Tyler Johnson

L.A. Notes: LeBron, Johnson, Clippers, Morris

LeBron James‘ name was one of 44 included on USA Basketball’s preliminary list of finalists for the program’s 2020 Olympic roster on Monday. Many of the players on that list won’t get the opportunity to suit up for Team USA in Tokyo, but it’s safe to say that one of the final 12 roster spots will be reserved for James — if he wants it. For now, he’s not ready to fully commit, as Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times relays.

“It’s always predicated on: one, my body, how my body is feeling at the end of the season — I hope to make a long playoff run,” James said. “And then where my mind is and then where my family’s head is. So it’s a lot of factors, but my name is in the hat.”

It was no surprise that James and Anthony Davis were among the 44 names on Team USA’s list on Monday. Kyle Kuzma‘s inclusion wasn’t a shock either, since he participated in the program’s World Cup camp last fall. Two more Lakers were also on the list — JaVale McGee and former Team USA center Dwight Howard.

“Spectacular,” James said of the Lakers having five players on the list. “It’s amazing. We’re very well represented with the Lake Show representing the red, white and blue. So it’s a pretty cool thing.”

Here’s more on the Lakers and their L.A. rivals, the Clippers:

  • After being waived by Phoenix on Monday, Tyler Johnson is on track to clear waivers on Wednesday. Chris Mannix of SI.com writes that both the Lakers and Clippers are “expected to check in” on the veteran guard.
  • Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register examines the Lakers‘ options on the buyout market, suggesting that injured big man DeMarcus Cousins may not be the player released if the team needs a roster spot, since he’s close to Anthony Davis and others on the roster.
  • Speaking of Davis, he told reporters on Monday that he’s confident the Lakers have a championship-caliber roster even after standing pat at the trade deadline (video link via ESPN).
  • The Clippers were active at the deadline, acquiring Marcus Morris from New York in a three-team trade. Jovan Buha of The Athletic spoke to the new Clippers forward about joining a title contender, the team’s 2019 free agent pitch to him, and his fit. “You can put me anywhere,” Morris said. “I can space out really well, give guys space, score it any way. I’m just ready to do what it takes for the team to win. I’m excited to get started, but you’re going to see how well I fit. … I think it’s going to be very beneficial for both sides.”

Suns Waive Tyler Johnson

FEBRUARY 10: The Suns have officially released Johnson, the team confirmed today in a press release.

FEBRUARY 9: The Suns are waiving guard Tyler Johnson, freeing up a roster spot to use in free agency, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Johnson, who has averaged 5.7 points, 1.6 assists and 16.6 minutes in 31 games this season, will become an unrestricted free agent upon clearing waivers. He has missed the last four games with knee soreness and saw his minutes decline in recent weeks. The Suns planned to move on from him after the season and didn’t have a concrete role for him going forward, according to Wojnarowski,

The 27-year-old went undrafted back in 2014 and holds previous experience with the Heat. His best season with Miami came during the 2016/17 campaign where he averaged 13.7 points and four assists per contest, earning a four-year, $50MM deal during the summer.

The Suns have the third-worst record in the Western Conference at 21-32, going 3-7 in their last 10 games. They have upcoming games against the Lakers on Monday and Warriors on Wednesday.

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Pacific Division

Over the course of the 2019/20 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.

The Pacific Division has been the subject of a handful of trade rumors lately, including reports suggesting that the Kings and Lakers have touched base on a possible deal and that the Suns and Clippers might make good trade partners for a swap of big men.

As we wait to see whether any of these whispers actually turn into anything concrete, here are three potential trade candidates from around the Pacific:

Kyle Kuzma, PF
Los Angeles Lakers
$2MM cap hit; $3.6MM guaranteed salary in 2020/21; RFA in 2021

As recently as last Friday, word was that the Lakers still viewed Kuzma as a core long-term piece and were focused more on upgrading their roster around the edges. However, Sam Amick of The Athletic suggested over the weekend that the club was open to listening to inquiries on Kuzma, and Marc Stein of The New York Times reported on Monday that the Kings were among the teams with interest.

