Saben Lee

Central Notes: Donovan, Weaver, Drummond, LeVert

The frustration for the Bulls and new head coach Billy Donovan is mounting over their penchant for blowing big leads. Chicago squandered a 10-point cushion in the final two minutes of regulation and lost in overtime on Friday to the Thunder, prompting Donovan to make some pointed comments about his team’s psyche.

“This is a hard-working group. It’s a good group of guys. They want to win,” the Bulls’ coach said, per Royce Young of ESPN. “They don’t know how to. They are learning how to.

The Bulls have committed a league-worst 18.3 turnovers per game and Donovan believes that’s the crux of their problem. “We’ve gotten destroyed in the turnover battle the whole entire year,” he said.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • New Pistons GM Troy Weaver engineered a number of draft-night trades and wound up with four rookies on the roster. He’s thrilled with all of them, even though lottery pick Killian Hayes struggled as a starter before suffering a hip injury, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart have jumped into the rotation and second-rounder Saben Lee is getting some spot time with Hayes sidelined. “We can debate the player all day long, but we’re not going to debate the person,” Weaver said. “These are high-character guys who work and are selfless. Extremely excited about them.”
  • Jarrett Allen appears to be the Cavaliers’ main man in the middle after they acquired the restricted free agent from the Nets this week, but they shouldn’t be so quick to give away Andre Drummond, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer opines. Drummond has been highly productive this season, as his 33-point, 23-rebound outing against the Knicks demonstrates. Trading Drummond, an unrestricted free agent after the season, could wind up making the team less competitive.
  • The Pacers are replacing Victor Oladipo with Caris LeVert in their impending trade with the Rockets. While those guards have similar stats, their skill sets vary greatly. J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star provides a breakdown of their strengths and weaknesses.

Central Notes: Bulls, Temple, S. Lee, Bjorkgren

Several Bulls players showed up early for training camp to get to know new head coach Billy Donovan and his staff, writes Jamal Collier of The Chicago Tribune. The team hasn’t played since March, so players were eager to get started on the new season.

“Billy has come in and made a lot of changes,” Daniel Gafford said. “He came in and basically put his foot down and made sure that everything was laid out on the table on what he wanted to do with the team. I like that as a coach. It’s a big job. He really came in and just made sure that he built a relationship with the guys before we got to work. Once he built that relationship and we got on the floor, it was flowing right after that.”

Since the abrupt end of last season, Chicago has seen management changes as well as a coaching overhaul. New executives Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley have been regulars at the team facility as they become familiar with their personnel.

“They just want to make this franchise better,” Thaddeus Young said. “They want to come out and get it right on the first go-around as opposed to trying to take a whole bunch of shots and missing on all those shots. They’re making sure they take the time and do their due diligence on everything that they’re doing. They’re very precise on what they want to do.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Bulls guard Garrett Temple tested positive for COVID-19 on November 28, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Temple will have to pass a series of safety protocols before he can report to camp, and he hopes to receive clearance by Wednesday. Temple said he got tested because he was experiencing a headache and feelings of fatigue. He believes he has recovered from most of the symptoms.
  • Second-round pick Saben Lee made a strong impression during his pre-draft interview with the Pistons, according to Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. Bryce Drew, who coached Lee during his first two seasons at Vanderbilt, believes he has the personality to make an impact in the NBA. “In the basketball world, I’ve coached quite a few players and he’s probably tried to dunk on more people than anyone I’ve ever coached,” Drew said. “Even though you’re polite off the court, you can be a lion on the court. At his size, he’s not scared to go try to dunk on anybody.”
  • Pacers players are adapting quickly to new head coach Nate Bjorkgren, tweets J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. “This is the most fun I’ve had in a training camp in my career. … The overall vibe,” Doug McDermott said. “He’s got a great vibe to him. It feels different. … He’s a guy everyone here will go to war for.”

Pistons Sign Three First-Round Picks

The Pistons have signed first-round picks Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey, according to a team press release.

Hayes, a point guard from France, was the highest of those picks, going with the No. 7 selection. Assuming he received 120% of the rookie scale for his slot, Hayes will make $5,307,120 in his first season and can make $24,131,515 over the next four years if team options are exercised in the third and fourth seasons.

Stewart and Bey were acquired in draft night agreements. Stewart, a center, was chosen with the No. 16 pick. He’ll make $3,121,080 in his first year and can make $15,098,193 over the next four seasons.

Bey, a forward, was taken with the 19th selection. He’ll bring in $2,689,920 as a rookie and can make $13,030,303 over the next four seasons.

Guard Saben Lee, a second-round pick, was also inked. He will reportedly play on a two-way contract.

