T.J. Leaf

T.J. Leaf Re-Signs In China

Free agent big man T.J. Leaf has reached an agreement on a deal with the Beijing Ducks of the Chinese Basketball Association, according to Sportando. Leaf will return to China for the second straight season, as he played for the Guangzhou Loong Lions last year.

Leaf has played four NBA seasons. His first three came with the Pacers from 2017-20, while his last stint was with the Blazers in 2020/21. He has appeared in a total of 146 NBA games after being drafted with the No. 18 pick in 2017.

Last season, Leaf averaged 25.0 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game in China. He also shot 57% from the floor and 30% from deep. At 6’10, the UCLA product has demonstrated potential offensively and on the glass, but he struggled to find a consistent role in the NBA. He turned 25 years old in April.

There’s still plenty of time for Leaf to pursue an NBA comeback if he so chooses, but for now, expect him to once again be one of the top bigs in China this season.

International Notes: Exum, Leaf, Motiejunas, Edwards

It doesn’t appear an NBA return is in the cards this offseason for former No. 5 overall pick Dante Exum. According to a report from Dorde Matic of MozzartSport.com (hat tip to Eurohoops.net), Exum is on track to sign a contract with KK Partizan, a EuroLeague team based in Belgrade, Serbia.

Exum, 26, battled injuries during his NBA career and was limited to just 245 regular season appearances across seven years (2014-21) in Utah and Cleveland. He spent last season in Barcelona after being cut by the Rockets last fall.

Exum indicated in March that he was open to an NBA return but also wouldn’t mind continuing his career in Europe. It appears that’s the plan for the time being.

Here are a few more updates from around the international basketball world:

  • Emiliano Carchia of Sportando (Twitter link) hears that former UCLA standout T.J. Leaf will join the Beijing Ducks for the 2022/23 campaign after finishing last season with the Guangzhou Loong Lions. A previous report indicated that Leaf, the No. 18 overall pick in 2017, was on track to join Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel, but a deal between the two sides was never officially completed. The veteran forward appeared in 146 games for Indiana and Portland from 2017-21.
  • Former NBA forward Donatas Motiejunas, a first-round pick in 2011, is finalizing a new two-year contract with AS Monaco after spending the 2021/22 season with the club, reports Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews.com. The 31-year-old appeared in a total of 251 NBA games for Houston, New Orleans, and San Antonio from 2012-19.
  • Vince Edwards, a 2018 second-round pick who spent the ’21/22 season with the Iowa Wolves in the G League, has signed with BCM Gravelines-Dunkerque, the French team announced in a press release. The 26-year-old forward appeared in just two games at the NBA level, but he has played in the NBAGL extensively since going pro four years ago. This will be his first stint in Europe.

International Notes: Dotson, Lucas III, Okobo, Leaf

Free agent guard Damyean Dotson has signed overseas in Turkey with Gaziantep Basketbol, the team announced on Saturday. This marks the first overseas stint in Dotson’s professional career, which began when he was drafted No. 44 overall by the Knicks in 2017.

Dotson stayed with New York for three years, then spent time with the Cavaliers during the 2020/21 season. He joined the Spurs for training camp last fall and spent most of the season in the G League. The Knicks also signed him to two 10-day hardship contracts in December.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • John Lucas III is drawing coaching interest from Italian club Pallacanestro Varese, as relayed by Sportando. The team has offered the job to several NBA assistant coaches, including Pablo Prigioni (Timberwolves). Lucas joined the Lakers as an assistant last fall.
  • Former NBA guard Elie Okobo has signed a lucrative deal overseas with AS Monaco, according to EuroHoops. Okobo most recently played for ASVEL. He played 108 games with the Suns between 2018-20, averaging 4.8 points in 15.5 minutes per contest.
  • Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) is signing forward T.J. Leaf to a contract, Eurohoops reports. This will be the first European stint for Leaf, who was selected No. 18 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. He holds experience with the Pacers and Blazers.

Jazz Notes: Far From Contending, Mini-Camp, Prospect Workouts

All four of the 2021/22 Conference Finalists — the Warriors, Mavericks, Celtics and Heat — proved how far the Jazz are from contending for a championship, Sarah Todd of The Deseret News opines.

Todd notes that head coach Quin Snyder, whose status remains uncertain for next season, said Utah was very close to competing at the highest level at his end-of-season press conference.

