Trey Lyles

Northwest Notes: Exum, Wolves’ Search, Middleton, Towns

Jazz reserve guard Dante Exum will miss at least two more weeks due to a bone bruise on his left ankle, Tony Jones of The Athletic tweets. Exum hasn’t played since January 5. He was averaging 7.4 PPG and 2.7 APG with the second unit in 39 games. Exum signed a three-year contract with an annual base salary of $9.6MM over the summer.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves have yet to contact any potential executives or coaches as possible replacements for GM Scott Layden and interim head coach Ryan Saunders, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Saunders, son of former Minnesota coach Flip Saunders, was elevated when owner Glen Taylor fired Tom Thibodeau. Taylor is expected to use the rest of the regular season to evaluate Layden and Saunders, Krawczynski adds.
  • The Thunder showed a lot of interest in Bucks swingman Khris Middleton prior to the 2012 draft, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Middleton tore the meniscus in his right knee in early November of his final college season with Texas A&M and it affected his play, causing his draft stock to tumble. He was selected in the second round by Detroit with the 39 overall pick.
  • The Trail Blazers are in a better spot than they were last season entering the stretch run, an Associated Press story notes. They were sixth in the West a year ago at the All-Star break but held the fourth spot this season. Moreover, the Blazers picked up some reinforcements this winter by signing center Enes Kanter and trading for guard Rodney Hood.
  • It wouldn’t be surprising if Nuggets forward Trey Lyles signs his $3.7MM qualifying offer, Mike Singer of the Denver Post opines. Lyles’ production has fallen off recently and he may not even stay in the playoff rotation, Singer continues. The Nuggets are thin at the power forward spot, which would increase the odds of them extending the qualifying offer and making Lyles a restricted free agent. However, he’s a poor 3-point shooter and will probably have a tough time attracting an offer sheet, Singer adds.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns has entered the league’s concussion protocol after being involved in a car accident on Thursday, Michael Scotto of The Athletic tweets. The Timberwolves’ star big man will not play against the Knicks on Friday. That will end his streak of 303 straight starts.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Northwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Northwest Division:

Raul Neto, Jazz, 26, PG (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $4.4MM deal in 2018
Neto’s $2.15MM salary for next season becomes guaranteed if he’s still on the roster after July 6. Even though it’s not much money, Neto has given the Jazz little reason to keep him around. He’s not in the rotation with Dante Exum backing up Ricky Rubio. Except for a blowout win over the Knicks in which he played 20 minutes, Neto has either been benched or seen fewer than four minutes over the past 10 games. With Rubio headed to unrestricted free agency, it’s conceivable Utah could exercise that option as insurance. The Brazilian native is more likely to continue his career elsewhere, probably overseas.

Trey Lyles, Nuggets, 23, PF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $10.4MM deal in 2015
Lyles has received rotation minutes but his offensive numbers have declined. He’s shooting just 41.1% from the field and 24.1% beyond the arc, compared to a 49.1/38.1 slash line last season. He was mired in a terrible slump last month, making just 32.3% (18.6% from distance) of his field goal attempts. Lyles will be a restricted free agent if the Nuggets extend a $4.63MM qualifying option. That may depend on some other factors. They hold a $30MM team option on Paul Millsap‘s contract. It’s also predicated on whether they believe Michael Porter Jr. will contribute significantly next season.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Thunder, 23, SG (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $4.26MM deal in 2016
Luwawu-Cabarrot, a 2016 first-round pick by the Sixers in 2016, got some opportunities in his first two seasons with Philadelphia. His court time has diminished considerably in Oklahoma City. After playing in 69 games (19 starts) in his rookie year and 52 last season, Luwawu-Cabarrot has languished at the end of OKC’s bench despite Andre Roberson‘s injury issues. He’s played just 12 minutes since November 28. The Thunder didn’t pick up Luwawu-Cabarrot’s option during the offseason, so he’ll be unrestricted in July. It will be interesting to see if any team believes he has untapped potential or whether he’ll have to seek overseas opportunities.

Taj Gibson, Timberwolves, 33, PF (Up) — Signed to a two-year, $28MM deal in 2017
Gibson has become a more efficient offensive player in recent years while providing his usual toughness in the paint as well as rebounding. Gibson remains one of the top offensive rebounders in the league (2.7 per game) and has kept a positive attitude despite the addition of Dario Saric, which has cut into his minutes. If Tom Thibodeau remains in charge, the Timberwolves will likely try to re-sign him. Otherwise, Gibson will find work as a 25-30 minute option at power forward for a suitor looking for an upgrade at that position.

