Here’s more on the Jazz:

  • The primary focus for the rest of the season in Utah will be the ongoing development of Markkanen and rookies Taylor Hendricks and Keyonte George, according to Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Todd takes a look at what to look for and what the Jazz will be expecting from those three players down the stretch.
  • There has been some confusion over the health of newly acquired forward Otto Porter Jr., Todd writes in a separate Deseret News story. Zanik said during last week’s presser that Porter is “not fully healthy right now, which we knew,” and the veteran forward was ruled out on Monday due to left foot soreness. However, when asked on Saturday how he was feeling, Porter stated that he was “OK, health-wise.” Informed of Zanik’s comments, the former Raptor replied, “Just got to figure some things out as far as my health. There’s some things that I just can’t go into detail with, but with the new training staff here, they should be able to get me back.” As Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca tweets, Porter wasn’t on Toronto’s injury report and was active for several games prior to the trade sending him to Utah. He’s not on the Jazz’s injury report for Wednesday’s contest vs. the Lakers.
  • As we wrote on Tuesday, Utah is one of many teams around the NBA that currently has an open 15-man roster spot. The Jazz could create a second opening by waiving either Porter or Kira Lewis if those newly acquired players on expiring contracts aren’t in their plans, but there has been no indication yet that such a move is coming.

And-Ones: Brown, 3-Point Contest, Glass Floor, Bjelica

The All-Star dunk contest has lost its star power in recent years. That could change this month. The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown is strongly considering accepting an invitation to participate, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports (Twitter link). Charania said Brown has been “mulling over the possibility for several weeks.”

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • A star-laden cast is lining up for the All-Star weekend’s 3-point contest. Tyrese Haliburton, Damian Lillard, Malik Beasley, Jalen Brunson and Lauri Markkanen have agreed to participate, Charania tweets. The same goes for Tyrese Maxey, Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and TNT tweets. Donovan Mitchell has also added his name to the list, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.
  • The entire All-Star Saturday night lineup will be played on a full video LED court that will be installed at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. The skills competition, 3-point contest, slam dunk competition and shooting matchup between Stephen Curry and Sabrina Ionescu will take place on the glass floor on Feb. 17. The All-Star Game on Feb. 18 will remain on a wooden court.
  • Former NBA player Nemanja Bjelica was allegedly threatened to be stabbed with scissors, Eurohoops.net relays. Nikola Petkovic, a former soccer player, confronted Bjelica in a children’s playroom in Belgrade, according to multiple Serbian outlets, and threatened Bjelica and his famly. Petkovic was arrested and detained for 48 hours. Bjelica, a member of the Warriors’ 2022 championship team, hasn’t played this season.

Trade Rumors: Wiggins, Pacers, Brogdon, Lakers, More

While the 21-25 Warriors have had a disappointing season to this point and are once again projected to have a record-setting payroll and luxury tax bill, ownership hasn’t given a mandate for the front office to do anything but try to improve the roster, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link), who says Golden State won’t be looking to simply offload the large salaries of players like Andrew Wiggins or Chris Paul.

Charania includes Klay Thompson in that group as well, though ESPN’s Brian Windhorst previously stated the Warriors aren’t interested in moving Thompson.

Charania confirms the Mavericks are interested in Wiggins, and adds the Pacers to the list of teams intrigued by the former No. 1 overall pick. Any deal sending Wiggins to Indiana would likely have to include Buddy Hield for salary-matching purposes, though that’s just an observation, not reporting.

According to Charania, unless the Warriors are blown away by an offer, they’re unlikely to trade any of those three veterans, particularly with their values at low points for various reasons. To this point, Charania says Golden State hasn’t received an offer that “moves the needle.”

