Heat Rumors: Dragic, Whiteside, Ennis

April 19 at 3:31pm CDT By Dana Gauruder

Goran Dragic is intrigued by the possibility of blending his offensive skills with Chris Bosh if he returns to the Heat, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. Dragic indicated after the season he will turn down the $7.5MM player option on his contract, thus allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The team hopes to re-sign Dragic, who didn’t get a chance to play with Bosh after Dragic was acquired from the Suns at the trade deadline because of Bosh’s season-ending blot clot issues. “I always put pressure on the defense,” Dragic told Jackson “If they don’t stop me, I’ve got a layup. If they stop me, Chris is going to pick and pop and that’s a wide open shot for him. Or he makes the next decision on a handoff, and then the big guy needs to recover from down to up, and so that makes a lot of room for other guys. It’s a lot of different strategies we can use with him on the floor.”

In other news involving the Heat:

  • The possibility of building around Dragic and center Hassan Whiteside, who became a rotation player in January, excites coach Erik Spoelstra, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Spoelstra considers Dragic to be an impact, top-10 point guard and Whiteside to be a legitimate, impact center that could get the team back into the playoffs next season, Winderman adds. “We feel very good about the group that we possibly could have back, if we could bring everybody back and start a training camp together,” Spoelstra told the media that covers the team. “We think we can fast-track a lot of this and make guys look different and more comfortable and more confident with each other with time.”
  • James Ennis and Tyler Johnson are the role players that the Heat will most likely bring back, Winderman adds in a separate article. Winderman does not believe the team views the possible returns of Henry Walker or Michael Beasley as a priority. Ennis, Johnson and Walker have non-guaranteed contracts for next season while the team holds an option of approximately $1.27MM on Beasley. Winderman also opines that Luol Deng is likely to return, based upon his body language, positive attitude and recent comments about his status. Deng holds a player option of approximately $10.15MM for next season.

Lakers Notes: Scott, Free Agency, Johnson

April 19 at 2:14pm CDT By Dana Gauruder

Lakers coach Byron Scott is taking an optimistic view of the future, even though the team may lose its lottery pick to the Sixers, Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times reports. Scott was impressed by the development of rookies Jordan Clarkson and Tarik Black and expects more help to come his way, Pincus continues. “We have a lot of room to improve as a basketball team,” he said to Lakers beat reporters. “We have a lot of room under the cap, some picks and free agency in July.” Scott admits he is sweating out the results of the draft lottery, Pincus reveals. The Lakers — who finished with the fourth worst overall record — will have to surrender their first-round pick to Philadelphia if they drop out of the top five, and there is a 17.2% chance of that happening, Pincus adds. The Lakers owed a pick to the Suns as part of the Steve Nash deal and it was later forwarded to the Sixers.

In other Lakers news:

  • The Lakers need to strike this summer on the free agent market because many teams will have ample salary-cap room the following summer, Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report opines. When the revenue for the league’s new TV deal kicks in during the summer of 2016, the Lakers will have to compete much harder for free agents than they will this offseason, Ding explains. Signing a star player like Kevin Love or another quality piece like Greg Monroe would be ideal but even if they can only land a pair of above-average players, they should make those moves, Ding adds. By improving the team for next season, the Lakers can attract top-level free agents the following summer, Ding concludes.
  • Forward Wesley Johnson is hoping to finally get a multi-year contract this summer, according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. Johnson will enter the free agent market for the third consecutive year and is weary of settling for one-year deals, Bresnahan reports. Johnson signed one-year deals with the team the last two summers and hopes it leads to more security, since he’d prefer to stay in Los Angeles, Bresnahan adds. “I definitely don’t want to leave,” Johnson said to Bresnahan.
  • Black is one of the few returning players expected to be on the team’s opening-day roster next season, Bresnahan reports in a separate article. Black has a contract for approximately $845K next season, though the money is not guaranteed. He impressed Lakers management after being acquired on waivers in late December from the Rockets, averaging 7.4 points and 6.3 rebounds, and both Scott and GM Mitch Kupchak praised Black during their end-of-the-season meeting with him, Bresnahan adds.

