Thabo Sefolosha

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Butler, Morris, Sefolosha

The Timberwolves‘ roller coaster season took a new turn on Friday, with the team suffering a 30-point loss to the Bucks in front of their home crowd. Minnesota has been rocked by trade rumors centered around Jimmy Butler, who remains on the roster nearly six weeks after his trade request went public.

Despite the constant, sometimes nagging attention from media and fans, Wolves players have tried to keep their focus on handling business and business only.

“Me personally, I don’t care,” Gorgui Dieng said, according to Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “If they trade Jimmy, then they’re trading him. If they keep him here, then they keep him here. It’s not my decision, it’s not something that I have a voice [in]. Most important is just what’s important for the team, and what I can do to help this basketball team.”

The Wolves have opened the 2018/19 season with a 2-4 record, and discussions to trade Butler are ongoing. Butler scored just four points on 2-11 shooting in Friday’s game.

“No team is ever going to go through a perfect season unscathed,” Taj Gibson said. “Everybody has a story at the end of the year sometimes of triumph and sometimes falling down. We’re in a crazy situation, kind of difficult, but we have to push through it. That’s why we’re professionals.

“We have to go into every practice, into every game with a smile on your face and push yourself.”

Here are some other notes from the Northwest Division:

  • Andrew Wiggins discussed his relationship with Jimmy Butler last week, stating that he and Butler “have always been cool,” according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter link). Wiggins also claims the infamous practice where Butler stormed the court and took on the Wolves’ starters was overblown (Twitter link).
  • The emergence of second-year player Monte Morris has greatly helped the Nuggets, who have jumped out to a 4-1 record this season, Mike Singer of The Denver Post contends. Morris is averaging 9.4 points in five games, providing depth in the backcourt with Isaiah Thomas still out to injury.
  • Jazz guard Thabo Sefolosha will be available to play Sunday against the Mavericks, according to Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News. Sefolosha served a five-game suspension this season for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy in April, and played just 38 games with the team last year.

Northwest Notes: Udoh, Thunder, Tolliver, Blazers

The Jazz have been relatively generous during free agency so far this summer compared to most teams, handing out a two-year, $36MM contract to forward Derrick Favors, agreeing to a three-year, $33MM deal with backup guard Dante Exum, and reaching terms on a two-year, $4MM pact with seldom-used guard Raul Neto.

Furthermore, Utah has already guaranteed the 2018/19 salary of Thabo Sefolosha, who was limited to only 39 games last season. As such, it would appear that the Jazz are intent on sticking with their 2017/18 roster for now, which means that both Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh can be cautiously optimistic while waiting for their 2018/19 salary to become guaranteed.

Udoh in particular, who averaged 2.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 63 games for the Jazz last season, and whose $3.36MM salary becomes fully guaranteed if he remains on Utah’s roster past July 9, is trying to remain positive while awaiting Utah’s decision on his future, writes Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News.

“You know, we’ll see what happens,” Udoh told the Deseret News. “I’m grateful. I’m getting great workouts at the facility. I’ve been here pretty much since the season has been over outside of a couple trips, but I’ve just been getting in good work.”

Per Woodyard, Udoh is excited and prepared to return in a Jazz uniform next season, but also understands the business-like nature of the NBA.

“It’s gonna be a fun season,” Udoh said. “The West has gotten better but we’ve gotten better and we’re gonna be the same team next year. Starting last year, you didn’t know what you were going to get with so many new pieces, but now we’ll be ready from the beginning.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes that although Paul George did in fact want to be a Laker at this time last year, he is now happy in Oklahoma City after signing a four-year, $137MM max contract with the Thunder on the eve of free agency.
  • According to Jerry Zgoda of the Star TribuneTimberwolves’ free-agent signee forward Anthony Tolliver chose a return to Minnesota over four other pursuing teams because of the familiarity he has for the franchise – he played for the Wolves from 2010 to 2012 – and because “(he) want(s) to win.”
  • While it’s probably a bit bold to get too excited about the free agent signing of a backup, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes that the addition of 24 year-old center Nerlens Noel on a minimum-salary deal is a low-risk, high-reward move by the Thunder.
  • Per Joe Freeman of The Oregonian, a couple of key subplots have emerged for the Trail Blazers during the team’s summer league minicamp. First, it’s an opportunity for Portland to get a first-hand look at rookies Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. in an NBA practice. Moreover, both Wade Baldwin and Georgios Papagiannis are fighting for their NBA lives while Jake Layman looks to secure a more prominent role for next season.

