Rodions Kurucs

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Atlantic Division

Over the course of the 2019/20 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.

The Atlantic is perhaps the most confounding NBA division when it comes to the trade deadline. The Raptors, Celtics, and Sixers are all potential contenders to come out of the East and may theoretically be looking to make upgrades, but their contract situations make it tricky to identify specific moves that would help.

The Nets are essentially in a holding pattern until they get their full roster healthy next season. The Knicks as sellers appeared to be the only safe bet on the board in the Atlantic, but they’ve resisted that label to some extent.

As we wait to see how the Atlantic teams approach the deadline, here are three (or four) more potential trade candidates from around the division…

Dennis Smith Jr., PG
New York Knicks

$4.5MM cap hit; $5.7MM guaranteed salary in 2020/21; RFA in 2021

A report last month indicated that teams, including the Timberwolves, had expressed some interest in Smith. There are plenty of factors complicating a potential deal though. For one, he was sidelined for a month with an oblique strain before returning last night, and will probably have to show he’s fully healthy before the deadline to increase the odds of a trade. That means the Knicks will have to give him more playing time than the four minutes he received on Wednesday.

Even then, Knicks management may be reluctant to move Smith without a decent return, since doing so would represent a further admission that last year’s blockbuster with the Mavs isn’t working out. The team already failed to land a star with the 2019 cap room created in that deal, and the two future first-round picks owed to New York almost certainly won’t be as valuable as initially hoped, given Dallas’ improvement.

Considering how poorly Smith has played in limited minutes this season, it’s hard to see the Knicks netting more than a low second-round pick and salary filler in exchange for Smith. The club may decide it would rather take its chances on DSJ turning things around and recapturing some of the potential that made him a top-10 pick in 2017.

A trade before the deadline is a possibility, but I think it’d be more likely if the same executives who acquired Smith a year ago weren’t the same ones tasked to decide whether or not to move him.

Raul Neto / Trey Burke, PG
Philadelphia 76ers
$1.62MM cap hit; UFA in 2020

Neither Neto nor Burke has really been involved in any rumors yet, but they’re trade candidates in a roundabout way. The Sixers have been linked to point guards who could be on the trade block, and if the team actually acquires a point guard, either Neto or Burke would become expendable.

The 76ers have gone back and forth this year between Neto and Burke as the primary backup to Ben Simmons, so it’s not entirely clear who would be the odd man out if the team makes a move to fortify its backcourt.

Both players are on minimum-salary contracts that expire at season’s end, meaning there’s no financial incentive to move one over the other. Neto is the better defender and perhaps the steadier floor general, but he doesn’t possess Burke’s play-making or scoring ability. The on/off-court numbers favor Burke — the Sixers have a +7.2 net rating when he plays, compared to +1.2 for Neto.

If the 76ers end up standing pat or focus on improving another area, both Neto and Burke could certainly finish the season in Philadelphia. But if they go out and acquire another guard, I’d expect the Sixers to try to find a trade partner interested in acquiring Neto or Burke as a third point guard.

Rodions Kurucs, F
Brooklyn Nets
$1.7MM cap hit; $1.8MM guaranteed salary in 2020/21; $1.9MM team option for 2021/22

After a promising rookie season, Kurucs has taken a step backward in 2019/20. Despite a series of injury creating a path to a regular role for the Latvian forward, he doesn’t seem to have fully earned Kenny Atkinson‘s trust. His minutes per game have dipped from 20.5 to 13.3 and he’s received several DNP-CDs.

There are some promising numbers in this year’s small sample, including a .439 3PT%, and teams monitoring the Nets may view Kurucs as a buy-low candidate. However, off-court concerns may scare those teams away, since the 21-year-old was arrested during the offseason on a domestic violence charge.

We heard in December that there are teams doing their homework on Kurucs to see if he makes sense as a trade target. Presumably, that research centers on the domestic violence allegation — if it’s credible, clubs will be less enthusiastic about the idea of making a deal for the former second-round pick.

