Marvin Bagley III

Wizards Notes: Bagley, Holmes, Vukcevic, Future In D.C.

It’s been a season of change for Marvin Bagley III, and it didn’t stop with the January 14 trade that sent him from Detroit to the Wizards, writes Chase Hughes of Monumental Sports Network. Bagley was brought in to be the primary backup to Daniel Gafford, but he moved into a starting role when Gafford got injured. Washington sent Gafford to Dallas at the trade deadline for Richaun Holmes, who took over as the starter, but his recent absence due to a left toe contusion put Bagley back in the starting lineup.

“I’m comfortable now. I think the first few weeks it took me to kind of figure out what guys like to do out there on the court, how guys play a little bit. But now I have a pretty good idea of that, just watching film and playing how many games I’ve played here,” Bagley said. “But just every game figuring it out and I think now I’m at the point where I know what guys like to do, where they like to be out there. I’m just trying to make it easier for them and they make it a lot easier for me. It’s just getting that chemistry together.”

Bagley hasn’t enjoyed much stability in his career, but with one year left on his contract he appears to be a fixture in Washington for at least for another season. The Wizards are happy with the Bagley-Holmes combination, according to Hughes, because they’re similar players who can rebound and be effective in the pick-and-roll. Bagley enjoys being in Washington and believes the experiences he’s had in his career can help him guide younger players.

“I try to be a leader and lead by example,” he said. “I think it’s good to have vets like that in the locker room.”

There’s more on the Wizards:

  • Bagley won’t need surgery after leaving Tuesday’s game with an injury to his right knee, a team official tells Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link). Bagley has been diagnosed with a sprain, and interim coach Brian Keefe said he’ll be reevaluated “week to week,” which virtually assures that his season is over.
  • With Bagley and Holmes both sidelined, rookie Tristan Vukcevic is making his first NBA start tonight against the Lakers, Robbins tweets. This is just the seventh NBA game for Vukcevic, who signed with the Wizards last month after spending most of the season with KK Partizan in Serbia.
  • It’s been a difficult season for the Wizards, but Tuesday’s win over Milwaukee provides a reason for optimism, Robbins notes in a full story. Washington was able to hold on for a victory against one of the league’s best teams even though it was down to eight healthy players after Bagley left in the second quarter. “It’s a step forward, maybe two steps forward,” Corey Kispert said. “This is the attitude we need to have and the aggression we need to have when we play these kind of games, especially against a championship team like this. Super proud of everybody who played tonight.”
  • David Aldridge of The Athletic examines the future for the Wizards and the NHL’s Capitals in Washington after owner Ted Leonsis‘ plan to move both franchises to Virginia fell apart.

Southeast Notes: Clifford, Windler, Houstan, Bagley, Vukcevic

Steve Clifford has seen a lot of losing since returning to the Hornets‘ sidelines last season, but Saturday’s blowout in Atlanta stood out because of a lack of competitiveness from his team, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Charlotte dropped its fourth straight game in the midst of a 17-53 season, and Clifford was upset that his players didn’t fight back after falling behind early.

“As soon as we started subbing, our intensity went downhill and we never really got it back,” he said. “That was just as poor an effort, and just for a team that’s tried all year, we didn’t try very hard. We’re not going to be able to do that. I thought Miles (Bridges) was really good. And in terms of effort, it ended there.”

When Clifford became the Hornets’ coach last season, he inherited a team that was already off to a rough start in its rebuilding process. None of its draft picks from 2021 panned out — including first-rounders Kai Jones and James Bouknight — which creates a difficult situation for a franchise that’s not in position to attract top free agent talent.

