Olivier-Maxence Prosper

Western Notes: Williamson, Wolves, Prosper, Tate

The 44-point loss to the Lakers during the in-season tournament proved to be a turning point for the Pelicans, according to Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times Picayune. Zion Williamson was heavily criticized by announcers and analysts for subpar conditioning and he took those harsh words to heart. Williamson appeared in his 70th game of the season on Sunday, a career high.

“I feel great,” Williamson said prior to the Pelicans’ loss to the Lakers on Sunday. “I’m having fun. In terms of stacking my days, it’s doing all the little things. Recovery. Extra recovery. Conditioning. Extra conditioning. Then when we are in practice, bringing a high intensity, so my body can be used to that.”

The December loss also inspired the rest of the Pelicans. “Sometimes you need to get your (butt) kicked on a national stage,” CJ McCollum said. “You hope it doesn’t happen. But when it does, it’s really interesting to see how everyone responds. You got two things you can do: You can fold or you can rise to the occasion. I think we have a group that genuinely rose to the occasion.”

The Lakers and Pelicans will match up once again during the play-in tournament on Tuesday.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Timberwolves are a more mature team heading into this year’s playoffs, Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune opines. They don’t have any major injury issues at the moment and Scoggins doesn’t feel the team’s ownership dispute will be a distraction. The Timberwolves have earned respect around the league and created a buzz in their home state but need a strong playoff run to validate their regular season showing.
  • Mavericks rookie Olivier-Maxence Prosper received his first career start on Sunday. Prosper had a 16-point, six-rebound, two-steal outing in 29 minutes against the Pistons on Sunday. He spent a good portion of the season in the G League and believes that fostered his development, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News writes. “You guys know my story this year,” he said. “Playing up and down in the G – I see the improvement in my game. I see how much more comfortable I feel out there and more poised.”
  • The Rockets’ win over the Trail Blazers on Friday proved to be a nice payday for forward Jae’Sean Tate. He gained a $500K bonus due to his team winning 40 games this season, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets.

Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, Mavs’ Trade Prospects, Matkovic, Udoka

Thirteen of the Grizzlies‘ 15 players on standard contracts were sidelined by injuries for Sunday’s 40-point loss at Boston, writes Damichael Cole of The Commercial Appeal. David Roddy and Luke Kennard were joined by three players on two-way contracts and three others on 10-day hardship deals as Memphis barely met the requirement of having eight active players for the game.

Coach Taylor Jenkins unveiled a makeshift starting lineup — his 30th of the season — consisting of Roddy, Kennard, G.G. Jackson, Trey Jemison and Jacob Gilyard. Jemison picked up two fouls in the game’s first minute, leaving 6’9″ forward Tosan Evbuomwan to match up with 7’3″ Kristaps Porzingis.

While the Grizzlies were clearly overmatched, some players are taking advantage of the opportunity. Cole singles out Jackson, who became the focus of the offense and scored 18 points on 24 shots, and Scotty Pippen Jr., who led the team with 19 points off the bench, as two who stood out.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Finding a power forward with size — preferably one who can shoot from the outside and contribute on both ends of the court — is the Mavericks‘ priority heading into Thursday’s trade deadline, multiple sources tell Tim Cato of The Athletic. He adds that the team could also use a backup center who can protect the rim, noting that Dallas is often forced to play zone against larger teams. Cato points out that rivals such as the Thunder and Jazz may be in the market for similar players and have more assets to offer than Dallas does.
  • Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News also assesses the Mavericks‘ trade outlook, observing that the 2027 pick is the team’s only tradeable first-rounder and suggesting that Josh Green, Jaden Hardy or Olivier-Maxence Prosper would likely have to be included in any significant deal.
  • As expected, Pelicans prospect Karlo Matkovic has left his KK Cedevita Olimpija team and is headed to New Orleans, according to Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops. Matkovic’s role with the organization hasn’t been defined publicly, but the Pelicans have one opening on their 15-man roster and Malcolm Hill‘s 10-day contract is about to expire. It’s also possible that Matkovic, a 6’11” power forward/center, will be signed to a G League deal and join the organization’s affiliate in Birmingham.
  • Rockets coach Ime Udoka was disappointed after watching his offense sputter against one of the league’s best defenses in Sunday’s loss at Minnesota, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “The lack of reaction was not making the easy play, making the easy pass to a teammate, driving into a crowd, trying to play through double-teams,” Udoka said. “A four-point game at half, we talked about … all these open shots that we left on the table by driving to a crowd (against) the No. 1 team defensively, top five in packing the paint, protecting the paint, what they give up in the paint.”