Kurucs is due back in court on February 11, meaning there will be no resolution in his legal case by the February 6 trade deadline. As a result, it’s hard to see him being moved.

Revisit the rest of our 2019/20 Trade Candidate series right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

New York Notes: Knicks, DSJ, Irving, Dinwiddie

Two people in touch with the Knicks within the last few days have said that the team remains opposed to moving a future first-round pick in any trade scenario, reports Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

Begley cautions that the stance could be posturing on the Knicks’ part, but I’d personally be pretty surprised to see New York trade a first-rounder in the coming weeks. The only scenario in which it would make sense would be if the club could land a player who is under contract for multiple years and projects to be a long-term building block.

The Knicks were recently linked to Andre Drummond. Reports since then have downplayed those talks, but Begley has suggested they were more than just exploratory discussions. Even if they were serious about a Drummond scenario, it’s not clear if the Knicks would have to give up a first-round pick, given the big man’s uncertain contract status beyond this season.

Here’s more out of New York:

  • Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed his ninth straight game due to a oblique strain on Sunday and there’s still no clear timetable for his return, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. However, Smith is enthusiastic about the progress he has made. “It’s actually faster (than I expected),” Smith said. “I heard with oblique strains, it can be two months. I’m actually coming along fast. I’m going through the process. I’m feeling better.”
  • Kyrie Irving looked good on Sunday in his return for the Nets, making 10-of-11 shots from the floor in 20 minutes and helping lead the team to a blowout win. As Brian Lewis of The New York Post writes, Irving said it was “good to be back” on the court. “It was a long road back, man,” Irving said. “A lot of questions I had to answer; just health for my shoulder, longevity, what would’ve been the best option for my health long term.”
  • Spencer Dinwiddie played a starring role for the Nets in Irving’s absence, but is happy to give up some of his scoring and play-making responsibilities now that his backcourt mate is healthy. “I’d rather average 21 and win at a high level [compared to] 25 and getting my head cracked every night,” Dinwiddie told Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. “I don’t view his coming back as, ‘Now I’m gonna average two points a game.’ I’ll still be productive. It gives our group a chance to win a lot more games.”
  • Nets forward Rodions Kurucs acknowledged that his legal issues have impacted his performance on the court this season, Lewis writes for The New York Post. Kurucs, who was accused of domestic assault, has had a reduced role in 2019/20 and has been up and down when he’s played.

Atlantic Notes: Portis, Celtics, Fall, Sixers, Kurucs

Knicks forward Bobby Portis was ejected from Tuesday’s game against the Lakers for a vicious swipe that knocked Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out of the game. Portis was fined $25K for “recklessly making contact” above KCP’s shoulders (he hit him in the head) and the big man has apologized for the incident.

“It wasn’t intentional at all,” Portis said (via Alex Smith of SNY.tv). “Went for the ball. Apologies to Caldwell-Pope. Happy to see him back on the court doing his thing. My intent is never to hurt anyone or anything. Just tried to make a play on the ball, missed the ball, and hit him in the head.

“Like I said, that’s not my intent to hurt anybody, but I do apologize and I am sincere for it.”

Portis, who signed a two-year deal with a team option on the 2020/21 campaign this past offseason, could be on the move in the coming weeks — at least one recent report indicated that he has drawn some trade interest.

Here’s more from out of the Atlantic:

  • A year ago, a surprisingly strong Kings’ season meant that the first-round draft pick they sent to the Celtics wasn’t as valuable as initially believed. That may happen to the C’s again in 2020 with the pick the Grizzlies owe them. Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston explores how Memphis’ recent hot streak has affected the value of that top-six-protected first-rounder.
  • In an interview with ESPN (video link), beloved Celtics rookie Tacko Fall spoke about his road to the NBA and how he has adjusted to fame.
  • Derek Bodner of Rich Hofmann of The Athletic preview the Sixers‘ trade options and examine whether Matisse Thybulle should be viewed as untouchable. Their verdict? Moving Thybulle should only be considered if the team has a chance to acquire an impact player in a major deal.
  • Prosecutors from Brooklyn’s District Attorney’s Office turned over the evidence against Nets forward Rodions Kurucs this week in his domestic violence case, writes Andrew Denney of The New York Post. Kurucs, who is facing a series of charges that include third-degree assault and second-degree harassment, is due back in court on February 11.

