Will Barton

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Bridges, Wizards, Mitchell, Magic

Amid a series of injuries to key players and off-court issues, the Hornets have started the 2022/23 season with a 4-12 record, which has led to speculation that they’ll be among the teams looking to trade veterans and retool the roster in order to land a top pick in next year’s draft. However, a rival GM is skeptical Charlotte will hold any sort of fire sale this season.

The hurdle is getting the owner to go along with it,” the GM told Sean Deveney of Heavy Sports. “It is Michael Jordan. He has never OK’d something like that and it is not clear he would, even if it gets bad this year, even if it puts them in a good spot in the draft for Victor (Wembanyama). He has been pretty strong against tanking. Hard to see another way forward for them now, though.”

Here’s more from the Southeast:

  • Miles Bridges‘ status for this season is in limbo after he pleaded no contest in his felony domestic violence case. The NBA is investigating the incident, and Bridges is still a restricted free agent with the Hornets, but Shams Charania of The Athletic hears the Lakers and Pistons are among the teams monitoring his situation, he said on The Rally (Twitter video link).
  • The Wizards are still waiting for Will Barton to find his form this season, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The veteran wing was acquired in a trade with the Nuggets over the summer and his averages have dropped across the board in ’22/23. “I’m just really trying to figure out what my role is and figure out how I’m going to play in my minutes. But I can’t worry about that. I’ve just gotta go out there and try to be as effective as possible whenever I’m on the court. I think I’m figuring that out,” he said. Barton will be an unrestricted free agent in 2023.
  • Wizards two-way guard Jordan Goodwin underwent testing after injuring his left knee on Wednesday, and while there was some initial concern that it might be severe, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said Goodwin is “day-to-day” going forward (Twitter links via Josh Robbins of The Athletic). He was ruled out for Friday’s victory over the injury-depleted Heat.
  • Within his latest 10 things column for ESPN (subscriber link), Zach Lowe wonders if the Magic will eventually go all-in for a lead guard. Lowe says he liked the Magic as a “stealth” Donovan Mitchell suitor this summer, but hears from sources that Orlando didn’t appear to have “dived deeply” into pursuing the former Jazz star.

Southeast Notes: Bouknight, Magic, Banchero, Wizards

Hornets guard James Bouknight, who was arrested over the weekend for driving while impaired, was found unconscious in his car in a parking deck, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, via a WSOC TV report.

Police records state that Bouknight’s car was running and in drive when he was found, and the 22-year-old was holding a handgun. Officers attempted to wake him up using airhorns, a PA system, and lights, and when he eventually did come to, Bouknight allegedly seemed confused and refused to comply with officers, crashing into two patrol cars before eventually getting out of the car and being taken into custody.

Bouknight issued an apology to the Hornets and his teammates when he returned to practice earlier this week, per Kallie Cox and Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer.

“Honestly, I just wanted to apologize for being a distraction before the start of the season, for my teammates and for what we’ve got going on,” said Bouknight, who went scoreless on 0-of-5 shooting in 14 minutes during the team’s regular season opener in San Antonio on Wednesday.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • It may not be realistic to expect the Magic to make the playoffs this year, but the team at least needs to show real signs of progress to consider the 2022/23 season a success, argues Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel. “It’s been asked many times this offseason — ‘What’s next?'” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said. “I think this season is going to be a continuum from last season, but with that we want to start putting in what winning looks like — fewer mistakes, team orientation, being tied on a string defensively, elevating our standard as our team grows up so our players understand what winning is about.”
  • The Magic didn’t pick up a win in their season opener on Wednesday, but they had to be encouraged by the debut of No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, who racked up 27 points, nine rebounds, and five assists in Detroit. As Jamal Collier of ESPN writes, even though he said he felt like he “left a lot of points on the board,” Banchero is the first NBA rookie to post a 25-5-5 line in his debut since LeBron James in 2003.
  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington takes a look at what we learned about the Wizards‘ rotation based on their first game of the season. Notably, Delon Wright and Will Barton were part of the club’s closing lineup, Rui Hachimura was the first player off the bench, and rookie guard Johnny Davis was a DNP-CD.

