R.J. Hampton

COVID-19 Updates: Marshall, Cooper, Hampton, Towns, Brown

The Pelicans’ Naji Marshall has entered the league’s health and safety protocols, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune tweets. Earlier in the day, Nickeil Alexander-Walker became the first New Orleans player to enter protocols this season. Marshall, a second-year forward, has appeared in 19 games off the bench this season.

We have more COVID-19 related updates:

  • Hawks rookie point guard Sharife Cooper has entered the health and safety protocols, Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. Cooper joins six other Atlanta players currently on the list. The second-round pick has appeared in eight games off the bench this season.
  • Magic guard R.J. Hampton exited the protocols on Thursday, Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel tweets. He didn’t play on Thursday in order to work on his conditioning. Hampton was placed in the protocols on December 17, which means he produced two negative tests at least 24 hours apart.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns is asymptomatic, Timberwolves coach Chris Finch told Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link). “He is in the best spirits possible,” Finch said, adding Towns was very disappointed he couldn’t play on Thursday. Towns was placed in the protocols on Thursday, joining six other Minnesota players.
  • Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown has entered the protocols, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets.

Three More Magic Players Enter COVID-19 Protocols

After placing forward Ignas Brazdeikis in the health and safety protocols on Thursday evening, the Magic canceled their morning shootaround and have had three more players enter the protocols today, per Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel (Twitter links). A source tells Price that Terrence Ross, Moritz Wagner, and R.J. Hampton have joined Brazdeikis in the protocols and will be out on Friday vs. Miami.

Since vaccinated players haven’t been required to undergo daily testing for COVID-19 this season, those players have only been tested when they show symptoms of the virus or when they’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. If Brazdeikis tested positive on Thursday, it likely prompted a round of testing for the entire roster.

Assuming Brazdeikis, Ross, Wagner, and Hampton have tested positive for the coronavirus, they’ll be out for the next 10 days or until they register two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

Orlando becomes the seventh team to have at least four players currently in the health and safety protocols, joining the Nets, Bulls, Lakers, Bucks, Knicks, and Kings. Orlando is also missing several players due to longer-term injuries, including Jalen Suggs, Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac, Michael Carter-Williams, and E’Twaun Moore, raising questions about whether tonight’s game vs. the Heat may need to be postponed.

It’s possible the Magic will have the minimum number of players available, but their current group of eight players includes Cole Anthony, Mohamed Bamba, and Gary Harris, all of whom are listed as questionable due to various ailments. Although the team is eligible to sign multiple free agents via the hardship exception, there may not be time before tip-off on Friday night to incorporate any new players.

Meanwhile, over in the Western Conference, Nuggets forward Bol Bol has reentered the health and safety protocols, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link). Bol spent several days in the protocols earlier this month.

Trade Rumors: Simmons, Pelicans, Lakers, Harris, Magic

In the latest episode of the HoopsHype Podcast, Michael Scotto said he’s heard the Pelicans discussed a deal with the Sixers that would’ve seen New Orleans give up a series of first-round picks and swaps in exchange for Ben Simmons. The 76ers have been seeking an All-Star caliber player in any Simmons deal, but Scotto says Brandon Ingram wasn’t included in those discussions.

The Pelicans do have an excess of first-rounders as a result of their Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday trades. However, I imagine Philadelphia would want to turn those picks into players who could make an immediate impact, rather than simply loading up for the future. So perhaps a third team would be necessary in order for the Pelicans and Sixers to make real progress.

Scotto and his guest, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, talked about a handful of other trade rumors from around the NBA during the podcast. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Following up on his report about the Lakers internally discussing the possibility of trading Russell Westbrook, Fischer says the team’s only outgoing call in which Westbrook’s name may have come up was to the Sixers about Simmons. “The conversation pretty much was, ‘We’re interested in Ben. How would we get there?'” Fischer explained. “The obvious solution is Russell Westbrook. He’s not a player on that Sixers list that they have.”
  • Fischer also said he received some push-back from Brooklyn about his report that the Nets may be open to moving sharpshooter Joe Harris. “Perhaps, teams who had early conversations with Brooklyn about Joe and they didn’t categorically shut them down, maybe that’s all this was,” Fischer said.
  • Addressing Shams Charania’s recent report that the Magic want a first-round pick for Terrence Ross, Scotto says some executives have talked about being open to giving up two second-rounders for the veteran swingman. However, Scotto’s not sure that would “move the needle” for Orlando. As I noted on Monday, Ross is under contract through 2022/23, so there’s no urgency for the Magic to move him.
  • Fischer has heard that before the Nuggets agreed to send R.J. Hampton the Magic as part of the Aaron Gordon trade in March, they were trying to include Bol Bol in Hampton’s place.

