Will Barton

Injury Updates: Ibaka, Beal, Conley, Dozier, Barton

Serge Ibaka hasn’t played since March 14 due to a back injury but the Clippers’ big man could be in uniform on Friday. He’s been upgraded to questionable, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Ibaka has averaged 10.9 PPG and 6.7 RPG in his first season with the Clippers and could be a pivotal player in the postseason.

We have more news on the injury front:

  • Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal won’t play against Cleveland on Friday due to a hamstring injury, the team tweets. The league’s second-leading scorer hasn’t played since last Saturday. Washington can clinch a spot in the play-in tournament with a victory tonight.
  • Jazz All-Star guard Mike Conley told the media he’ll play the final two games of the regular season, including tonight’s tilt against the Thunder, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune writes. He’s been out since April 26 due to a right hamstring strain.
  • The Nuggets’ Will Barton (hamstring) and PJ Dozier (right adductor) are not expected to return before the playoffs, coach Michael Malone told Mike Singer of the Denver Post (Twitter link). Barton, who has been out since April 23, is closer to returning than Dozier.

Michael Malone Calls Will Barton’s Hamstring Strain “Significant”

The strained hamstring that Nuggets swingman Will Barton suffered Friday night is “significant,” coach Michael Malone said, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link). Malone added that he doesn’t expect Barton to return for the “foreseeable future.”

The injury occurred in the opening minute of a loss at Golden State as Barton felt a pop in his right hamstring area. It’s the latest in a series of costly injuries for Denver, which lost Jamal Murray to a season-ending ACL tear and is also missing Monte Morris with a hamstring issue.

Barton is averaging 12.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists through 55 games and has taken on a more significant role since Murray got hurt. He has a $14.67MM player option for next season.

Barton pledged on Twitter to be back as soon as possible. “Lil setback. Be back soon,” he wrote. “Ain’t seen the last of me this season. GOD always looking out.”

The injuries may not affect the Nuggets’ playoff seeding as they are securely lodged in the fourth spot in the West, three games ahead of the Lakers and three and a half behind the Clippers. The bigger concern is how the team will handle the postseason if other players aren’t available in addition to Murray.

Malone was unhappy with the way his team responded Friday in the wake of Barton’s injury and said there has to be more focus, no matter who is on the court.

“It’s our job,” he said. “Do your job… No Jamal Murray, somebody’s gotta step in. No Monte Morris, no Will Barton, somebody’s gotta step in. And it starts with playing hard. We did not play hard enough tonight. … That was the worst part about the loss tonight was that, give them credit, they played well, but we did not bring the requisite energy, fight, effort, whatever you want to call it.”

Northwest Notes: Barton, Deck, Jones, Finch

Nuggets swingman Will Barton will undergo an MRI after suffering a right hamstring injury, ESPN’s Royce Young writes. Barton felt a pop less than a minute into the team’s game against Golden State on Friday. The Nuggets are already depleted in the backcourt and can ill afford to lose another rotation player. Jamal Murray is out for the season after undergoing ACL surgery and Monte Morris is also sidelined with a hamstring issue. Barton, who holds a $14.67MM option on his contract for next season, is averaging 12.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 3.3 APG in 55 games this season.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Gabriel Deck has arrived in Oklahoma City and is ready to begin his NBA career once he passes protocols, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. The EuroLeague standout signed a four-year contract with the Thunder on April 12. Coach Mark Daigneault said he would “try to get him right in the mix as fast as possible.”
  • The Trail Blazers have hired former WNBA All-Star Asjha Jones, according to Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest.  Jones was an assistant coach for the Washington Mystics last season. She’ll be Portland’s director of basketball strategy and planning on Neil Olshey‘s basketball operations staff.
  • Chris Finch became the Timberwolves’ head coach a little over two months ago and The Athletic’s Britt Robson takes a deep dive into Finch’s rotations and strategies since he replace Ryan Saunders.

Mannix’s Latest: Clippers, Rubio, Magic, Celtics, Horford, More

The Clippers remain in the market for help at the point guard position, with Hornets veteran Terry Rozier among the players who has drawn “strong internal interest,” according to Chris Mannix of SI.com. Mannix adds that George Hill and Ricky Rubio are among the other possible trade candidates in play for the Clippers, who have limited draft assets to use as sweeteners.

