Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Northwest Notes: Russell, Johnson, SGA, MPJ

The Timberwolves were hit with a $25K fine by the NBA on Thursday for violating the league’s resting policy when they sat D’Angelo Russell a week ago despite D-Lo being considered a healthy player. Following that decision, the Wolves faced accusations of tanking, but president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas insists that’s not the case, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes.

“I wouldn’t say it gets under my skin, but it’s just disappointing when you don’t have all the facts,” Rosas said of claims that the Timberwolves are tanking. “The reality is if individuals knew what was going on behind the scenes, how hard our coaches are working, our players are working — that’s the disappointing part because I think it’s disrespectful to them and what they’re putting in.

“… The side effects (of the Timberwolves’ midseason roster overhaul) unfortunately for Coach (Ryan Saunders) and his staff is you have nine players from three different programs, three different philosophies that are coming here and learning on the fly what we’re trying to do,” Rosas continued. “When you’re playing good teams like we’re playing, you get exposed. That’s the stage we’re at. But to say we’re not focused day in, day out on winning? That’s false and inaccurate.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • While he was hardly the biggest name of the players acquired by the Timberwolves at the deadline, James Johnson has quickly emerged as a team leader in Minnesota, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “If James told me to jump off a cliff I would do it yesterday,” Josh Okogie said of his new teammate. “He’s been great for us, and we’ve been following his lead.”
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s breakout year and budding stardom is giving the Thunder plenty to think about as they contemplate a potential rebuild, writes ESPN’s Royce Young. If Gilgeous-Alexander has All-NBA upside, it likely reduces the odds of the team fully bottoming out in the next couple seasons.
  • Nick Kosmider of The Athletic attempts to make sense of Michael Porter Jr.‘s reduced playing time for the Nuggets, arguing that it’s time to let the second-year forward reclaim a more impactful role.

Doncic, Young, Zion Headline Rising Stars Rosters

The NBA has officially announced the 20 rookies and sophomores who have been named to the league’s Rising Stars game for All-Star weekend. Those 20 players, selected by assistant coaches from around the league, will be divided into a U.S. Team and a World Team, as follows:

U.S. Team:

World Team:

Williamson’s inclusion is notable since he has appeared in just four games due to injuries. It’s not surprising that the NBA found a way to get him into the game, since he’s one of the most exciting prospects to enter the league in years, but it’s a tough break for youngsters who have been on the court since the fall for contenders, such as Sixers wing Matisse Thybulle. or Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr.

Snubbed players like Thybulle, Porter, and others could eventually make their way into the Rising Stars game if players have to pull out due to injuries, or if All-Stars like Doncic and Young opt not to play in both events.

The Rising Stars game will take place in Chicago on Friday, February 14.

Northwest Notes: Porter Jr., Patton, Wolves, Gilgeous-Alexander

Forward Michael Porter Jr. has solidified his spot in the Nuggets’ rotation and he may even become a regular starter sooner rather than later, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post. It’s unlikely that Porter will supplant Will Barton in the lineup despite his 25-point outburst against Indiana but it’s not out of the question, Singer continues. It’s a safer bet that Porter carves out a significant role down the stretch as a microwave-type scorer off the bench, Singer adds.

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • The Thunder‘s Justin Patton is the player most likely to be dealt over the next week, according to The Athletic’s John Hollinger. Patton’s $1.62MM salary becomes fully guaranteed if he remains on their roster through January 7 and the Thunder are currently $750,250 into the luxury tax threshold. The center could only be acquired by one of the nine teams with workable trade exceptions, or by the Hawks via cap room, Hollinger adds.
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr has been impressed with the Timberwolves’ unheralded young players, as he told reporters including Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “What I see with the Wolves is similar to what I see with our team, in that suddenly a bunch of young guys get their chance, and they play hard,” Kerr said. “For Minnesota to go to Milwaukee, play the best team in the league down the wire, without (Karl-Anthony) Towns and (Andrew) Wiggins, it shows you what a young team is capable of, just competing.”
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has established himself as one of the league’s top second-year players, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. The second-year Thunder guard, the centerpiece of the Paul George deal with the Clippers from Oklahoma City’s perspective, is averaging 19.9 PPG while mainly playing the off-guard spot after averaging 10.8 PPG in his rookie year as a point man.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Wiggins, Craig, SGA

A combination of injuries and head coach Ryan Saunders‘ desire to play matchups have resulted in the Timberwolves using 11 different starting lineup combinations this season. While those changes have often been made out of necessity, Jeff Teague believes the lineup juggling has impacted the club’s chemistry, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune details.

