Sixers GM Sam Hinkie may exceed the 75 players he worked out last year, writes Tom Moore of Calkins Media. Philadelphia had already talked to more than a dozen players before Tuesday’s lottery, which saw the team land the third overall pick. If Hinkie targets a certain player — Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell for instance — the front office will contact the player’s high school and college coaches, along with rival college coaches and players. Then comes a workout, followed by an interview process that can last for several hours. “We’ll spend all the available time between now and then to try to gain all the information we can to make good decisions,” Hinkie said. “By design, we’ll have to make a decision at the end of June. I think it’s really a mistake to make one sometimes much, much earlier.”
There’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- The Sixers will likely pursue the best player — not the best fit — with their first-round selection, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Loaded with big men but in need of backcourt help, the Sixers probably won’t have a tough decision if Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor are the first two players selected. However, if the Lakers make a surprise decision with the second pick, Philadelphia could face a choice between a much-needed guard and a suddenly available big man. Pompey notes that Joel Embiid missed his entire rookie year due to injury and Nerlens Noel enjoyed success at center, where he won’t play once Embiid returns.
- The Celtics‘ Jared Sullinger is eligible for an extension this summer, but Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com writes that serious contract talks are more likely to happen when he becomes a restricted free agent in 2016. Sullinger, who will make $2.3MM next season, is trying to meet Boston’s front office challenge to get in better shape. “I think it’s just, they want me to go one step further,” he said. “I think that’s what it is — one step further. That’s pretty much what I’m doing [this offseason], every day at Ohio State.”
- The Nets‘ need for stability at coach should work in favor of Lionel Hollins, writes Daniel LoGiudice of netsdaily.com. LoGiudice gives Hollins a C grade for his first season behind Brooklyn’s bench, saying the coach will need to fix his rotations and rely more on analytics to succeed long-term.
It is difficult for NBA scouts to accurately gauge how good 2015 NBA Draft prospect Emmanuel Mudiay is because of his decision to play in China this past season, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. But Mudiay thinks his experience overseas has prepared him for the rigors of the NBA just as well as attending SMU would have, Pompey adds. “I got out of it what I wanted,” said Mudiay. “It definitely was a great experience. I wanted to do it for my mom at first. But after I made the decision and made sure she was financially stable, I just wanted to go on and pursue it, a basketball mind-set. It can definitely help me out in the NBA.“
Here’s more from around the league:
- Rockets draft-and-stash prospect Sergio Llull has been rumored to be in line to receive a three-year deal worth a total of at least $17MM to join the NBA next season, though Houston GM Daryl Morey denied that was the case. For his part, Llull isn’t too concerned about whether or not he plays in the U.S. in 2015/16. In an interview with Gigantes.com (translation by Enea Trapani of Sportando), Llull said, “The NBA is there, but I’ll sleep well in any case. I want to win titles and I’m in the best place to do that.” Llull currently plays for Real Madrid in the Euroleague.
- Virginia forward Justin Anderson can be looked at as “Tony Allen with a jump shot,” and the swingman is firmly on the Celtics‘ radar heading into the 2015 NBA Draft, A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com writes. Anderson enjoyed his sit down with Boston coach Brad Stevens at the draft combine, Blakely adds. “What stuck out to me most, is him [Stevens] and his relationship with his guys,” Anderson said. “Just coming out of college, playing for him would be similar to playing for coach [Tony] Bennett.”
- Pistons TV analyst and former NBA player Grant Long wants to become an NBA coach, and he is making the rounds this offseason hoping to land an assistant position to realize that dream, Terry Foster of The Detroit News writes. “What’s odd is when I was playing I heard all the time from coaches what a wonderful coach you would make,” Long said. “And when I finished playing I got nothing. Sometimes it’s just lip service until you get in. I know I am not ready to be a head coach, but I feel in time I will. That is why I want to be an assistant first. I know the game. I can convey it to players to make them better. I can motivate people and can relate to younger players.“
The Lakers have major interest in soon-to-be free agent DeMarre Carroll, a source tells Sean Deveney of The Sporting News, who adds the Celtics and the Pistons to the list of teams interested in the vastly improved small forward. Carroll went down with a left knee injury Wednesday during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but an MRI revealed only a sprain, the team announced via press release, listing him as questionable for Game 2.