Jazz Guarantee Thabo Sefolosha’s Contract For 2018/19

The Jazz have elected to not waive veteran forward Thabo Sefolosha, Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune tweets. The club could have cleared Sefolosha’s $5.2MM non-guaranteed salary had they released him prior to July 1, but it will now become guaranteed.

Sefolosha had an up-and-down first season in Utah after signing a two-year deal with the Jazz last summer. The 34-year-old was an effective part of the Jazz rotation in the fist half, averaging 8.2 PPG and 4.2 RPG with a .492/.381/.815 shooting line in 21.2 minutes per contest.

However, an MCL injury in his right knee ended Sefolosha’s season early, limiting him to just 38 games. Additionally, the NBA announced in April that Sefolosha would be suspended five games for violating the league’s anti-drug program. Since he couldn’t serve that ban will while he was injured, the 12-year veteran will miss the first five contests of the 2018/19 season.

Sefolosha was one of three notable Jazz veterans with non-guaranteed salaries for 2018/19. Utah will reportedly have to decide by July 9 whether to retain Jonas Jerebko ($4.2MM) and Ekpe Udoh ($3.36MM). Royce O’Neale and David Stockton also have non-guaranteed minimum salaries for next season.

With Sefolosha officially on the cap for 2018/19, the Jazz now have more than $80MM in guaranteed money on their books. Utah will likely remain an over-the-cap team, with cap holds for Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, and Raul Neto – along with the aforementioned non-guaranteed salaries – pushing them over the $101.87MM threshold.

Derrick Favors Sets Meeting With Jazz

Representatives of the Jazz will meet with free agent big man Derrick Favors Sunday afternoon in Atlanta, writes Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Both sides are confident that Favors will return to Utah, tweets Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. He cites the Suns as a team that might take a chance on Favors, but adds that Phoenix needs a point guard and is in the market for Toronto’s Fred VanVleet.
Favors, 26, has been in Utah since arriving in a 2011 trade. He averaged 15.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in 77 games this season and played particularly well when starting center Rudy Gobert was sidelined by injuries.
The Jazz have said they will place a priority on keeping Favors, along with restricted free agents Dante Exum and Raul Neto. They must also decide by Sunday whether to guarantee a $5.25MM contract for Thabo Sefolosha, with Jones stating that Sefolosha’s camp is confident they will.

Northwest Notes: Sefolosha, Reed, Withey, T-Wolves

Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha should be fully cleared for basketball activities within six weeks, Tony Jones of the The Salt Lake Tribune tweets. Sefolosha underwent season-ending right knee surgery after appearing in 38 games. His status with the franchise remains cloudy. Sefolosha’s $5.25MM salary for next season becomes guaranteed if he’s still on the roster on Sunday.

In other news around the Northwest Division:

  • The Thunder recently held a free-agent workout that included centers Willie Reed and Jeff Withey, according to Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype. Reed played 39 games with the Clippers before he was thrown into the Blake Griffin blockbuster with the Pistons. He was traded to the Bulls shortly thereafter and then waived. Withey played nine games with the Mavericks last season. The cap-strapped Thunder will be seeking low-cost alternatives to fill out their bench.
  • Salary-cap issues will force the Timberwolves to be frugal in free agency, the Associated Press reports. They’ll have to find some players on the market willing to team-friendly deals, perhaps for the veteran’s minimum, to fill out the bench, the report adds.
  • Point guard Shabazz Napier played regularly for the Trail Blazers last season but they still decided to let him go rather than giving him a qualifying offer.

Jazz Notes: Team Options, Coaching Staff, Williams-Goss

The Jazz will look internally to improve over the course of the upcoming offseason rather than chase major acquisitions via trade of free agency, general manager Dennis Lindsey said. Ryan McDonald of The Deseret News writes that there are plenty of players on board with room to grow.

Not only will Jazz fans wait with anticipation as Donovan Mitchell rounds out his game for his sophomore season but for returning veterans like Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio to raise theirs for 2018/19, too.