Here are some more trade rumors from around the NBA, all courtesy of Marc Stein at Substack:

  • Once viewed as a strong trade candidate, Trail Blazers guard Malcolm Brogdon may have swung in the opposite direction. He has publicly said he’s happy in Portland and would prefer to stay, with Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports later reporting there was skepticism Brogdon would be moved. According to Stein, there have been “recent rumblings” that Brogdon is actually hoping to sign an extension with the Blazers. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year is not eligible for an in-season extension, but will become extension-eligible during the 2024 offseason, when he will make $22.5MM in the final year of his deal. Given Portland’s place in the standings and the presence of Anfernee Simons and Scoot Henderson, Stein wonders whether the Blazers will actually consider an extension for a 31-year-old veteran like Brogdon, but says the idea of a “longer stay than anticipated” has “gained credence.”
  • Given their limited asset pool — they can only trade one future first-round pick right now — the Lakers appear more likely to make a minor trade than a major one, Stein says. They continue to be linked to the RaptorsBruce Brown, but Jarred Vanderbilt‘s injury weakened the roster, and Stein suggests Los Angeles may not see a major difference-makers in the market, particularly for what it can offer. Waiting until the offseason would free up more options, as the Lakers could then trade as many as three first-round picks.
  • According to Stein, Bulls guard Zach LaVine (foot surgery), Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga, Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant, and the CavaliersDonovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen are among the “marquee players” who won’t be moved this season. Dejounte Murray and Kyle Kuzma are “two of the most coveted players” ahead of the February 8 deadline, but because they’re on long-term contracts, the Hawks and Wizards, respectively, might need to be patient to receive the assets they want in return, as first-round picks are hard to come by at the moment, per Stein.

Fischer’s Latest: Carter, Brogdon, Smart, Hawks, Jones, Hornets

While there will likely be plenty of trades completed between now and next Thursday’s deadline, many of the players whom rival teams had hoped would hit the market aren’t expected to be available this season, writes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

As Fischer details, that list of players who are believed to be off-limits includes several current and former All-Stars, such as Lauri Markkanen, Donovan Mitchell, Jarrett Allen, and Karl-Anthony Towns. It also features talented forwards Mikal Bridges and Jerami Grant, as well as rising talent Jonathan Kuminga.

Fischer isn’t the first to report that those players likely won’t be on the move at the deadline, so no names in that group come as real surprises. However, Fischer adds a few more players to the list of unlikely trade candidates, writing that Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. is no longer considered available and citing league personnel who are skeptical that the Trail Blazers will part with Malcolm Brogdon.

Additionally, while a handful of clubs – including the Bucks and Lakers – have called the Grizzlies to inquire about Marcus Smart, according to Fischer, Memphis has shown no interest in moving the veteran guard, who remains in the team’s plans beyond this season.

Here are a few more trade-related notes and rumors from Fischer:

  • The Hawks are viewed by rival executives as the most “active and aggressive” team in the trade market, with Dejounte Murray, Clint Capela, De’Andre Hunter, and AJ Griffin among the players who could be moved. While previous reports have indicated that Trae Young and Jalen Johnson are Atlanta’s only two untouchable players, Fischer says the club values Bogdan Bogdanovic as highly as any player on its roster outside of Young and Johnson.
  • Even though the Wizards are seeking a first-round pick for Tyus Jones, rival executives are confident that Washington will ultimately accept a package consisting of multiple second-rounders for the veteran point guard, per Fischer. Jones is on an expiring contract and wouldn’t be a starter on many teams, so a first-rounder would be a high price to pay.
  • Hornets forward P.J. Washington and center Nick Richards are generating a good deal of interest from potential trade partners, league sources tell Fischer. Kyle Lowry, Gordon Hayward, and Miles Bridges are among Charlotte’s other trade candidates.
  • We also passed along several of Fischer’s trade rumors related to Western Conference teams in a separate article.

Trade Rumors: Gafford, Grimes, Wizards, Raptors, Jazz, Bridges

The Wizards are among the teams with interest in Knicks wing Quentin Grimes, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv, who also confirms that Washington center Daniel Gafford remains on New York’s radar. A report a couple weeks ago indicated that the Knicks had inquired on Gafford.

With Isaiah Hartenstein playing well in a starting role, Precious Achiuwa and Jericho Sims providing depth at the five, and Mitchell Robinson possibly on track to return before the season is over, the Knicks might already be set up front.

However, Robinson’s return this season isn’t a certainty and Hartenstein has missed the past two games with an injury of his own (left Achilles tendinopathy), so it sounds as if the Knicks haven’t ruled out the possibility of pursuing another frontcourt player. Still, if Hartenstein is back in the lineup within a week or so and feels good, I wouldn’t expect a center – especially one like Gafford, who wouldn’t be cheap – to be a focus at the deadline.

