T.J. Leaf

Scotto’s Latest: Gallinari, Nunn, Pacers, Nuggets, More

When the Thunder and Heat discussed a potential Danilo Gallinari trade leading up to last week’s deadline, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Kendrick Nunn, and draft compensation were among the various assets that came up in talks, league sources tell Michael Scotto of Bleacher Report. Miami reportedly wanted to extend Gallinari’s contract as part of a deal, but couldn’t agree to terms with his camp, which is one main reason the trade didn’t happen.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote last week that he believed the Heat could’ve acquired Gallinari without surrendering any of their young players like Nunn. So even though his name came up in discussions, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Thunder would have insisted on his inclusion, depending on what other pieces were involved.

While Gallinari remained with the Thunder for this season, Scotto suggests the Heat and Knicks could be among his potential suitors this summer. Miami clearly has interest, and created some cap flexibility for 2020/21 by moving Johnson and Dion Waiters last week. New York, meanwhile, will have cap space and is hiring veteran CAA agent Leon Rose as its new president of basketball operations. Gallinari is a CAA client.

Here are a few more noteworthy tidbits from Scotto’s look at the post-deadline landscape:

  • The Knicks and Pacers discussed a possible Marcus Morris trade. According to Scotto, a package that featured Aaron Holiday, Doug McDermott, and T.J. Leaf was “briefly kicked around,” but didn’t end up going far.
  • McDermott’s name also came up in discussions about a potential Pacers trade with the Bucks involving Ersan Ilyasova, says Scotto. It’s not known which team initiated those talks.
  • Before the Cavaliers traded for Andre Drummond, they called the Pacers to ask about Myles Turner‘s availability, per Scotto. Indiana has remained firm on keeping Turner, though many executives expect the team to eventually break up its Turner/Domantas Sabonis frontcourt.
  • The Nuggets discussed the possibility of trading Gary Harris, Malik Beasley, and Juan Hernangomez as part of a package for Bulls guard Zach LaVine or Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, sources tell Scotto. New Orleans set a very high asking price for Holiday, while LaVine was said to be “off-limits” for Chicago, so Denver didn’t get far on either front.

Pacers Shopping Leaf, Increasing Oladipo’s Minutes Limit

While the Pacers are unlikely to make a major move, they are not going into the 2020 NBA trade deadline quietly. The team is sniffing around to see if there is a trade for T.J. Leaf, sources tell J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star.

Leaf was selected with the No. 18 overall pick in the 2017 draft. He’s never really carved out a consistent role with the club, given the presence of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner on the roster. Now, the Pacers could look to trade him for a true stretch four, per Michael, though they are not expecting a major asset in return.

Leaf, who has appeared in 22 games for Indiana this season, is shooting 35.7% from three, though he’s only taken 14 attempts this season.

Minutes should be even tighter now with coach Nate McMillan and the Pacers medical staff increasing the minutes limit for Victor Oladipo, who returned from a gruesome leg injury just three games ago. The star will be capped at 28 minutes now instead of 24, writes Mark Montieth of Pacers.com.

Indiana had initially planned to re-evaluate Oladipo’s minutes restriction at the All-Star break, but is hoping that loosening that restriction will help him find a rhythm and break out of his shooting slump.

“We need to get him to that workload he needs to put on his knee,” head coach Nate McMillan said.

Pacers Notes: Brogdon, Warren, Pritchard, Roster Moves

The 2019/20 season will only be his fourth NBA campaign and his first with the Pacers, but 26-year-old guard Malcolm Brogdon is Indiana’s bona fide team leader in his inaugural season in Indianapolis, writes Mark Montieth of Pacers.com.

At least one assistant coach has already gone as far as comparing Brogdon to perhaps the greatest player in Pacers’ history, five-time NBA All-Star Reggie Miller“I haven’t seen anybody like that in practice since Reggie,” said assistant coach Dan Burke, who has been with the Pacers for nearly 20 seasons.

Likewise, head coach Nate McMillan sees an extension of himself on the court with Brogdon, something every coach longs for in a point guard.

“He’s doing a good job of coming in and competing and getting the guys to compete,” McMillan said “He understands the position he’s in and what’s required of that. He’s communicating with all of our guys. He communicates with the guys he’s playing with and the guys he’s playing against (in practice)… it just comes natural for him.”

