Nickeil Alexander-Walker

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Gobert, Alexander-Walker, Clarkson

The market for Damian Lillard would have been limited even without his insistence on playing for the Heat, Sean Deveney writes in a Forbes article. Two months have passed since Lillard asked the Trail Blazers for a trade, and an unidentified executive tells Deveney that not many teams would have pursued Lillard regardless of his preference.

“I don’t think anyone likes the idea of Dame coming in and forcing the Blazers’ hand like this, forcing them to take a deal from a team that does not have the assets,” the executive said. “That’s a bad precedent, and it is one we are seeing too much of. But if Dame had not said, ‘Miami or nothing,’ where else was Portland really going to go for a deal? Maybe Brooklyn? But where else? There’s not that many teams that are going to give you a bunch of players and picks for a 33-year-old who can’t stay healthy and has a giant contract sitting there.”

Lillard will make about $215MM over the next four years, including a two-year extension he signed last summer that will pay him $58.5MM when he’s 35 and $63MM when he’s 36. There are also injury concerns after Lillard was shut down early the past two seasons.

The Heat are one of the few teams willing to absorb that deal, Deveney adds, and Lillard is a good fit with their other personnel, so Miami would have been a natural destination even if Lillard hadn’t mentioned the city.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • After a disappointing World Cup run with France, Rudy Gobert is looking forward to starting his second season with the Timberwolves, per Antonis Stroggylakis of Eurohoops. Gobert said there were a lot of adjustments to deal with last season, but he saw positive developments, even though it ended with a first-round playoff ouster. “We didn’t go as far as we wanted to go but we were resilient,” he said. “We had a lot of injuries and a lot of things that didn’t go our way. But we kept fighting. I liked the mindset that we had. Especially in the playoffs.”
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker is looking forward to having stability when he reports to Timberwolves camp, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Alexander-Walker has been traded three times in his four-year career, but he signed a two-year, $9MM contract with Minnesota this summer.
  • After scoring 34 points as the Philippines closed out World Cup play with a win over China, Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson told fans in Manila that he plans to continue playing for the national team, BasketNews relays. “I do not think this was my last performance with this jersey,” Clarkson said. “I have more time, and I still can hoop.”

Western Notes: Kings, Brooks, Jones, Lillard, Timberwolves

The Kings decided to tweak the roster rather than make major changes this offseason after finally reaching the postseason in the spring. They acquired Chris Duarte in a trade and re-signed Harrison Barnes and Trey Lyles. They also signed EuroLeague star Sasha Vezenkov.

Kings coach Mike Brown is excited to have his core group back and is eager to see how they respond to the newfound respect they’ve gained after snapping the franchise’s long playoff drought.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how we can handle the pressure,” the Kings coach said. “It’s flipped now. We’re no longer hunting people; people are hunting us. And there are expectations, so how do we handle that? I believe our guys are ready for it, and with the fans that we have here and the juice they brought last year – let’s go. Let’s get it. I’m excited for Sasha, I’m excited for Chris Duarte, I’m excited about our young guys. It’s good to have the new guys, but I’m more excited about having our guys to be able to run it back and give them the opportunity to grow as a nucleus than anything else.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Grizzlies allowed Dillon Brooks in free agency and traded Tyus Jones. So what have they lost? Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal explores that topic. The Grizzlies have become known for their flashy style and trash talking and Brooks was a major reason for that. Jones was a locker room leader and led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio in each of his four seasons with the club.
  • Trail Blazers fans want the Damian Lillard saga to be resolved soon. In a poll conducted by Jason Quick of The Athletic, 80.4% want the front office to take the best offer for their longtime All-Star and prioritize the team ahead of Lillard. However, the high-scoring guard was voted as the franchise’s greatest player (51.9%), ahead of Clyde Drexler and Bill Walton.
  • Anthony Edwards (United States), Karl-Anthony Towns (Dominican Republic), Rudy Gobert (France), Kyle Anderson (China), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Canada) and draft-and-stash prospect Matteo Spagnolo (Italy) are participating in the World Cup, while Luka Garza played for Bosnia and Herzegovina in a pre-qualifying Olympic tournament. That should give those Timberwolves players a head start to the NBA season, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Alexander-Walker agrees with the notion. “I want to use it to propel me for the season,” he said.

