Southwest Notes: Jackson, Nwaba, Zion, Luka

Power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. just signed a lucrative four-year, $105MM rookie contract extension with the Grizzlies, very much predicated on Jackson’s ceiling. Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal details why he considers the agreement mutually beneficial to both sides in a new piece. A big reason: the contract will decrease in value every season once it kicks in, which will give Memphis room to further bolster the roster.

“I’m locked in, I’m blessed, I’m happy I get to be here and be around people I love,” the 6’11” big man proclaimed of the deal and his chemistry in Memphis. “It’s a good experience.”

Due to Jackson’s extensive injury history, the agreement contains an injury protection on the last year of the deal (for 2025/26), a source informed John Hollinger of The Athletic.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Following two injury-plagued years, Rockets swingman David Nwaba is relishing his health heading into the 2021/22 season, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Nwaba suffered an Achilles injury in December 2019, and then a right wrist injury in February of this year that ultimately required surgery. “Hopefully, just take care of my body for the length of this season,” Nwaba said of his hopes for the year. “I think we’ve had a lot of improvements on the defensive end.” All told, the 28-year-old has been healthy for just 50 of his past 144 games with Brooklyn and Houston.
  • Thanks to an uncertain recovery timeline for the injured foot of All-Star power forward Zion Williamson, the Pelicans have already proved frustrating to fans ahead of the 2021/22 season, opines Scott Kushner of the Kushner reflects that, though Williamson and team president David Griffin made it seem like he could be back in time for the beginning of the year, it appears that the team was either too hopeful or being deliberately disingenuous.
  • Mavericks All-Star point guard Luka Doncic expressed his excitement about the club’s development ahead of the 2021/22 season, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. “I think we’re playing great, sharing the ball,” Doncic said of the team’s 4-0 preseason showing. “Especially on the defensive end, we’ve been way better, and I think that’s the key for us.” 

Jabari Parker Re-Signs With Celtics

8:02pm: The Celtics confirmed the return of Parker in a press release.

6:05pm: After being cut by the Celtics earlier this week, backup power forward Jabari Parker has cleared waivers and will ink a new deal with Boston, per Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Parker had been signed to a multiyear agreement with the Celtics last year, but his 2021/22 season salary was only partially guaranteed for $100K. It had been scheduled to be fully guaranteed by the club’s first game of the season. Terms of Parker’s new deal have yet to be disclosed, but presumably it won’t become fully guaranteed until the leaguewide deadline in January.

Parker began the 2020/21 season as a little-used Kings reserve. Sacramento eventually waived him after the former 2014 No. 2 lottery pick failed to crack the club’s rotation. In three games with the Kings, Parker averaged 2.7 PPG and 2.0 RPG in 9.0 MPG.

He then signed with Boston ahead of the Celtics’ postseason push. The 6’8″ power forward appeared in 10 contests last year for Boston, averaging 6.4 PPG and 3.5 RPG in 13.8 MPG.

John Hollinger of The Athletic (Twitter link) notes that, in cutting Parker and adding him back, the Celtics will save significant cash towards his salary cap impact.

Central Notes: Davis, Warren, Jackson, Lonzo

Veteran Cavaliers reserve center Ed Davis understands his position with a rebuilding Cleveland squad, per Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Twitter link).

“I’m authentic with everything,” Davis said. “For these guys, I’m not in competition. I’m not trying to beat out [starting center Jarrett Allen] for his minutes or take the rookie [Evan Mobley]’s minutes. Anything that is coming from me is coming from an honest place. I know my role. I know why I’m here.”

The 32-year-old big man inked a non-guaranteed deal with the club last week. He averaged just 2.1 PPG and 5.0 RPG over 23 games as a back-up for the lottery-bound Timberwolves during the 2020/21 season.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Pacers small forward T.J. Warren continues to recover from a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his left foot, per Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (via Twitter). Agness reports that Warrne remains still in a walking boot, and appears to still be weeks away from returning to practices with Indiana. Warren missed all but four games during the 2020/21 season with the injury. A valuable two-way contributor when healthy, the 28-year-old will reach free agency in 2022.
  • Pistons head coach Dwayne Casey has indicated that wing Josh Jackson will crack the club’s rotation, per Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). “He’s definitely in the rotation the way he’s played and played with confidence, defending without fouling,” Casey said. “His growth has been fantastic.” Jackson, selected with the fourth pick in the 2017 draft out of Kansas, has bounced around during his NBA tenure so far.
  • New Bulls starting point guard Lonzo Ball will be looked on to help open up the floor as another high-level passer for a suddenly ball handler-heavy Chicago team, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago“Lonzo instinctively on made baskets does a really good job of getting high outlets,” raved head coach Billy Donovan. “There are times where the ball gets inbounded and he’s looping and there are guys already down the floor and we can do that. There’s a balance there for him.”