Central Notes: Love, James, Jackson, Bucks

April 19 at 12:57pm CDT By Arthur Hill

The playoffs will shed a lot of light on Kevin Love and his future in Cleveland, writes Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report. Love can become a free agent by opting out this summer, and although he has stated his intentions are to remain with the Cavaliers, some around the league wouldn’t be convinced of that unless Cleveland wins the title this year, as Skolnick details. He has become the third option in Cleveland and his usage rate has fallen to 21.7%, the lowest since his rookie season in Minnesota. Obviously, he went there with LeBron to win a championship,” former Timberwolves assistant Bill Bayno said of the offseason deal that sent Love to Cleveland. “I think he had an idea his role would be a little different, I don’t think he knew it would be this different.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • LeBron James told Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com that he will take responsibility for giving Love a bigger role in the offense during the postseason. “I think Kevin has not had the season that he’s accustomed to having the past few years,” James said, “but in order for us to win, Kevin Love has to play at a high level, and it’s my job to help him get to that point as well.” Like Love, James can opt out and become a free agent this summer, but there seems to be little chance of him leaving Cleveland.
  • The Pistons finally started getting the production they expected from Reggie Jackson toward the end of the season, according to Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. Acquired from the Thunder in a deadline deal, Jackson averaged 20 points, 11 assists and 4.8 rebounds over his final 16 games in Detroit. “If you look at his numbers over the last third of the year, he’s going to be top seven or eight point guard in the league over that time,” said coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy. Jackson will be a free agent this summer, but he is expected to stay in Detroit.
  • The Bucks are running short on time to start building their new arena, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. The franchise is under an NBA-imposed deadline to have a new facility completed or near completion by 2017. With government budgets due by the end of June, funding must be secured quickly. “The arena is a two-year process,” said Michael Fascitelli, a member of the Bucks’ ownership group who is leading the arena development.  “Every day is critical.” 

Eastern Notes: Ferry, Smith, Knicks, Noel

April 19 at 11:56am CDT By Arthur Hill

Danny Ferry may be on a leave of absence as Hawks GM, but he hasn’t been forgotten, writes Scott Cacciola of The New York Times. Coach Mike Budenholzer said Ferry deserves a lot of credit for building Atlanta into the top seed in the East. The coach added that he talks to Ferry frequently. “I think it’s probably important to both of us that those conversations are somewhat private,” Budenholzer said. “It’s safe to say that we talk about everything.” Ferry has been on indefinite leave since racially insensitive comments about Luol Deng‘s African heritage surfaced in September. Budenholzer declined to suggest a resolution to Ferry’s situation.

There’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • J.R. Smith probably would have picked up his $6.4MM player option if he had remained with the Knicks, according to Al Iannazzone of Newsday. Despite the team’s awful season, Smith’s love of New York and his friendship with Carmelo Anthony would have influenced his decision. “I think I would have opted in,” he said. “I would have stayed. I wanted to be part of the building process to be one of those teams that ‘this is the team we got and we’re going to give a shot at it.’ I wanted to be a part of it.” A January 5th deal sent Smith to a Cavaliers team that is among the favorites for the NBA title.
  • Rival executives don’t expect a quick fix in New York, Iannazzone writes in a separate piece. The Knicks will have a top five draft pick and are expected to have about $30MM to spend in free agency, but that doesn’t guarantee a huge jump in wins. “They don’t really have any trade assets,” said an unidentified Western Conference executive. “It’s going to be hard to get off the deck. They have a long road up the hill. They got to go one block at a time. One piece at a time and have some patience.”
  • Sixers rookie Nerlens Noel told Tom Moore of Calkins Media that he would like to see the team improve its outside shooting through the draft. Philadelphia finished third in Hoops Rumors’ Reverse Standings and will find out its draft position at the May 19th lottery. “I think we’re pretty good with the frontcourt,” Noel said. “I think we definitely need to add shooting, whether it’s with the first pick we have or [possible] second pick.”


Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Brewer, Garnett

April 19 at 10:51am CDT By Arthur Hill

Sources close to the Nuggets say money won’t be an obstacle in the search for a new coach, reports Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. He speculated that veterans like Mike D’Antoni and Alvin Gentry could be had at an annual salary of $3MM to $4MM, as the chance to coach again would be more important than haggling over a contract. If they want Billy Donovan, the Nuggets would have to top his $3.7MM salary at the University of Florida and handle his $500K buyout. GM Tim Connelly has stated that he would like to fill the coaching vacancy before the June 25th draft.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Rockets’ Corey Brewer credits the Wolves for their help in finding him a new home, reports Brett Pollakoff of Pro Basketball Talk. Brewer, who has become an important reserve in Houston, said coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders helped him find his way to a playoff team with the December trade to Houston. We looked at the trade options,” Brewer said of Saunders, “he gave me permission to talk to teams, and it worked out perfectly.” Brewer said the Rockets and Cavaliers were his top choices.
  • Saunders is hoping to keep Kevin Garnett in Minnesota, according to Andy Greder of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. A sore knee has limited Garnett’s playing time since he was traded to the Wolves in February, but Saunders said the free-agent-to-be is working hard behind the scenes. “He is doing things right now to get ready to play [next season],” Saunders said.
  • After having the best week of his NBA career with the Jazz, Bryce Cotton is returning to the life of a fringe NBA player, writes Brad Rock of The Deseret News. Cotton had a 21-point game Monday against Dallas and scored 14 Wednesday against Houston, but because his contract isn’t guaranteed for next season, he’s looking forward to the summer leagues and a chance to keep proving himself.

Celtics Rumors: Turner, Thomas, Datome

April 19 at 9:39am CDT By Arthur Hill

After being booed in Philadelphia and ignored in Indiana, Evan Turner is enjoying his chance in Boston, according to Jackie MacMullan of ESPNBoston.com. He signed with Celtics before the start of training camp and has become a starter and leader for the young team. However, life in the NBA hasn’t been easy for the second overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft. He was scorned by Sixers fans when his production didn’t match his lofty draft status, and he played sparingly with the Pacers after a midseason trade last year. When Indiana refused to extend an $8.7MM qualifying offer last summer, the Celtics pounced, giving him a fully guaranteed two-year deal worth $6.7MM. “I didn’t even feel like we were taking a chance,” said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. “I felt Evan was a good player, especially if he was utilized in a certain way.”

There’s more from Boston on a playoff Sunday:

  • The Celtics became a playoff-quality team when they acquired Isaiah Thomas from the Suns, MacMullan writes in a separate story. The 5’9″ guard brought creativity and scrappiness and raised the team’s level of play, she contends. “It’s a lot of fun playing with him,” said teammate Marcus Smart. “His ability to get into the paint and doing some of the things he does out there … it’s fun to watch. He makes the game so much easier for the rest of us.”  Thomas is signed through the 2017/18 season.
  • Gigi Datome, who has become a fan favorite in Boston since coming over in a trade from the Pistons, discussed his upcoming free agency with Brian Robb of CBS Boston.  “I hope during my free agency, hopefully the Celtics, hopefully other teams make a call or offer, because it means that this month, I did something good,” Datome said. “It’s really early now and the focus is on the playoffs.”
  • Managing partner and co-owner Wyc Grousbeck is happy to be headed to the playoffs, but he told Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald that he plans to keep tinkering with the team this summer. “Every summer we’re looking to do something,” he said. “The summer of ’07 was the biggest I’ve ever seen. Last summer we tried, just like we will next summer.”

Following Specific Players On Hoops Rumors

April 19 at 8:59am CDT By Chuck Myron

The playoffs are underway, but the season is over for nearly half the league. Soon, more teams will shift their focus to the draft and free agency. In addition to methods of keeping up with your favorite teams as they plot for the future, Hoops Rumors also provides ways to easily follow the latest on all of your favorite players and soon-to-be free agents. If you want to stay up to date on Kevin Love rumors, you can find Love’s page right here. For intel on where Greg Monroe might end up, go here. Updates on top draft prospect Karl-Anthony Towns are found on this page.

Every player we’ve written about has his own rumors page. You can find any player by using our search box (located in the right sidebar); by clicking his tag at the bottom of a post in which he’s discussed; or, by simply typing his name in your address bar after hoopsrumors.com, substituting dashes for spaces. For example, Love’s page is hoopsrumors.com/kevin-love.

You can also set up an RSS feed for any of our player pages by adding /feed to the end of the page URL, like this: hoopsrumors.com/kevin-love/feed. Entering that URL into the reader of your choice should enable you to get updates whenever we write about Love. It works for teams, too. If you’re a Warriors fan, you can enter hoopsrumors.com/golden-state-warriors/feed into your reader and stay on top of all the latest from the Bay Area.

In addition to players and teams, there are a number of other subjects you can track by clicking on the tags that we use at the bottom of posts. You can keep tabs on news related to this year’s draft right here. Items related to the NBA D-League can be found on this page. You can simply scan our top stories here. Again, you can set up a feed with any of these pages by adding /feed to the end of the URL.