Here are a few more trade-related notes and rumors from around the NBA:

Northwest Notes: Markkanen, Giddey, Nuggets, Scoot

Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player and a first-time All-Star last season, received high praise last week from Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle, writes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune.

He’s a great, great young player,” Carlisle said of Markkanen. “He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to (Dirk) Nowitzki.”

Carlisle, of course, coached the Mavericks in 2011, when Nowitzki led Dallas to its first and only title.

(He’s) a seven-footer that can really stretch the game out and play inside,” Carlisle continued. “He’s underrated as an athlete. And his length is really special and the efficiency with which he catches the ball and gets rid of it, shoots it — he just like catches it up here and just goes like this from like anywhere.

“People have tried to put bigger guys on him, smaller guys on him, he shoots over the smaller guys, he’s out-crafts the big guys. So, he’s tough. He’s a much tougher player than what you may think looking at him. He’s tall, slender, angular, but he’s rugged. So he’s a major, major problem.”

While Markkanen has had another excellent season, with averages that are extremely similar to last season, he also missed 10 games due to injury and the competition for All-Star spots in the West will be fierce, Larsen notes. For his part, Markkanen says he hopes he makes it in.

I think it can get it, I’ve just got to keep grinding. It would mean a lot obviously,” Markkanen said, per Larsen. “Winning games is what helps us, so I’m just doing trying to do my part to get us there, and hopefully I get in. It would definitely be a big thing for me.”

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Both Thunder guard/forward Josh Giddey and head coach Mark Daigneault replied with “no comment” when they were asked about the investigation into Giddey being closed by the Newport Beach Police Department, as Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman relays (Twitter links). Giddey was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a minor, but he won’t face criminal charges due to a lack of evidence.
  • Denver handed Boston its first home loss of the season in what could be a potential preview of the 2024 NBA Finals, according to Tony Jones of The Athletic, who argues the Nuggets should still be considered the favorite to defend their title. Tim Bontemps of ESPN has additional quotes after the high-intensity matchup between two of the top teams in the league.
  • No. 3 overall pick Scoot Henderson sustained a nasal contusion in Friday’s victory over Indiana, causing him to leave the game and not return (Twittter link via the Trail Blazers), but head coach Chauncey Billups was relieved the 19-year-old rookie didn’t have a concussion, as Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report tweets. Henderson was active for Sunday’s game vs. the Lakers.

Minimum Game Requirement For Awards Looms Large For Super-Max Candidates

As we detailed back in September, there are several players around the NBA who would benefit financially from making an All-NBA team or winning a Most Valuable Player of Defensive Player of the Year award in 2023/24.

Heat big man Bam Adebayo, Kings guard De’Aaron Fox, Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, Nuggets guard Jamal Murray are among the players who would become eligible to sign a super-max (Designated Veteran) contract during the 2024 offseason by earning one of those honors this season.

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could ensure they become eligible to sign a super-max extension in 2025 by making this year’s All-NBA team. Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. could do the same by winning a second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award.

Additionally, Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, and Hornets guard LaMelo Ball signed maximum-salary rookie scale extensions that will be worth 30% of next season’s salary cap (instead of 25%) if they make an All-NBA team this spring. These “Rose Rule” contracts are essentially “mini” super-max deals.

Not all of those 10 players look like legitimate All-NBA, MVP, or DPOY candidates this season, but many of them will be in the mix. However, as Tim Bontemps and Bobby Marks write at ESPN.com, the newly implemented 65-game minimum requirement for award winners looms large for this group.

Without appearing in 65 games (including at least 63 of 20-plus minutes and two of 15-plus minutes), these players will be ineligible to earn an All-NBA spot, and without that end-of-season honor, they won’t be in position to receive a higher maximum salary.

According to Bontemps and Marks, a player who misses more than 17 of his team’s games, falling short of appearing in the required 65, can technically still qualify for award recognition, but only in very specific scenarios:

  1. If the player appeared in at least 62 games (and 85% of his team’s games to that point) and then suffers a season-ending injury.
  2. If the player files a grievance and presents “clear and convincing evidence” that his team limited his games or his minutes with the intention of depriving him of award eligibility.

