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10-Day Contract Candidates

Teams can now sign players to 10-day contracts. Cody Taylor looks at some 10-day candidates.

Cody Taylor

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Beginning today, teams may begin signing players to 10-day contracts. These contracts are most commonly used as a tryout period for respective players. Most players that sign a 10-day contract originate from the NBA’s Development League.

Teams may sign a player to a maximum of two 10-day contracts. Following the end of the second 10-day contract, teams must decide if they want to sign that player for the remainder of the season or cut ties with that player.

Last season, 32 players received 42 call-ups while an all-time high 63 call-ups occurred two seasons ago. Players like Sean Kilpatrick, Tim Frazier and James Ennis were some of the players called up to the NBA last season who still remain on an NBA roster today.

This week also represents the deadline in which non-guaranteed contracts become guaranteed, with teams needing to cut those players by Saturday in order to allow for the two-day waiver period before those contracts become guaranteed on Tuesday. As more roster spots open up, this could free the way for more prospects to earn their way onto NBA rosters.

With teams now able to sign players to 10-day contracts, here are 10 prospects to keep an eye on (in no particular order):

Keith Benson, Sioux Falls Skyforce:

For teams looking for an extra rim protector, Benson should be at the top of the list. On the season, Benson is averaging 19.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game. He currently ranks 11th in the D-League in total points, first in total rebounds and first in total blocks. He leads the D-League in blocks by a wide margin, too. Benson has 62 total blocks this season. The next highest player on the list has 38.

As his blocks indicate, Benson has become a defensive force for the Skyforce this season. He also ranks seventh in the D-League with a 95.2 defensive rating. He leads all players in double-doubles with 12 and is coming off of his best game of the season, recording a career-high 33 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks.

Lamar Patterson, Reno Bighorns:

After splitting time between the Atlanta Hawks and the D-League last season, Patterson is having his best season to date and he seems to have gotten even better as the season has progressed. He’s averaging 22.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.4 steals per game and is fifth in total scoring over the past month. He currently ranks ninth in points and fourth in steals among all players. Patterson turned in his fourth game of the season on Tuesday in which he scored at least 30 points.

Perhaps the biggest improvement in his game has come in his shooting. He told Basketball Insiders over the summer he really wanted to improve his shot and his three-point percentage has improved from 26 percent last season to 34 percent this season. As his averages indicate, he’s been able to make an impact in many facets of the game. His best game of the season came on Dec. 9 when he recorded 35 points, eight rebounds, seven steals and four assists. His seven steals tied a season-high for any player in the D-League this season.

Quincy Acy, Texas Legends:

Acy has the most NBA experience of these candidates and is said to be among the most likely to earn a call-up. Acy was waived by the Dallas Mavericks back in November to make room for point guard Jonathan Gibson after the team suffered injuries to Deron Williams, Devin Harris and J.J. Barea. Had it not been for those injuries, Acy would likely still be with the Mavericks as he was a favorite among players and the coaching staff.

Acy has appeared in 12 games for the Legends and is averaging 17.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, two blocks, 1.6 steals and 1.2 assists. His best game of the season came back on Dec. 14 when he recorded 28 points and 14 rebounds. Acy has proven that he can be a solid rotation player during his four seasons in the NBA so it seems likely he’ll be back in the league once the right situation opens up for him.  

Briante Weber, Sioux Falls Skyforce:

With Pierre Jackson earning the sixth call-up of the season last week, Weber takes over as the No. 1 prospect, according to the D-League’s Prospect Watch list. Weber earned a pair of call-ups last season with the HEAT before finishing out the season with them. Weber is perhaps one of the most exciting players to watch given his ability to impact the game all over the floor. While he isn’t the best shooter, he can contribute in many other areas.

He is averaging 13.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 2.9 steals per game. His defense has been arguably one of his biggest attributes this season. He’s known to be a pest on defense and currently has the fifth-best defensive rating in the D-League. Weber currently leads all point guards in rebounding and leads all players in steals. There have been nine triple-doubles recorded in the D-League this season and Weber has three of them. Perhaps his most impressive triple-double was when he had 24 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists on Christmas Day.

Quinn Cook, Canton Charge:

Cook has been one of the most consistent scorers in the D-League this season. His 25.1 points per game currently ranks fifth among all players and his 49-point outing on Dec. 7 is tied for the second-highest point total this season. In addition to his 25.1 points, he’s also averaging 5.8 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.

