Shooting has always been valued in professional basketball, and it’s become even more important of late in the NBA. The league average for three-point attempts per game was 34.1 in 2019-20, up from 29 just two seasons earlier and 20 back in 2012-13, according to Basketball-Reference.
Well, that alone probably has a lot to do with why Chasson Randle is back in the NBA for the 2020-21 season.
“All summer long you hear teams are looking for shooting. That’s something I pride myself on – knocking down shots,” Randle recently told Basketball Insiders. “It’s something I work on constantly during the summer and the season, getting reps and staying confident.”
Randle is a career 37.8 percent three-point shooter with a career-high of 40 percent across 49 games with the Washington Wizards in 2018-19. But Randle is a pro’s pro, meaning he works on all aspects of his game and prides himself on more than just shooting.
“Picking up full [court], create a little havoc on the defensive end, changing the pace of the game,” Randle explained when asked about his other strengths. “And then I’ve worked on my playmaking ability and running the team all summer, making different reads out of pick and rolls and putting myself in situations that I’ll see in games.”
Randle has bounced around the NBA quite a bit for a 27 -year-old. In early December, he agreed to terms with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2020-21 season. Unfortunately, the team added a number of guaranteed contracts through trades this offseason and were unable to move players they may not be interested in keeping. As a result, Randle recently found out that he’ll start the 2020-21 season with the team’s G-League affiliate (the Oklahoma City Blue). Still, it is expected that he’ll be called up at some point this season.
Last season — just prior to the COVID-19 shutdown — Randle was with the Golden State Warriors, where he played three games. And while his time in California was cut short, he learned a lot from the organization.
“Everything is top-notch from top to bottom – how they communicate with each other [as an organization] and the players. And how the players communicate is huge,” Randle explained. “ [There’s] a lot of camaraderie and togetherness and it shows when they play. It was a short experience, I wish I would have had more time with them (to learn and compete), but I’m grateful for them none the less.”
The Warriors failed to qualify for the bubble, which prohibited Randle’s involvement in Orlando. But he explained that if given the opportunity to do so, he would have played any way he could.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Randle said. “I’m a basketball player. Anytime there’s a game going on, I’m down to play. I would’ve loved to have been in the bubble and showcase what I can do.”
But Randle has entirely new challenges ahead of him this season with the Thunder. Fortunately for the quasi-veteran, he’s not alone. Oklahoma City made a flurry of offseason moves that resulted in returning only six players from last season – Darius Bazley, Hamidou Diallo, Luguentz Dort, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Isaiah Roby and Mike Muscala. They’re a young team with limited continuity.
So, it would make sense that a player with Randle’s poise and professionalism could be able to carve out a role on such a young team.
“I think it’s a mix,” Randle said regarding his standing with the Thunder. “Thing about this game is that everybody has to be somewhat of a leader in their own way. I’ve been in roles where I’ve been the guy and I’ve also been in roles where I’ve had to follow. I’m comfortable doing both.”
“But this season in particular, whatever they need from me, I feel like I’ll be able to provide simply because over the course of my career, I’ve done so many different things, so I’m excited.”
According to his agent, Darrell Comer, Randle missed the 2020 preseason due to contract negotiations and the franchise’s need to make additional roster cuts. But Randle traveled with the team and observed them in action, so he’s encouraged with what he’s seen.
“Watching the guys throughout the preseason, I see a lot of things,” Randle said. “The ball moves. they’re playing free with a lot of pace and flow. I think my role fits right in as a shooter and a playmaker. And then on the defensive end, picking up full and being a pest.”
Randle repeatedly emphasized the idea of being more than a shooter over and over, often relaying his ability to make plays for others and defend. But he explained that the work he put since returning from a January stint in China has prepared him to prove it on the court. Randle followed a tedious training regimen in the Bay Area that began in April – and for much of the spring, he isolated himself from others outside his girlfriend by working out at home using whatever he could get his hands on.
“Early on. we didn’t know what the virus was,” Randle said. “I wasn’t going anywhere from when they shut things down in March until April. We stocked up. Luckily, my girlfriend can cook and I can do a little bit in the kitchen, too.
“But I was doing home workouts then, like on YouTube, and I had bands and free weights. Once mid-to-late April hit though, my girlfriend’s brother-in-law has a huge facility in his garage – machines, weights, treadmills, everything you need. I was there twice-a-day on most days. We called it the grindhouse, that was the deal. Then once I was able to get access to a court, probably a few weeks later, it was back to normal for me. Like an extended offseason.”
But once he was able to, he got right back to long days in the weight room, on the court and in film sessions, always trying to add just a little more to his game.
