Lauri Markkanen

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Henderson, Markkanen, Gobert, Towns

Appearing on the “It Is What It Is” podcast, Damian Lillard said he wasn’t upset when the Trail Blazers used their lottery pick to draft Scoot Henderson. The electrifying point guard is projected to be Lillard’s eventual replacement as the star of Portland’s backcourt, but Lillard won’t mind sharing the court with the rookie until he gets the trade he wants.

“Me and Scoot, we’ve had a few conversations with him coming into the league,” Lillard said. “That wasn’t a deal breaker for me at all. I respect his game. I think in that position he was the best player available, so that’s what you’ve gotta do if you’ve got the pick. But no, I wasn’t offended at all, because at the end of the day, you’ve gotta come in and play. I’ve been doing this for a long time, so to me that wasn’t a knock on me or anything.”

With trade talks between the Blazers and Heat reportedly at a standstill and other teams reluctant to make their best offers because of Lillard’s preference to play in Miami, it appears there’s a good chance that Lillard and Henderson will begin the season as teammates.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Lauri Markkanen is one of the best values in the NBA, but the Jazz need to consider his future beyond his current contract, writes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. Markkanen has two seasons left at $17.3MM and $18MM, with only a $6MM guarantee for the final year. Larsen notes that Utah can either let him play out the deal and take advantage of about $41MM in cap space next summer or renegotiate the final year and sign him to an extension. The new CBA places a 140% limit on extensions, so Markkanen would have to get to about $35MM in 2024/25 to be eligible for a max deal of $49MM the following season.
  • The Timberwolves are hoping for improvement in the second year of the Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns pairing, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic states in an overview of Minnesota’s roster. He adds that Gobert was dealing with knee soreness following EuroBasket last fall while Towns missed most of training camp because of an infection, so there’s hope that better health will lead to better results.
  • The Minnesota Board of Medical Practice has fined Timberwolves assistant trainer Jesse Geffon $500 for treating players without a license for part of last season, per Paul Walsh of The Star-Tribune. Geffon joined the team in September, but didn’t apply for his license until February.

World Cup Notes: Canada Vs. Spain, Australia, Finland, Egypt

Spain’s Juancho Hernangomez and Willy Hernangomez are the players that Canada’s Dillon Brooks is most concerned about as the teams prepare for their showdown on Sunday, writes Antonis Stroggylakis of Eurohoops. It’s a high-stakes meeting that will determine who will move on to the quarterfinals and who will be eliminated, and although both nations have rosters loaded with NBA players, Brooks believes the Hernangomez brothers have many ways to control the game.

“They create a lot of mismatches for their team and the other teams,” Brooks said. “We got to match up their physicality and play harder than them.”

Neither team expected to be on the brink of elimination so early, but things changed on Friday as Spain lost to Latvia while Canada fell to Brazil, setting up Sunday’s do-or-die contest. Brooks’ teammate, RJ Barrett, is worried about the advantage that Spain has through more exposure to international competition.

“Their biggest thing is their experience,” Barrett said. “Many of them are EuroLeague champions. They have guys who’ve been playing FIBA basketball basically their whole lives. That’s what we’re going up against.”

There’s more on the World Cup:

  • Australia needs to evaluate its national team after being knocked out early, contends Olgun Uluc of ESPN. The Australians’ efforts to mix older and younger talent haven’t been successful, Uluc adds, and his solution is to build the team around Josh Giddey, with Patty Mills, Josh Green and Jock Landale holding the only other guaranteed spots for the 2024 Olympics. “I think we’re in the process of change, and style of play — both offensively and defensively — and we’re all disappointed but I’m excited where this thing can go,” coach Brian Goorjian said after his team was eliminated by Slovenia. “Definitely a clearer picture after playing this tournament.” Goorjian’s contract expires after the World Cup, but he’s expected to coach the Boomers in the Olympics, according to Uluc.
  • Finland appears headed to a pre-Olympic qualifier after defeating Venezuela on Saturday, according to Eurohoops. Lauri Markkanen scored 32 points as Finland picked up its second victory of the tournament.
  • A two-point loss to New Zealand on Saturday prevented Egypt from earning an automatic Olympic bid, per NetsDaily. The team, which features Brooklyn training camp invite Patrick Gardner, will have to earn a spot through next summer’s qualifying tournament.

