Nathan Mensah

Hornets Sign Bolden To Two-Way Contract, Waive Mensah

The Hornets have signed center Marques Bolden to a two-way contract, according to a release from the team. To create a roster spot for Bolden, Charlotte waived two-way center Nathan Mensah.

Bolden recently spent time with the Hornets on a 10-day contract, which was ended early to make room for Aleksej Pokusevski on the 15-man roster. He appeared in one game with Charlotte. The 25-year-old has also had NBA stops in Cleveland and Milwaukee. He spent part of this season on a two-way deal with the Bucks, but only appeared in two games.

Bolden played three seasons at Duke, averaging 3.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 88 career collegiate games (24 starts). He has been the most productive in the G League, where he’s averaged 13.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks while shooting 55.6% from the floor and 39.7% from deep in 31 regular season and Showcase Cup games with the Wisconsin Herd.

Mensah signed with the Hornets on a two-way contract in December after joining the team in training camp. He immediately carved out a small role, playing about 40 combined minutes in his first two career games and averaging 16.1 minutes from early to late January. However, his role diminished as time went on and he was nearing his active-game limit, prompting Charlotte to make the move to Bolden. In 25 games with the Hornets, Mensah averaged 1.3 points, 2.6 rebounds and 0.6 blocks.

The Hornets have 15 players on standard contracts and all three of their two-way spots are filled. Bolden joins Amari Bailey and Leaky Black as the Hornets’ two-way players.

Several Two-Way Players Nearing Active Game Limit

A player who signs a two-way contract with an NBA team is permitted to be active for up to 50 regular season games. That limit is prorated if the player signed his two-way deal after the regular season got underway — for instance, a player who finalized a two-way contract halfway through the season would be permitted to be active for up to 25 contests at the NBA level.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors Glossary: Two-Way Contract]

Several two-way players have been promoted to standard contracts recently, eliminating those games-played limits. GG Jackson (Grizzlies), Keon Ellis (Kings), Lindy Waters III (Thunder), Craig Porter Jr. (Cavaliers), Duop Reath (Trail Blazers), and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Pelicans) have all signed new deals since the trade deadline.

However, there are still a number of players on two-way contracts around the league who are at or near their active-game limit for the season. Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link) identifies Celtics big man Neemias Queta, Mavericks guard Brandon Williams, Grizzlies guard Jacob Gilyard, and Hornets teammates Leaky Black and Nathan Mensah as two-way players who have 10 or fewer active games left, while Hawks guard Trent Forrest has already reached his 50-game limit.

In some cases, promotions to the standard roster may be forthcoming. Queta, for instance, has been a semi-regular contributor off the bench for the Celtics, who have an open spot on their 15-man roster, so if Boston wants to make him playoff-eligible and ensure he’s able to be active for the rest of the regular season, a contract conversion would be pretty straightforward.

Other cases could be trickier. While the Hawks would presumably like to have Forrest available for the rest of the season, they have a full 15-man roster, so they’d have to waive someone to make room to promote him.

Atlanta at least has some viable release candidates on its roster — for instance, veterans Patty Mills and Wesley Matthews haven’t played much and aren’t owed guaranteed money beyond this season. But that’s not the case in Memphis, where Gilyard has made a strong case for a promotion from his two-way deal by averaging 4.7 points and 3.5 assists in 37 games (17.7 MPG), with a .425 3PT%.

The Grizzlies have already promoted Jackson and Vince Williams from two-way contracts and may not have any expendable players left on their 15-man roster who could be cut to make room for Gilyard. Luke Kennard ($14.8MM team option for 2024/25) and Lamar Stevens (unrestricted free agent this summer) are the only Grizzlies not owed any guaranteed money after this season, and both are playing rotation roles for the banged-up club.

“We’ll see what happens when the time comes,” Gilyard said of his uncertain situation, according to Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “As a basketball player, it’s definitely on your mind. I try not to let it affect me. I think that’s probably the worst part about being a point guard is you start to understand things and start to grasp things like that.”

“It’s kind of a juggling act,” Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins said of working within those active-game limits for his two-way players, including Gilyard and Scotty Pippen Jr. “It’s hard to make those decisions, trying to preserve those dates. (Pippen’s) understood it. I was very upfront with him when he came in, (general manager) Zach (Kleiman) and myself. I think when he came in, we were maybe on the 40-game mark, but he didn’t have 40 games available, so it’s very unfortunate.

“Maybe it’s something that we look into as a league because I think he’s earned the opportunity to play every single night. We just have to balance the games he actually has available to him.”

Besides those players who are approaching their games-played limits, there are a few others on two-way contracts around the league who look like candidates to be promoted to standard rosters before the end of the regular season. Nets forward Jalen Wilson and Warriors guard Lester Quinones are among those who were playing regularly for their respective clubs leading up to the All-Star break.

