Willie Cauley-Stein

Southwest Notes: Harden, Cauley-Stein, Richardson, Popovich

NBA commissioner Adam Silver explained during an ESPN appearance that Rockets star James Harden didn’t face a suspension for violating COVID-19 protocols because the NBA didn’t want to set that harsh a precedent to start the season, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Harden was fined $50K after an NBA investigation found that Harden violated protocols when he attended an indoor party of 15 or more people.

“The precedent is that discipline gets ratcheted up,” Silver said. “It’s Christmas. It was a first offense.”

Silver said, adding “in a way he got lucky.” If the Rockets’ first game had not been postponed, Harden would have been docked one game’s pay, Feigen adds. Harden is expected to make his season debut on Saturday.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

Mavericks Re-Sign Willie Cauley-Stein To Two-Year Deal

DECEMBER 1: The Mavericks have made it official, formally announcing that they’ve re-signed Cauley-Stein.


NOVEMBER 22: The Mavericks have agreed to bring back veteran center Willie Cauley-Stein, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that Cauley-Stein will sign a two-year contract worth $8.2MM. This signing would most likely be achieved via Dallas’s mid-level exception.

Charania adds (via Twitter) that there will be a second-year team option on Cauley-Stein’s contract, and notes that Dallas pivoted to a new deal with the big man after falling out of the mix for Marc Gasol.

Sources tell Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link) that the Mavericks are “most likely done” with their offseason dealmaking, but caution that “in this crazy environment you never know.” The club’s biggest new offseason addition is swingman Josh Richardson, brought in via a trade with the Sixers for Seth Curry that also yielded the rights to rookie guard Tyler Bey.

Cauley-Stein, 27, played 13 games for the Mavericks last season, averaging 5.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 0.8 BPG in 12.1 MPG. Dallas traded for the 7′ center after starter Dwight Powell went down with an Achilles tear in January. Power forward/centers Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber will be ahead of Cauley-Stein in the center rotation.

Luke Adams contributed to this report. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mavs’ Willie Cauley-Stein To Decline Player Option

Mavericks center Willie Cauley-Stein will turn down his $2.29MM player option for the 2020/21 season and become an unrestricted free agent, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. A report earlier this week had indicated that Cauley-Stein may be leaning in that direction.

Cauley-Stein signed a two-year deal with the Warriors last summer that was worth a little more than the minimum, with a second-year player option. However, after 41 games in Golden State, he was dealt to Dallas, where he finished the season. In total, he appeared in 54 games, averaging 7.2 PPG and 5.8 RPG in 20.3 minutes per contest.

There’s a little risk involved in the decision for Cauley-Stein, who would take a pay cut if he has to settle for a minimum-salary contract in free agency this time around — his minimum would be worth about $1.88MM.

It’s not clear if his decision is a signal that he’s seeking a raise or if he just wasn’t enthusiastic about returning to Dallas, where his playing time slipped to a career-low 12.1 MPG and he mostly fell out of the club’s rotation down the stretch.

Cauley-Stein is one of two Mavericks veterans holding a player option for the 2020/21 season. The other – Tim Hardaway Jr. – is considered likely to opt in.

Western Notes: Suns, Hardaway, WCS, Lakers, Thunder

The Suns are expected to finalize their trade for Chris Paul before the new league year begins on Friday, according to Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com. If that’s the case, the expectation is that Phoenix won’t use cap room this fall, opting to remain an over-the-cap team instead.

While that may prevent the Suns from making one bigger splash on the free agent market, it means the club will retain the flexibility to bring back one or more of Dario Saric, Aron Baynes, and Frank Kaminsky. Phoenix will also have the full mid-level ($9.3MM) and bi-annual ($3.6MM) exceptions available to make additional upgrades to its roster.