Northwest Notes: Giddey, Australia, Markkanen, Nuggets

The Australian national team reshaped its starting lineup ahead of the 2023 World Cup, with Thunder guard Josh Giddey taking over as the team’s lead play-maker, writes Olgun Uluc of ESPN.

The results have been a little uneven through three games at the World Cup, which is to be expected with different players playing together. Still, the Boomers advanced out of their group after going 2-1, and they believe the move will pay long-term dividends, per Uluc.

Josh Giddey’s growth throughout his career has just been astounding,” Boomers assistant coach Adam Caporn said. “Being around him, you see why. Every game, he’s studying the opposition, he’s improving things, he’s got great feedback and input for us on what he needs and what he feels like the team needs. It’s really great having that level of floor leader out there. Super fun. The ball will be in his hands a lot, and he’s gonna do a lot of great things.”

Giddey, 20, is averaging 19.0 PPG, 7.3 APG and 5.0 RPG on .528/.222/.684 shooting thus far (28.7 MPG).

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Next up for Australia is a rematch of the bronze medal game from the Tokyo Olympics, with the Boomers set to face off against Slovenia on Friday. Giddey says he’s looking forward to competing against Mavericks star Luka Doncic, according to Uluc. “It’s a lot of fun,” the Thunder‘s 2021 lottery pick said of Doncic. “Obviously a lot of people are here to see him. He carries a heavy load for Slovenia, so a lot of our game plan is gonna revolve around him, just like it did with Lauri [Markkanen] and Yuta [Watanabe] tonight. We’ve had the opportunity to play against these teams where they have a superstar or an NBA player, so Luka is obviously on a different level, but we’ve got Josh Green, Matisse [Thybulle] — those types of guys — for that job. We’ll be ready for it. Just one game at a time, and keep moving forward.”
  • The Finnish national team has been eliminated from medal contention at the World Cup, but the team is still competing in the classification games. On Thursday, Jazz star Lauri Markkanen was dominant in Finland’s victory over Cape Verde, recording a game-high 34 points (on 12-of-19 shooting), nine rebounds and a game-high plus-23 in 27 minutes of action, notes
  • Former Nuggets point guard Andre Miller will return as head coach of the Grand Rapids Gold for a second season in 2023/24, the team announced in a press release. The Nuggets’ NBA G League affiliate will also have a new general manager in Ben Tenzer, who will continue to serve as Denver’s vice president of basketball operations. Travess Armenta will be the Gold’s new associate head coach. Armenta has had various roles with the Nuggets and Gold over the years, per the release.

And-Ones: T. Davis, Player Tiers, 2025 FAs, R. Thompson

According to Arale Weisberg of Israeli outlet Walla Sport (Twitter link), Spanish powerhouse FC Barcelona is keeping tabs on free agent wing Terence Davis, who spent the past two-and-a-half seasons with the Kings (hat tip to Dario Skerletic of Sportando).

In 64 regular season games (13.1 MPG) with Sacramento in 2022/23, Davis averaged 6.7 PPG and 2.2 RPG on .423/.366/.791 shooting. In total, the 26-year-old has appeared in 227 games over four seasons with the Raptors and Kings.

A handful of NBA teams were rumored to be interested in Davis once free agency got underway on June 30, but he has yet to find another club. The Kings renounced his rights in order to maximize their cap space this summer.