Chris Crouse contributed to this post.

Nets Notes: Kurucs, Tucker, Roster, Jordan

With David Nwaba on the shelf due to a season-ending Achilles tear, second-year forward Rodions Kurucs is getting another opportunity to earn a regular role for the Nets, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post writes. After a promising rookie season, Kurucs has been out of the rotation for most of this season, but he logged 11 minutes in Saturday’s win over Atlanta.

“The period of time when I was on the court, basically next man up. Just got David’s minutes a little bit, trying to get some organization right now,” Kurucs said. “Feels great now.”

Kurucs’ role in Brooklyn changed in part due to all the changes the roster underwent this summer, and perhaps in part due to the off-court legal issues he’s dealing with. Still, the Nets haven’t given up on him as his court case plays out, and may have to lean on him until regular contributors start to get healthy.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • The Nets were among the teams interested in signing G League standout, Rayjon Tucker, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). Tucker, who had been averaging 23.8 PPG for the Wisconsin Herd, agreed to a guaranteed deal with Utah on Monday.
  • Net Income of NetsDaily wonders if the Nets’ reported interest in Tucker suggests a roster move might be around the corner for the team. A hardship exception to add a 16th man is a possibility, but waiving a current member of the 15-man squad might make more sense, as the NetsDaily article lays out.
  • The Nets faced some criticism for handing a DeAndre Jordan a four-year, $40MM contract this past summer, but it’s hard to imagine where the team would be without him, says Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Jordan has averaged 10.0 RPG despite playing just 21.3 minutes per contest and is showing off a newfound passing ability — his 3.8 assists per 36 minutes are easily a career high.

Multiple Teams Doing Homework On Rodions Kurucs

At least two teams are devoting resources to conducting a “full background check” on Nets forward Rodions Kurucs to see if he makes sense as a trade target, sources tell ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link).

Kurucs had a promising rookie season in 2018/19, averaging 8.5 PPG and 3.9 RPG in 63 games (46 starts) and shooting 45.0% from the field. This season, the 21-year-old hasn’t been a regular part of Brooklyn’s rotation, recording just 2.3 PPG and 2.2 RPG on 39.1% shooting in 10 contests (9.9 MPG).

Additionally, Kurucs was arrested during the offseason on a domestic violence charge. The case related to those allegations is ongoing, and the background checks referred to by Marks will presumably focus on determining how credible that accusation is.

The Nets will face a roster crunch within the next few days when Wilson Chandler‘s 25-game suspension comes to an end. The team has been carrying Iman Shumpert as a 16th man, but will have to get back to down to 15 players when Chandler is eligible to be reinstated.

If Brooklyn isn’t prepared to waive a player like Shumpert, Chandler, or David Nwaba, a move involving Kurucs could be a possibility.

Nets Notes: Prince, Atkinson, Chandler, Temple

Taurean Prince was happy to deliver one of his best games of the year against the Hawks, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Prince had 23 points, seven rebounds and hit 5 of 7 shots from beyond the arc Wednesday as the short-handed Nets defeated his former team.

“I was 100 percent motivated, especially being the team that traded me away. That was part of it,” Prince said. “… There’s just a lot more trust given to me, a lot more situations I’m put in to be great. Just credit to the Brooklyn Nets for allowing me to be myself.”

