Naji Marshall

Injury Updates: Mitchell, Okoro, Luka, Sengun, Pelicans

The struggling Cavaliers, who have lost seven of their past 10 games, will be without leading scorer Donovan Mitchell on Sunday vs. the Clippers, according to Chris Fedor of, who tweets that Mitchell is out due to injury management related to his knee.

On the plus side, Cavaliers forward Isaac Okoro is on track to return after missing the past four games with a toe injury (Twitter link via Fedor).

At 46-32, the Cavs still hold the No. 3 spot in the East, but they’re only a half-game ahead of both Orlando and New York, so they’re in danger of losing home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

Here are a few more injury-related updates from around the NBA:

  • After missing Friday’s win over Golden State, Mavericks star Luka Doncic (right knee soreness) will be back in action on Sunday vs. Houston, the team confirmed (via Twitter). A strong finish in the season’s final week would ensure that the 47-30 Mavs secure a top-six seed in the West — they’re currently at No. 5.
  • Even with the Rockets slipping out of the play-in race, center Alperen Sengun hasn’t given up hope of returning to the court this season, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). Sengun, who injured his right ankle and knee on March 10, estimated that he’s about 60% recovered, per Feigen, and has begun “light mobility work,” according to head coach Ime Udoka. He hasn’t been ruled out for the season, but it would be a bit surprising if he returned to just play a game or two after Houston is officially eliminated from postseason contention. “Maybe he gets on the court, but it’s nothing we discussed yet,” Udoka said.
  • Pelicans wing Naji Marshall, who left Friday’s game with a left shoulder contusion, didn’t practice on Saturday and is considered questionable to play in Sunday’s game in Phoenix, tweets Erin Summers of Bally Sports. Zion Williamson (left finger contusion) and Jose Alvarado (right oblique strain) are also listed as questionable, but they both practiced on Saturday.

Five Players Suspended For Friday Altercation Between Heat, Pelicans

Heat big man Thomas Bryant and Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado have been suspended three games apiece for leaving the bench area and fighting during an on-court altercation on Friday in New Orleans, the NBA announced today in a press release (Twitter link).

Additionally, Heat forward Jimmy Butler and Pelicans forward Naji Marshall will face one-game suspensions for instigating the incident, while Heat forward Nikola Jovic will be suspended for one game for leaving Miami’s bench area and entering the fracas, per the league.

The incident began when Heat forward/center Kevin Love wrapped up Zion Williamson as the Pelicans star attempted a layup early in the fourth quarter (Twitter video link). Marshall objected to the play and rushed to confront Love, resulting in Marshall and Butler getting into a shoving match, with players and coaches from both teams looking to intercede.

The altercation escalated briefly, then seemed to be cooling down before Bryant and Alvarado exchanged heated words and threw punches in front of the scorer’s table (Twitter video link). Butler, Bryant, Marshall, and Alvarado were all ejected from the game, which Miami eventually won.

The Pelicans will host the Bulls on Sunday, so Marshall will serve his one-game suspension tonight, while Alvardo will begin serving his three-game ban. Alvarado will miss games in New York on Tuesday and Indiana on Wednesday as well.

With Dyson Daniels (left knee) and CJ McCollum (left ankle) also unavailable for the Pelicans on Sunday and Williamson (left foot) and Brandon Ingram (non-COVID illness) considered questionable, the team recalled a handful of players – Jalen Crutcher, E.J. Liddell, Malcolm Hill, and Dereon Seabron – from the G League on Saturday for depth purposes.

The Heat will be in action on Monday in Sacramento, so Bryant, Butler, and Jovic will miss that game, with Bryant also sitting out the team’s contests in Portland on Tuesday and Denver on Thursday.

The three-game suspensions will cost Bryant $52,308 (of his $2,528,233 salary) and Alvarado $37,988 (of $1,836,096), per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter links).

Because he’s on a maximum-salary contract, Butler will forfeit by far the biggest total ($259,968) of any of the five affected players, despite being suspended for just a single game. Jovic will lose $13,517, while Marshall will lose $11,096.

Pelicans Notes: Murray, McCollum, Valanciunas, Zion, Ingram, Marshall

The Pelicans didn’t make a move at Thursday’s trade deadline, but it wasn’t for lack of trying, according to head of basketball operations David Griffin, who told reporters that the team had been “in what felt like ‘deal’ mode for a long time,” per Christian Clark of Ultimately though, there was nothing out there that the front office thought made sense for the club.