Promoting a player to a standard contract would open up a two-way slot for his team, allowing that club to reset its active-game counter for that slot — at least to some extent. Due to the prorated nature of those game limits, a player who signs a two-way contract today could only be active for up to 16 games the rest of the way, but that’s 16 more games than, say, Forrest is eligible to play for the Hawks as long as he remains on his current two-way deal.

Teams have until March 4 to sign players to two-way contracts, so I expect to see a good deal of roster activity related to two-way slots within the next couple weeks.

Southeast Notes: Fultz, Ball, Mensah, Wizards

After being upgraded to questionable for Friday’s game in Boston, Magic guard Markelle Fultz (left knee tendinitis) was ultimately ruled out for a 16th consecutive contest. As Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel tweets, Fultz has only gone through portions of practice this week, so the club wasn’t quite ready to clear him for game action.

Asked what went into the decision to rule out Fultz on Friday, head coach Jamahl Mosley explained: “Just being able to check to make sure he’s fully back to what we need him to do and getting full practices in with full contact. That’s going to be very important.”

Although his return didn’t happen on Friday and he didn’t take contact in Saturday’s practice, Fultz told reporters on Thursday that he thinks he’ll be back sooner rather than later, per Beede (subscription required). The former No. 1 overall pick said that he’s been “progressing great,” though he’s also on board with the team’s cautious approach to the injury.

“I’m thinking the long game here,” Fultz said. “I don’t want to come back in, play a few games and have to sit back out. When I’m back, I want to stay back for the long run.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • After announcing on December 8 that they’d reevaluate LaMelo Ball (right ankle sprain) in a week, the Hornets offered a very minor update on Friday, tweeting that the star guard has “continued progressing” in his conditioning and individual activities. Updates on his status will be provided “as appropriate,” the Hornets added. It doesn’t sound as if Ball has resumed practicing with the team or that his return is imminent.
  • After signing a two-way contract with the Hornets on Thursday, center Nathan Mensah was immediately thrust into a rotation role for the injury-plagued club, backing up Nick Richards at the five in Friday’s loss to New Orleans. Mensah fouled out in just 13 minutes of action but he grabbed seven rebounds and made a solid first impression, per Shane Connuck of The Charlotte Observer. “He did a great job,” Brandon Miller said. “His presence down there, I felt like he did a great job on the defensive side, just getting boards, some blocks. He’s gonna be great for us.”
  • Following this week’s announcement stating that the Wizards plan to move from the District of Columbia to Virginia, David Aldridge of The Athletic and Candace Buckner of The Washington Post published columns criticizing team owner Ted Leonsis for his handling of the situation and his treatment of the franchise’s long-time D.C. market.
  • In a pair of stories focusing on the Wizards‘ rebuilding process, Aldridge and Josh Robbins of The Athletic take a look at how the new front office is emphasizing “small wins” as part of its culture-building efforts and explore how the organization is attempting to improve its off-court infrastructure.

Hornets Sign Nathan Mensah To Two-Way Contract, Waive Theo Maledon

8:45pm: The Hornets officially announced the signing of Mensah to a two-way contract in a press release.

5:38pm: The Hornets are planning to sign center Nathan Mensah to a two-way contract, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Mensah has been playing with Charlotte’s G League affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm, this season after spending training camp with the Hornets this summer on an Exhibit 10 contract. Mensah is averaging 10.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 0.8 steals in 14 Showcase Cup games with the Swarm this season.

Mensah, 25, played five seasons for San Diego State, where he averaged 6.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks across 146 appearances with his collegiate team. In 2022/23, Mensah helped the Aztecs to an appearance in the NCAA national championship, where they ultimately fell to UConn.

To open up the two-way roster spot necessary for Mensah, the Hornets announced they officially waived guard Theo Maledon.

It’s a little surprising to see the Hornets part with Maledon, considering he’s made 57 appearances and eight starts over the past two years with the team in 18.5 minutes per night. However, he’s gotten off to a slow start to the season, shooting just 28.8% from the field. In two years with the Hornets, Maledon averaged 6.1 points and 3.2 assists after spending the first two seasons of his career with the Thunder.

With Mensah set to be signed, the Hornets will be back up to the limit of 18 players on the roster. Charlotte has 15 players on standard deals and, after Mensah’s signing is made official, will have him, Leaky Black and Amari Bailey on two-way deals.

Hornets Cut R.J. Hunter, Nathan Mensah, Terrell Brown Jr.

The Hornets are placing three players on waivers, according to Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer, who reports (via Twitter) that wing R.J. Hunter, center Nathan Mensah, and guard Terrell Brown Jr. have been cut.