An executive who spoke recently with Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops estimated Carroll’s next annual salary will be around $8-9MM, a giant leap from his pay of little more than $2.442MM this season. The Hawks would like to re-sign Carroll, Deveney writes, but they only have Early Bird rights on him, meaning they’d have to use cap space to give him a starting salary of any more than about $6MM. Atlanta has the cap flexibility to pay him $8-9MM next year, as do the Lakers, Celtics and Pistons, but the Hawks won’t have the chance to give him a five-year contract or 7.5% raises as they could with full Bird rights, which would have given Atlanta a leg up on other teams.
Carroll, when prompted last month, said he’d be interested in the Knicks, though more recently he made it clear that he places a high value on player development, a strength of the Hawks franchise. The former 27th overall pick bounced around to four teams in his first four NBA seasons before becoming a standout three-point shooter with the Hawks. He nailed 39.5% of his attempts from behind the arc this season, a career high.
While at the draft lottery, Sixers GM Sam Hinkie was asked if the team looked at Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel as franchise cornerstones, and how he sold the midseason trade of Michael Carter-Williams to the two big men, Zach Lowe of Grantland relays. “If your question is more about a particular trade we made, and how that might make [Noel and Embiid] feel, I called them immediately as we traded that person. Immediately,” said Hinkie. “I explained to them about how they should think about things — how some things spill over into others, and some don’t. That they shouldn’t read too much into these things. And I talked to them in exit interviews about what kind of program we were trying to build, and where they might fit in. And how the way they might fit has as much to do with them as it does with any grand design — with how they step into a particular void. Sometimes those voids — voids of leadership, of who the best player is, or voids in play — don’t stay open very long. Someone steps into it. They’ll have the first two chances at that, but there are gonna be maybe six more guys right behind them that will be looking to get theirs, too.”
Here’s more out of the Atlantic Division:
- Many insiders around the NBA believe that it is a foregone conclusion that the Sixers will select Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell with the No. 3 overall pick this June, Derek Bodner of DraftExpress tweets.
- With the Knicks being the only team in the draft lottery to fall to a lower than projected pick, New York will likely be in line to select Emmanuel Mudiay this June, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv writes. Knicks GM Steve Mills already spoke with the young guard while at the NBA Draft lottery, Zagoria notes. “Mudiay is potentially a good player,” Mills said. “We haven’t worked him out yet, but he’s a guy that we think will obviously be in the mix, but we will look at all of our options and we will feel good about whoever we end up selecting.”
- The Celtics have workouts scheduled today with Aaron Thomas (Florida State), Anthony Brown (Stanford), Dez Wells (Maryland), Malcolm Miller (Holy Cross), Julian Washburn (UTEP), SirDominic Pointer (St. John’s), Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com relays (Twitter link).
The notion of JaVale McGee and the Celtics circling back to negotiate a deal this summer isn’t out of the question after the sides failed to close on a contract in early March, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. Boston wouldn’t be able to sign him until after the July Moratorium, and it would be surprising if the Celtics prioritized him, but it appears as though there’s an opportunity for the 7-footer to return to the NBA after he went unsigned following his release from the Sixers.
Blakely suggests that a two-year deal with a player option for 2016/17 would be in order, though it’s not entirely clear if that’s merely speculation. Negotiations between the Celtics and the B.J. Armstrong client this past season reportedly fell apart over McGee’s insistence on a player option for 2015/16, though weeks later the center backed off the idea that he had to have a player option wherever he signed.