Of the nine triple-doubles recorded in the D-League this season, Cook has one of them after he had 15 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds on Nov. 18. Cook’s game seems to have improved even more on the offensive end this season. His points per game are up from 19.6 last season to 25.1 this season. In addition, he’s earning more trips to the line as well. He averaged 3.6 free throw attempts last season and is up to 6.4 this season. He’s fun to watch as the primary ball handler, as he’s shown he can make a number of different hesitation dribbles and embarrass defenders. Given his abilities offensively, it shouldn’t be surprising to see Cook in the NBA sooner than later.

Cory Jefferson, Austin Spurs:

Jefferson is another candidate that has prior experience in the league. He appeared in 50 games two seasons ago with the Brooklyn Nets and was with the Phoenix Suns last season for eight games. In 19 games this season with the Austin Spurs, Jefferson is averaging 15.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Jefferson is coming off of his best game of the season after scoring a career-high 25 points and 11 rebounds for his seventh double-double. Jefferson can be a solid contributor for a team to add some size off of the bench. He has great athleticism at 6’9 and is a great option in the pick-and-roll as well. He’s improved his shooting, as he’s converting on 50 percent of his three-point attempts. Given his prior NBA experience, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Jefferson receive a call at some point.

Manny Harris, Texas Legends:

In terms of the best scorer in the D-League, Harris could be the guy. He’s currently averaging 26.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game for the Legends. He’s second in total scoring and owns two of the top four scoring performances in the D-League this season with outings of 49 points and 47 points, respectively.

Harris is a guy that has played virtually everywhere in his professional career. He has spent three seasons in the NBA, four seasons abroad and several others in the D-League. Harris could be a guy that decided to stay in the United States until call-ups start and then go overseas if he doesn’t receive one soon.

Chasson Randle, Westchester Knicks:

Randle’s first season in the D-League has been a good one. In 16 games for the Knicks, he’s averaging 21.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Randle has established himself as a great three-point shooter who can get hot and put up a lot of points. He’s shooting 41 percent from three-point range and is 10th in the D-League in three-pointers made. On Dec. 16, he made nine three-pointers and followed up that outing by knocking down seven triples.

Randle was close to making the New York Knicks’ opening night roster after a strong preseason, but suffered a fractured orbital bone in training camp that ultimately hurt his chances at sticking around. The Knicks are said to like his defense and could opt to bring him up at some point in the near future should a roster spot open up.

*****

As the window to sign players to 10-day contracts is officially now underway, keep an eye on these players who could get a chance. Of course, there will be others that will get an opportunity as well. These players have all shown at various times throughout the season that they could be a valuable addition to a prospective team.

Did we leave someone out? Hit the comments and let us know! 

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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NBA Daily: What We Forgot

With the NBA season now a month old, Matt John looks into no what we have learned, but we had previously forgotten.

Matt John

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With every new NBA season, we tend to forget a few things here and there; players or teams that go through a down year are often, warranted or not, cast aside for the next best thing, only to resurface in the NBA’s collective conscience later on.

Like last season, for example, Dwight Howard was regarded as a nothing-addition for the Los Angeles Lakers, a gamble that they may have been better off not taking. However, Howard played an integral role in the Lakers’ run to the NBA title and reminded everyone that, when he plays without distractions, he’s one of the league’s fiercest around the basket.

But that’s just one example. So, who or what has been re-discovered this season? Let’s take a look.

Stephen Curry: Still Phenomenal

Nobody’s forgotten that entirely. It’s just been a while since people have seen Curry at the peak of his powers.

Sure, it was easy to be skeptical of what he was capable of coming into this season. But, with Kevin Durant gone, Curry had free reign to score and shoot as much as he desired. And, with that freedom, Curry’s put up his best numbers since 2016, his second MVP season. In 15 games, Curry’s averaged 28.2 points 5.5 rebounds and 6.1 assists and shot 45 percent from the field, 37 percent from three and 93 percent from the line. He’s reminded everyone why he’s one of the games best and that he can accomplish anything or score on anyone on any given night.

Of course, the absence of Durant, as well as the loss of Klay Thompson and others, has led to another atypical season for the Warriors. Their 8-7 has them tied for seventh in the Western Conference and, while they have certainly improved on how they looked to start the season, they have a long way to go before they’re back in title contention.