Hunter, Mensah, and Brown were all on non-guaranteed Exhibit 10 contracts and now look like good bets to join the Greensboro Swarm, Charlotte’s G League affiliate, after they clear waivers.

The Swarm recently acquired Brown’s returning rights from the Memphis Hustle and Mensah can be made an affiliate player, since he’s a rookie whose NBAGL rights weren’t previously held by another team. Hunter should also be eligible to be an affiliate player, since he hasn’t played in the G League since 2019/20, meaning his returning rights have expired.

After releasing the trio, the Hornets will have 15 players on standard contracts and three on two-way deals. No additional moves would be required to set their roster for the regular season, though that doesn’t necessarily mean Charlotte won’t make any more changes before Monday’s cut-down deadline.

Hornets Sign Jaylen Sims, Three Others

The Hornets have officially signed four players, the team announced this week in a press release. While the Hornets didn’t reveal the terms of the deals in their release, Jaylen Sims, Tre Scott, Nathan Mensah, and Angelo Allegri all received Exhibit 10 contracts, Hoops Rumors can confirm.

Sims, who went undrafted out of UNC Wilmington in 2022, spent training camp last fall with the Hornets, then was waived at the end of the preseason. The 6’6″ wing spent his rookie year with the Greensboro Swarm, Charlotte’s G League affiliate, averaging 10.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists 25.3 minutes per night across 39 Showcase Cup and regular season games.

Sims is the only one of Charlotte’s new additions whose deal wasn’t previously reported. Scott reached an agreement with the team in August, while Mensah and Allegri agreed to terms with the Hornets right after June’s draft.

Scott appeared in two NBA games for Cleveland during the 2021/22 season but has primarily played in the G League and overseas since going undrafted out of Cincinnati in 2020. Mensah and Allegri went undrafted this June out of San Diego State and Eastern Washington, respectively. Mensah was a two-time Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year with the Aztecs.

The Hornets now have a full 21-man offseason roster. Their squad features 13 players on fully guaranteed contracts, one (Frank Ntilikina) with a partial guarantee, one (JT Thor) on a non-guaranteed deal, a pair on two-way contracts, and four on Exhibit 10 pacts.

Charlotte also reportedly reached an agreement on a non-guaranteed contract with R.J. Hunter. The club will have to make a cut at some point if it still intends to complete that deal — if the signing is just for G League purposes, it may not happen until sometime in October.

Sims, Scott, Mensah, and Allegri will likely all end up being waived and reporting to the Swarm for the start of the NBAGL season. Spending at least 60 days with the Hornets’ G League affiliate would allow each player to earn a bonus worth up to $75K.

It’s worth noting, since Charlotte has one two-way slot available, that Exhibit 10 contracts can be converted into two-way deals anytime prior to the first day of the regular season. However, the Hornets still have a two-way qualifying offer on the table to Theo Maledon, so they may envision him being the one to eventually fill that opening.

Hornets To Sign Angelo Allegri, Nathan Mensah

Eastern Washington undrafted wing Angelo Allegri has agreed to an Exhibit 10 contract with the Hornets, Jon Chepkevich of tweets.

Allegri averaged 13.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 3.4 APG last season while claiming All-Big Sky First Team honors. Allegri spent three seasons with UNC Greensboro before starting regularly the last two seasons with the Eagles.

Charlotte is also signing two-time Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year Nathan Mensah, who helped San Diego State reached the NCAA Tournament title game, Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype tweets. The 6’10” Mensah played five seasons for the Aztecs and averaged 6.0 PPG and 5.9 RPG last season. He racked up 236 blocks in 146 career games.

It’s unclear what type of contract Mensah is signing but it’s also likely an Exhibit 10 deal.

Players on Exhibit 10 contracts can earn a $75K bonus by joining the team’s G League affiliate — in Charlotte’s case, the Greensboro Swarm — and spending at least 60 days with that team if they’re waived by the NBA squad.

Draft Notes: Nuggets, Appleby, Wembanyama, Tshiebwe, Dick, Clippers

The Nuggets agreed to a draft-pick trade with the Thunder during the Finals, acquiring this year’s No. 37 selection, the least favorable of the Thunder’s 2024 first-round picks, and a 2024 second-rounder in exchange for a 2029 first-round pick. They are continuing to look to add a first-round pick in this year’s draft, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets, using the 2024 first-round pick they received from Oklahoma City as bait.

With salary-cap concerns, Denver is trying to add low-cost options to round out its bench as it pursues a repeat. In another draft-related development, the Nuggets will work out Wake Forest point guard Tyree Appleby on Tuesday, Singer reports in another tweet.

