Jazz Rumors

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Beasley, Bol, Trail Blazers

The Jazz will be among the NBA’s best-represented franchises at this year’s FIBA World Cup, and team officials believe the benefits of international competition outweigh the risks, writes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. Donovan Mitchell was the leading scorer for Team USA in Friday’s win over Spain and appears to be headed for a significant role. Rudy Gobert is one of the stars of the French team, while Joe Ingles is a prominent player for Australia.

“We’ve been the beneficiaries this year, and for quite a few years now, of national team experience,” said new Utah GM Justin Zanik.

They’ve also seen the down side, as Dante Exum suffered a torn ACL four years ago in an exhibition game against Slovenia. The injury sidelined Exum for the entire 2015/16 season and launched an injury-plagued career for the Australian guard, who has played a combined 56 games over the past two seasons.

“I think we want to support, certainly, our players’ goals in terms of getting better and their desires to compete and play for their national teams. We also support them if they choose not to,” Zanik said. “We want them to train, and whether that be at our great facilities, or whether or not they’re in the country, we want to support them in getting better and pursuing their goals.”

There’s more tonight from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets guard Malik Beasley is keeping his summer routine a secret as he works to follow up his breakthrough season, relays Alex Labidou of NBA.com. During the 2018/19 campaign, Beasley raised his scoring average from 3.2 to 11.3 PPG and improved his long-distance shooting to 40.2%. “If I can make through this season without being injured, that’s the first thing. I’m good with that,” Beasley said. “Everything will fall into place from the hard work this summer.”
  • Nuggets rookie Bol Bol covers a wide range of topics — basketball and otherwise — in an interview with Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype. Bol says Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis is among his favorite players and he tries to learn from watching him, along with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis.
  • Two offseason trades will determine the success of the Trail Blazers’ offseason, writes David Yapkowitz of Basketball Insiders. Portland added a pair of rotation players by dealing for Hassan Whiteside, who will eventually be part of an imposing center rotation when Jusuf Nurkic returns from injury, and Kent Bazemore, who may start at small forward.

Poll: Which Team Will Win Northwest In 2019/20?

On Friday, we explored whether the Clippers, Lakers, or Warriors look like the favorites to win the Pacific Division in 2019/20. However, the Pacific isn’t the only Western Conference division that figures to be hotly contested.

Over in the Northwest, four of five teams made the postseason in 2018/19, with Denver (54-28) edging out Portland (53-29), Utah (50-32), and Oklahoma City (49-33) for the division crown.

Heading into next season, the Thunder appear likely to take a step back. That’s not a certainty, since there’s still plenty of talent on the roster, but losing Paul George and Russell Westbrook will hurt. They’re a long shot to win the Northwest, and so are the Timberwolves, the only Northwest team to miss the playoffs last season. With Jimmy Butler long gone, the ’19/20 season should be a little more smooth and drama-free in Minnesota, but the team is still a ways off from legit contention.

That leaves three teams that look like strong contenders to win the division next season, led by the Nuggets. After finishing atop the Northwest this spring, the Nuggets retained all their key contributors and added a couple more intriguing pieces. Jerami Grant was acquired in a trade with Oklahoma City and projects to be a go-to frontcourt option. Denver is also optimistic that 2018 lottery pick Michael Porter will be healthy and ready to claim a spot in the rotation in his sophomore season.

Of course, in the Western Semifinals, the Nuggets fell to the Trail Blazers, who seem to be perennially underrated by oddsmakers. Portland’s over/under for the 2019/20 is just 46.5 wins, per betting site BetOnline.ag. After topping their projected win total by about 10 games last season, the Blazers will look to outperform expectations again in 2019/20, led by Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Jusuf Nurkic won’t be ready to start the season, but Portland fortified its frontcourt by adding centers Hassan Whiteside and Pau Gasol.

Meanwhile, the Jazz might have had the best offseason of any Northwest team, having acquired standout point guard Mike Conley to join Donovan Mitchell in their backcourt. With veteran role players like Ed Davis and Jeff Green joining the mix, and Mitchell expected to take another step forward, this may be the best Utah team of the last few years, and the club hasn’t won fewer than 48 games since 2015/16.

