- Due to a right hip contusion, Celtics center Enes Kanter will not return to action until at least Tuesday against the Heat, Brad Stevens relayed to Boston’s team Twitter account (link). In just 18.5 minutes per night, Kanter has produced impressive averages of 9.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 60.2% field goal shooting.
A trio of guards — Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball and North Carolina’s Cole Anthony — top The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie’s latest draft board. Another guard, 18-year-old Killian Hayes, made the biggest move among the top 20 prospects. Hayes, who is playing in Europe, jumped from No. 16 to No. 7.
We have more from around the basketball world:
- The Nuggets’ Malik Beasley, the Spurs’ Lonnie Walker and the Celtics’ Robert Williams are among five buy-low trade targets for teams seeking to fortify their benches, according to ESPN’s Mike Schmitz.
- Dwight Powell‘s season-ending Achilles injury was not only a major setback for the Mavericks but also Team Canada, Michael Grange of SportsNet Canada notes. Powell was expected to be a foundation piece for Canada’s Olympic push and his size, smarts, and athleticism will be hard to replace, according to Grange.
- Veteran center Willie Reed has signed with the G League and returned to the Salt Lake City Stars, Hoops Rumors’ JD Shaw tweets. Reed, 29, was playing in Greece but parted ways with Olympiacos earlier this month.
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 Atlantic Division:
Furkan Korkmaz, Sixers, 22, SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $3.34MM deal in 2019
This was the player the Sixers envisioned when they made Korkmaz a draft-and-stash pick in 2016. Korkmaz has become a steady presence in Philadelphia’s rotation and is averaging 8.9 PPG while shooting 39.5% from deep. He’s made a significant impact in the last five games, averaging 16.6 PPG while lifting the Sixers to four victories. With Josh Richardson out a few weeks with a hamstring injury, Korkmaz figures to get even more playing time in the near future. Korkmaz’s $1.76MM contract for next season isn’t guaranteed but it’s a foregone conclusion Philadelphia will retain him.
Joe Harris, Nets, 28, SF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $16MM deal in 2018
Overall, Harris’ numbers are virtually identical to last season’s output, other than a dropoff from an outstanding 47.4% success rate on 3-point tries to a still very solid 40.8%. However, like his team, Harris has been in a slump. He’s scored 13 or fewer points in his last seven games and made seven more turnovers than 3-pointers during that stretch. Harris is too established to stay in this funk for very long. He will still receive offers well above his current salary of $7.67MM but stretches like this might temper some of the enthusiasm for his services when he heads into unrestricted free agency this summer.
Wayne Ellington, Knicks, 32, SG (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $16MM deal in 2019
Ellington had a couple of good years in Miami and gave Detroit a lift during the second half of last season but he’s been a non-factor with the Knicks. Ellington has only appeared in 23 games, averaging 4.0 PPG in 14.3 MPG while making just 30.9% of his 3-point attempts. If the veteran guard isn’t knocking down his threes, there’s no reason to play him — he hasn’t seen any court time since January 14. Only $1MM of Ellington’s $8MM contract for next season is guaranteed. It’s safe to say he will not have to other $7MM forwarded to his bank account. In fact, he may struggle to find anything more than the veteran’s minimum on the market this summer.
Fred VanVleet, Raptors, 25, SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $18MM deal in 2018
The arrow continues to point upward for the fourth-year guard, whose production has steadily climbed as his playing time has expanded. VanVleet has missed some games this season due to injuries, most recently a hamstring strain. In the 34 games he’s started, he’s averaging 18.5 PPG, 6.8 APG and 2.0 SPG while shooting 40.2% on 3-point attempts. In the first three games since returning to action, VanVleet averaged 23.7 PPG and made 14 of 19 3-point attempts. He could be looking at offers in the $20-25MM per year range as an unrestricted free agent.