“Sunday is the Lord’s day, so I don’t do much on Sundays beyond stretching,” Randle explained. “Monday is weights at six in the morning until around ten. At ten, I get on the court shooting until noon. Then I’ll go back at like two-thirty or three and get another workout in with weights.”
But that wasn’t all.
“Also, if there’s a pickup game at night, I play pickup. And that’s like Monday-through-Friday. Saturday it was just one workout. I was lifting probably at least four times per week.”
But the best players are cerebral. They can’t just work on their craft, the most elite also prepare for their opponent, studying film, hoping to identify a weakness or a pattern to exploit.
“I’d also watch the film of myself, things I can improve on,” Randle continued. “My trainers do a great job sending me stuff through an app we have. I can watch my workouts to see how I’m shooting, my footwork.
“If it’s a pick-and-roll and the ball is in my hands. If it’s a live dribble. I’m looking get into the defender’s body, create contact, come off the screen . . . or if I’ve already used my dribble, setting up that man, making him think I could reject and then come off the screen.
“Or I’m looking at defense and my positioning, where I could have helped, my closeout. It’s all the little details you could pick up on that go a long way,” Randle said. “Everyone is so good in the NBA. It’s those details that separate the good from the really good players. So I’m just trying to figure out how I can get a little better every day.
“But another thing we focused on this offseason was my passing and making reads out of the pick-and-roll. I’ve been watching the film on Chris Paul and how he’s so patient coming off of screens, he uses his dribble to create windows for himself – and that’s stuff we work on in the gym. I’ll have a guy guard me, and a roller, and we’ll rep it out to build familiarity. Cutting down on turnovers, one-hand passes. Every little thing that can happen in a game. We had the time, we figured we might as well… for me, I’m always looking for ways to get better.
“Then I’m crashing at like ten-thirty to do it all again the next day. My girlfriend’s mad at me, but it’s the life, man. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, being an NBA player.
“And I’m having so much fun enjoying the process.”
It’s somber times for many people in the United States and around the globe. COVID-19 has ravaged families, killing hundreds of thousands and leaving millions in financial peril. Its effect on athletes isn’t yet known, with long-term symptoms like brain fog not yet reported or discussed in professional athletes. Keyontae Johnson, a Florida University guard and 2019-20 All-SEC team member, recently collapsed during a game was recently diagnosed with acute myocarditis, which will force him to miss at least three months according to sources. So Randle is approaching COVID-19 with total seriousness, while not allowing it to get in the way of his dreams.
“I don’t believe they (NBA trainers and team executives) would put us in a situation where we would be harmed, or our families,” Randle explained. “I feel for that kid. I’m glad he’s doing great. At the end of the day, basketball is a way to provide for myself and my family. It’s something that’s been a part of me since I was a kid. To let that go in my prime, I wouldn’t be able to do that. I’m down to play now. I trust our medical staff and everyone has done a great job so far.”
But regardless of his determination, things will be different. To start the 2020-21 season, only six teams will allow fans to attend games, all of whom must obey local health mandates. A few others plan to open arenas up to fans at a later date. It won’t be exactly like the bubble, but it will be significantly different than the last time Randle was on an NBA court. Plus, for what it’s worth, most NBA arenas are significantly larger than the gyms in ESPN’s World Wide of Sports complex used for the bubble in Orlando, Florida, making it all the more daunting to play with a limited or non-existent crowd.
“I’ve talked to a lot of guys who played in the bubble and the pre-season with no fans – they say it’s weird,” Randle mused. “For me, you treat practice like a game and there’s no one in practice. So you go out there and do your job like it’s any other game. When I’m playing, I don’t necessarily see the fans, I hear them but don’t necessarily see them. They’re importing the 2K simulated sound in the arenas. But I’ll just have to see when we get there I guess.”
In the end, Randle belongs in the NBA – but lots of guys who aren’t there now can say the same thing. What’s slightly different about Randle is that he understands that. He’s grateful for the opportunity while also understanding that he needs to continue to prove himself.
But the professional in him expects to be criticized along the way, although Randle doesn’t necessarily buy into all of it.
“Criticism doesn’t hurt me,” Randle said. “If I don’t believe something somebody’s saying about me isn’t true, then I prove them wrong. It’s something I’ve had to do for a very long time. I can do it again. I’m all for learning and getting better.”
Grizzlies trade Jonas Valanciunas to Pelicans for Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez, the New Orleans Pelicans are shipping guard Eric Bledsoe, center Steven Adams, the Nos. 10 and 40 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, and two future first-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies for center Jonas Valanciunas and the Nos. 17 and 51 picks of this week’s upcoming draft. So, the Pelicans are giving up the Lakers’ 2022 first-round pick. Valanciunas, the 29-year-old veteran center, averaged 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in 62 games played throughout the 2020-21 season. He also shot 59 percent from the field. The seven-foot Lithuanian also ranks fourth overall in true shooting percentage (.616) among active players. On July 11, 2019, Valanciunas signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Grizzlies. He is set to earn $4 million next season.