Nik Stauskas, Trail Blazers, 25, SG (Down)– Signed to a one-year, $1.6MM deal in 2018
Stauskas is playing for his fourth organization in five seasons. He will be on the move again if his shooting doesn’t perk up. After a strong start, Stauskas has gone into an offensive funk. He made just 24.3% of his 3-point attempts in December and went scoreless in a nine-minute stint against Sacramento in his first 2019 appearance. Stauskas reached double figures in five of his first eight games with the franchise but has hit that mark just twice since that point. With first-rounder Anfernee Simons showing no signs of taking Stauskas’ rotation spot, the Blazers may try to acquire a wing player before the trade deadline.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Nuggets Notes: Season Outlook, Barton, Lyles, Beasley

Offensive prowess and chemistry could carry the Nuggets to the playoffs, Jordan Hicks of Basketball Insiders declares in his detailed season preview.  They finished sixth last season in points per game and fifth in assists and that should only improve with the free agent addition of Isaiah Thomas, Hicks continues. They also have a handful of core players who have been together for at least one season and their 0n-court chemistry is a major plus, Hicks adds.

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Swingman Will Barton should move into the lineup at small forward, the first time he’s had a full-time starting spot, according to Nuggets insider Chris Dempsey. Barton re-signed with the club this summer on four-year, $53MM contract and that spot opened up when Denver traded away Wilson Chandler to the Sixers. Barton will essentially give the Nuggets a three-guard lineup, a look that was highly effective for them a season ago, Dempsey notes.
  • Forward Trey Lyles could be the team’s breakout player this season, Dempsey writes in another profile. Lyles could average 25 or more minutes per game and will be counted on, along with Thomas, to provide scoring punch off the bench, Dempsey continues. Lyles excelled in nearly every offensive action last season, Dempsey notes, providing the best combination of 3-point shooting and post-ups other than Nikola Jokic.
  • Shooting guard Malik Beasley is poised to see an uptick in minutes, Dempsey predicts in still another player profile. Beasley showed defensive tenacity during summer league games and he’s worked diligently on his jump shooting and ball-handling, Dempsey adds. Beasley appeared in 62 games last season but averaged just 9.5 MPG.

Western Notes: Capela, Durant, Leonard, Williams

Clint Capela‘s new five-year contract with the Rockets on Friday, initially reported to be worth $90MM, is technically guaranteed for $80MM with $10MM in incentives, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets. Those annual incentives include $1MM for reaching the Western Conference finals, $500K for finishing with a 30% defensive rebounding rate, and $500K for shooting at least 65% from the free throw line, according to Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post (Twitter link).

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Kevin Durant‘s decision to take a one-plus-one contract with the Warriors kept his options open beyond the upcoming season, as he explained to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. Durant will make $30MM the first year with a $31.5MM player option for the 2019/20 season. “The [one-plus-one] was the perfect thing for me to do, to keep things open for me — financially and what I want to do,” he told Charania. “It’s just one of those things.”
  • The Celtics offered at least two of the first-round picks they own from other teams for Kawhi Leonard, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN. Those picks, as Dan Feldman of NBC Sports writes, include the higher of the Kings’ and 76ers’ pick next summer, unless it’s the top overall pick; the Grizzlies’ first-rounder, which is top-eight protected next summer and top-six protected in 2020; and the Clippers’ pick, which is lottery-protected the next two summers and then converts to a second-rounder. The Spurs instead decided to take another All-Star, DeMar DeRozan, in a package for Leonard. The way the Spurs organization treated Leonard may have had more to do with his departure than any issues with his teammates, Feldman notes in a separate piece, relaying reporting from Lowe and ESPN’s Michael C. Wright.
  • C.J. Williams is a perfect waiver claim candidate, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Williams, who was waived by the Clippers on Friday, is on a $1.4MM non-guaranteed contract with $125K in protection if he’s not waived by opening night, Marks continues. His $1.6MM salary in 2019/20 has a $200K guarantee if he’s not waived by the first game, Marks adds.
  • The Nuggets’ second unit will likely be led by Mason Plumlee, Isaiah Thomas, Trey Lyles and Torrey Craig, Chris Dempsey of the team’s website predicts. Dempsey dispenses his views on recent developments involving the club in his latest mailbag.

Canada Basketball Unveils 18 Training Camp Invites

Canada Basketball has announced its preliminary 18-man roster of players who have been invited to participate in training camp and exhibition play ahead of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers next month, reports Josh Lewenberg of The Sports Network.

Among the 18 named individuals, eight played in the NBA last season – Khem Birch (Magic), Chris Boucher (Warriors), Dillon Brooks (Grizzlies), Cory Joseph (Pacers), Jamal Murray (Nuggets), Kelly Olynyk (Heat), Dwight Powell (Mavericks), and Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers).