Enes Kanter, Celtics, 27, C (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $9.77MM deal in 2019
Kanter was the third overall pick in the draft back in 2011, so it’s easy to overlook the fact he’s still just 27 years old. Kanter has always been a double-double machine when given extended minutes. He’s averaging 18.5 MPG, his lowest amount of court time since the 2012/13 season with Utah. Yet he’s posted six doubles-doubles since New Year’s Eve, including a game-changing 18-point, 11-rebound outing against the Lakers this week. Kanter holds a $5MM player option on his contract for next season. He might test the market again and see if he can get a better deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- The Pistons don’t appear to have any momentum toward an Andre Drummond trade. We previously heard that the Hawks and Knicks have pulled out of the Drummond sweepstakes, and Charania suggests that’s the case for the Celtics too. Sources tell The Athletic that no teams have made the Pistons a quality offer that meets their asking price of a first-round pick or a good young player.
Pistons guard Reggie Jackson hopes to play tonight after being sidelined since the second game of the season with a back injury, tweets Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Jackson is officially listed as questionable for the game against the Kings. He’ll be on a minutes restriction and isn’t sure if he’ll be used as a starter or a reserve (Twitter link).
“I don’t know how well I’m going to feel. Adrenaline is a different thing so I imagine I’ll probably be winded a little early,” Jackson said (Twitter link).
There’s more injury news to pass along:
- Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura has been cleared for all basketball activities, head coach Scott Brooks told reporters, including Candace Buckner of The Washington Post (Twitter link). Hachimura hasn’t played since suffering a groin injury December 16. “It’ll be great to have him back before the All-Star break, but you never know,” Brooks said (Twitter link).
- The Wizards also got good news on Moritz Wagner, who has been cleared for non-contact activities after a check-up in New York City, Buckner tweets. Wagner has missed the past month with a sprained left ankle.
- Injured Celtics center Robert Williams was able to do some running Tuesday and is set for another scan and evaluation February 4, the team tweeted. Team doctors expect to have a more concrete idea of when he can start playing again after that session. Williams has a bone edema in his left hip and won’t return until after the All-Star break.
- Cavaliers center Ante Zizic is out indefinitely, tweets Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. He has been diagnosed with a vestibular condition that has forced him to miss the past five games.
- Nuggets coach Michael Malone told reporters that among his injured rotation players, Gary Harris is the closest to returning, relays Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link). “When I say closest, I don’t know how close that is,” Malone explained. “Paul (Millsap) and Jamal (Murray) are still a ways off.”
Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown thought the team wouldn’t budge from its original $80MM extension offer before the front office substantially sweetened the pot, he told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on the Woj Pod (hat tip to Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston). Brown eventually signed a four-year, $115MM rookie scale extension, which included a guaranteed $103MM and another $12MM in incentives.
“To be honest, I came with the mindset I didn’t think that anything was going to get done,” Brown told Wojnarowski. “I wasn’t sure that anything was going to get done. The first offer was four years, $80 million. I didn’t think they were going to budge from that. So, I came with the mindset, I told (agent Jason) Glushon that, ‘Let’s see what can happen, you know?’ For me, I didn’t think Jason was going to be able to get anything done. I thought they were going to stay at ($80MM) and that was going to be it.”
Without an extension, Brown would have plunged into restricted free agency this summer. He was fully prepared to do that until the offer grew.
“I was hell-bent, I was already locked in, focused, ready to carry the weight that I was going to go into this year playing my fourth year out. And then they jumped up, and that just showed they wanted me here in the organization,” he said on the podcast. “They appreciated my value. They thought that I added to winning. It was an offer that was too hard to kind of turn down.”
Brown was averaging a career-high 20 PPG, 6.9 RPG and 2.3 APG heading into the team’s game against the Lakers on Monday.
Here are Monday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the league:
- The Celtics recalled rookie guard Carsen Edwards prior to their game against the Lakers, the team’s PR department tweets. Edwards has come off the bench in 27 games with Boston this season, averaging 3.2 PPG in 9.9 MPG.
- The Knicks recalled rookie forward Ignas Brazdeikis from their Westchester affiliate, the team’s PR department tweets. Brazdeikis has appeared in nine games with the NBA club, averaging 1.9 PPG in 5.9 MPG.
- The Pacers assigned guard Victor Oladipo to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants for a practice, the team tweets. Oladipo is expected to make his long-awaited season debut next week.