“One of the things we find — and this goes back to times in Phoenix and Cleveland — you always try to talk about improving on the margins,” Griffin said. “You have to be really good to be better than the players we have on the margins; to be better than the guys we play rotational minutes. There just wasn’t the right opportunity for us to go after.”

The Pelicans were the subject of an intriguing trade rumor during the final 24 hours before the deadline, when they were linked to Hawks guard Dejounte Murray, but Sam Amick of The Athletic hears from a team source that those talks never got serious. According to Amick, the Pelicans felt they were being used as leverage for the Hawks in their talks with the Lakers.

Asked about New Orleans’ reported discussions with the Hawks, Griffin didn’t deny that they took place and said his team was trying to be “opportunistic,” according to Clark.

“A player of a caliber that you mentioned and the team you mentioned, you listen to those types of things,” Griffin said. “You try to get as much information as you can. At the same time, you don’t have to force a square peg into a round hole when you’re in the situation we are in. I think we wanted to listen and be willing to strike if it was the right opportunity. And we were mindful of the fact that we like our group if it wasn’t.

“… I think we decided overall, the cost was much too high. We weren’t a team that felt like we had to do anything.”

Here’s more out of New Orleans:

  • In his comments to the media on Friday, Griffin praised veterans CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas for the sacrifices they’ve made for the sake of the team. “I think CJ McCollum should get a hell of a lot more credit. He’s completely changed his shot profile,” Griffin said, per Clark. “… (And) Jonas has embraced this entire season in a way you almost never see from a veteran starting center who doesn’t have a contract for next year. He understands what he needs to do, and he’s joyful doing it here. He’s willing to make whatever sacrifice he needs to do. … He’s having an incredible defensive year.”
  • Asked about what kind of center would be an ideal fit next to Zion Williamson, Griffin said the Pelicans think more about which players would best complement their big three of Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and McCollum. Griffin went on to say that New Orleans would ideally have more shooting and rim protection but that it’s not easy to find well-rounded players who can provide one or both of those traits.
  • Here’s more from Griffin, via Clark, on the Pelicans’ ideal center: “I think what goes along with the three of them is sort of TBD to some degree. They are going to have to be pretty good to be better than Jonas. People say, ‘They need this kind of center.’ Well, that kind of center might not be a radically better basketball player or even as good of a basketball player. I think we sometimes lose sight of how incredibly good (Valanciunas) is because we spend so much time as a fan base talking about what he’s not. The ideal fit around those three guys is what advances us to win playoff games. We don’t know we don’t have that right now.”
  • The Pelicans don’t control a second-round pick until 2030 and could have replenished their second-round assets to some extent by trading Naji Marshall on Thursday, according to Clark, who hears from sources that the wing drew interest from multiple teams. However, New Orleans opted to hang onto Marshall, who is on track to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
  • Will Guillory of The Athletic takes a look at the recent reemergence of “Point Zion” and examines what it means for the Pelicans if Williamson continues to embrace his adjusted role, which involves much of the club’s half-court offense running through him. The former No. 1 overall pick has handed out 10 or more assists in a game twice since January 23 after never recording more than nine assists in any of his first 149 NBA contests.
  • Within a wide-ranging conversation with Mark Medina of Sportskeeda, Ingram said he doesn’t “plan on missing” any more All-Star games and joked that the coaches who didn’t vote for him as an All-Star reserve constantly double-team him when they face the Pelicans.

Fischer’s Latest: Hield, Sixers, George, Pacers, Trae, Murray, More

Buddy Hield rejected a “significant” extension offer from Indiana in the fall, and with a lucrative new deal for Pascal Siakam to account for, the Pacers’ ability to retain Hield as a free agent this offseason was in doubt, which is why they sent him to the Sixers on Thursday, writes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

Philadelphia, which doesn’t currently have any guaranteed money on its books beyond 2023/24 besides Joel Embiid‘s contract, is much better positioned to retain Hield, though the 76ers will likely consider many options with their projected cap room.

Echoing Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report (Twitter video link), Fischer says star forward Paul George figures to be a top target for the Sixers if he doesn’t sign an extension with the Clippers in the coming weeks or months. Nuggets wing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who holds a player option for 2024/25, has also been mentioned as a possible Philadelphia target, per Fischer.

The Sixers wouldn’t be the only team in play for George if he reaches free agency, according to Fischer, who suggests there have been whispers that the veteran is intrigued by the possibility of returning to Indiana and teaming up with Tyrese Haliburton. Such a move would be tricky – but certainly not impossible – from a cap perspective.