“I remember we used to say all the time, ‘It gets late early in the NBA,’” Clifford said. “You bring a guy in who had been in college four years and he doesn’t play well in his first year, those guys would be gone. But you’re crazy to do that now because the guys are so young. Everything used to be, you drafted in performance. Now, you’re drafting by potential and it’s much, much harder. Younger players are not as ready to play, and it makes it harder on coaches, but it makes it much, much harder on management.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Injuries have forced the Hawks to go deep into their bench, notes Lauren Williams of The Journal-Constitution. That included 19 minutes Saturday night for Dylan Windler, who made his home debut after signing a two-way contract earlier this month. “I felt pretty comfortable for the most part,” Windler said. “Obviously, I haven’t had any live extended minutes like that in a while. So, it just feels good to get up and down for a little bit, try to get my legs back. But for the most part it felt comfortable. Just trying to add a little bit of energy to us, add a spark, crash the boards hard and make shots for us.”
  • Caleb Houstan made a rare start for the Magic on Saturday with Gary Harris unavailable due to a right plantar fascia strain, per Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel. However, the second-year small forward experienced soreness in his left ankle and didn’t play in the second half. Coach Jamahl Mosley said Houstan will be evaluated today.
  • Wizards big man Marvin Bagley III returned Saturday after missing nearly three weeks with lower back spasms, according to Stephen Whyno of The Associated Press. Tristan Vukcevic, who signed with Washington 11 days ago, played three minutes in his NBA debut. “It was amazing, a dream come true,” Vukcevic told Chase Hughes of Monumental Sports Network (video link).

Wizards Notes: Keefe, Kuzma, Bagley, Trade Deadline

Brian Keefe picked up his first victory as interim head coach of the Wizards this afternoon in Detroit, writes Kareem Copeland of The Washington Post. Keefe, the team’s former top assistant, took over after Wes Unseld Jr. was moved to a front office role on Thursday. It’s just the eighth win of the season for Washington, but Keefe said players are responding well to the coaching change.

“Obviously very cool,” he said of his first win. “But most important is [I’m] just really excited for our guys and how they played and how they trusted each other. … Our communication was great on defense. We were putting multiple guys in there to rebound. And then when the guy was open, we made the correct pass. So I took great joy in our team doing that.”

Keefe didn’t want to talk much about himself, choosing to focus on the need to create better habits and get the most out of the team for the rest of the season, Copeland adds. Kyle Kuzma indicated that the players view the move as a chance for a “fresh start.”

“Having a [new coach at the halfway point of the season] is tough,” Kuzma said. “It’s something I never went through, a lot of us probably never went through. … I can say one thing about Keefe — it’s no nonsense. If you’re messing with the game, you probably won’t be on the court. For us, I think it just holds a little bit more accountability for all of us to not look bad. You don’t want to be on the film the next day looking crazy.”

There’s more on the Wizards:

  • Kuzma starred in Keefe’s first win with 30 points, six rebounds and four assists. The Flint, Michigan, native told Copeland that he’s always motivated when he comes to Detroit. “I love playing here,” Kuzma said. “My mom and stuff is here, and I don’t want to play bad in front of my family because I know I’m [going to] hear about it. And I don’t really like hearing about how bad I played.”
  • Marvin Bagley III said it felt “a little weird” to be back in Detroit less than two weeks after being traded, per Copeland. Bagley had 13 points and eight rebounds today and has scored in double figures in all six of his games with the Wizards. “His energy has been really contagious for us,” Kuzma said. “You just see it with his offensive rebounding, his rebounding skills. I really like him on offense. I think him playing [center], anytime he has situations where he can get downhill and close space on defenders, he’s tough because he’s long, he’s mobile, athletic and skilled, too.” Isaiah Livers, who was acquired from the Pistons in the same deal, missed today’s game with a hip issue.
  • Mark Deeks of HoopsHype lists the Cavaliers, Mavericks, Warriors and Kings as potential destinations for Kuzma if the Wizards decide to trade him before the February 8 deadline.

