Ochai Agbaji

Raptors Notes: Porter, Agbaji, Size, March, Barrett

Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. defended his brother — Raptors forward Jontay Porter — who is at the center of an NBA investigation regarding betting irregularities, according to ESPN. The elder Porter said his younger brother Jontay wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize his NBA career.

The investigation is the result of prop bets involving Jontay on Jan. 26 and March 20, games in which he exited early and his unders were described by DraftKings as the No. 1 money-making bet in each of those games. Jontay hasn’t publicly addressed the situation and has missed the past three games for personal reasons. He’s averaging 4.4 points and 3.2 rebounds in 26 games (five starts) on a two-way deal with the Raptors this season.

Michael Porter Jr. said he had no more details than the media did but that he vouched for Jontay, who has been more than happy to be in Toronto on a two-way deal this season.

Jontay loves the game of basketball… I’ve known my brother my whole life. I know what type of dude he is and I know he’s excited to play basketball, and I highly doubt he would do anything to put that in jeopardy,” said Michael, who also discussed how betting affects players, including how they receive backlash if they don’t play up to the bettors’ standards.

So, it’s a part of the game now. I think that it’s obviously a dangerous habit. It’s a dangerous vice for people,” he said. “You know, the love of money is the root of all evil. So, I think that even though it is a thing, we as players just have to accept that. We get paid a lot of money to play this game, and I know these people, these fans, they want to make some money, as well. It’s definitely something that has kind of taken over the sporting world — I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing.

We have more from the Raptors:

  • Ochai Agbaji had a scary fall on Wednesday against the Knicks, landing hard on his back and being down for several minutes before being helped to the locker room, The New York Post’s Peter Botte observes. Agbaji did not return with a right hip contusion. After the game, head coach Darko Rajakovic said Agbaji got X-rays but they didn’t show any signs of a fracture. “For a second it was really scary because he couldn’t move at all,” Rajakovic said. Agbaji won’t play on Sunday, according to The Athletic’s Eric Koreen (Twitter link), but he’s all good and seems to mainly just be sore.
  • After trading away OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa, the Raptors are lacking in size, Sportsnet.ca’s Michael Grange writes. Jakob Poeltl, Chris Boucher and Scottie Barnes, as well as Agbaji and Porter, are out. That left the Raptors with just Kelly Olynyk, Jalen McDaniels and Jordan Nwora as the only players on the standard roster available on Wednesday who were 6’8″ or above — 6’9″ two-way forward Mouhamadou Gueye was available as well.
  • The Raptors are heading into their final game of March at 1-13 in the month, with the sole win coming in a five-point home win over the 18-55 Hornets. This month has also featured losses to the 14-60 Wizards and 13-61 Pistons, as well as the franchise’s record for biggest home loss set two different times (41 points on March 5 against the Pelicans and 44 points on Wednesday against New York). As Koreen writes, the Raptors were on pace for 31 wins at the time of Barnes’ injury and they’ve been without their four most important players. Koreen opines that even though this month has been abysmal, it shouldn’t make fans doubt the Anunoby or Pascal Siakam trades, noting that the Raptors at least have a direction after three straight middling seasons.
  • RJ Barrett had his first media session on Friday following the tragic passing of his brother. “Basketball is my sanctuary, so this actually brings me peace,” Barrett said. “It helps me every day to be here, and also just be on a schedule and just be around the guys. Hanging out with your teammates… they’re funny, you get to hang out with them, you get to go practice and even support the guys when I’m not playing. Whatever it is, just being around has been helping a lot.” The Raptors organization and his teammates have tried to support Barrett and were all on hand for the funeral last week in Ontario, according to Grange.

Atlantic Notes: Trent, Porzingis, Barclays, Jones

The reeling Raptors appear doomed for an NBA draft lottery return this summer, but there are still plenty of reasons to pay attention to the team down the stretch, contends Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

Chief among them, argues Koreen, is watching combo guard Gary Trent Jr. make his push towards a lucrative new contract in free agency. As Koreen notes, Trent is enjoying a particularly prolific scoring run right now.