This year, I thought that our record didn’t necessarily reflect what we could do in the playoffs. I felt like we were this close to having a spark and kicking it in and finding that unity, that extra secret sauce, and taking off. And obviously that didn’t happen,” Snyder said, per Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Todd disagrees. Even assuming the Jazz had advanced past Dallas in the first round (they lost in six games), Todd is doubtful the Jazz would have been able to take the Suns to seven games in the second round, as Dallas was able to do.

She also doesn’t think the Jazz would have fared any better than the Mavs did against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, if they’d gotten past Phoenix.

Ultimately, the Todd believes the flawed roster was too much to overcome, and Utah’s front office will have a tough job improving it this summer.

Here’s more from Utah:

T.J. Leaf To Play In China

Former NBA first-round pick T.J. Leaf has reached a deal to play in the Chinese Basketball Association, reports Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (Twitter link). It’s unclear which team Leaf is joining.

The 18th overall pick in 2017 out of UCLA, Leaf spent his first three NBA seasons with the Pacers, but never developed into a reliable rotation player. He averaged 3.3 PPG and 1.9 RPG on .491/.341/.551 shooting in 139 games (8.7 MPG) during his time in Indiana.

Leaf was traded from the Pacers to the Thunder in the 2020 offseason and was subsequently waived by Oklahoma City. He caught on with the Trail Blazers this past April and finished the 2020/21 season on a two-way contract with Portland, logging limited minutes in seven regular season games and three playoff contests.

Leaf is still just 24 years old, so he could get another shot in the NBA down the line if he plays well overseas.

Blazers Add T.J. Leaf On Two-Way Contract

APRIL 13: The signing is official, the Blazers announced in a press release.

APRIL 5: The Trail Blazers are signing forward T.J. Leaf to a two-way contract, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Portland had an open two-way slot. Keljin Blevins is the other player signed to a two-way deal.

Leaf was waived by the Thunder prior to the season. He was acquired by Oklahoma City in an offseason trade, with the club receiving Leaf and a future second-round pick in a deal with the Pacers for Jalen Lecque.

Leaf, the 18th overall pick in the 2017 draft, failed to carve out a steady role as a rotation player during three seasons in Indiana. The former UCLA standout averaged just 3.0 PPG and 2.5 RPG in 28 games (7.9 MPG) for the Pacers in 2019/20.

Leaf had a guaranteed $4.33MM salary this season when he was waived. The 6’10” power forward is unlikely to see much action behind Robert Covington and Carmelo Anthony.

Thunder Waive T.J. Leaf, Admiral Schofield

The Thunder have made a pair of roster cuts, announcing in a press release that they’ve waived forwards T.J. Leaf and Admiral Schofield.

Leaf and Schofield were acquired by Oklahoma City in offseason trades. The Thunder took on Schofield’s contract as part of a deal that saw them move up from No. 53 to No. 37 in this year’s draft to select Vit Krejci. The club received Leaf and a future second-round pick in a deal for Jalen Lecque, who is on a cheaper contract.

The fact that neither Leaf nor Schofield made the Thunder’s regular season roster suggests those two trades were motivated by the opportunities to land Krejci and a future second-rounder.

Leaf, the 18th overall pick in the 2017 draft, failed to carve out a role as a regular, reliable rotation player during three seasons in Indiana. The former UCLA standout averaged just 3.0 PPG and 2.5 RPG in 28 games (7.9 MPG) for the Pacers in 2019/20.

Schofield, meanwhile, spent his rookie season in 2019/20 with the Wizards after being drafted 42nd overall a year ago. He played limited minutes in D.C., averaging 3.0 PPG and 1.4 RPG in 33 games (11.2 MPG).

Both Leaf and Schofield will become unrestricted free agents, assuming they clear waivers. They’ll also be paid their 2020/21 salaries, since they were fully guaranteed. Leaf will earn $4.33MM, while Schofield makes $1.52MM. Schofield will also receive a partial guarantee of $300K on next season’s salary.

As for the Thunder, they now have 15 players on fully guaranteed contracts and Frank Jackson on a partially guaranteed contract. They’ll have to make at least one more cut before the regular season roster deadline on Monday.

Thunder Trade Lecque To Pacers For Leaf, Second-Round Pick

NOVEMBER 25: The deal between the Pacers and the Thunder is now official, with the Thunder acquiring Leaf and a 2027 second-round pick in exchange for Lecque, the team announced in a press release.