The preliminary roster also includes former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, as well as three other G League players – Aaron BestOlivier Hanlan, and Kaza Kajami-Keane.

The remaining six players are former first-round pick of the Magic, Andrew Nicholsonformer college standouts’ Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim, Baylor’s Brady Heslip, and Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos, as well as brothers Phil Scrubb and Tommy Scrubb.

As also highlighted by Lewenberg, notable absences include Trey Lyles (Nuggets), Nik Stauskas (Nets), and most glaringly, Andrew Wiggins (Timberwolves). Per Lewenberg, multiple sources indicated that one factor in Wiggins’ decision to decline Canada Basketball’s invitation is his strained relationship with national team head coach Jay Triano, who left Wiggins on the bench during the final moments of a qualifying game for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Northwest Notes: Thibodeau, Rose, Anthony, Lyles

The Timberwolves broke their 14-year playoff drought because coach/executive Tom Thibodeau was willing to trade away the future to get better now, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Thibodeau signaled a new direction for the franchise last June when he shipped Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the seventh pick in the draft to Chicago in exchange for Jimmy Butler. He followed that up by signing veteran free agents Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, Aaron Brooks and more recently, Derrick Rose.

“Look, when you’re trying to erase 14 years of losing, you have to bring in some people who have won before,” Thibodeau explained. “That was a big factor in that. These guys have won in the playoffs, and I knew the hole we had to get out of. When you looked at the number, the numbers said we had to do a lot of improving and I think we’ve done that.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Rose’s overlooked defensive abilities could be important in the playoff matchup with Houston, Zgoda notes in a separate story. Defense was one of the areas Thibodeau considered when he decided to sign the former MVP in March. Rose, who had a frustrating start to the season in Cleveland before being acquired and then waived by Utah, is happy with where he has landed. “Going through free agency, it’s all about being strategic,” Rose said. “I wanted to go to a contender. I wanted to go somewhere where I was familiar with the coach, and being here was the perfect situation.”
  • Carmelo Anthony is preparing for his first playoff appearance in five years, but he’s headed there in a much different role, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Anthony was an MVP candidate when the Knicks last reached the postseason in 2013. Now he’s a complementary player after an offseason trade to the Thunder. “My approach is not any different,” he said. “My situation is different. My team is different.”

Northwest Notes: Butler, Lyles, Neto, Jokic/Millsap

With four crucial games left in the regular season, Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler said he is “this close” to returning following practice on Tuesday, per Dave Campbell of The Associated Press. Minnesota’s next game is against the Nuggets on Thursday and it’s possible Butler will be available.

The Timberwolves have been without Butler since February 23, when he tore his meniscus and underwent surgery sidelining him for an estimated four-to-six weeks. In 56 games before the injury, Butler was arguably Minnesota’s best two-way asset as he played his usual strong defense while averaging 22.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 5.0 APG.

Just 2.5 games separate the seventh-place Timberwolves and the 10th-place Clippers with four games to go. Having a healthy Butler back in the lineup for this crucial stretch would provide a huge boost to the team’s playoff hopes.

Check out more Northwest Division notes below:

  • Former Jazz player Trey Lyles, now with the Nuggets, did not have many kind words about his former team. Jody Genessy of The Deseret News passes along some of Lyles’ comments, made during an appearance on teammate Richard Jefferson‘s Road Trippin’ Podcast. Lyles was critical of head coach Quin Snyder and expressed a general distaste for his tenure in Utah.
  • Jazz point guard Raul Neto has made significant progress on his fractured wrist, tweets Tony Jones of the Salt Lake City Tribune. No firm decision has been made, but it’s possible that Neto plays in tomorrow’s game against the Lakers, Jones adds.
  • Having both Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic in the lineup healthy and producing has been a tremendous boost for the Nuggets, Gina Mizell of the Denver Post writes. “They’re my safety blanket,” head coach Michael Malone said. “If one of those two are in the game at all times, we have somebody to play through and to kind of calm things down when they’re not going our way.”

Northwest Notes: Mitchell, Allen, Butler, Gibson

Jazz rookie guard Donovan Mitchell intended to return to Louisville for his junior season when tested the draft waters, Tim MacMahon of ESPN reports. Mitchell paid his expenses to the Creative Artists Agency pre-draft camp because he wanted to see what improvements he needed in his game before returning to college, MacMahon continues. Chris Paul and Paul George convinced Mitchell during the camp that he was good enough to be a first-round selection. The Jazz targeted him after an interview during the Chicago pre-draft camp and traded into the lottery to snag him, MacMahon adds.