The Warriors may never again reach the heights they once knew, either before or with Durant. But, until Father Time dictates otherwise, Curry should long remain a nightmare for the opposition.

Tom Thibodeau Can Get It Done

What can you say about the New York Knicks? Unironically, a lot.

Not only have they shown themselves to no longer be the butt of the NBA’s jokes, but, compared to the last decade-plus of Knicks’ basketball, the 2020-21 season might be their brightest yet.

Julius Randle’s transition into more of a point forward-type has generated a career-year and All-Star buzz. RJ Barrett has continued to improve rapidly, while rookie Immanuel Quickley has “quickley” become a fan favorite. Most impressive of all, however, is that New York has allowed the fewest points per game (102.7) and the fourth-fewest points per 100 possessions (106.8) in the NBA.

In other words, they finally look like a competent basketball team. But what’s changed? Two words: Tom Thibodeau.

The players have bought in to Thibodeau’s scheme and, clearly, it’s had a positive effect. Of course, the disaster that was his Minnesota Timberwolves tenure made us forget just what a proven head coach Thibodeau could be, but he’s put it all together in the past and, in New York, he would seem to be doing so once again.

Of course, there is plenty left to do. The Knicks’ spacing is a joke — and a bad one at that. In fact, their entire offense could stand to see some of that energy they bring on defense; the Knicks are dead last in the NBA at 101.3 points per game.

Still, at 8-8, New York is no longer a doormat and, given the last few seasons, that’s probably the best they could’ve hoped for. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Knicks won’t be either, but the franchise looks like they may have finally turned a corner toward relevance.

Maturity Issues Loom Large

Like the Knicks, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been another NBA-darling this season. And again, like New York, their players have bought in; head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has everyone playing with energy on defense and, while their offense hasn’t quite reached the same level, they’re competing to the best of their ability.

Of course, the progress of Kevin Porter Jr. could have been the cherry on top of it all. But that ship has sailed.

After an outburst directed toward general manager Koby Altman, Cleveland has since moved on from the young forward. Of course, the Cavaliers knew Porter came with baggage when they selected him with the last pick of the first round in the 2019 NBA Draft, but his potential was salivating and Cleveland had hoped they could help him grow — not only as an NBA player, but as a person. There have been success stories in the past, troubled players that have come in and shut out the noise and become both respectable characters and NBA players. DeAndre Jordan, a former lottery talent, dropped in his own draft due to similar concerns, but overcame those issues and has since gone on to play a long career.

Unfortunately, it just hadn’t gone that way with Porter and the Cavaliers, as the noise became too much to bear for a team with a long road back to relevancy. It’s reminded everyone just how hard it can be, both as a player and as their team, to deal with those issues and, regardless of the talent or potential, the headache sometimes just isn’t worth the risk.

Luckily for Porter, it’s not too late; a fresh start with the Houston Rockets should do him wonders. And, hopefully, the Rockets can help him overcome that baggage, his maturity issues and whatever else he may be dealing with.

But even if they don’t or can’t, Porter must wake up and seize his opportunity while he still can; if he sees another falling out in Houston, there’s no telling if he’ll ever get another chance elsewhere.

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NBA Daily: Three Trade Targets for the New York Knicks

Drew Maresca explores three restricted free agents-to-be who the Knicks should explore adding via trade before the March 25 trade deadline.

Drew Maresca

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Often the NBA’s biggest flop, the New York Knicks have been significantly better-than-expected to start the 2020-21 season. They’ve won eight of their first 16 games and have surrendered the fewest points per game on the season, placing them squarely in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

That said, they’re not out of the woods yet; with much of the season left to play, the Knicks are devoid of any meaningful offensive weapons. Additionally, the roster features a number of high-quality veterans whose deals are set to expire, the kind of players that contenders like to fill out their rotations with down the stretch, so the roster could look much different at the end of the year than it does now.

So, the Knicks are expected to be active on the trade front, again – no surprise there. But this year could be among the last in which the Knicks are sellers at the deadline. And, while moving some of those veterans for future assets is smart, the Knicks may also want to look at players they can add to bolster that future further.

Of course, New York shouldn’t go all-in for Bradley Beal — they’re not there yet — but there are a number of restricted free agents to-be that would fit both their roster and timeline nicely.