Wizards Notes: Kispert, Beal, Davis, Rotation, Gortat

Wizards swingman Corey Kispert is out for four-to-six weeks with an ankle sprain, but he’s looking at the silver lining, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. Kispert is grateful that the injury didn’t happen during a playoff push.

“Well, it’s not going to last forever, right? In the grand scheme of things, a sprained ankle is not the end of the world,” he said. “It’s been a tough last couple of days. Getting out of bed and moving around has been difficult, but I know I’ll be back sooner rather than later. Thankfully I’m not missing important games down the stretch. The preseason is important, but if I were to choose a time to miss, it’d be now.”

We have more from the Wizards:

  • Bradley Beal has always stayed loyal to the organization but he admitted on JJ Redick’s podcast (hat tip to Alex Kennedy of Basketball News) that he has pondered a trade request in the past. “I definitely gave it some thought; I’d be lying if I said I didn’t,” he said. However, Beal also saw the flip side that the team acquiring him would have to give up important pieces to land him.
  • With Kispert sidelined, lottery pick Johnny Davis could see some significant early action, Hughes notes, though the rookie is dealing with a minor knee injury. “That’s why the team has guys like me on the bench, to be able to step up,” Davis said.
  • On that subject, Josh Robbins of The Athletic examines how the rotation will shake out in light of Kispert’s injury. He doesn’t see Davis getting a lot of playing time, predicting that Beal will play around 36 minutes and Will Barton will eat up a majority of the minutes at small forward with Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija getting steady playing time off the bench.
  • Retired center Marcin Gortat has been helping out at camp as a temporary assistant coach. Coach Wes Unseld Jr. hinted he’d like Gortat to stick around beyond training camp if Gortat wants to make the time commitment, according to Hughes“As long as he wants to stay, I love it,” Unseld said.

Wizards Notes: Japan Trip, Morris, Barton, Kispert, Hachimura

The Wizards enjoyed being part of the Japan Games, but the hardest part of the trip to Asia will occur when they return home, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. The players will have to readjust their body clocks to East Coast time while preparing for a regular season that’s a little more than two weeks away. Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said the medical staff has a plan to help the team handle the time change, and the players are confident they can deal with it.

“Of course, we have to do the right thing and try to get in a rhythm as soon as possible,” Kristaps Porziņģis said. “But we’re all young. We’re all athletes. And I think we’ll adjust back to D.C. time pretty quickly, and we have enough days until the next game also. So it shouldn’t be a problem. It shouldn’t be an excuse going forward.”

Even though Washington lost both games to the Warriors, Unseld was mostly happy with what he saw on the trip. The team’s starters looked much better Sunday as the Wizards built a 16-point fourth quarter lead that the end of the bench couldn’t hold.

“I’m pretty satisfied outside of those last eight minutes this afternoon of where we are,” Unseld said. “I thought we did a lot of good things today, but overall I think we’re in a pretty good spot as far as fast-tracking some of the areas of concern from last year. Defensively, I think we’re in a better spot with the hand activity, causing deflections. I think our ball movement has improved. We still struggle to make shots, and I think that’s just a rhythm thing. But we’re creating some good looks. So all-in-all, I think it’s been a solid week and a half.”

There’s more on the Wizards:

  • Monte Morris made his second straight start at point guard Sunday, indicating that he might have that role locked up despite an expected competition with Delon Wright, notes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Morris, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Nuggets, showed a polished midrange game and an ability to make shots in traffic, Hughes observes.
  • Will Barton, who was part of the same deal with Denver, made his preseason debut after missing the opener due to tightness in his lower back, Hughes adds. Corey Kispert was ruled out of Sunday’s game after suffering a sprained left ankle in the first quarter.
  • Rui Hachimura talks about the excitement of bringing the team to his home country in an interview with Kendra Andrews of ESPN’s “NBA Today” (video link).

Southeast Notes: Wizards, M. Williams, Fultz, Krejci, Korver

Josh Robbins of The Athletic takes a look at the Wizards‘ projected depth chart and rotation, predicting that former Nuggets Monte Morris and Will Barton will join Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma, and Kristaps Porzingis in the starting five to open the season.