And-Ones: Team Canada, Ownership Stakes, Cap Room, Giles

While a Team USA roster led by Jalen Brunson, Anthony Edwards, Brandon Ingram, and Mikal Bridges will enter the 2023 World Cup as the frontrunner next month, Team Canada’s initial 18-man group features some real star power.

The extended roster, announced this week by Canada Basketball, is headlined by Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder forward Luguentz Dort, Knicks forward RJ Barrett, and Rockets forward Dillon Brooks.

It also features five other players currently on NBA rosters: veteran big men Dwight Powell (Mavericks) and Kelly Olynyk (Jazz), guards Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Timberwolves) and Cory Joseph (Warriors), and forward Oshae Brissett (Celtics). Purdue’s star center Zach Edey is on the roster too.

Team Canada will have to make a few cuts to get down to 12 players for the World Cup, and it’s possible some of the more notable names will drop out in order to focus on the NBA season. However, league sources tell Joe Vardon of The Athletic that Murray has reaffirmed his commitment to the team despite a lengthy postseason run with the Nuggets this spring.

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

  • The minimum stake that someone can own in an NBA franchise has been lowered, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, who says a minority shareholder can now control as little as 0.5% of a team, down from 1%.
  • A total of eight teams operated below the cap this offseason, having entered the league year with $277MM in combined cap room, per Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype. As Gozlan outlines, over half of that league-wide cap space was used to accommodate trades or contract negotiations rather than free agent signings.
  • Sean Cunningham of FOX40 in Sacramento (video link) caught up with free agent big man Harry Giles to talk about the 25-year-old’s efforts to make it back into the NBA, as well as the new rule related to two-way contracts that will unofficially be named after him.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, T. Brown, Milton, J. Collins, OKC

Appearing on ESPN’s SportsCenter (YouTube link) on Monday night to provide an update on the Damian Lillard trade talks, Adrian Wojnarowski said it’s still “very early” in the process, pointing out that there’s no deadline looming to force the Trail Blazers into action — or to push potential Lillard suitors to submit their best offers.

While the Clippers would “love to be part of this process,” they don’t necessarily have the sort of assets the Blazers are seeking for Lillard, according to Wojnarowski. Portland also isn’t particularly moved by what what the Heat has to offer, but that Miami package may be the best the Blazers can get, Woj suggests.

“Now it’s going to be a process over perhaps this month, August, maybe into September, for Portland to try to extract as much as they can from Miami,” Wojnarowski said. “It isn’t like Miami comes to the table and says, ‘Here’s everything we have for Damian Lillard. Here you go.’ It doesn’t start that way. They’re gauging what Portland has (had) offered to them elsewhere.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Troy Brown‘s two-year, $8MM deal with the Timberwolves is only guaranteed for one year, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). Brown’s $4MM salary for 2024/25 is non-guaranteed. The Wolves used the same structure when they signed Shake Milton, whose $5MM salary for ’23/24 is guaranteed while his $5MM salary for ’24/25 isn’t, Hoops Rumors has learned. Nickeil Alexander-Walker‘s two-year, $9MM contract, on the other hand, is fully guaranteed.
  • After being the subject of trade speculation for years in Atlanta, John Collins is looking forward to getting a fresh start with the Jazz, he said during an interview on the team’s official website. “I was excited going to a place that I knew really wanted me and was trying to have me in the organization,” Collins said. “It’s always very nice to hear and know coming to a place that really wants you and really wants you to excel here. It’s a big sigh of relief knowing that all the trade talks are over and I can go to my new home and start anew.”
  • The Thunder‘s decision to use their cap room to accommodate salary dumps like Davis Bertans, Victor Oladipo, and Patty Mills this offseason reflected the team’s focus on its young core, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. As Mussatto explains, with potentially pricey extensions coming down the road for players like Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams, and Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City didn’t want to compromise future cap flexibility by signing a free agent to a long-term deal.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Jazz, Timberwolves Moves, Brown, Jackson, Braun, Wallace

The Jazz will have internal discussions about getting involved in the Damian Lillard sweepstakes, according to The Athletic’s Tony Jones.