Central Notes: Pacers, Hayward, Kennard, Pistons, Bucks, Bulls

In a pair of stories, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files and J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (subscription required) provide a few additional details on the Pacers‘ pursuit of Gordon Hayward in free agency, confirming that the Celtics sought a second starting player in addition to Myles Turner in a potential Hayward sign-and-trade. That lines up with what Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe reported last week.

Agness says that Hayward and his family purchased a home in the Indianapolis area over a year ago and that his wife was excited about the possibility of moving back to Indiana. However, Ainge apparently drove a hard bargain in trade discussions — Michael reports that even an offer of Turner, a first-round pick, and a rotation player (possibly Doug McDermott, as Washburn reported) wasn’t enough to win over the Celtics.

It’s possible that the hard line drawn by Ainge wouldn’t have ultimately mattered — the Hornets‘ offer of four years and $120MM was about $15MM higher than the Pacers were willing to go, according to Agness. That difference certainly may have been enough to lure Hayward to Charlotte even if the Pacers and Celtics had agreed to trade terms.

Still, both Agness’ and Michael’s reports seem to suggest there was a window when the two teams’ inability to work out a sign-and-trade agreement may have been the only thing standing in the way of Hayward going to Indiana. According to Michael, once the Hornets put their $120MM offer on the table, Ainge wanted to go back to the Pacers to negotiate in “good faith,” but Hayward’s agent Mark Bartelstein “pulled the plug” on that as the veteran forward chose Charlotte.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • It flew under the radar a little since it wasn’t reported as part of the initial agreement, but the Pistons gave up an eye-popping four second-round picks in their deal that sent Luke Kennard to the Clippers and landed them No. 19 pick Saddiq Bey. According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Insider link), those four second-rounders “appear to have been in part the cost of Kennard’s past knee issues.” However, Kennard’s camp is confident those issues are behind him, and it seems the Clippers are too, writes Lowe.
  • While the 2020 draft may not be packed with future stars, Pistons general manager Troy Weaver said his club “really liked” this year’s class, which was why the team traded for multiple extra picks. “We liked the players that were in it and we just felt there were quality young men that could help continue to build our program, we were aggressive,” Weaver said, per Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Referring to Bey, Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, and Saben Lee, the Pistons’ GM added, “Hopefully, we can look back in time and call this our core four.”
  • The failed Bogdan Bogdanovic sign-and-trade was a bad look for the franchise, but Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (subscription required) contends there’s a case to be made that the Bucks will ultimately be better off with the moves they made instead. Not landing Bogdanovic allowed Milwaukee to offer more than the minimum to add role players like D.J. Augustin, Bobby Portis, and Bryn Forbes, and the team didn’t end up having to part with promising 23-year-old Donte DiVincenzo.
  • In his latest mailbag, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago fields questions about the Bulls‘ surprising No. 4 draft pick and the club’s relatively quiet free agent period.

Jazz Ship Tony Bradley, Saben Lee To Pistons

NOVEMBER 22: The Jazz have officially announced their deal with the Pistons, confirming in a press release that they received cash from the Pistons in exchange for Bradley and the rights to No. 38 pick Saben Lee. Detroit has already agreed to flip Bradley to Philadelphia in a separate deal.


NOVEMBER 18: The Jazz have agreed to trade center Tony Bradley and the No. 38 pick to the Pistons for cash considerations, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter links).

Bradley, 22, appeared in 58 regular-season games last season, averaging 4.9 PPG and 4.6 RPG in 11.4 MPG. Bradley will be entering his fourth season after spending most of his first two seasons in the G League.

Bradley has a $3.54MM guaranteed contract for the upcoming season and could be a restricted free agent if Detroit extends a $5.277MM qualifying offer next offseason.

Utah’s motivation for the trade was to open more cap room and increase roster flexibility, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets. The Jazz have made re-signing unrestricted free agent guard Jordan Clarkson a top priority.

[UPDATE: Jazz, Jordan Clarkson agree to four-year deal]

Detroit has been arguably the busiest team this week, with new GM Troy Weaver completely reshaping the roster by acquiring assets and adding young players. The Pistons made three first-round selections, via their own lottery pick and a pair of draft-night trades.

Pistons Notes: Draft, Hayes, Kennard, Lee, More

The Pistons, who at one point held only the No. 7 pick in the Wednesday night’s draft, came away with three of the top 19 selections after a series of trades that saw them secure Killian Hayes (No. 7), Isaiah Stewart (No. 16), and Saddiq Bey (No. 19). For good measure, they also picked up the 38th overall pick in another deal and drafted Saben Lee.

The moves were a reflection of the aggressiveness that new general manager Troy Weaver hopes to bring to the job, as Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press writes.