Assuming Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. decides to roll with a 10-man rotation to open the season, Robbins projects Delon Wright, Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura, and Daniel Gafford to be part of the second unit, with either Corey Kispert or Johnny Davis slotting into the second backcourt spot.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Longtime Hornets forward Marvin Williams has rejoined the franchise in a basketball operations role, tweets Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer. In his new position, Williams will assist with player programs and with player development off the court, according to Boone.
  • Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel spoke to Dr. David Lee, a local orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon, to get a sense of how long it might take Magic point guard Markelle Fultz to return from a fractured toe. Lee estimated that Fultz could potentially return to Orlando’s lineup in about four to eight weeks, which would be anywhere from mid-October to mid-November. However, the team hasn’t provided a specific recovery timeline.
  • Hawks head coach Nate McMillan liked what he saw from newly added guard Vit Krejci in the 22-year-old’s first practice with the team on Thursday. “He knows how to play,” McMillan said, per Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). “I think he has a high basketball IQ. We put him right out there. It was good to see him be available to play and practice with our guys today. So that was exciting.”
  • Although Kyle Korver is technically part of the Hawksfront office and not the coaching staff, he has been working with players – including Clint Capela and Jalen Johnson – on their shooting during training camp, as Williams writes in a full story for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (subscription required). “I’ve worked with him quite a few times actually,” Johnson said on Wednesday. “Kyle has helped me make a few adjustments in my shot. You know, having him around has helped a lot. He’s been helping a lot of these guys, giving them pointers and things they can work on, so it’s good.”

Wizards Notes: Kuzma, Barton, Point Guards

Returning to the playoffs will be the number one objective for the Wizards this season, Kyle Kuzma told Mike DeStefano of Complex. The team has been stockpiling young players recently, including No. 10 pick Johnny Davis in this year’s draft. Although there’s plenty of talent on hand, Washington regressed in Wes Unseld Jr.‘s first year as head coach, falling to 35-47 after reaching the postseason the year before.

“It’s all about getting to the playoffs. That’s my mindset,” Kuzma said. “The NBA’s always better when you can win. We probably had one of the more talented teams that Wizard fans and the DMV’s (DC, Maryland and Virginia) seen in recent years and we have to figure it out, take that leap, and start playing winning basketball. That’s the most important thing that we have to do.”

Kuzma’s interview took place at New York Fashion Week and focuses mainly on clothing, including some of his more memorable outfits. He also talks about his favorite throwback jerseys, including the Wizards’ versions from the Michael Jordan era.

There’s more from Washington, D.C.:

  • The Wizards’ starting lineup appears mostly set with training camp getting underway next weekend, but there will be a competition to determine who starts at small forward, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Hughes says Will Barton, who was acquired from the Nuggets in an offseason trade, appears to be the favorite, citing his experience and his familiarity with Unseld from their time together in Denver. Deni Avdija, Corey Kispert, Rui Hachimura and maybe even Davis will also be in the mix.
  • Newly acquired Monte Morris and Delon Wright will be the only two veteran point guards in camp, Hughes adds in the same story. General manager Tommy Sheppard said Bradley Beal and Davis may see some time at the position, and Davion Mintz could be used there if he makes the roster.
  • The Wizards haven’t posted a winning record in five seasons, but they also haven’t fully bottomed out and tried to rebuild, notes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. He credits that decision to owner Ted Leonsis, who proclaimed nearly four years ago that the organization would never tank. Robbins believes the Wizards missed an opportunity by not trading Beal when his value was at its highest.

Western Notes: Barton, Merrill, Kings, Thunder

New Wizards swingman Will Barton was somewhat shocked when he got traded out of Denver this offseason, he told Mike Singer of the Denver Post. The Nuggets dealt Barton and Monte Morris to Washington in exchange for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith last month.

“It was just like a shock, but not too much of a shock,” Barton said when asked about the trade. “It was a shock in that, obviously, I had been there eight years, did so much there together, so it’s always shocking when you’ve been somewhere for so long and you’re moving on. But, at the same time, I embraced it, I’m welcoming a new chapter.”

Barton is expected to compete for a starting role with the Wizards, who finished just 35-47 last season. As Singer details, the veteran wing, who spent seven-and-a-half seasons with the Nuggets, is hoping to help his new team go from the lottery to the playoffs, like he did in Denver. When Barton joined the Nuggets, they were in the midst of a 30-52 season, but he left a team that looks like a legitimate contender.