The Magic, who are also seeking point guard help, have kicked the tires on Rubio lately as well, per Mannix. That lines up with a Monday report from Jake Fischer of SI.com, who said Orlando had discussed a trade with the Timberwolves that would involve Rubio and Aaron Gordon.

Magic head coach Steve Clifford, who coached Kemba Walker in Charlotte, remains a big fan of the Celtics point guard, but Walker is unlikely to be on the move by March 25, says Mannix.

Here’s more from Mannix’s latest round-up of trade-related rumors:

  • Reports on Monday indicated that a trade is more likely than a buyout for LaMarcus Aldridge, and that the Celtics are focusing on the Spurs‘ big man. However, Mannix cites league sources who believe a buyout is the most likely outcome for Aldridge, and adds that Boston isn’t interested in trading for the veteran Spur.
  • While the Thunder are open to listening to inquires on Al Horford, they’re happy with how he has performed this season and won’t be looking to just give him away, Mannix writes.
  • Rival executives view the Heat as the favorites to land Rockets forward P.J. Tucker, per Mannix.
  • Tom Thibodeau has urged the Knicks‘ front office to be active at the deadline, and the club may pursue upgrades, but so far New York has shown little appetite for moving any of its top young players or taking on long-term salary, Mannix reports.
  • While Michael Porter Jr. is presumed to be off-limits, Gary Harris, Will Barton, and Bol Bol are among the Nuggets believed to be available as the team seeks a complementary piece for Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, according to Mannix.

Sixers Have Reportedly Inquired On Will Barton

Nuggets guard Will Barton is among the players the Sixers have inquired on as they seek another play-making wing, a source tells Jason Dumas of Bleacher Report.

Dumas also names Delon Wright, George Hill, and P.J. Tucker as potential trade targets for Philadelphia. He has previously reported on the 76ers’ inquiries into Wright and Hill, while the club’s interest in Tucker has been mentioned repeatedly elsewhere, including on Tuesday by Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer.

Barton, 30, is a key rotation player in Denver, averaging 11.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, and 3.1 APG on .442/.388/.755 shooting in 33 games (29.9 MPG). However, as Dumas observes, the veteran wing has seen his role cut back a little due to the ongoing emergence of Michael Porter Jr. Barton’s 18.3% usage rate is the lowest mark of his career.

Still, it may be hard for two teams in win-now mode to work out a trade that would benefit both clubs in the short term.

While Danny Green‘s expiring $15.4MM contract would match up well with Barton’s $13.7MM deal, it’s not clear if the Nuggets would have any interest in the 33-year-old sharpshooter, since they have no shortage of floor-spacers — nine of their 10 most-used players are shooting 36% or higher on three-pointers with at least one make per game (Gary Harris, at 32.0%, is the lone exception). And while Green is a solid defender, he lacks Barton’s play-making ability.

Whether or not they can strike a deal for Barton, the 76ers seem more focused on adding a complementary player than on making a splashier move for a star like Kyle Lowry, according to Dumas, who says that landing the Raptors‘ guard is considered “far-fetched.”

Free Agent Stock Watch: Northwest Division

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Northwest Division:

Hamidou Diallo, Thunder, 22, SG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.9MM deal in 2018

Diallo has entered the conversation for the Most Improved Player award. The Dennis Schröder trade to the Lakers opened up a little more playing time for the third-year guard and he has seized the opportunity, nearly doubling his scoring average (12.5 PPG from 6.9 PPG) and also contributing on the boards (5.4 RPG) while making more plays for his teammates (2.5 APG).

Diallo’s perimeter shooting remains an issue (28.9% on 3-point attempts) but he’s reached double figures in 13 of his last 15 games. He will be a restricted free agent and it will be intriguing to see if another team will overlook his perimeter woes and extend an offer sheet to force the Thunder’s hand.