NOVEMBER 22: The Thunder are acquiring yet another draft pick, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who reports (via Twitter) that Oklahoma City will receive a future second-round pick and forward T.J. Leaf from the Pacers in a deal that sends guard Jalen Lecque to Indiana.

Lecque, a former Sun, was one of the players sent to the Thunder in this week’s Chris Paul trade. He signed a four-year contract with Phoenix as an undrafted free agent a year ago, but only saw action in five NBA games as a rookie. The 20-year-old has a guaranteed $1.52MM salary this season with no guarantees beyond for 2020/21.

It’s not clear whether the Pacers are intent on keeping and developing Lecque, since the move appears to be financially motivated too. As Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files tweets, moving Leaf’s $4.33MM salary for ’20/21 will allow Indiana to slip back below the luxury tax line.

The Thunder will acquire yet another future draft pick as a sweetener for taking on that extra salary, adding another second-rounder to the long list of draft assets GM Sam Presti has picked up during the last couple offseasons.

It doesn’t seem safe to assume this offseason that any newly-acquired player will remain in Oklahoma City for long, but if the Thunder hang onto Leaf, they’ll be getting a player who hasn’t carved out a regular rotation role since being drafted 18th overall in 2017. He averaged just 3.0 PPG and 2.5 RPG in 28 games (7.9 MPG) for the Pacers in 2019/20.

Central Notes: Reynolds, Porter, Lamb, Leaf, Galloway

When the NBA announced the official rosters for the summer restart on Monday, Cameron Reynolds‘ name didn’t show up on the Bucks‘ squad. Asked about Reynolds’ omission, head coach Mike Budenholzer explained that the limitations placed on the team’s overall traveling party – including coaches and trainers – resulted in Milwaukee leaving its second two-way player at home.

“It’s really hard not to bring him,” Budenholzer said, per Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “But at some point … you start thinking, ‘How do we make sure that, whether it be the top eight, nine, 10, 11 guys, have the best health from our sports performance, whether it be a massage person, a physical therapist, strength and conditioning coaches.’ … We felt like 16 players was the right decision and all the staff that we brought from sports performance and assistant coaches gave us our best group.”

Reynolds’ absence in Orlando doesn’t mean he’s no longer under contract with the Bucks. His two-way deal with the team will expire in October, and Milwaukee will have an opportunity to re-sign him at that point.

Here’s more from out of the Central:

Scotto’s Latest: Gallinari, Nunn, Pacers, Nuggets, More

When the Thunder and Heat discussed a potential Danilo Gallinari trade leading up to last week’s deadline, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Kendrick Nunn, and draft compensation were among the various assets that came up in talks, league sources tell Michael Scotto of Bleacher Report. Miami reportedly wanted to extend Gallinari’s contract as part of a deal, but couldn’t agree to terms with his camp, which is one main reason the trade didn’t happen.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote last week that he believed the Heat could’ve acquired Gallinari without surrendering any of their young players like Nunn. So even though his name came up in discussions, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Thunder would have insisted on his inclusion, depending on what other pieces were involved.

While Gallinari remained with the Thunder for this season, Scotto suggests the Heat and Knicks could be among his potential suitors this summer. Miami clearly has interest, and created some cap flexibility for 2020/21 by moving Johnson and Dion Waiters last week. New York, meanwhile, will have cap space and is hiring veteran CAA agent Leon Rose as its new president of basketball operations. Gallinari is a CAA client.

Here are a few more noteworthy tidbits from Scotto’s look at the post-deadline landscape:

  • The Knicks and Pacers discussed a possible Marcus Morris trade. According to Scotto, a package that featured Aaron Holiday, Doug McDermott, and T.J. Leaf was “briefly kicked around,” but didn’t end up going far.
  • McDermott’s name also came up in discussions about a potential Pacers trade with the Bucks involving Ersan Ilyasova, says Scotto. It’s not known which team initiated those talks.
  • Before the Cavaliers traded for Andre Drummond, they called the Pacers to ask about Myles Turner‘s availability, per Scotto. Indiana has remained firm on keeping Turner, though many executives expect the team to eventually break up its Turner/Domantas Sabonis frontcourt.
  • The Nuggets discussed the possibility of trading Gary Harris, Malik Beasley, and Juan Hernangomez as part of a package for Bulls guard Zach LaVine or Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, sources tell Scotto. New Orleans set a very high asking price for Holiday, while LaVine was said to be “off-limits” for Chicago, so Denver didn’t get far on either front.