Jazz Rumors

Russell Westbrook Gave Up $1.7MM In Buyout Agreement With Jazz

As part of a buyout agreement with the Jazz, veteran guard Russell Westbrook gave up exactly $1.7MM, according to Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link). Utah waived Westbrook on Saturday.

The buyout reduces Westbrook’s cap hit on Utah’s books from $4,027,525 to $2,327,525, giving the team a little extra salary cap flexibility. No team currently has more cap space than the Jazz, who still have about $33MM in available room.

The Jazz also reportedly received $4.3MM in cash from the Clippers in their trade for Westbrook, so despite being on the hook for about $2.33MM of the guard’s salary, they’ll come out nearly $2MM ahead from a financial perspective.

Westbrook will also come out ahead, since he’s reportedly on track to sign a minimum-salary contract with the Nuggets. That deal with Denver will pay him $3,303,771, increasing his total earnings for the 2024/25 season to $5,631,296, exceeding what he would have made if he had remained on his original $4.03MM contract.

As for the Clippers, they presumably could’ve reached a similar buyout agreement with Westbrook, but trading him to Utah allowed them to give Kris Dunn a more lucrative contract than they otherwise would’ve been able to. Using Westbrook’s $4MM+ outgoing salary for matching purposes, L.A. acquired Dunn via sign-and-trade, giving him a starting salary of $5,168,000 on his new three-year deal.

Westbrook is on track to serve as Jamal Murray‘s primary backup and play a significant role in Denver this season. Nikola Jokic reportedly advocated for the addition of the former MVP.

Stein’s Latest: Kuminga, Podziemski, Markkanen, Jones, Thibodeau, Dinwiddie, Morris

There’s a growing belief in league circles that the Warriors are more willing to trade Jonathan Kuminga than Brandin Podziemski in a blockbuster deal for Lauri Markkanen or another impact player, Marc Stein reports in his latest Substack notebook.

Rumors of Golden State’s interest in Markkanen have been floated for weeks. According to Stein’s sources, the Jazz have enough interest in a package of Podziemski and future draft compensation that they could move Markkanen before Aug. 6, when Markkanen becomes eligible to renegotiate and extend his contract. He has an expiring $18MM deal.

The Warriors are reluctant to part with Podziemski not only because of how highly they value his on-court contributions but also for financial reasons. He has three years left on his rookie contract while Kuminga is eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason. Any raise for Podziemski wouldn’t come onto the books until the contracts of Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins expire in the summer of 2027.

Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes and Franz Wagner — members of the same rookie class as Kuminga — have all signed max extensions. It’s unlikely Golden State will make that type of offer to him, but he’s due for a large raise.

It remains to be seen if adding Kuminga to a trade package would move the needle for Utah’s front office. Thus far, Golden State’s offers for Markkanen have centered around a combination of Moses Moody and other contracts, plus draft compensation, without including Podziemski or Kuminga, Stein adds.

The Warriors wouldn’t be able to immediately extend Markkanen since renegotiation-and-extension scenarios are only available to teams with cap space. But their continued interest in him suggests they’re confident they can lock him up long-term next offseason if they acquire him.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Carlik Jonestriple-double for South Sudan against Team USA could lead to renewed interest from NBA teams. Jones recently signed a two-year deal with Serbia’s Partizan Belgrade but the contract includes an NBA escape clause, valid through Thursday. Jones was the NBA G League MVP for the 2022/23 season, when he had a two-way deal with the Bulls. Last season, Jones played in China for the Zhejiang Golden Bulls.
  • Expect a contract extension for Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau in the near future. Thibodeau would be entering the final season of his original five-year contract without an extension but he’s expected to sign a new deal with a value of at least $10MM annually.
  • The Mavericks have a roster opening and they’re interested in re-signing Spencer Dinwiddie. Two other guards, Dennis Smith Jr. and Talen Horton-Tucker, are also under consideration but Dinwiddie is believed to be the team’s top choice. They’re also interested in retaining forward Markieff Morris, who is considered a lock to return, says Stein.

Jazz Waive Russell Westbrook

The Jazz have officially waived Russell Westbrook, the team announced in a press release. The 35-year-old point guard, who was acquired from the Clippers on Thursday, is expected to join the Nuggets after clearing waivers on Monday.