There’s more tonight out of Indianapolis:

  • A versatile player, offseason free agent acquisition T.J. Warren has the ability to line up as a power forward in a small-ball lineup, but the Pacers’ focus for him is to excel at small forward, reports J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star.
  • Scott Agness of The Athletic writes that the Pacers have elevated their emphasis on the international game and its players since president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard, who played professionally in Spain, Italy, and Germany, was promoted to run the front office back in 2017. “I like the way Europe does it,” Pritchard said. “They put the emphasis early on learning the game versus playing and winning immediately.”
  • As we relayed earlier today and yesterday, the Pacers have made several roster moves in the past 48 hours. In addition to exercising rookie scale options on both Aaron Holiday and T.J. Leaf, the club replaced forward Jakeenan Gant with guard Walt Lemon Jr. on its 20-man roster.

Pacers Pick Up 2020/21 Options On Leaf, Holiday

2:01pm: The Pacers have picked up Leaf’s fourth-year option and Holiday’s third-year option, J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star confirms (via Twitter). In total, the two moves add about $6.67MM in guaranteed money to Indiana’s 2020/21 cap.

1:14pm: The Pacers are exercising the fourth-year rookie scale option for forward T.J. Leaf, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). The move will lock in Leaf’s $4,326,825 cap hit for the 2020/21 season.

[RELATED: Decisions On 2020/21 Rookie Scale Options]

The 18th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Leaf hasn’t played a major rotation role for Indiana in his first two NBA seasons. The 22-year-old has appeared in a total of 111 regular season games, but has averaged just 3.4 PPG and 1.9 RPG in 8.8 MPG in those contests.

With Thaddeus Young no longer in the power forward mix for the Pacers, Leaf may see an increased role this season, though the team is committed to playing Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis together in the frontcourt. Newly-added forward T.J. Warren could also see some time at the four in smaller lineups.

Leaf will now become eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2020 offseason. If he doesn’t sign a new deal at that point, he’d be on track for restricted free agency in the summer of 2021.

The Pacers also face an October 31 deadline on Aaron Holiday‘s third-year option for 2020/21. That option, which will only count against the cap for $2,345,640, is a lock to be exercised, so Indiana will likely announce both moves at the same time.

Central Notes, Bullock, I. Smith, Bucks, Leaf

Reggie Bullock and Ish Smith have been solid this season for the Pistons and would have some value on the trade market, given their modest salaries and expiring contracts. However, the club would like to re-sign both players during the 2019 offseason, if possible, tweets Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. That would throw a wrench into the idea of trading either player during the season.

Ellis notes that Bullock, in particular, is generating “strong” interest on the trade market. The sixth-year wing is having another excellent shooting season for the Pistons, making 39.8% of his three-point attempts. That’s nearly right in line with his 40.2% career rate, and would appeal to a ton of contenders — especially given his $2.5MM salary.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Frank Isola takes an in-depth look at Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry in an interesting piece for The Athletic. Within the story, Lasry confirms that Milwaukee made an effort to acquire Kyle Korver from Cleveland before the Cavs traded him to Utah earlier this season. A December report had suggested that the Bucks came close to trading for both Korver and George Hill before working out a separate deal for Hill.
  • T.J. Leaf, who has had a chance to play regular minutes with Myles Turner sidelined, may stick in the Pacers‘ rotation even after Turner returns, head coach Nate McMillan said this week. Mark Montieth of Pacers.com has the story, along with the quotes from McMillan.
  • Kris Dunn has been something of an enigma in his first season and a half with the Bulls, according to Sam Smith of Bulls.com, who explores whether the former fifth overall pick can still be Chicago’s point guard of the future.

Central Notes: Griffin, Jackson, Leaf, Parker

After dealing with various injuries in recent seasons, Blake Griffin is healthy and looking to regain respect by leading the Pistons back to the playoffs this season. Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press writes about how Griffin’s game has evolved and adapted in recent seasons to account for his decline in athleticism. Gone are the nightly posterizing dunks, with a reliable 3-point shot and improved playmaking abilities in their place.

Ellis also details the injuries Griffin has suffered in recent seasons, as well as the work he put in over the offseason to improve his game and his durability. In 25 games with the Pistons last season, Griffin averaged 19.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game while knocking down 34.8% of his 3-pointers.

With Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson all healthy, the Pistons are hopeful that the trio can lead them back to the playoffs in the weakened Eastern Conference. While the Pistons struggled after trading for Griffin, they didn’t get a true look at how good they can be with a healthy team. With new head coach Dwane Casey leading the way, there is optimism throughout the organization.

There’s more from the Central division:

  • Speaking of Griffin and Jackson, Casey revealed that there is no minutes restriction for either player, according to Keith Langlois, the editor of the Pistons‘ website (via Twitter). This is a good indication that both players are fully healthy and in game shape to begin the season.
  • Following a “no comment” response from Jabari Parker when asked if he would accept any role given to him, Will Perdue of NBC Sports Chicago writes that Parker can only be a positive addition to the Bulls if he puts the team ahead of his individual goals and desires. Parker struggled throughout the preseason, but has an opportunity to rebound his value in Chicago this season.
  • Mark Montieth answered several Pacers-related questions in a mailbag for the team’s website. In it he addresses T.J. Leaf‘s potential role this season, with it likely being a 10th or 11th man due to the team’s depth and Leaf’s youth as the Pacers look to build on last season’s surprising success.

Pacers Exercise 2019/20 Options On Sabonis, Leaf

SEPTEMBER 26: The Pacers have officially exercised their 2019/20 options on both Sabonis and Leaf, the club confirmed today in a press release.

SEPTEMBER 24: The Pacers will exercise their options on the rookie contracts of Domantas Sabonis and T.J. Leaf, tweets Scott Agness of The Athletic. Team president Kevin Pritchard confirmed the moves, which are contingent on both players passing physicals.

Sabonis, who will have a cap charge of $3,529,555 in 2019/20, was a pleasant surprise in his first year with Indiana after being acquired in a trade with the Thunder. He averaged 11.6 points and 7.7 rebounds in 74 games, mostly as a reserve. He’ll be extension-eligible as of July 1, 2019.

Leaf, the 18th pick in the 2017 draft, got into 53 games as a rookie, averaging 2.9 PPG and 1.5 RPG. He will have a $2,813,280 cap hit for 2019/20. The Pacers will have to make a decision on his fourth-year option next fall.

Pacers President Kevin Pritchard On Contracts, Cap Room And Developing Players

The decision to implement the salary cap increase all at once instead of smoothing it out over several years has led to increased player movement across the NBA, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard contends in an interview with Scott Agness of The Athletic.

Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young are the only players on Indiana’s roster who were with the team two seasons ago, and Pritchard said that is becoming a trend around the league. Teams are opting for shorter contracts, which preserve future cap space at the expense of unity.

“Two collective bargaining agreements ago, I remember you could do six- and seven-year contracts,” he said. “And now we’re talking about over half our team this year is on a one-year deal. So I think it has some uniquenesses, but it also has some challenges. One of the big things for us is we do want to start establishing continuity.

“Every year is its own set of challenges and opportunities. The thing about this team is we brought back the top seven and we feel like we added to the bench. We’re going to miss some players, there’s no doubt. We’re going to miss Lance [Stephenson]. We’re going to miss Al [Jefferson]. We’re going to miss Joe [Young] and Glenn [Robinson III]. Those guys were part of a culture that was very unique and will be hard to duplicate.”

Pritchard shares his thoughts on several topics in the wide-ranging interview:

On the team’s projected $57MM in cap room next summer:

“I would say that adding really good players is always the highest priority. So sometimes flexibility is good and sometimes you’d just rather have the better player. For us, there are so many free agents next summer. But if things go as planned and we have a great season, our free agents become the priority.”

On the progress of Victor Oladipo, who was named the league’s Most Improved Player last season: 

“He’s done an amazing job of trusting his teammates, of making that right play at the right time. Part of that was [GM] Chad [Buchanan] and I and [senior VP of basketball operations] Peter [Dinwiddie] trying to put a more complimentary team around him — with him making reads and then elevating everyone else. At the end of the day, he’s a star and stars can do it for themselves. He’s got to raise the level of everybody else around him.”

