- According to Wojnarowski, the Trail Blazers remain committed to Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum as core pieces, and are taking the long view on their roster rather than pushing for a playoff spot this season.
The NBA second half won’t get underway until Thursday, but with NBA and D-League teams returning from their respective All-Star breaks, assignments and recalls have gotten underway again. Here are Tuesday’s moves:
- The Jazz have recalled Joel Bolomboy from the Salt Lake City Stars following his participation in the weekend’s D-League All-Star game, per a team release. The rookie forward averaged 15.8 PPG and 13.2 RPG in 18 first-half NBADL games.
- Briante Weber has been recalled to the Warriors from Santa Cruz after playing in the D-League All-Star game, Golden State announced in a press release. Weber is still on his second 10-day contract with the Dubs, though the team could waive him at the trade deadline if it needs to open up that 15th roster spot.
- One other D-League All-Star is back with his NBA team, as the Heat confirmed that they’ve recalled Okaro White. White has been with the Heat since mid-January, but his early-season play with the Sioux Falls Skyforce earned him a spot in the D-League All-Star Game.
- The Nuggets have sent 2016 first-rounder Malik Beasley back to the D-League, the team announced in a press release. It’s the third assignment this season for Beasley, who will head to Sioux Falls and join Miami’s affiliate, since Denver doesn’t yet have a D-League team of its own.
- The Raptors have sent Bruno Caboclo, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet to the D-League, according to the team (Twitter link). Caboclo and VanVleet have gone back and forth between the NBA and NBADL all year, but it’s Siakam’s first assignment.
- Rookies Chinanu Onuaku and Kyle Wiltjer have been re-assigned to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets announced today (via Twitter).
- The Trail Blazers have assigned rookie guard Tim Quarterman to the D-League, according to a press release from the team. Quarterman joined the Windy City Bulls in his previous two NBADL stints via the flexible assignment rule, but will head to the Long Island Nets this time around.
With general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive VP of basketball operations Jim Buss having been relieved of their duties in the Lakers’ front office, new president of basketball operations Magic Johnson will call the shots in L.A. However, the club remains on the lookout for a new GM, and according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical and Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report (Twitter links), longtime player agent Rob Pelinka has emerged as a frontrunner for the position.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne first reported (via Twitter) that Pelinka, who represents Kobe Bryant and many current NBA players, was on the Lakers’ radar for a front office role. If the team decides to hire Pelinka, he would have to divest himself of his representation business, which would take some time, as Wojnarowski notes (via Twitter).
Several other rumors are swirling as the Lakers’ front office undergoes major changes, so let’s round them up…
- Assuming the Lakers haven’t already decided on Pelinka, there are a number of other potential candidates believed to be on their radar, per Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter links). According to Amick, Blazers GM Neil Olshey, former Cavs GM Chris Grant, Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard, and Pacers VP of basketball operations Peter Dinwiddie are worth keeping an eye on.
- ESPN’s Marc Stein reports (via Twitter) that another veteran player agent – Arn Tellem – is also said to be a potential target for the Lakers. However, as Rod Beard of The Detroit News tweets, Tellem – who formerly represented Kobe Bryant – has been very involved in the Pistons‘ move to downtown Detroit and seems unlikely to bolt in the middle of that project.
- Magic Johnson has previously talked about wanting Bryant to have a role in the Lakers’ front office. Shelburne tweets that the future Hall-of-Famer is “happy doing what he’s doing,” but would be available to the organization if needed.
- Jerry West hasn’t been approached by the Lakers about a role in the team’s front office, tweets Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times. According to Ding (via Twitter), West won’t be a part of the club’s new management group.
- According to Tim Kawakami of The San Jose Mercury News (Twitter links), one reason the Warriors were motivated to give GM Bob Myers a promotion and a raise last summer was to avoid making him a target for the Lakers.
Okafor sat out last Saturday and didn’t accompany the team on a flight to Charlotte for Monday’s game. A trade appeared imminent at the time, but nothing happened and he rejoined the Sixers on Wednesday.
Aldridge says the deal that nearly took place involved Portland, although he doesn’t speculate on what Philadelphia would have received in return. The Blazers and Nuggets finalized a trade Monday that sent Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first-round draft pick to Portland in exchange for Mason Plumlee, a 2018 second-rounder and cash. Presumably, that deal ended the Blazers’ interest in Okafor.
NBA D-League veteran Vander Blue has appeared in more than 150 NBADL games since making his debut in 2013, and once again ranks among the league’s scoring leaders this season. In 35 games for the Los Angeles D-Fenders, Blue has averaged 25.2 PPG and has shot 37.2% on three-point attempts.