Westbrook was sent to Utah as part of a sign-and-trade involving free agent guard Kris Dunn, who reached an agreement with L.A. shortly after the start of free agency. The Jazz received a second-r0und pick swap and cash in the deal, which gave the Clippers the ability to remove Westbrook’s salary from their books while offering Dunn a higher salary than they otherwise could’ve.

This is the second time in 17 months that Westbrook has been traded to Utah and then released without playing a game. The Jazz also picked him up from the Lakers in a February 2023 deal before negotiating a buyout that enabled him to join the Clippers.

It’s not clear yet if there was a buyout involved this time or if Utah agreed to pay Westbrook his entire $4MM contract for the upcoming season. He’ll earn about $3.3MM with Denver, which is limited to offering him a veteran’s minimum contract due to apron restrictions.

Westbrook could have tested the free agent market this summer, but he opted to exercise his option and remain in L.A. The Clippers immediately began working with him to find a trade, and the Nuggets, who need a backup point guard after sending Reggie Jackson to Charlotte, quickly emerged as the most likely destination. Adding Westbrook as a free agent simplifies things for Denver, which doesn’t have to worry about matching salaries in a trade.

Westbrook, a nine-time All-Star and former MVP, settled into a bench role in his first full season with the Clippers. He appeared in 68 games and averaged 11.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.1 steals on .454/.273/.688 shooting in 22.5 minutes per night.

Northwest Notes: Dillingham, Wolves, Hendricks, Nuggets

Timberwolves guard Rob Dillingham, the No. 8 overall pick of last month’s draft, has been receiving advice from Mike Conley and John Wall as he prepares for his rookie season, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

Dillingham said he reached out to new teammate Conley for defensive advice. As for Wall, the former All-Star point guard is a North Carolina native who went to Kentucky, just like Dillingham.

That’s my guy,” Dillingham said of Wall. “He been knowing me, texting me and stuff. At Kentucky, he came to all our games. I just hit him after the [Pelicans] game. I was super mad because I didn’t play that well. I just hit him, and he was just telling me to play my game.”

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Michael Rand and Hine of The Star Tribune recently discussed which Timberwolves players participating in Summer League have the best odds of becoming rotation members in the future. Despite struggling so far in Las Vegas, Dillingham will be given “every chance” to be Conley’s backup at point guard next season, according to Rand and Hine, who also expect fellow first-rounder Terrence Shannon to carve out rotation minutes in 2024/25. Former second-round pick Leonard Miller has impressed at Summer League, but he’s more likely to contribute in 2025/26 than ’24/25, per Rand and Hine.
  • Second-year Jazz forward Taylor Hendricks bounced back with a strong performance at Summer League on Wednesday after struggling on Monday, notes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. A lottery pick last year (No. 9 overall), Hendricks contributed 23 points (on 9-of-10 shooting), nine rebounds, one steal and one block. “I think he was just more aggressive and more physical right from the start,” said Summer League coach Sean Shelden. ” … How you stick in a rotation, how you stick in the NBA, is just playing like how he did tonight.”
  • In a subscriber-only story for The Denver Post, Bennett Durando breaks down the Nuggets‘ projected depth chart for next season. Durando has Christian Braun sliding into the starting lineup at shooting guard, with Russell Westbrook, Julian Strawther, Peyton Watson, Vlatko Cancar and Dario Saric as Denver’s first five off the bench. Westbrook will reportedly sign with the Nuggets after he finalizes a buyout with Utah and clears waivers.

And-Ones: Flopping, Tiebreakers, Gill, Aprons, Team USA, Durant

The NBA’s Board of Governors voted this week to make the in-game flopping penalty a permanent part of the league rules, according to a press release. The rule, which charges the offending player with a non-unsportsmanlike technical foul and gives the opposing team a free throw attempt, was adopted ahead of the 2023/24 season on a one-year trial basis and will remain in place going forward.

The Board of Governors also approved a tweak to the tiebreaker rules for the NBA Cup (in-season tournament), removing overtime scoring for the purposes of the point differential and total points scored tiebreakers.