Koreen wonders if Trent will fetch something around the league’s mid-level exception, projected to be around $13MM, or something significantly more than that. He also writes glowingly about young new trade acquisition Ochai Agbaji, as well as intriguing 10-day signing Jahmi’us Ramsey.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics’ strategy of conserving the minutes of oft-injured center Kristaps Porzingis as he returns from a hamstring injury worked swimmingly against the Pistons, per Brian Robb of MassLive.com. Porzingis played for the first time since incurring a hamstring strain that sidelined him for 11 days. He logged just 22 minutes, but scored 20 points while shooting 7-of-14 from the floor. He also grabbed eight boards.. “It felt great,” Porzingis said. “Yeah, just different because I had the minutes restriction. Just different spurts of playing. I barely played in the first and then in the second I had a longer stretch. Something unusual, but other than that it’s always good to be out there.”
  • Barclays Center owner BSE Global announced that it will undertake work on some major renovations to the Nets‘ homecourt, per Lucas Kaplan of Nets. The project will reportedly include building out some fresh, premium fan clubs.
  • New Sixers big man Kai Jones is looking forward to his opportunity to play for a contender after an emotionally trying offseason, he said during an interview with Shams Charania of Stadium (Twitter video link). After demanding a trade from the Hornets ahead of the season, Jones was cut instead. He explained to Charania that he has suffered some close personal losses and is now in therapy. “I didn’t want to die,” Jones reflected.

Atlantic Notes: Maxey, Sixers, Simmons, Barnes, Agbaji

Tyrese Maxey capped a rare weekend at home by leading the Sixers to a win at Dallas on Sunday afternoon, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Garland, Texas, native had a large contingent of family members in the crowd to watch his 24-point performance in a much-needed road victory. He had an injury scare when he was struck in the back of the head late in the third quarter, but he said the presence of his family inspired him to keep playing.

“I will say this, when I did hit my head, I saw my twin nieces,” Maxey said. “They were up, like, ‘Boy, you better get up and you better be OK, or we’re coming down there.’”

Pompey notes that Maxey has been forced to become Philadelphia’s primary scorer in the wake of Joel Embiid‘s meniscus injury. At the beginning of the season, coach Nick Nurse wanted Maxey to focus on running the offense and improving his defense. But the loss of Embiid created a need for Maxey to carry more of the offensive load, and the recent addition of Kyle Lowry has taken away some of his play-making duties.

“He’s clearly our best offensive player, like, clearly, and we need him to shoot a lot,” Nurse said. “And he’s still not quite thinking, ‘I’m coming down, I’m going to shoot it like five times in a row if I make one.’ I’m still pushing the aggressive part of it first and foremost, because it’s really not his total nature yet.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Sixers have won back-to-back games since Nurse inserted Lowry and Mohamed Bamba into the starting lineup, Pompey notes in a separate story. Backup big man Paul Reed is coming off the bench again like he was when Embiid was healthy. “I think he’s comfortable in that role,” Maxey said. “That’s the role he plays when the big fella is here. So I think it just got him going. He was out there playing with a lot more energy. I think he likes the new role.”
  • Ben Simmons remains on the Nets‘ injury report, although the reason has changed, per Jared Schwartz of The New York Post. Simmons missed the last two games with left leg soreness and sat out the game before that due to rest and maintenance because he hasn’t received medical clearance to play in back-to-backs. He has been ruled out for tonight with a left lower back nerve impingement, a condition that caused him to miss a significant chunk of time earlier this season, tweets Ian Begley of SNY.
  • Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic said “nothing is off the table” in terms of treatment for Scottie Barnes, who fractured a bone in his left hand last week, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. Barnes’ absence has already created an opportunity for Ochai Agbaji, acquired from Utah at the trade deadline, who made his first start with Toronto Sunday night.

Atlantic Notes: Brunson, Knicks, Olynyk, Agbaji, Brown, Sixers

The Knicks appear to have avoided an injury scare with Jalen Brunson, as the All-Star point guard returned to the lineup on Saturday following a one-game absence due to an ankle sprain. Brunson showed no ill effects from the injury, scoring 39 points on 14-of-25 shooting, per Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post.

Despite Brunson’s return and the debuts of newly acquired role players Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks, the Knicks remained shorthanded due to injuries and lost on Saturday to Indiana, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. The team is especially banged up in the frontcourt, where Precious Achiuwa was forced to play 43 minutes vs. the Pacers. With Mitchell Robinson, Julius Randle, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Jericho Sims all inactive, Taj Gibson logged 19 minutes on the first day of his second 10-day contract with New York.