“Just turning that whole thing around, that’s the biggest thing,” Barton said. “I came (to Denver), we were not good. We did not have a good culture. To see where it is now, and know that I played a heavy role in that, can’t be more rewarding. That’s the greatest achievement for me when I look back at it.”

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference:

  • Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee examines whether Sam Merrill will fit into the Kings’ plans once training camp begins on September 27. Merrill reportedly agreed to a two-year, partially guaranteed deal with the team. He’ll compete for a roster spot in camp.
  • Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman examines multiple Thunder-related topics in his mailbag, including notes related to Chet Holmgren and which players he’d protect in a hypothetical expansion draft. Oklahoma City is continuing a full-scale rebuild, having finished just 24-58 last season.

Southeast Notes: Barton, Gafford, Gibson, Barnes, Heat

Wizards guard Will Barton expressed excitement about playing with his new teammates next season, including 23-year-old center Daniel Gafford, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. Barton and Monte Morris were recently traded to Washington after playing with Denver last season.

“Big Gaff, I want to get out there with him, man,” Barton said. “I’m a guy that likes to get to the rim and when I get to the rim, if I can’t score it myself, I want to put that lob up there and I know he’s a guy who can go get it. So, he’s definitely a guy I’m looking forward to playing with.”

Barton also mentioned Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma, who combined to score 40.3 points per game last season. Gafford will likely come off the bench behind Kristaps Porzingis in 2022/23, but it’s possible head coach Wes Unseld Jr. will test bigger lineups featuring both players at some point.

Here are some other notes from the Southeast Division:

  • New Wizards big man Taj Gibson plans to be a mentor and help the team’s younger players this year, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post writes. Gibson recently joined the club after playing with New York for the past three seasons. He holds 13 years of NBA experience, which includes several playoff runs with the Bulls earlier in his career.
  • In his latest “Ask Ira” mailbag, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines whether the Heat should consider trading for Harrison Barnes. Barnes averaged 16.4 points per game for the Kings last season, shooting 39% from three-point range. Aside from Miami needing a power forward, Barnes would also fit in the team’s switch-heavy defensive scheme.
  • In a separate story for the Sun Sentinel, Winderman explores whether the Heat truly need a power forward. The short answer is yes. Miami lost P.J. Tucker to Philadelphia this month and hasn’t re-signed Markieff Morris, leaving a gaping hole in the starting lineup. The team did re-sign undersized forward Caleb Martin and has a budding two-way player in Haywood Highsmith, but starting Jimmy Butler at the four would likely be difficult against bigger teams in the East such as Boston, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. Assuming Tyler Herro and Max Strus start, the team would have to commit to playing in transition and likely blitz more defensively.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Hyland, Jokic, Connelly, Cousins

When Jamal Murray was practicing with the Nuggets in April and weighing the possibility of returning from his ACL tear, he was more apprehensive on the defensive side of the ball than on offense, Mike Singer of The Denver Post said on the HoopsHype podcast with Michael Scotto.

“He was concerned about fighting around screens, getting dinged, diving for loose balls, and that half-second hesitancy that might still be there as a result of that ACL tear he had,” Singer said.

However, that hesitancy was no longer evident when Murray practiced with Denver’s Summer League team a few weeks ago, according to Singer, who suggests that Denver’s decision to trade Monte Morris signals the club is confident in Murray’s ability to return strong in 2022/23.