There were scenarios last season in which it would have benefited the winning team to play for overtime – where it could build a bigger margin of victory – rather than trying to win in regulation by a smaller margin. That won’t be the case under the new rules, as an NBA Cup group-stage game that goes to overtime will result in a point differential of zero for both teams, regardless of how the extra period plays out.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Anthony Gill is drawing interest from a pair of EuroLeague teams, according to Alessandro Maggi of Sportando, who says that Barcelona and Anadolu Efes are eyeing the veteran free agent forward. Gill has spent the past four seasons with the Wizards, appearing in 179 regular season games during that time, almost exclusively as a reserve.
  • Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports takes a closer look at how the NBA’s new tax apron rules are impacting teams’ decisions this offseason, suggesting that players whose contracts are heavy on unlikely incentives may become harder to trade going forward. Wizards guard Jordan Poole, Heat guard Tyler Herro, and Nets forward Cameron Johnson are a few of those players, Fischer writes — their deals each include between $2.5MM and $4.25MM in annual incentives. Whether or not they’re earned, those incentives are counted when determining where a team is operating relative to the aprons.
  • ESPN’s Brian Windhorst recaps Team USA’s Wednesday win over Serbia, while Joe Vardon of The Athletic provides a handful of takeaways from the squad’s time in Abu Dhabi, which also included an exhibition victory over Australia. Kevin Durant (calf strain) didn’t practice with the club in Abu Dhabi, but is hoping to get on the court in London during Team USA’s final stop before heading to Paris, Vardon writes. The U.S. will face South Sudan on Saturday and Germany on Monday in its last pre-Olympic tune-up games.
  • The Clippers sent $4.3MM to the Jazz in the Russell Westbrook/Kris Dunn trade, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), more than covering Westbrook’s $4.03MM salary for the 2024/25 season.

Clippers, Jazz Complete Trade Involving Westbrook, Dunn

8:04pm: The trade is official, according to an announcement from the Jazz, who also acquired the draft rights to Balsa Koprivica (the No. 57 pick in 2021) in the deal.

1:33pm: The Clippers are sending Russell Westbrook, a second-round pick swap, and cash to the Jazz in order to acquire free agent guard Kris Dunn via sign-and-trade, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links). The second-round swap will be for 2030, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic.

Westbrook is expected to reach a buyout agreement with Utah and eventually sign with the Nuggets once he clears waivers, according to Wojnarowski.

Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) hears that Dunn will sign a three-year, $17MM contract. The final season of Dunn’s deal with Los Angeles will be a team option, per Woj (Twitter link).

Strangely, this will be the second time that Westbrook will be traded to — and then waived by — Utah in 17 months, with the first instance coming in February 2023. In this case, the Jazz are acquiring a second-round swap and some cash in exchange for using a small chunk of their cap room to take Westbrook’s salary off L.A.’s books.

The 35-year-old will earn a little over $4MM this season, while the minimum salary for a player with his amount of experience will earn about $3.3MM. We’ll have to wait and see how much he gives up in the buyout, but it’s safe to assume he’ll be on a minimum-salary deal with the Nuggets — it’s all they can offer due to their financial situation.

Westbrook exercised his player option this summer but reports came out almost immediately saying the Clips were working with him on a trade. He has essentially only been linked to Denver, which has an opening at backup point guard after salary dumping Reggie Jackson to Charlotte.

Three-time MVP Nikola Jokic is reportedly a fan of Westbrook, who also received an endorsement from veteran center DeAndre Jordan. The nine-time All-Star and former MVP averaged 11.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.1 steals on .454/.273/.688 shooting in 68 games with the Clips last season (22.5 minutes per contest).

Haynes reported on July 1 that Dunn would sign with the Clippers, with Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports later stating that the two sides were working on sign-and-trade scenarios to open a wider salary range for the 30-year-old guard. It took a few weeks, but a deal has finally come to fruition.

The fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft, Dunn didn’t live up to his draft billing in Minnesota or Chicago during the early years of his career, but has evolved into a solid rotation piece in recent years. Dunn spent the past two seasons in Utah, where he provided solid, versatile defense in the Jazz’s backcourt and earned praise from head coach Will Hardy for his voice in the locker room.

In 88 total appearances (35 starts) across two seasons in Utah, Dunn averaged 7.4 points, 4.3 assists, and 3.3 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game, with a shooting line of .497/.395/.741.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Westbrook, Hendricks, Dozier

Asked on ESPN’s broadcast on Tuesday about what holes still need to be filled on the Nuggets‘ roster, head coach Michael Malone pointed to the backup point guard spot, saying that Denver could use “somebody to play behind Jamal Murray,” according to Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link). Malone added that general manager Calvin Booth is “all over it.”