The Nets acquired Prince in a summer trade, sending Allen Crabbe to Atlanta in a salary dump. Coach Kenny Atkinson served as an assistant with the Hawks until just before they drafted Prince and thought he would fit in well. Brooklyn quickly rewarded Prince with a two-year extension worth $29MM.

“I loved his toughness, I loved his shooting,” Atkinson said. “[General manager] Sean [Marks] and I were on the same page, and the staff was on the same page in terms of, ‘Man, we got a good player.’ And obviously re-signing him to the deal we did we’re ecstatic we got that done.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • Atkinson is in his fourth season with the Nets, but he’s already the longest-tenured active coach in New York professional sports, Lewis notes in a separate story. Atkinson inherited that title Tuesday when the NHL’s New Jersey Devils fired John Hynes. “I think it shows coaching is a tough business,” Atkinson said. “I really don’t know what to say. I don’t know if it makes me proud or sad for the other guys. I know this is a tough business, tough to survive in, especially in New York.”
  • With just 10 days before Wilson Chandler returns from suspension, Kristian Winfield of The New York Daily News examines who might be waived to make room. Brooklyn became eligible to carry a 16th player once Chandler served the first five games, and signed Iman Shumpert, who has been a valuable contributor. Winfield speculates Rodions Kurucs, who has only played in three of the past 13 games, could be released. The Nets may also cut one of their two-way players, Henry Ellenson or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and then waive either Theo Pinson or Dzanan Musa and hope to re-sign them to a two-way deal.
  • Kyrie Irving gave the Nets a valuable piece of advice when he urged them to sign veteran free agent Garrett Temple, relays Billy Reinhardt of NetsDaily. Temple’s signing was barely noticed because it came on the same day that Brooklyn landed Irving, Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan, but he has been an important addition.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/25/19

Here are Monday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Wizards assigned forward Admiral Schofield and guard Justin Robinson to the Capital City Go-Go, the team’s PR department tweets. In six games with the Go-Go, Schofield has averaged 18.0 PPG and 6.0 RPG, while Robinson has posted averages of 12.8 PPG, 7.2 APG and 3.2 SPG.
  • The Knicks assigned rookie forward Ignas Brazdeikis to the Westchester affiliate, the team’s PR department tweets. The second-round pick is averaging 18 PPG and 7.1 RPG in four games at the G League level.
  • Suns rookie guard Ty Jerome was assigned to the Northern Arizona Suns, the team’s PR department tweets. The first-round pick is rehabbing from an ankle injury.
  • The Hawks recalled forwards Bruno Fernando and guard Tyrone Wallace from the College Park Skyhawks of the NBA G League, the team tweets. Fernando posted nine points and nine rebounds in a game with College Park while Wallace, another second-round pick, scored 26 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
  • The Pacers recalled forward Alize Johnson from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, according to a team press release. Johnson had 36 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, and two steals against the Windy City Bulls on Sunday. Johnson has appeared in five games with the Pacers this season, averaging 2.6 PPG and 2.4 RPG.
  • The Mavericks assigned rookie forward Isaiah Roby to the Texas Legends, the team’s PR department tweets. Roby has averaged 11.8 PPG and 8.2 RPG in five G League games.
  • The Nets recalled forward Rodions Kurucs from their Long Island affiliate, Brian Lewis of the New York Post tweets. Kurucs, a 2018 second rounder, has appeared in nine games with Brooklyn this season.

Eastern Notes: Love, Thompson, Bucks, Silva, Kurucs

Sources close to Cavaliers veterans Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson tell Joe Vardon of The Athletic that both big men would ideally like to play for a team with a chance to win a championship. However, Vardon warns not to read too much into that, suggesting that neither player has given any indication he wants out of Cleveland.

Additionally, even if the Cavaliers decide to try to deal Love or Thompson, it’s not clear if there would be a strong market for either player, Vardon notes. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t appeal to contenders, but trade chatter around the NBA is “way down,” according to one general manager who spoke to The Athletic, and Love’s and Thompson’s big cap hits would make them tricky to move.