But why give away assets to acquire someone that the team could sign outright in just a few months? It may sound counterintuitive to add a player that’s about to hit free agency, restricted or otherwise, but procuring that player’s Bird rights, an exception in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows teams to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players (not to mention offer them an extra contract year and bigger raises), can be key to securing a player’s services and building a long-term contender.

Further, the 2021 free agent market isn’t might not live up to expectation, with many presumed free agents already agreed to extensions. So, with that in mind, which players should the Knicks pursue via trade prior to the March 25 trade deadline?

John Collins, Atlanta Hawks

Collins’ production is down this season, but that has nothing to do with his ability. A 23-year-old stretch-four who’s shooting 35% on three-point attempts, Collins is big, athletic, can score the ball (16.7 points per game this season) and is a great rebounder (7.5 per game). He also connects on 80% of his free-throw attempts.

Despite those impressive stats, Collins was even more productive last season, averaging 21.6 points on better than 40% three-point shooting and collecting 10.1 rebounds per game.

But the Hawks rotation has become increasingly crowded this year. They added Danilo Gallinari and rookie big man Oneyeka Okongwu, the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, to the frontcourt this offseason, while Collins was already vying for minutes with Clint Capella, who Atlanta added via trade last season. Cam Reddish, a second-year wing who is versatile enough to play some power forward, has also stolen some of Collins’ potential minutes.

So, as much as the Hawks seem to like Collins, he may be a luxury they can do without. He’ll obviously demand a relatively high-priced contract. The fact that Atlanta and Collins failed to reach an extension last summer would also seem to make a reunion less likely; would the Hawks invest so heavily in him now that they have three players at the position signed through at least the 2022-23 season? Further, could they invest even if they wanted to at this point? The Hawks are already committed to more than $100 million next season and, with Trae Young and Kevin Huerter extensions on the horizon, they might be hard-pressed to scrounge for the cash Collins would want in a new deal.

He won’t come cheap, for sure. But, while Julius Randle fans may not love the idea of bringing in his replacement, Collins is simply a better long-term solution.

Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans

The point guard position has been a sore spot for the Knicks for some time. And while Ball might not be the franchise cornerstone that many hoped he’d become, adding a young player with his upside is clearly a positive move.

Granted, Ball is inherently flawed. His jump shot appeared to be much improved last season and he’s showcased a significantly improved shooting form from years past. But he’s struggled in the new season, shooting only 28% on three-point attempts (down from 37.5% last season). In fact, he’s struggled on the whole on the offensive side of the ball, posting just 11.9 points and 4.4 assists per game (a career-low). He’s also missed some time with knee soreness and moved to more of an off-the-ball role as new head coach Stan Van Gundy has put the ball in the hands of Brandon Ingram more and more.

But, with New York, Ball would step into a significant role immediately. For his career, Ball is a net-positive player and, despite his shooting woes, has posted a positive VORP every year he’s been in the league, save for this season. He’s an above-average defender and, while he does need to ball in his hands, he doesn’t necessarily need to take shots to be effective.

Ball may never become the All-World caliber guard many pegged him as before the 2017 NBA Draft, but he’s better than any other option currently at the Knicks disposal. And, best of all, his trade value is arguably as low as it’s ever been. So, while the Pelicans won’t just give him away, New York should do what they can to acquire him for a reasonable price.

Devonte’ Graham, Charlotte Hornets

Last but not least, the surprise from the 2018-19 rookie class. Graham is possibly the hardest sell on this list, but it’s not for a lack of talent.

Graham burst onto the scene last season, posting an impressive sophomore campaign of 18.2 points and 6.4 assists per game. Unfortunately, those numbers have taken a drastic dip this season with the arrival of Gordon Hayward and the highly-touted rookie LaMelo Ball in Charlotte. Likewise, Graham’s struggles through the Hornets’ first 10 games limited his opportunities further.

That said, he would appear to be done slumping, as he’s connected on 43% of his attempts from deep in the team’s last two games.

But his efficiency wouldn’t be the main challenge when constructing a Graham trade. Instead, some in New York could be concerned with lack of size – Graham is only 6-foot-1 – and his inability to act as a facilitator at the guard spot.

But Graham is talented, plain and simple. In fact, he’s the exact kind of talent the Knicks should be looking to add right now. More specifically, Graham shot 37.3% on three-point attempts last season; the Knicks rank 21st in three-point percentage so far this season.

