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Sonny Weems, Nando De Colo Starring Overseas

Sonny Weems and Nando De Colo are starring overseas, but haven’t ruled out a return to the NBA.

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Weems Chose CSKA Over NBA Teams

Established overseas swingman Sonny Weems is still getting calls from NBA teams. In fact, he turned down multiple NBA opportunities this past offseason.

Weems, a former NBA draftee who played 140 games for the Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors, is widely accepted as the best and most skilled small forward outside the NBA.

It wasn’t long ago that Weems single-handedly shut down the reigning Euroleague Champions Maccabi Tel Aviv — outscoring the entire Israeli squad 13-12 throughout the first quarter — as Russian power-club CSKA Moscow cruised to an easy 81-64 triumph. Weems finished with a game-high 19 points.

“I was open to going back to the NBA, but the offers weren’t what I was looking for as far as money and contract lengths go,” Weems told Basketball Insiders during a one-on-one chat.

After putting up career-highs for the Raptors during the 2010-2011 season with 9.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game, Weems headed across the pond for the fist time. He signed with Zalgiris Kaunas of Lithuania (home for former Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers guard Will Cherry). It wasn’t a smooth transition, but over time, Weems re-invented himself as an elite all-around player.

“He has the complete package,” said a longtime Euroleague coach.

Weems then spent time under former Los Angeles Lakers adviser and current San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina at CSKA Moscow. He became the go-to player for the Russians, but ultimately missed a game-winning three-pointer that could’ve sent Moscow to the Euroleague Finals. He averaged 12.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.7 dimes over 29 Euroleague appearances last season.

So what’s keeping him out of the NBA?

“I couldn’t really pursue the NBA because some of the teams I spoke to wanted to wait and I didn’t want to wait,” Weems said. “I had a couple offers from a few teams in the league. One of the more serious organizations was the Atlanta Hawks, offering a fully-guaranteed deal. CSKA, however, presented me with a great offer that I couldn’t refuse.”

Curious as to what a “great offer” means? Well, according to sources, Weems inked a long-term $10 million agreement with CSKA, cementing himself as the highest-paid player overseas.

“I’m 28 years old, I’m not getting any younger, and a basketball career is short,” Weems said. “CSKA is pretty much my team. I have a lot of control over here and can basically do whatever I want. I think I made a smart move career-wise.”

Coached by Greek master-mind Dimitris Itoudis, in my opinion the next NBA-bound Euro-coach (even as an assistant), Weems has been golden and elevated his game. He’s averaging a career-high 15 points, shooting 41 percent from the perimeter and 83 percent from the free throw line.

Furthermore, Weems is the highest-ranked non-PG in the Euroleague in assists with 4.8 dimes per game – ahead of ultra-talented passers such as Carlos Arroyo, Sergio Llull, Dontaye Draper, Nikos Zisis, and Marcelinho Huertas.

De Colo Hopes to Return to the NBA Eventually

During the recent off-season, French guard Nando De Colo opted to leave the NBA and return to Europe. His career in the United States — with the San Antonio Spurs and the Toronto Raptors — to his surprise, was short-lived.

After winning the EuroCup championship with Spanish club Valencia then reaching the Euroleague quarter-finals the following season, De Colo made the jump to the NBA in 2012, signing with San Antonio.

De Colo, a proven European-winner and All-Star MVP in France, had high hopes that his pact with the Spurs, an organization with a European identity, could work.

However, the 27-year-old Frenchman never took flight. De Colo registered spotty minutes off the bench, averaging 3.8 points and 1.9 assists over 72 games his first season, and 4.3 points to go along with 1.2 dimes through 26 showings in his second season. In between, he had multiple assignments with the Austin Toros of the NBA D-League.

In February, De Colo was traded to the Raptors, posting 3.8 points and 1.6 assists per game over 21 appearances. Despite his averages dropping in Canada, the former Olympian was open to returning to the Raptors for another run.

“I wanted to stay with the Toronto Raptors,” De Colo told Basketball Insiders. “It wasn’t easy to leave the NBA, but I didn’t get enough opportunities and I felt I was losing my rhythm. I had to return to Europe.

“I had discussions with the Raptors over the summer. The team told me, ‘We want you next season and we’ll try to get you more playing time.’ I was excited because it’s much easier to fit in with a team during training camp as opposed to joining mid-season through a trade.”

De Colo said he had talks with the Raptors, in addition to a couple other NBA teams that expressed interest, but it was too late. De Colo had pulled the trigger, signing a two-year, €3 million contract with CSKA Moscow in Russia.

“I now understand how the NBA works, it’s all a matter of opportunities,” De Colo said. “Although it was a difficult experience for me, I’m not finished with the NBA. I still want to go back.

“For now, I’m focused on winning with CSKA, and did what was best for my career.”

Do you think Weems or De Colo could return to the NBA? Leave your thoughts in a comment!

David Pick has extensively covered European basketball and American players abroad since 2010. His work can be found at Eurobasket.com and ONE.co.il. Follow him on Twitter @iamdpick

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Grizzlies trade Jonas Valanciunas to Pelicans for Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams

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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.

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.

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NBA Trade Rumors: Jazz considering trade offers for Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, and No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft

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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.

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Raptors, Pacers, Timberwolves, Kings, and Cavaliers among teams showing interest in Ben Simmons

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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.

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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