Philadelphia’s offseason outlook will hinge in part on what the team’s plans are for Tobias Harris. According to Fischer, the Sixers weren’t willing to include him in a deadline deal that would have sent him to Detroit, with Pistons wings Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks going to Philly. The Pistons may be in the mix for Harris in free agency this summer, Fischer notes, adding that Hornets forward Miles Bridges is another player expected to be on Detroit’s radar.

Here are a few more post-deadline items of interest from Fischer:

  • Multiple front offices came away from their conversations with the Hawks believing that Atlanta could make star guard Trae Young available this summer, says Fischer. However, he cautions that could “prove to be wishful thinking,” since the information is coming from rival teams rather than from the Hawks themselves. If Young were to hit the trade market, the Lakers and Spurs are among the clubs widely viewed as potential fits, Fischer adds.
  • League personnel anticipate that the Lakers will resume conversations with the Hawks about Dejounte Murray in the offseason, according to Fischer, who notes that the Pelicans could revisit their Murray talks at that point too. Atlanta is known to value multiple players on New Orleans’ roster, league sources Fischer, though one of those players – Naji Marshall – will be an unrestricted free agent this July.
  • Although there were several teams open to the idea of acquiring D’Angelo Russell, many front offices viewed his $18.7MM player option for 2024/25 as having negative value, Fischer reports. That thinking, along with Russell’s strong recent play, factored into the Lakers‘ decision to hang onto him through the deadline.
  • In addition to the recently released players who will hit the free agent market shortly, center Bismack Biyombo, forward Rudy Gay, and swingman Danny Green are among the veterans who were waived earlier in 2023/24 and continue to seek new NBA homes, Fischer writes, singling out Biyombo as a player expected to generate interest.

Pelicans’ Naji Marshall Out At Least Two More Weeks

Pelicans forward Naji Marshall has been sidelined to start 2023/24 after sustaining a bone bruise in his right knee. The 25-year-old has been medically cleared to increase rehab activity and will be reevaluated in about two weeks, the team announced in a press release.

Marshall hyperextended his knee during a preseason game on October 14. An MRI later revealed that the hyperextension caused a bone bruise.

A 6’7″ wing who played college ball at Xavier, Marshall was a rotation regular last season for New Orleans, averaging 9.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG and 2.5 APG on .433/.303/.789 shooting in 77 games (21 starts, 23.3 MPG). He’s mostly known for bringing energy, intensity and defense.

The Pelicans have started the season 2-0 and have eight games over the next two weeks. If Marshall is able to return on Nov. 14 against Dallas, he will have missed 10 games with the injury.

Marshall is set to his unrestricted free agency next summer, as shown on our list of 2024 NBA free agents.

MRI Reveals Bone Bruise For Pelicans’ Naji Marshall

An MRI has indicated that Pelicans wing Naji Marshall suffered a bone bruise and a hyperextended right knee in a preseason fame, per a press release from the team.

The 6’7″ small forward injured his knee during the second quarter of the club’s 110-105  loss to the Hawks Saturday night. He was carted off in a wheelchair. After the game, head coach Willie Green told reporters that a hyperextension was the initial diagnosis, though he noted imaging was forthcoming.

The bone bruise is a bit more serious, and Marshall is set to be re-evaluated in two weeks, meaning he will miss at least the first couple contests of the Pelicans’ 2023/24 season.

Marshall enjoyed his highest-scoring season yet last year with the Pelicans, averaging 9.1 PPG, along with 3.6 RPG, 2.5 APG and 0.7 SPG. He will be missed, especially at a time when New Orleans is hurting for healthy bodies heading into the year.

New Orleans, which was relatively snake-bitten after a promising start last season with injuries to star forwards Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, has been without point guard Jose Alvarado and forward Larry Nance Jr. for its entire preseason due to ankle ailments. Last month, small forward Trey Murphy underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus, so he’ll be sidelined well into the season.

Injury Updates: C. Johnson, DSJ, Green, Marshall, Vincent

A hamstring strain that has bothered Nets forward Cameron Johnson since the start of training camp could force him to miss the rest of the preseason, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. Coach Jacque Vaughn provided an update on Johnson’s status after the team’s annual public practice on Saturday.

“Cam Johnson. That’s the last piece,” Vaughn said. “I think at some point he’s really progressing. Maybe he joins practice at some point this week. Not sure about the game situation. I’m going to be extremely cautious. I’d rather have him available that first (regular season) game versus Cleveland (on Oct. 25), than to try to speed him along and play him in a preseason game. But (he’s had) no setbacks, which is good, and heading in the right direction.” 

