Thabo Sefolosha

Free Agency Notes: Raptors, Stephenson, Kyrie, Sefolosha

The defending-champion Raptors will be a different team in 2019/20, with Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and starting shooting guard Danny Green off to Los Angeles. In the wake of Leonard agreeing to join the Clippers and Green committing to the Lakers, Toronto president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri issued a statement thanking the two former Spurs for their contributions to this year’s title team.

“We are very thankful for the year that Kawhi and Danny played with us here in Toronto, and I know the city and the entire country of Canada are grateful for everything they did to help us to win our first NBA Championship,” Ujiri said. “On behalf of the Raptors, I say a very heartfelt thank you to Kawhi and to Danny, and we send them and their families nothing but good wishes. As an organization, the Raptors will focus on the future and continue our pursuit of a second championship.”

After losing two All-NBA caliber defenders in Leonard and Green, the Raptors seem to be seeking out a certain archetype as they peruse the free agent market, writes Blake Murphy of The Athletic. As Murphy points out, new additions Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are both versatile forwards with size who should help Toronto maintain its identity as a strong defensive club.

Here’s more on free agency:

  • It doesn’t appear there’s anything brewing at the moment for free agent guard Lance Stephenson, tweets Scott Agness of The Athletic. According to Agness, Stephenson continues to seek a new contract and may have to settle for a minimum-salary deal.
  • While we already know that Kawhi Leonard reached out to Kevin Durant and Paul George before making his free agency decision, ESPN’s Zach Lowe adds Kyrie Irving to the list of players Leonard explored recruiting. Durant and Irving were set on heading to Brooklyn, so those discussions likely didn’t go far.
  • The Jazz haven’t completed closed the door on the idea of a reunion with free agent wing Thabo Sefolosha, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic.
  • Speaking to Mark Medina of The Mercury News about his decision to join the Timberwolves, Jordan Bell said he was looking for a team that would give him playing time, rather than seeking out the most lucrative offer available. “An opportunity just to play,” Bell said when asked what he prioritized. “Money wasn’t really the issue.” The former second-round pick is getting a one-year, minimum-salary deal from 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.

Jazz Notes: Favors, Ingles, Sefolosha, Udoh

The Jazz have until July 6 to decide whether to keep Derrick Favors for another season, but the 27-year-old power forward is certain that he wants to stay in Utah, writes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. The Jazz hold a team option on Favors’ $17.65MM salary for next season and will have close to a week to examine the free agent market before making a final decision.

“I have a team option; I need that option picked up! I would prefer to come back here,” Favors told Walden. “The grass is not always greener on the other side. … I’m happy in the situation that I’m in, in the position that I’m in — I think it’s good for me and the organization.”

Utah can open enough cap room to make a maximum offer by letting Favors go. While that’s enticing, several Jazz players are lobbying for the team to keep Favors, and GM Dennis Lindsey admits that he has enormous value.

There’d be no playoffs this season without Derrick, no playoff advancement the two previous years,” Lindsey said. “I get it, I get it — obviously, Jae [Crowder] comes in and we have some more mobility and spacing. … [But] Derrick Favors isn’t part of the problem, he’s part of the solution.”

There’s more today from Utah:

  • After winning 50, 48 and 51 games the past three seasons, it’s time for the Jazz to take some chances to reach the next level, contends Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. That may mean parting with Favors, along with Kyle Korver and Royce O’Neale, who also have non-guaranteed contracts, and letting unrestricted free agents Ricky Rubio and Raul Neto move on. Deveney suggests finding a Rubio replacement by resuming talks with the Grizzlies about Mike Conley or targeting Nets restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell. While Tobias Harris would fit perfectly, Deveney believes he will stay with the Sixers and sees the Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon as a possible alternative.
  • Joe Ingles could be switched to a sixth-man role if the Jazz are able to make an upgrade at the wing this summer, according to Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News. Ingles improved as a playmaker this year and his durability makes him valuable however the team decides to use him.
  • As free agents over the age of 30, Thabo Sefolosha and Ekpe Udoh both face uncertain futures in Utah, Sorensen adds in a separate story“I’m going to keep my options open and see what makes sense,” Sefolosha said. “Like I say, I had a great experience here for two years and I think it would be great if I can come back and keep working with this group and keep evolving.”

Jazz Point Guards Rubio, Exum To Miss Time

3:19pm: Today’s MRIs for Rubio and Sefolosha came back clean, sources tell Shams Charania and Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link). However, Rubio is still expected to miss about two weeks, while Sefolosha will likely be sidelined for 10-12 days.

9:17am: The injury bug is hitting the Jazz, with league sources telling Tony Jones of The Athletic that backup point guard Dante Exum is expected to miss “a few weeks” after badly spraining his left ankle on Saturday.

After straining a hamstring in that same game, Thabo Sefolosha is scheduled for a Tuesday morning MRI, according to Jones, who reports that there’s “some optimism within the organization” that Sefolosha could return to the rotation within a few weeks.

On top of those two injuries, starting point guard Ricky Rubio suffered a strained hamstring of his own on Monday night and will also have an MRI today, Jones notes. The Jazz are hoping Rubio’s injury isn’t serious, but it appears they’ll enter Wednesday’s game against Orlando with Raul Neto as their only healthy point guard. While Neto’s role will increase substantially, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles also figure to take on more of ball-handling and play-making responsibilities in that game, Jones writes.

At 20-21, Utah is outside of the playoff picture in the Western Conference at the season’s halfway mark. The Jazz can’t afford to slip any further back in the standings, so it will be interesting to see if they turn to the trade market for possible point guard help if Rubio has to miss more than just a game or two, tweets Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports.

Signing a player to a 10-day contract would also be an option for the Jazz, though they don’t have an open roster spot to accommodate a new addition. The club also has until January 15 to replace one of its two-way players, if it so chooses.

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.