“We’re going to attack the draft, we’re going to attack free agency, we’re going to attack everything,” Weaver said. “I said coming in, this was going to be a restoring of two interactions of the great Pistons teams. That was their mentality. They were aggressive, they were on the attack and we want to follow suit. That’s the mantra and we’ll hopefully continue to be aggressive. But we wanted to set the tone.”

Here’s more on the Pistons:

  • The Pistons view Killian Hayes as having the most upside of anyone in this draft class, according to James Edwards III of The Athletic. While it’s easy to make that claim after drafting him, it sounds like Hayes was aware that the team was high on him. “I was confident (that Detroit would pick me), but you never know until it happens,” he said after the draft, per Edwards.
  • Although the Pistons liked Luke Kennard, they felt as if his timeline didn’t match up with theirs, according to Edwards. The club viewed him as a productive role player on a team further down the road than Detroit is now.
  • The Pistons had a first-round grade on No. 38 pick Saben Lee, sources tell Edwards. Lee is reportedly signing a two-way deal.
  • The Pistons are receiving $1.5MM in cash from the Nets in the deal that will send Bruce Brown to Brooklyn, Edwards reports (via Twitter).

Pistons To Sign Saben Lee To Two-Way Contract

The Pistons will sign second-round pick Saben Lee to a two-way contract, James Edwards III of The Athletic tweets.

Detroit acquired the No. 38 overall pick in a draft-night trade and selected Lee, a junior guard out of Vanderbilt who averaged 18.6 PPG. 3.5 RPG and 4.2 APG last season. The Pistons’ front office had graded Lee as a first-round prospect, according to Edwards.

The Pistons didn’t have a second-rounder entering the draft but acquired the 38th pick, along with center Tony Bradley, from the Jazz for future considerations and cash.

Teams frequently make bargains with agents of second-round prospects to take their clients if they’ll agree to a two-way deal. However, Lee could compete for minutes on a rebuilding team.

Draft Notes: Lee, Daly, Butler, White, Lottery

Vanderbilt junior Saben Lee has signed with Wasserman Media Group and will remain in the draft, according to Robbie Weinstein of 247Sports. He is currently ranked No. 78 overall and No. 25 among point guard prospects by ESPN. Lee was named Second Team All-SEC last season and averaged 18.6 PPG. 3.5 RPG and 4.2 APG.

We have more draft-related news:

  • Baylor’s Jared Butler, St. Joe’s Ryan Daly and Stanford’s Tyrell Terry have signed with Mike Naiditch of Beyond Athlete Management, Jeff Goodman of Goodman Hoops tweets. Naiditch is an NCAA-certified agent, which means those players are eligible to return to college. Butler is the highest-rated player among the trio as ESPN’s No. 43 overall and No. 17 among point guards.
  • Arizona State forward Romello White has entered the transfer portal while still remaining an early entrant into the draft, Doug Haller of The Athletic tweets. White averaged 10.2 PPG and 8.8 RPG in his junior year.
  • Lottery-bound teams aren’t eager to restart the season and are now in limbo, Ben Golliver of the Washington Post opines. Those teams are focused on future seasons and now have to wait on those plans since the lottery and the draft combine were postponed last week.

Mason Jones, Saben Lee, Others Declare For Draft

Arkansas junior shooting guard Mason Jones announced on Twitter today that he has decided to enter his name in the 2020 NBA draft. Although Jones can retain his college eligibility and withdraw his name from draft consideration at a later date, his announcement doesn’t make it sound as if that’s the plan. Jones said he’s “looking forward to the next chapter” in his life.

Jones was the Razorbacks’ top scorer in 2019/20, averaging 22.0 PPG on .453/.351/.826 shooting in 31 games (33.9 MPG). He also filled up the box score by adding 5.5 RPG, 3.4 APG, and 1.6 SPG. The 21-year-old currently ranks 80th overall on ESPN’s big board for 2020.

Here are more updates on the latest early entrants for the 2020 draft:

  • Vanderbilt junior point guard Saben Lee is declaring for the 2020 draft, he announced on Friday in an Instagram post. As Robbie Weinstein of 247Sports.com writes, a Vanderbilt spokesperson said Lee won’t forgo his eligibility and is testing the process for now. Lee, who averaged 18.6 PPG and 4.2 APG last season for the Commodores, comes in at No. 81 on ESPN’s rankings, one spot behind Jones.
  • Georgia’s Rayshaun Hammonds announced on Instagram that he’s testing the draft waters. The junior forward is the second Georgia underclassman to declare for the draft, joining possible No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards.
  • UT Martin sophomore guard Parker Stewart tells Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link) that he’s declaring for the draft without forgoing his college eligibility. Stewart, who transferred after beginning his NCAA career at Pitt, posted 19.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 3.8 APG in 2019/20.