Executive Of The Year Candidate: Bob Myers

April 18 at 11:24pm CDT By Chris Crouse

Every year, many teams improve, but making the leap from a good team to a great team is arguably the hardest feat to accomplish. The Warriors, who improved their win total over last season’s by 16 games, have reached the pinnacle that so many teams are unable to attain. The roster is a collection of talent that meshed together beautifully and formed a team that is considered one of the favorites to win the title. The transformation wasn’t simply a product of good fortune; it was a series of calculated moves that catapulted the 2014/15 Warriors into the conversation about the best teams of all time.

NBA: Playoffs-New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State WarriorsGolden State hired Bob Myers to be the assistant GM in April of 2011. While he didn’t have full control of the front office yet, he played a part in the 2012 trade that netted Andrew Bogut, according to Antonio Gonzalez of the Associated Press. Trading a fan favorite in Monta Ellis for an injury-prone center wasn’t an easy choice, but it was necessary in order to add a defensive anchor and give Stephen Curry more reign within the offense. Golden State promoted Myers to GM in April of 2012 and the ensuing year would set the table for this season’s championship run.

Myers’ first draft as the GM was a success. Golden State picked Harrison Barnes with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Barnes hasn’t lived up to the superstar hype that surrounded him when he first committed to North Carolina, but the forward has turned into a solid two-way player and an important contributor for the team. With the last pick in the first round, the Warriors selected Festus Ezeli out of Vanderbilt. The center has progressed during his first three seasons in the league and looks like he will have a decent career in the NBA, something that is not a given for players selected that late in the draft.

Second-round pick Draymond Green was Myers’ most impressive selection. Many teams saw Green as a man without a position in the NBA, someone who was not big enough to play power forward and not swift enough to guard small forwards. Myers just saw a winner. “Draymond, look at his resume,” Myers said during the team’s post draft press conference“He went to one of the top colleges in the country and all he did was produce and win.” Green has evolved into one of best defenders in the league and has become an integral part of the Warriors’ success.

Some even believe Green will earn a maximum salary contract when he becomes a restricted free agent this offseason. If that happens without the team trading away any of its core players, Green will be one of five Warriors players who will make more than MVP candidate Stephen Curry during the 2015/16 season. Myers signed Curry to a four-year, $44MM extension in 2012. The pact was considered a high-risk, high reward move for Golden State because of Curry’s injury history. By signing Curry to the extension before the 2012/13 season rather than letting him hit restricted free agency and potentially sign a maximum-salary contract, the team saved nearly $17MM, which allowed Golden State to allocate its resources into improvements around the point guard.

During the 2013 offseason, Myers added Andre Iguodala in a three-way deal with the Nuggets and Jazz. It was a surprising move at the time considering the Warriors’ lack of cap space. Golden State sent Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush to the Jazz along with two future first-round picks. Given the current market for first-round picks, it may seem like a steep price to pay, but Iguodala has been a key contributor and those picks will likely be toward the back end of the first round, so there’s not much of a chance they’ll turn into players of significant value.

Adding a veteran player to push the team toward championship contention is necessary for most clubs looking to take that next step. However, sometimes it’s the move that a franchise doesn’t make that becomes the reason it succeeds. The 1992/93 Rockets nearly traded Hakeem Olajuwon to the Heat but ultimately decided to stand pat. Houston would win two NBA championships in the ensuing years. In 2009, the Warriors almost traded Curry to the Suns for Amar’e Stoudemire. Golden State decided to keep the No. 7 overall pick and ended up with a superstar to build around. Last offseason, the Warriors were in talks with the Wolves about trading for Kevin Love. Initially, it seemed like Curry’s backcourt mate would be headed to Minnesota, but the front office said Klay Thompson was off the table and the deal never happened. Thompson and Curry turned into arguably the league’s best backcourt and the team has been hitting on all cylinders since.

Myers was faced with another tough decision during the 2014 offseason. Coach Mark Jackson reportedly clashed with upper management, but he took the team from lottery-bound to playoff-bound and was well-respected by his players. Replacing Jackson after a 51-win campaign was a risky proposition. Myers tapping Steve Kerr, who did not have any NBA coaching experience, as the next coach may have been a riskier move. Kerr, who has innovated with the team and is a candidate for the Coach of the Year Award, has proved Myers right.