Northwest Notes: Gordon, Hampton, Porter, Jazz, Daigneault

The Nuggets‘ need to upgrade their perimeter defense prompted them to pull the trigger on a trade for Aaron Gordon at last season’s deadline, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post in a look back at the deal that sent Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton and a future first-round pick to Orlando in exchange for Gordon and Gary Clark. Gordon sparked Denver to a 19-6 finish and is happy to be in a stable environment after six and a half seasons with the Magic.

“When I was there, it was something new every year,” Gordon said. “New coaching staff, new GM, new players. It was just so much fluctuation all the time. We didn’t know whether we wanted to tank or whether we were trying to win. It was like having your foot on the gas and the brake at the same time. Burnout.”

Coach Michael Malone called the trade “a necessary move,” but it wasn’t easy for the organization to part with Harris, who grew into a locker room leader during his time in Denver, and Hampton, whom the Nuggets viewed as a potential steal in the 2020 draft. Singer notes that Denver’s subsequent backcourt injuries would have given Hampton a chance to shine if he were still on the roster.

“It definitely was a blessing in disguise,” Hampton said. “I feel like my talent and my work ethic, God blessed me with an opportunity to come to this situation in Orlando and play right away. I’m grateful for that. At the same time, I’m grateful for Denver. They took a chance on me.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Owner Stan Kroenke may have been behind the Nuggets‘ decision to give a five-year maximum extension to Michael Porter Jr. despite his injury history, according to Marc Stein of Substack. Both attended the University of Missouri and Kroenke has been an advocate for Porter ever since he joined the organization, Stein adds.
  • The Jazz are experimenting with a small-ball lineup that became necessary when backup center Hassan Whiteside was ejected from a game last week, per Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. Although the early results haven’t been positive, the team may want to keep developing it in light of the matchup problems that the Clippers created for Rudy Gobert in last year’s playoffs.
  • Thunder coach Mark Daigneault watched film of his team’s historic 73-point loss with the rest of his staff, but he didn’t show it to the players, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. “The lessons that you want the team to take from that game are self-explanatory,” Daigneault said. “I didn’t see a need to double down on that. The feeling that you would try to generate with the film already exists. Letting it breathe I think is almost more powerful than to dwell on the actual visuals of it.” 

Magic Exercise Third-Year Contract Options On Anthony, Hampton, Okeke

The Magic announced in a press release (via Twitter) that they have opted to pick up their third-year team options on second-year players Cole AnthonyChuma Okeke and R.J. Hampton. This move will keep them under contract through the 2022/23 season.

The conclusion of October serves as the deadline for rookie scale option decisions for 2022/23. The salaries for all three young Magic players through the ’22/23 season are now guaranteed. That year, Anthony will earn $3.6MM, Okeke will make $3.4MM, and Hampton will pull in $2.4MM.

When healthy, the 6’2″ Anthony, showed plenty of promise at the point. The No. 15 pick in the 2020 draft averaged 12.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 4.1 APG across 47 games.

Okeke, the No. 16 selection in the 2019 draft out of Auburn, only made his NBA debut during the 2020/21 season. The 6’6″ power forward averaged 7.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 2.2 APG in 45 appearances.

Hampton was drafted with the No. 24 pick and kicked off his NBA career with the Nuggets. After failing to carve out meaningful rotation minutes across 25 games with Denver, Hampton was sent to the Magic. In Orlando, the 6’4″ guard averaged 11.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 2.8 APG over 26 games.

You can track all of the rookie scale team option decisions for 2022/23 right here.

Southeast Notes: Gafford, Harris, Oladipo, Hampton

Standout Wizards center Daniel Gafford has enjoyed his new opportunity with Washington, writes Spencer Davies of Basketball News.

The athletic second-year big man has seen an increased role with the Wizards, who are currently the No. 10 seed in the East with a 32-38 record. Washington is 13-6 since Gafford became a regular part of the lineup.

Gafford averaged 12.4 minutes per game in 31 contests for the Bulls. In 21 games for the Wizards, Gafford is averaging 10.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and an astronomical 1.8 BPG, even though his minutes have increased by just 5.3 MPG a night (to 17.7).