Mavericks Notes: Irving, Williams, Prosper, Kuzma, Grant

So far, the Mavericks’ decision to re-sign Kyrie Irving is paying off, Tim MacMahon of ESPN writes. The Mavs currently rank sixth in the Western Conference standings and are considered a dangerous playoff matchup due to their dynamic backcourt.

“I feel like a lot of people misjudged me,” Irving told MacMahon. “Dallas gave me a chance to just focus on the main thing, which is being the best basketball player when I stepped foot here, and then off the court still support me.”

Irving has often come through in the clutch in close games this season, MacMahon notes. Irving feels an on-court connection to Luka Doncic.

“He’s a winner. I’m a winner,” Irving said. “He’s a big gamer. I’m a big gamer. We like going against the best. That’s where I feel like we connect.”

We have more on the Mavs:

  • Grant Williams doesn’t like talking about it, but injuries could be the cause of his inconsistent first season with the club, according to Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. Acquired in a sign-and-trade with Boston, Williams lost his starting job after missing one game with a right knee bruise and two more with soreness in the same knee. He also missed a game early this month with a right ankle sprain. “You’ve got to stay disciplined, keep the work and keep being mindful of every little thing that’s going on. No matter the health, no matter what’s going on off the floor, you have to approach every single day like it could be your last,” Williams said. “No matter if I’m 100%, 60% or 50%, I’m gonna give this team all I have. If it’s 50, hopefully that 50 was valuable enough to help us get a win.”
  • First-round pick Olivier-Maxence Prosper could be the answer to the team’s defensive issues, Noah Weber of TheSmokingCuban.com argues. The team could use his rebounding and positional size, Weber writes, noting that Prosper is 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and solid frame. “I want to guard the best players in the world,” Prosper said. “This is just a stepping stone towards that. I believe I will be that [a defensive anchor] for the Mavs.” Prosper has appeared in 23 games but none since Jan. 5.
  • Breaking down the roster and the team’s assets, ESPN’s Bobby Marks explains in his video trade guide (Twitter link) why it’s unlikely the team can put together a package for a starting power forward like the Wizards’ Kyle Kuzma or the Trail Blazers’ Jerami Grant.

Southwest Notes: Sengun, Mavs, LaVine, Zion, More

Alperen Sengun‘s growing importance to the Rockets has been on display during the first few weeks of the 2023/24 season, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required).

Sengun has averaged 19.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in 31.4 minutes per game while making 60.0% of his field goal tries through nine contests. Houston has a +10.7 net rating when the young center is on the court, compared to -5.1 when he sits. Sengun will be eligible for a rookie scale extension in the summer of 2024 and appears to be steadily increasing his value with his strong play in the middle for the Rockets.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Although the Mavericks have been linked to Zach LaVine in the past, a league source tells Marc Stein (Substack link) that Dallas is unlikely to pursue a trade for the Bulls guard at this time.
  • Rookie forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper believes he’s ready for an increased role if the Mavericks decide to lean on him a little more with Maxi Kleber sidelined, he tells Noah Weber of The Smoking Cuban. “I’ve put in the work. A lot of hours behind the scenes that nobody has seen,” Prosper said. “… Whatever my opportunity is, I’m going to come in and do what my role is; impact the game defensively, rebound, and knock down open shots. … I feel like I fit great [next to Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving]. Being a strong physical wing that can come in and help them defensively and on offense be able to knock down shots, cut, get to the rim, get fouled. I feel like I play great off of those two.”
  • After Zion Williamson referred earlier this week to taking a “back seat” in the Pelicans‘ new offense and doing his best “to buy in,” Christian Clark of NOLA.com notes that the stats don’t back up Williamson’s assertion — his usage rate is a career-high 30.6% and he’s taking more shots per 36 minutes than he has since his rookie year. Williamson’s remarks hint at bigger problems that he and the Pelicans will need to solve, opines Will Guillory of The Athletic.
  • Top Pelicans assistant James Borrego assumed head coaching duties on Tuesday vs. Dallas with Willie Green unavailable due to a non-COVID illness (Twitter link). Borrego earned a victory in his first game as head coach since being let go by Charlotte in 2022.