All told, even without making a major transaction splash, it’s conceivable that the vastly improved Jazz take another leap forward next season. Not bad considering that they won’t have the luxury of picking in the lottery this year given their success.

McDonalds writes that one area that the club should be particularly focused on improving is offensive production off the bench. Outside of oft-injured guard Dante Exum there aren’t many players on the current roster who pack a strong scoring punch off the bench.

There’s more out of Utah tonight:

  • When free agency resumes, the Jazz will have to make decisions on three veteran players. Jody Genessy of The Deseret News writes that all of Thabo Sefolosha, Ekpe Udoh and Jonas Jerebko have team options in their contracts for 2018/19 and will have to wait until July before they find out whether they’ll be back on board for next season.
  • Despite the loss of assistant coach Igor Kokoskov, who will serve as the head coach of the Suns in 2018/19, the impression for now is that the Jazz will return the same coaching staff next season, Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune tweets.
  • Draft-and-stash prospect Nigel Williams-Goss, selected by the Jazz with the 55th pick in 2017, has drawn attention from a number of EuroLeague teams for next season, Orazio Cauchi of Sportando writes.

Northwest Notes: George, Mitchell, Patterson

There’s no indication that Paul George has decided what to do as a free agent this season but Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes that we’ve already seen a glimpse of what’s possible if he decides to stay with the Thunder and continue to suit up alongside Russell Westbrook.

The scribe writes that the forward’s decision to leave or stay with the Thunder will be seen, fairly or not, as a referendum on playing next to the club’s superstar. George himself lamented that it was a significant adjustment tweaking his game to complement Westbrook’s but the pair would occasionally fall in step and thrive.

George’s first season with the Thunder saw him touch the ball five fewer times per game and also hold possession for less. That’s not all that surprising given that he was necessarily obligated to play off the ball but it could play a role in the decision he makes heading forward.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Yes, Donovan Mitchell had an impressive rookie campaign, but plenty of other players had solid first years before plateauing. One particularly intriguing perspective that may reassure Jazz fans that they’re not witnessing the next O.J. Mayo is teammate Thabo Sefolosha‘s. “I was a teammate with Derrick Rose when he was a rookie, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant when they were young in their first two seasons in OKC, and the talent level is right up there with those guys,” the 34-year-old told Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News.
  • There’s no denying that Patrick Patterson is a sharp-shooting veteran presence for the Thunder, exactly what he was expected to be when he signed a three-year, $16MM deal last summer, but declining athleticism limited his ability to contribute off the bench in 2017/18, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes.
  • He may not win the Rookie of the Year award (according to our own staff) but ESPN’s Mike Schmitz believes that Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell has the highest future potential of any of this year’s rookies. Co-writer Kevin Pelton placed him No. 2 behind Ben Simmons but Schmitz raved about the Louisville product’s demonstrated ability to improve upon his weaknesses.

Jazz Notes: Favors, Sefolosha, Jerebko, Udoh

A summer decision on Derrick Favors will shape the Jazz roster going forward, writes Bobby Marks of ESPN. Favors, who has spent more than seven years in Utah, will be an unrestricted free agent after earning $12MM this season. The team received offers for him at the trade deadline, according to Marks, but never came close to pulling the trigger.

Favors played 77 games this year after battling injuries the past two seasons and raised his numbers in points, rebounds and blocks. He was an effective fill-in for Rudy Gobert while the starting center missed 26 games with knee injuries.

The market may work against Favors, Marks cautions, because few teams have significant money to spend and the draft appears to be loaded with big men. He sees a compromise that would keep Favors in Utah for $45MM over three seasons with a 2020/21 player option. Marks notes that would allow the Jazz to use their full mid-level exception on another player – or players – without going over the luxury tax.