The Knicks could ultimately sit tight, swap a few veterans for future draft picks and rest assured that they’ve made enough progress by simply adding coach Tom Thibodeau. But they could and should be aggressive while they can. If New York can add one or more the players mentioned, they may not only build a brighter future, but improve on what the team could do this season. Either way, the Knicks look to be on a good trajectory, but every move they make from here on out can and will affect how quickly they make the leap from laughingstock to respectable contender.

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NBA AM: The Utah Jazz Are Showing Continuity Is Key

Is Utah’s early success an indicator of things to come? Between Donavon Mitchell, a stingy defense and hot three-point shooting, they may just be the real deal.

Ariel Pacheco

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The Utah Jazz are riding high on a seven-game winning streak, hotter, at this point, than all hell. 15 games into the season, the Jazz have been the third-best team in the Western Conference. The key for them has been continuity as they have 11 guys who were on last year’s team. The only addition they made to their rotation this offseason was Derrick Favors, who was with the team for nine seasons before a one-year departure. 

Quinn Snyder is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the league, and he’s showing why this season. The Jazz are currently in 7th in both offensive and defensive rating. Beyond that, there are only three teams who can say they are top 10 in both: The Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns. Often, teams that finish in this select category are historically serious contenders. 

Moreover, the Jazz have been on a shooting tear. Using Gobert’s rolling ability to collapse opposing defenses and find open shooters, Utah’s offense is clicking right now. It’s worked tremendously too, considering the Jazz have attempted and made the most three-pointers of any team this season – and hitting on 40.3 percent as a team. Royce O’Neale, Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles and Mike Conley are all shooting above 40 percent; while Bojan Bogdanovic is almost there at 37.8.

Basically, the Jazz are just shooting the ball at a ridiculously well rate right now and good ball movement has propelled them. 

Mitchell seems to have taken another jump in his development, although it is subtle, and his growth as a playmaker has benefitted everyone. He’s made teams pay for overhelping, often initiating the ball movement that has led to open looks. He’s also taking fewer mid-range jumpers, converting those attempts into three-pointers. The budding star’s play has been more consistent overall, and he’s been effective out of the pick-and-roll. 

Mike Conley’s improved play this season has been needed – now he’s settled and red-hot. Coming off a disappointing season last year, there were questions as to whether he was declining. While it’s safe to say he’s no longer the guy he was in Memphis, this version of Conley is still a good one. He looks a lot more comfortable in his role and the Jazz are reaping the benefits. In a contract year, Conley is averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 assists per game while shooting 41 percent from three.

Jordan Clarkson is a strong candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, fitting in perfectly as the Jazz need his scoring and creation off the bench – even leading the league in such scorers from there. But the Jazz’s bench is more than just Clarkson though, as they’ve gotten strong minutes from Joe Ingles, Georges Niang and Derrick Favors too. They’re a solid group that plays both ends of the court, and all fit in nicely with the starters as well. 

Sorely needed, however, Bojan Bogdanovic’s return has helped tremendously. He gives them another big wing who can shoot and is a scoring threat, and before he got hurt last season, he was averaging 20 PPG. While he isn’t at that level this season, he gives them another reliable scoring option that they badly need. Better, it also allows Ingles to remain on the bench, where his playmaking ability can really thrive.

The Jazz have been playing stylistically a little bit different this year and it has worked. They don’t run often but when they do, they have been potent. Playing at the same pace as last season, Utah is scoring almost five more points per game in transition. Additionally, they are taking six more threes a game too. This all amounts to a 6.1 net rating, which is good for fourth-best in the NBA. 

Lastly, their defense has been impossible for teams to penetrate, inviting opponents to try and finish over Rudy Gobert in the paint. Gobert is a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate for a reason – his presence alone almost assuredly guarantees his team will be a top 10 defense, which the Jazz are. Favors’ addition has helped stabilize the defense when Gobert sits, which was a major issue last season. Overall, they are just a very disciplined defense that makes teams earn their points, rarely committing cheap fouls.

As it stands today, the Utah Jazz are solidifying themselves as one of the best teams in the Western Conference. It remains to be seen if the hot shooting is sustainable, but the way they are generating those open looks seems to be. The defense is legit, and if they can remain healthy there’s reason to believe that this team can continue to compete at this level. The Utah starting lineup has outscored opponents by 58 points, but they’ve also had one of the best benches in the league – needless to say, the Jazz’s continuity has been a big part of their early success.

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