“We haven’t been healthy all year, so it is difficult to try and get a rhythm,” the Timberwolves’ veteran point guard said. “Seems like every four games something happens. It’s part of the NBA. Just try to keep adjusting, keep making things happen. Hopefully we can get all on the same page one of these games.”

Since starting the season with a 10-8 record, the Timberwolves have lost 10 consecutive games and dropped to 13th in the Western Conference, so Saunders may continue tweaking the lineup until the club finds a combination that works.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins and Nuggets forward Torrey Craig have each signed with CAA Basketball for representation, according to Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal (Twitter link). Craig had previously been represented by Tony Dutt, while Wiggins had been operating without an agent.
  • Mike Singer of The Denver Post looks into whether the Nuggets should be trying to make a trade, what sort of move would make the most sense for the team, and what obstacles might stand in the way of a potential deal.
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s 32-point performance in Sunday’s win over the Clippers was the latest sign that the Thunder‘s Paul George trade was a blessing in disguise, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman.
  • When Al-Farouq Aminu returned to Portland as a member of the Magic on Friday, Joe Freeman of The Oregonian took the opportunity to talk to the veteran forward about what this season would have looked like if the Trail Blazers had kept most of last season’s roster intact.

Northwest Notes: SGA, Vonleh, MPJ, Gallinari

New Thunder point guard Chris Paul has changed the way the team’s other new point guard, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, thinks about defense, Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman relays. “Everybody’s always talking about offense, offense, offense,” Paul said in November, “but the biggest thing I’m talking to him about is defense.”

Gilgeous-Alexander told Lee that before Paul, no one had “really sat me down and shown me how to read (an opposing team’s) offense the same way you read a defense on the opposite end.” Paul is a nine-time All-Defensive Team selection. The Thunder are currently 11-12, good for the No. 7 seed in a top-heavy Western Conference.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Wolves center Noah Vonleh has been relegated to the bench a lot lately, tallying eight healthy scratches in the last 10 games heading into tonight’s contest against the Jazz (he has yet to play tonight, too). Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune details Vonleh’s plight. The forward signed a one-year, $2MM contract with Minnesota expecting an opportunity to play, but thus far has seen sparse playing time.
  • In Denver, Nuggets small forward Michael Porter Jr. is struggling to carve out a bench role for himself, and seeking clarity on his usage in coach Mike Malone‘s system.. The No. 14 draft pick in 2018, Porter got some meaningful spot minutes during the first half of last night’s 97-92 loss to the Sixers. But he was passed over in the third quarter in favor of fellow small forwards Torrey Craig and Juan Hernangomez“Yeah, I need to talk to coach again,” Porter told The Denver Post’s Mike Singer. “When we’re more mentally prepared about when we’re coming in, what he’s thinking for certain games.”
  • With most summer contracts eligible to be traded come December 15th, Thunder power forward Danilo Gallinari and his expiring $22.6MM contract have been the talk of the NBA town. One possible suitor, the Trail Blazers, could use Gallinari as their starting four in a 2020 playoff push. HoopsHype’s Bryan Kalbrosky details the versatile scorer’s potential fit in Portland.