Despite his success in the D-League, the former Marquette standout has only appeared in five NBA regular-season games. Nonetheless, at age 24, he continues to believe he’s deserving a longer look in the NBA, telling Alberto de Roa of HoopsHype that he knows it’s eventually going to happen. In fact, as he focuses on producing for the D-Fenders and earning another shot in the NBA, he says he’s not considering more lucrative offers overseas.
“I told my agent I don’t really wanna hear about overseas right now,” Blue said. “I feel like if I start thinking about that I’m gonna lose focus about what I need to do here. And I want my mind, my soul, my body all to be in one spot so I can really be the best I can be.”
Here are a few more odds and ends from across the NBA:
- The BIG3 has confirmed another new team, announcing in a press release that Chauncey Billups, Stephen Jackson, and three other players will team up on a club called the Killer 3s. Previously, we heard that Rashard Lewis and Jason Williams would co-captain a team called the 3 Headed Monsters.
- TNT’s David Aldridge spoke to NBPA executive director Michele Roberts, engaging in an interesting Q&A on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and her role as an advocate for the league’s players.
- ESPN’s Chad Ford (Insider link) has updated his latest 2017 mock draft in the wake of this week’s trades, which saw two first-round picks change hands. The Trail Blazers and Magic acquired first-rounders from Denver and Toronto, respectively, so Ford has incorporated new picks for those teams.
- There’s no indication that the NBA is seriously considering expansion at the moment, but that didn’t stop Tom Ziller of SBNation.com from identifying his top 13 candidates for a new NBA franchise, from an obvious choice (Seattle) at No. 1 to a surprise choice at No. 13.
The Knicks have been one of the NBA’s most dysfunctional teams this season. On the court, the team has gone just 23-33, with $72MM man Joakim Noah failing to make a significant impact, and Jeff Hornacek and Phil Jackson not always on the same page when it came to the use of the triangle. Off the court, things have been even worse, with Jackson criticizing star forward Carmelo Anthony, and owner James Dolan at odds with former Knicks star Charles Oakley.
On the west coast, the Lakers haven’t been much better, racking up a 19-38 record, good for the No. 14 seed in the West. The team hasn’t made as many off-court headlines, but the structure of the front office is currently up in the air, with new advisor Magic Johnson publicly declaring that he wants to be the one calling the shots on roster decisions.
Despite the problems in New York and Los Angeles, the Knicks and Lakers remain the NBA’s two most valuable franchises, according to a report from Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes. The Knicks and Lakers are the only teams valued at more than $3 billion by Forbes.
Team valuations are up around the league, with the Warriors leading the way among this year’s increases — according to Forbes, the Dubs are 37% more valuable that they were at this time in 2016. In total, 18 teams have a valuation exceeding $1 billion, which is up from 13 teams last year and just three teams in 2015. The average NBA franchise is now worth $1.36 billion, according to the report.
Here’s the full list of NBA franchise valuations, per Forbes:
- New York Knicks: $3.3 billion
- Los Angeles Lakers: $3 billion
- Golden State Warriors: $2.6 billion
- Chicago Bulls: $2.5 billion
- Boston Celtics: $2.2 billion
- Los Angeles Clippers; $2 billion
- Brooklyn Nets: $1.8 billion
- Houston Rockets: $1.65 billion
- Dallas Mavericks: $1.45 billion
- Miami Heat: $1.35 billion
- Cleveland Cavaliers: $1.2 billion
- San Antonio Spurs: $1.175 billion
- Toronto Raptors: $1.125 billion
- Phoenix Suns: $1.1 billion
- Sacramento Kings: $1.075 billion
- Portland Trail Blazers: $1.05 billion
- Oklahoma City Thunder: $1.025 billion
- Washington Wizards: $1 billion
- Orlando Magic: $920MM
- Utah Jazz: $910MM
- Detroit Pistons: $900MM
- Denver Nuggets: $890MM
- Atlanta Hawks: $885MM
- Indiana Pacers: $880MM
- Philadelphia 76ers: $800MM
- Memphis Grizzlies: $790MM
- Milwaukee Bucks: $785MM
- Charlotte Hornets: $780MM
- Minnesota Timberwolves: $770MM
- New Orleans Pelicans: $750MM
For comparison’s sake, Forbes’ 2016 valuations can be found right here.
With trade rumors swirling, the Sixers held Jahlil Okafor out of action on Saturday night, and didn’t bring him on their trip to Charlotte for Monday’s game. However, Okafor has rejoined the Sixers in Boston and will play in tonight’s game against the Celtics, as Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com writes. According to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (via Twitter), Nerlens Noel will remain in the starting lineup, with Okafor coming off the bench.
When Okafor was initially kept out of action over the weekend, it appeared that the Sixers were moving toward finalizing a trade involving the former No. 3 overall pick. Indeed, a source tells Camerato that the team had been close to a deal involving Okafor. Now that the club is ready to re-insert him into the lineup, it seems no trade is imminent.
