Jazz Rumors

Atlantic Notes: Ainge, Mazzulla, Hardy, Brown, Trent Jr.

Danny Ainge may be running the Jazz but his heart is still in Boston. Utah’s top executive admits he’s still a big Celtics fan, thanks to the longtime ties he has to the organization. “I root hard for the Celtics,” Ainge told Jay King of The Athletic.

He also likes what he sees from Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla, who went from assistant to interim coach to head coach this season.

“I just always liked Joe’s work ethic, his focus, his intelligence,” Ainge said of the Celtics’ new coach. “I feel like Joe is one of those guys — one way that I’ve always measured greatness is how much a person can learn from mistakes they make. Joe’s going to learn from his mistakes, just like (Utah coach) Will Hardy learns from his mistakes quickly. … The coaches that learn and move on, they become the legendary coaches. And I think both Joe and Will have a chance to be those.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Speaking of Hardy and Mazzulla, they remain in frequent contact with each other, according to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. The Jazz recorded a one-point win over Boston on Saturday. “I’d like to think we made each other better on and off the court,” Mazzulla said. “Just his mind, the way he thinks, the way he prepares. Really got to watch him be an associate head coach and how he served (Ime Udoka) and how he served our staff. Just a lot of great things I learned from him.”
  • Center Moses Brown attended high school at New York’s Archbishop Malloy. He’s thrilled that the Nets signed him to a 10-day contract, Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post writes. “I’ve been on a lot of teams all over the country, and it’s just cool to be home,” he said. “Every time we would drive throughout Brooklyn, I would watch the Barclays Center’s progress every year (while it was being constructed). That was the new team. I remember, growing up, just liking the colors, the uniforms, everything.”
  • The Raptors’ 15-point win over Minnesota included a 19-point outing off the bench from Gary Trent Jr., who is expected to opt out of his $18.56MM contract for next season in order to become a free agent. Trent was a starter for much of the season, but head coach Nick Nurse said that having the veteran wing on the second unit has been a huge boost to the bench. “We need his offensive production,” Nurse told Eric Koreen of The Athletic. “It’s kind of his role on the team, is to keep the offense ticking over when some of the main guys are off the floor.”

Pelicans Reportedly Came Close To Acquiring Beasley, Vanderbilt

Before the Jazz agreed to trade Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt to the Lakers as part of a three-team deal last month, the Pelicans came close to acquiring the duo from Utah, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on The Lowe Post podcast this week (YouTube link).

“The Pelicans were close to getting Beasley and Vanderbilt from Utah at the trade deadline, or close-ish,” Lowe told ESPN colleague Kevin Pelton. “They had a pretty good offer on the table. It was a draft equity-based offer with a pick that maybe was not as good as the Lakers pick that they ended up trading, but pretty close, I think, from what I’ve heard.

“But one of the issues was – maybe the picks weren’t exactly equivalent – but then another issue was (Mike) Conley and the Jazz’s determination to get off of Conley (who is owed at least $14MM in 2023/24), and could the Pelicans figure that out somehow? And it became a little complicated.”

The trade that the Jazz eventually completed also included the Timberwolves, who acquired Conley and flipped D’Angelo Russell to the Lakers. Los Angeles, in turn, send a top-four protected 2027 first-round pick to Utah as part of the three-way agreement.

The Pelicans still possess all of their own future first-rounders and control a couple others, including the Lakers’ unprotected 2024 pick (which could be deferred to 2025) and the Bucks’ unprotected 2027 selection.

It’s not clear which of those first-rounders they offered to the Jazz, but based on Lowe’s comments, it’s possible the Pelicans wanted to protect the pick they were offering more heavily than the Lakers protected theirs. Or Utah may have simply liked the upside of the ’27 Lakers first-rounder more than any single pick New Orleans was willing to put on the table.