Southwest Notes: Z. Williams, Adams, Mavs, Vassell

Following a promising rookie season in 2021/22, Ziaire Williams battled injuries and was limited to just 37 games in ’22/23 — and he was inconsistent when he did play, with his shooting percentages dropping across the board. That down year would seemingly make him a long shot to crack the Grizzlies‘ starting five this fall, but he’s making a case for that open lineup spot with his defensive play in training camp, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“I talked to him after practice about how he’s doing a great job in situations using his length, using his mobility,” head coach Taylor Jenkins said earlier this week. “His attention to detail has been spot-on right now defensively.”

According to Cole, making an All-Defensive team and being named Most Improved Player are among Williams’ lofty goals for the season. While those accolades may ultimately prove out of reach, he’s determined to avoid a repeat of last season, telling reporters that he worked hard this summer and is now stronger and weighs more than at any other time in his playing career.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Coming off a right knee injury, Grizzlies center Steven Adams was a full participant in scrimmages on Thursday and showed no ill effects of his long recovery process, per Cole of The Commercial Appeal. “He’s looked great,” teammate Luke Kennard said. “He’s done everything. Every drill, all the scrimmages and he’s been dominant down low. He looks good to me.”
  • Although Jason Kidd has trended to trust veterans over young players in the past, Tim Cato of The Athletic believes the Mavericks‘ head coach may have a longer leash with Dereck Lively II and Olivier-Maxence Prosper, two defensive-minded rookies who will know not to try to do too much on offense.
  • Devin Vassell isn’t a perfect player, but based on the improvements he has made since entering the league and the rising NBA salary cap, he’s worth the five-year, $135MM+ contract extension the Spurs signed him to this week, says Sam Vecenie of The Athletic. As Vecenie points out, by the end of the deal, Vecenie should be earning approximately 15% of the cap, which is about what players like Myles Turner, Bruce Brown, and Mikal Bridges are currently making.

Stein’s Latest: Lillard, Raptors, Hield, Lively, Howard

There’s a growing belief around the league that the Raptors have legitimate interest in trading for Damian Lillard, Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack column (subscription required).

There has been skepticism over Toronto’s desire to make a deal, Stein adds, considering that the front office hasn’t been active even though trade rumors have been swirling around the team since January, particularly regarding Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. He notes that any remaining uncertainty is related to Lillard’s strong preference for Miami over every other market.

Stein compares the Lillard situation to the Raptors’ pursuit of Kawhi Leonard five years ago. Unlike Leonard, who was entering the final year of his contract, Lillard is signed for four more years and is owed nearly $220MM. Toronto also doesn’t have the foundation in place to compete for a title with one more big move, the way it did when it traded for Leonard.

Stein believes the Trail Blazers would prefer to wrap up the summer-long Lillard saga before the team’s media day next Monday. However, negotiations with the Heat are on hold as they and many other teams around the league think about preserving their assets for a potential run at Giannis Antetokounmpo or any other star who might become available.

Portland doesn’t want to part with Lillard for less than his market value, Stein adds, but the alternative is to deal with the distractions that will come with keeping him for training camp and beyond.

Stein shares more inside information from around the league:

  • Several NBA executives disagree with Stein’s statement on his radio show that the Pacers can get a future first-round pick for Buddy Hield. Stein says he talked to several front office people who believe Hield’s expiring $19.3MM contract will limit his trade value because of the uncertainty about re-signing him. They see his ceiling as multiple second-rounders.
  • Appearing on Stein’s show, Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said rookie center Dereck Lively II will get an opportunity to win a starting job in training camp. Stein notes that Dallas pursued the Hawks’ Clint Capela and the Suns’ Deandre Ayton during the offseason, but wasn’t able to work out a deal for a veteran big man. Christian Wood left in free agency and JaVale McGee was waived, leaving Dwight Powell as the only incumbent center on the roster. Richaun Holmes was acquired in a draft night trade, and Maxi Kleber may see time as a small-ball five.
  • Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving and Grant Williams are the Mavericks‘ only definite starters heading into camp, added Kidd, who said first-round pick Olivier-Maxence Prosper will also compete for a starting job. “I look for those rookies to play a lot this season,” Kidd told Stein. “They’re going to be a part of our fabric.”
  • Dwight Howard‘s interview with the Warriors last week wasn’t the first time he has thought about joining the team. Stein recalls that Golden State wanted to sign Howard when he became a free agent in 2013, and he even worked out that summer with Stephen Curry, but he chose the Rockets instead.

