Robert Williams

Northwest Notes: Dillingham, Wolves, Blazers, Thunder, Topic

Due to team-building restrictions from the second tax apron, the Timberwolves knew they were limited in their ability to acquire impact players this summer. Instead of standing pat, they decided to make another aggressive move, trading an unprotected first-round pick in 2031 and a top-one protected 2030 first-round swap to the Spurs for the rights to Kentucky guard Rob Dillingham, the No. 8 pick.

As Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes, Wolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly views Dillingham as the top shot creator in the draft, a major need for a Minnesota team that struggled to score at times during the 2023/24 regular season and playoffs.

I don’t know how we can achieve that in the next two or three years via free agency,” Connelly said. “We don’t want to trade our core guys. It’s pretty simplistic. I think we’ve checked a major box that we lacked last year.”

He’s a guy who, from Day 1, is going to have a role and a responsibility,” Connelly continued, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “Certainly it’s going to be hard for him. But I don’t think you’re that aggressive in the top 10 [of the draft] with a guy you don’t think can play right away.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Somak Sarkar, the former Timberwolves employee who was fired for stealing thousands of files, had a felony third-degree burglary charge dismissed but pled guilty on Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized computer access, reports Baxter Holmes of ESPN. Sarkar is scheduled to be sentenced on July 9.
  • Asked about using the No. 7 pick on Wednesday to draft Donovan Clingan with centers Deandre Ayton and Robert Williams already on the roster, Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin downplayed the idea of a logjam up front, per Bill Oram of The Oregonian. “We’re not good enough to be content at any one position or even just at the starting positions,” Cronin said.
  • Cronin also made an interesting comment when discussing the rest of the Trail Blazers‘ offseason, telling reporters, “We’re committed to Scoot (Henderson) and Shaedon (Sharpe) being a massive part of what we’re doing, and how do we find ways to give them the support they need and maximize their development?” As Oram points out, there was no mention of guard Anfernee Simons there alongside his backcourt mates, which may be a hint that Portland doesn’t view Simons as part of the team’s young long-term core.
  • Serbian guard Nikola Topic, whom the Thunder selected 12th overall on Wednesday, said he has never been to Oklahoma and had no clue which team would draft him, writes Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman. Head of basketball operations Sam Presti said he doesn’t expect the 18-year-old to play in 2024/25 due to his partially torn ACL, but Topic will spend what could end up being a redshirt season around the team.

Rory Maher contributed to this post.

Northwest Notes: Cancar, Clingan, Edey, Caruso, Jazz, Nuggets

It appears Vlatko Cancar won’t be testing free agency. The Nuggets and Cancar are negotiating a new contract, The Athletic’s Tony Jones tweets.

Denver is declining the $2,346,606 option on Cancar’s current contract due to luxury tax concerns, but it appears that move is the first step in getting the forward back on a deal that would benefit both sides. If Cancar re-signs with the Nuggets on a minimum-salary deal, he would project to make $2,432,511 in ’24/25, while the team would carry a cap hit of $2,093,637.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Trail Blazers have worked out Donovan Clingan and Zach Edey and seem to be leaning toward drafting a center, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reports. The Blazers own the No. 7 and 14 picks. Clingan is expected to be off the board by the No. 7 pick but the Blazers are high enough on Edey that they may grab him with the first of those picks, according to O’Connor, who suggests that if they wind up with a center on draft day, they could look to move Deandre Ayton and/or Robert Williams.
  • While the Thunder have ample cap space this summer, they will be hard-capped at the first tax apron in 2024/25 due to the Alex Caruso trade, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report tweets. That’s because they took on a higher salary than they’re sending out (Josh Giddey).
  • The Jazz hold the No. 10, 29 and 32 picks in the draft. How valuable are those latter two picks and should they try to deal them? Kevin Reynolds of the Salt Lake Tribune explores that topic.
  • Due to a lack of contracts they could package with their first-round pick at No. 28 to obtain another impact player, the Nuggets are likely to retain the pick and seek out another late-round gem, Bennett Durando of the Denver Post writes.