It’s also worth noting that matching salaries for Beasley and Vanderbilt (who earn a combined $20MM) using only expiring or pseudo-expiring contracts would have been nearly impossible for the Pelicans, whose prime salary-matching piece at the deadline was Devonte’ Graham ($11.55MM).

Adding either Jaxson Hayes ($6.8MM) or Garrett Temple ($5.2MM) to Graham would have been sufficient outgoing salary, but Utah likely wouldn’t have been eager to take on Graham’s guaranteed $12.1MM cap charge for 2023/24, especially without Conley involved in the swap. So the Pelicans may have offered additional draft compensation beyond a single first-rounder if Graham was part of the package.

In any case, the Jazz ultimately decided to deal with two other teams in the Western Conference playoff race rather than the Pelicans. That presumably increased the sting of missing out on Beasley and Vanderbilt for New Orleans, as Lowe and Pelton point out.

At the trade deadline, the Pelicans were in a virtual tie in the standings with the Wolves and were 3.5 games up on the Lakers. The slumping Pels – who ended up trading Graham and four second-round picks to San Antnio for Josh Richardson – now trail both teams.

Jazz Players Appreciate Hardy's Open-Mindedness

  • Jazz players have appreciated Will Hardy‘s willingness to listen to their ideas and implement them if he finds merit in them, according to Sarah Todd of The Deseret News, who notes that Lauri Markkanen and Kelly Olynyk helped convince the first-year head coach to introduce more zone looks on defense. “I think he’s someone who you can approach and he’ll really take your suggestions into consideration,” Olynyk said. “You know, sometimes you go to a restaurant and you see a suggestion box and you never really know if those get read, but he’ll read every one of them. Gotta love it.”

Jazz Need To Consider A Long-Term Replacement For Kelly Olynyk

  • Kelly Olynyk is valuable because he does so many underappreciated things, but the Jazz have to consider who will take over that role in the future, notes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Olynyk will turn 32 in April and has just a $3MM guarantee on next season’s contract.

Jazz Sign Jarrell Brantley To 10-Day Contract

The Jazz have officially signed forward Jarrell Brantley to a 10-day contract, the team announced today in a press release.

The move represents a reunion for the two sides, as Brantley spent his first two professional seasons with the Jazz from 2019-21 after being selected 50th overall in the 2019 draft out of Charleston. He was waived in September 2021 and has since played in Russia, Puerto Rico, and New Zealand in addition to the G League.

While Brantley excelled at the NBAGL level for the Salt Lake City Stars, he didn’t see a ton of action in the NBA during his two years in Utah. He appeared in a total of 37 contests, averaging 2.4 points and 1.3 rebounds in just 6.3 minutes per contest.

As a member of the New Zealand Breakers in Australia’s National Basketball League this season, Brantley started all 39 games he played for the team, putting up 15.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.5 steals in 28.7 minutes per night.

A roster move had been required today for the Jazz, who had been carrying just 13 players on their standard roster since Frank Jackson‘s 10-day deal expired on March 4. NBA teams can dip below the league-mandated minimum of 14 players on standard contracts, but only for up to two weeks at a time. Utah has now once again reached that 14-player minimum, with one open spot left on their roster.

Brantley’s salary and cap hit on his 10-day deal will be $105,522, as our chart shows. The contract will run through Monday, March 27, covering the Jazz’s next six games. Once it expires, he would be eligible to sign a second 10-day deal with Utah before the team would have to make a decision on whether to let him walk or sign him for the rest of the season.

Latest Injury Updates On Clarkson, Sexton

Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson, who has missed the team’s last four games due to a finger injury, was a partial participant in Thursday’s practice and participated fully in Friday’s practice (Twitter links via Eric Walden and Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune). It remains to be seen whether or not Clarkson will be active when Utah hosts the Celtics on Saturday, but it appears he’s nearing a return.

2023’s Most Valuable Traded Second-Round Picks

Fans of lottery-bound NBA teams will be keeping a close on the bottom of the league’s standings down the stretch because of the effect that “race” will have on the draft order and lottery odds for the 2023 first round.

