Central Notes: Windler, Garland, Sexton, Teague, Markkanen

Cavaliers swingman Dylan Windler  has been experiencing knee pain recently and will undergo further evaluation in the next few days, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets. Windler, a late 2019 first-round pick, didn’t play at all last season due to injury. He’s seen action in 31 games this season off the bench, averaging 5.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG and 1.1 APG in 16.5 MPG. Windler suffered a hand fracture in the season opener, which kept him out of action for nearly a month. The Cavs picked up their $2,239,200 third year option on Windler in December.

We have more on the Central Division:

  • Utah’s backcourt of Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell provides a blueprint of how the Cavs’ backcourt Darius Garland and Collin Sexton might eventually work, Fedor writes.  Thus far, it’s been a work in progress. In 821 minutes with Sexton and Garland, the Cavs have an offensive rating of 106.4, a defensive rating of 115.5 and a net rating of -9.1, Fedor notes. However, it’s tough to fully evaluate the effectiveness of the backcourt pairing due to a lack of continuity in the frontcourt, mainly due to injuries, Fedor adds.
  • Jeff Teague will have a much different role with the Bucks than he did in Atlanta with Mike Budenholzer as his head coach, Eric Nehm of The Athletic notes. Milwaukee simply needs him to be a competent backup point guard for 10-15 minutes in postseason games. Teague has agreed to join the Bucks after being waived by the Magic.
  • Lauri Markkanen has been relegated to the second unit with the addition of Nikola Vucevic but the Bulls’ big man doesn’t want to be considered a backup, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Markkanen will be a restricted free agent this summer, if Chicago extends a qualifying offer in excess of $9MM. “I know I’m a starter in this league but I’m going to play my role,” he said.

Daniel Gafford Out At Least 10 Days

Big man Daniel Gafford, acquired by the Wizards last week, has been diagnosed with a right ankle sprain following an MRI, the team’s PR department tweets. He’ll be re-evaluated in approximately 10 days.

The Wizards play six games during the first 10 days of April and will be in the midst of a six-game West Coast trip, so it’s a safe bet that Gafford won’t be back in action at least until the team returns home. That would mean he’d miss a minimum of eight games.

Gafford was acquired from the Bulls in a three-team deal that also involved the Celtics. He made an immediate impact, contributing 13 points, five rebounds and three blocks in 14 minutes against Detroit on Saturday. He had 11 points, six rebounds and two blocks in 15 minutes against Indiana on Monday before suffering the injury.

Coach Scott Brooks was excited to have the rim-running Gafford join the rotation. “We’re going to keep working with him. He’s definitely a keeper,” Brooks said. “He has a chance to be good for a lot of years with his skill set.”

A 2019 second-round pick, Gafford has a $1.78MM salary next season that doesn’t fully guarantee until next January.

Pistons Notes: Diallo, Cook, Weaver, Lee, Joseph

Hamidou Diallo gave the Pistons an example of why GM Troy Weaver coveted him so much during their victory over Toronto on Monday, James Edwards III of The Athletic writes. Diallo sparked the club with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Diallo, a restricted free agent after the season, was acquired earlier this month from Oklahoma City for swingman Svi Mykhailiuk and a 2027 second-round pick. From all accounts, the Pistons want to retain Diallo, Edwards adds.

“He’s an athletic young man who is just scratching the surface of what he can be in this league,” coach Dwane Casey said.

We have more on the Pistons:

  • Casey said that energy and communication are two big things he looks for from a player on a 10-day contract and Tyler Cook has fulfilled those requirements, Edwards tweets. The Pistons signed the forward to a second 10-day deal on Sunday. Detroit will have to decide by April 6 whether to offer Cook a standard contract — it has an open roster spot — or look at another player.
  • Weaver acquired two second-round picks along with Cory Joseph in the trade that sent Delon Wright to Sacramento and that made the Kings’ offer attractive, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. “A lot of times people see those as throwaway picks. I don’t see them as throwaway picks,” Weaver said. “I see them as picks you can use in a variety of ways.” The Pistons don’t have their own second-round pick until 2027, but they have three from Toronto, Charlotte and the Los Angeles Lakers this season, plus Sacramento’s 2024 pick.
  • Saben Lee will likely have his two-way deal converted into a standard contract this offseason, Rod Beard of the Detroit News speculates. Lee, a rookie second-round pick, had a 19-point outing as a starter on Monday
  • Casey hasn’t hesitated to use Joseph, who is averaging 11.3 PPG and 3.7 APG in 24 MPG in his first three outings with the club. Joseph is set to earn $12.6MM in 2021/22, but the contract is only partially guaranteed ($2.4MM) until August 1, so the Pistons may opt to waive and trade him before next season.

Pacific Notes: Dinwiddie, Oubre, Craig, George, Rondo

The Warriors turned down overtures from the Nets for Kelly Oubre Jr. with Spencer Dinwiddie as the bait, Marc Stein of the New York Times reports in his latest newsletter. Dinwiddie, who is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a partially torn ACL, holds a $12.3MM player option on his contract next season. There’s been speculation he’ll opt out, which made him an attractive trade option. However, Golden State declined Brooklyn’s offers because it wants to make the playoffs this season. It wouldn’t give Oubre and his expiring contract unless it got a healthy, productive player in return.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns were interested in small forward Torrey Craig last offseason, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic tweets. Phoenix acquired Craig on March 18 from the Bucks for cash considerations. After spending his first three NBA seasons with the Nuggets, Craig spurned Phoenix’s overtures and signed a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract with the Bucks during the 2020 offseason.
  • Paul George has been in the NBA since 2010 but he believes he can learn a thing or two from trade deadline acquisition Rajon Rondo, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets“I’m looking forward to learning from him,” the Clippers forward said. “He has one of the most beautiful basketball minds. It is going to help me down the road and evolve my game and open my game up to see the floor and read teammates better.”
  • Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank hated to give up Lou Williams but felt Rondo filled a crying need, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. Frank said the team required an “orchestrator” and “someone who can really help elevate everyone’s game.”

Nets To Give Alize Johnson Second 10-Day Contract

The Nets plan to sign forward Alize Johnson to a second 10-day contract, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Johnson made quite a splash in his Brooklyn debut, supplying 23 points, 15 rebounds and three assists in a loss to Utah on Wednesday. That was also his season debut.

His first 10-day deal is due to expire on Wednesday.

Johnson, 24, spent two seasons with the Pacers after being drafted 50th overall in 2018, but appeared in just 31 total games and played limited minutes, seeing more action with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in the G League.

Johnson suited up for the Raptors 905 in the G League bubble this season, averaging 16.6 PPG and 13.5 RPG (second in the league) in 15 games (32.1 MPG).

With the Nets retaining Johnson, at least in the short team, they’ll remain at the league limit of 15 players. For the latest on roster openings, check out our update here.

Lakers Notes: Drummond, Gasol, Open Roster Spot

New Lakers center Andre Drummond will make his debut for his new team on Wednesday vs. Milwaukee, he said today, per Jovan Buha of The Athletic (Twitter link). League sources told Buha that Drummond is expected to slide into the starting lineup, displacing incumbent starter Marc Gasol, and head coach Frank Vogel confirmed as much today (Twitter link).

Despite some leaguewide speculation that Drummond’s arrival could lead to a buyout of Gasol, the Spaniard is unlikely to be waived, Buha writes in the same story. Vogel also confirmed that today, telling reporters that the club hasn’t spoken to Gasol about a possible buyout (Twitter link). The Lakers’ coach praised the 36-year-old for handling Drummond’s arrival like a “true pro” (Twitter link).