Naz Reid, Timberwolves, 21, C (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $4.2MM deal in 2019

Very little has gone right for Minnesota this season but Reid continues to be a bright spot. The undrafted second-year big man is averaging 12.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG and 1.2 BPG and his 3-point shot is improving (39.7%). Reid had a 29-point performance against OKC and a 23-point outing against the Clippers this month. He filled the stat sheet with 18 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three blocks in an overtime loss to Indiana on Wednesday.

Reid’s $1.78MM salary for next season is non-guaranteed; the Timberwolves’ front office will have some tough roster decisions to make over the next year but that won’t be one of them.

Gary Trent Jr., Trail Blazers, 22, SG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.92MM deal in 2018

Trent, who will be a restricted free agent, emerged as a valuable rotation piece in his second season a year ago. He’s become even more important with CJ McCollum sidelined by a foot injury. Trent is averaging 15.3 PPG while knocking down an impressive 44.7% of his 3-point attempts despite taking 7.2 shots per game from deep. He’s averaging 19.8 PPG during the team’s current six-game winning streak. The Blazers already have $70MM committed to their starting guards next season; can they afford to hold onto Trent if someone lavishes the sharpshooter with a lucrative offer sheet?

Will Barton, Nuggets, 30, SG/SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $53MM deal in 2018

Barton has a player option worth $14.67MM for next season and the way he’s played this season, he’ll have no reason to opt out. Barton missed the summer restart due to a knee injury and hasn’t been a consistent factor on a team with championship aspirations. He scored 10 or fewer points in six of his last 10 outings before taking off a few games for personal reasons. His PER for the season is 11.6, well below average. The Nuggets need more from their wings, including Barton, if they want to make another deep playoff run.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Michael Porter Jr. Returns To Nuggets, Will Play Friday

JANUARY 22: Porter will be active and will play against Phoenix on Friday night, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

JANUARY 21: Michael Porter Jr., who hasn’t played in a game since December 29 due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, has reported back to the Nuggets and will be listed as questionable for Friday’s game against Phoenix, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

Porter was originally held out for seven days for contact tracing purposes, then tested positive for the coronavirus, extending his quarantine period by another two weeks.

The young forward will have to ramp up his conditioning and complete additional testing – including a cardio exam – before he’s formally cleared to return to the Nuggets’ lineup (Twitter links via Singer and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN).

While it’s not clear if Porter will be game-ready by tomorrow, head coach Michael Malone said today that he’s optimistic the 22-year-old will be able to play at some point during Denver’s five-game road trip, which begins on Friday in Phoenix and runs through next Friday (January 29) in San Antonio.

Malone stated earlier this week that Porter’s spot in the starting lineup is safe, though he referred to Will Barton today as “a starter,” noting that he feels the Nuggets have more than five starter-caliber players, tweets Singer. As such, it remains to be seen whether MPJ will immediately supplant Barton as the team’s starting small forward or if he’ll be gradually eased back into that role.

Northwest Notes: Barton, Boylen, Blazers, Thunder, Gobert

Nuggets wing Will Barton made it clear multiple times earlier this month that he believes he deserves to be a starter. However, after coming off the bench in Wednesday’s opener, Barton said he’s happy for Michael Porter Jr. – who has been promoted to the starting lineup – and is prepared to accept his new sixth man role, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post writes.

“My concern is not about (starting) anymore once I channel my energy to where it has to be,” Barton said. “That’s where I am, so I’m locked in right now, I’m coming off the bench. I’m not trying to worry about if I’m gonna start again. Right now I’ve got a job to do, and that’s my focus is to come off the bench and try to change the game for us and still help us win games.”