Southwest Notes: Rockets, Clingan, Castle, Grizzlies

A wing player with size would be the perfect addition to the Rockets‘ current roster, Kelly Iko of The Athletic states in a mailbag column. He adds that the ideal player would be someone who can drive to the basket and create offense for himself and his teammates, pointing to San Antonio’s Keldon Johnson and Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan as examples, although they may not be obtainable.

Among realistic free agent targets, Iko names Nuggets shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Raptors swingman Bruce Brown. Both are veterans who can space the floor and fit into coach Ime Udoka’s defensive system, Iko writes. Brown dropped to 32.3% from three-point range this season after shooting 40.4% and 35.8% the previous two years, but Iko notes that Houston assistant coaches Royal Ivey and Tiago Splitter both worked with Brown in Brooklyn and may be able to help him regain his form. Iko contends Caldwell-Pope was worthy of an All-Defense nod this year.

Toronto holds a $23MM team option on Brown that has to be picked up by June 28, so there’s no guarantee he’ll be available in free agency. Caldwell-Pope has a $15.4MM player option with a June 29 deadline, and even if he tests the market, Denver figures to make a strong effort to retain one of the key members of its 2022/23 title team.

There’s more from the Southwest Division, all from Iko:

  • UConn center Donovan Clingan has been listed as the Rockets‘ pick at No. 3 in several mock drafts, but Iko isn’t convinced that he’s the best choice. Even though Clingan is a potential defensive anchor with a soft touch around the basket, Iko questions his fit alongside Alperen Sengun because neither is a proven three-point shooter. Iko notes that Houston had a top-10 defense this season without a reliable shot blocker, and Udoka likes having defensive versatility so he can adapt to the opponent. Even with the addition of Steven Adams, Iko expects the Rockets to employ smaller lineups next season with Jabari Smith seeing time at center.
  • According to Iko, the Spurs‘ perfect draft would include UConn guard Stephon Castle as No. 4 and a larger wing at No. 8, providing two more young talents to develop alongside Victor Wembanyama. Iko is concerned about Nikola Topic‘s latest ACL injury and says G League forward Matas Buzelis would be a much safer choice if he’s still on the board. Iko also likes Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard for San Antonio, but adds that an ideal situation would involve using the eighth and 35th picks to acquire a veteran guard like Dejounte Murray.
  • Iko advises the Grizzlies to trade down rather than trying to solve their need for a center by taking a project like Indiana’s Kel’el Ware at No. 9. Iko compares Ware to Christian Wood and suggests that Duke’s Kyle Filipowski could be a better fit later in the draft. Iko also considers a pair of potential trade scenarios with the Trail Blazers to land Robert Williams or Malcolm Brogdon.

Northwest Notes: Wolves Ownership, Banton, Williams, Jazz

The 56-25 Timberwolves, battling for the No. 1 seed in the West, have emerged as one of the best teams in the league this season. But Minnesota’s fraught ownership situation has suddenly taken center stage in the club’s best season over the last 20 years, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

As the Wolves look to advance beyond the first round of the postseason for just the second time ever, the grievance between majority owner Glen Taylor and minority owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore has uncomfortably remained persistent. The two sides seem destined for mediation or arbitration, and Krawcyznski believes their very public dispute could linger far beyond the end of the 2024 postseason.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Trail Blazers point guard Dalano Banton is doing the most to maximize his play with Portland, per Libaan Osman of The Toronto Star. “I think everyone wants the chance to show what they can do and make a name for themselves,” Banton said. “I just looked at it that way. I know I’ve been sitting on the bench for three years in this league, I know that time was of the essence in my third year.” Osman notes that Portland is expected to exercise its $2.2MM team option on Banton’s contract. Thanks to injuries to many of the Trail Blazers guards who are ahead of him in the team’s rotation, Banton has been averaging 16.7 PPG on .418/.339/.777 shooting in his 29 games with the team, along with 4.8 RPG, 3.5 APG and 0.9 SPG.
  • Center Robert Williams III played just six contests with the Trail Blazers before tearing his right knee ligament in November, which required a season-ending surgery. He spoke with reporters this week for the first time since then, writes Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report. “It was pretty tough,” Williams said. “But it was eye-opening. I got a chance to work on stuff while I was put down for a minute.”
  • The rebuilding Jazz have been immersed in something of a half-hearted tank since Danny Ainge began offloading Utah’s franchise cornerstones, but the team hasn’t always been making the right decisions with its personnel-building thus far, opines Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Blazers Notes: Grant, Brogdon, Williams, Ayton

Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin told reporters on Thursday that he doesn’t have a firm timeline in mind for when he expects the retooling Trail Blazers to return to the playoffs, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. However, Brian Windhorst of ESPN suggested on the latest Hoop Collective podcast (YouTube link) that one reason the team decided against trading any veterans at the deadline was a desire to push for the postseason next season.

“I actually think the Blazers are hoping, dare say, for a Rockets-like rebound, and I think they are hoping that next year they are competing for the playoffs,” Windhorst said. “I think that’s one of the reasons why you didn’t see Jerami Grant or Malcolm Brogdon (traded). Jerami Grant’s name wasn’t out there for an iota, that I heard, and Brogdon’s name never got serious.”

The Blazers had a handful of potential veteran trade candidates on their roster, including Grant, Brogdon, injured center Robert Williams, and swingman Matisse Thybulle, but ended up just making one minor deal, acquiring Dalano Banton from Boston. Cronin said he was “very content” with that outcome and that he wanted to give the current group more time to jell rather than just selling off players for draft picks.

“If there’s great value, we’ll add picks. If it’s great value, we’ll add players,” Cronin said. “But generally speaking, the deals we were pursuing were more player-oriented. Could we find a guy that provides immediate and long-term help? And is there proper value there?

“… We received lots of offers. I think it did make it somewhat more difficult to pry from us because we are happy with who we have and where we’re at. So, of course, we always want to be opportunistic and not just be thorough in this market, but have a great feel for what our options are and what’s available.”

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • Head coach Chauncey Billups was happy the front office didn’t make any real changes to Portland’s roster, as Fentress relays. “A lot of people wanted Malcolm, and rightfully so, I’m one of them people,” Billups said. “So, I was happy that we were able to keep him. A lot of people wanted Rob, and rightfully so. I’m one of those people. I think when it’s our turn to actually really compete and be competitive, those are the type of dudes that you want to do it with. So I’m happy we didn’t let them slip away.”
  • According to Fentress, Cronin said one reason the front office stood pat was that he was encouraged by how the Blazers responded to an early-January stretch in which they lost six of seven games by an average margin of 33.2 points per contest. Portland won five of its next 10 after that brutal stretch and Cronin suggested he’s pleased with what he’s seen from both the veterans and youngsters: “I really like where we’re positioned. I like where we’re headed. I like what we’re capable of. I like our team. I like our staff. I like our organization. I think we’re well on our way to good things in the future.”
  • In a post-deadline column for The Athletic, Jason Quick argues that the Blazers should have made a bolder move this week, such as trading center Deandre Ayton. Ayton’s first several months in Portland were “defined by tardiness and tantrums,” according to Quick, who cites team sources. “The quicker the Blazers can move off Ayton,” Quick writes, comparing him to former Blazers center Hassan Whiteside, “the sooner I will believe this franchise is headed in the right direction.”
  • In case you missed it, the Blazers reportedly received $3MM in cash from Boston in the Banton trade.

Rockets Rumors: Bridges, Centers, Tate, Brogdon, Core

Despite a modest 22-24 record that places them 11th in the West, the Rockets are motivated to be buyers on the trade market at next week’s deadline and will be seeking high-level talent, according to Kelly Iko, Shams Charania, and Sam Amick of The Athletic.

As The Athletic’s trio explains, the presence of new head coach Ime Udoka – and his strong influence with the team’s top decision-makers – has contributed to an acceleration of the Rockets’ timeline. Udoka has been frustrated by the team’s “inconsistencies” and is determined to make the postseason, and his level of urgency has helped convince the front office to adjust its expectations for the club and its strategy on the trade market.