We have more updates with the draft approaching on Thursday:

  • Victor Wembanyama, a mortal lock to be the first player off the board, has arrived in the United States from France, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press reports. He flew into Newark (N.J.) Airport on Monday. Wembanyama has a scheduled pre-draft media session on Wednesday before the Spurs officially secure his services on Thursday night.
  • Kentucky star forward Oscar Tshiebwe has been one of the busiest prospects over the past month. He’s finishing up his workout schedule by visiting the Cavaliers and Celtics, Adam Zagoria tweets. Tshiebwe’s visit with Boston’s brass will be his second there. He has worked out for approximately half the teams in the league.
  • Kansas wing Gradey Dick, who is projected to go in the second half in the lottery, told The Athletic’s Shams Charania that he will be a team player wherever he winds up (Twitter link). “I’m going to go into any organization, any city, and really just buy into the team. I’m the type of player where I honestly don’t care what my role is,” Dick said.
  • The Clippers’ staff had a busy Monday, evaluating 10 prospects in two separate workouts, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets. The visitors included Tyger Campbell (UCLA), Mouhamed Gueye (Washington State) Seth Lundy (Penn State), Nathan Mensah (San Diego State), Mike Miles (TCU), Omari Moore, (San Jose State), Julian Phillips (Tennessee), Ben Sheppard (Belmont), Grant Sherfield (Oklahoma) and Jordan Walsh (Arkansas).

Pacific Notes: Ayton, VanVleet, Paul, Lakers’ Workouts

Deandre Ayton is believed to be a prime trade candidate but new Suns coach Frank Vogel feels he can get more out of the enigmatic center, he told Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated.

“I have history with having great success with the elite rim protectors and with bigs in general. And I feel like I can take a lot of those lessons and use them to help restore Deandre to a place of prominence in this organization and in this league,” Vogel said. “He obviously has an immense amount of talent, and the talent fits the way I have played throughout my career. So I think he can be in an elite, dominant, defensive center in my system.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Fred VanVleet‘s decision to decline his player option could influence how the Suns handle the Chris Paul situation, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. The Suns could have a dynamic backcourt for years to come if they could land VanVleet in a sign-and-trade with the Raptors, but they first have to figure whether they’ll waive, retain, or trade Paul, who has a partially guaranteed contract.
  • Speaking of Paul, Gerald Bourguet of explores 10 hypothetical trades the Suns could make involving their aging future Hall of Famer. Bourguet ultimately concludes it’s more likely that teams would rather wait to see if Paul is waived and then bid for his services.
  • Big man Adama Sanogo of national champion UConn was among the draft prospects who worked out for the Lakers on Tuesday, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin tweets. Taevion Kinsey (Marshall), Taylor Funk (Utah St), Tosan Evbuomwan (Princeton) and Nathan Mensah (San Diego State) were among the other visitors.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Hornets, Butler

The Wizards have been taking a thorough look at a wealth of NBA prospects in recent days. Washington possesses three picks in this year’s draft: the eighth selection in the lottery and the Nos. 42 and 57 picks in the second round.

The team announced (Twitter link) that it was auditioning six prospects in a pre-draft workout on Friday: Texas forward Timmy Allen, North Carolina forward Leaky Black, San Diego State forward Nathan Mensah, Connecticut forward Adama Sanogo, Ohio State forward Justice Sueing, and Indiana forward Race Thompson.

According to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (via Twitter) another five league hopefuls participated in a a pre-draft workout Saturday. Virginia guard Kihei Clark, Missouri guard D’Moi Hodge, North Carolina State guard Jarkel Joiner, University of North Carolina at Greensboro swingman Keondre Kennedy, and Princeton forward Tosan Evbuomwan comprised that group.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets possess a whopping five selections in this year’s draft, headlined by the second pick in the lottery. Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Insider link) builds out the club’s ideal draft, suggesting Charlotte should select Alabama swingman Brandon Miller over G League Ignite point guard Scoot Henderson with the No. 2 pick. The club also has the No. 27 pick in the first round at its disposal, as well as three second-round selections. Givony suggests those picks would be best used on Santa Clara’s Brandin Podziemski, UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez, Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis, and Missouri’s Kobe Brown.
  • The Hornets brought in six NBA hopefuls for their latest pre-draft workout Saturday. Per Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link), G League Ignite wing Sidy Cissoko, Detroit Mercy combo guard Antoine Davis, guard Jazian Gortman of Overtime Elite, Oklahoma big man Tanner Groves, Jackson-Davis, and Jaquez participated in the audition.
  • Even if Jimmy Butler‘s Heat fall short of a championship, his legendary playoff run deserves to be remembered forever, opines John Hollinger of The Athletic. Hollinger notes that Butler’s regular season accolades pale in comparison to his postseason impact, especially when it comes to clutch scoring and play-making.