Agent Blasts Kings For Benching Marvin Bagley

Excel Sports agent Jeff Schwartz, who represents Kings big man Marvin Bagley III, released an explosive reprimand of Sacramento (via Twitter), revealing that the team has decided to hold Bagley out of their rotation completely to start the 2021/22 season. Schwartz called the decision to keep his client out of the club’s lineup “completely baffling.”

“It’s clear they have no plans for him in the future, and yet, passed on potential deals at last year’s deadline and this summer based on ‘value,'” Schwartz said. “Instead they chose to bring him back but not play him, a move completely contradictory to their ‘value’ argument. This is a case study in mismanagement by the Kings organization.”

The relatively new Sacramento front office regime, led by second-year team president Monte McNair, is clearly not too invested in the former No. 2 overall pick out of Duke. The current club is prioritizing more switchable, smaller lineups around its exciting young backcourt, looking to build around maximum-salaried point guard De’Aaron Fox and intriguing recent lottery selections Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell.

At the power forward slot, Harrison Barnes and and Maurice Harkless are expected to soak up the majority of rotation minutes. At center, the recently-extended Richaun Holmes has emerged as the team’s apparent preference to start, while newly-added vets Tristan Thompson and Alex Len will back him up.

The 6’11” Bagley showed plenty of promise during his 2018/19 rookie season, with his output that year (14.9 PPG and 7.6 RPG in 25.3 MPG, across 62 games) meriting inclusion on the 2019 All-Rookie First Team alongside future All-Stars Luka Doncic and Trae Young. Since then, the 22-year-old’s numbers have stagnated and he has missed significant time with injury issues. Last year, he averaged 14.1 PPG and 7.4 RPG across 25.9 MPG, while missing 29 games.

Where this leaves Bagley is unclear, as the big man and his agent surely are hoping for a trade, but his value to other teams appears to be trending in the wrong direction if he has been deemed unworthy of making the opening night rotation for a probable lottery-bound team. The Kings are scheduled to make their 2021/22 regular season debut Wednesday night against the Trail Blazers.

Bagley is on an expiring contract and is eligible for restricted free agency in 2022. As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (Twitter link), if Bagley doesn’t meet the NBA’s starter criteria, his potential qualifying offer for next season would be worth $7.3MM instead of $14.8MM.

Suns GM James Jones Talks Failed Ayton Negotiations

After not reaching a rookie scale extension agreement with center Deandre Ayton on Monday, Suns general manager James Jones tells Sam Amick of The Athletic that the team’s discussions with the former No. 1 overall pick have been mischaracterized.

According to Jones, it’s accurate that the Suns didn’t want to offer Ayton a five-year, maximum-salary extension. However, he disputes the notion that team owner Robert Sarver didn’t want to spend big money on Ayton, telling Amick that the club would’ve been happy to talk about a three- or four-year max deal.

Amick says Ayton’s agents – Bill Duffy and Nima Namakian – are adamant that no maximum-salary contract of any kind was offered, even informally, and that the message they received from the Suns was that the franchise, from Sarver on down, didn’t view the former No. 1 pick as a max player. Asked to respond to that claim, Jones said, “They know that a three- or four-year max was not an (acceptable) option for them.”

As Amick outlines, one reason the Suns were unwilling to offer a fifth year, according to Jones, was the fact that it would make Ayton the team’s second “designated rookie,” joining Devin Booker. The term is something of a misnomer, since a designated rookie isn’t a rookie at all, but rather a player who has signed a five-year rookie scale extension.

Teams are only permitted to carry up to two designated rookies, so signing Ayton to a five-year extension would have limited Phoenix’s options on the trade market, Jones pointed out. While that’s technically true, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the Suns would not only be able to acquire a third designated rookie before Booker’s current contract expires, but would be able to do so without giving up Booker or Ayton.