The Rockets’ interest in Nets forward Mikal Bridges, reported earlier today by Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, is one example of the club’s pursuit of impact players. The Athletic’s reporters confirm that Houston’s level of interest in Bridges is “extremely high,” but echo Scotto in saying that Brooklyn continues to view the 27-year-old as a cornerstone piece and has no interest in moving him.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Houston also continues to scour the trade market for more frontcourt help, with Kelly Olynyk (Jazz), Clint Capela (Hawks), Andre Drummond (Bulls), and Robert Williams (Trail Blazers) among the big men on the team’s radar, per Iko, Charania, and Amick. Udoka would like to find a center capable of not only manning the position when Alperen Sengun is on the bench but also potentially playing alongside Sengun, like Williams and Al Horford did during Udoka’s time in Boston.
  • While the Rockets will likely look to package draft capital with expiring or pseudo-expiring contracts like those belonging to Victor Oladipo, Jock Landale, and Boban Marjanovic, they also view forward Jae’Sean Tate as “movable,” according to The Athletic’s report. League sources tell The Athletic that the Celtics and Suns have shown some level of interest in Tate.
  • A ball-handler who can defend would also be on the Rockets’ wish list, league sources tell The Athletic’s trio, who mention Trail Blazers guard Malcolm Brogdon as one player who fits the bill. However, Houston isn’t eager to cut into Cam Whitmore‘s or Amen Thompson‘s minutes, which may affect the club’s aggressiveness in pursuing backcourt help.
  • Whitmore and Thompson are considered off-limits in most trade talks, according to Iko, Charania, and Amick, who say the Rockets aren’t interested in moving Jabari Smith or Tari Eason either. Jalen Green is also in that group of young players Houston would be very reluctant to trade, though The Athletic’s reporters suggest he’s not necessarily viewed as untouchable like he would’ve been a year or two ago, with Sengun having overtaken him as the player prioritized in the Rockets’ schemes. It sounds as if Houston won’t move any of its young core players in a deal for a mere rotation upgrade, but would consider including one in a package for a star.

Fischer’s Latest: Point Guard Rumors, Sixers, Rockets, More

After Charlotte was able to secure a first-round pick from Miami in this week’s deal for Terry Rozier, teams with quality guards available are expected to use that return as a benchmark, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who suggests that the Wizards, Trail Blazers, and Raptors want “at least a first-round pick” for Tyus Jones, Malcolm Brogdon, and Bruce Brown, respectively.

It will presumably be more difficult to extract a first-round pick for a player headed for free agency in 2024 and 2025 than it was for Rozier, who has two more years left on his contract beyond this one. Still, as Fischer notes, there will be no shortage of teams in the market for backcourt help at this season’s deadline.

Sources tell Yahoo Sports that the Lakers are “chief among backcourt buyers” as they seek a point guard upgrade on D’Angelo Russell. The Knicks, Bucks, and Sixers are among the other potential buyers at that position, while the Nets have “poked around” the market too, per Fischer.

Fischer names the Cavaliers and Timberwolves as two other clubs expected to peruse the market in search of backcourt depth and notes that the Spurs will always be a team to watch for point guards until they find a long-term answer at the position to pair with Victor Wembanyama.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • Veteran point guard T.J. McConnell was viewed as a possible target for teams looking for backcourt help, but the Pacers have indicated to potential trade partners that they don’t want to move him, Fischer reports. Some of the backup point guards who are available around the NBA, per Fischer, are Davion Mitchell (Kings), Cameron Payne (Bucks), Cory Joseph (Warriors), and Devonte’ Graham (Spurs).
  • Kyle Lowry isn’t expected to join the Hornets prior to the trade deadline as Charlotte looks to flip him to a new team. If he’s still a Hornet once the deadline passes, Lowry will be a strong candidate for a buyout, and the Sixers appear to be a “real possibility” for the Philadelphia native, says Fischer.
  • The Sixers are prioritizing fit alongside Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey as they consider their trade options. They don’t appear to have significant interest in Bruce Brown and will have to seriously consider whether Dejounte Murray is the right piece next to Maxey, given the Hawks‘ high asking price for Murray, Fischer writes. Atlanta is reportedly seeking two first-round picks and a starting-caliber player for the guard.
  • The Rockets have their eye on a pair of Trail Blazers, according to Fischer, who says Malcolm Brogdon and Robert Williams have both drawn interest from Houston. The Lakers and Knicks are among the other teams that have been connected to Brogdon.
  • The Pelicans and Magic are two teams that rival executives expect to be in the market for a point guard in the summer, though New Orleans is focused more on the center spot for now, per Fischer.