The Morris trade was also a sign that Bones Hyland will have a bigger role going forward, according to Scotto, who has heard that the 2021 first-rounder has put on six pounds of muscle this offseason and is working out twice a day as he prepares for a minutes bump in the fall.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Singer suggests that if Morris had reached free agency this summer, he likely would’ve earned a deal in the range of $14-15MM annually, as opposed to the $9MM he’ll make on his current deal. The Nuggets’ reluctance to pay that much to retain the point guard once his contract expires in 2024 was one reason why the team was willing to move him. As for Will Barton, his age (32 in January), injury history, and defensive limitations were factors in Denver’s decision to trade him, per Singer.
  • People around the Nuggets were “pinching themselves” when Nikola Jokic signed a five-year extension to remain with the team and appreciated that those negotiations were drama-free, according to Singer. As Singer points out, Denver is typically viewed as “a place where (star) free agents don’t want to come,” so Jokic’s decision to commit long-term was a testament to the relationship he has built with the franchise. Of course, the fact that he’ll be in line for a projected $270MM (an NBA record) on the five-year deal probably didn’t hurt either.
  • Singer believes that if the Nuggets had offered president of basketball operations Tim Connelly an extension worth about $5-6MM per year before the Timberwolves began pursuing him in earnest, he likely would’ve been “eager to stay” in Denver. However, the Nuggets were unwilling to match the five-year, $40MM offer Minnesota eventually made.
  • Singer got the impression there was some “friction” behind the scenes with DeMarcus Cousins last season, which is one reason why the Nuggets signed DeAndre Jordan this summer to fill that backup center role.

Nuggets Trade Morris, Barton To Wizards For KCP, Smith

JULY 6: The trade is now official, according to a press release from the Wizards.

“We’re very excited to add Monte and Will as proven players at the point guard and shooting guard positions, two areas that were top priorities for us to address during this offseason,” president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard said in a statement. “Monte has steadily improved his all-around game and is coming off a career year while Will has been a consistent scorer and three-point threat during his time in Denver, and both are obviously familiar with Coach Unseld’s system and style.”

JUNE 29: The Wizards and Nuggets have reached an agreement on a trade that will send point guard Monte Morris and wing Will Barton to Washington in exchange for swingman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and point guard Ish Smith, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) first reported that the two teams were nearing an agreement.

The Wizards, who had previously been linked to Morris, will get a much-needed point guard upgrade in the trade, adding a player who was considered one of the NBA’s best backups before being thrust into a starting role last season as Jamal Murray recovered from ACL surgery.

In his first year as a full-time starter, Morris averaged 12.6 PPG, 4.4 APG, and 3.0 RPG on .484/.395/.869 shooting in 75 games (29.9 MPG). The Nuggets received calls from more than 20 teams about the 27-year-old, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

Washington will also acquire Barton, a solid shooter and scorer who has averaged 14.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 3.3 APG with a .362 3PT% in 479 regular season games for the Nuggets since arriving in Denver in 2015.

Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. is very familiar with both players, having previously served as a Nuggets assistant.

The move reduces the likelihood of the Wizards seriously pursuing a point guard like Tyus Jones in free agency or Malcolm Brogdon via trade.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets will add a player they had been targeting since the trade deadline in Caldwell-Pope, according to Singer. Denver views Caldwell-Pope as a two-way upgrade on the wing, values his championship experience with the Lakers, and would be interested in retaining him beyond next season, Singer adds.

Caldwell-Pope, 29, averaged 13.2 PPG and made 39.0% of his three-pointers for the Wizards in 2021/22, while playing his usual strong defense.

As for Smith, he’ll provide depth at point guard for a Nuggets team that should have Murray back this fall and saw Bones Hyland enjoy a breakout season as a rookie. Assuming Smith plays in at least one game for Denver, it’ll be his 13th NBA team, breaking a league record, tweets Matt Williams of ESPN.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter), if no more players are added to the four-player deal, the two teams will have to wait until after the July moratorium to make it official, since the Wizards are taking on several million more dollars than they’re sending out, while the Nuggets save a little money on next season’s payroll.

Caldwell-Pope ($14MM) and Smith ($4.73MM) entered the offseason without fully guaranteed salaries for 2022/23, but Caldwell-Pope locked in his guarantee on Tuesday and Smith is on track to receive as well in order to adhere to salary-matching rules and make the deal legal. Non-guaranteed salary doesn’t count in trades for outgoing purposes.

Caldwell-Pope, Smith, and Barton ($14.38MM) will all be on expiring contracts next season and are eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2023. Morris will earn $9.13MM in ’22/23 and $9.8MM in ’23/24 before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

The Nuggets will likely absorb Smith’s incoming contract using part of the $8.2MM trade exception they created in last week’s JaMychal Green trade. That would allow them to create a new larger trade exception, worth at least Morris’ outgoing salary ($9.13MM), per Marks.