While Vogel said this week that the Lakers anticipate using Drummond, Gasol, and Montrezl Harrell, there likely won’t be enough minutes to go around for everyone, especially when everyone is healthy, and Gasol looks like the probable odd man out, writes Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • After sitting out for nearly a month-and-a-half, Drummond told reporters on Monday that he can’t wait to return to action, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “You can imagine the hunger and excitement I have to play and step on the court,” Drummond said. “I had an incredible month of work where I’m ready to play today.” The big man added that his goal is to “cause havoc in the paint” and that he believes he can further solidify a unit that already ranks first in the NBA in defensive efficiency.
  • Having signed Drummond to fill their 14th roster spot, the Lakers want to add a three-and-D wing to fill their final opening, according to Jovan Buha and Jared Weiss of The Athletic. It’s not clear which players the Lakers may be targeting, as there aren’t many current free agents who can reliably produce on both ends of the court.
  • Lakers owner Jeanie Buss said on Stephen A.’s World on ESPN+ on Monday that she welcomes the Nets’ efforts to load up their roster and knock off the defending-champion Lakers. “It brings out the best in us,” Buss said, per Royce Young of ESPN. “When teams identify us as the team to beat and they gear up to go at us head-to-head, that makes us work harder. So, bring it on.”
  • Earlier today, we relayed a report on Dennis Schröder‘s extension talks with the Lakers and broke down the point guard’s contract situation.

Latest On Dennis Schröder’s Contract Situation

3:54pm: Marc Stein of The New York Times hears from two sources that Schröder has turned down extension offers in the range of $80MM over four years.

1:54pm: Discussing his contract situation last week, Lakers guard Dennis Schröder strongly hinted that he intends to reach free agency rather than signing an in-season extension, noting that he wants to see his options on the open market. In today’s episode of his Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst confirmed that Schröder and the Lakers appear unlikely to agree to a deal prior to free agency.

“From what I understand, they’ve had contract talks and they couldn’t agree to an extension,” Windhorst said. “The maximum he can sign for (during the season) is four years, $84MM. … What I have been told – and this is rumor is pretty widely out there, so I doubt this is very surprising – is that the Lakers did indeed offer him that $84MM over four years.

“Now, this is where we get into gray area,” Windhorst continued. “Was it fully guaranteed? Was it partially guaranteed? Were there incentives? I don’t know. But I believe he was offered a contract in that realm and he said no to it.”

Windhorst’s caveats are important. If the Lakers’ offer to Schröder included a non-guaranteed final season or a significant amount of incentives, it’s not nearly as strong as that reported $84MM figure suggests.

Even if the Lakers’ offer was fully guaranteed, there are reasons to believe that Schröder would pass on it for now. Malcolm Brogdon and Fred VanVleet signed deals in the four-year, $84MM range in the last two years, and Schröder’s 2019/20 production compared favorably to what those players did in their contract years (his numbers have dipped a little in ’20/21). If the Lakers are prepared to offer his maximum in-season extension amount, it stands to reason they might be willing to go a little higher once he officially reaches free agency.

Additionally, since Schröder signed his current deal as a rookie scale extension with Atlanta in 2016, he has never gotten a chance to experience free agency. So even if he feels the Lakers’ offer is fair, his comments about wanting to explore his options indicate that he wants to go through the process at least once.

As Windhorst reiterated on the Hoop Collective podcast, the Lakers were readily offering Schröder in pre-deadline trade discussions for Kyle Lowry, an indication they aren’t necessarily locked into the 27-year-old as their long-term point guard. However, letting Schröder walk in free agency won’t open up any cap room for Los Angeles, so the team will be motivated to either get something done with him or get something back in a sign-and-trade.

Kings Notes: Wright, Davis, Harkless, Bagley

There was speculation in the weeks leading up to March 25 that the Kings could be major sellers at the trade deadline, with players like Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield, and Richaun Holmes frequently mentioned as possible candidates to be on the move.

However, general manager Monte McNair chose another direction, making a series of smaller-scale deals to add talent to the current roster, rather than dealing away established veterans for long-term assets. While Sacramento didn’t go all-in, the team’s deadline deals made clear that the playoffs are still a goal in 2021.

“I think really we saw this year that there were maybe some traditional buy/sell moves, but I think where we categorize ourselves was like, value buyers,” McNair said, per James Ham of NBC Sports California. “We kinda explored all opportunities and this is what came to the forefront.”