Here’s more from around the West:

  • A Mavericks source who spoke to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link) says the team thinks swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. will likely exercise his player option, while big man Willie Cauley-Stein may not.
  • In addition to his previously reported workouts with Utah, Denver, Miami, and the Clippers, Arizona’s Zeke Nnaji has also auditioned for the Lakers, he said today (Twitter link via Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune). However, Nnaji projects to be a late first-round selection, so he may no longer be an option for the Lakers now that they’ve traded the No. 28 pick.
  • Former Thunder big men Nazr Mohammed and Nick Collison were involved in the team’s head coaching search process, according to Royce Young of ESPN, who tweets that Mohammed and Collison met with candidates to represent the player perspective.
  • In a piece for ESPN.com, Royce Young takes a deep dive into the Timberwolves‘ draft preparations as they get ready to use – or trade – this year’s No. 1 overall pick.

And-Ones: Option Decisions, Avdija, Draft, Onuaku

With the NBA season over and 2020’s free agent period approaching (eventually), John Hollinger of The Athletic takes a look at all 43 team and player option decisions that must be made this fall, evaluating which options are likely to be exercised and which will be turned down.

While Anthony Davis and Jerami Grant are viewed as the only locks to decline their respective player options this offseason, Hollinger identifies seven more players who he thinks will opt for free agency: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Wesley Matthews, Austin Rivers, Willie Cauley-Stein, and James Ennis.

With the exception of Caldwell-Pope, McGee, and Cauley-Stein – who is technically earning slightly above the minimum – those players are all on minimum-salary deals, so it won’t be a surprise if they explore the open market, even if they have to settle for another minimum contract. However, KCP’s case should be interesting — his $8.49MM option for 2020/21 is close to mid-level territory, but he could still probably do better after an impressive showing in the NBA Finals.

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

  • ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Bobby Marks take a look at next steps for the NBA, including what next season’s schedule might look like and when roster moves might resume. While there’s currently a freeze on transactions, team executives confirmed to ESPN that the moratorium will be lifted and trades will be permitted before the draft on November 18.
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer and Jeremy Woo of SI.com have each published updated versions of their mock drafts for 2020. Both draft experts have Anthony Edwards going No. 1, but O’Connor has a surprise pick at No. 2, penciling in Deni Avdija. League executives expect Avdija to “enter the mainstream conversation as a top-three pick” in the coming weeks, according to O’Connor.
  • Former NBA big man Chinanu Onuaku has reached an agreement to sign with Croatian team KK Zadar, a source tells Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Onuaku was the 37th overall pick in the 2016 draft, but didn’t see much action in two seasons with Houston, appearing in just six total games before being traded and waived.

Western Notes: Fox, Schröder, Suns, Cauley-Stein

On Wednesday, the Kings gave us an update on De’Aaron Fox, who suffered a left ankle sprain last week. The Kings said that the former first-round pick has returned to the court and is doing non-contact basketball activities.

That being said, Fox is not available for the team’s first scrimmage against the Heat. However, head coach Luke Walton told reporters that they are optimistic will be available for the team’s opener on Jul. 31 against the Spurs (Twitter link via James Ham of NBC Sports California).

This season, the former Kentucky Wildcat standout is averaging 20.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 6.8 APG, and 1.4 SPG in 31.7 MPG.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Thunder general manager Sam Presti explained why he believes Dennis Schröder is worthy of winning Sixth Man of the Year. “I think he’s playing the best basketball of his career,” Presti said (via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman). “He’s all about trying to do what’s right for the team right now, and he’s just an elite competitor. I’m happy that he’s playing so well, and I hope he does get recognized for it.” This season, the veteran guard is averaging 19 PPG while shooting 38.1% from three-point range.
  • The Suns announced on Wednesday that point guards Elie Okobo and Jalen Lecque are not in Orlando due to personal reasons, per Gina Mizell (Twitter link). However, both players are expected to arrive at a later date. With Ricky Rubio clearing quarantine, both Okobo and Lecque will not see major minutes for Phoenix.
  • According to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News, Willie Cauley-Stein signed with Young Money APAA Sports, an agency based in Dallas, Texas. The 26-year-old is not with the Mavericks in Orlando due to the birth of his daughter this month. Dallas acquired the young center in February from the Warriors.

Cauley-Stein Opting Out Of Restart; Mavs Sign Burke

JULY 1, 12:53pm: Burke has officially signed a contract, according to his Twitter feed.

