Moussa Diabate

L.A. Notes: Harden, Clippers, Diabate, Lakers, Ham

After losing their first six games following the acquisition of James Harden, the Clippers have since won 18 of 23, including the last four in a row, to improve their record to 21-12. With the team firing on all cylinders, it hasn’t been lost on Harden that the critics who were decrying his fit in early November have been quiet as of late.

“Fit is great, I knew that from the beginning and it’s one of the reasons why I wanted to be a part of this,” Harden said, per Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. “Obviously it didn’t start off well. It gave people so much to talk about in a negative way, and now those people that were talking are nowhere to be found. Like, literally nowhere to be found. Which, we knew that was going to happen.”

Viewed as a title threat when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teamed up in Los Angeles in 2019, the Clippers have won just three playoff series in the past four seasons as Leonard and George  both dealt with injuries. But with the two forwards healthy this season and Harden bringing a new element to the roster, they’re looking like a legitimate contender again.

Asked by Melissa Rohlin of FOX Sports what winning a championship would mean for his legacy, Harden said it would be “very important.”

“It’s been like that. I always want to give myself a chance to win. I know how very difficult that is,” Harden said. “There’s only one team standing at the end of the year. So, I’ll continue to keep trying to do that.”

Here’s more on the NBA’s two Los Angeles teams:

  • Clippers two-way center Moussa Diabate, who was hampered in December by a hip issue, appeared in his first NBA game in over a month on Monday, logging three garbage-time minutes in a victory over Miami. However, it sounds like he won’t play again for a while — the team announced that Diabate, who had six blocks in a G League game on Tuesday, is out due to a metacarpal fracture in his right hand, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. The club has yet to provide a recovery timeline.
  • With the Lakers slumping, Mirjam Swanson of The Southern California News Group wonders why the team hasn’t turned to the lineups that were successful last season, including either Jarred Vanderbilt or Rui Hachimura alongside Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Austin Reaves, and D’Angelo Russell. Injuries have been a problem, but the club hasn’t used either of those lineups even when everyone has been available — those two groups have played just three total minutes together in 2023/24, says Swanson.
  • While head coach Darvin Ham is clearly facing pressure to turn the Lakers‘ season around, a “high-ranking” team source disputed the idea that he’s on the verge of being fired, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. Amick adds that assistant Phil Handy is frequently brought up as the possible next man up if the Lakers do eventually decide to make an in-season coaching change.

Moussa Diabate Signs Two-Way Deal With Clippers

Moussa Diabate is signing a two-way deal with the Clippers, league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). The move is official, per’s transaction log.

A French big man who spent his lone college season at Michigan, Diabate spent his rookie season on a two-way deal with the Clippers after being selected 43rd overall in the 2022 draft. He received a qualifying offer last month, making him a restricted free agent.

As a rookie in 2022/23, Diabate appeared in 22 games with L.A., holding most averages of 2.7 PPG and 2.3 RPG in 8.9 MPG. He received much more playing time for the team’s G League affiliate, the Ontario Clippers, averaging 15.9 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 1.8 SPG and 1.1 BPG in 18 regular season games (32.6 MPG), earning a spot on the NBAGL All-Rookie Team for his efforts.

As our roster counts show, once Diabate’s signing is official, he will fill the first of the team’s three two-way slots. Jordan Miller, a second-round pick last month who remains unsigned, is a candidate for another.

The Clippers currently have 16 players on standard deals, with 15 of those contracts guaranteed. Jason Preston‘s non-guaranteed deal is set to be fully guaranteed tomorrow if he isn’t waived.

Cameron Johnson, Coby White Among Players Receiving QOs

A series of players have been issued qualifying offers by their respective teams, making them restricted free agents, according to RealGM’s official NBA transaction log.

Nets forward Cameron Johnson and Bulls guard Coby White are among the most notable QO recipients within the last couple days. Johnson’s qualifying offer is worth $8,486,620, while White’s is worth $7,744,600.