- The Wizards recalled rookie guard Admiral Schofield, the team tweets. Schofield has appeared in 24 games with the Wizards this season but did not play in the team’s win over Detroit on Monday.
- The Clippers recalled guard Terance Mann from their Agua Caliente affiliate, the team announced today. Mann has played 27 games for the Clippers this season, averaging 1.9 PPG in 8.1 MPG.
- The Thunder assigned center Justin Patton to the Oklahoma City Blue, according to a team press release. Patton is averaging 12.1 PPG and 8.2 RPG in 23 games with the Blue. He has appeared in five games for the Thunder this season, averaging 1.8 PPG in 4.8 MPG.
Barring a major second-half swoon, the Bucks won’t give up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference this season. At 38-6, Milwaukee is on pace to win over 70 games and currently has an eight-game cushion over the next-best team in the conference.
While the race for the top seed in the East may already be over, a fascinating race is developing for the No. 2 spot. With six potential contenders in the conference, the importance of nabbing that second seed shouldn’t be understated. Not only would it set up a first-round matchup against a less dangerous opponents like the Magic or Nets, it would also mean avoiding the Bucks until the Eastern Conference Finals and holding home court advantage for two rounds.
As we enter the second half of the season, the Heat currently hold the second seed, but the margin is extremely tight. Here’s what the standings look like for the five teams vying for the No. 2 seed, entering today’s action:
- Miami Heat (29-13)
- Toronto Raptors (28-14)
- Boston Celtics (27-14)
- Indiana Pacers (28-15)
- Philadelphia 76ers (28-16)
All five teams are separated by just two games, so one hot or cold streak could have a significant impact on seeding. Just ask the Celtics, who could fall out of the top four tonight for the first time since October if their current losing streak extends to four games.
With a real incentive tied to claiming the No. 2 seed, the second-half race among these five teams should be fascinating. The Raptors finally have a healthy roster, and the Pacers will be getting star guard Victor Oladipo back next week. The Sixers have been shakier than expected all year long, but showed their upside on Christmas Day when they dismantled the Bucks. The Celtics and the Heat are in position to potentially upgrade their rosters at the trade deadline if they so choose.
Of course, we should also consider each team’s second-half schedule. According to Tankathon.com, the Heat, Sixers, and Raptors have three of the NBA’s easiest remaining slates, while the Pacers’ schedule ranks in the middle of the pack and the Celtics’ is the eighth-hardest.
What do you think? Which of these five teams do you like best to finish the season strong and claim the No. 2 seed in the East?
Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!
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Lakers star Anthony Davis will be available to play on Monday night, the team announced today, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link). Davis will make his return to the court in Boston as the Lakers visit the Celtics as part of their five-game road trip.
Davis has been sidelined for nearly two weeks, having suffered a gluteus maximus contusion during L.A.’s blowout win over New York on January 7.
The injury wasn’t as serious as the Lakers initially feared, but the team has played it safe with its star big man and hasn’t really missed a beat without him. The Lakers are 4-1 in Davis’ absence, with the lone loss coming by just one point to Orlando.
With Davis back in the lineup, the Lakers will continue their push to secure the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The club currently has a 34-8 record and a 4.5-game lead over the second-place Clippers.
An MRI on Kemba Walker‘s left knee came back negative, but the Celtics guard will sit out tonight’s game against the Suns, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Coach Brad Stevens provided reporters with a pre-game medical update, saying Walker’s knee is still “very sore.”
“Kemba got ahold of our doctors last night and said he had some knee soreness,” Stevens said. “Went and got an MRI today, didn’t show anything structurally wrong, but very sore … I don’t get the impression it’s a long-term thing.” (video link from Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston)
Walker experienced some pain in the knee during preseason, but has missed just four regular season games, three of which were because of the flu. He underwent operations on the knee in 2016 and 2017 after suffering a torn meniscus while he was with the Hornets.
Walker is coming off one of his best games of the season, scoring 40 points Thursday in a loss at Milwaukee. He is averaging 22.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in his first season with the Celtics and is a strong contender for his fourth straight All-Star appearance.