“I thought for the first game (with the new additions), there were some obviously good things and obviously there’s a lot for them to adjust to. As a team, I think we have to do a lot better,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We’re shorthanded. We’re going to have to play a lot harder and a lot tougher.”

While their first game with the Knicks didn’t go as planned, both Bogdanovic and Burks expressed excitement about the opportunity to join a playoff team after spending the first half of the season with the league-worst Pistons. According to Botte, Burks – a former Knick – didn’t want to leave New York in the first place and said repeatedly that he’s “glad to be back.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • As Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca details, new Raptors Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbaji both have connections to the franchise — Olynyk grew up in Toronto rooting for the Raptors, while Agbaji’s father is old friends with team president Masai Ujiri. The two former Jazz players expressed excitement about their new circumstances, with Agbaji suggesting it feels like a “fresh new start” and Olynyk noting that he and the Raptors have had mutual interest in the past. “It’s always been on our radar, both of our radars,” the big man said. “I think maybe it’s been close [before], but it’s hard for me to know [for sure]… But [now that] it did happen, it’s pretty awesome.”
  • Raptors wing Bruce Brown was considered one of the top trade candidates on the market leading up to the deadline, but he ended up staying put. He’s happy with that outcome, as Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca tweets. “It feels great, it feels great,” said Brown, whose contract includes a $23MM team option for 2024/25. “Obviously it’s nice to have some stability. … I”m glad to be here for the rest of the season and then try and work things out.”
  • Although the Raptors were enthusiastic about the moves they made on the trade market, they’ve completed a full-fledged overhaul of their roster in the past six weeks or so, and their lack of continuity showed in Saturday’s blowout loss to Cleveland, Grange writes at Sportsnet.ca. “Obviously, it’s really tough,” Olynyk said. “You don’t know really what’s going on on both ends of the floor. I think that was probably pretty evident in the first half.”
  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer takes a look at a “whirlwind” couple days for Sixers trade deadline additions Buddy Hield and Cameron Payne, who played significant minutes as starters for an injury-depleted Philadelphia team on Friday, then helped lead their new club to a victory in Washington on Saturday.

Raptors Notes: Deadline, Brown, Olynyk, Agbaji, Trent, Dinwiddie, Barnes

The Raptors made a pair of deals on deadline day, but they did their most significant work on the trade market earlier in the season when they sent OG Anunoby to New York and Pascal Siakam to Indiana. In the view of general manager Bobby Webster, Thursday’s moves were more about balancing the roster a little and preparing for the offseason, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca relays.

“We did our heavy lifting about a month ago,” Webster said. “So I feel like this trade deadline we cleaned up a lot of things and we addressed some of the things we talked about after the OG and Pascal trades.”

The new-look Raptors currently have an 18-33 record, the sixth-worst mark in the league. A poor finish to the season could put them in position to hang onto their own 2024 first-round pick, which will be sent to San Antonio if it doesn’t land in the top six.

However, as Webster pointed out on Thursday, the NBA’s lottery system offers no assurances – the sixth-worst team is more likely to end up in the No. 7-9 range than to pick in the top six – so there will be no effort to game the system down the stretch. Toronto’s focus will be on developing young talent and getting the new core players familiar with one another.

“We’re going to prioritize seeing this group play,” Webster said. “If it ends up that we’re in the top six, sure. But especially with the way the new NBA rules are, to try to game that doesn’t make a ton of sense. At the end of the day, it’s going to [come down to] the lottery balls. I think the big priority for us is playing that young group together, getting (2023 lottery pick) Gradey (Dick) in there with that group, seeing how they fit together because that will give us a lot more information about how to build this team and what moves to make this summer.”