There’s more from Utah on the first day of the offseason:

  • The Jazz also face decisions on three non-guaranteed contracts, Marks adds in the same story. After free agent Gordon Hayward left for Boston last summer, Utah signed three veterans — Thabo Sefolosha, Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh — without the guarantee of a second season. Marks states that their fates will be determined by the free agency pool at their positions, the need to open roster spots and the anticipated cost of keeping Favors. Jerebko and Udoh were barely used in the playoffs, while Sefolosha missed the end of the season with a knee injury and will start next year with a five-game suspension.
  • After becoming a surprising Rookie of the Year candidate, “nonstop work” is on Donovan Mitchell‘s agenda for the summer, relays Christopher Kamrani of The Salt Lake Tribune. Mitchell had his left foot in a walking boot during today’s exit interview, a result of an injury that forced him out of Tuesday’s closeout game with the Rockets. “He’s special because he has that look in him that he wants to be the best,” teammate Ricky Rubio said. “You either have it or you don’t have it. He has something. We can enjoy it.”
  • The Jazz plan to use their system as a selling point to free agents this summer, according to Royce Young and Tim MacMahon of ESPN. The pitch will be that players will be put into a role where they can excel, just as Joe Ingles has.
  • Links to today’s exit interviews are available on the Jazz website.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, G League, Sefolosha

After missing the playoffs by one game for the second consecutive season, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone and president of basketball operations Tim Connelly are tired of going home after the regular season ends. Yet, as reported by Gina Mizell of The Denver Post, there’s reason for optimism, with Connelly declaring that “this is the most confident I’ve felt in our core group since I’ve been here.”

The first order of business for the Nuggets is locking up budding superstar Nikola Jokic to a long-term contract. Jokic actually has a team option worth $1.6MM for next season, but because he was a second-round pick and has been in the league for three or fewer seasons, he becomes a restricted free agent if Denver declines his option, allowing the Nuggets to match any offer from another team.

Both of the Nuggets other young potential stars – Jamal Murray and Gary Harris – are already locked in for next season, meaning the next order of business is re-signing sixth man Will Barton. “We’re hopeful we can get something done,” Connelly said. “(Barton is) our guy. We love him. I think if he’s back in a Denver jersey, it’s good for both him and the team.”

Barton added, “We’re building something real special here.  I love playing with Jok and Jamal and Gary. The guys we have in the locker room, I like being around. The coaching staff has really come a long way with trusting me and me trusting them. Just the whole (Nuggets) organization, I feel like we’re headed in the right direction.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • In more after-season content from the Nuggets, Christopher Dempsey of Nuggets.com relays some of Connelly’s positive thoughts on the Nuggets’ season. “Certainly, when you’re on the outside, looking-in you have to address some needs,” Connelly said. “I think there will be some pretty interesting financial decisions we’ll make this offseason. But standing in front of (the media) now, I finally can say with full confidence that we have a core that can be really good for a long time. They all want to be here, and they are all about the right things.”
  • The Trail Blazers are closing in on setting up a G League team in Beaverton, OR, reports Adam Johnson of Two Ways and 10 Days. There have been suggestions of Seattle as a prime location for a Portland G League team, but it seems the Blazers are looking to bring a potential afilliate closer to home. Nike, the NBA’s new uniform supplier, is headquartered in the Portland suburb.
  • Jazz swingman Thabo Sefolosha may be out of the lineup with injury, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t playing a role against his former team, the Thunder, reports Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News. “I try to just help when I see something like offensively, defensively, something that we can do a little differently,” Sefolosha said. “Just whatever I see, I like to communicate, whether it’s with the coaches or with the players, so I try to stay involved as much as I can.”

Nerlens Noel, Thabo Sefolosha Receive Five-Game Suspensions

Mavericks center Nerlens Noel and Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha have each received five-game suspensions for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program, the league announced today. The bans are for marijuana violations, tweets Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post.

The lottery-bound Mavericks only have five games left in the regular season, so Noel will start serving his suspension immediately and avoid having it carry over to 2018/19. With unrestricted free agency looming for the former lottery pick, it’s possible that Noel has played his last game in Dallas. The suspension will cost him approximately $145K of this season’s salary.

As for Sefolosha, his situation is a little more complicated since he’s expected to miss the rest of this season with a knee injury. The veteran must receive medical clearance before he can begin serving his suspension, so the five-game ban figures to impact his availability at the start of next season.

Sefolosha is under contract for 2018/19, but his $5.25MM salary is non-guaranteed. The Jazz could release him by July 1 and avoid being on the hook for that salary — if they keep him on their roster, they’ll be without him for their first five games in the fall.