The point guard who has been linked most frequently to the Nuggets this offseason is former MVP Russell Westbrook — he and Denver reportedly have mutual interest, and the Clippers are looking to move the 35-year-old. However, it’s unclear if the Nuggets and Clippers will be able to work out a trade that makes sense for both sides, so Westbrook is considered more likely to join Denver as a free agent.

Westbrook would be a logical fit in Denver if the team can find a way to add him, says Tony Jones of The Athletic. As Jones outlines, Westbrook’s ability to put pressure on defenses off the dribble is something the Nuggets didn’t have enough of last season. The team could also benefit from his passing, his on-court “swagger,” and his ability to play significant rotation minutes, which would allow Malone to lean less heavily on his starters, Jones adds.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Nikola Jokic shouldn’t be happy with the Nuggets‘ offseason so far, according to Sean Keeler of The Denver Post, who argues in an opinion column that the front office has made several missteps in the past year or two and that many of Denver’s conference rivals have improved their rosters while the Nuggets have arguably gotten worse.
  • Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune is concerned about Taylor Hendricks‘ underwhelming Summer League performance, including a three-point, five-rebound showing on Monday that saw the Jazz forward go 0-of-6 from the floor and fail to make a defensive impact. Hendricks is still just 20 years old, so there’s plenty of time for last year’s No. 9 overall pick to show improvement, but he’ll have to make major strides to warrant a rotation role next season, Larsen contends.
  • PJ Dozier‘s one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Timberwolves is partially guaranteed for $1MM, reports Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News and SKOR North (Twitter link). Dozier will be assured of his full salary (approximately $2.6MM) if he remains under contract through the league-wide guarantee date of January 7.

Western Notes: Markkanen, Warriors, Podziemski, Strawther, Holmes, Clippers

After sharing some reporting on Monday about the trade talks between the Warriors and Jazz concerning star forward Lauri Markkanen, Shams Charania of The Athletic appeared on SiriusXM NBA Radio later in the day to provide some additional insight into where things stand between the two Western Conference clubs.

“I don’t think (the Jazz) want to move Lauri Markkanen,” Charania said (Twitter video link; hat tip to Ali Thanawalla of NBC Sports Bay Area). “But if the Golden State Warriors put in a Brandin Podziemski and – from what I’m told – three first-round picks, three or four unprotected pick swaps, three or four second-round picks…”

Asked at that point if Jonathan Kuminga is a player the Jazz are seriously pursuing in their discussions with the Warriors, Charania’s downplayed the forward’s importance in getting a deal done, suggesting that Kuminga – who is eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason – isn’t as high a priority for Utah as Podziemski is.

“From everything I’ve been told, the Jazz are more focused on Brandin Podziemski and his inclusion in the deal (and) all the picks being in the deal,” Charania said. “And I think from the Warriors’ perspective, (if) it’s Podziemski, then there’s not all the picks, and if it’s all the picks, then there’s not going to be a Podziemski.

“… Both sides are kind of entrenched right now at where they’re at. (I’m not) saying nothing is going to change. Only time will tell. But I think the Jazz are very comfortable with extending Lauri Markkanen, and at that point you’ll see more suitors potentially as well in on him — not just teams that feel like, ‘OK, we’ll be able to re-sign him.”

As we’ve previously outlined, Markkanen becomes eligible on August 6 for a renegotiation and extension. If the Jazz extend him on that day, he would become trade-eligible on February 6 – the day of the 2025 trade deadline – whereas if he were to sign an extension on August 7 or later, he would be ineligible to be dealt until the 2025 offseason.

Here’s more from around the West:

  • Tim Kawakami of The Athletic takes a look at where things stand for the Warriors after an eventful few weeks, noting that – with Klay Thompson and Chris Paul gone – Podziemski could have a chance to become the starting shooting guard and Stephen Curry‘s primary backup at point guard. As Kawakami observes, given the significant role the 21-year-old may play in Golden State going forward, it’s no surprise the team would prefer to keep him out of an offer for Markkanen.
  • Despite dealing with a sore right ankle, second-year Nuggets forward Julian Strawther has been a Summer League standout, averaging 28.5 PPG with a .409 3PT% in two games in Las Vegas. Strawther averaged just 10.9 MPG across 50 appearances as a rookie, but teammate Peyton Watson is optimistic that the 2023 first-rounder will play a larger role in 2024/25. “He obviously has a gift shooting the rock,” Watson told Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. “He’s a big-time shooter. That’s gonna be big for us this coming year. I’m super excited for him. He already showed flashes of what he can do this season, and he’s had some big games for us already. So I expect him to have plenty more, and I can’t wait to play a lot more with him.”
  • The Nuggets confirmed in a brief announcement on Monday that rookie forward DaRon Holmes has undergone a surgical repair of his right Achilles tendon. The team didn’t provide a specific recovery timeline for Holmes, but the expectation is that he’ll miss the entire 2024/25 season after tearing his Achilles in his Summer League debut.
  • The Clippers will return to Seattle for a third consecutive preseason, having announced on Monday in a press release that they’ll host the Trail Blazers on October 11 at Climate Pledge Arena.