If they make a run for him, the Jazz could put together an impressive package of expiring contracts and future first-round picks for the Trail Blazers All-Star guard, who requested a trade this weekend. He’d instantly transform a team with a suddenly formidable frontcourt and quality depth into a contender.

The downside is Lillard’s age, defensive deficiencies and gargantuan contract. Jones explores the pros and cons of a potential Jazz trade for Lillard and ultimately concludes it would be worth it, as long as they set a strict limit on what they would give up.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves, after extending Naz Reid, made a number of under-the-radar moves in free agency to help them avoid future tax issues, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes. They divvied up their mid-level exception to acquire Shake Milton and Troy Brown, as well as re-signing Nickeil Alexander-Walker via his Bird rights. All of the contracts were two-year deals. Thus, their roster is almost all set for next season and the combined salaries are below the luxury tax threshold.
  • After losing Bruce Brown in free agency to Indiana, the Nuggets have a huge hole to fill in their rotation. Jones explores how Denver will fill up those available minutes. Reggie Jackson, who is re-signing with the club on a two-year deal, is slated to be the backup point guard. Christian Braun will see his minutes expand, presumably as a combo guard.  Denver could also add another piece via free agency to improve its depth.
  • Due to trade restrictions, Cason Wallace will miss the Thunder’s three Summer League games in Salt Lake City, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman notes. Wallace was chosen with the No. 10 pick in a draft-night swap with the Mavericks, who also shipped forward Davis Bertans to OKC in exchange for the No. 12 pick. The trade can’t be finalized until at least Thursday, forcing Wallace to miss those games. However, he’ll be eligible to play in the Las Vegas Summer League.

Timberwolves Sign Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Troy Brown

JULY 9: Both signings are now official, per’s transaction log.

JUNE 30: The Timberwolves have reached agreements with free agents Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Troy Brown.

Alexander-Walker is re-signing with Minnesota on a two-year deal, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets. Brown is leaving the Lakers to join the Timberwolves, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

The Wolves declined to give Alexander-Walker a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent but will re-sign him using his Bird rights on a two-year, $9MM deal, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

According to Mike Singer of Denver Post (Twitter link), Brown will get a two-year contract worth north of $8MM, with a second-year team option. The Wolves will have to use a cap exception – either the mid-level or bi-annual – to complete that signing.

Alexander-Walker, acquired in a deadline deal from Utah, appeared in 23 games off the bench for Minnesota last season. He averaged 5.9 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 15.5 minutes. He’ll add depth behind starting shooting guard Anthony Edwards.

Brown, 23, played a prominent role for Los Angeles last season, appearing in 76 games, including 45 starts. He averaged 7.1 points and 4.1 rebounds in 24.5 minutes and made a career-best 38.1% of his 3-point attempts. The 6’6” Brown previously played for Washington and Chicago and could start or play a second-unit role with the Timberwolves.

In essence, he swapped places with former Timberwolves forward Taurean Prince, who agreed to a one-year deal with the Lakers.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker To Become Unrestricted Free Agent

The Timberwolves have decided against issuing a qualifying offer to Nickeil Alexander-Walker, making the former first-round pick an unrestricted free agent, league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link).

However, according to Scotto, the Wolves are still hopeful Alexander-Walker is open to reunion after they acquired him in February via trade. Minnesota could have made him a restricted free agent and had the right of first refusal had the team extended the $7,073,602 QO, but instead he’ll hit the open market.

The 17th pick of the 2019 draft, Alexander-Walker spent his first two-plus seasons with the Pelicans before being moved at the 2022 trade deadline. He was technically a Trail Blazer for one day before being re-routed to Utah, where he spent a year prior to being sent to Minnesota four months ago.

In 59 games (15.0 MPG) with the Jazz and Wolves in 2022/23, Alexander-Walker averaged 5.9 PPG, 1.8 APG and 1.7 RPG on .444/.384/.667 shooting. He also chipped in 8.4 PPG, 2.0 RPG and 1.4 APG on .429/.400/.667 shooting in five playoff games (29.6 MPG).