Southeast Notes: Gafford, Bagley, Murray, Wagner, Okeke

Wizards starting center Daniel Gafford entered the NBA’s concussion protocol this week following a head-on-head collision with Isaiah Stewart on Monday and was unavailable for Thursday’s contest vs. New York, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

Having traded Mike Muscala and Danilo Gallinari to Detroit, the Wizards had limited options up front with Gafford out. As Alex Schiffer of The Washington Post observes, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. could have opted to go small by starting Bilal Coulibaly or Patrick Baldwin, who had played well as of late, writes Chase Hughes of Monumental Sports Network.

Instead, newly acquired big man Marvin Bagley III was immediately thrust into the starting lineup at the five and played a team-high 39 minutes in a competitive loss to the Knicks. Bagley impressed in his Wizards debut, racking up 20 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks. He was also a plus-two in a game that Washington lost by four points.

“That’s a heck of a start for him,” Unseld said, per Schiffer. “Played a well-balanced game, offense and defensively. Even things that happened on the fly I thought the group in general helped talk him through situations to keep him organized. That’s growth for us.”

The other player the Wizards acquired from the Pistons, Isaiah Livers, didn’t see the court in his first game with his new team. Livers will have to work his way into the rotation, according to Unseld, who said he expects opportunities to come for the third-year wing.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Within a look at the team’s potential approach to the trade deadline, Ken Sugiura of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution talks to an NBA scout who says the Hawks will likely have to accept the idea of getting less for Dejounte Murray than what they gave up for him in 2022. “The Trae (Young) and Dejounte backcourt has not worked,” the scout said. “And I don’t think they’re going to get what they gave up for him, which puts them in a tough spot. They have to swallow their pride a little bit and take a loss, I think, to move forward.”
  • Zach Kram of The Ringer takes a closer look at Murray’s trade value, noting that various defensive metrics all suggest that the Hawks guard has taken a noticeable step back on that end of the court within the past year or two.
  • Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley said he expects forward Franz Wagner (right ankle sprain) to be back “sooner than later,” adding that Wagner should resume full-contact work “pretty soon” (Twitter links via Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel). Wagner will miss his eighth consecutive game on Friday vs. Philadelphia.
  • Fourth-year Magic forward Chuma Okeke has been out of the rotation for much of the season, but he has started the past seven games with Wagner and wing Gary Harris sidelined. As Beede writes for The Orlando Sentinel, Okeke has earned praise from his teammates for how he’s adjusted to the increase in his playing time and especially for his performance on defense. “It’s not easy going from not playing to playing and then guarding most of the better players on the court, especially one-on-one,” Caleb Houstan said.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Black, Bagley, Livers

The Hornets were expecting to improve once their roster got healthier, but it hasn’t worked out that way, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Charlotte dropped its fifth straight game Sunday at Miami and its second since LaMelo Ball returned after missing 20 games with a severely sprained right ankle. The two losses with Ball have been by 36 and 17 points, and the players understand that something has to change.

“I think we are going to talk it over at a players’ only (meeting) and I think we are going to figure it out,” Terry Rozier said, “because as bad as things are going, we are only five, six games behind a (play-in tournament spot). We win the next three, things can turn for us. We’ve just got to believe that as a team and put that effort toward it.”

Postseason talk doesn’t seem realistic for a team with just one victory in its past 17 games. The Hornets are struggling everywhere, as the offense failed to reach 100 points Sunday for the third time in four games and coach Steve Clifford lamented a lack of effort on defense.

“A bunch of stuff is happening,” said P.J. Washington, who was back in the lineup after missing three games with a sprained ankle. “If I had the answers, I feel like things would be different. But for us, we’ve just got to buy into the process and keep trying to get better each and every day and have a better attitude and play more together.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Rookie guard Anthony Black has become the Magic‘s best defender and has gotten used to matching up with elite scorers every night, notes Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel. Black’s 108.1 defensive rating is tops among all rookies who average more than 15 minutes per game and ranks 25th overall in the NBA, according to Beede. “Really just getting more settled in,” Black said. “Game by game, I feel like I’m getting more comfortable and finding my spots — just being aggressive when I’m out there and disrupting the game on defense.”
  • Marvin Bagley III and Isaiah Livers will get a chance to prove themselves with the Wizards, but fans shouldn’t expect them to be a lot better than they were in Detroit, James L. Edwards III of The Athletic says in a discussion with Josh Robbins about Sunday’s trade. Edwards views Bagley as a proven low-post scorer with limited impact on defense, while Livers was a huge disappointment as a shooter this season.
  • The Wizards created a $3.5MM trade exception in the deal with the Pistons, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Washington could have structured the trade to create an exception worth $6.8MM, but it would’ve required the team to use an existing $12MM+ TPE.