Jazz’s Sensabaugh, Spurs’ Castle Out For Rest Of Summer League

An MRI has revealed that second-year forward Brice Sensabaugh sustained an extensor tendon tear in his left middle finger during the second quarter of Saturday’s game vs. Dallas, the Jazz announced in a press release (via Twitter).

Sensabaugh’s finger will be splinted and reexamined in about six weeks, which means he’ll miss the remainder of Las Vegas Summer League. Based on that timeline, he’d be reexamined around late August, before training camp begins in the fall.

The 28th pick of the 2023 draft out of Ohio State, Sensabaugh made just four NBA regular season appearances in Utah’s first 53 games leading up to the February trade deadline. After the Jazz traded away veterans for the second consecutive year and tanked down the stretch, the 20-year-old averaged 8.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists on .392/.292/.902 shooting while appearing in 28 of the team’s final 29 games (20.5 MPG).

Sensabaugh, who is known for his shooting and scoring but isn’t a great defender, also appeared in 29 games for Utah’s G League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars, as a rookie in 2023/24. He averaged 19.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals on .467/.365/.758 shooting in 29.5 MPG.

Spurs guard Stephon Castle, the fourth pick of last month’s draft out of UConn, will also miss the remainder of Summer League, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required).

Castle suffered a right wrist sprain in Saturday’s win over Portland — his Spurs debut — in which he recorded 22 points, five rebounds and four assists. The injury is considered minor, but the team didn’t want to risk aggravating it.

I feel like they have my best interests in mind,” Castle said, per Orsborn. “I feel like it’s smart to take the caution route.”

Charania’s Latest: Markkanen, Warriors, Ingram, Bucks, Trent, Westbrook, More

The Warriors have been the “most engaged” trade suitor for Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen this offseason, but the two teams are divided on what a potential Golden State package would look like, writes Shams Charania of The Athletic.

According to Charania, the Warriors have discussed an offer that would center around Moses Moody and a number of draft assets, including multiple first-round picks, multiple second-rounders, and multiple pick swaps. However, Utah has sought “the bulk of young talent and capital” Golden State controls, including Brandin Podziemski and Jonathan Kuminga in addition to Moody and draft assets. Sources tell Charania that idea has been a “non-starter” for the Warriors.

Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram is another notable name still on the trade market, but teams around the league believe his market is limited, according to Charania, since some potential suitors (including the Kings and Spurs) made moves for other forwards and most other teams aren’t looking to make a major trade at this point in the offseason. If the market for Ingram remains quiet, New Orleans could assess its current group to open the regular season before deciding whether a trade is necessary, Charania suggests.

With most of the NBA’s other teams focused on tweaking their rosters around the edges, one high-ranking team official told Charania, “It might be one of the more quiet summers.”

Here’s more from Charania:

  • The Bucks are in the market for help at shooting guard and are among the contending teams pursuing Gary Trent Jr., sources tell The Athletic. However, due to its proximity to the second tax apron, Milwaukee is limited to a minimum-salary offer, and one recent report suggested that Trent isn’t interested in accepting a minimum deal. The Bucks are hosting a free agent workout this week in Las Vegas, Charania notes, with Will Barton expected to be among the participants.
  • While there has been no action on the Russell Westbrook front as of late, the Clippers and the former MVP still plan to part ways this offseason, says Charania. The Nuggets are considered the favorites to sign Westbrook if he reaches free agency, Charania adds, but Los Angeles is still discussing possible trades.
  • The Grizzlies are exploring trade possibilities involving former lottery pick Ziaire Williams, sources tell Charania. The Grizzlies aren’t far from the luxury tax line and will likely have to shed some salary if they want to use their full mid-level exception or re-sign Luke Kennard while staying out of tax territory.