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Toronto was seeking a first-round pick beyond 2024 for Bruce Brown and didn’t want to take back multiyear money, according to Lewenberg. With no team willing to meet that asking price, the Raptors hung onto the veteran wing, whose deal includes a $23MM team option for next season. “Had we gotten the offers we wanted for Bruce we would’ve done something,” Webster said (Twitter link). “At the same time, Bruce is 27, he has a really interesting contract, he provides a professionalism and toughness that we value, and there’s options with Bruce this summer.”
  • The Raptors will look to sign newly acquired big man Kelly Olynyk to a new contract and keep him beyond the current season, sources tell Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Webster said on Thursday that Olynyk wants to be in his hometown of Toronto, per Eric Koreen of The Athletic. “We’ve been big fans of Kelly,” Webster said. “I think the way we view him specifically is he’s a steady hand and I think we’ve seen it with the bench units, especially with the bigs, he’s going to provide a skill set of veteran presence, a voice that we think that unit could use some help with.”
  • Reiterating that the Raptors never intended to use all the 2024 draft picks they controlled, Webster suggested the team was happy to use one of those lesser assets to acquire Olynyk and to add a young player in Ochai Agbaji, tweets Lewenberg. Webster described Agbaji as a “hard-working, high-character” player with “a lot of upside.”
  • Gary Trent Jr., who is on an expiring contact, remained with the Raptors through the trade deadline. Webster said the plans for Trent are “a little TBD” and that the team is looking forward to evaluating him down the stretch (Twitter link via Lewenberg).
  • The decision to waive Spencer Dinwiddie after acquiring him from Brooklyn means that Scottie Barnes will get more point guard reps the rest of the way, according to Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter). Murphy adds that Toronto intends to fill its two open 15-man roster spots and will consider all avenues, including prospects from the G League and overseas.
  • In a story for Sportsnet.ca, Murphy explores how the Raptors’ latest in-season trades alter their salary cap outlook going forward.

Raptors Acquire Olynyk, Agbaji From Jazz For 2024 First-Round Pick

2:52pm: The trade is official, the Raptors and Jazz announced in a pair of press releases.

9:38am: The Jazz have agreed to trade center Kelly Olynyk and wing Ochai Agbaji to the Raptors, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). According to Wojnarowski, Utah will receive Kira Lewis, Otto Porter, and a 2024 first-round pick from Toronto in the deal.

That 2024 first-rounder will be the least favorable of the Thunder’s, Clippers’, Rockets’, and Jazz’s picks, per Wojnarowski (Twitter link), so it figures to land near the end of the first round. Utah’s pick is top-10 protected, meaning there’s a scenario in which the Jazz end up hanging onto their own first-rounder and receive a separate pick (likely OKC’s or L.A.’s) as a result of this deal.

While it’s a little surprising to see a lottery-bound team like the Raptors surrender a first-round pick, the deal will net them a solid big man in Olynyk and a promising young prospect in Agbaji, who was the 14th overall pick in the 2022 draft.

Assuming the Raptors intend to hang onto Olynyk, the Toronto native will become the ninth Canadian to play for the franchise and will provide some depth in a frontcourt that’s relatively thin behind Jakob Poeltl. A forward/center who can stretch the floor, Olynyk is averaging 8.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, and a career-high 4.4 assists in 20.4 minutes per game across 50 appearances this season. The 32-year-old has made 42.9% of his three-pointers, boosting his career rate to 37.0%.

Olynyk is on an expiring contract, but the Raptors will control his Bird rights this offseason, giving them the ability to go over the cap to re-sign him or to figure out a sign-and-trade.

As for Agbaji, the young wing hasn’t shown much offensive game since entering the league last season, but is a solid defender who still has room to grow and is under contract through 2026. The Raptors have liked Agbaji for a while, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca, and presumably view him as the type of player who can develop alongside the team’s young core of Scottie Barnes, Immanuel Quickley, and RJ Barrett.

The Jazz and Raptors had reportedly been discussing a similar deal that would have included Bruce Brown – rather than a first-round pick – going to Utah. However, Toronto controlled an excess of picks in a 2024 draft that the club isn’t believed to be especially high on, while the Jazz are at risk of losing their own ’24 first-round selection, so the inclusion of the low first-rounder makes some sense.

The Raptors still own the Pacers’ first-round pick and the Pistons’ second-round pick in 2024, and would hang onto their own first-rounder if it ends up in the top six.

Lewis’ salary couldn’t be aggregated in a trade after being acquired from Indiana last month, but that won’t be necessary, since Porter’s $6.3MM cap hit is enough on its own to match Olynyk’s $12.2MM incoming salary, while Lewis’ $5.7MM salary will be used to match Agbaji’s $4.1MM cap hit.

It remains to be seen whether the Jazz will hang onto Lewis and/or Porter for the rest of the season. Lewis is a former lottery pick and Porter has had some strong seasons as a three-and-D wing, but both players have battled injuries in recent years and haven’t played much outside of garbage time in 2023/24.