Pistons Notes: Bagley, Livers, More Possible Deals, Trade Exception

Ex-Pistons players Marvin Bagley III and Isaiah Livers got news of their trade to Washington in the midst of a Detroit practice. As Mike Curtis of The Detroit News relays (Twitter video link), Bagley and Livers – now members of the Wizards – were filmed bidding their Pistons colleagues farewell.

The duo, along with a pair of second-round draft picks, was shipped out to the Wizards earlier today. Detroit added forwards Danilo Gallinari and Mike Muscala, while saving considerable coin on Bagley’s contract for 2024/25.

There’s more out of the Motor City:

  • With the trade deadline looming and the Pistons still spiraling at a league-worst 3-36, Omari Sankofa II Detroit Free Press has cooked up several potential trades that could help slightly elevate the club’s dismal 2023/24 season. Sankofa’s piece was published prior to today’s trade, hence the inclusion of Bagley in one of the proposals. Several of the hypothetical moves involve shipping out veterans Bojan Bogdanovic and/or Alec Burks.
  • Today’s trade seems to forecast a change-heavy summer for the Pistons, posits James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. Veterans Gallinari and Muscala are both signed to expiring deals, which – along with the expiring salaries of Burks, Joe Harris and Monte Morris – will put Detroit in position to create upwards of $60MM in cap room.
  • Sankofa confirms (via Twitter) that the Pistons generated a $5.7MM trade exception as part of the deal. As Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link) observes, that means Detroit continues to operate as an over-the-cap team, despite its player salaries coming in a little below the $136MM cap.

Wizards Acquire Bagley, Livers From Pistons In Four-Player Trade

2:31pm: The trade is now official, Detroit has announced in a press release (Twitter link).

9:35am: The Pistons will send Marvin Bagley III, Isaiah Livers and two second-round picks to the Wizards in exchange for Danilo Gallinari and Mike Muscala, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The picks are for 2025 and 2026, sources tell Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Detroit used some of its draft assets to offload Bagley’s contract, which will pay him $12.5MM next season. The other three players in the trade are all on expiring deals, with Livers at $1.8MM, Gallinari at $6.8MM and Muscala at $3.5MM.

Bagley had been a part-time starter since being acquired from Sacramento at the 2022 trade deadline, but the organization is motivated to create as much cap space as possible in the wake of a disastrous season. Detroit will have 11 impending free agents once the trade is finalized and currently projects to have about $64MM to work with in free agency, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN.

This could be the start of a complete overhaul for the 3-36 Pistons heading into the February 8 trade deadline, suggests Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports cites a high-ranking source who tells him the deal is just the “first step” (Twitter link).

There are several options available for the two draft picks in the trade, observes John Hollinger of The Athletic (Twitter link). The 2025 selection could be a return of Washington’s pick, while the 2026 choice could be from Minnesota, New York, New Orleans or Portland.

Bagley, the second overall selection in the 2018 draft, will get a chance to revive his career with another rebuilding team in Washington. Although he was averaging 10.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 26 games this season, he was an awkward fit for a team that already had Jalen Duren, Isaiah Stewart and James Wiseman in its big-man rotation.

Livers, a 25-year-old forward, established himself as a rotation player in Detroit after being drafted in the second round in 2021. He averaged 5.0 points and 2.1 rebounds in 23 games this season, but was shooting career lows of 34.5% from the field and 28.6% from three-point range.