The Celtics have only about $40.4MM committed for next season, so they can open significant cap room, though doing so would wipe out the team’s copious trade exceptions. Still, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to see McGee settle for the minimum, since Philadelphia’s obligated to $12MM for McGee next season after waiving him shortly after the trade deadline without striking any sort of buyout arrangement.
The Mavs apparently had serious interest in McGee this spring but later dropped out, and he was also linked to the Rockets, Raptors and Heat. The Sixers acquired him along with a protected first-round pick from the Nuggets at the deadline. The 27-year-old put up career lows this season in several categories, including his 11.1 minutes per game across 23 appearances split between Denver and Philadelphia as he struggled to regain his health after missing all but five games last season with a stress fracture in his left leg.
The Grizzlies have tried multiple times to strike up extension talks with Mike Conley, sources tell Marc Stein of ESPN.com, who says that Conley has nonetheless resisted. That’s no surprise, since the salary for the first season in a veteran extension for him could be no more than 107.5% of his salary in the last season before the extension were to kick in. The point guard’s existing bargain deal tops out at little more than $9.388MM next season, so an extension would entail a giant financial sacrifice for Conley. He’s therefore destined to become one of the headliners in the 2016 free agent class, but there’s more on this summer’s business first amid the latest from the Southwest Division:
- The working assumption in Memphis is that Jeff Green will pick up his $9.2MM player option to stay with the Grizzlies for next season, but the presence of wily agent David Falk in the equation makes that less than a foregone conclusion, as Stein details in the same piece.
- The Celtics were among the many teams that made trade proposals for Kosta Koufos this year that the Grizzlies turned down, Stein writes. Boston was involved in a rumored three-team scenario that would have sent Koufos to Cleveland, but it didn’t appear until now that the C’s made a play for the big man themselves. In any case, Memphis is aware that Koufos, a free agent this summer, wants to start, Stein says.
- Alvin Gentry, Scott Brooks, an NBA assistant coach or a college coach who isn’t already a star would probably pass muster with Pelicans GM Dell Demps sooner than Tom Thibodeau, John Calipari or Jeff Van Gundy would, as Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune opines. The GM is reportedly weary of internal conflict, and a coach who carries less authority would be easier for Demps to handle, Smith believes, calling the front office situation, in which Saints/Pelicans executive Mickey Loomis holds sway over Demps, “untenable.” The Pels reportedly interviewed Gentry on Monday, but it’s unclear whether the Warriors assistant is the right fit for the New Orleans roster, according to Smith.
- Al-Farouq Aminu‘s energy is reminiscent of Corey Brewer and Jae Crowder, and the Mavs should work to retain soon-to-be free agent Aminu this summer, as Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News argues, positing that the forward would be a bargain at around $4MM a year.
Andrew Wiggins was a unanimous All-Rookie First-Team selection, the league announced as it revealed the media voting results for the honors. Nikola Mirotic was the second-leading vote-getter, followed by Nerlens Noel, Elfrid Payton and Jordan Clarkson, all of whom comprise the first team. Marcus Smart, Zach LaVine, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jusuf Nurkic and Langston Galloway make up the second team.
Wiggins far outpaced all other contenders for Rookie of the Year honors after averaging 16.9 points in 36.2 minutes per game this season for the Timberwolves, who acquired the 2014 No. 1 overall pick in the Kevin Love trade. Minnesota, which finished with the league’s worst record this season and has a 25% chance to win the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, is the only team to place two players on the All-Rookie teams, with LaVine on the second team despite having garnered 22 first-team votes. Every member of the second team received at least three first-team votes.
Payton, the 10th overall selection, is the only first-round pick from 2014 to appear on the first team. Mirotic was a draft-and-stash selection from 2011, Noel was the sixth overall pick in 2013 but qualified as a rookie this season because he sat out all of 2013/14 with injury, and Clarkson was the 46th pick last year, having gone overlooked through all of the first round and half of the second.