Trade Rumors: R. Williams, Knicks, Lakers, Hawks, Wizards

Trail Blazers center Robert Williams won’t play again this season after undergoing knee surgery in November, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s off the table in trade talks. Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and TNT suggested during the latest episode of the #thisleague UNCUT podcast that Williams is a trade candidate to watch.

“There are some teams that are pondering making a move for Robert Williams,” Haynes said (hat tip to Blazer’s Edge). “Now, I know Robert Williams is out for the season, had another surgery on his right knee. But teams feel like he would be somebody they could get on the cheap right now and allow him to continue recovering, continue rehabbing in hopes that next season he can blossom back into the Robert Williams that we’ve seen when he was playing at a high level with the Boston Celtics.”

Williams was one of the players acquired by Portland in October’s Jrue Holiday deal with the Celtics. While he has shown some promise in his first few years in the NBA, is still just 26 years old, and is on a multiyear contract, there was a sense that the Blazers could be willing to flip the big man to a new team, given that they already have their center of the future in Deandre Ayton. Haynes confirms that’s the case.

“The Blazers will be very open (to moving Williams),” Haynes said. “That’s not up for debate. They’ll be very open. If they feel like they can get the right deal in place, they’re open. The Blazers, they’re in a youth movement right now, so they have nothing but time on their side. Some players don’t fit the development arc of most of the youth they have on that team. Robert Williams is somebody who is definitely available, given the right price.”

While Haynes didn’t specify exactly which teams are potential suitors for Williams, he noted that Ime Udoka is “very fond” of the big man after coaching him in Boston and speculated that the Rockets could have interest.

Here are a few more trade rumors from around the NBA:

  • Discussing the Knicks‘ approach to the trade deadline on the Katz and Shoot podcast, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports said Trail Blazers guard Malcolm Brogdon is the player he has heard most frequently linked to New York (Twitter video link). Fred Katz of The Athletic cited Pistons guard Alec Burks as another player the Knicks had their eye on and confirmed the team has looked into Dejounte Murray, but isn’t sure whether that interest in the Hawks guard is serious or just a matter of the Knicks doing their due diligence.
  • Murray, Bruce Brown, Terry Rozier, and Tyus Jones are potential Lakers trade targets to keep an eye on, Shams Charania of The Athletic said during FanDuel’s Run it Back show (Twitter video link). The team’s interest in all four guards has been previously reported.
  • Charania also confirms a previous report about the Lakers and Hawks discussing Murray, adding that a pick swap was part of those negotiations. The talks stalled due to Atlanta’s desire to reroute D’Angelo Russell to a third team, but Charania expects the two teams to resume those discussions before the trade deadline.
  • Only one Wizards player is truly off-limits in trade talks at this season’s deadline, according to Charania (Twitter video link): 2023 lottery pick Bilal Coulibaly. Washington would be open to inquiries on anyone else on the roster.

Trail Blazers Granted Disabled Player Exception

The Trail Blazers have been awarded a disabled player exception worth $5.8MM for the season-ending loss of Robert Williams III, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Williams is out for the 2023/24 season after undergoing right knee surgery to reconstruct a torn ligament after he suffered a patellar dislocation. He’s expected to make a full recovery for the 2024/25 season.