Jazz, Raptors Discussing Bruce Brown Trade

The Jazz have entered the competition to acquire Bruce Brown from the Raptors, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

Sources tell Fischer that the teams are discussing the framework of a deal that would send Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbaji to Toronto in exchange for Brown. Draft assets could also be included, as Fischer notes that the Raptors have been insisting on a first-round pick in discussions about Brown with other teams.

Olynyk has a $12.2MM expiring contract and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The 32-year-old big man is a native of Toronto and a member of the Canadian national team, so he might be inclined to re-sign with the Raptors in hopes of finishing his career in his hometown. After starting for the Jazz last season, Olynyk has moved into mostly a reserve role this year and is averaging 8.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 20.4 minutes per game.

Agbaji, who was acquired from Cleveland in the Donovan Mitchell trade, is in his second NBA season. The 22-year-old shooting guard has been fighting for playing time in Utah’s crowded backcourt and is averaging 5.4 points and 2.5 rebounds in 19.7 minutes per night. The 14th pick in the 2022 draft, Agbaji remains on his rookie contract and will earn $4.3MM next season with a $6.4MM team option for 2025/26.

The Lakers and Knicks have been rumored as Brown’s top pursuers, and Fischer suggests that if he winds up in Utah, it will be an indication that L.A. might not make a significant move before this year’s deadline. Fischer points out that the Lakers will be in a better position to add talent this summer when they’ll have three tradable first-round picks to offer.

Utah has already started to shake up its roster, agreeing to send forward Simone Fontecchio to the Pistons earlier today in exchange for a 2024 second-round pick.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Sharpe, SGA, Agbaji

Fans welcomed Bucks guard Damian Lillard back to Portland Wednesday night with a minute-long standing ovation, writes Jamal Collier of ESPN. The long-time franchise icon remains a popular figure in the city, even after a trade request that led to a summer of rumors and a standoff with management. Lillard expressed his love for Trail Blazers fans and suggested that he would like to return to the organization before his career is over.

“Because of how I feel about Portland,” he said. “How I feel about the organization here and my time that I spent here, in my mind I’ve always felt like that’s how my career would end. Right now, I’m just in a space of like, this is where I am now. I’m in Milwaukee. I wanted the opportunity to contend, and our team has an opportunity to contend for this year and years to come, and I’m just living in that. But I definitely, when I was traded, I see a day where I’ll be in a Trail Blazer uniform again before I’m done.”

Lillard asked to leave because he wants the chance to compete for a championship and he believed the Blazers’ front office was more focused on rebuilding. He admits that his relationship with the team became contentious and says he hasn’t talked to general manager Joe Cronin since the deal with Milwaukee was completed. He added that he still follows the team, particularly Anfernee Simons, whom he helped to mentor.

“You just feel the appreciation and the love,” Lillard said after the game. “I just kind of stood in it. It was like, man, this is a big deal. Just take that moment and to have everybody in the building just show me that type of love, acknowledgement of a lot of things during my time here. So, I appreciated it.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Trail Blazers guard Shaedon Sharpe is making progress in his recovery from a lower abdominal strain and will begin “light on-court activities,” the team announced on Twitter. Sharpe has been sidelined since suffering the injury in a January 11 game.
  • Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was surprised to be named an All-Star starter ahead of Stephen Curry, but his teammates recognize that the honor is well deserved, notes Marc J. Spears of Andscape. “Everybody has bought in, but it starts with him,” Chet Holmgren said. “Leadership has to start with the guy we’re looking at from the time we walk into the gym until we leave. He is one of those dudes and he stepped into that role extremely well.”
  • Ochai Agbaji is battling a shooting slump, but his contributions on defense have kept him in the Jazz lineup, per Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. “It is kind of tough,” he said. “Trying to stay ready and having in my mind that I need to get a make, and trying to make the right moves and knowing I don’t have the luxury of a lot of shots is hard. But you still have to stay ready and keep your mind right and just be ready to shoot.”

Jazz’s John Collins Reportedly On Trade Block

The Jazz are open to trading forward John Collins, a team source tells Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune (subscriber link).

The news is somewhat surprising, since Utah just traded for Collins in July. Still, the Jazz only gave up a second-round pick to acquire the 26-year-old, who was essentially salary dumped by the Hawks after being involved in rumors for years.