However, it’s not just the first round of the draft that’s worth keeping an eye on. Those reverse standings will also dictate the order of the draft’s second round, and an early second-round pick can be nearly as valuable as a first-rounder.

[RELATED: Traded Second-Round Picks For 2023 NBA Draft]

Here are a few of the traded 2023 draft picks that project to land near the top of the second round:

From: Houston Rockets
To: Indiana Pacers or Boston Celtics
Current projection: No. 32

The Rockets initially traded their 2023 second-round pick, with top-32 protection, to Memphis at the 2020 trade deadline as part of a Bruno Caboclo/Jordan Bell swap. The Celtics later acquired that top-32 protected second-rounder during the 2020 offseason in the deal that sent the draft rights to No. 30 pick Desmond Bane to the Grizzlies.

As part of the complex four-team James Harden blockbuster in early 2021, the Rockets agreed to send the Pacers their 2023 second-round pick if it ends up at No. 31 and No. 32. So the Pacers are on track to receive that Houston second-rounder if it’s one of the first two picks of the round, while the Celtics would get it otherwise.

We took a closer look at this draft-related subplot of the NBA’s race to the bottom last week, noting that the Pacers could instead end up with a pick in the early 50s if the Rockets’ second-rounder slips to No. 33. Missing out on Houston’s pick wouldn’t be quite as bad for the Celtics, as we outline below.

From: Portland Trail Blazers
To: Boston Celtics or Oklahoma City Thunder
Current projection: No. 36

If the Rockets’ second-round pick ends up at No. 31 or No. 32, the Celtics will almost certainly receive Portland’s pick instead. If Houston’s second-rounder lands at No. 33, Boston would get it, while the Thunder would acquire the Blazers’ pick.

Should the Blazers’ recent slide continue, their second-rounder may not actually be much less favorable than Houston’s — only four spots separate them for the time being.

The Blazers originally gave up their 2023 second-round selection when they acquired Rodney Hood from Cleveland just ahead of the 2019 deadline. It was subsequently flipped to the Pistons (in the 2019 offeason), the Clippers (in the 2020 offseason), the Hawks (at the 2021 deadline), and finally the Celtics in a three-team trade during the summer of 2021.

When they acquired Mike Muscala from the Thunder last month, the Celtics agreed to send OKC the least favorable of their two 2023 second-round picks, which is why the Thunder would receive Portland’s pick if Boston gets Houston’s.

From: Chicago Bulls
To: Washington Wizards
Current projection: No. 37

The Bulls remain in the thick of the play-in race in the Eastern Conference, so it’s possible their second-rounder could slide all the way to the mid-40s if they make the play-in tournament and then earn a playoff spot. However, the Wizards – the team the Bulls are chasing for the No. 10 spot in the East – have extra incentive to stay ahead of Chicago, thereby increasing the value of this pick.

The Wizards acquired this Bulls second-rounder with top-36 protection when they sent Otto Porter Jr. to Chicago at the 2019 deadline. The Bulls agreed to remove the protections as part of their sign-and-trade deal for Tomas Satoransky later that year.

Interestingly, the Wizards actually traded Chicago’s 2023 second-rounder to the Lakers as part of the Russell Westbrook blockbuster in the summer of 2021, but got it back from L.A. a couple months ago in the Rui Hachimura deal.

From: Indiana Pacers
To: Sacramento Kings
Current projection: No. 38

Like the Bulls, the Pacers are still in the play-in race in the East, so there’s no guarantee this pick will land in the top 10 of the second round. But Indiana has a banged-up roster and doesn’t appear overly incentivized to make the play-in tournament.

This pick changed hands in the Domantas Sabonis/Tyrese Haliburton mega-deal at the 2022 trade deadline. Technically, the Spurs would receive it if it lands between Nos. 56 and 60, but we can safely rule out that possibility at this point.

