Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

And-Ones: Paul, Sylla, Tampering, Canada

In an interesting piece regarding Chris Paul‘s role as the head of the NBA Players Union, Tom Ziller of SB Nation opines that Paul’s reported insistence and hand in incorporating the Over-38 Rule into the 2017 CBA has now ironically landed him with one the most untradeable contracts in the NBA.

Paul, who is admittedly now under contract to make more money because of the rule change, is also stuck on the Thunder, a non-contending team, with no real way out until later this year when the latest crop of free agents become trade eligible.

Ultimately, Ziller opines that the tradeoff (non-contending team vs. an extra $45MM) was worth it for Paul, but wonders whether Paul, as union president, sacrificed the good of many (mid-level earners) for the benefit of few.

We have more odds and ends to report from around the basketball world:

  • Amar Sylla, the No. 23 prospect for the 2020 NBA Draft, has signed a three-year contract containing NBA out clauses with Belgian league champions BC Oostende, reports Jonathan Givony of ESPN.
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer writes that many executives believe the penalty for tampering needs to be harsher, including the removal of first-round picks or even as severe as being barred from trading any picks for some amount of years in addition to the loss of picks. “Basketball operations needs to get hit the hardest, not an owner’s wallets,” said another executive.
  • Canada Basketball has announced the 29 players invited to attend the Senior Men’s National Team training camp ahead of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. The list includes R.J. Barrett, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Cory Joseph, Jamal Murray, and Tristan Thompson.

Thunder Trade Paul George To Clippers

JULY 10: Having announced the signing of Leonard earlier today, the Clippers have now officially confirmed their acquisition of George as well.

“Paul George is one of the greatest two-way players in our game,” president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said in a statement. “He is both an elite scorer and a relentless defender whose versatility elevates any team. When you have the opportunity to acquire a contributor of his caliber, you do what it takes to bring him home. Paul is a native of the Los Angeles area and an ideal fit for the Clippers, thanks to his selflessness and drive. Following the lead of Steve Ballmer, we have plotted an aggressive course to build a championship contender, and acquiring Paul is a critical step.”

The Clippers are now over the cap, and all of the agreed-upon trades of the 2019 offseason (so far) have been officially completed.

JULY 6: In addition to landing No. 1 free agent Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers have reached a stunning trade agreement to acquire All-NBA forward Paul George from the Thunder, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Oklahoma City will receive Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and a “massive” haul of future draft picks in exchange for George.

That haul features four unprotected first-round picks, one protected first-rounder, and two pick swaps, Woj reports (via Twitter). The Thunder will receive the following selections, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times (via Twitter):

  • Heat’s 2021 unprotected first-round pick.
  • Clippers’ unprotected 2022 first-round pick.
  • Heat’s 2023 first round pick (top-14 protected).
  • The right to swap first-round picks with the Clippers in 2023.
  • Clippers’ unprotected 2024 first-round pick.
  • The right to swap first-round picks with the Clippers in 2025.
  • Clippers’ unprotected 2026 first-round pick.

The Clippers held the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-round pick and will acquire Miami’s 2023 lottery-protected first-rounder as part of the four-team Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade deal. That will allow the Clips to keep their own 2020 and 2021 first-rounders and send out five total picks while satisfying both the Stepien rule (which prohibits teams from leaving themselves without a first-round pick in consecutive future seasons) and the “Seven Year Rule” (which doesn’t allow teams to trade first-rounders more than seven years in advance).

Those extra picks from the Heat pave the way the Clippers to make the biggest one-two punch of the free agent period, with their acquisition of George coming after Leonard had pushed PG13 to find a way to the Clippers, per Wojnarowski (Twitter links).

As Woj details, George approached the Thunder and requested a trade amidst Leonard’s recruiting efforts, leaving Oklahoma City to try to make the best out of a difficult situation. The Thunder did just that, as their haul from the Clippers will land them a veteran on an expiring $22MM contract who was a borderline All-Star in 2019 (Gallinari), one of the most impressive rookies of the 2018 class (Gilgeous-Alexander), and a bounty of future draft picks.