While those numbers don’t necessarily jump off the page, he made major strides defensively last season, playing a critical role down the stretch for the Wolves as a perimeter stopper. That role increased due to late-season injuries to key rotation players like Jaden McDaniels, Naz Reid, and to a lesser extent Kyle Anderson, who sustained an eye injury in Minnesota’s first-round loss to the Nuggets.

Still just 24 years old, the Canadian guard/forward will be an interesting player to monitor when free agency kicks off tomorrow. Alexander-Walker should have plenty of suitors given his blend of skills, particularly defensively.

Atlantic Notes: Brunson, Quickley, Raptors, R. Williams, Harris

There was a general perception that the Knicks may have overpaid point guard Jalen Brunson last summer when they signed him to a four-year, $104MM contract. Instead, he has been outperforming his nine-figure deal to an extent that’s rare for New York sports stars, according to Howie Kussoy of The New York Post (subscriber link).

Kussoy points to the contracts signed by various players across the four major North American sports leagues as examples, writing that most haven’t lived up to the lofty expectations of their enormous paydays.

Brunson, meanwhile, had an All-Star-caliber debut season with New York and has been the Knicks’ best player in the playoffs, averaging 26.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.5 steals on .457/.300/.915 shooting through 10 games (39.8 minutes). Kussoy states that Brunson has the “inside track” on becoming the best free agent addition in team history.

Here’s more from the Atlantic:

  • Knicks reserve Immanuel Quickley has been ruled out of Friday’s Game 6 in Miami, head coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters, including Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News (Twitter link). The third-year guard is still battling a left ankle sprain and had previously been listed as doubtful. Quickley will miss his third straight game with the injury.
  • The 2023 free agent class isn’t the strongest, particularly the group of players who might be available for the Raptors‘ mid-level exception or less, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic, who lists 25 players Toronto could target. Among the top candidates Koreen considers realistic are Bruce Brown, Donte DiVincenzo, Nickeil Alexander-Walker (for part of the MLE, not full) and Josh Richardson. Brown and DiVincenzo hold team-friendly player options for 2023/24, while Alexander-Walker will be restricted if Minnesota gives him a qualifying offer — only Richardson is an unrestricted free agent at the moment.
  • Celtics guard Marcus Smart was thrilled with head coach Joe Mazzulla‘s adjustment of inserting Robert Williams into the starting lineup for Game 6, per Jamal Collier of ESPN. “I was ecstatic about it,” Smart said. “To have Rob in there, he changes the game a lot … that just goes to show you, Joe is learning. Just like all of us. I know he’s been killed a lot. Rightfully so. He needs to make some adjustments, and he did that. And that’s all you can ask for, just continue to be the best he can be. It takes everybody; it’s a full team effort.” Williams recorded 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, and the Celtics were plus-18 in his 28 minutes.
  • It was reported in April that Sixers owner Josh Harris had reached an agreement to buy the NFL’s Washington Commanders. Harris and the team released a joint statement on Friday officially announcing the sale, as Sam Robinson of Pro Football Rumors relays. The agreement still has to be approved by the other NFL owners, but that’s considered a formality.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Porter Jr., Title Run, Jokic

Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are healthy this postseason and that makes the Nuggets much more dangerous, Pat Graham of The Associated Press writes. Murray, who missed last season due to a knee injury, finished off the Timberwolves in Game 5 with 35 points. Porter, who has been plagued by back issues in prior seasons, had a 25-point performance in Game 3.

“It was good to be back in the playoffs and just be playing at a high level along with Jamal,” Porter said. “It’s a good feeling.”

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Murray was irritated by the chatter surrounding Minnesota’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker and the way he was blanketing Denver’s star guard, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. He made a statement with his Game 5 eruption. “He was our best player this series,” said Nikola Jokic, citing Murray’s energy, shot-making and leadership.
  • Can Denver go all the way with the current group? Tony Jones of The Athletic explores that question, suggesting that the Nuggets’ biggest concern is their defense – particularly against the Suns’ superstars in the second-round series – and the need for a steady No. 3 offensive option to emerge.
  • Jokic earned a bonus with the team reaching the second round, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. He’ll collect an extra $568,966 as a result of the Nuggets winning a series.

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

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

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

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

We have more from the Northwest Division:

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