The Warriors rank first in defensive efficiency and second in offensive efficiency this season and the roster construction of the team can be credited for the success. Myers has surrounded his superstar, Curry, with the supporting cast needed to win a championship. He should take home the Executive of the Year honor this season, but the award isn’t just for the moves in the past year. It’s recognition for all of the moves that he has made and the passion he exhibits for his position. “My love for the NBA started with this team,” Myers said when he was promoted to GM. “It’s more than just a job.”  Myers has excelled and his dedication has given Warriors the ammunition necessary to win the 15 playoff games still standing between them and the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

And-Ones: Wolves, Knicks, Draft

April 18 at 9:47pm CDT By Chris Crouse

If the Wolves win the lottery and land the top pick in the NBA draft, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor are the only players whom the team should seriously consider using the selection on, opines Joel Brigham in a collaborative piece for Basketball Insiders. Point guard may be a position of need, considering Ricky Rubio‘s history of injuries, but the team has already indicated it will take a best-player-available approach when using its selection rather than drafting for need.

“I think when you’re a lottery-type team, you have to take the best player available,” President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders said. “If you’re there, you probably got there because you lost, and you’re probably still a little ways away. There’s not probably one player, really, that you think, wherever you’re at, ‘Hey, if I take that position, he can help me.’ The better chance you have of improving the team is to take whoever the best player you evaluate is there.”

Minnesota finished the season with a record of 16-66, which gives the team the best chance at winning the lottery and a 46.5% chance at landing one of the top two picks, as our 2015 Lottery Odds page indicates.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • If the Knicks win the lottery, Towns should be the selection, Tommy Beer opines in the same piece for Basketball Insiders. Beer believes Towns could be the defensive anchor that New York hasn’t had since it traded Tyson Chandler to the Mavs. The Kentucky product averaged 2.3 blocks while playing only 21 minutes per game during his lone college season.
  • The Warriors have recalled Ognjen Kuzmic from their D-League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors, according to a team press release. To date this season, the center has appeared in 16 games for Golden State, averaging 1.3 points and 1.1 rebounds in 4.5 minutes per game.
  • The Magic showed flashes of potential, but ultimately they turned in another sub-par season. Center Nikola Vucevic believes it’s time the team takes the next step, Denton writes in a seperate piece. “Now, we’ve got to accept the fact that we’ve got to change this and turn this thing around. Rebuilding was fine for two or even three years, but we’ve got to find a way to turn it around because [youth] is not an excuse anymore,” said Vucevic, who led the Magic in points and rebounds this season. “So we’ve got to find a way to turn this thing around quickly.’’ 

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Knicks, Salary Cap

April 18 at 8:19pm CDT By Chris Crouse

The Raptors will face some difficult decisions this offseason, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet. Amir Johnson, Lou Williams and Jonas Valanciunas will be free agents and Terrence Ross will be eligible for a rookie extension. Toronto won 49 games this season, one more than last year’s total, but the team went 12-16 over its final 28 games and didn’t look like a playoff-caliber team at times. GM Masai Ujiri has the challenge of figuring out if the young roster is still growing or if the team has plateaued as currently constructed.

“We’ll learn that as time comes,” Ujiri said. “This playoffs will help. We will continue with what we are preaching, we will continue to learn. It’s like at the trade deadline, if we added an older player, that would take away something from these guys showing themselves … [But] It’s going to take the playoffs, it’s going to take time to see [if] you keep this group or do you add in a player here or there. But they are building the stage and that’s what you want.” 

The Raptors, who lost the first game in their series with the Wizards earlier today by a score of 93-86, haven’t won a playoff series since they beat the Knicks in the 2001 playoffs. Here’s some notes from Toronto’s rival in the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks need to improve in almost every facet and Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal examines a few areas that deserve the most attention. Herring identifies the point guard situation as an area the team should invest resources in this offseason. He believes Jose Calderon, who was the subject of trade discussions during the season, could be a contributor to the team, but as part of the second unit instead of a starter. Herring also identifies adding athleticism to the roster and working to improve coach Derek Fisher‘s game management among the areas the team should focus on.
  • The projected salary cap increase over the next two seasons should help the Knicks land marquee free agents, opines Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork. League executives expect the salary cap to increase from its current $63.1MM figure to $67.1MM next season and $89MM during the 2016/17 season. Begley also cautions that the team should be careful when adding free agents this offseason; although the team will have roughly $22MM more to work with next offseason, the maximum salaries for players will also rise significantly since they are a product of the salary cap.