According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, people around the NBA are skeptical that the Sixers were ever all that close to moving Okafor. O’Connor’s sources speculate that Okafor’s absence was a failed attempt to “stir interest” and “flush out” teams’ best offers.
The Pelicans, Bulls, Nuggets, and Trail Blazers have been linked to Okafor in recent reports, but O’Connor suggests Denver and Portland don’t appear to be serious suitors, and he’s not sure Chicago is either. New Orleans seemed to be gaining momentum on a possible Okafor deal earlier this month, but that was nine days ago, and nothing has come of it yet.
The Sixers’ game tonight is the team’s last one before February 24, a day after the trade deadline, so it’s possible that it will be Okafor’s last contest with the franchise. We’ll have to wait to see if the offers for Okafor improve by next Thursday, or if Philadelphia eventually settles for an offer currently on the table.
- Newly acquired Trail Blazers big man Jusuf Nurkic spoke with the media about his new home. “I think it’s the perfect place for me,” he told the media. “They need me, and I need them.” The 22-year-old also mentioned that he didn’t mind whether head coach Terry Stotts slotted him into the starting lineup or brought him off the bench.
- The Trail Blazers will send $2.85MM to the Nuggets as part of the Nurkic/Plumlee swap, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. That, Pincus says, explains why Denver included a first-round pick in their outgoing package. For more details of the trade, consider Mark Deeks of Give Me Sport‘s break down of the deal.
In the days leading up to the February 23 trade deadline, Hoops Rumors will be taking a closer look at each of the NBA’s 30 teams, by division. We’ll be identifying each team as a buyer, seller, or something in between, and discussing which teams and players are most likely to be involved in deals this month. We’ve already covered the Atlantic. Today, we’re examining the Northwest.
Two Northwest teams are currently over .500, and both the Thunder (31-25) and Jazz (34-22) are in decent position to add reinforcements, though that’s certainly no lock for either team. Oklahoma City has already cashed in many of its trade assets, including a protected 2020 first-round pick sent to the Sixers for Jerami Grant earlier this season. With no trade-eligible first-round picks before 2022 and Enes Kanter on the shelf, the Thunder have limited trade options. Young players like Cameron Payne and Josh Huestis are probably their strongest realistic trade chips at the moment.
As for Utah, the Northwest leaders likely won’t want to shake up their roster too significantly — potential 2017 free agents like Gordon Hayward and George Hill would be trade candidates if they were on lottery teams, but they’re not going anywhere for the Jazz. Still, the team’s sizable chunk of cap room, depth at the point guard spot, and extra first-round picks would make it easy for the Jazz to get something done if they receive an offer they like.
The Trail Blazers made a move earlier this week, acquiring Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first-round pick from the Nuggets in exchange for Mason Plumlee and a 2018 second-rounder. While many pundits praised the Blazers for the deal, Plumlee’s teammates were sad to see him go, and there are questions about whether Nurkic will have any more of an impact in Portland than he did in Denver.
General manager Neil Olshey spoke to the team’s official website on Monday about the deal, explaining why he was willing to move Plumlee, what he expects from Nurkic, and what else the team might do before February 23.
Let’s round up a few highlights from the Blazers GM…
On the decision to move Plumlee:
“Mason’s impending free agency was certainly a factor. We love Mason, we’re going to miss him around here. We wouldn’t have been in the second round of the playoffs last year without him. But there are certain realities to managing our cap. We felt like we needed to get younger at the center position. We wanted more of a low-post player, someone that can defend size, strength. We found that with Jusuf.”
On the benefits of acquiring Nurkic:
“We felt like in the long run, this will pay longer dividends, having a younger guy on a rookie-scale [contract] to manage our cap with it. He gives us a different look defensively. He’s a big-time rebounder and I think he’ll make the game easier for guys like [Damian Lillard] and [C.J. McCollum] because we’ve got more presence in the paint now defensively.”
On additional trade talks:
“We’re active. … I can’t speak to any specifics. I can tell you that the league is very active right now, but what we’re most excited about is having three picks in this draft. I think we’ve done a very nice job in the draft so far, whether it’s using draft picks to acquire players – like we did with Robin Lopez or Mason Plumlee – or drafting guys like Dame and C.J. and [Allen Crabbe]. So we’re excited about the prospect of that. It’s a big-time draft, it’s got incredible depth. We’ll be excited about it in June, but we now also have those tools for the next 10 days to put into play if a player that’ll impact our win total becomes available.”
On how the Blazers’ loaded salary cap affects their outlook going forward:
“This roster was always going to be a work in progress. We have the benefit of having Paul Allen as an owner. He let us retain all of our players. It wasn’t realistic to think we could manage that cap going forward, but it put us in position to keep as much as possible [and] give ourselves a chance to compete, knowing at some point we’re going to have to make some moves.”