Gallinari appeared in 26 games in his first year with the Wizards after sitting out all of last season with a torn ACL. The 35-year-old forward was averaging 7.0 points and 2.9 rebounds in 14.8 minutes per night.

Muscala, 32, was acquired from Boston last summer in the same deal as Gallinari. He averaged 4.0 points and 3.1 rebounds in 24 games in his brief time in Washington.

The Pistons will also create a $5.7MM trade exception in the deal, according to cap expert Yossi Gozlan (Twitter link).

Eastern Notes: J. Johnson, Thompson, Niang, Bagley

Hawks forward Jalen Johnson will undergo further testing on his left wrist, which he injured during Saturday’s win in Washington, writes Lauren Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Johnson left the game about two-and-a-half minutes into the second quarter after taking a hard hit from Kyle Kuzma as he attempted to complete a fast-break dunk (video link). Johnson fell into the stanchion and landed on his left hand, which he immediately grabbed in obvious pain. After taking his free throws, he exited to the locker room and didn’t return.

The Hawks haven’t provided any updates on the injury since ruling out Johnson for the rest of Saturday’s game. He’ll be further evaluated in the coming days, a source tells Williams.

If he’s forced to miss time, it would be a blow to the Hawks, who have benefited from a breakout year from Johnson so far in 2023/24. Entering Saturday’s contest, the 21-year-old had averaged 14.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 31.4 minutes per night (14 games), with a .590/.421/.774 shooting line.

[UPDATE: Johnson Expected To Miss 4-6 Weeks]

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Only two players in NBA history who are 6’6″ or shorter have ever averaged at least 10 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1.0 steal per game over the course of a season (Charles Barkley and Gar Heard). Pistons guard Ausar Thompson is flirting with that feat through 16 games (9.8 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.1 SPG), which makes him something of a unicorn, according to James L. Edwards of The Athletic, who says the rookie likes the label. “I’m a unicorn, even if it doesn’t appear that way because of how people see ‘unicorns’ in their head, physically,” Thompson said. “What I’m out there doing, as you pointed out, only two people have done it before.”
  • Now a member of the Cavaliers, forward Georges Niang faced his former team this week and spoke about how much he enjoyed his time with the Sixers, per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “It felt like home while I was here,” Niang said during his return to Philadelphia. “It’s a place that I’ll always enjoy coming back to. … It jolted me into the next part of my career. So I’m super thankful for the organization, the fans, the people, staff. It was an amazing place to be.” Niang also praised former teammate Tyrese Maxey and suggested the experience the 76ers gained from going through the Ben Simmons saga in 2021/22 helped them navigate James Harden‘s trade request this year.
  • Pistons big man Marvin Bagley III is playing some of the best basketball of his career this season, making a career-high 58.6% of his shots from the floor, as Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press details. Bagley credits a newfound focus on his mental health as one important reason for his strong start, noting that he has given up social media and is meditating when he can.

Pistons Notes: Hayes, Umude, Duren, Bagley

Pistons point guard Killian Hayes saw his name pop in trade rumors this offseason after Detroit added first-round pick Marcus Sasser and veteran Monte Morris to an already crowded backcourt that also includes Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey and Alec Burks. In August, multiple reporters suggested Hayes could be moved before the 2023/24 season begins.

While the season doesn’t start for another couple weeks, Hayes has certainly helped himself to this point with a strong training camp and preseason, writes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. In addition to drawing praise from head coach Monty Williams, the 22-year-old is averaging 14.5 PPG, 5.0 APG and 3.0 SPG while shooting 57.1% from the field in two preseason contests (23.8 MPG).

Morris has yet to play due to a back injury, which has opened up minutes. But even when he returns, Edwards believes Hayes should — and probably will — have a rotation role when Detroit’s season tips off on October 25 in Miami.

Here’s more on the Pistons:

  • Second-year wing Stanley Umude is another young player who has impressed during preseason, tweets Keith Langlois of Umude, who is on a non-guaranteed training camp contract, is averaging 15.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 2.0 APG on .667/.600/1.000 shooting in just 19.8 MPG through two games. As Langlois notes, the Pistons have an open two-way slot and Umude is making a case for a promotion. The 24-year-old spent the majority of last season playing for Detroit’s G League affiliate, the Motor City Cruise, though he did appear in one NBA game after receiving a 10-day contract in February.
  • Jalen Duren put an early end to a potential competition for the starting center position, and he’s ready to show more of his “unlimited ceiling” in his second season, according to Langlois of “The feel with the ball, the touch, the passing,” Williams said of Duren’s atypical big man skills. “His (dribble-handoff) game is pretty advanced for a young player. He knows how to get off the DHO, drop the ball and still screen and that’s something it takes kids a few years to understand how to do that consistently. I’ve heard he was always big, so it befuddles me when you look at him and you see the guard skills. You’re like, ‘Where did he get that?’ He has the ability to get down in a guard-like position when he’s dribbling the ball. We’re going to try some things, give him the ball in the full court and let him go off of rebounds. Tell everybody, get out of there. Because he does have that ability.”
  • Marvin Bagley III, who is competing with James Wiseman for backup center minutes, had a strong showing on Sunday in the team’s first preseason game against Phoenix. As Omari Sankofa of The Detroit Free Press writes (subscriber link), injuries and consistency have been an issue for Bagley, which Williams acknowledged. “I think he would agree that he’s looking for consistency in his career,” the head coach said. “The number two pick, a lot of acclaim, a lot of talent, and at this point in his career he’s looking for consistency. And that’s what I’m looking for.” Williams also praised Bagley’s defensive communication.

Pistons Notes: Thompson, Hayes, Bagley, Livers

Pistons rookie Ausar Thompson looked worthy of being a starter in his first preseason game, writes James L. Edwards of The Athletic. The 20-year-old small forward replaced Jaden Ivey in the starting lineup for Sunday’s overtime loss to Phoenix and posted 12 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in 39 minutes. He also drew a tough defensive assignment, guarding Devin Booker for most of the afternoon.

Coach Monty Williams was impressed by what he saw from Thompson, but pointed out areas where he needs to improve.

“He’s got to play with force all game,” Williams said. “I thought there were times when he thought he was in position, and I got to show him on the film that if he sprinted to the spot and used his athletic ability to shift out as opposed to walking to the backside of the defense … he’s going to be much better.”

Ivey had an efficient game off the bench, scoring 15 points while shooting 5-of-8 from the field and 3-for-6 beyond the arc. Williams told reporters not to read too much into Sunday’s lineup decision, but Edwards observes that Thompson and Ivey will likely compete for the final starting spot once Bojan Bogdanovic returns from a right calf strain that kept him out Sunday.

There’s more from Detroit:

  • Killian Hayes followed up a strong camp with an impressive performance in the preseason opener, Edwards adds. The fourth-year guard, who will be competing for minutes in a crowded backcourt, registered 13 points, seven assists and five steals in 21 minutes. Monte Morris didn’t play Sunday due to injury, and Hayes took advantage of the chance to show Williams that he’s deserving of a spot in the rotation.
  • Sunday’s game didn’t do anything to clear up the rotation in the frontcourt, notes Keith Langlois of Before starting center Jalen Duren sprained his right ankle in the first half, James Wiseman was the only big man to come off the bench. After the intermission, Marvin Bagley III scored 25 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 22 minutes. “He just came in and played with a great deal of force,” Williams said of Bagley. “His dives were productive. He wasn’t putting the ball down in traffic. Defensively, I thought he did a much better job calling out screening actions which helped our guards out. For him to sit over there and come in and have an effect says a lot about his mindset and discipline to stay locked in.”
  • Isaiah Livers is likely to see regular minutes when he returns from his sprained ankle, Edwards states in a mailbag column. He notes that Lively can handle either forward spot, and Williams seemed impressed with him before the injury.