Saben Lee

Pistons Notes: Diallo, Cook, Weaver, Lee, Joseph

Hamidou Diallo gave the Pistons an example of why GM Troy Weaver coveted him so much during their victory over Toronto on Monday, James Edwards III of The Athletic writes. Diallo sparked the club with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Diallo, a restricted free agent after the season, was acquired earlier this month from Oklahoma City for swingman Svi Mykhailiuk and a 2027 second-round pick. From all accounts, the Pistons want to retain Diallo, Edwards adds.

“He’s an athletic young man who is just scratching the surface of what he can be in this league,” coach Dwane Casey said.

We have more on the Pistons:

  • Casey said that energy and communication are two big things he looks for from a player on a 10-day contract and Tyler Cook has fulfilled those requirements, Edwards tweets. The Pistons signed the forward to a second 10-day deal on Sunday. Detroit will have to decide by April 6 whether to offer Cook a standard contract or look at another player.
  • Weaver acquired two second-round picks along with Cory Joseph in the trade that sent Delon Wright to Sacramento and that made the Kings’ offer attractive, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. “A lot of times people see those as throwaway picks. I don’t see them as throwaway picks,” Weaver said. “I see them as picks you can use in a variety of ways.” The Pistons don’t have their own second-round pick until 2027, but they have three from Toronto, Charlotte and the Los Angeles Lakers this season, plus Sacramento’s 2024 pick.
  • Saben Lee will likely have his two-way deal converted into a standard contract this offseason, Rod Beard of the Detroit News speculates. Lee, a rookie second-round pick, had a 19-point outing as a starter on Monday
  • Casey hasn’t hesitated to use Joseph, who is averaging 11.3 PPG and 3.7 APG in 24 MPG in his first three outings with the club. Joseph is set to earn $12.6MM in 2021/22, but the contract is only partially guaranteed ($2.4MM) until August 1, so the Pistons may opt to waive or trade him before next season.

Haynes’ Latest: Bagley, Pistons, Bey, Gordon, Collins, Cavs

The Pistons recently turned down an offer from the Kings that would have sent rookie forward Saddiq Bey to Sacramento in a deal involving Marvin Bagley III, league sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

After Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report suggested earlier today that Bagley would welcome a change of scenery, Haynes reiterates that point in his latest report, writing that the Kings and the third-year big man are “keen on discovering a corridor toward separation.”

A deal for Bey would be a long shot though, as the Pistons have shown little to no interest in parting with any members of their rookie class, according to James Edwards III of The Athletic, who says all four of those rookies (Bey, Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, and Saben Lee) are considered building blocks for the team’s rebuild.

Here’s more from Haynes:

  • Rockets players thought the team was on the verge of acquiring Magic forward Aaron Gordon a few days ago, but at least one source with knowledge of trade talks disputed that a deal was at the finish line, writes Haynes. Sources tell Yahoo Sports that Gordon doesn’t want to go to a rebuilding team, preferring to join a club with the potential to make a playoff run. While Gordon doesn’t have the ability to dictate his landing spot, he’ll be a free agent in 2022, so any team giving up assets to acquire him would want to be relatively confident it could sign him beyond then, Haynes observes.
  • As other reports have suggested, the odds of a John Collins trade this week appear to be declining. Haynes says the Hawks haven’t been overly impressed by the offers, including a Mavericks package featuring Maxi Kleber.
  • Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen isn’t going anywhere before the trade deadline, but Cleveland is expected to have plenty of competition for him on the restricted free agent market this summer. Haynes reports that the Pistons, Raptors, Spurs, and Wizards are expected to be among the teams with interest in Allen, who turned down a four-year, $48MM extension offer from the Nets before the season.
  • A buyout is becoming a more likely outcome than a trade for Cavaliers center JaVale McGee, league sources tell Yahoo Sports. A buyout would be a bit of a surprise if there’s any interest in McGee, since he’s on a very movable $4.2MM expiring contract.

Central Notes: Tucker, Markkanen, Pacers, Lee

The Bucks took strides to improve their hoped-for playoff readiness in trading for a package headlined by defensive ace P.J. TuckerJonathan Tjarks of The Ringer posits that the Bucks should remain aggressive in looking to shore up their depth with further trades and potential buyout targets.