While Barton may not have started the Nuggets’ opener, he got the opportunity to finish it, playing all five minutes of overtime in Denver’s loss to Sacramento.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Trail Blazers brought in former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen for a three-week consultation to help Portland’s coaching staff implement a more aggressive defense, says Jason Quick of The Athletic. “I was intrigued with his ideas and what he did in Chicago,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said of Boylen. “And we will be using some of the things he talked about and augmenting some of his other things with what we already do.”
  • Even after stockpiling future draft picks for a second consecutive offseason, the Thunder may not be done, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who points out that the team could continue to extract draft assets in deals for Al Horford, George Hill, and Trevor Ariza, or by using a pair of giant trade exceptions to accommodate salary dumps.
  • ESPN’s Lisa Salters conducted an in-depth interview with Jazz center Rudy Gobert, discussing his path to the NBA, how it felt to become the league’s “patient zero” for COVID-19, and his relationship with Donovan Mitchell, among other topics. “We had conversations as grown men, and we told each other what we had on our minds,” Gobert said of mending his relationship with Mitchell. “And the end of the conversation was that our goal was to win a championship together and, you know, I thought it was really mature from both of us to come out of the conversation like that.”

Rockets Seek Porter Jr. In Potential Harden Trade With Nuggets

The Rockets have focused on Michael Porter Jr. in trade discussions with the Nuggets as the centerpiece of a potential James Harden trade, Mike Singer of the Denver Post reports.

However, the talks didn’t gain any traction, Singer adds. This updates an earlier report that the Nuggets are unwilling to give up Jamal Murray in a package for Harden. Murray was never included in any discussions and Nikola Jokic is also off-limits.

Porter would give the Rockets a potential star in return for the perennial All-Star guard, who wants to be dealt. Any potential deal with Denver would also have to include Gary Harris and/or Will Barton for salary-matching purposes salaries and that would seriously deplete the Nuggets at the wing spots, Singer notes.

Harden would make for an intriguing third star to join forces with Jokic and Murray but he could also wreck the good chemistry the team displayed while making its run to the conference finals last season.

Porter averaged 9.3 PPG and 4.7 RPG in 55 games (16.4 MPG) during his de facto rookie season in 2019/20 after he was sidelined the previous campaign due to a back injury. His playing time grew during the playoffs, as he averaged 11.4 PPG and 6.7 RPG while shooting 38.2% from long range.

Houston has reportedly been seeking a return that features an All-Star-caliber young player, along with several other assets (young players or draft picks).

Northwest Notes: McLaughlin, Harris, Barton, Lillard

The deadline for restricted free agents to accept a qualifying offer typically falls on October 1, but due to the NBA’s revamped calendar for 2020/21, that deadline has moved to today, says Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). That means that Jordan McLaughlin, the last remaining RFA in the league, will no longer be able to accept his QO after today unless the Timberwolves extend that deadline.

McLaughlin’s qualifying offer is for a two-way deal, but he’s not expected to accept it, according to Wolfson (Twitter links), who says that the second-year guard could sign a standard contract today if he wanted to. The Timberwolves are willing to promote McLaughlin to the 15-man roster, but want to do so on their terms, so the two sides continue to negotiate a new agreement, Wolfson adds (Twitter links).

If the Timberwolves don’t extend the deadline for McLaughlin to accept his qualifying offer, he’ll remain a restricted free agent, but without that QO as a fallback option. The deadline for him to sign an offer sheet with another team would typically be on March 1, but figures to be pushed back to April this season.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his Hoop Collective podcast today that the Nuggets tried to trade Gary Harris to “several different places” during the offseason (hat tip to RealGM). It doesn’t come as a real surprise that Harris was shopped, though it was likely more about his contract than his on-court value — his $19.6MM cap hit made him a logical salary-matching piece in any offer for an impact player, and we know Denver at least pursued Jrue Holiday.
  • After stating earlier this month that he believes he’s a “clear-cut” starter, Nuggets wing Will Barton came off the bench in his preseason debut on Wednesday. After the game though, he reiterated that he’s not ready to embrace a sixth-man role, according to Kendra Andrews of The Athletic. “I am a starter,” Barton said. “I have no plans on being a sixth man. I have no desire to be that.”
  • Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard believes he can be a viable candidate for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award in 2020/21, as Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com writes. “I feel like I’ve had a few MVP-level seasons, I just think with those seasons, you’ve got to be winning,” Lillard said. “I think the two years that we were a three-seed back-to-back years, I thought I had big years, it was just that guys on one and two seed teams had big years as well. That was that. But I feel like if we’re a winning team and we’re in that top two, top three, then I think it’s definitely a real possibility.”