Southwest Notes: Capela, Mavericks, Cissoko, Grizzlies

The Mavericks are still in the market for a veteran center and would like to acquire Clint Capela from the Hawks as the third team in a potential Pascal Siakam deal, Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack column.

Atlanta has been pursuing the Toronto forward in trade talks, but an offer centered around De’Andre Hunter may not be enough. The Hawks could be willing to include Capela, who has two years left on his contract at a total of about $43MM, but the Raptors don’t need another high-priced center after re-signing Jakob Poeltl. Stein suggests that Dallas could either try to facilitate the deal or work out a separate trade with Toronto involving Capela.

The Mavs attempted to acquire Capela from the Hawks in June, according to Stein, but they refused to part with Josh Green along with the 10th pick in the draft.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Summer League coach Jared Dudley was impressed with both of the Mavericks‘ rookies, grading Dereck Lively II a “seven out of 10” and Olivier-Maxence Prosper a “nine out of 10,” per Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com. “Lively will get there. He has potential. He’s going to be the starting center of the Mavericks one day,” Dudley said. “O-Max is right there. The three-and-D guys, it’s easier to transition. Offense, he’s a bull going at you. He has to work on his decision-making a little when he gets in the paint. But myself and the Dallas Mavericks are happy with what they did.”
  • Spurs rookie Sidy Cissoko‘s ability to attack the basket has stood out during Summer League, observes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. The French forward prepared for the NBA by spending last season in the G League. “I didn’t change my game,” he said. “In my (pre-draft) workouts, I was doing the same thing almost every time. I have this in my game, so I just repeat it over and over. If it is still working, I will not change it.”
  • Jake LaRavia, David Roddy and Ziaire Williams are all possibilities to be the Grizzlies‘ starting small forward when the season begins, according to Damichael Cole of The Commercial Appeal. Memphis didn’t bring in anyone to replace Dillon Brooks after he signed with Houston, so there’s not an obvious choice for the position. Cole adds that once Ja Morant returns from his suspension, he may start alongside Marcus Smart in the backcourt with Desmond Bane sliding to small forward.

Mavericks’ Olivier-Maxence Prosper Becomes Final First-Round Pick To Sign Contract

The Mavericks have signed Olivier-Maxence Prosper to his rookie-scale deal, the team announced in a press release early Monday morning. His signing means all the first-round picks in last month’s draft are now under contract.

As the 24th selection, Prosper is eligible to receive $2,733,720 in his first season and can earn $13,870,583 over the four-year contract, as our breakdown of rookie scale salaries shows.

The 21-year-old forward was one of the top beneficiaries of this year’s pre-draft process. A strong showing at the NBA Combine in Chicago, followed by impressive individual workouts, moved him into the first round.

Prosper was officially selected by the Kings, but Dallas acquired his rights in a draft-night trade that didn’t become official until the moratorium was lifted on July 6.

“O-Max was considered one of the best wing defenders in college basketball last year and plays with tremendous energy,” said Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison. “We are excited to put pen to paper and officially sign him.”  

Prosper played his first collegiate season at Clemson before transferring to Marquette in 2021. He averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game last season.

Eight 2023 Draft Picks Have Yet To Sign NBA Contracts

Of the 58 players who were selected in last month’s draft, 50 have signed their first NBA contracts during the first two weeks they’ve been permitted to do so.