Tjarks wonders if Tucker, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer at age 36, can help compel Milwaukee to pivot to a more aggressive defensive approach. Tjarks hopes that the Bucks will be similarly aggressive off the court as well, in looking to add perimeter help as they continue to rethink their bench.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • After playing in his 19th game of the season yesterday, Bulls power forward Lauri Markkanen has achieved the starter criteria in his rookie contract, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. His qualifying offer for the summer of 2021 will now be worth $9.03MM instead of $7.03MM. In the two seasons leading up to Markkanen’s restricted free agency, he needed to start at least half of his games with Chicago to qualify. Markkanen started in all 50 games he was available for during the 2019/20 season, and has started in all 19 games he has played thus far this season.
  • After 21 years with the Pacers, advance scout Jimmy Powell has retired, per Scott Agness of the Fieldhouse Files. Powell has been replaced by former Celtics scout Gary Schmidt.
  • Pistons rookie point guard Saben Lee has been methodical in approaching his development during the 21-year-old’s first NBA season, according to Rod Beard of the Detroit News“With the tortoise and the hare, the process was faster for the rabbit and everyone thought the rabbit was going to win,” Lee told Beard. “The turtle just kept his head on the end goal — and he messed around and won… That’s my mindset and how I feel like my process has been.” Lee has appeared in 19 games with Detroit, averaging 15.2 MPG thus far.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Central Division

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Central Division:

T.J. McConnell, Pacers, 28, PG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $7MM deal in 2019

McConnell delivered one of the rarest triple-doubles in NBA history this week. He became the first player to record a point-assist-steal triple-double since Mookie Blaylock in 1998 when he racked up 16 points, 13 assists and 10 steals against Cleveland on Wednesday. He also had a 17-point, 12-assist outing against New York on Saturday.

McConnell isn’t a 3-point threat, but he’s been maximizing his skills as one of Indiana’s top reserves this season, averaging a career-best 6.8 APG. He’s a good fit with the Pacers but he’ll attract interest from other teams as a solid second-unit floor general.

Saben Lee, Pistons, 21, PG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $449K deal in 2020

Lee was selected with the 38th overall pick in the draft and signed a two-way contract. He’s taking advantage of some unexpected playing time and showing he’s worthy of a spot on the 15-man roster. With Killian Hayes and Delon Wright sidelined by injuries, Lee has provided a spark off the bench behind recently-acquired Dennis Smith Jr. In Detroit’s last two victories, Lee had a 21-point, 4-assist performance against Orlando and a 20-point, 7-assist outing against Toronto. He needs to become more of a perimeter threat but he’ll fearlessly attack the basket and he’s endeared himself to the coaching staff with his work ethic.

Jarrett Allen, 22, C (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $10MM deal in 2017

With the awkwardness of sharing the center spot with Andre Drummond behind him, Allen has settled in as the Cavaliers’ main man in the middle. In 17 starts at center this season, Allen is averaging 16.2 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 2.2 APG and 1.7 BPG while shooting 69.5% from the field. It’s well-known that Cleveland has every intention of re-signing Allen as he enters restricted free agency. The intrigue will come if one of the teams with ample salary-cap space delivers a giant offer sheet. In any case, Allen will become a very rich man this summer.

Thaddeus Young, Bulls, 32, PF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $43.6MM deal in 2019

Young has a partially-guaranteed $14.19MM salary next season. He’ll get $6MM for sure; he’s giving the Bulls plenty of incentive to hand him the remaining $8.19MM and keep him off the free agent market. Young has been one of the best reserves in the league this season, providing the Bulls with a steady finisher at the rim (career-best 60.9% from the field) and plenty of rebounding. Coach Billy Donovan has turned Young into a playmaker and he’s embraced that responsibility, averaging a career-high 4.4 APG. If the Bulls opt to trade Young this month, they’ll get a decent haul in draft picks and/0r young players.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Central Notes: LaVine, Young, Lamb, Nance, Pistons

Zach LaVine is enjoying a career year in Billy Donovan‘s first season with the Bulls, and the success of that pairing bodes well for the team’s long-term outlook, says K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Donovan won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, and word around the NBA suggests that LaVine won’t be either, Johnson adds.