Additionally, in 71 games played last season, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. The six-foot-one guard also shot 42.1 percent from the field in the 2020-21 season. On November 23, 2020, as part of a four-team trade, Bledsoe and Adams were traded to the Pelicans from the Oklahoma City Thunder, along with two future first-round picks and the right to swap two additional first-round picks. Last season, in 71 games played, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. His field goal percentage was 42.1 percent as well. The 11-year veteran is set to earn $18,125,000 in the 2021-22 season. Before he was traded to New Orleans, on March 4, 2019, the guard signed a four-year, $70 million extension. He earned his first All-Defensive second-team selection in the 2019-20 season.
The Grizzlies and Pelicans have agreed on a trade to send Jonas Valanciunas, 2021 Nos. 17 and 51 picks to New Orleans for Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, 2021 picks Nos. 10 and 40 and a protected 2022 first-round pick via the Lakers, per @wojespn pic.twitter.com/q7ZoqzpJjt
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 26, 2021
Moreover, in 58 games played last season, Adams averaged 7.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. The six-foot-eleven center ranks fifth among active players for effective field goal shooting percentage (.591). The eight-year veteran also ranks third in offensive rebounding percentage, with an active statistic of 14 percent. On November 23, 2020, the same day Adams was traded to the Pelicans, he signed a two-year, $35 million extension. For next season, he is projected to earn $17,073,171. To add to this trade news, the Grizzlies and Pelicans are swapping second-round picks in this year’s draft, too. Referencing NBA.com’s “Consensus Mock Draft” article, with the No. 10 pick of the draft, the Pelicans were originally expected to draft either Josh Giddey or Davion Mitchell at this number. However, plans have now changed.
From ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the trade will not be finalized until August 6th, and this is because of the annual salaries of these said players. Free agency will begin on August 2, 6:00 p.m. (EST). Furthermore, per Spotrac’s 2021-22 NBA salary cap table, next season’s luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. The team’s current available luxury tax space is $22,555,195. The Pelicans and Grizzlies have a salary cap maximum of $112,414,000. Brandon Ingram, Bledsoe, and Adams had a combined cap percentage of 39.2 percent. Considering that Bledsoe and Adams are traded away, this will clear up $35,198,171 of dead cap space.
Yesterday, CBS Sports reported the news pertaining to Lonzo Ball’s desire to remain in New Orleans. With extra cap space, the team is expected to re-sign the 23-year-old guard. Likewise, for the Grizzlies, the teams has a luxury tax space of $37,019,952. Their current cap space is $8,321,229. As stated before, the transactions have not yet been finalized. The Grizzlies’ outgoing cap is now $14 million, but from the contracts of Adams and Bledsoe, they are bringing in $35,198,171.
NBA Trade Rumors: Jazz considering trade offers for Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, and No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft
Per one interesting announcement from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, the Utah Jazz are open to trading forward Bojan Bogdanovic, forward-guard Joe Ingles, small forward Royce O’Neale, and the No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. Fischer stated, “The Utah Jazz are known to be one of the few teams actually searching to move playoff-tested talent. Retaining Mike Conley is an offseason priority, sources said, and the Jazz have held numerous discussions with teams around the league about offloading salary to create for Conley in free agency.” Point guard Mike Conley is set to become a free agent this offseason. Though, general manager Justin Zanik will aim to re-sign the 33-year-old guard in the coming weeks. Conley earned $34.5 million in the 2020-21 season.
“League personnel most often mention Joe Ingles as the Jazz wing to watch, and Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale are also considered available for trade as Utah narrows its focus towards building a contender around Donovan Mitchel. The Jazz are also open to discuss trading their No. 30 pick, sources said.” In the 2020-21 season, in 72 games played, Bogdanovic averaged 17 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. On May 1, 2021, in the team’s 106-102 victory over the Toronto Raptors, the six-foot-seven Croatian scored a season-high 34 points, shooting 12-for-22, and he finished his performance with four rebounds and four assists as well. On July 7, 2019, he signed a four-year, $73 million contract with the Jazz.
In 67 games played last season, Ingles averaged 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. The six-foot-eight forward is set to earn $14 million in the 2021-22 season. Plus, among the mentioned players, Royce O’Neale has contributed the least. In 71 games played last season, he averaged seven points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. On January 19, 2020, the forward signed a four-year, $36 million extension with the team. He will earn $8.6 million next season. According to The Athletic, in the team’s seventh workout for draft prospects, they viewed Quentin Grimes, David Duke, Matt Mitchell, and a few other players. In the first round, if the team chooses not to draft any of the players they are holding workouts for, the organization will trade the No. 30 pick.