For many restricted free agents, qualifying offers essentially function as placeholders, giving the team the right of first refusal on the player as long as that QO remains on the table.

It’s also a one-year contract offer that the player is free to accept at any time, which is a more viable route for some RFAs than others — Johnson, for instance, looks like a safe bet to secure a lucrative multiyear deal, so it would be a major surprise if he simply accepted his $8.5MM qualifying offer.

Besides Johnson and White, here are some of the players who have received qualifying offers this week and are now restricted free agents, per RealGM:

The deadline for teams to issue qualifying offers is Thursday, so we’ll likely get many more updates on QOs being extended to players today and tomorrow.

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.

Clippers Sign Moussa Diabate To Two-Way Contract

The Clippers have officially signed second-round pick Moussa Diabate to his first NBA contract, the team announced today. As expected, it’s a one-year, two-way deal, tweets Law Murray of The Athletic.

The No. 43 overall pick in last month’s draft, Diabate spent his first and only college season at Michigan. The 6’11” big man averaged 9.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 0.9 BPG in 32 games (24.9 MPG) for the Wolverines. He was named to the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team.

Diabate, 20, had a solid showing in two Las Vegas Summer League appearances this month, averaging 9.5 PPG and 7.5 RPG on 70% shooting in 24.1 MPG. A right ankle sprain prematurely ended his Summer League experience, but there’s no reason to think that injury will still be an issue by the time training camps begin in September.

With the signing, the Clippers now have 18 players under contract. Of those 18 players, 14 are on guaranteed standard contracts, three have Exhibit 10 deals, and Diabate has a two-way pact.

Undrafted free agents Justin Bean, Lucas Williamson, and Michael Devoe have also reportedly agreed to Exhibit 10 contracts with the Clippers, so it’s possible there will be a training camp competition for that second two-way slot. Exhibit 10 deals can be converted to two-way contracts prior to the regular season as long as the player doesn’t have four or more years of NBA service.

Free Agent Rumors: Ayton, Batum, Hartenstein, Clippers, Wizards

There has been no progress between the Suns and Deandre Ayton on a new contract, and a sign-and-trade appears to be the most likely outcome, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on Sports Center (video link).

Ayton is a restricted free agent, giving Phoenix the opportunity to match any offer he receives, but that’s unlikely to happen, according to Woj. He explains that the Suns don’t value Ayton as a max contract player, but other teams do, which means that’s what he’ll likely receive when free agency begins Thursday afternoon.

Although he doesn’t mention any specific teams, Wojnarowski cites “several” potential destinations for Ayton on a max deal, with the Suns receiving some combination of players, draft picks and cap flexibility in return.

There’s more on the free agent market:

  • With Ivica Zubac‘s extension and an expected deal with John Wall out of the way, re-signing Nicolas Batum will be a priority for the Clippers, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Greif notes that Batum is very loyal to the organization and has turned down offers from other teams over the past two years to stay in L.A.
  • Jay Scrubb and Xavier Moon will likely compete for a two-way contract if the Clippers decide to re-sign them, Greif adds in the same piece. The team plans to give one of its two-way slots to second-round pick Moussa Diabate.
  • The Rockets have interest in bringing back free agent center Isaiah Hartenstein, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Iko notes that Hartenstein, who started his career in Houston in 2018, is only 24 and fits well with the team’s current roster.
  • Kris Dunn and Pierriá Henry attended a Wizards mini-camp this week in hopes of winning a roster spot on a team searching for point guards, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Henry is an accomplished player in the EuroLeague, while Dunn, a lottery pick in 2016, is hoping to prove that he’s healthy after missing most of the past two seasons with injuries. “I feel like over the last two years, I didn’t have a leg, almost,” Dunn said. “Over the last couple of months, I’ve been doing a lot of rehab, and everything’s starting to work out perfectly.”