As Skerletic notes, Barcelona — which recently signed Jabari Parker — would likely have to give Davis a contract in the range of Parker’s deal to entice him to come to Europe. Parker will reportedly receive a one-year, $2MM contract that includes an NBA opt-out clause.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Earlier this week, Seth Partnow of The Athletic released his first two player tier rankings ahead of the 2023/24 season. Roughly ranking the top-125 players in the league, tier five consisted of 45 players, while tier four contained 41. His latest installment — tier three — includes 21 players, such as Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, and Kings guard De’Aaron Fox. Partnow’s top two tiers will feature 18 total players.
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype takes an early look at the potential 2025 free agent class, with Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo ranked No. 1 overall. Wizards guard Landry Shamet rounds out Gozlan’s top-65 list.
  • Former Indiana forward Race Thompson, who went undrafted earlier this summer, recently revealed that he sustained a right tibia plateau fracture a couple months ago, as Kyler Staley of Hoosier Illustrated relays. Thompson had reached an agreement to play for the Knicks in Summer League action, but obviously the injury prevented that from happening.

Lauri Markkanen A Candidate For Renegotiation In 2024

Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen is a player to keep an eye on as a strong candidate for a contract renegotiation and extension in 2024, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Scotto made his comments on Markkanen during a podcast with HoopsHype colleague Yossi Gozlan, who said he’d be surprised if the 26-year-old’s contract isn’t renegotiated and extended next offseason.

An NBA team can’t renegotiate a player’s salary downward, but is allowed to use cap room to give him a raise for the current season, as the Jazz did with Jordan Clarkson earlier this month. The club can then negotiate an extension based on that newly renegotiated cap hit, giving him a first-year salary worth as much as 140% of that amount (up to the player’s maximum salary).

Markkanen will earn approximately $17.26MM in 2023/24 and $18.04MM in ’24/25. Under the NBA’s veteran extension rules, he’d be eligible next offseason for a four-year extension worth approximately $113MM, including a 40% raise to $25.26MM for ’25/26.

Renegotiating Markkanen’s contract using cap room to give him a raise in 2024/25 would allow the Jazz to increase their extension offer well beyond $113MM, putting them in a better position to lock up the Finnish star for the long term. Utah currently only projects to have about $99MM in salaries on its cap for ’24/25, and not all of that money is guaranteed, so the team would have plenty of flexibility to operate under the cap and give Markkanen a raise.

After being traded from the Cavaliers to the Jazz in the Donovan Mitchell blockbuster, Markkanen enjoyed a breakout season in Utah, earning his first All-Star nod and blowing away his previous career high by averaging 25.6 points per game in 66 contests (34.4 MPG). He posted an impressive shooting line of .499/.391/.875 and also grabbed 8.6 rebounds per night.

Markkanen will technically become extension-eligible this offseason, but the Jazz aren’t in position to renegotiate his contract yet, since they’ve used up their 2023/24 cap room. That means the most he could get on an extension prior to next offseason is $81.9MM over three years.

NBA contract renegotiations have typically been pretty rare, but they’ve enjoyed a renaissance within the last year. Clarkson, Domantas Sabonis (Kings), and Myles Turner (Pacers) have all renegotiated their contracts with their respective teams since January. Before that, no player had agreed to a renegotiation since Robert Covington in 2017.

Trade Rumors: Maxey, Lillard, Jazz, Heat

The Sixers‘ stance so far this offseason – as conveyed to multiple reporters – has been that Tyrese Maxey is off the table in trade talks, even for a superstar player. Discussing that subject on the latest Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Tim MacMahon, and Tim Bontemps expressed some skepticism about just how untouchable Maxey really is.

“They want you to know that you can’t have Tyrese Maxey,” Windhorst said. “Prime Michael Jordan is available? Don’t call. 25-year-old LeBron James is available? Lose our number. Giannis Antetokounmpo says, ‘I want to be a Sixer’? If Tyrese Maxey is the ask, just keep walking. … I don’t trust them at all on that, but I will say to you that is what is being said.”

While the Sixers are by no means looking to move Maxey, ESPN’s trio believes the front office’s stance on the young guard would be more malleable than what’s been reported if the team has a legitimate chance to acquire a star, including perhaps Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard.