What do you think? Which team do you expect to sit atop the Northwest Division when the regular season ends? And will that team make a deep playoff run, perhaps even reaching the NBA Finals?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Mike Conley Talks Trade To Utah, Jazz’s Goals, More

The trade that sent Mike Conley from Memphis to Utah this offseason was one of the first major deals completed, and got buried under a flurry of free agency news, as All-NBA players like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, and Russell Westbrook changed teams.

Still, the Jazz‘s acquisition of Conley could ultimately end up being one of the summer’s most impactful moves. Utah has finished in the top five of the Western Conference in consecutive seasons and now has a third standout player to complement defensive anchor Rudy Gobert and up-and-coming star Donovan Mitchell.

Speaking to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, Conley said that he’s excited to play alongside Mitchell in Utah’s backcourt, calling the 22-year-old a “special player” and suggesting that the two guards will help each other alleviate pressure from opposing defenses.

Conley also spoke about several other topics during his conversation with Kennedy, which is worth checking out in full. Here are some of the highlights from the Q&A:

On getting used to no longer being a member of the Grizzlies:

“It’s still an adjustment. Even just hearing people call my name out and saying ‘Mike Conley of the Utah Jazz,’ it doesn’t even equate yet (laughs). I’m still trying to get used to that and waiting for it to become normal. It’s a new beginning, a new journey, a new challenge and I love that. You don’t get blessed with opportunities like this very often. I feel like I’m in a blessed situation to be part of this organization and hopefully do something special while I’m there.”

On his first impressions of Utah:

“The people, the fans, have just been so welcoming. My family and I really enjoyed ourselves in the two or three weeks that we’ve been able to spend there. Everyone is just so excited! The Jazz organization is top-notch in every way. Coach Quin [Snyder] is one of the best out there and we have a really good roster. We have all of those in one bottle, so we have a lot going on and it’s going to be exciting.”

On the Jazz’s goals for 2019/20:

“After talking to Coach Quin, we all realize what the ultimate goal is – and it’s everyone’s ultimate goal – and that’s winning a championship. We know that. Are we going to achieve the daily goals to become a champion? … That’s what it boils down to. I think we’re at the stage where we’re just working and trying to stay humble and stay focused and respect the game. At the end of the day, if we [achieve our daily goals], we have a good enough team, a good enough organization and good enough coaches to give ourselves a chance.”

On whether he’d be interested in coaching after his playing career is over:

“Yeah, I think coaching is kind of the natural progression for me. I think that’s something that I’d definitely enjoy, whether it’s coaching kids at any level or [coaching] all the way up to the NBA. It’s such a passion of mine, this game, and it’s something that I know so much about. And it’s one of those games that you can never figure all the way out, and I think that’s one of the things that I love about it. Hopefully I can continue to give back as much as possible.”

And-Ones: Clippers, Wroten, Giedraitis, Caffey

The signing of Kawhi Leonard and the trade for Paul George helped the Clippers have the league’s best offseason, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic. L.A. added two potential MVP candidates while keeping the core of last year’s playoff team intact and acquiring another rotation piece by trading for Maurice Harkless.

The Nets, who also hit the jackpot in free agency by signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, finished second on Aldridge’s list, followed by the Jazz, Lakers and Sixers. At the bottom are the Hornets, who lost Kemba Walker and replaced him with Terry Rozier, and the Warriors, who not only saw Durant leave, but also parted with Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, two key components of their championship teams.