Johnson became part of the new foundation in Brooklyn after being acquired in the Kevin Durant trade in February. He averaged 16.6 PPG in 25 games with the Nets and was rewarded with a new four-year, $90MM+ contract this summer.

Vaughn also told reporters that Dennis Smith Jr. will miss “at least a week” after injuring his left ankle in Thursday’s game. Smith wore a walking boot at Saturday’s practice, according to Botte.

“It’s definitely an ankle sprain, and he’s got some bone bruising in there as well,” Vaughn said. “So we’ll see a week from now what he looks like, but luckily I think (there is) no ligament damage. So we’ll take that.” 

There’s more injury news to pass along:

  • Draymond Green participated in an individual workout during the Warriors‘ shootaround on Friday, according to Shayna Rubin of The San Jose Mercury News. Green will have his sprained left ankle reevaluated on Monday, Rubin adds, and there’s a chance he could play during the preseason depending on the results.
  • Pelicans coach Willie Green believes Naji Marshall suffered a hyperextended right knee during Saturday’s game, per Christian Clark of Marshall landed awkwardly after trying to block a shot midway through the second quarter and left the court in a wheelchair. “Looks to be fine,” Green said. “But we’ll get an MRI to see where he is.” Clark notes that New Orleans is already shorthanded as Jose Alvarado and Larry Nance Jr. haven’t played in the preseason because of ankle injuries and Trey Murphy has a torn meniscus.
  • Lakers guard Gabe Vincent missed Friday’s game because of tightness in his back, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Cam Reddish remains unavailable after spraining his right ankle in a game last week.

And-Ones: Dybantsa, Weatherspoon, Breakout Candidates, More

A.J. Dybantsa, a 6’8″ wing from Massachusetts and one of the top high school prospects in the country, intends to reclassify to the 2025 recruiting class, as Jeff Borzello of writes. Dybantsa had previously been the No. 1 player in ESPN’s 2026 recruiting rankings. Now, he becomes the favorite to be selected first overall in the 2026 NBA draft, according to Borzello.

As Borzello explains, Dybantsa, Cooper Flagg, and Cameron Boozer are widely considered the best high school prospects in the country. When ESPN asked 20 college coaches and NBA evaluators to rank the trio this summer, Dybantsa earned seven first-place votes and placed second behind Flagg, who is the frontrunner to be the top pick in the 2025 draft.

“Dybantsa is just the most complete,” one coach told ESPN. “Scores at all three levels. Super athletic. He’s the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft whenever he goes.”

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the league:

  • Former Pelicans assistant Teresa Weatherspoon will be the next head coach of the WNBA’s Chiacgo Sky, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The former WNBA star was an assistant in New Orleans for four seasons before the team parted ways with her in June.
  • In John Schuhmann’s general manager poll, two players received more votes than Magic forward Franz Wagner for this season’s top breakout candidate. However, Wagner sits atop the list compiled by Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, who spoke to 25 executives around the NBA and has shared the top nine vote-getters. Pistons guard Cade Cunningham and Rockets guard Jalen Green round out Scotto’s top three.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic lists a dozen under-the-radar NBA players whom he expects to have a real impact this season, including Celtics wing Oshae Brissett, Nuggets forward Peyton Watson, Thunder guard Vasilije Micic, and Pelicans forward Naji Marshall.
  • The Capital City Go-Go have traded the returning rights to Isaiah Mucius to the Delaware Blue Coats along with a 2024 first-round pick and 2023 second-round pick in the G League draft. In exchange, the Sixers‘ G League affiliate has sent Michael Foster Jr.‘s returning rights to the Wizards‘ affiliate, the Go-Go announced today (via Twitter).

Pelicans To Exercise Team Option On Naji Marshall

The Pelicans plan to exercise their $1.93MM team option on Naji Marshall, keeping him on the roster for 2023/24, reports Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Marshall went undrafted in 2020 out of Xavier, originally signing a two-way contract with the Pelicans that was later converted into a standard deal. A hard-nosed defensive player, the 25-year-old small forward was rotation regular in his third season in ’22/23, averaging 9.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG and 2.5 APG on .433/.303/.789 shooting in 77 games (21 starts, 23.3 MPG).

Once his option is officially picked up, Marshall will be on track for unrestricted free agency in 2024. We’re still awaiting team option decisions on center Willy Hernangomez and guard/forward Herbert Jones, as our tracker shows.

Checking In On RFAs-To-Be Who Have Met Starter Criteria

As we explain in a glossary entry, a player who is eligible for restricted free agency at the end of a given season can have the value of his qualifying offer adjusted depending on whether or not he meets the “starter criteria.”