Still, despite securing a huge package for George, the Thunder may not be out of the weeds quite yet. Shams Charania of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that rival teams have been aware in recent days not just of George’s discontent, but of Russell Westbrook‘s as well. It remains to be seen how Westbrook will feel about the departure of the All-Star teammate that he succeeded in keeping in OKC as a free agent a year ago, but with potential long-term cornerstone Gilgeous-Alexander in the mix at point guard, it wouldn’t be surprising if the former MVP ends up on the trade block as well.

It’s an abrupt change of direction for the Thunder, who expected as recently as last week to be building around Westbrook and George, according to Brett Dawson of The Athletic (Twitter link). As Dawson observes, even this week’s free agent agreements with veterans like Alec Burks and Mike Muscala suggest that Oklahoma City was looking to fortify its current core rather than blow it up. It will be fascinating to see what the team’s next move is.

For now though, the Clippers will steal the headlines, having delivered an incredible counter-punch to their Staples Center cohabitants after the Lakers reached a deal last month to acquire Anthony Davis.

The Clippers are giving up a ton to acquire George, but it’s unlikely that they would have gotten a commitment from Leonard without making the deal, according to Wojnarowski, who tweets that the Clippers recognized that they had to pull the trigger, lest they risk allowing the Lakers to steal Leonard and create a powerhouse.

In George, the Clippers will add a 29-year-old who is coming off his best season as a pro, averaging 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.1 APG, and a league-best 2.2 SPG in 77 games (36.9 MPG) for the Thunder. The six-time All-Star, who is recovering from undergoing procedures on his shoulders at season’s end, finished third in MVP voting in 2019.

He’ll team up with Leonard to lead a roster that also features Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Landry Shamet, Rodney McGruder, Maurice Harkless, Jerome Robinson, and potentially RFA Ivica Zubac.

It’ll be a homecoming for George, a Southern California native who grew up as a Clippers fan, as Fred Katz of The Athletic notes (via Twitter). George had a 15% trade bonus on his contract, which runs through 2020/21 with a 2021/22 player option, but because trade bonuses can’t push a player’s salary beyond his maximum, it’ll be voided, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

The Clippers will officially acquire George after signing Leonard using their cap room, since the club will be matching salaries as an over-the-cap team in the trade, Marks adds (via Twitter).

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Northwest Notes: Whiteside, Grant, Gilgeous-Alexander, Jazz

Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard believes he can bring out the best of Hassan Whiteside, the enigmatic center acquired from the Heat as part of the multi-team Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade. Lillard has a good friendship with Whiteside and that should help prevent Whiteside from getting over-emotional, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic.

“I said, ‘So this is what this is going to come down to: If in the middle of the game, you are not getting the ball and you mad, and you felt like somebody should have done something, you come and say something to me,” Lillard said. “And if (Trail Blazers) Coach (Terry Stotts) is getting on you, or Coach takes you out and you get mad at Coach, me and you have to be able to communicate. Even if we argue, that’s fine. But we have to be able to get through to each other.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone is thrilled with the acquisition of forward Jerami Grant from the Thunder, as he told Alex Labidou of the team’s website. He believes Grant will mesh well with franchise player Nikola Jokic and significantly improve the team’s defense. “Watching film, he’s guarded Damian Lillard, James Harden, Anthony Davis, the guy can guard anybody,” Malone said. “I think that versatility is exciting.”
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander gives the Thunder a long-term answer at point guard who may have a better future than Paul George, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes. Gilgeous-Alexander is nine years younger than George, Tramel notes, and he displayed better defensive and shooting skills than Russell Westbrook did in his rookie year.
  • Jazz center Rudy Gobert shrugs off the Clippers’ acquisitions of Kawhi Leonard and George, confident that the Jazz have done enough this offseason to become serious contenders. “We don’t want to pay too much attention into what the other teams are doing,” Gobert told Tony Jones of The Athletic. “We want to keep working hard, and we want to stay hungry. We know what we have to do. Whenever we step out onto the court, the goal is to win. We know that we have a chance to do some good things this year. But we want to take things one step at a time.”
  • The Timberwolves have brought back Bryan Gates as an assistant coach under Ryan Saunders, according to an Associated Press report. Gates has been on the Kings’ staff the last three seasons but spent the 2015/16 season with Minnesota.

Free Agent Rumors: Clippers, Nets, Knicks, Kyrie, KD, More

While the Clippers are generally grouped together with the rest of the Los Angeles and New York teams leading up to free agency as the big-market franchises looking to make a major splash on the free agent market, the Clips’ plans may look a little different than what those other clubs have in mind, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

As Buha explains, the Clippers are unlikely to pursue top point guards like Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker due to their “steadfast belief” in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has been considered untouchable in trade talks.

Additionally, the Clippers likely won’t attempt to sign a second- or third-tier free agent like Khris Middleton or Tobias Harris unless it’s on a short-term deal, according to Buha, who points out that the team traded away Harris because it didn’t want to cap the roster’s ceiling at “good” instead of “great.”

Instead, the Clippers will focus on the top two free agents in this year’s free agent class – Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard – as well as top trade candidate Anthony Davis. If L.A. is unable to land one of those superstars, the organization figures to remain patient, avoiding a reactionary signing or trade and instead shifting its attention to re-signing its own free agents and making smaller moves, says Buha.

As we wait to see how that plan plays out, let’s round up a few more rumors and notes related to free agency:

  • Within his full report on Kyrie Irving‘s agent change, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski shares some intriguing tidbits on two of this summer’s top free agents. Sources tell Wojnarowski that Irving remains “intensely interested” in the Nets, with the Knicks expected to remain competitive for the star point guard. Both New York teams are still interested in signing Irving and Kevin Durant together, even after KD’s Achilles tear, according to Woj.
  • There’s a feeling in both NBA circles and in the Nets‘ front office that Brooklyn will land at least one star free agent this offseason, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post.
  • Marc Berman of The New York Post explores some potential Plan Bs for the Knicks in the event that they miss out on Durant or back off their pursuit of the two-time Finals MVP at all following his Achilles injury.
  • The Jazz appear likely to lose veterans Ekpe Udoh and Thabo Sefolosha in free agency, according to Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune, who examines the impact the duo had on Utah’s locker room over the last couple seasons.

Clippers Unlikely To Include Gilgeous-Alexander In Davis Offer

The Clippers are among the teams reportedly interested in Anthony Davis. However, rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is unlikely to be part of any offer, ESPN’s Bobby Marks said yesterday on The Sedano Show (hat tip to Larry Brown Sports). Marks believes Gilgeous-Alexander would be off limits if discussions take place between the two teams.

The 11th pick in last year’s draft, Gilgeous-Alexander quickly became a starter in Los Angeles, averaging 10.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists while playing all 82 games. He also proved to be a capable play-maker and an aggressive defender.

Still only 19 and with a $3.95MM salary for next season, SGA would be an attractive asset to offer the Pelicans, but the Clippers seem determined to hold onto him. That makes it more likely that young, affordable players such as Montrezl Harrell ($6MM in 2019/20), Jerome Robinson ($3.57MM) and Landry Shamet ($1.995MM) will be part of the Clippers’ offer. Danilo Gallinari ($22.6MM) may have to be included for salary-matching purposes unless L.A. uses cap room to absorb Davis’ salary.

The Clippers were on the list of four preferred destinations that Davis gave the Pelicans when he submitted his trade request.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Kings, Clippers

Another unflattering story on the state of the Lakers was published on Tuesday, with the latest report from ESPN portraying the inner workings of one of the NBA’s marquee franchises in a particularly negative light. Despite the revelations included in that story, commissioner Adam Silver remains said in an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up on Wednesday morning that he still has “tremendous” confidence in the Lakers’ leaders to turn things around.

“I know [Lakers owner] Jeanie [Buss] knows how to manage a team,” Silver said, per Malika Andrews of ESPN.com. “Sure, when things start to go wrong, a lot of fingers get pointed. But they’ll figure it out.”

Silver’s name actually came up in ESPN’s report on the Lakers, with sources detailing an anecdote about LeBron James‘ agent Rich Paul approaching the commissioner at a lunch and complaining about then-coach Luke Walton. During today’s appearance on Get Up, Silver confirmed that interaction took place.