There’s more NBA-related news to pass along:

  • Tony Wroten, whose journey to the EuroLeague we profiled earlier this week, has decided to sign with Anwil Wloclawek in Poland rather than KK Zadar in Croatia, tweets Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Wroten, 26, attended a mini-camp with the Wizards in June.
  • Lithuanian swingman Rokas Giedraitis turned down multiple opportunities to play in Summer League this year, according to international basketball writer Donatas Urbonas (Twitter link). A few teams considered offering him a two-way deal last year, but he remains “under the NBA radar.” Giedraitis is considered a late bloomer at 27 and is under contract with Alba Berlin for the upcoming season.
  • Jason Caffey admits he embraced an irresponsible lifestyle during his time in the NBA, and now he is trying to warn younger athletes not to make the same mistakes, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Caffey believes the choices he made, along with an undiagnosed mental illness, prevented him from having a longer career. Caffey had 10 children with eight women and says watching their success inspired him to change. “When I saw them doing so well — got a son at Alabama and a daughter at Missouri, D1 schools,” he said. “I knew then if I could help my own kids — kids who were pegged to be kids of a guy who’s a deadbeat dad, a guy who’s never going to be anything again — when I overcame that stigma, I knew it was time for me to step out and help other children.”

World Cup Notes: Fox, Olynyk, Boucher, Fall

While fans may be disappointed that they won’t get a chance to see stars like Anthony Davis, James Harden, and Damian Lillard represent Team USA in the 2019 World Cup, the players at this week’s training camp don’t sound too broken up about several stars removing their names from consideration, as Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston writes.

“This is like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of us. I think a lot of us are happy those guys pulled out,” Kemba Walker said. “This is our chance, this is our chance to get on the big stage and showcase our talents. It’s a chance for us to do something new, to be a new-look team.”

Of the players on Team USA’s training camp roster, Walker is one of a handful who likely would’ve been in position to claim a 12-man roster spot even if the program had a more robust turnout. But that’s not necessarily the case for younger players like Kings guard De’Aaron Fox and Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell.

According to Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link), Fox and Mitchell were among the Team USA standouts during the first couple days of this week’s training camp. Although there has been no official word yet, Marc Stein of The New York Times tweets that Fox – who was elevated from the Select Team – looks like a virtual lock to be part of Team USA’s final 12-man roster for China.

Here are a few more notes on the World Cup:

  • Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca passes along some good news and some bad news for Team Canada (via Twitter). According to Grange, Kelly Olynyk‘s knee injury appears likely to sideline the Heat big man for about a week, but shouldn’t keep him out of World Cup action next month. However, it sounds more and more like Raptors forward/center Chris Boucher won’t be playing for Canada at the World Cup, Grange adds.
  • After being listed on Team Senegal’s preliminary 24-man World Cup roster, Tacko Fall didn’t show up on the team’s updated 16-man roster this week (Twitter links). According to Keith Smith of RealGM (Twitter link), Fall and Team Senegal reached a mutual agreement that he wouldn’t participate in the World Cup as he focuses on trying to make the Celtics. Timberwolves power forward Gorgui Dieng has also withdrawn from Senegal’s roster.
  • In a pair of separate articles for ESPN.com, Brian Windhorst tries to answer some pressing questions for Team USA and digs into why Gregg Popovich is coaching Team USA when he seemingly has nothing left to prove.

Six NBA Players On Australia’s World Cup Roster

Team Australia has formally announced its 12-man roster for the 2019 World Cup, and the group features six NBA players.

Aron Baynes (Suns), Joe Ingles (Jazz), Patty Mills (Spurs), Matthew Dellavedova (Cavaliers), and Jonah Bolden (Sixers) are part of the 12-man squad. So is former No. 1 pick Andrew Bogut, who is technically back under contract with the NBL’s Sydney Kings, but was part of the Warriors team that appeared in the NBA Finals this spring.

Australia’s roster is rounded out by NBL players Cameron Gliddon, Chris Goulding, Nathan Sobey, and Nicholas Kay, along with Jock Landale and Xavier Cooks. Landale currently plays for Lithuanian club Zalgiris Kaunas, while Cooks is a member of SIG Strasbourg in France.

Although Team Australia has a strong roster, there are no guarantees that the squad will make a deep run in next month’s event. The Boomers finds themselves in Group H, which features a handful of tough competitors — Lithuania, Canada, and Senegal. Only the top two teams will advance to the second round.