Western Notes: Harden, Paul, Popovich, Jokic

James Harden has been logging heavy minutes and Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t sure how to reduce his workload, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle relays. Harden had played a league-high 38.9 MPG in the seven games since Eric Gordon suffered a knee injury that required surgery. “You always have concerns,” D’Antoni said. “He’s been shouldering a lot of responsibility, played a lot of minutes. We’ve had guys hurt and Eric can’t spell him. He’s got to shoulder the load of scoring all the time. So, yeah, you worry about it. I don’t have a solution (for) it.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Thunder guard Chris Paul has developed strong relationships with young players Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Darius Bazley, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. “I think Chris is just a huge kid, and that’s what it is,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “So, he likes hanging out with guys like me and Baze, goof around a lot, make fun of each other, and it’s all fun and games.”
  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich thinks it will be a while before a NBA team names a woman as its head coach, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. “It’s a process and it doesn’t happen quickly. But I think the more women there are [in the game] and as it becomes more commonplace and more the rule, it will then depend on an organization realizing there are women that can do this,” he said. Every woman can’t, every man can’t. But the point is there gotta be enough to choose from and it’s gotta be pretty commonplace before I think somebody’s gonna pull the trigger.”
  • Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has taken some heat on social media for his physique and weight but he shrugs it off, Mike Singer of the Denver Post reports. “It doesn’t bother me,” Jokic said. The max player’s statistics are down virtually across the board. He’s averaging four points less than last season (16.1 PPG) while shooting a career-low 46.7 percent from the field.

Thunder Notes: George Trade, SGA, Adams

Although the Thunder didn’t initially want to move Paul George during the summer when he requested a trade, the franchise was widely lauded for the package it extracted from the Clippers in the deal the two teams eventually made. Among those who thought the Thunder did well? George himself, who spoke about the trade this week when he faced his old team.

“I thought it worked out great for them,” George said (video link via Ben Golliver of The Washington Post). “I think Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) is a future star and he’s proven that he can carry a load. … He works hard, works on his game. And then him just being under CP (Chris Paul), he’s going to learn so much. So they got a star. And Danilo (Gallinari) is a proven scorer, a big-time scorer.

“And then, I mean, the 100 picks that they got,” George continued with a laugh. “Their future’s bright. (Thunder general manager) Sam Presti‘s a proven expert at drafting and they’re going to be great in the future.”

As George noted, the Thunder received five first-round picks in the trade, including four unprotected first-rounders, along with the ability to swap two additional first-rounders with L.A. While it wasn’t quite “100 picks,” it was a massive haul for OKC, and a price the Clippers were willing to pay because they knew it would mean securing a commitment from Kawhi Leonard as well.

Here’s more on the Thunder:

  • George isn’t the only member of the Clippers who believes Gilgeous-Alexander has star potential. As Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman relays, Lou Williams said his former backcourt mate is “gonna be a star,” while head coach Doc Rivers went one step further, calling SGA a potential “superstar” and lamenting the fact that he had to be dealt to OKC to get George. “Obviously it’s the price of doing business in the NBA and it’s a trade you have to do, right?” Rivers said. “But as excited as I was when we knew that the whole deal was going through, when (president of basketball operations) Lawrence (Frank) told me the Shai name was still in it, you were sad. You were disappointed.”
  • Veteran Thunder center Steven Adams is still limited by a knee injury that sidelined him for a handful of games earlier this season, Mussatto writes for The Oklahoman. Nerlens Noel was OKC’s center down the stretch on Tuesday while Adams sat. “Obviously we’re dealing with Steven’s knee still,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I don’t want to say he’s on a minutes restriction, but we’re trying to be mindful and keep him in a range.”
  • In case you missed it, we identified Chris Paul as one veteran to watch in our first look at potential 2019/20 trade candidates in the Northwest division.

Northwest Notes: Hernangomez, Nurkic, Patterson, SGA

Fourth-year Nuggets power forward Juan Hernangomez, a restricted free agent in 2020, made the most of a rare appearance in last Thursday’s 101-93 victory against the Nets. Though his counting stats (two points and eight boards in 19 minutes) don’t jump off the page, coach Mike Malone lauded Hernangomez’s effort in the team’s comeback win, reports Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.

I thought Juancho was the difference-maker tonight,” Malone said. “He had not played (much) in the first 10 games. I wanted to throw him out there knowing that he’d provide a spark and energy.” Hernangomez subsequently rewarded his coach’s faith with a 15-point, three-rebound, 29-minute night during a 131-114 Nuggets win over Memphis on Sunday.