A player is considered to have met the starter criteria if he plays at least 2,000 minutes or starts 41 games in the season before he reaches free agency. A player can also meet the criteria if he averages either of those marks in the two seasons prior to his restricted free agency.

If a top-14 pick doesn’t meet the starter criteria, he has the value of his qualifying offer adjusted downward and receives a QO equal to the amount the 15th overall pick would get if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.

A player drafted at No. 10  or later can increase the value of his qualifying offer by meeting the starter criteria.

Players drafted between 10th and 30th who meet the starter criteria receive a QO equal to the amount the ninth overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale, while second-round picks or undrafted free agents who meet the criteria receive a QO equal to the amount the 21st overall pick would receive if he signed for 100% of the rookie scale.

In simplified terms, here’s how those rules will apply in 2022/23:

  • A top-14 pick who falls short of the starter criteria will have a qualifying offer worth $7,744,600.
  • A player picked between No. 10 and No. 30 who meets the starter criteria will have a qualifying offer worth $8,486,620.
  • A second-round pick or undrafted free agent who meets the starter criteria will have a qualifying offer worth $5,216,324.

A qualifying offer is essentially a one-year contract offer that functions as a placeholder if the player doesn’t accept it. If a player is considered a good bet to sign a lucrative long-term contract, a slight adjustment to his qualifying offer generally has no material impact on his free agency.

However, a change in a qualifying offer can sometimes be a difference maker. The best recent example of this came in 2020, when then-Bulls guard Kris Dunn met the starter criteria, ensuring that his qualifying offer would be worth $7,091,457 instead of $4,642,800.

The Bulls opted not to extend that $7MM+ QO, making him an unrestricted free agent, and he ended up signing a two-year, $10MM contract with Atlanta. If Dunn hadn’t met the starter criteria, it’s possible Chicago would’ve been more comfortable issuing a $4.6MM qualifying offer, which would’ve significantly changed the way Dunn’s free agency played out.

So far in 2022/23, three players have met the starter criteria:

Washington was the 12th overall pick in 2019 and will therefore have his qualifying offer bumped up to $8,486,620.

As second-round picks in 2020 and 2021, respectively, Jones and Dosunmu will now have QOs worth $5,216,324.

Here are some more players eligible for restricted free agency this summer whose qualifying offers can – or will – be impacted by the starter criteria:

(* Player has a team option for 2023/24)

White, Hayes, Hachimura, and Langford have no realistic path to meeting the starter criteria this season, so if their teams want to make them restricted free agents this summer, the qualifying offer cost will be $7,744,600. Johnson could join them in that group, though he has started 20 games so far this season and Brooklyn still has 23 contests left, so he still has a shot to make 41 starts as long as he stays healthy and the Nets don’t move him to the bench.

Thybulle and Williams are the only two non-lottery first-round picks who will be RFA-eligible later this year and still have a chance to meet the starter criteria, bumping their QOs to $8,486,620.

It’s probably a long shot for Thybulle, who has made 59 starts since the beginning of 2021/22 — the Trail Blazers only have 23 games remaining, so Thybulle would have to start every single one of them to get to 82 total starts (an average of 41) over the last two seasons.

Williams has a clearer path to get there. He has logged 1,651 minutes so far this season, averaging 27.5 per game. The Celtics play 21 more times this season and Williams would have to play 349 more minutes (16.6 per night) to reach the 2,000-minute threshold. That seems likely as long as he stays off the injured list.

Jones, Martin, and Marshall belong in a different group. All three players have team options on their contracts for 2023/24, so their clubs could simply exercise those options and not have to worry about restricted free agency this year. That’s absolutely what will happen in Jones’ case, since he’ll still be RFA-eligible in 2024.

Martin and Marshall, however, would be on track for unrestricted free agency in 2024 if their team options for next season are picked up — the Rockets and Pelicans could decide to decline this options this summer and negotiate with their players as restricted free agents instead, giving them more control over the process. Houston took this route last summer with Jae’Sean Tate.

With that in mind, it’s worth keeping an eye on whether Martin and/or Marshall will reach the starter criteria and bump their potential QOs to $5,216,324 (from approximately $2.3MM). Martin, who has been in the Rockets’ starting five since mid-January, would need to start 15 of the team’s last 23 games to get there. It’s a more difficult path for Marshall, who would need to average 29.6 minutes per game in the Pelicans’ final 21 contests to get to 2,000 minutes on the season.