When I got here, it clicked automatically because you got two point guards who really know the game, and really know how to facilitate and play-make,” Gafford said of his perspective on the trade to the Wizards. He hopes to continue to expand his defensive attributes with his new team. “I’m good at blocking shots, [but] at the same time, I can be able to contain the ball up at the key if I put my mind [to it].”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • New Magic wing Gary Harris has proven to be a locker room leader during his brief time with Orlando, writes Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel. “When you have time to spend with him and you watch him in practice, you watch the way he integrates with his teammates and everything, he has character both on the court and off the court,” head coach Steve Clifford raved. “Obviously those are the guys that you want talking in the huddles, talking in the locker room because he believes and he talks about the right things.” Harris will earn $20.48MM in 2021/22 before becoming eligible for free agency next summer.
  • Heat guard Victor Oladipo had a successful season-ending surgery on the pesky right quadriceps tendon that he initially injured in 2019, per a team press release. A timeline for his return has not been disclosed, but he’ll miss the entire 2020/21 postseason. Oladipo will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and his checkered injury history figures to hurt his value.
  • In a wide-ranging interview with Alex Kennedy of Basketball News, rookie Magic guard R.J. Hampton discussed his first NBA season and his tenures in Denver and Orlando thus far. Hampton averaged just 9.3 MPG across 25 games with the championship-contending Nuggets. Since being dealt to the Magic in March, Hampton has seen a significant increase in all his counting stats. He is averaging 24.8 MPG, and putting up 10.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 2.5 APG a night. “Now, I’m getting an opportunity to play, but I think throughout my whole season, I’ve progressed a little bit day-by-day and just gotten better over the course of these months,” Hampton told Kennedy. “I don’t think there are really any cons for me in Orlando; this is what I wanted. I wanted to be on a team where I could play and grow and help my team get wins. Those were the biggest pros and cons, and differences.”

Jeff Weltman Discusses Magic’s Deadline-Day Trades

Speaking today to reporters following an eventful trade deadline, Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said that he believed the team could be a top-four seed in the East entering the season.

That may sound bullish, but considering the 22-21 Hornets currently rank fourth in the conference, it certainly wouldn’t have been out of the question. However, after a 6-2 start, injuries decimated Orlando’s roster, ultimately forcing a change of direction (Twitter link via Keith Smith of RealGM).

As Weltman explained today, the Magic still considered trying to make win-now moves to improve this year’s roster, but when they realized that there would be more buyers than sellers, that helped guide their direction (Twitter links via Smith). The club also had to come to terms with the fact that it didn’t have a championship-level roster and had no clear path to get there with the existing core, Smith tweets.

Orlando ended up moving Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, and Aaron Gordon in three separate deals on Thursday. Without those veterans on the roster, the 15-29 Magic, who already have the fourth-worst record in the NBA, are in position to nab a high pick in the 2021 NBA draft, which Weltman acknowledged.

You win with stars in this league. We’re in position to add talent through the draft” he said, per Smith (Twitter link). “We’re not focusing on that too much because it’s not something we have full control over. But we’re in a good position for this year’s draft.”

Here’s more from Weltman on the Magic:

  • According to Weltman, the Nuggets were initially hesitant to include R.J. Hampton in their offer for Gordon, but those talks gained traction once Denver relented (Twitter link via Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel). I can’t tell you how excited we are about him,” Weltman said, adding that he believes Hampton can play alongside Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony (Twitter link via Smith).
  • Asked if he felt the Magic got a strong enough return for Vucevic, Weltman replied, “Obviously we thought we got enough, because we did the deal.” He also pointed out that the Magic were on the receiving end of the only three first-round picks that changed hands on Thursday, and said the team has received “glowing reports” on Wendell Carter (Twitter links via Smith).
  • Although the Magic valued Fournier’s Bird rights, they felt as if it didn’t make sense to trade Vucevic and Gordon while hanging onto Fournier, and decided to take the best offer available, per Weltman (Twitter link via Smith).

Magic Trade Aaron Gordon To Nuggets

11:22pm: The deal is official, according to a Magic press release (via Twitter).

3:05pm: The 2025 first-round pick headed to Orlando in the trade will be top-five protected, tweets Zach Lowe of ESPN. That protection will remain the same in 2026 and 2027 if it doesn’t convey immediately.

11:24am: The Nuggets and Magic have reached an agreement on a trade that will send forward Aaron Gordon to Denver, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter links) also hears that the two sides are in agreement, reporting that Denver will send Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton, and a protected 2025 first-round pick to Orlando in the deal. The Nuggets will also acquire Gary Clark in the trade, tweets Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Gordon, who has been one of the most frequently discussed trade candidates this month, was said at the start of the week to be drawing serious interest from the Rockets. The Celtics overtook Houston as the frontrunner to acquire the 25-year-old on Tuesday, with the Nuggets reportedly emerging as the favorite as of Wednesday night.