As Larsen explains, the Jazz have been “frustrated” by Collins’ “slow uptake” on learning the team’s system on both offense and defense. He also has the worst net rating differential on the team (minus-11.8), and hasn’t provided much beyond his solid shooting and rebounding, says Larsen.

However, Collins’ “iffy” performance early in 2023/24 — plus the $77MM he’s owed over the next three years — could make it difficult for the Jazz to find a trade partner, according to Larsen. Utah acquired the seven-year veteran to either have him as long-term piece or to flip him in the future for a positive return. Both of those scenarios seem unlikely at this point.

Here are a few more Jazz notes and rumors from Larsen:

  • Aside from Collins, guards Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton are also in Larsen’s “more likely to be traded” category, and he notes that a previous report from Michael Scotto of HoopsHype indicated that Talen Horton-Tucker and Kelly Olynyk could be on the trade block too. Clarkson, Sexton and Horton-Tucker are all guards who “have had a penchant for over-dribbling, turnovers, and poor shot selection” in ’23/24, Larsen writes. Utah likes Sexton’s intensity and effort, but is looking for long-term backcourt members “who are more natural play-makers or have more defensive size.”
  • Scotto reported that the Jazz could be in the market for a veteran point guard, but Larsen hears they’d only be interested if the price is right. The team’s disappointing start will likely have the front office prioritizing the future over a big win-now splash unless a superstar becomes available, per Larsen.
  • The Jazz are unlikely to trade for Bulls guard Zach LaVine “unless it comes at a bargain-basement price,” the source tells Larsen.
  • As for the players the team wants to keep, that group features Lauri Markkanen, Keyonte George, Taylor Hendricks, Walker Kessler and Ochai Agbaji, according to Larsen. Hendricks was selected ninth overall in June’s draft, but has spent most of the season in the G League. However, the Jazz are strong believers in his potential, and declined “an otherwise promising trade opportunity” involving Hendricks over the summer, Larsen reports.

Jazz Notes: George, Offense, LaVine, Hendricks

The Jazz wound up losing Friday’s in-season tournament game to Phoenix, 131-128. That dropped Utah’s record to 4-8, including 2-1 in the tournament.

Despite the loss, Friday’s contest was a good showcase of how well Utah’s offense has been clicking since making a couple of changes to the starting lineup, writes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune.

The first change came by choice, with first-round pick Keyonte George replacing Talen Horton-Tucker at point guard. The second choice came out of necessity — Walker Kessler is sidelined with an elbow injury, and head coach Will Hardy decided to add more spacing by starting second-year wing Ochai Agbaji.

George has averaged 11.0 points and 8.3 assists over his four starts, while only turning the ball over eight times. According to Larsen, the 20-year-old has an impressive two-man game with Jordan Clarkson, who has been on an absolute tear since the change was made, averaging 31.5 points on .552/.445/1.000 shooting over the past four games.

Having a strong floor general and five shooters on the court has created room for Clarkson and Lauri Markkanen to operate, Larsen notes, with John Collins sliding up to center after Kessler was injured.

Here’s more on the Jazz:

  • In the same story from Larsen, Hardy said he’s not sure who will start once Kessler returns. “We’re not exactly sure when Walker will be back, but it’s gonna be a big decision for us,” he said. “What we do with the lineups — you know, we always get caught up talking about the starters — but I think we’re just going to have to figure out how to blend it all together. Nothing’s really off the table at this point. … Offensively, you know, we have seen a pretty good flow right now. It’s been good for John. But Walker also hasn’t played a ton with Keyonte. So it’s hard to say right now.”
  • There haven’t been any rumors linking Zach LaVine to the Jazz, but Tony Jones of The Athletic considers the pros and cons of the team making a run at the two-time All-Star, writing that Utah hopes to return to the playoffs sooner rather than later, which is why the team was in the mix for Jrue Holiday before he was sent to Boston. Utah’s young core and strong offense could be good fits for LaVine’s game, but giving up assets to acquire a player on a long-term max contract who isn’t known for his defense may not appeal to the front office, according to Jones.
  • While George, who was selected 16th overall in June’s draft, has been seeing heavy minutes for the Jazz, that hasn’t been the case for fellow rookie Taylor Hendricks, who was the ninth selection. Sarah Todd of The Deseret News takes a look at the development plan for the team’s lottery pick, who has opened the season in the G League with Utah’s NBA G League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars.