Trevor Ariza

Lakers Keeping Eye On Trevor Ariza

The Lakers are monitoring Trevor Ariza‘s situation and would have interest in signing him if he becomes a free agent, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

For now, Ariza – who is on an expiring contract – remains under contract with the Thunder, though he’s reportedly away from the team for family reasons. According to Charania, Ariza and veteran point guard George Hill, who is also drawing some interest around the league, are expected to open the regular season as members of the Thunder.

Oklahoma City entered full rebuilding mode this offseason and Ariza and Hill landed with the team in bigger trades that were more about other assets (draft picks). However, it makes sense for the Thunder to retain Ariza and Hill – along with fellow veteran Al Horford – rather than simply cutting them, since the club may be able to move them for an asset or two later in 2020/21.

While Horford’s contract has negative value, Ariza and Hill are earning mid-level type money and neither has a fully guaranteed salary beyond this season, so they could make good trade candidates.

Adding another veteran three-and-D wing would help fortify the Lakers’ depth chart, but they aren’t in position to trade for Ariza’s $12.8MM expiring salary. The defending champions will only be in position to add Ariza if the Thunder can’t find a taker for the 35-year-old forward and decide to release him, perhaps with a buyout agreement.

The Lakers are right up against a hard cap and figure to start the season with just 14 players, but Quinn Cook‘s contract isn’t fully guaranteed and the team should be able to add a 15th man later in the season on a prorated veteran’s minimum contract.

Two Thunder Players Test Positive For COVID-19

New Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault has indicated that two Oklahoma City players did not practice today due to positive COVID-19 test results, according to Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman.

Mussatto goes on to note that the identity of those players was not divulged by Daigneault, in keeping with NBA guidelines surrounding coronavirus testing. About 11-15 players suited up today for the club’s initial training camp team practice.

That tally did not include oft-traded veteran small forward Trevor Ariza, who remains away from the team indefinitely as he attends to a family situation, Mussatto reports in a separate piece.

Ariza is focused on the same family matters that prompted him to opt out of the NBA’s Orlando restart with the Trail Blazers this summer, according to Mussatto, who adds that the Thunder were aware of Ariza’s family conflict when they traded for him.

Wright To Pistons, Ariza To Thunder, Johnson To Mavs In Three-Team Trade

NOVEMBER 27: The Thunder, Mavericks, and Pistons have officially finalized their three-team trade, according to press releases from the teams. As detailed below, Ariza and Jackson are headed to Oklahoma City, Johnson is going to Dallas, and Wright moves to Detroit.

The Thunder also acquired a 2023 second-round pick (the more favorable of Dallas’ and Miami’s picks) and the Mavs’ 2026 second-rounder in the deal.

NOVEMBER 21: The Thunder, Mavericks, and Pistons have agreed to a three-team trade, according to reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links) and Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter links).

The move will send James Johnson from Oklahoma City to Dallas and Delon Wright from Dallas to Detroit. The Thunder will receive Trevor Ariza (from the Pistons), Justin Jackson (from the Mavericks), and – unsurprisingly – some form of draft compensation.

From the Mavericks’ perspective, the deal will allow them to open up a roster spot and add some veteran toughness, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, who tweets that Dallas intends to keep Johnson on its roster. Moving Wright, who had two years left on his contract, and taking back Johnson’s expiring $16MM deal also allows the Mavs to create some added cap flexibility for the summer of 2021.

The Pistons will reduce team salary for 2020/21 and will reunite Wright with his former coach in Toronto, Dwane Casey. Having signed a three-year deal in Dallas in 2019, Wright had a decent year off the bench, averaging 6.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG, and 3.3 APG in 73 games (21.5 MPG). But he became expendable when the club acquired Josh Richardson earlier this week.

As for the Thunder, I’d be surprised if they have big plans for Ariza or Jackson — they simply saw another opportunity to pick up an extra draft pick to add to Sam Presti‘s constantly-growing collection.

Ariza, who is still technically a member of the Blazers, has now been part of trade agreements that will send him to Houston, Detroit, and Oklahoma City within the last few days. Those deals will all be completed after the transaction moratorium lifts on Sunday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets, Pistons Complete Christian Wood Sign-And-Trade

3:59pm: Bobby Marks of ESPN has the new protections on the Pistons’ first-round pick being sent to Houston in the deal. According to Marks (Twitter link), it’s top-16 protected in 2021 and 2022, top-18 in ’23 and ’24, top-13 in ’25, top-11 in ’26, and top-nine in ’27. If it still hasn’t changed hands by that point, the Rockets will get a 2027 second-round pick.

3:38pm: The Pistons and Rockets each issued press releases today to formally announce that free agent big man Christian Wood has officially been sent to Houston in a sign-and-trade deal.

The move combines Wood’s deal with the Trevor Ariza trade the two teams originally agreed to last week. The end result is as follows:

  • Pistons acquire Ariza, the draft rights to Isaiah Stewart (the No. 16 pick in the draft), cash ($4.6MM), and a future Rockets second-round pick.
  • Rockets acquire Wood (via sign-and-trade), the Pistons’ 2021 first-round pick (heavily protected) and the Lakers’ 2021 second-round pick.

The Pistons’ and Rockets’ official announcements offer even fewer specifics than outlined above, so we’ll have to wait for clarification on the last few aspects of the deal, such as the future second-rounder going to Detroit and the protections on the first-round pick going to Houston.

That Pistons first-rounder was initially expected to be top-16 protected for four years, but Detroit reportedly increased the protections a little further when the team agreed to accommodate Wood’s sign-and-trade. The Rockets were unable to offer Wood his three-year, $41MM deal without the Pistons’ cooperation.

Now that this deal is complete, Ariza can be traded for the third time of the offseason. The veteran forward has already been sent from Portland to Houston to Detroit and will now be rerouted to Oklahoma City as part of a three-team trade involving the Pistons, Thunder, and Mavericks.

Meanwhile, the Rockets officially add one of the top free agents of this year’s class. Wood had a breakout year in 2019/20, though his full-season stats (13.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG) don’t tell the full story — after he entered the starting lineup following the Pistons’ Andre Drummond trade, he recorded 22.8 PPG, 9.9 RPG, and 2.0 APG over his final 13 games.

Wood will join a Rockets squad that no longer seems intent on continuing the micro-ball experiment that they attempted last season after trading Clint Capela to Atlanta. Houston has also reached a deal to sign DeMarcus Cousins.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trail Blazers, Rockets Complete Robert Covington Trade

NOVEMBER 22: The deal is now official, according to a press release from the Trail Blazers. Covington goes to Portland in exchange for Ariza, the draft rights to No. 16 pick Isaiah Stewart, and the Blazers’ protected 2021 first-round pick.

Houston can now flip Ariza and Stewart to the Pistons, who will in turn send Ariza to Oklahoma City.

NOVEMBER 16: The Rockets and Trail Blazers are finalizing an agreement on a trade that will send forward Robert Covington to Portland, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). In exchange for Covington, Houston will acquire forward Trevor Ariza, the No. 16 pick in the 2020 draft, and Portland’s protected 2021 first-round selection, sources tell Wojnarowski.

While Covington isn’t the Rocket whose name has been mentioned most frequently in trade rumors during the last week or two, the fact that Houston is willing to move him indicates the team is no longer satisfied to simply run it back for the 2020/21 season. James Harden and Russell Westbrook are, of course, both reportedly hoping to be dealt this fall, so we’ll have to wait to see if this trade is a precursor to larger moves for the Rockets.

It was only nine months ago that the Rockets surrendered Clint Capela and a first-round pick in a four-team deal to acquire Covington, a three-and-D wing whom the team viewed as an ideal fit for its system. The 29-year-old did fit in well in Houston, averaging 11.6 PPG and 8.0 RPG in 22 games (33.0 MPG) down the stretch, though he struggled with his shot (.392 FG%, .315 3PT%). Covington was more reliable in the postseason, making 50.0% of his three-point attempts.

Ariza, who also plays a three-and-D role, is no stranger to Houston, having had two previous stints with the organization. Although he’s 35 years old, Ariza was still a solid contributor in Portland last season, averaging 11.0 PPG and 4.8 RPG with a .491/.400/.872 shooting line in 21 games (33.4 MPG) after being acquired in a trade-deadline deal. He opted out of the NBA’s restart this summer in Orlando.

Covington ($12.1MM) and Ariza ($12.8MM) have similar salaries for the 2020/21 season, though Ariza’s money is mostly non-guaranteed. It’ll need to be guaranteed for salary-matching purposes, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. While Ariza’s deal is set to expire a year from now, Covington’s contract is a little more team-friendly, running through 2022.

Covington’s age, contract, and versatility were all presumably factors in Portland’s decision to give up its next two first-round picks along with Ariza to land him. The veteran forward will join a lineup that will also feature Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic. Rodney Hood, Gary Trent Jr., and Zach Collins are among the candidates to fill out an impressive starting five.

The trade will have to be officially completed after the Blazers pick at No. 16 on behalf of the Rockets on Wednesday, since teams aren’t allowed to leave themselves with no first-round picks in two consecutive future drafts. Once the 2020 draft is over, Portland will be able to trade its 2021 pick.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eastern Notes: Pistons, Ariza, Raptors, Hornets, Magic

When the Pistons eventually officially acquire forward Trevor Ariza, who is being dealt from Portland to Houston to Detroit, the expectation is that he’ll have his full $12.8MM salary guaranteed, tweets Keith Smith of RealGM.

Ariza’s salary was initially only partially guaranteed for $1.8MM, but as cap expert Albert Nahmad explains (via Twitter), his salary guarantee deadline will come and go before the Pistons are able to officially acquire him. As a result, the Rockets will create a $12.8MM traded player exception in the transaction.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Nashville was in the mix for the Raptors as a temporary home late into the decision process, but the team opted for Florida for a few reasons, including the lack of a state income tax, per Blake Murphy and Eric Koreen of The Athletic. There’s also a brand-new hotel next to Amalie Arena in Tampa with ballrooms that could be used as makeshift practice spaces, according to The Athletic’s duo.
  • Undrafted Kentucky forward Kahlil Whitney is considering signing an Exhibit 10 contract with the Hornets, according to Adam Zagoria of Forbes (Twitter link). Whitney declared for the draft this year after a single season of college ball.
  • Amid rumors that point guard D.J. Augustin is drawing interest from Phoenix and Milwaukee, Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel says (via Twitter) that a return to the Magic is very unlikely for Augustin, given the team’s cap constraints and Wednesday’s Cole Anthony pick.

Rockets To Trade Ariza, No. 16 Pick To Pistons For Future First-Rounder

UPDATE: This trade is being folded into a larger deal between the Rockets and Pistons, as described in a separate story.

The Rockets are trading Trevor Ariza and the No. 16 pick in tonight’s draft to the Pistons in exchange for a future first-round pick, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Houston will also receive the Lakers’ 2021 second-round pick from Detroit as part of the swap, sending $4.6MM to the Pistons, Wojnarowski adds (via Twitter).

Ariza and the No. 16 pick are part of the package Houston will receive from Portland in exchange for Robert Covington. That deal – and this new one – can’t be completed until after the Blazers make the No. 16 pick tonight. Portland will now be making that pick on behalf on the Pistons.

Ariza, 35, was a solid contributor for the Blazers last season, averaging 11.0 PPG and 4.8 RPG with a .491/.400/.872 shooting line in 21 games (33.4 MPG) after being acquired in a trade-deadline deal. He opted out of the NBA’s restart this summer in Orlando.

Ariza will make $12.8MM this season, so the Pistons will absorb that money using their cap room, reducing the space they’ll have available in free agency. However, it’s not clear yet whether the entire amount will be guaranteed. Portland will have to be guarantee about $7.1MM to make the deal with Houston work, notes Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report (via Twitter). If it’s still only partially guaranteed, that would give the Pistons more flexibility.

It remains to be seen if Ariza will be part of Detroit’s plans in 2020/21 — this deal is presumably more about the No. 16 overall pick. New general manager Troy Weaver will now enter tonight’s draft armed with the seventh and 16th selections as he looks to add young talent to the roster.

As for the pick the Pistons are sending out, it will be heavily protected, says James Edwards III of The Athletic (Twitter link). According to Edwards, it’ll be top-16 protected for the next four years, starting in 2021, then top-10 protected for two years and top-nine protected for one year. It would become a second-rounder if it still hasn’t changed hands at that point.

The Rockets, meanwhile, will pick up a pair of future draft picks while clearing enough salary from their books for the coming season to use their full mid-level exception, according to Wojnarowski. While there still may be a number of dominoes to fall in Houston, that MLE could give the Rockets enough spending power to sign a free agent who would help convince James Harden and Russell Westbrook the team can contend in the West.

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks points out (via Twitter), Houston will also create a trade exception in the deal. It’ll be worth Ariza’s guaranteed amount.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets Rumors: Westbrook, Gordon, House, Rivers, Tucker, More

Within their full report on Russell Westbrook‘s desire to leave Houston, Kelly Iko, Sam Amick, and Shams Charania of The Athletic write that the former MVP had made it known “for quite some time” that he wanted to see major changes to the Rockets‘ culture. Specifically, Westbrook was seeking more “team-wide accountability, discipline and structure,” and hoped to establish a culture similar to the one he’d helped create in Oklahoma City.

Westbrook wasn’t the only Rockets player who experienced some frustrations during the 2019/20 season. According to The Athletic’s report, Eric Gordon hasn’t been pleased with how his responsibilities and importance have diminished in recent years and has wanted a more consistent role. The Rockets reportedly discussed playing Gordon less often with Westbrook and James Harden to optimize his skill set, but Mike D’Antoni resisted changes to his staggering strategy.

Danuel House also wasn’t thrilled with his role in Houston’s offense and how he was used, according to Iko, Amick, and Charania, who say that the young forward “verbally challenged” Westbrook, Harden, and D’Antoni. Additionally, Austin Rivers were unhappy with inconsistent playing time and his usage, per The Athletic. Following one game when D’Antoni was about to sub in Rivers before changing his mind and inserting DeMarre Carroll instead, Rivers went on an “expletive-laden tirade.”

Many of those frustrations can be traced back to a lack of accountability, sources tell The Athletic. According to Iko, Amick, and Charania, during one team meeting following a January loss, Westbrook went around the room and gave suggestions about what each player could do to help reverse the team’s slide — Harden wasn’t as receptive to to criticism as other Rockets players, per The Athletic’s sources.

Concerns about the Rockets’ culture date back past the 2019/20 season, as there’s a belief the team has catered too much to its stars. When Trevor Ariza left the club in 2018, he wanted to join an organization that would give him more respect, according to The Athletic. When Houston later expressed interest in bringing back Ariza, he sought an apology that he never received, sources tell Iko, Amick, and Charania. There have also been some complaints over the years from Rockets players about the team’s style of play and its unwillingness to make adjustments.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • P.J. Tucker has been “irate” all season long about his contract situation, believing he’s extremely underpaid relative to his role and production, according to Iko, Amick, and Charania. Tucker feels as though he deserves a raise and has been upset by the Rockets’ unwillingness to sign him to an extension, per The Athletic.
  • D’Antoni’s and Daryl Morey‘s departures after the 2019/20 season have played a large part in creating doubt in Harden’s and Westbrook’s minds about the Rockets’ ability to sustain long-term success, according to Iko, Amick, and Charania. While both stars have had input on decisions and support the hiring of new head coach Stephen Silas, they’re concerned about the possibility of an eventual rebuild, which they’d have no interest in.
  • Retaining veteran assistant John Lucas in a key role on Silas’ staff was meant to send a “clear message” to Westbrook and Harden that Houston remains committed to contending, according to The Athletic’s report.
  • Appearing on The Ringer’s Real Ones podcast earlier this week, Austin Rivers strongly suggested that he intends to turn down his 2020/21 player option, which is worth the veteran’s minimum. “That’s something I’m going through right now with my agent,” Rivers said. “I definitely want to probably be out there on the market and just see what else is out there. But I love Houston; Houston’s still one of my main options. That’s a team I loved playing for. But there’s other teams out there that you want to look at. You owe it to yourself to at least see the best situation for yourself.”
  • In Thursday’s episode of Brian Windhorst’s Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said Serge Ibaka will be high on the Rockets’ list of free agent targets this offseason, though he may be out of the club’s price range.

Northwest Notes: Draft Lottery, No. 1 Pick, Ariza, Morgan

Despite ending the 2019/20 season with 2019 All-Stars Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell on the roster, the Timberwolves finished with a paltry 19-45 record, second-worst in the Western Conference and third-worst overall in the NBA.

Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic takes us behind the scenes of the NBA draft lottery that resulted in some more positive news for the Wolves’ 2020/21 season, as the team nabbed the No. 1 pick for the 2020 draft, currently scheduled for October 16. President of basketball operations Gersson Rosas expressed excitement about the team’s future prospects with the top pick on the horizon.

“Development is important and critical to our success, but this allows us to take a major step in terms of the talent acquisition, whether it’s in the draft or trade market, whatever the case may be,” Rosas said. “It really positions us well moving forward.”

There’s more out of the NBA’s Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves will still have several considerations to account for now that they have the No. 1 pick for the 2020 draft, according to Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. Rosas noted that, whether Minnesota retains the pick or trades it for a veteran asset, the team will be able to build around its two 24-year-old centerpieces and some exciting, inexpensive depth like defensive-oriented shooting guard Josh Okogie. “This No. 1 pick gives it another layer of value to find whether it’s the No. 2 or No. 3 guy,” Rosas said. “We’re not this organization that’s bare and is praying for a franchise pick, which I think gives us a different perspective as we go into this draft.” The most natural fit for Minnesota among the top prospects appears to be swingman Anthony Edwards of Georgia.
  • Trail Blazers starting small forward Trevor Ariza told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan that his decision to opt out of the NBA’s restart to spend time with his son was worth it, but that it’s been tough to watch his teammates from afar. “Man, the word ‘hard’ doesn’t even begin to describe it,” Ariza said. “This is what I was born to do, to play basketball. I’ve been doing it my whole life. And to know my team has a chance to compete for a championship, and I’m not with them. … It burns me up inside.” Ariza also confirmed that he briefly explored the idea of rejoining the Blazers once his visitation period with his son was over, but that the NBA made it clear it wouldn’t be permitted.
  • Undrafted Jazz rookie wing Juwan Morgan has proved his mettle as a key role player during Utah’s first round playoff series against the Nuggets, as we detailed last week. Morgan is averaging 15.6 MPG in the series and started for Utah’s first two games with point guard Mike Conley away from the team. He’s signed with the Jazz for a one-year, $746K minimum salary.

Haynes’ Latest: Ariza, Blazers, Wizards, Beal, Wall

When Trevor Ariza decided to opt out of the NBA’s restart, he did so because a one-month visitation period with his son overlapped with the Trail Blazers‘ summer schedule. However, as Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports, Ariza’s visitation period was later amended to conclude near the start of August, prompting members of the Blazers to explore the possibility of bringing the veteran forward to the NBA’s Orlando campus.

Unfortunately, the idea was a non-starter, per Haynes, who hears from sources that the Trail Blazers would have to previously apply for a hardship waiver or late-arrival form for Ariza. Even if the team had done so, the NBA would likely have denied any request to clear Ariza, since he voluntarily opted out, wasn’t included on Portland’s restart roster, didn’t travel with the team to Orlando on July 9, and was replaced by substitute player Jaylen Adams.

According to Haynes, the idea of getting Ariza to Orlando was explored in mid-July when players like Zion Williamson and Montrezl Harrell left the NBA’s campus to address family matters. Players within the Trail Blazers organization were “upset” with the outcome of their efforts, sources tell Yahoo Sports.

Here are a few more noteworthy tidbits included in Haynes’ latest article from Orlando:

  • Despite the fact that the Trail Blazers still have an uphill battle to earn a playoff spot in the West, Damian Lillard tells Haynes that he packed for a three-month stay in Orlando and remains confident that Portland can claim the No. 8 seed. “We came here thinking 6-2, or 7-1 and that would get us in there,” Lillard said. “That’s where our heads are at and we can still do that.”
  • Although Bradley Beal, John Wall, and Davis Bertans aren’t with the Wizards in Orlando, they’re watching practices and continue to participate in team meetings, sources tell Haynes. The team has set up live streams of practices and meetings for players and staff who aren’t on the Orlando campus, Haynes notes.
  • According to Haynes, Beal has made an effort to check in with Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard anytime he misses a meeting or practice in order to catch up. Both Wall and Beal have “been in the ears” of Washington’s young players during the restart, Haynes adds.