As our tracker shows, the breakdown is as follows:

  • First-round picks signed using the rookie scale exception: 29
  • Second-round picks signed using the new second-round pick exception: 13
    • Note: Of these 13 players, 12 received four-year contracts, while one (Rayan Rupert) signed a three-year deal.
  • Second-round picks signed to two-way contracts: 8

That leaves eight players from the 2023 draft class who have yet to sign with their respective NBA teams. Those players are as follows:

  1. Olivier-Maxence Prosper, Mavericks
  2. James Nnaji, Hornets
  3. Tristan Vukcevic, Wizards
  4. Sidy Cissoko, Spurs
  5. G.G. Jackson, Grizzlies
  6. Mojave King, Pacers
  7. Jordan Miller, Clippers
  8. Tarik Biberovic, Grizzlies

Not all of these players will sign an NBA contract in 2023/24. King and Biberovic are each expected to spend at least one season playing overseas before coming stateside. Vukcevic is another candidate to become a draft-and-stash prospect.

It’s also unclear whether the Hornets plan to sign Nnaji right away or let the 18-year-old big man continue developing his game in Europe. For now, Charlotte only has 12 players on guaranteed contracts for 2023/24, but depending on which restricted free agents (P.J. Washington, Theo Maledon) and players on non-guaranteed deals (JT Thor, Kobi Simmons) return, there might not be a spot for Nnaji, who remains under contract with FC Barcelona and – as a No. 31 overall pick who would require an international buyout – wouldn’t be a candidate for a two-way deal.

Prosper is the only unsigned first-rounder in this year’s class, but the delay doesn’t seem like anything to worry about. The Mavericks, who continued this past week to explore the trade market and consider how to fill out their roster, have taken their time getting around to signing a handful of players, with deals for free agents like Seth Curry and Dante Exum only becoming official on Friday. I’d expect Prosper’s contract to be finalized soon.

That leaves Cissoko, Jackson, and Miller, each of whom look like candidates to receive two-way contracts. Some of the other players drafted in their range, including No. 41 pick Amari Bailey and No. 46 pick Seth Lundy, have received two-way deals, and the Spurs, Grizzlies, and Clippers all have roster logjams, meaning there may not be room on their 15-man rosters for their unsigned second-rounders.

The Spurs will have 17 players on standard contracts once they officially re-sign Tre Jones and Sandro Mamukelashvili. The Grizzlies also have 17 players under contract and would have a full 15-man roster even if they trade or waive Josh Christopher and Isaiah Todd. The Clippers have 16 players on standard contracts (15 guaranteed). However, all three teams have at least one two-way slot available.

Southwest Notes: Lofton, GG Jackson, Prosper, Rockets

Kenneth Lofton Jr. is playing like he belongs in the Grizzlies‘ rotation, which may lead to some difficult decisions this fall, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. The second-year power forward, who posted 24 points and 10 rebounds on Wednesday, is the team’s leading scorer in Summer League. He has also looked better on defense, which was a goal for the offseason.

Cole notes that Lofton changed the team’s plans with a strong Summer League performance last year. The undrafted rookie earned a two-way contract that was upgraded to a standard deal before the playoffs as the Grizzlies parted with Kennedy Chandler.

Memphis’ power rotation appears to be set, according to Cole, so any minutes Lofton earns will come at the expense of an established player. Steven Adams and Jaren Jackson Jr. are both expected to be healthy heading into training camp, while Santi Aldama and Xavier Tillman saw regular playing time last season. Coach Taylor Jenkins typically uses four big men, so Lofton will have to battle for a larger role.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Rookie forward GG Jackson has also impressed Jenkins during Summer League, Cole adds in a separate story. Jackson will likely spend most of the upcoming season in the G League, but he has displayed the potential that made him a highly touted prospect coming out of high school. “I’ve been super thrilled with what he’s shown,” Jenkins said. “You see the physical tools with the capability to make plays on both sides of the floor, defensively I’m loving his rebounding. … Each game he is making progress.”
  • Summer League coach Jared Dudley believes Olivier-Maxence Prosper could make an immediate impact with the Mavericks, tweets Mavs reporter Grant Afseth. Dudley said the rookie power forward understands the game and can score without having plays called for him. “I could see him easily playing for the Mavs this season just because of his defense and his aggressiveness,” Dudley said. “Anytime I tell him to do something, He does it automatically, and it’s no second-guessing it. He does it a hundred miles an hour, so I respect that.”
  • Jabari Smith and Tari Eason only appeared in two Summer League games, but Rockets officials were very happy with what they saw from both second-year players, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Smith was one of the best players in Las Vegas with a total of 71 points (35.5 PPG), while Eason averaged 23 PPG and looked comfortable at either forward position.