As Sean Cunningham of ABC10 tweets, McNair said the Kings entered the deadline hoping to add depth and defense, and he felt like they did that by acquiring Delon Wright, Terence Davis, Maurice Harkless, and Chris Silva.

Here’s more on the Kings:

  • The Kings’ deadline deals are paying dividends so far, with Wright, Davis, and Harkless helping the team extend its winning streak to five games on Monday night in San Antonio, Ham writes for NBC Sports California. “Delon does a great job of making sure our pace is good. TD adds an aggressiveness on both sides of the ball. Moe is just savvy, smart, knows where to be,” center Richaun Holmes said of his new teammates. “Those guys came in ready to fit in and ready to help the team.”
  • Kings big man Marvin Bagley III has remained away from the team while he recovers from his left hand fracture, but he has remained in constant communication with the Kings and the plan is for him to rejoin the club as he gets closer to returning to action, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.
  • In case you missed it, an earlier report indicated that Holmes’ price tag in free agency this summer could be upwards of $20MM per year, with Charlotte among the teams expected to challenge Holmes for free agent center.

Rockets’ GM Doesn’t Regret Return In James Harden Trade

Victor Oladipo, the only big-name player the Rockets got in return for James Harden, barely stayed in Houston for two months, but general manager Rafael Stone doesn’t regret making the deal with the Nets, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

Oladipo was traded to Miami last week for a modest return of Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley, and a 2022 pick swap. As a result, the Rockets’ haul for Harden mostly consists of the collection of draft picks Stone received from the Nets (and Cavs) in the four-team blockbuster.

“I would for sure, 100 percent, do that deal again,” Stone said. “Again, you guys don’t have the advantages of knowing everything I know, but literally no part of me regrets doing that deal. I have not second-guessed it for a moment. A lot of what I said about being in a position maybe to not have to be bad (to rebuild), there’s some other things that we’ve done, too, but it’s primarily that deal that’s allowed us to say, ‘Hey, we want to compete on a slightly quicker time frame.’ We’re not going to go down this path of intentionally trying to lose games for years on end.”

The Rockets could have hung unto Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen in the Harden trade, but flipped LeVert to Indiana for Oladipo and sent Allen to Cleveland along with Taurean Prince for a future first-round pick.

After acquiring Oladipo, the Rockets determined he wasn’t a good fit alongside John Wall and a group of young players. Oladipo is headed for free agency this summer, and Houston wasn’t willing to make the financial commitment it would have taken to re-sign him. The team also wants to give more playing time to 20-year-old guard Kevin Porter Jr., who was acquired from the Cavaliers in January and played in the G League until early March.

The Harden trade could eventually pay huge dividends for the Rockets, who received draft capital from Brooklyn over the next seven years. Stone said critics need to be patient in examining what the team got in return for its superstar.

“One of your colleagues texted me the day after the trade and they said they would evaluate me in 2027,” Stone told McMahon. “And I told them that that was too early; they should do it in 2030. I think we felt at the time that we did the best deal for the franchise possible. Obviously, that’s my job, so I did it. Particularly given the types of things we got back, yeah, it feels like you can’t possibly know how you did for multiple years — like three, five, something like that. But I feel good about it. I do feel good about it.”

The Rockets have bottomed out since the Harden deal, losing 20 straight games at one point and falling into a tie for the league’s second-worst record. Stone said injuries played a part in the collapse, as well as the lack of a foundation after so many years of making short-term moves in pursuit of a title.

Stone has worked this year to build up a stockpile of draft picks, and he believes Houston can quickly rebuild around a “young core that we really like” made up of Porter, center Christian Wood and rookie forwards Jae’Sean Tate and KJ Martin.

“In terms of how we go from here, I feel pretty comfortable that we like where we are in the beginning stages,” Stone said. “We’re going to take constant bets. Everybody does that; it’s just the level you do it at. We’re going to do it — not all of them are going to work out. … I don’t think that we need to do like a wholesale tank strategy like some other teams have done in the past or maybe are doing now.”