Over at The Ringer, Kevin O’Connor tries to identify a few teams that might match up with the Cavaliers in a Love trade, writing that rival team executives believe GM Koby Altman is “just posturing” when he insists Cleveland has zero interest in moving the five-time All-Star. However, O’Connor has a tough time finding ideal fits, listing the Kings, Spurs, Heat, Trail Blazers, and Rockets as some teams that might work in theory.

As Altman and the Cavs consider their options, here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/17/19

Here are Sunday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA G League:

  • For the second time this week, the Pacers have assigned All-Star shooting guard Victor Oladipo to the team’s G League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, per a team press release. Like he did in his first assignment, Oladipo will practice with the Mad Ants this afternoon in Fort Wayne before being recalled to Indianapolis after practice.
  • One day after recalling him, the Spurs have again assigned rookie Keldon Johnson to their Austin affiliate, tweets Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News. Orsborn adds that the Spurs have also assigned Chimezie Metu, and that both Johnson and Metu will play for Austin in this afternoon’s game against the Stockton Kings.
  • The Nets have assigned Rodions Kurucs to the Long Island Nets for today’s G League contest against the Windy City Bulls, tweets Brian Lewis of the New York Post. It’s Kurucs’ first assignment of the 2019/20 season.
  • After assigning both to the G League just yesterday, the Magic have recalled Melvin Frazier Jr. and Amile Jefferson from Lakeland, tweets the team’s official Twitter account (link).
  • Nearly three weeks after assignment, the Timberwolves have recalled rookie big man Naz Reid from the Iowa Wolves, Minnesota’s G League affiliate, according to a press release from the team. Reid is averaging 18.0 points, 8.6 boards, and 1.4 blocks for Iowa so far this season.

New York Notes: Ntilikina, Mills, Shumpert, Claxton

A starter in seven straight games, Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina is finally trending in the right direction, writes Ian Begley of SNY.tv, largely because of his newfound mental approach to the game that began last season and continued this summer.

“I think the work I put in all summer and even last season while I was injured, allows me to be more comfortable and everything else in life be more comfortable here in this country, this situation as an NBA player, said Ntilikina. “And everything is set now, so my mind is all the way into basketball and do what it takes to get to the next level.

There’s more from the Big Apple this afternoon:

  • Lesser-used players like Theo Pinson and Dzanan Musa rewarded Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson with his trust in them during the team’s recent win over Chicago, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “That’s what we’re about,” Atkinson said. “We’ve got to trust these guys. They put in the work, they’ve been in our program a while so they understand what we’re doing. We can’t burn out our other guys, our top eight. We can’t play them 45 minutes. So, those guys’ contributions were huge.”
  • Stefan Bondy of the Daily News opines that allowing president Steve Mills to choose the Knicks’ next head coach (should David Fizdale be fired) is a silly proposition, as Mills has already failed time and time again to find the right candidate to lead the team moving forward.
  • Atkinson says the Nets are looking for new addition, veteran swingman Iman Shumpert, to fill a need with his perimeter defense, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “He fits a need right now. Perimeter defense, that’s always been his calling card. I … know him well, know the personality. He gets after it defensively. That will be his role for us.”
  • According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, at least one former Knicks player did not like how MSG fans booed his former teammate, Mavs’ forward Kristaps Porzingis. “I think everybody can think what they want but I feel bad for KP,” said Hornets’ big man Willy Hernangomez. “He’s my brother. We spent too many nights in this amazing arena. I understand what people [do]. The people always treated me good when I was here and appreciated. But I was sad when I saw that.”
  • SB Nation’s Nets Daily takes a look at how Nets rookie power forward Nicolas Claxton is set to earn additional minutes at the NBA level as a result of the recent poor play of teammate Rodions Kurucs. “We’ve got to get our best talent on the floor,” Atkinson said Friday. “I think (Claxton’s) a talented guy. We need to find a way to play him.”