Other picks to watch:

Given how congested the play-in races are in each conference, there are a handful of other second-rounders whose value could surpass that of a couple of the picks listed above.

For instance, the Jazz‘s second-round pick is currently controlled by the Hornets, the Spurs own the Raptors‘ second-rounder, and the Thunder will acquire the Wizards‘ second-rounder if it’s more favorable than OKC’s own pick.

Contract Details: Dunn, Merrill, Leonard, Keels

The Jazz dipped into their mid-level exception in order to sign Kris Dunn to his new contract, Hoops Rumors has learned. If Dunn had signed for the veteran’s minimum, he would’ve made $356,646 for the rest of the season, but he instead received more than double that amount ($735,819) via Utah’s MLE.

Dunn’s two-year deal also includes a minimum salary ($2,586,665) for 2023/24, but that figure is entirely non-guaranteed. The veteran Jazz guard would get his full guarantee if he isn’t waived on or before October 23.

Here are more details on contracts recently signed around the NBA:

  • The Cavaliers‘ new contract agreement with Sam Merrill covers three seasons, Hoops Rumors has learned. Cleveland used a portion of its mid-level exception to give Merrill a third year and to pay him $850K for the rest of this season, well above the minimum. The Cavs will control Merrill at the veteran’s minimum rate in 2023/24 and ’24/25, with both of those years non-guaranteed.
  • As expected, Meyers Leonard‘s new deal with the Bucks is worth the veteran’s minimum and covers only the rest of this season, so he’ll return to unrestricted free agency again this summer. As we noted on Wednesday, Leonard’s rest-of-season contract will pay him $409,916, while the Bucks will take on a cap hit of $284,911 (though the actual cost of the signing will exceed $1MM due to tax penalties).
  • Trevor Keels‘ new two-way contract with the Knicks is just a rest-of-season deal, so he’ll be eligible for restricted free agency if he finishes the season with the club.

Sexton "Dying" To Get Back On Court

  • Jazz guard Collin Sexton, who has been sidelined since February 15 due to a hamstring strain, is “dying” to get back on the court, head coach Will Hardy said this week. “He’s getting close,” Hardy said, according to Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. “… It’s frustrating ’cause he’s such a competitor and he wants to be out there. But he finds a way to channel all that energy to let it rip on the bench. I’ve had to tell him to sit down multiple times ’cause of the new rule where you can’t stand in the corner, and I’ve had multiple officials say, ‘Hey, you gotta tell Sexton to sit down.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m trying, but I can’t really control him — that’s how he is.'”

Kris Dunn Signs Multiyear Deal With Jazz

5:43pm: Dunn has signed a multiyear deal, according to a press release from the Jazz.

1:54pm: The Jazz and guard Kris Dunn have agreed to a new contract that will cover the remainder of the season, according to Shams Charania and Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The news doesn’t come as a surprise, since Dunn had emerged as an important rotation player in Utah during a pair of 10-day contracts with the team. His second 10-day deal expired on Monday night and players aren’t permitted to sign a third 10-day pact with a single team, so the Jazz had to sign him to a standard contract in order to retain him.

The former fifth overall pick, who joined the Capital City Go-Go in the G League this season in an effort to make it back to the NBA, first signed with the Jazz on February 22, then inked his second 10-day contract on March 4.

During his time in Utah so far, Dunn has averaged 11.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.6 steals in nine appearances (22.2 MPG). A career 42.0% shooter from the floor and 29.9% on three-pointers entering this season, he has scored more efficiently with the Jazz, making 53.1% of his field goal attempts, including 36.8% of his threes.

The Jazz had three openings on their standard 15-man roster, so Dunn will become the team’s 13th man once he officially signs his new deal. The club will soon be required to add at least one more player besides Dunn in order to adhere to the NBA’s minimum roster requirements.

Assuming Dunn just signs a rest-of-season contract that doesn’t extend beyond this season, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent again this summer.