Jazz, Juwan Morgan Agree To Exhibit 10 Deal

The Jazz have reached an agreement to sign undrafted forward Juwan Morgan to an Exhibit 10 contract, league sources tell Michael Scotto of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Scotto first reported in June (via Twitter) that Morgan was joining the Jazz, though Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype noted at the time (via Twitter) that the deal was just for Summer League. It appears the two sides have now agreed to extend their partnership into at least training camp.

Morgan, who spent all four seasons of his college career with the Hoosiers, was a full-time starter as a senior in 2018/19. He averaged 15.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 1.5 BPG in 35 games (29.9 MPG). In four Las Vegas Summer League games with Utah, he recorded 6.8 PPG and 5.5 RPG in 17.3 minutes per contest.

An Exhibit 10 contract will put Morgan in line for a bonus if he’s released by the Jazz in the preseason but joins the team’s G League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars. That scenario is more likely than having his contract converted into a two-way deal, since Utah’s two-way contract slots are currently occupied by 2019 second-rounders Jarrell Brantley and Justin Wright-Foreman.

Jazz Notes: Bradley, Oni, Brantley, Wright-Foreman

Jazz center Tony Bradley may have saved his NBA career with his Summer League performance, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. It’s unusual for a first-round pick to still be playing Summer League games going into his third season, but Bradley has done little to establish himself as an NBA player so far. After being taken with the 28th pick in 2017, he has appeared in just 12 games, with only three of those coming last season.

Bradley said he was aware of the stakes heading into Las Vegas, and he responded by leading the league in rebounding with 11.3 per game. He also averaged 19.7 PPG and shot 56% from the field. He appears to have won a roster spot and is expected to be third on the depth chart at center behind Rudy Gobert and Ed Davis.

“It was important for me,” Bradley said of the experience. “I knew that I had to go out there and play well.”

There’s more from Utah, all courtesy of Jones:

  • Versatility was the key to Miye Oni earning a fully guaranteed contract as a rookie. The Jazz consider him to be the best defender among their three draft picks, and his ability to play several positions gives him another advantage. However, rookie power forward Jarrell Brantley will probably need more time to develop. Jones states that he took bad shots and made bad decisions during Summer League and has a lot to learn before he’s ready for the NBA.
  • The Jazz want two-way player Justin Wright-Foreman to develop into a point guard. He was a high-scoring combo guard at Hofstra, but he will be asked to focus on one position during his time in the G League. He also needs to show some improvement on defense, but Jones adds that he has the talent to improve in that area.
  • The organization has two years to experiment with the roster before it becomes financially restrictive. Gobert and Donovan Mitchell will both be eligible for new contracts in the summer of 2021, and decisions will have to be made on Mike Conley, Dante Exum and Joe Ingles as well. That’s why they used three second-round picks this summer and gambled on William Howard and Stanton Kidd, hoping to find some future contributors while they still have flexibility.

Northwest Notes: Wiggins, Coaching Additions, Bradley

Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman makes a case for the Thunder to trade Chris Paul to the Timberwolves for Andrew Wiggins. Paul would elevate the team’s immediate ceiling in Minnesota, providing Karl-Anthony Towns with arguably the best point guard he’s played with at the professional level.

Tramel believes OKC may provide Wiggins with an environment that would allow him to improve. Wiggins has played under four head coaches in Minnesota and the organization doesn’t have the recent track record for developing players that OKC does.

Here’s more from around the Northwest Division:

  • The Thunder have named David Akinyooye, Dave Bliss, Mark Daigneault, Brian Keefe, and Mike Wilks as assistant coaches, the team announces on its website. The group will join head coach Billy Donovan and assistant coaches Maurice Cheeks and Vin Bhavnani on the bench.
  • The Timberwolves are close to adding Pelicans assistant Kevin Hanson to their coaching staff, as Chris Hine of the Star Tribune reports. Hanson spent the past four seasons in New Orleans.
  • Tony Bradley, who was selected in the 2017 draft, had a Summer League that saved his roster spot on the Jazz, Tony Jones of The Athletic explains. Third-year first-rounders don’t typically play in the Summer League and the front office told the center that it wanted to see him be the best player on the team. Bradley shined and will be the third center behind Rudy Gobert and Ed Davis.