As Windhorst and Bontemps observe, while Philadelphia’s plan not to sign Maxey to a rookie scale extension is ostensibly about maximizing cap room in 2024, he would also be easier to trade if he’s not extended, since he wouldn’t be subject to poison pill provision rules in 2023/24.

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

  • Although he’s not reporting that any trade discussions have taken place with the Trail Blazers or that the Jazz will make a run at Lillard, MacMahon said on The Hoop Collective podcast that he has heard Utah is “intrigued by the possibility” of acquiring the All-Star guard, confirming previous reports. MacMahon, Windhorst, and Bontemps ultimately believe the Jazz aren’t ready to make significant deal for a win-now player who’s about to turn 33, but they note that Lillard has a connection to Utah, having played his college ball at Weber State, and the Jazz’s collection of future first-round picks would dwarf what Miami could offer.
  • At the trade deadline, the Jazz‘s position was that Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kessler, and Ochai Agbaji were their only players who were off the table in trade talks, according to MacMahon, who believes that if Utah did pursue a star this offseason, Markkanen and Kessler would be the only untouchables.
  • Appearing on NBA TV (Twitter video link), Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel says the Heat are willing to discuss anyone except their two All-Stars as they negotiate a possible deal with Portland for Lillard, who wants to play in Miami. “Put it this way, they basically have loaded up one of those PODS dumpsters in front of the Trail Blazers and said, ‘Take anyone out of here you want besides Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler,'” Winderman said. “Maybe they’ll go back and forth on Caleb Martin a little, but it’s basically, sort of, ‘Come and pick and choose. Tell us what you want. Anything else is yours.’ The Heat are all-in on this. This is their moment. There’s a reason they didn’t go hard after Bradley Beal. There’s a reason they held off on some other moves. This is their play.”

Northwest Notes: Higgins, Finch, Edwards, Jazz Offseason

The Jazz are hiring Rick Higgins as an assistant coach, Kelly Iko of The Athletic tweets. Higgins has been a member of Stephen Silas‘ staff with the Rockets since 2020. It’s part of a retooling of Will Hardy‘s coaching staff. Former Salt Lake City Stars head coach Scott Morrison was recently added to the staff.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Chris Finch maintains strong support from the Timberwolves front office and key players, including Anthony Edwards, according to Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Finch and his staff have done a good job developing the team’s young players, but he will be under pressure in his third season as head coach. He must find ways to generate more offense and improve the team’s rebounding, among other issues.
  • Speaking of Edwards, the Timberwolves star is expected to sign with global entertainment agency WME, Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and TNT tweets. Edwards has reportedly committed to playing for Team USA this summer.
  • The Jazz will continue to focus on player development next season but their primary focus this offseason will be working on extensions for Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson, Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype writes in his offseason primer. Clarkson holds a player option on his contract for next season, so he may be on track for free agency. The extension rules in the new CBA will make Markkanen eligible for a three-year, $81.9MM deal.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Doncic, Markkanen, Murray, Roy

Is it within the realm of possibility that the Jazz could trade for Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic? Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune ponders that topic. Larsen confirms an earlier report the Jazz are keenly interested in Doncic. The Jazz would either have to deal All-Star Lauri Markkanen and a smaller assortment of picks and players, or give up a boatload of picks for Doncic, in Larsen’s estimation.

However, as Larsen acknowledges, Doncic would first have to request a trade and the Jazz’s draft assets from Cleveland and Minnesota aren’t all that attractive since both are playoff teams, though the Timberwolves could fall back to the lottery pack in the near future.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Speaking of Markkanen, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News notes that he displayed star power in his first year with the Jazz. After his breakthrough campaign, Markkanen can still build on his game by improving his ball-handling, defense, footwork and aggressiveness, Todd writes.
  • Jamal Murray is officially listed as questionable to play in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday due to a non-COVID illness. However, the Nuggets’ point guard intends to play, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets.
  • Former Trail Blazers star Brandon Roy will represent the team at the draft lottery on Tuesday. The Athletic’s Jason Quick writes that Roy, who retired at 28 due to knee issues, would like to return to the organization in an official capacity. “I do have confidence in myself in coaching, and I feel there is a lot I can offer,” Roy said. “But sometimes, I think about personnel, and what first, what works … and I think I’m good with chemistry and fit and understanding guys, so front office, scouting … or do something like Hersey Hawkins did when he was with the Blazers, mentoring and talking to guys. I’ve lived and experienced a lot of things, and I think I can help and give back to the younger players.’’