Just for a reminder, retrieved from Spotrac, the 2021-22 NBA luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. Utah’s active roster cap is $133,284,695, the maximum cap is $112,414,000, and the current cap space is $72,990,215. Furthermore, center Rudy Gobert currently has the highest guaranteed contract on the team. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the organization. Gobert is set to earn $35.3 million in the coming season, whereas Donovan Mitchell will earn $28.1 million. Gobert and Mitchell combined consume 47.6 percent of the team’s salary cap. For the upcoming 2021-22 season, the Jazz have a guaranteed total of $129,719,453. Based on the team’s future outlook, the Jazz will have to make a trade or two in order to retain their star players. This should go without saying.
NBA Analysis Network reported a few days ago that a potential Jazz-Knicks trade target is Bojan Bogdanovic. Greg Patuto proposed the Knicks receiving Bogdanovic, while the Jazz would receive Kevin Knox II, and the Nos. 19 and No. 32 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft. Now, this could still happen at some point during this draft week, but then again, sports bettors and fans alike understand that these news reports could be just rumors. The most intelligent, unforthcoming general managers know not to leave bread crumb trails for the media, especially leading into the offseason. They will do everything necessary to protect their foolproof plans.
Raptors, Pacers, Timberwolves, Kings, and Cavaliers among teams showing interest in Ben Simmons
According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, five teams have shown interest in pursuing Ben Simmons from the Philadelphia 76ers. Fischer reported, “Cleveland, Indiana, Minnesota, Sacramento, and Toronto all showed interest in acquiring the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year.” Furthermore, the teams are wanting Simmons to change position from point guard to forward. “Multiple executives from those teams, when contacted by Bleacher Report, mentioned their excitement at incorporating Simmons as a play-making forward—not at the point guard position he’s played in Philadelphia.” The six-foot-eleven guard averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists in the 2020-21 NBA season. This might sound fine for a young rookie, but as a five-year player, these aforementioned statistics were career lows.
However, the 25-year-old also earned his third NBA All-Star selection and second All-Defensive first-team selection last season. After a less than mediocre performance in his third postseason of his NBA career, the majority of 76ers’ fans would agree that it’s now time for Simmons to have a change in scenery. With a regular season record of 49-23 (.681), the No. 1 ranked 76ers in the Eastern Conference entered the conference semifinals as favorites over the Atlanta Hawks. Leading into this series, some NBA analysts were predicting Philadelphia to prevail four games to two. The 2016 first overall pick was expected to limit Trae Young in scoring and rally his team from point deficits, but none of this ever manifested.
Raptors, Wolves, Cavs, Pacers and Kings have all showed interest in acquiring Ben Simmons, per B/R's @JakeLFischer
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 25, 2021
Pertaining to postseason averages, Simmons had a playoff series-low of 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in the conference semifinals against the Hawks. This lackluster showing proved to be a more significant downfall for the superstar, considering Simmons had only five points, eight rebounds, and 13 assists in Game 7 versus the Hawks. In the 2019-20 season, he averaged 2.1 steals per game, leading all other players in the league. Moreover, Simmons currently ranks sixth in the NBA for active player triple-doubles (32). With a total of 32 career triple-doubles, he ranks 13th on the all-time list, tied with Clippers’ guard Rajon Rondo.
On July 16, 2019, Simmons signed a five-year, $169.65 million contract extension with the 76ers. He is set to earn $30.5 million in the 2021-22 season. Among these teams interested in Simmons, Cavs’ Kevin Love has the fourth largest contract guarantee of $91.4 million. Love is due to earn $31.3 million next season, and the 13-year veteran’s contract consumes 26 percent of the team’s salary cap. He could be traded this offseason. Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns has a contract guarantee of $130.8 million. The 25-year-old Wolves center will earn $31.6 million in the upcoming season.
Plus, Kings’ 2017 first-round pick De’Aaron Fox has a guaranteed contract of $171.1 million. Fox will earn $28.1 million next season. To add to that, Raptors’ Pascal Siakim has a contract guarantee of $131.4 million. Not to mention, reported by Yahoo Sports via trade rumors yesterday, the Golden State Warriors are a potential trade partner for Toronto. The Warriors could make a move on Siakim, clearing up space on the Raptors for Simmons. Per Spotrac, the 2021-22 season cap maximum is $112,414,000. In the coming weeks, one of these said five teams might make a substantial trade offer to the 76ers’ organization that they cannot refuse.
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