Here are few more of Jones’ comments to Amick on the failed negotiations with Ayton:

On the perception that Sarver is being cheap:

“It’s inaccurate. If you just look at the moves we’ve made, it’s inaccurate. It’s just not (true). If you look at all the moves we’ve made, and the things we’ve done, from (upgrading) the practice facility to the roster itself to acquiring Chris Paul, going and acquiring Jae Crowder, extending the guys that we have, that’s not accurate.

“When you boil this thing down, it’s disappointing that we didn’t get a deal done. It’s disappointing that it was a five-year-rookie-max-or-bust, or nothing to talk about, and we just didn’t have real substantial conversations. And that (idea that a) lack of a deal is a signal that we aren’t committed to Deandre or interested in continuing, that we don’t believe in him, that becomes the narrative. But it’s the furthest from the truth.

On the likelihood of the Suns paying the luxury tax starting next season:

“We’re gonna pay it. I can tell you, if you look at our roster now, all of the moves we’ve made — from Chris, Mikal (Bridges), Cam Payne, Landry (Shamet). All those moves that we’ve made have been to continue to build a team — a deep team. So we’re gonna pay the tax (and) continue to build a deep team.”

On the possibility of Ayton signing a maximum-salary offer sheet next summer:

“I don’t know what the market will be next year. I’m not projecting what the market will be next year. But it’s an issue about the five-year max — the five-year, designated rooke max, you know? That’s the issue. So if it’s a four-year max deal, it could be done, right? It could be done if you entertain it or consider it. But if you don’t, then the only thing you’re talking about is a five-year max deal. So we’re not talking about whether he’s getting paid. It’s whether or not he’s getting a five-year max.”

Hoops Rumors Writers’ 2021/22 NBA Predictions

The NBA’s 2021/22 regular season will tip off on Tuesday night, as the defending-champion Bucks host the Nets in the early game and the Warriors visit the Lakers in the late game.

With opening night finally here, the Hoops Rumors writing team is sharing our predictions for the coming year.

Listed below are our picks for the Eastern and Western Conference playoff teams, the major awards, and – of course – the eventual champions. Disagree with our takes? Head down to the comment section to weigh in with your own predictions!

Luke Adams

East Eastern Finals
1 Bucks Nets over Heat
2 Nets Western Finals
3 Hawks Jazz over Lakers
4 Heat NBA Finals
5 Celtics Nets over Jazz
6 Sixers MVP
7 Knicks Kevin Durant
8 Pacers Rookie of the Year
West Jalen Green
1 Jazz Defensive Player of the Year
2 Nuggets Rudy Gobert
3 Lakers Sixth Man of the Year
4 Suns Tyler Herro
5 Mavericks Most Improved Player
6 Blazers OG Anunoby
7 Warriors Coach of the Year
8 Pelicans Michael Malone

Dana Gauruder

East Eastern Finals
1 Hawks Nets over Heat
2 Bucks Western Finals
3 Nets Jazz over Mavericks
4 Heat NBA Finals
5 Pacers Jazz over Nets
6 Celtics MVP
7 Sixers Luka Doncic
8 Bulls Rookie of the Year
West Jalen Green
1 Jazz Defensive Player of the Year
2 Suns Rudy Gobert
3 Mavericks Sixth Man of the Year
4 Nuggets Jalen Brunson
5 Lakers Most Improved Player
6 Warriors Terance Mann
7 Grizzlies Coach of the Year
8 Blazers Rick Carlisle

Arthur Hill

East Eastern Finals
1 Nets Nets over Bucks
2 Bucks Western Finals
3 Hawks Suns over Nuggets
4 Sixers NBA Finals
5 Heat Nets over Suns
6 Celtics MVP
7 Knicks Kevin Durant
8 Bulls Rookie of the Year
West Cade Cunningham
1 Suns Defensive Player of the Year
2 Jazz Rudy Gobert
3 Lakers Sixth Man of the Year
4 Mavericks Patty Mills
5 Blazers Most Improved Player
6 Nuggets Kevin Porter Jr.
7 Warriors Coach of the Year
8 Clippers Nate McMillan