JUNE 25, 12:32pm: Mavericks center Willie Cauley-Stein has opted to sit out of the NBA’s restart this summer, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who notes (via Twitter) that Cauley-Stein and his partner are expecting a newborn child in July.

Free agent guard Trey Burke has agreed to a rest-of-season deal with Dallas and will take Cauley-Stein’s place on the summer roster, per Charania (via Twitter). Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link) first reported that the Mavs had interest in signing Burke.

Burke, 27, was waived by the Sixers at this year’s trade deadline when Philadelphia needed a roster spot to accommodate incoming additions Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks. Up until that point, the former lottery pick had been a solid offensive option off the bench for the 76ers, averaging 5.9 PPG and 2.1 APG on .465/.421/.722 shooting in 25 games (13.2 MPG).

Burke has some history with the Mavericks, having spent a portion of the 2018/19 season in Dallas after being traded by the Knicks. He recorded 9.7 PPG and 2.6 APG in 25 games (17.4 MPG) for the Mavs last season, and will help replace injured guard Jalen Brunson in the team’s backcourt this season. He’ll get a minimum-salary, rest-of-season deal and will become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

The Mavericks have a full 15-man roster and weren’t eligible to add a substitute player to replace any of their injured players (Dwight Powell, Courtney Lee, and Brunson). However, they don’t need an open roster spot to sign a replacement for a player who is voluntarily opting out, such as Cauley-Stein.

Cauley-Stein, who holds a $2.29MM player option for 2020/21, won’t be fined or suspended for deciding not to participate in the summer restart. However, he’ll forfeit some ’19/20 pay for sitting out, giving up 1/92.6th of his salary for each Mavs game he misses, up to a maximum of 14 contests. Cauley-Stein is the fourth player known to be opting out of the NBA’s return, joining Avery Bradley, Trevor Ariza, and Davis Bertans.

If the Mavericks want to make another addition to their roster to help fill the holes created by injuries, waiving Lee – who is on an expiring contract – would be an option. However, Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News tweeted earlier this week that the Mavs aren’t eager to release Lee, since they value his locker room impact and would like to have him in Orlando this summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southwest Notes: Zion, Grizzlies, Cauley-Stein, Holiday

Pelicans rookie forward Zion Williamson has been frequenting the team’s New Orleans facility – the Ochsner Sports Performance Center – during the NBA hiatus, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps and Andrew Lopez. The Pelicans organization is hopeful that the prized 2019 No. 1 draft pick, now fully rehabilitated from an injury that cost him much of the season, will be able to help catapult the squad to a playoff berth.

The Pelicans, currently occupying the No. 10 Western Conference playoff seed with a 28-36 record, are 3.5 games behind the 32-33 Grizzlies, the present No. 8 seed.

“Those reps against the best players on a bigger stage will be meaningful for Zion certainly as a 19-year-old,” Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said noted. “I think it’s important for those guys to play some meaningful-slash-playoff basketball.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Due to soft attendance numbers during the 2019/20 season, the Grizzlies may be able to exercise an “early termination” option in the team’s lease on its publicly-funded home arena, the FedEx Forum, according to Geoff Calkins of the Daily Memphian. Team owner Robert Pera and local municipalities are anticipated to begin appraising various possible courses of action.
  • Since Willie Cauley-Stein opted out of the NBA season restart in Orlando, the Mavericks‘ depth at center has taken a hit, per Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. With the athletic center out of commission, Maxi Kleber will soak up most of the minutes as the prime backup for Kristaps Porzingis. 7’4″ Boban Marjonovic may seem some additional run. The team agreed to a deal with Trey Burke, a point guard, in Cauley-Stein’s stead.
  • Stalwart Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, a two-time NBA All-Defensive First-Teamer with the club, signed a controversially large five-year, $126MM contract with New Orleans as an unrestricted free agent in 2017. William Guillory of The Athletic looks back on the negotiations between the two sides on that mammoth deal.

Injury Notes: Doncic, Isaac, Holmes, Bowman

While Mavericks guard Luka Doncic seems to be over the ankle issues that bothered him earlier in the season, he’s missing Sunday’s game vs. Minnesota with a new injury — a left thumb sprain. Doncic played through the injury on Friday, but struggled to work around it, per an ESPN report.