With LaVine expected to be unavailable on the trade market in the coming weeks, the Bulls’ most valuable trade chip could be Thaddeus Young. ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) says a handful of league executives identified Young as a player who could impact the playoff race if he’s moved, noting that he’s a versatile big man on a reasonable contract who has plenty of postseason experience.

The Bulls currently hold the sixth seed in the East and figure to be in the mix for a playoff spot – perhaps via the play-in tournament – but Marks argues the club should take a big-picture view and consider moving Young, especially if a team is willing to give up a first-round pick for him.

Johnson, on the other hand, contends in a separate NBC Sports Chicago story that moving Young for anything short of a lottery pick or a very promising young player might be a mistake. As Johnson explains, the veteran forward has had a positive impact on LaVine on and off the court, and LaVine and the Bulls’ other young players need to get some postseason experience at some point — Young could play an important role in helping get them there.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • It has been a full year since Jeremy Lamb suffered a torn left ACL, and while it takes some players a while to get back to 100% following that injury, the Pacers guard has thrived since making his season debut on January 20, writes Wheat Hotchkiss of Pacers.com. Lamb is averaging 12.2 PPG in just 24.7 minutes per contest, and has made an even 50% of his three-point attempts through 17 games. “It’s great to see how far I’ve been able to come,” Lamb said. “I’m still getting stronger, still working on it, but it’s encouraging.”
  • Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr., who underwent surgery on his hand earlier this month, is making positive progress and recently had his cast removed, tweets Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Nance was ruled out at least six weeks when he underwent the procedure, so we won’t see him back until sometime after the All-Star break.
  • Missing their top two point guards, the Pistons are seeing some positive signs from Dennis Smith Jr. and Saben Lee, says Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Lee, who has averaged 15.3 PPG and 4.3 APG in his last three games, is showing why GM Troy Weaver referred to him as part of Detroit’s “core four” of rookie building blocks, despite the fact that Lee was a second-round pick who signed a two-way deal, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com.

Central Notes: Holiday, Pistons, Griffin, Pacers

Bucks guard Jrue Holiday hasn’t played since February 6 due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, but he was back on the team’s bench for Sunday’s win over Sacramento, as Eric Nehm of The Athletic details. While Holiday wasn’t able to suit up on Sunday, his presence on the sidelines was a promising sign, since it means he’s out of quarantine and should be cleared soon.

“He’s close. He’s getting very close,” Budenholzer said of the Bucks’ starting guard. “I think I’m just going to make sure to not make a mistake and say he’s progressing through the health and safety protocols.”

Assuming Holiday is returning from a positive COVID-19 test, which is the belief, he requires a two-day ramping-up period and has to pass certain cardiac tests before he’s given the go-ahead to play in a game. Holiday didn’t practice today, per Budenholzer (Twitter link via Nehm), but the hope is that it won’t be much longer before he’s back in the Bucks’ lineup.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • With Killian Hayes already sidelined and Delon Wright now out for at least a couple weeks, the Pistons‘ young point guards will have an opportunity to show what they’re capable of, Rod Beard of The Detroit News writes (subscriber-only link). While Dennis Smith Jr. was expected to be the main beneficiary, it was two-way player Saben Lee who played 33 minutes on Sunday after Smith got the start. Frank Jackson should also in the mix, but didn’t log any playing time on Sunday.
  • The days of Blake Griffin being a focal point of a team’s offense are over, but his impending divorce with the Pistons will give him an opportunity to revamp his game and try to adjust to a complementary role, says Rafael Canton of RealGM.
  • Postponed games on Saturday and Monday gave the Pacers an opportunity to hold an impromptu “mini-camp,” as head coach Nate Bjorkgren looks to install new tweaks to his offensive and defensive systems, per J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. Indiana will have a total of six days off between its last game vs. Minnesota on February 17 and its next game vs. Golden State on February 24.

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.