Alex Kirschenbaum

East Eastern Finals
1 Nets Hawks over Nets
2 Bucks Western Finals
3 Hawks Suns over Nuggets
4 Heat NBA Finals
5 Sixers Suns over Hawks
6 Bulls MVP
7 Celtics Donovan Mitchell
8 Hornets Rookie of the Year
West Jalen Green
1 Suns Defensive Player of the Year
2 Jazz Anthony Davis
3 Nuggets Sixth Man of the Year
4 Lakers Jordan Clarkson
5 Mavericks Most Improved Player
6 Warriors Michael Porter Jr.
7 Clippers Coach of the Year
8 Grizzlies Steve Nash

Rory Maher

East Eastern Finals
1 Nets Bucks over Nets
2 Bucks Western Finals
3 Heat Suns over Mavericks
4 Hawks NBA Finals
5 Celtics Bucks over Suns
6 Sixers MVP
7 Bulls Giannis Antetokounmpo
8 Knicks Rookie of the Year
West Alperen Sengun
1 Suns Defensive Player of the Year
2 Jazz Draymond Green
3 Mavericks Sixth Man of the Year
4 Nuggets Tyler Herro
5 Warriors Most Improved Player
6 Lakers OG Anunoby
7 Clippers Coach of the Year
8 Grizzlies Monty Williams

Raptors Exercise 2022/23 Options On Achiuwa, Flynn

The Raptors have exercised their third-year team options on big man Precious Achiuwa and guard Malachi Flynn, the team announced today in a press release. Both options are for the 2022/23 season.

Achiuwa, the 20th overall pick in the 2020 draft, averaged 5.0 PPG and 3.4 RPG in 61 games (12.1 MPG) for the Heat as a rookie last season. He was dealt to the Raptors this summer along with Goran Dragic in the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade. His 2022/23 option will pay him approximately $2.84MM.

Flynn, selected nine spots after Achiuwa at No. 29 in last year’s draft, averaged 7.5 PPG and 2.9 APG in 47 games (19.7 MPG) in his rookie year. He saw most of his playing time in the second half when Lowry was sidelined, and could take on a more regular role this season with the six-time All-Star no longer in the picture, though veteran point guards Fred VanVleet and Dragic are still ahead of him on the depth chart. Flynn’s ’22/23 option is worth about $2.15MM.

Teams have until November 1 to pick up their 2022/23 rookie scale options on first-round picks from the 2019 and 2020 drafts. We’re tracking all the decisions right here.

Mavericks Pick Up Josh Green’s 2022/23 Option

The Mavericks have picked up their 2022/23 team option on Josh Green‘s rookie scale contract, the team announced today (Twitter link).

Actually, the Mavs announced that they’ve “extended” Green’s contract, but presumably they mean they’ve exercised that third-year option, since the 2020 first-rounder isn’t extension-eligible. Exercising Green’s option guarantees his $3.1MM salary for the ’22/23 season.

The 18th pick in last year’s draft, Green appeared in 39 games for the Mavericks as a rookie, but played a limited role, averaging 2.6 PPG and 2.0 RPG in 11.4 minutes per contest. The 6’5″ shooting guard will be looking to earn more playing time on the wing this season.

With Green’s third-year option locked in, the Mavs’ next decision on the former Arizona Wildcat will come next October. Dallas will have to decide at that point whether or not to exercise his $4.8MM option for the 2023/24 season. If the club picks up that option, Green will become extension-eligible in 2023.

Rookie scale option decisions for ’22/23 are due by November 1. You can follow all those moves using our tracker.

NBA Teams With Most, Least Roster Continuity

Over the last several months, dozens of NBA players have changed teams via free agency, dozens more have entered or exited the league, and a total of 35 trades have been made. After all that offseason activity, some teams will enter the 2021/22 season looking totally different than they did in the spring, while others will look pretty similar to last season’s squads.

While roster continuity is generally perceived as a sign of stability, carrying over a significant number of players from last year’s team doesn’t necessarily give a club a leg up entering a new season.

Heading into the 2020/21 season, for instance, the Pacers, Bulls, Spurs, and Magic were among the teams with the most roster continuity, but it didn’t help them make the playoffs. The Celtics and Heat were in that group too, and both clubs underachieved. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Sixers and Bucks were among the four teams with the most roster turnover — Philadelphia claimed the No. 1 seed in the East and Milwaukee won the title.