It’s the second trade agreement of the day for the Nuggets, who also struck a deal with Cleveland to acquire JaVale McGee. The moves will shore up a Denver frontcourt that was hit hard last offseason by the free agent departures of Mason Plumlee, Jerami Grant, and Torrey Craig.

While McGee will take over as Nikola Jokic‘s backup at the five, Gordon can play either forward position, and should help provide the club with some of the defensive versatility that was lost when Grant and Craig left. It’s a safe bet that Gordon will be tasked with guarding bigger forwards like LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard during the postseason.

As for the Magic, the Gordon trade is the latest in a series of deals that signal the organization’s intention to reset its roster and retool around Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac. Orlando has also agreed to send Nikola Vucevic to Chicago and Evan Fournier to Boston.

According to earlier reports, the Celtics were offering Aaron Nesmith and a first-round pick as part of a package for Gordon. During conversations with the Timberwolves, the Magic wanted rookie Jaden McDaniels, but Minnesota was reluctant to part with him, per Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

Instead, the Magic will get a package headlined by a future first-round pick and Hampton, who was selected with the 24th overall pick in the 2020 draft. The 20-year-old has logged mostly garbage-time minutes in his 25 NBA games so far, but is viewed as having considerable potential.

Orlando also gets Harris, who has been productive in the past but has an oversized contract, including a $19.6MM salary this season and a $20.9MM cap hit for 2021/22. He was included in the deal for salary-matching purposes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fischer’s Latest: Gordon, Vucevic, Lowry, Redick, Ball, DeRozan

On the eve of the trade deadline, the Nuggets have become the favorites to pry Aaron Gordon away from the Magic, league sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Denver’s offer would include guard Gary Harris, a first-round pick, and either R.J. Hampton, Zeke Nnaji or Bol Bol.

Although the Nuggets seem to have the momentum, the Celtics are still “very engaged” in the process, according to Fischer. Boston’s proposed deal has involved Marcus Smart and a first-rounder, and it’s possible that a second first-round pick and the Celtics’ $28.5MM traded player exception could be used as well, with Evan Fournier also headed to Boston, says Fischer. Previous reports indicated that the C’s were looking to keep Smart out of the deal, offering a younger player in his place.

The Timberwolves, Rockets and Trail Blazers all remain interested in acquiring Gordon too.

Fischer passes on a few more trade rumors as the deadline draws near:

  • The Celtics are one of the few teams to express interest in trading for center Nikola Vucevic, but the Magic are putting a much higher price on him than Gordon. Orlando is asking for multiple first-round picks and a player who fits with their young core. Fischer expects Vucevic to stay with the Magic.
  • The Clippers, Lakers, Sixers and Heat are all still pursuing Kyle Lowry, but the Raptors‘ high price tag may prevent a deal from getting done. Fischer believes Philadelphia would have to offer two players from the group of Danny Green, Seth Curry and Tyrese Maxey, while Miami would need to part with Goran Dragic, another large salary and either Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson or Tyler Herro. Both Los Angeles teams are limited by their lack of available draft picks.
  • J.J. Redick appears headed for a buyout as the Pelicans haven’t found a team willing to offer draft picks or prospects in return for the veteran guard. Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report suggests a return to the Sixers is possible or maybe a reunion with former teammate Chris Paul on the Suns.
  • The Knicks are interested in Lonzo Ball and have the cap space to keep him in free agency, Pincus adds. The price could be Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox and possibly the Mavericks’ 2021 first-round pick.
  • Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan is also high on the Knicks‘ wish list, states A. Sherrod Blakely of Bleacher Report.

R.J. Hampton In COVID-19 Protocols Through All-Star Break

Rookie Nuggets point guard R.J. Hampton will be placed in the league’s coronavirus-related health and safety protocols, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

Denver anticipates that Hampton will be away from the team through at least the All-Star break, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). The Nuggets have three road games scheduled ahead of the NBA’s five-day All-Star pause. The All-Star break concludes on March 10.

More Nuggets absences may be on the horizon, as Woj tweets that the club is conducting supplemental contact tracing to determine if other players or Denver personnel could have been exposed to COVID-19.

Hampton, who was selected with the No. 24 pick after spending his year of college eligibility with the New Zealand Breakers, has seen limited playing time with Denver thus far. In 24 games, the 6’4″ 20-year-old is averaging 2.5 PPG and 2.0 RPG across 9.2 MPG.