“I didn’t know how important the thumb was to hold the ball,” Doncic said on Friday. “It was tough. … I wasn’t myself today. Just have to learn from that and move on.”

Head coach Rick Carlisle said that he’s not sure about Doncic’s status for Monday’s game against Chicago.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Although Jonathan Isaac has started doing some rehab work with the Magic, there’s only an outside chance of him playing this spring, according to John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com, who says that Isaac’s knee injury is still expected to keep him on the sidelines for the rest of the season.
  • Kings center Richaun Holmes, who hasn’t played since January 6 due to a shoulder injury, is getting closer to being able to take full contact, and hopes to resume practicing with the team this week, the team announced today in a press release.
  • Warriors guard Ky Bowman, who is currently on the shelf with a sprained right ankle, will be monitored for the next few days before the team provides another update, per a press release.
  • It’s not an injury, but Mavericks center Willie Cauley-Stein is missing his fourth consecutive game for personal reasons today. According to Dwain Price of Mavs.com (Twitter link), Rick Carlisle expects the big man to return to Dallas’ active roster on Monday. We’ll try to get him prepared to play some minutes if needed tomorrow,” the Mavs’ head coach said of Cauley-Stein.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2020: Southwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. 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 Southwest Division:

Ben McLemore, Rockets, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $4.3MM deal in 2019
If you’re in the same backcourt as James Harden and Russell Westbrook, you’re not going to have many opportunities to shoot. And when you do, you’d better make them. McLemore is making them. In his last three games, McLemore has averaged 13.3 PPG and knocked down 11 of 18 3-point attempts. Houston has shuffled its roster over the past month but as long as McLemore remains a perimeter threat, he’ll remain in the rotation. Houston needs to guarantee his modest $2.28MM salary for next season prior to free agency. It will be a surprise if the Rockets turn down that bargain.

Jordan Bell, Grizzlies, 25, PF/C (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $1.62MM deal in 2019
Bell wasn’t much of a factor with Minnesota this season, even when Karl-Anthony Towns missed some games due to injury or suspension. He got traded to Houston, which quickly flipped him to Memphis for Bruno Caboclo. Bell has only appeared in two games with the Grizzlies but there is a glimmer of hope. With injuries to Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke depleting the frontcourt, Bell could get an extended look in the next couple of weeks. He’ll have to show a lot more than he did in Minnesota in order for Memphis to extend a qualifying offer, which would make him a restricted free agent.

Jahlil Okafor, Pelicans, 24, PF/C (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $3.27MM deal in 2018
When the Pelicans were shorthanded last month in Detroit, Okafor erupted for 25 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three blocks. He never left the bench the next four games, which shows how little he figures in the organization’s plans. Okafor has played a total of 25 minutes since that game against the Pistons. Once Zion Williamson got healthy, Okafor’s already spotty playing time virtually evaporated. His ability to score in the low post has lost much of its value since he was taken with the third pick in the 2015 draft. He’ll be seeking another second-unit opportunity this summer.

Bryn Forbes, Spurs, 26, PG (Up) – Signed to two-year, $6MM deal in 2018
Undrafted despite playing for a major college (Michigan State), Forbes has fit well with the blue-collar Spurs. After Danny Green was traded during the 2018 offseason, Forbes became a starter in his third year in the league. He’s held onto that role this season and continues to provide a perimeter option on a team lacking in that area. Forbes has been on fire this month, draining 47.4% of his 3-point attempts. Forbes will enter unrestricted free agency this summer and should get a nice raise and a multiyear deal, perhaps without changing uniforms.

Willie Cauley-Stein, 27, PF/C (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $4.46MM deal in 2019
When Dwight Powell suffered a season-ending Achilles tear late last month, the Mavericks opted to trade with Golden State for Cauley-Stein. It seemed like a great opportunity for Cauley-Stein to pump up his value on a playoff contender. It hasn’t worked out that way. Cauley-Stein’s role has been limited since joining the Mavericks and he hasn’t played since the All-Star break due to undisclosed personal reasons. It’s a good thing for WCS that he has a $2.29MM option on his contract for next season. It should come in handy the way things are trending.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.