Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, SGA, Porter, Sixers, Hartenstein

The Raptors were repeatedly tied to big-name trade candidates this offseason, rumored to be possible suitors for Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, and Kevin Durant. Toronto ended up having a relatively quiet summer, making only minor tweaks to its roster, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca, who says the club is counting on internal growth from its own players, including Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes.

Still, while the Raptors didn’t take a big swing in the last few months, that doesn’t mean they’re not willing to make a major trade at some point to move closer to title contention. A league source tells Lewenberg that one situation the Raptors are “closely monitoring” is in Oklahoma City, in case Thunder star and Toronto native Shai Gilgeous-Alexander eventually seeks a change of scenery.

The Thunder have only won a total of 46 games in the last two seasons and appear headed for another lottery finish in 2022/23, but there’s no indication Gilgeous-Alexander is seeking an exit ramp out of town. He said this week that he knew what he was getting into when he signed a five-year extension with OKC a year ago and that he doesn’t think the team will keep losing for much longer.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • When he became a free agent and was weighing his options this summer, Otto Porter Jr. got in touch with forward Thaddeus Young to seek his opinion on Toronto, tweets Lewenberg. Young helped convince his former Bulls teammate to sign with the Raptors. “He’s one of my better friends in the league,” Young said. “He asked me questions and I said, ‘Come on through, sign the deal and let’s go.'”
  • Head coach Doc Rivers is pleased with the moves the Sixers‘ front office made this offseason, telling reporters this week that the team addressed the holes it was hoping to fill. “We had a targeted summer, and we hit pretty much what we’re looking for,” Rivers said, per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “… We have to learn how to become a team first, and if we do that, I love who we are.”
  • Center Isaiah Hartenstein explained on Tuesday that he signed with the Knicks as a free agent this summer because they made him feel “wanted” and because he believes his ability to shoot and make plays from the center position will add a new dimension to the team. “I felt like I can bring something that they didn’t have, to help them win,” Hartenstein said, according to Zach Braziller of The New York Post.

Northwest Notes: Russell, Gilgeous-Alexander, Jokic, Brown

D’Angelo Russell has an expiring $31.4MM contract, but the Timberwolves guard doesn’t want to dwell on becoming a free agent after the season, he told Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“Nothing changes,” he said. “You see guys approaching a contract year and doing it incorrectly and it becomes magnified if you’re doing it incorrectly. You might not be going about things the right way or ways you would be going about it if it wasn’t a contract year. I try to keep it consistent, my approach.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who begins a five-year, $179.3MM extension this season, believes that the Thunder are ready to turn the corner, he told Andrew Schlecht of The Athletic“I know what I signed up for when I signed a five-year extension… and I don’t think we’re going to be losing for much longer,” he said. “I believe in this team.”
  • Fresh off signing a super-max extension, Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic says he hopes to play his entire career with the organization, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. “That’s the goal,” Jokic said.
  • The Nuggets finished last season ranked No. 15 in team defense. Coach Michael Malone wants to see dramatic improvement, Singer relays in another tweet“Our goal this year is to be a top-five defense,” he said.
  • Bruce Brown left the Nets and signed a two-year contract with the Nuggets in free agency. Malone has big plans for him, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets“I don’t think people understand the importance that Bruce Brown is going to bring to this team,” he said.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Out At Least Two Weeks With MCL Sprain

Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander won’t be available for the start of training camp and the preseason, the team announced today.

According to the Thunder, Gilgeous-Alexander has been diagnosed with a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee and will be reevaluated in two weeks. Oklahoma City’s preseason schedule will tip off in 12 days.

Gilgeous-Alexander, 24, has been the Thunder’s leading scorer over the last two seasons, averaging 23.7 points per game in 2020/21 and 24.5 PPG in ’21/22. However, he has missed 63 games due to injuries over those two years and is now battling another health issue this fall. A right ankle ailment ended Gilgeous-Alexander’s season early in the spring.

Given that the Thunder have been firmly in rebuilding mode since 2020, it’s fair to wonder if the team is being overly cautious when it comes to Gilgeous-Alexander’s injuries and whether he would’ve played in more than 91 games over the last two seasons if the club was vying for a playoff spot. Still, with 2022/23 expected to be another lottery-bound year in Oklahoma City, it seems safe to assume that cautious approach will continue.