Pacific Notes: Murray, C. Johnson, Rollins, Diabate

The Kings have taken some heat for selecting Keegan Murray ahead of Jaden Ivey with the fourth pick Thursday night, but general manager Monte McNair said the decision was “unanimous” among the front office, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Owner Vivek Ranadive also endorsed Murray because of concerns about Ivey’s awkward fit alongside De’Aaron Fox, Anderson adds.

“Ultimately, after sitting in the room with my front office staff, our whole staff, our scouting department, our analytics department, it became unanimous that Keegan Murray was the best player available, and we jumped at the chance to draft him,” McNair said.

In an introductory press conference today in Sacramento, Murray talked about how far he has come, noting that he had difficulty finding a Division I scholarship out of high school (video link from The Sacramento Bee). He called the experience since draft night “the best time of my life.”

“I’m excited to be here in Sacramento,” Murray said. “It’s a dream come true to be able to pull on the purple and black so I’m grateful to be in this position. Sacramento has welcomed me with open arms so far. So I’m excited to see everyone at the games and things like that. For me, it’s been a journey from where I’ve came from and to where I am now.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Cameron Johnson knows he’s not the first priority this summer as he waits to see if the Suns will offer a rookie scale extension, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Rankin estimates that if Phoenix makes the offer, Johnson can expect between $15-20MM per year. “There’s a lot of stuff that’s got to happen before we get to that, you know,” Johnson said. “Even if you talk about the stuff with (Deandre Ayton), like that is obviously more at the forefront of things, but I trust that whatever is meant to happen, will happen.”
  • The Warriors viewed Ryan Rollins as a potential first-round pick, which is why they were willing to give the Hawks $2MM to move up from No. 51 to No. 44, according to Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area. Rollins told reporters that Golden State tried to trade up to No. 30, but wasn’t able to complete a deal with the Nuggets.
  • Second-round pick Moussa Diabate will be a project during his first season with the Clippers, notes Austin Meek of The Athletic. A five-star recruit out of high school, Diabate spent just one year at Michigan before declaring for the draft. “I think there’s an evolution to his game: getting more comfortable with the ball, more spatial awareness,” Wolverines assistant Phil Martelli said. “He is a very, very, willing learner.”

Draft Workout Notes: Kings, Wizards, Wolves, Jazz, More

The Kings hosted several prospects for pre-draft workouts on Tuesday and Wednesday, the team announced (Twitter links).

The Tuesday group featured Trey McGowens, Ziga Samar, Ron Harper Jr., Brady Manek and Dallas Walton. Wednesday’s group was Jacob Gilyard, Fatts Russell, Yoan Makoundou, Karlo Matkovic, Yannick Nzosa and Kai Sotto.

The Kings control the fourth, 37th and 49th picks in the 2022 draft, and a handful of those players could be targets with one of those second-round picks. Nzosa, Samar, Harper and Matkovic are ranked between 53rd and 58th on ESPN’s big board.

Here are more workout-related notes from around the NBA:

California Notes: Diabate, Sochan, Reaves, Green

The Kings worked out Michigan center Moussa Diabate on Tuesday, per Andrew Slater of Pro Insight (via Twitter). Sacramento holds the Nos. 4, 37 and 49 picks in next week’s 2022 draft. Diabate is ranked as the No. 70 prospect on the ESPN big board.

The 6’11” big man was voted onto the Big Ten All-Freshman Team in his lone NCAA year. Slater adds that Diabate logged the best vertical of all center prospects, 36.5″, at the pre-draft combine in Chicago. Through 32 games with the Wolverines, Diabate averaged 9.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 0.9 BPG during 24.9 MPG during the 2021/22 season.