While there’s also a clause for “extraordinary circumstances,” the NBA and NBPA don’t expect that clause to apply to injury absences, since it would essentially defeat the purpose of the rule, per ESPN’s duo.

Of the 10 players mentioned above, one is already ineligible for a major end-of-season award — Ball has appeared in just 19 of the Hornets’ first 39 games due to an ankle injury, so even if he doesn’t miss a game for the rest of the season, he’ll max out at 62 appearances. Given Charlotte’s spot in the standings, Ball would have been an All-NBA long shot anyway, but he has been playing at a very high level when he’s been healthy.

The 65-game mark remains within reach for the rest of this group, though some players can’t really afford any sort of extended absence. Adebayo, for instance, has missed 10 of Miami’s 42 games so far and only logged 12 minutes in an 11th, which means it won’t count toward his 65. Seven more missed games would cost him his award eligibility.

Murray is in a similar spot — he has missed 14 of Denver’s 43 games and played just 10 minutes in a 15th, so three more missed games would make him ineligible for award consideration.

Doncic has missed seven games for the Mavericks, while Fox has missed six for the Kings, so they’re on pace to play in enough games, but if either player turns an ankle or tweaks a hamstring and is forced to the sidelines for a couple weeks, he’d be in trouble.

It looked like that might happen with Haliburton, who sat out just three of the Pacers’ first 36 games, then strained his hamstring earlier this month. He was expected to be unavailable for at least a couple weeks, but returned to action on Friday night, ahead of schedule, after missing just five contests.

Haliburton is a legitimate All-NBA candidate and would be in line for a projected $41MM pay increase across his five-year extension if he earns one of those 15 spots. Were those financial considerations a factor in his early return to action? Would he still have been inactive on Friday if that 65-game minimum weren’t in play?

It’s hard to imagine the Pacers allowing their franchise player to risk potential re-injury by coming back too early, but Haliburton certainly has a ton of motivation to play in every game he can this year.

As Howard Beck of The Ringer writes, that 65-game minimum will be a fascinating subplot to follow in the second half of the season. Although we’ve focused here on players whose future earnings could be directly tied to whether or not they claim an end-of-season award, there are many other potential All-NBA candidates who may fall short of 65 games, changing the equation for voters.

Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, Zion Williamson, and Lauri Markkanen are among the stars who have been out for eight or more games so far this season, Beck observes. Kevin Durant has missed seven.

The 65-game minimum isn’t necessary to earn votes for Sixth Man of the Year, Rookie of the Year, or an All-Rookie spot, but the other major awards require at least 65 appearances.

In 2023, five of the 15 players who made an All-NBA team appeared in fewer than 65 games, but that won’t be the case in 2024. The players who have the most riding on All-NBA honors from a financial perspective may be the ones most motivated to stay on the court, but as Adebayo points out, you “can’t stop injuries from happening.”

“God forbid nobody gets hurt, but you can’t [prevent] injury,” he said, per Bontemps and Marks. “I think it’s crazy that we even have the rule. It’s one of those things where you just accept the rule. … I guess use your 17 games as wisely as possible.”

Trade Rumors: Bucks, Murray, Nets, Sixers, Brown, Heat, More

The Bucks are among the teams registering interest in trading for Hawks guard Dejounte Murray, league sources tell Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and TNT (Twitter link). Haynes’ report doesn’t include any details beyond that, so it’s unclear what sort of package a Bucks team short on trade assets might be willing to offer for Murray.

It’s safe to assume Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard aren’t going anywhere, which means a Milwaukee offer would need to be built around either Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, or, more likely, a Bobby Portis/Pat Connaughton combo. No other players on the roster earn enough to viably match Murray’s $18MM+ salary (a package that includes only one of Portis or Connaughton could technically work, but would need to be at least a four-for-one or five-for one deal).

Middleton, Lopez, Portis, and Connaughton have all played significant roles in Milwaukee for the last few seasons. Middleton and Lopez, in particular, have been mainstays in the Bucks’ starting lineup for many years, while Portis and Connaughton have been among the team’s first players off the bench. All four were major contributors to the championship team in 2021.