“He was in the same restaurant,” Silver said of Paul. “There were two people sitting there. He sat down for a second, and I think he said something along the lines that ‘Luke Walton is not the right guy to coach LeBron.’ My reaction was to shrug my shoulders and maybe say, ‘Well, who do you think is the right guy to coach?’ And he mentioned a name and that was that.

“I think he just wanted to say it out loud,” Silver added. “I don’t think he had any expectation that I would repeat that to anyone.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • The Kings are hosting their fifth pre-draft workout at their practice facility on Wednesday, the team announced in a press release. Sacramento listed Anthony Cowan (Maryland), Barry Brown (Kansas State), Alpha Diallo (Providence), Amir Coffey (Minnesota), Robert Franks (Washington State), and Dedric Lawson (Kansas) as the participants, though Cowan and Diallo are both expected to pull out of the draft before tonight’s NCAA withdrawal deadline.
  • While the Clippers always expected to make a play for a top free agent or two this summer, the team didn’t expect to already have two long-term building blocks in its backcourt by this point, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. As Greif outlines, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet both look like keepers for the franchise.
  • The legal battle over the Clippers‘ efforts to build a new arena in Inglewood continues, per Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times. According to Fenno, the L.A. County’s district attorney’s office found that the Inglewood City Council violated state law by approving an agreement with a Clippers-controlled company allowing it to explore building an arena in the city, but the D.A. didn’t take any action because the time limit to “remedy the violation” had passed.

NBA Announces 2018/19 All-Rookie Teams

The NBA has officially announced its All-Rookie teams for the 2018/19 season. Luka Doncic of the Mavericks and Trae Young of the Hawks – widely viewed as the only two legit contenders for this season’s Rookie of the Year award – were also the only two players to be unanimously selected to the First Team, receiving 100 out of 100 possible votes.

Suns center Deandre Ayton nearly joined them as another unanimous First Team pick. However, he was listed on the Second Team on five ballots, with 95 First Team votes. Kings forward Marvin Bagley was the only other player to be named on all 100 ballots, receiving 56 First Team votes.

Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. rounded out the First Team, ensuring that all five players in that group were top-five picks in the 2018 draft.

Listed below are the NBA’s All-Rookie teams for 2018/19, with the player’s vote total in parentheses. Players received two points for a First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote.

First Team:

Second Team:

Of the players who missed out on All-Rookie honors, Suns forward Mikal Bridges came the closest, with 31 points, followed by Knicks forward Kevin Knox (22 points). None of the 10 other rookies who earned votes earned more than 12 points, though Josh Okogie (Timberwolves) and Miles Bridges (Hornets) each received one First Team vote.

The full voting results can be found within the NBA’s press release.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pacific Notes: LeBron, Durant, Suns, Shumpert

The Lakers will have the cap room to pursue a second star in free agency during the summer of 2019, but it remains to be seen whether any of next year’s truly elite free agents will jump at the chance to play with LeBron James, writes Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report. As Kevin Durant, 2019’s top free agent, tells Bucher, it’s probably easier for role players to fit alongside LeBron than it would be for another star.

“It depends on what kind of player you are,” Durant said. “If you’re Kyle Korver, then it makes sense. Because Kyle Korver in Atlanta was the bulk of the offense, and he’s not a No. 1 option at all, not even close. So his talents benefit more from a guy who can pass and penetrate and get him open.

“If you’re a younger player like a Kawhi [Leonard], trying to pair him with LeBron James doesn’t really make sense,” Durant continued. “Kawhi enjoys having the ball in his hands, controlling the offense, dictating the tempo with his post-ups; it’s how he plays the game. A lot of young players are developing that skill. They don’t need another guy.”

Veteran forward Trevor Ariza, who also spoke to Bucher, essentially expressed the same sentiment as Durant, noting that players who could benefit most from LeBron’s ball-dominant play-making would likely be more inclined to join the Lakers than a star who wants to be dominating the ball himself.