There’s more out of California:

  • Among first-round candidates, Baylor forward Jeremy Sochan worked out for the Kings on Sunday, per Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee. Anderson notes that the 19-year-old is among the top defensive players in the 2022 draft. During his lone college season, the 6’9″ combo forward averaged 9.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.3 SPG and 0.7 BPG in 30 contests. ESPN lists Sochan as the No. 15 pro prospect on its latest big board.
  • Lakers rookie Austin Reaves had quite the first NBA season. After going undrafted in 2021 out of Oklahoma, he latched on with L.A. and soon found himself earning the praise of All-NBA forward LeBron JamesDan Woike of the Los Angeles Times takes an in-depth look at the development of the 6’5″ shooting guard. Though Woike writes that Reaves had received some interest in the second round of the draft, Reaves and his representation demanded a guaranteed contract from any team with interest in taking him. His preferred destination was Los Angeles, and when he fell out of the draft, Reaves eventually signed with the Lakers on a two-way contract. The team promoted Reaves ahead of the regular season to a standard two-year deal. “When you have an opportunity to see the arc of a player, to discover him in the scouting process, bringing him in for workouts, acquiring him, developing him and bringing him along, seeing that arc is really satisfying,” team president Rob Pelinka said. Through 61 games, including 19 starts, Reaves averaged 7.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG and 1.8 APG in 23.2 MPG for the Lakers.
  • All-Star Warriors forward Draymond Green played a big part in Golden State’s critical 104-94 Game 5 Finals win over the Celtics on Monday thanks to his disruptive defensive pressure and offensive court sense, per Marcus Thompson II. Though Green scored just eight points on a respectable 3-of-6 shooting from the floor, he also notched eight rebounds, six assists, and a steal. Thompson reports that Boston players converted just 7-of-23 (30.4%) of their looks with Green defending them during the series’ past two contests, both Warriors wins. Those players otherwise connect on 49.3% of their attempts from the floor. “I felt more like myself… aggressive on both ends of the ball,” the 32-year-old Green said. “I look forward to going into Game 6 with the same energy and effort.”

Hornets Notes: Atkinson, Workouts, Keels, Arena Upgrades

Kenny Atkinson could become the Hornets‘ next head coach by the end of the upcoming week, a source tells Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer, though he cautions that the team still hasn’t reached a final decision. A report on Friday identified Atkinson as the frontrunner for the job, and Boone indicates that momentum for him has been building since last month’s draft combine.

Atkinson has been tied up with his duties as an assistant coach for the Warriors, but with three days between Games 2 and 3 of the NBA Finals, he should have time for a face-to-face meeting with team owner Michael Jordan. Boone notes that an in-person session with Jordan was the last step before James Borrego was hired four years ago.

The Hornets are intrigued by Atkinson’s experience, history of developing young players and emphasis on defense, Boone adds. The Finals could last through June 19, which would limit Atkinson’s input into preparations for the June 23 draft. According to Boone, Borrego’s former assistants are working behind the scenes and are waiting to see if they will be part of the new coach’s staff.

There’s more from Charlotte:

  • The Hornets welcomed six players today for a pre-draft workout, according to a tweet from the team. On hand were Tennessee’s Kennedy Chandler, Miami’s Kameron McGusty, Providence’s Justin Minaya, Memphis’ Josh Minott, Marquette’s Darryl Morsell and Arkansas’ JD Notae. On Friday, Charlotte hosted St. Bonaventure’s Jalen Adaway, Milwaukee’s Patrick Baldwin Jr., Michigan’s Moussa Diabate, Villanova’s Collin Gillespie, Texas A&M’s Quenton Jackson and Creighton’s Alex O’Connell (Twitter link).
  • Duke’s Trevor Keels talked to Boone about the pre-draft process following a workout with the Hornets on Wednesday. Keels is enjoying the chance to meet with interested teams and compete with players he’s never faced before, but he said the experience can be a grind. “I think guys think the pre-draft process is easy,” he said. “You are working every day, keeping your body right. There is only 58 picks and there are hundreds of guys trying to hear their name called and get an opportunity. So you’ve got to work every day.”
  • The Hornets would get $215MM in upgrades to the Spectrum Center along with a new $60MM practice facility in a proposal being considered by the city of Charlotte, per Genna Contino of The Charlotte Observer. The deal would require the team to extend its lease with the city an additional 15 years through 2045.