On the development of the team’s younger players:

“I looked at the way Villanova has been evaluating what they do player wise. They bring a guy in and it’s like they redshirt all of their freshman. That’s kind of how I felt with T.J. [Leaf] last year. Draft T.J., have him work on his body, and then he’ll be more prepared for an NBA season versus just throwing him at the wolves and seeing what happens. I feel like T.J. worked on his body, he gained 17 pounds, physically he’s more ready, mentally he’s more ready. And so now he has a better chance for success long term.”

On LeBron James‘ departure to the Western Conference:

“He put a pretty big road block in front of the Pacers, but not just the Pacers. A lot of other teams, too. He’s beaten us five times in the playoffs. That’s not a lot of fun.”

O’Connor’s Latest: Thunder, Bradley, Simmons

When we relayed the latest rumors on the Thunder‘s search for wing help on Tuesday, Avery Bradley was one player we mentioned, with a report suggesting Oklahoma City has done its due diligence on the Clippers guard. It wasn’t the first time Bradley’s name has surfaced as a potential OKC target, and multiple league sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that Bradley’s name “keeps popping up” as a player of major interest to the Thunder.

As O’Connor observes, one deal that would make sense on paper and would work financially is Bradley for Alex Abrines and Terrance Ferguson. However, the Thunder are reportedly very reluctant to part with Ferguson, recognizing that they’ll need inexpensive role players for the next few years if they hope to keep their current core together.

Still, some sort of deal involving Abrines could be possible. O’Connor hears from a league executive that Clippers director of pro player personnel Johnny Rogers – who played and broadcasted in Spain – “loves” Abrines, a former Barcelona standout.

O’Connor shares a few more items of interest in his latest piece for The Ringer, so let’s round them up…

  • Although the Thunder have kicked the tires on Magic swingman Jonathon Simmons, multiple sources tell O’Connor that Simmons isn’t expected to be available — at least not for what Oklahoma City would offer.
  • Two front office sources have informed O’Connor that the Thunder would be among the frontrunners to sign Joe Johnson if he’s bought out by the Jazz this month.
  • The Hawks have had some trouble gaining traction on deals for some of their veterans, according to O’Connor, who says that the Thunder and Pacers are among Atlanta’s potential trade partners for players like Marco Belinelli, Dewayne Dedmon, or Ersan Ilyasova. O’Connor notes that the Hawks had interest in T.J. Leaf prior to last year’s draft, but he’s skeptical that the Pacers would surrender the rookie forward for a veteran rental.

Central Notes: Walker, Van Gundy, LaVine, Cavs

The case for the Pacers pursuing a trade for Hornets point guard Kemba Walker comes down to whether he’d mesh with another ball-dominant guard in Victor Oladipo, Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star opines. Indiana hasn’t been linked to Walker but needs a long-term solution at point guard, Ayello continues.  The Pacers could dangle rookie forward T.J. Leaf, a 2018 first-round pick and a handful of expiring and short-term contracts to interest the Hornets, Ayello notes. They also have some team-friendly contracts to trade if Charlotte wants to package a bad contract with Walker. Indiana needs another playmaker but Walker may not fit its scheme and he’s a subpar 3-point shooter, Ayello adds.

Also of note regarding the Central Division:

  • The Pistons have lost five straight and coach Stan Van Gundy admits he’s at a loss why the team’s effort and energy has sunk over the past month, as he told Hoops Rumors and other media members. Detroit suffered a one-point home loss Sunday to the Nets, a team they blew out 11 days earlier. “I don’t know what’s with us. We’re not playing hard enough consistently enough,” he said. “We played hard at times. … But we’re not consistent enough at the defensive end and that, I don’t understand.”
  • Zach LaVine is still trying to get back into top basketball shape, as the Bulls shooting guard admitted to Vince Goodwill of NBCSports.com. LaVine is averaging 11.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG and 2.5 APG in 19.2 MPG in four games since returning from knee surgery. “It was feeling good in practice but in games it’s seventy [percent],” LaVine said of his conditioning. “Playing defense, getting back, running the break, just getting used to it.” LaVine will be reevaluated on Wednesday and could soon see an uptick in minutes, Goodwill adds.
  • Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue doesn’t plan on making a lineup change even though his team has lost 10 of its last 14, according to Associated Press report. Lue said that group has proven it can also turn things around. “We’ve got to play better, we’ve got to be sharper and that’s what we continue to keep working on,” he said. “It’s the same team that won 18 out of 19 and 13 in a row.”