In other news involving the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone downplays the feeling that the franchise made a mistake dealing Mitchell, the No. 13 pick, to the Jazz, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News tweets. “The only thing I can say is obviously we got (forward) Trey Lyles in that deal and Trey Lyles has been great for us,“ Malone told Woodyard. Mitchell doesn’t hold any grudges against Denver for trading him, Kyle Goon of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets.
  • Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen is the biggest reason why the franchise is wallowing in mediocrity, John Canzano of The Oregonian opines. Allen’s hands-on approach has been a failure, which has led to numerous GM and coaching changes, Canzano continues. The best way for the franchise to move forward is for Allen to let his basketball staff and coaches do their jobs without his constant meddling, Canzano adds.
  • The acquisitions of Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson have transformed the Timberwolves, as coach Tom Thibodeau told Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and other reporters. “Just the toughness,” Thibodeau said. “You’re talking about two elite defenders and knowing how important defense is and making the right plays offensively. … You can ask (Butler) to guard any player on the floor and he does it. They don’t take any possessions off and they understand how hard you have to play on every possession. With young guys, sometimes they don’t understand that. You can’t take plays off and you can’t pick and choose when you’re going to play defense.”

Nuggets Exercise 2018/19 Options On Five Players

The Nuggets entered the offseason with decisions to make on five team options for the 2018/19 season, and the team has elected to pick up all five of those options, according to RealGM’s log of official NBA transactions. Here are the details on the rookie-scale team options exercised this week by Denver:

The moves ensure that Mudiay, Murray, Lyles, Hernangomez, and Beasley are now locked up to guaranteed contracts through at least 2019. The numbers listed above reflect the cap hits on Denver’s books, and not necessarily the players’ exact salaries, since players on rookie contracts received pay bumps as a result of the new CBA.

Mudiay and Lyles will be eligible for rookie scale extensions during next year’s offseason, and then will be on track for restricted free agency in 2019 if the Nuggets don’t extend them in 2018. Murray, Hernangomez, and Beasley, meanwhile, will have fourth-year options for 2019/20 for Denver to decide on during next year’s offseason. If those options are picked up, the trio will be extension-eligible in 2019 and RFA-eligible in 2020.

With those five 2018/19 options exercised, the Nuggets now have approximately $73.4MM in guaranteed salaries on their cap for the ’18/19 season, per Basketball Insiders. That number isn’t exorbitant, but it could skyrocket before next July — it doesn’t include potential player options for Wilson Chandler ($12.8MM) or Darrell Arthur ($7.5MM) or possible extensions for Gary Harris or Will Barton.

That total for 2018/19 also doesn’t include Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets have an inexpensive team option on Jokic for next season, but may opt to turn it down and negotiate with him as a restricted free agent, rather than exercising it and having him reach unrestricted free agency a year later.

Nuggets Rumors: Lyles, Cancar, Bledsoe, Connelly

Forward Trey Lyles will earn playing time by his efforts on the defensive end, according to Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post. The Nuggets acquired him in a draft-day trade with the Jazz that involved a swap of first-round picks. Lyles joins a crowded frontcourt but Denver needs a better defensive presence at the power forward spot. “I think personally, for me, being able to be versatile and guard different positions, keep guys in front of me and just compete is the main thing for me,” he told Kosmider. “This past summer I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on that. I’m continuing to focus on it through different training exercises to get better with it.” Lyles shot just 36% from the field last season while averaging 6.1 PPG during his second year in the league.

In other news involving the Nuggets:

  • Second-round selection Vlatko Cancar will remain in Europe for a couple of seasons before joining the Nuggets, Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports tweets. The Nuggets used the 49th overall pick in last week’s draft on Cancar, a 20-year-old small forward from Slovenia. He currently plays for Mega Leks in the Serbian League.
  • GM Tim Connelly nearly pulled off another draft-day swap but it fell apart at the last minute, Kosmider reports. A disappointed Connelly thought he had a done deal before the trading partner backed out, though Connelly wouldn’t provide any details (Twitter links). The Nuggets tried to trade for Jimmy Butler before the Bulls dealt him to the Timberwolves and also pursued a deal for Suns point guard Eric Bledsoe, according to Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post. The Nuggets were also involved in three-way negotiations that would have brought Cavs power forward Kevin Love to Denver.
  • The front office led by Connelly hasn’t proven it can attract top free agents to Denver, Kiszla writes in the same story. The Nuggets are reportedly targeting Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap but Kiszla doubts that the team’s brass can close the deal on any of this year’s high-level free agents.