Knicks Notes: Barrett, Rival Opinions, Mitchell, Next Steps

The Knicks officially signed fourth-year small forward RJ Barrett today to a lucrative four-year rookie contract extension that can be worth up to $120MM. Taking a closer look at the deal in the latest edition of their podcast The Mismatch (YouTube video link), Kevin O’Connor and Chris Vernon of The Ringer argue the extension is a smart play for New York. The duo thinks that Barrett, at worst, will be a solid role player, and at best could reach All-Star greatness.

Vernon and O’Connor also both think Barrett will thrive best as a large shooting guard, the same position that undersized All-Star Donovan Mitchell, who was just dealt from the Jazz to the Cavaliers instead of the Knicks, plays.

Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post opines that Barrett’s extension serves as proof positive that team president Leon Rose and the rest of New York’s front office see Barrett as a core building block for the future. Vaccaro notes that Barrett has improved as a shooter each season, and says he’s worth the investment.

There’s more out of Madison Square Garden:

  • Rival coaches and executives are weighing in on the team’s decision to extend Barrett, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post“The Knicks normally overpay for decent players,’’ a coach told Berman. “Is RJ ever going to be more than a low efficiency, high usage scorer? Maybe. But maybe not. That’s the point. But they think he’s got a lot of room to get better.’’ An NBA scout offered the following assessment: “RJ is a really good player, but only if he’s surrounded by a really good team. (The Knicks) are a mediocre team, and they have a lot of money tied up in three players (Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle being the other two) who are third/fourth options. That would be the concern. It’s where do they go from here with this much money tied into three players. Are these contracts going to be (tradable) if need be, or you’re stuck with them?’’
  • The Knicks had the assets needed to trade for three-time Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell, who ultimately was sent to the Cavaliers today in a blockbuster deal. Ian Begley of SNY.tv breaks down New York’s thinking in not going all-in for Mitchell. In addition to being reticent to include three unprotected first-round picks as has been previously reported, Begley writes that the team was hesitant to trade Barrett or Quentin Grimes, both of whom Utah had been interested in adding.
  • Deciding to not make a deal for Mitchell may work out for the Knicks, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. Popper writes that a starting backcourt of two 6’1″ guards in Brunson and Mitchell could have put New York at a defensive disadvantage in a league full of bigger, longer guards. Popper wonders if the Knicks will now move on to considering 6’6″ Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, currently trapped on a franchise in the midst of a long-term rebuild.

Northwest Notes: Mitchell, Gobert, Nnaji, Gilgeous-Alexander

There are plenty of good reasons why the Jazz need to trade Donovan Mitchell and go into full rebuild mode, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News opines.

Even with the assets acquired in the Rudy Gobert deal with Minnesota, the Jazz still aren’t good enough to be a true contender in the stacked Western Conference, says Todd. And even if they flipped those assets and tried to acquire another star like Kevin Durant, they wouldn’t be good enough to win it all. Wallowing in mediocrity would only serve to frustrate Mitchell and force the organization to deal him at a later date, Todd adds.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • How much will Gobert impact the Timberwolves? The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski picks the brain of colleague Tony Jones, who covered Gobert in Utah. Jones believes Minnesota has more defenders with length and athleticism around Gobert than the Jazz ever had. That will make the Timberwolves a very good team the next couple of years, though there’s some risk of decline near the end of his contract, which runs through the 2025/26 season.
  • Zeke Nnaji has been working with the Nuggets coaches on bulking up so that he can play all three frontcourt positions, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. Nnaji has added 11 pounds of muscle and that could help him carve out a second unit role. The 21-year-old appeared in 41 regular season games last season.
  • Is Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander the best non-All-Star in the league? Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tackles that subject.

And-Ones: BIG3, Canada, Hezonja, Coaches

Ty Lawson, Corey Brewer, Jordan Crawford, Jonathon Simmons, Norris Cole, Festus Ezeli, and Jordan Hill are among the many former NBA players whose names are in the BIG3 draft pool for the 2022 season, per the league’s official website.