Northwest Notes: Alexander-Walker, Edwards, Markkanen, Jazz Staff

Nickeil Alexander-Walker was basically a throw-in to the deal that brought Mike Conley to the Timberwolves in February but he has emerged as a playoff starter, Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes.

Alexander-Walker moved into a more prominent role after Jaden McDaniels broke his hand during the regular season finale. Alexander-Walker has shadowed Jamal Murray during a portion of the series against the Nuggets and contributed a couple of key three-pointers in Game 4. He’ll be a restricted free agent at the end of the season and hopes to stay with the Timberwolves.

“They gave me a chance,” he said of the Timberwolves. “I’ve been working very, very hard, relentlessly and sometimes I’m too hard on myself, for an opportunity. So for me to get that, I would love to come back. I believe in this group. Believe that we can figure it out together and do something special.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Anthony Edwards carried the Timberwolves to an overtime victory in Game 4 with 34 points but he wasn’t impressed with himself, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez relays. “I played terrible if you ask me,” Edwards said. “I took three bad threes, three terrible possessions, and I (darn) near shot us out the game. I didn’t play that good.”
  • After being named the league’s Most Improved Player, Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen wants to find more ways to improve, according to Tony Jones of The Athletic. “I haven’t accomplished anything,” Markkanen said. “I’ve said this before, but I’m not trying to stop here. I’m just beginning. I want to get better this summer and make that next leap. I want to lead this team to the playoffs. Having this kind of season feels good, but I want to keep continually getting better. That’s my mindset.”
  • Jazz head coach Will Hardy is tweaking his staff as he heads toward his second season with the franchise. He is not retaining assistant coaches Alex Jensen and Irv Roland, Jones tweets.

Lauri Markkanen Wins Most Improved Player Award

Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen has won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, the league announced.

In his sixth season, Markkanen thrived in an expanded role after being included in the Donovan Mitchell blockbuster deal between Utah and Cleveland. Markkanen averaged 25.6 points per game on 49.9% shooting and 1.9 assists per game, all career highs. He also shot 87.5% from the free throw line and snared 8.6 rebounds per contest in 66 starts and received a start in the All-Star Game.

Last season, Markkanen averaged 14.8 PPG on 44.5% shooting, 5.7 RPG and 1.3 APG in 61 starts with the Cavaliers. Prior to this season, Markkanen’s career high in scoring average was 18.7 PPG during his second of four seasons with Chicago.

Markkanen topped the other finalists, the Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Knicks’ Jalen Brunson, for the award. Markkanen received 69 of the 100 first-place votes and 430 points. Gilgeous-Alexander wound up second with 24 first-place votes and 289 points. Brunson was a distant third with four first-place votes and 91 points.

Gilgeous-Alexander finished fourth in the league in scoring (31.4 PPG) as the Thunder made the play-in tournament. During his All-Star season, Gilgeous-Alexander shot 51% from the field and 90.5% from the foul line. He also averaged 4.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists in his fifth NBA season. He averaged 24.5 points last season.

Brunson lifted the Knicks into the playoffs with a stellar season after leaving the Mavericks as a free agent. In his fifth season, he averaged 24.0 points and 6.2 assists per night while making 41.6% of his 3-point attempts, posting career bests in each category. Last season, he averaged 16.3 PPG and 4.8 APG.

Mikal Bridges, Tyrese Haliburton and Trey Murphy III each picked up one first-place vote, finishing fourth, sixth, and seventh, respectively.

Fifth-place finisher Nic Claxton, Kevon Looney, De’Aaron Fox, Austin Reaves, Jaren Jackson Jr., Aaron Gordon, and Malik Monk all received at least one vote.