Still, as the Bucks showed when they included Jrue Holiday and Grayson Allen in their package for Lillard in September, they’re willing to send out key rotation players in a trade if they believe the deal raises their ceiling. And with no first-round picks and only two second-rounders left to deal, the Bucks would need to send out a quality player or two to be a contender in the Murray sweepstakes.

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

  • Responding to colleagues Tim Bontemps and Tim MacMahon, who argued on The Hoop Collective podcast (YouTube link) that the Nets should be sellers at the trade deadline, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst suggested that’s not necessarily the way the team is leaning. “I can’t speak to what the Nets are thinking right this very second, but the word through the NBA is the Nets are attempting to be buyers,” Windhorst said. Brooklyn doesn’t control its own 2024 first-round pick, which will be sent to Houston.
  • Despite some speculation that he could be a trade deadline target, the Sixers are unlikely to pursue Raptors guard Bruce Brown, reports Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Appearing on the Locked on Heat podcast (Twitter video link), Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports suggested that the Heat aren’t explicitly shopping Kyle Lowry and Nikola Jovic, but they’re among the players on the roster who are considered by potential trade partners to be available.
  • Within his latest Insider-only story for ESPN.com, Zach Lowe shares a couple of notable trade-related tidbits. According to Lowe, before trading for Pascal Siakam, the Pacers were one of several teams to reach out to the Jazz about Lauri Markkanen, but Utah showed zero interest in moving him. Additionally, Lowe says that the Spurs reached out to the Hawks to explore the possibility of a reversal of sorts to their 2022 Dejounte Murray deal, but those talks don’t appear to have gotten far.

Jazz’s Markkanen, Heat’s Adebayo Named Players Of The Week

Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen and Heat center Bam Adebayo have been named the NBA’s Players of the Week, the league announced on Monday (via Twitter).

A first-time All-Star in 2022/23, Markkanen averaged 24.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.0 block per game on .473/.481/.917 shooting in helping Utah to an undefeated week at 4-0. The Jazz are the league’s hottest team, going 11-2 over their past 13 games to move above .500 (21-20).

Adebayo, the East’s winner, averaged 23.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.0 block per night while shooting 56.5% from the floor and 78.6% from the charity stripe in four games. Miami went 3-1 in those contests and is currently 23-16.

According to the NBA, the other nominees in the West were Devin Booker, Paul George, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Rudy Gobert and Nikola Jokic, while Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bennedict MAthurin, Myles Turner, Donovan Mitchell and Coby White were nominated in the East (Twitter link).

Scotto’s Latest: Gafford, Knicks, Mavs, Dinwiddie, Markkanen

The Knicks inquired earlier this season on Wizards big man Daniel Gafford, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype told ESPN’s Bobby Marks in the latest episode of the HoopsHype podcast.

While Scotto doesn’t say exactly when that inquiry occurred, it was presumably sometime after New York lost Mitchell Robinson to the left ankle injury that is expected to sideline him for most or all of the season. It seems safe to assume, Scotto continues, that whatever level of interest the Knicks had in Gafford decreased after the club acquired Precious Achiuwa from Toronto in the OG Anunoby deal.

Here are a few more items of interest from the HoopsHype podcast:

  • The Mavericks are interested in upgrading at the forward position, according to Scotto, who suggests the team would be looking at either the three or the four. Scotto’s comment on the Mavs came during a more general conversation about Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant as a potential trade candidate — while Scotto views Dallas as a fit for Grant, he doesn’t explicitly say that the Mavs have expressed interest.
  • The Nets and Spencer Dinwiddie, who is on track for unrestricted free agency this summer, had brief extension discussions prior to the season when he became eligible to sign a new deal, per Scotto. The two sides reportedly explored a one- or two-year deal, but Dinwiddie wanted something longer. During their discussion, Scotto and Marks wondered if Dinwiddie’s days in Brooklyn may be numbered, which is a topic that Collin Helwig of NetsDaily also explored after the veteran guard didn’t play in crunch time on Sunday and barely saw any action in the second half on Thursday.
  • The trade speculation about Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen earlier this season seemed more like something other teams were trying to speak into existence rather than anything real, says Scotto, adding that Markkanen will be eligible for a contract renegotiation and extension with Utah next summer and seems interested in pursuing that.