Entering the 2021/22 campaign, the Nuggets and Kings are the two teams bringing back the most players from last year’s end-of-season rosters (including two-way players), while the Lakers are – by a wide margin – the team that experienced the most roster turnover.

The Lakers are bringing back just three players from last year’s team, while no other club retained than fewer than seven players. Perhaps the fact that so many of L.A.’s newly-added players have prior experience with the team will help ease the transition this fall — three of the players who rejoined the Lakers this offseason (Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, and Avery Bradley) were part of the team that won a title in the Orlando bubble just over a year ago.

Here’s the total number of returning players for each of the NBA’s 30 teams, from most to fewest:

  1. Denver Nuggets: 14
  2. Sacramento Kings: 13
  3. Atlanta Hawks: 12
    Orlando Magic: 12
  4. Dallas Mavericks: 11
    Indiana Pacers: 11
    Memphis Grizzlies: 11
    Miami Heat: 11
    Minnesota Timberwolves: 11
    Philadelphia 76ers: 11
    Phoenix Suns: 11
    Utah Jazz: 11
  5. Detroit Pistons: 10
    Golden State Warriors: 10
    Houston Rockets: 10
    Los Angeles Clippers: 10
    New York Knicks: 10
    Oklahoma City Thunder: 10
  6. Charlotte Hornets: 9
    Cleveland Cavaliers: 9
    Milwaukee Bucks: 9
    New Orleans Pelicans: 9
    Portland Trail Blazers: 9
    San Antonio Spurs: 9
    Washington Wizards: 9
  7. Boston Celtics: 8
    Toronto Raptors: 8
  8. Brooklyn Nets: 7 (*)
    Chicago Bulls: 7
  9. Los Angeles Lakers: 3

* The Nets’ count includes Kyrie Irving, since he technically remains on the roster; it doesn’t include LaMarcus Aldridge, who last played for Brooklyn but didn’t finish the season with the team.

Sixers Suspend Ben Simmons For Season Opener

1:22pm: The Sixers have fined Simmons about $1.4MM for missing the team’s four preseason games and have also fined him for the various practices, workouts, and meetings he missed, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter links), who says the 25-year-old hasn’t earned any money since he returned last week.

Wojnarowski adds that Philadelphia hasn’t changed its stance about not wanting to trade Simmons for role players. Even after today’s incident, no one should expect a quick resolution, says Woj.

11:13am: The Sixers have suspended Ben Simmons for one game due to conduct detrimental to the team, the club announced today in a press release. As a result, Simmons will miss Philadelphia’s regular season opener in New Orleans on Wednesday night.

The 76ers’ announcement was light on details, but according to reports from Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links), the team handed out the suspension after Simmons was kicked out of Tuesday’s practice by head coach Doc Rivers for not being engaged. He was thrown out early in the practice when he essentially refused to participate in the next session, Woj adds (via Twitter).

“He was a distraction today,” Rivers said of Simmons, per Serena Winters (Twitter link). “I didn’t think he wanted to do what everybody else was doing. It was early, it wasn’t a big deal. I just told him, he should leave then, and we went on with practice.”

The plan had been for the 25-year-old to speak to reporters for the first time following today’s practice, but that won’t happen now, tweets Kyle Neubeck of

Simmons, who sought a trade this offseason, was a holdout this fall and missed the first two weeks of training camp and the preseason before reporting to the Sixers last Monday. He was cleared to join the team for practices on Friday, but we still don’t know with any certainty if or when he’ll play in games. The belief is that he reported to the 76ers in order to stop losing money for missing practices and games, not because his desire to be traded has wavered in the slightest.

Tuesday’s incident certainly doesn’t bode well for the odds of the three-time All-Star suiting up anytime soon. Sources tell Wojnarowski (Twitter link) that Simmons’ reluctance to “physically and mentally engage” has been a consistent theme since he resumed practicing with the club.

Joel Embiid told reporters today that he hasn’t spoken to Simmons since he returned, according to Neubeck (Twitter links).

At the end of the day, our job is not to babysit somebody,” Embiid said. “… I’d be willing to babysit if someone wants to listen, but that’s not my my job.”