There’s more out of the Northwest:

  • By missing his 13th game of the 2019/20 season Saturday, injured Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic will officially miss out on a $1.25MM games-played bonus. This will result in his future cap hits for Portland being depreciated to $12.9MM this year and $12MM in 2020/21, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN. Nurkic had to play in 70 games and Portland needed to win 50 games for the bonus to materialize.
  • Ahead of tonight’s ongoing tilt against the Thunder, Clippers power forward Patrick Patterson reminisced about his two injury-plagued years logged in Oklahoma City. In speaking with The Oklahoman’s Joe Mussatto, Patterson had a laundry list of causes for the Thunder’s underwhelming 2018/19 season. “I don’t think it was just one thing,” Patterson reflected. “Coaching staff, not everyone on the same page from the heads up top to the players on the bottom. Effort on the players’ part. Focus, playing together, playing good solid defense with communication. We missed a lot of shots.” Patterson’s candor on the team is refreshing to see. He continued, “It’s pretty much everyone that was within the organization’s fault.”
  • On the other side of the trade that landed Patterson in Los Angeles, former Clippers teammates and coaches of Clipper-turned-Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander gave SGA rave reviews before tonight’s tipoff. The Oklahoman’s Maddie Lee reports that LA coach Doc Rivers had this to say about his former point guard: “He’s the greatest kid… I don’t know if I’ve had a more favorite young player, like, he’s the best.” Atlanta guard Tyrone Wallace also raved about his former running mate. “Everybody loved Shai,” Wallace said. “It was one of those things, I think a lot of fans were kind of upset (that he was traded).”

Western Notes: Collins, Davis, Lillard, West

Zach Collins hasn’t given up on playing this season, Casey Holdahl of the team’s website tweets “For sure, it’s very realistic,” Collins told Holdahl. However, the Trail Blazers big man faces a long rehab after undergoing shoulder surgery last week. He’s expected to miss at least four months, which leaves only about a month before the end of the regular season in a best-case scenario.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Anthony Davis is playing through right shoulder pain, an injury he suffered on a missed dunk attempt two weeks ago, Dave McMenamin of ESPN relays. “There’s really never a play I don’t feel it,” Davis said. He hasn’t missed any games due to the injury and that will continue as long as he doesn’t aggravate it, according to Mark Medina of USA Today. “If he can be out there, he’s going to be out there,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s going to play through pain. We just got to make sure that it’s being done intelligently.”
  • Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is content to stay the course with the Trail Blazers rather than joining forces with superstars in other organizations, as he explained to Medina in a separate story. Lillard signed a four-year, $196MM extension during the summer. “I just feel like there’s always a reward at the end. When you do things the right way and you do the work, you’re going to get the results,” Lillard said. “I really believe that. We’ve gotten the results. Even after failures, we come back and answer to it. We’re staying the course. That’s worth it to me.”
  • Clippers adviser Jerry West rubber-stamped the Paul George blockbuster with the Thunder and explained why to Sam Amick of The Athletic. The Clippers gave up five first-rounders, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari. “Everybody talks about all the draft picks we gave away. Well, we did give a lot of draft picks away. But two of them were not ours – period, OK?” West said. Giving up the young point guard was the hard part but worth it in West’s mind. “I think Shai is going to be an All-Star player in this league for a long time, and he’ll keep getting better. But we have two finished products right in the prime of their careers (in Kawhi Leonard and George) – or just getting in the prime of their careers,” he said.

Thunder Exercise Options on Gilgeous-Alexander, Ferguson

The Thunder have exercised their 2020/21 options on point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and swingman Terrance Ferguson, according to a team press release.

Gilgeous-Alexander’s option for 2020/21, which will be his third season in the league, is worth approximately $4.14MM. Ferguson’s fourth-year option is worth $3.94MM.

Oklahoma City had until the end of this month to exercise those options.

Gilgeous-Alexander had a strong rookie campaign with the Clippers and was the key component for OKC in the Paul George blockbuster. He averaged 10.8 PPG and 3.3 APG while appearing in every regular-season game.

Ferguson started 74 games last season and averaged 6.9 PPG in 26.1 MPG. The 21-year-old was the team’s first-round pick in 2017.