The BIG3 will hold its draft on Wednesday evening in Los Angeles as it gears up for the coming season. As we previously relayed, the first games of 2022 are scheduled for June 18 and this will be the first year in which the BIG3 holds an All-Star Game.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

Central Notes: LaVine, Pacers Workouts, White, Pistons Draft

Zach LaVine‘s decision to have knee surgery in the offseason shows his commitment to the game and the Bulls, according to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson. LaVine’s decision to play through his knee injury this season with Chicago heading to the playoffs proved how much he wanted to experience the postseason for himself and give his teammates a chance to do the same. He’ll still get paid this summer in unrestricted free agency, likely a maximum deal, Johnson adds.

We have more on the Central Division:

Northwest Notes: Towns, McLaughlin, Dort, Gilgeous-Alexander

The Timberwolves overcame a foul-plagued outing by Karl-Anthony Towns to beat the Clippers in the play-in tournament. Towns says he’ll be just fine as the team prepares for its first-round series with the Grizzlies, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. “I’m not tripping at all. In a good space,” Towns said. “Just good to get past the last two days and I’m ready to go.”

Towns says he’ll play smarter against Memphis. “I got a more clear role for what they want me to do in the playoffs,” he said. “So I’m very confident, feel very good.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves reserve guard Jordan McLaughlin never left the bench in the play-in game but he’ll have a role against the Grizzlies, coach Chris Finch told Hine in a separate story. McLaughlin will take any minutes he can get. “I’m a team player, so when my number is called, I’m going to be ready to go and do whatever I can to help my team win,” McLaughlin said. “If it’s not called, I’m still going to help my team win, cheering on the bench, talking to guys, telling them what I see and stuff like that. It’s never about me.”
  • Thunder guard Luguentz Dort anticipates he’ll be fully recovered from shoulder surgery by training camp, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Dort believes he’ll be back to 100% during the next two to three months. Dort is eligible for a contract extension and could become an unrestricted free agent next summer. “I’m going to let my agent handle it,” Dort said of a possible extension.
  • Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is pumped about the franchise’s future, Mussatto writes in a separate piece. He’ll enter the first year of his five-year max extension next season. “We have that trust in each other,” Gilgeous-Alexander said, referring to the front office and coaching staff. “I can’t go into details, but we’re excited for the future.” 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Will Miss Remainder Of Season

The Thunder have shut down Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the remainder of the season, head coach Mark Daigneault told The Oklahoman’s Joe Mussatto (Twitter link) and other media members on Monday.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been bothered by right ankle soreness during portions of the season and hasn’t played since last Monday. The team’s star guard signed off on the decision to let the ankle heal.

He had another strong season statistically, though his 3-point shooting dropped dramatically (down from 41.8% last season to 30% this year). He averaged 24.5 PPG, 5.9 APG, 5.0 RPG and 1.3 SPG in 34.7 MPG while appearing in 56 games.

Forward Darius Bazley was also ruled out for the remainder of the season on Monday due to a knee injury.

Gilgeous-Alexander remains a major piece in Oklahoma City’s rebuild. His five-year, maximum-salary extension that he signed last summer will kick in next season.

Josh Giddey Out For Rest Of Season

Thunder rookie Josh Giddey won’t play any more this season because of soreness in his hip, tweets Oklahoma City reporter Rylan Stiles.

Coach Mark Daigneault made the announcement during a session with reporters before tonight’s game. Giddey hasn’t played since February 24, and Daigneault said the “return-to-play portion” of his rehab process would last longer than the two weeks that are left in the regular season. Giddey told the team that he has never experienced problems with the hip before, Daigneault added.

“It’s a tricky injury,” Daigneault said. “A little unpredictable, whereas Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is a bone, a break, it’s more predictable.”

Giddey, the sixth player selected in last year’s draft, will end his first season with averages of 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists in 54 games. He was selected to participate in both the Rising Stars tournament and the Skills Challenge at All-Star Weekend and was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month four times.

Daigneault offered two other medical updates, saying Robinson-Earl will definitely be back this season (Twitter link), and he plans to talk to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander about his status. Gilgeous-Alexander has been in and out of the lineup with an ankle injury, and Daigneault said, “The game to game thing is not sustainable.” (Twitter link)