As explained in our glossary, a disabled player exception allows a team some spending power when it loses a player to an injury deemed likely to sideline him through at least June 15 of that season. The exception is worth either half the injured player’s salary or the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, whichever is lesser. Williams is on track to earn $11.6MM this season, so the exception is worth half that.

The exception can be used to sign a free agent, claim a player off waivers or acquire a player in a trade. It can only be used on one single player and can only be utilized for a one-year deal. Any player being acquired via trade or waiver claim must have just one year remaining on his contract.

A disabled player exception does not open up a roster spot for any team that chooses to use one. In order to utilize its exception, Portland needs to have an open standard roster spot. At the moment, the Blazers have 15 players on standard contracts, so they’d have to make a cut or trade that brings in fewer players than they send out in order to use the exception. Portland faces a March 11 deadline to use the DPE for Williams.

As noted by ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), the Blazers also have two trade exceptions (worth $8.8MM and $8.3MM) and the full $12.4MM non-tax mid-level exception at their disposal. They obtained their larger trade exceptions from the Damian Lillard-to-Milwaukee blockbuster and the Gary Payton II-to-Golden State swap, respectively. The exceptions cannot be combined. Portland is currently $3.5MM below the tax.

Williams, 26, was brought to Portland this past offseason in the trade that sent Jrue Holiday to the Celtics. He appeared in just six games with the Trail Blazers before suffering his injury, averaging 6.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks.

Williams emerged as one of the top rim protectors and defenders in the league when healthy during his time in Boston, where he spent five seasons. However, he hasn’t enjoyed luck with his health since being drafted with the 27th overall pick in the 2018 draft, playing more than 41 games just twice in his career. His most productive season came in 2021/22, when he averaged 10.0 points per game in the regular season, started in all 61 of his appearances, and became a crucial piece of Boston’s run to the NBA Finals, where they fell to the Warriors.

In 215 games (97 starts) since 2018, Williams holds career averages of 7.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks while shooting 72.9% from the floor.

Robert Williams Undergoes Season-Ending Surgery

NOVEMBER 13: Williams underwent right knee surgery on Monday to reconstruct a torn ligament after he sustained a patellar dislocation., the team tweets. Williams is expected to make a full recovery for the 2024/25 season.

NOVEMBER 10: Trail Blazers big man Robert Williams will have to undergo season-ending right knee surgery, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. He’s expected to go under the knife early next week and to be fully recovered for the 2024/25 season, Woj adds.

Wojnarowski previously reported that Williams would require surgery, but said on Monday that the center’s camp and medical professionals were still discussing what type of procedure would be necessary.

The Athletic reported on Monday that one option would be a cleanup procedure with a two- or three-month recovery timeline, while the other option would be a season-ending procedure that would repair bone and ligament damage in Williams’ right kneecap.

It appears Williams will take the latter route.

It’s a devastating blow to a promising young player who has already been significantly impacted by health problems since entering the NBA as the 27th overall pick in 2018.

Entering this season, the 26-year-old had been limited to 209 of 390 possible regular season games in his first five years in the NBA as a Celtic. He’ll appear in just six of 82 in his first year in Portland.

In his healthiest season, 2021/22, Williams nearly averaged a double-double (10.0 PPG, 9.6 RPG) to go along with 2.2 blocks per night and a 73.6% field goal percentage.

Williams was part of the package that Portland received from Boston this fall in exchange for Jrue Holiday. According to Wojnarowski, there were some teams around the NBA hoping that the Blazers would put Williams back on the trade block prior to the 2024 trade deadline — an in-season move seems extremely unlikely now.

The Trail Blazers have one open spot on their standard 15-man roster that could be used to add more frontcourt depth. They have about $5.3MM in breathing room below the luxury tax line, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), so they could comfortably sign a free agent to a minimum-salary deal without becoming a taxpayer.

As Marks observes, Portland could also apply for a disabled player exception, which wouldn’t give the team another roster spot but could provide another cap exception to make a trade, signing, or waiver claim later in the season. If granted by the NBA, that exception would be worth $5,785,715, half of Williams’ salary.