This may simply be a case of the Lakers doing due diligence. According to Amick, LeBron James remains supportive of Kuzma and general manager Rob Pelinka is believed to be the young forward’s biggest backer. The Lakers’ reported asking price, relayed by Sean Deveney of Heavy.com, is high and seems unlikely to be met. And moving Kuzma for an impact player would be tricky, given his small $2MM cap hit.

On the other hand, Kuzma’s fit in L.A.’s frontcourt is somewhat uncomfortable, since the club likes to use a traditional center. Playing Kuzma alongside, say, Dwight Howard, LeBron, and Anthony Davis isn’t ideal, so if the Lakers can move him in a deal for an impact wing player like Bogdan Bogdanovic or Robert Covington, it might make sense to do so.

I think Kuzma is probably still more likely than not to remain with the Lakers through the deadline, but a trade in the next month wouldn’t be at all shocking.

Dewayne Dedmon, C
Sacramento Kings
$13.3MM cap hit; $13.3MM guaranteed salary in 2020/21; $13.3MM partially guaranteed salary ($1MM) in 2021/22

The Kings’ offseason commitments to Dedmon ($27.7MM in guaranteed money) and Richaun Holmes ($9.8MM) reflected the club’s belief that Dedmon would be the starting center for the foreseeable future, with Holmes playing a backup role. That view made sense — following two strong seasons in Atlanta, Dedmon was a popular mid-level free agent target for teams around the NBA, and the Kings were willing to go even higher than the mid-level to lock him up.

However, it only took four games for new head coach Luke Walton to move Holmes into the starting lineup, demoting Dedmon to a bench role. As Holmes as emerged as one of Sacramento’s most valuable contributors, Dedmon has fallen out of the rotation altogether, having been listed as inactive for the team’s last three games.

Dedmon has publicly confirmed that he’d like to be traded, receiving a $50K fine for his honesty. But his value is low at this point as a result of his struggles in Sacramento. The Kings are reportedly open to moving the big man, but won’t make a deal just to get rid of him.

A shoulder injury suffered by Holmes on Monday night may open up a path for Dedmon to get back into the rotation, which could be the opportunity he needs to show potential suitors he still has value.

Tyler Johnson, G
Phoenix Suns
$19.2MM cap hit; UFA in 2020

Gina Mizell of The Athletic recently identified Johnson as the Suns’ most likely player to be dealt in the coming weeks. Unfortunately for Johnson, that’s not because contenders will be clamoring to add him to their rotations — it’s because of his $19.2MM contract, which will expire in the summer.

It remains to be seen which direction Phoenix will go at the trade deadline, but as long as the team remains in the playoff hunt, targeting an upgrade such as Danilo Gallinari is a possibility. If the Suns were to make a play for someone like Gallinari, who is earning more than $22MM this season, using Johnson’s $19MM+ expiring deal as a salary-matching chip would be the most logical move.

While Johnson is a trade candidate due to his contract situation, he may welcome a change of scenery. After starting the season as a regular contributor in Phoenix, Johnson has fallen out of the rotation, appearing in just six games since the start of December.

Revisit the rest of our 2019/20 Trade Candidate series right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pacific Notes: Chriss, Clippers Arena, Johnson, KCP

Warriors forward Marquese Chriss has been fined $35K for shoving Mavericks star guard Luka Doncic to the floor, according to an NBA press release. The amount of the fine was based in part on the fact that Chriss has been disciplined on several prior occasions for physical altercations on the court. The incident, for which Chriss was assessed a technical foul, occurred during the third quarter on Saturday.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Clippers’ proposed arena will contribute to a “significant and unavoidable” increase in traffic, noise and pollutants, according to a draft environmental impact report, Jason Henry of the Orange County Register relays. The report found there will be a significant impact to intersections and freeways during most of the venue’s events, regardless of any improvements. The Clippers are hoping to construct a new arena that will open in 2024.
  • Tyler Johnson is the most likely player the Suns will deal before February’s trade deadline, Gina Mizell of The Athletic opines. Johnson’s $19.2MM expiring contract is the best trade asset the Suns have, Mizell notes. The 27-year-old combo guard has seen his playing time dry up, as he’s only appeared in four games this month.
  • Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has caught fire since being moved to the bench, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register notes. Caldwell-Pope, who holds an $8.49MM option on his contract for next season, has knocked down 11 of his last 15 3-point attempts. “It’s a credit to his mental toughness and character,” coach Frank Vogel said. “At times guys can go in a shell if they’re facing heavy criticism and he didn’t do that. He responded by remaining confident, being true to himself, believing in himself.”

Tyler Johnson Talks Role With Suns, Goals This Season

Tyler Johnson is expected to be Phoenix’s sixth man this season, providing offense off the bench. The 27-year-old is excited to play that role for the new-look Suns.

“Obviously, you want to be the greatest that you can be for yourself,” Johnson said (via Gina Mizell of The Athletic). “But at the same time, you get so many kids who come up and they think ‘I’m supposed to be the man.’ Well, you’ve got 30 teams in the NBA …

“[Being a sixth man] was where I made my mark and was able to stay in the league and get paid. My thing was, man, you find a niche and you excel in it.”

Johnson credits Jamal Crawford—his teammate for part of last season—as a player who made contributing off the bench a more attractive option.

“I tell [Crawford] he made that role sexy,” Johnson said. “Between him and Lou Will (the Clippers’ Lou Williams), they really transformed what it meant to come off the bench and how it really don’t matter.”

Johnson added that his goal is to be available for all 82 of the Suns’ regular-season games, telling Mizell that his offseason priority was “getting [his] body right.” Injuries have forced Johnson to miss games in each of his five seasons in the league, including 25 in 2018/19. The combo guard is entering the last year of the four-year, $50MM deal he inked back in 2016.

Tyler Johnson Picks Up Player Option

As expected, Tyler Johnson has exercised his player option for the 2019/20 season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Johnson will make approximately $19.25MM next year.

Back in 2016, the Nets presented Johnson with a backloaded, four-year, $50MM offer sheet, which was designed to make it difficult for Miami to match. However, the contract didn’t deter the Heat from keeping Johnson.

Johnson continued playing in Miami until February of this past year. The Suns then traded for Johnson as Miami was looking to clear some salary. Johnson suited up for 13 games for Phoenix, starting 12 of them at point guard.

Draft-Night Rumors: Cavs, Suns, Wolves, Nets, Knicks

The Cavaliers remain active in trade discussions, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that Cleveland is exploring deals involving J.R. Smith‘s expiring contract in addition to possible trades of the No. 5 pick. Barring a trade, Cleveland remains focused on Darius Garland at No. 5, Woj adds (via Twitter).

Here a few more draft-night rumors worth rounding up:

  • According to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link), the Suns felt that the ability to land a starting power forward trumped the opportunity to draft a developmental point guard at No. 6, which is why they made their trade with the Timberwolves for Dario Saric. Phoenix plans on rolling with Tyler Johnson and a free agent signing at the point guard spot, Gambadoro adds.
  • The Timberwolves have engaged in multiple conversations about that No. 6 pick since agreeing to acquire it from the Suns, league sources tell Wojnarowski (Twitter link).
  • Two high-ranking sources have told Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link) that the Nets remain “very interested” in signing Kyrie Irving with or without Kevin Durant. Lewis had previously reported that Brooklyn was weighing whether to sign Irving if the team couldn’t get Durant too.
  • Things could change, but for now it looks like Frank Ntilikina may not be traded tonight by the Knicks, tweets Steve Popper of Newsday.

Heat Notes: Draft, Ellington, Langford

Should the Heat enter the sweepstakes for the No. 4 overall pick? Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel believes it depends on the cost.

The scribe isn’t a fan of the team sending away Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, or Bam Adebayo in a deal, though if a trade was structured around one of their player-friendly contracts, such as Dion Waiters or James Johnson, an additional player and the No. 13, moving up would make more sense.

Here’s more from Miami:

  • The Heat could use Wayne Ellington back, but luxury tax concerns may put him out of the team’s price range, Winderman notes in the same piece. Miami began last season with great depth in the backcourt but that’s no longer the case after the team sent Ellington, Rodney McGruder, and Tyler Johnson away and watched Dwyane Wade retire.
  • Romeo Langford (Indiana) met with the Heat today, Evan Daniels of 247 Sports tweets. Langford’s busy day also includes a meeting with the Pelicans. He has previously visited Cleveland, Atlanta, and Minnesota.
  • The Heat also worked out Sekou Doumbouya (France), according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (Twitter link). Doumbouya is expected to go in the lottery.

Pacific Notes: Williams, Johnson, Lue, Lakers, Clippers

The Suns made their final decision by hiring Monty Williams last week, but many new challenges await the veteran NBA coach, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes.

Williams, who will stay with the Sixers throughout their playoff run as an assistant, is inheriting a young roster with multiple lottery picks and a great deal of cap space to work with in free agency this summer. Among the greatest challenges with this franchise, however, remains Suns owner Robert Sarver.

In meeting with Williams and Suns general manage James Jones, Sarver promised to give Williams space and create a healthy culture within the franchise, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. However, this isn’t the first time Sarver has made this declaration.

“I’ve been blessed to coach alongside and play for some of the beast coaches in the NBA, and consider it a privilege to once again be a head coach with an excellent organization like the Suns,” Willams said as part of a larger statement about joining Phoenix. “It is a tremendous opportunity with a talented group of players and a loyal fan base. I will be very excited to get to the valley, connect with our team and get to work.” 

Having an experienced roster, lack of talent in the Western Conference and the threat of Sarver interfering could cause challenges for Williams, but many around the NBA have expressed confidence in his ability to turn around the Suns.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division tonight:

  • Suns guard Tyler Johnson had his 2018/19 season review published on NBA.com last week, outlining his final stats, highlights and more. Johnson was acquired by Phoenix from Miami before February’s trade deadline, being thrown into the young, hungry group more than halfway into the season.“It definitely pushed my comfort zone,” Johnson said. “It’s not something I was used to as far as being vocal. In past years, I had always been with somebody who led by example and come in and be professional and make sure I was getting my work done. Now, I’m worried about other guys and making sure they’re on top of their stuff as well. It definitely opened up by mind to a whole new set of possibilities.”
  • The Lakers would theoretically give LeBron James the keys by hiring Tyronn Lue as head coach, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times writes. James won his third NBA championship playing under Lue with the Cavaliers in 2016, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Warriors. The two share a close relationship and have great admiration for one another, a big reason why the Lakers could look to finalize a deal with Lue as early as this week.
  • This summer’s free agency period will largely determine the futures of the Clippers and Lakers for years to come, Mark Heisler of the Orange County Register writes. Both franchises could pursue the top players available on the open market, including Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving.

Devin Booker, Tyler Johnson Done For Season

A pair of Suns guards won’t appear in the final three games of the season, as the team has shut down Devin Booker and Tyler Johnson.

Jordan Schultz of ESPN.com first reported (via Twitter) that Booker, who suffered an ankle sprain during Wednesday’s loss to the Jazz, wouldn’t return this season. Shams Charania of The Athletic confirmed as much today (via Twitter).

The former lottery pick had been on a tear lately, scoring 48 of more points in three of his last five games. However, with the Suns only playing for lottery positioning and Booker’s five-year, maximum-salary extension set to go into effect this July, there was no reason for the club to push him to get back before next Wednesday.

As for Johnson, the 26-year-old combo guard, acquired from the Heat at the trade deadline, underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee on Wednesday, the team announced in a press release. The Suns gave no indication of his recovery timeline, but I’d expect him to be ready to go for the 2019/20 season. He hadn’t played for Phoenix since March 13.

Johnson could technically become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but is far more likely to opt into the final year of his current contract, which is worth $19.2MM+.

With Booker and Johnson sidelined, players like Elie Okobo, De’Anthony Melton, and Jimmer Fredette could get a long look in the backcourt during Phoenix’s final three games.