“If I was a free agent, I would have to consider everything,” Ariza said. “But my role is different than [Paul George] and Kawhi. They ask them to do different things than they ask of me. Guys similar to [LeBron], why would they want to play with somebody who does all the same things? I can see why they would want to play elsewhere.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • In other Lakers news, Joe Vardon of The Athletic outlines why LeBron is unlikely to start deferring to the team’s young, unproven players anytime soon, while head coach Luke Walton says he thinks the franchise is capable of winning a championship without acquiring a second star (Twitter link via Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times).
  • Within an in-depth look at the Suns‘ point guard options, Bob Young of The Athletic reports that the team nearly traded up in the 2018 draft using the extra first-round pick it owns from the Bucks, and would’ve selected Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in that scenario. However, owner Robert Sarver pushed instead for the deal that saw the Suns give up Miami’s 2021 first-rounder for Mikal Bridges, according to Young.
  • Iman Shumpert, who looked like an expendable veteran on an expiring contract coming into the season, has been a key part of the Kings‘ rotation and is having on positive impact on Sacramento’s young players, writes James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area.

And-Ones: USA Basketball, Haddadi, Goodwin, Douglas, Griffin

USA Basketball has secured a spot in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 event, Sportando relays. The USA team captured a berth with a 78-70 win over Uruguay on Sunday. Venezuela and Argentina were the other teams from the Americas who also qualified for the FIBA tournament.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Center Hamed Haddadi and shooting guard Archie Goodwin will continue their careers in China, according to a pair of Sportando posts. Haddadi, 33, reached an agreement with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers. He last appeared in the NBA during the 2012/13 season with the Grizzlies and Suns. Goodwin, 24, signed with the Qingdao Eagles. He most recently played in the NBA during the 2016/17 season, when he saw action in a combined 15 games for the Nets and Pelicans.
  • Former NBA guard Toney Douglas has reached an agreement with the Turkish club Darussafaka, according to another Sportando report. Douglas previously played for another team in Turkey, Sakarya. Douglas, 32, most recently played in the NBA during the 2016/17 season with the Grizzlies when came off the bench for 24 games.
  • The blockbuster deal that sent Blake Griffin from the Clippers to the Pistons last winter has worked out surprisingly well for both sides, as Matt John of Basketball Insiders notes. Griffin has stayed healthy and played like an MVP candidate for the Pistons through the first 20 games this season, while Tobias Harris is the leading scorer for one of the league’s most prolific offenses, John continues. The draft pick the Clippers acquired was used on point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has displayed unusual poise as a rookie, John adds.

L.A. Notes: Stephenson, Walton, SGA, KCP

The offseason addition of Lance Stephenson is already paying off for the Lakers, who saw Stephenson put forth an impressive performance in Wednesday’s road victory against the Suns. He scored 23 points, dished out eight assists and grabbed eight boards in 25 minutes, shooting 10-14 from the floor.

“With [Rondo] being out, he’s our backup point guard pretty much right now, and he controlled the game,” LeBron James said of Stephenson, as relayed by Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com. “He had great pace and found guys.”

Stephenson, a former nemesis of James, did his work off the bench on Wednesday. Since leaving the Pacers in 2014, he’s grown accustomed to coming off the bench and providing depth for teams in the backcourt.

“He still goes one-on-one, and he’s really good at it [so] we’re not gonna take that away from him,” head coach Luke Walton said. “But he’s doing more of how we want him to do it. He’s sharing the ball.

“He danced a bit late in the game, but for the most part he’s playing within the style we want to play. And he’s competing on defense, and that’s why he’s winning so much favor with the [coaching] staff right now.”

There’s more from Los Angeles tonight:

  • Lakers coach Luke Walton was fined $15K (full release) for publicly criticizing the officiating after the team’s overtime loss against San Antonio on Monday.  Walton was upset with what he perceived as excessive flopping from the Spurs, coupled with the various missed calls for his own players.
  • Clippers guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has already become a rotation player that the team can depend on, writes Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times“He’s just a really good player,” coach Doc Rivers said of the rookie.
  • Just three games into his new contract, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has moved from a starting role with the Lakers to coming off the bench, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes. The impressive play from Josh Hart earned him a starting spot on Wednesday, forcing Caldwell-Pope to the second unit.