Galloway made the second team despite having gone undrafted and not having made his debut until January 7th, after he had signed a 10-day contract with the Knicks. New York followed up with another 10-day deal and finally a multiyear pact for the surprisingly effective point guard.
Boston is “very open” to moving up in next month’s NBA draft, two league sources tell A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. The sources did not indicate which player the Celtics were targeting, but Blakely notes there are growing signs that their target would be Willie Cauley-Stein. Boston’s defense improved over the course of the season, ranking 12th in the league in defensive efficiency by season’s end. However, the team lacked a true defensive presence in its interior. Cauley-Stein is widely considered one of the best, if not the best, rim protector in the draft, so the fit makes sense for a team looking to improve on its 40-win campaign and become a true contender. The 21-year-old is currently the sixth best prospect according to Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress and Chad Ford of ESPN.com pegs him as the eighth best prospect. The Celtics own the 16th and the 28th pick in this year’s first round, as well as several first-rounders in the upcoming years, as our Traded Future Draft Picks page indicates. Boston already has an influx of young talent on the roster, which gives the team the flexibility to consolidate picks in order to obtain more highly regarded players.
Here’s more from Boston:
- President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge is receiving praise from around the league, Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald writes. “I think in today’s day and age where the NBA finds itself, with as much cap space that’s available, with how coveted young players are in the new system, to be able to operate and accumulate that many draft choices and put that on top of a lot flexibility is not easy,” said Thunder GM Sam Presti. “That’s because it’s not an exclusive marketplace they’re operating in. They have to do it in ways that are being mirrored by their competitors.”
- Suns GM Ryan McDonough spoke very highly of Ainge and the job that he has done, Bulpett writes in the same piece. “Usually teams do one or the other. You try to compete, and that involves getting rid of young players, maybe bringing in some more veteran players, trading draft picks for vets. Or you rebuild, and that means trading away veteran players, really only focusing on picks and young players. The challenge is to do both. I think the really good organizations can do it, but it’s tricky. I think when you’re with an organization like the Celtics or the Suns that have great history and tradition, it’s not really acceptable or certainly not desirable to bottom out. You don’t want to bottom out and hope for luck in the lottery. I admire the way the Celtics have done it,” McDonough said. “They’ve done a tremendous job. They’ve got all the future picks in the queue that are coming down the line. They have some good young players. Obviously they have excellent management and coaching. The fans will see over time how things will work out.”
The Sixers‘ long rebuilding process could get a boost Tuesday night, writes Tom Moore of Calkins Media. With a little luck in the draft lottery, Philadelphia could acquire two new starters to go with Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid. The Sixers have a 17.2% chance to land the Lakers’ top-five protected selection and a 9% shot at the Heat’s top-10 protected pick. Philadelphia’s own pick is currently slotted at number three and is guaranteed to fall in the top six.
There’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- The Sixers interviewed Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant about the possibility of playing with his older brother, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Jerami Grant just completed his rookie season in Philadelphia and is under the team’s control through 2017/18.
- Arkansas forward Michael Qualls will have a pre-draft workout for the Sixers on Tuesday, Pompey tweets. Connecticut’s Ryan Boatright will work out for the team on the same day, according to Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv (Twitter link).
- Rakeem Christmas of Syracuse will work out for the Celtics later this month, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.
- The Knicks are among 14 teams to meet with Kentucky’s Trey Lyles, Zagoria tweets. Also, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky met with team president Phil Jackson this week, tweets Marc Berman of The New York Post. Kaminsky quipped that even though he is only 22 years old, teams are treating him like he is 65. Duke’s Justise Winslow also met with Jackson and the Knicks, according to Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal (Twitter link).
- Bojan Bogdanovic gave the Nets plenty to like in his first NBA season, according to Reed Wallach of netsdaily.com. Brooklyn signed the Croatian forward last summer after Paul Pierce left for Washington. Bogdanovic proved to be an effective shooter and won Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors for April. He is under a three-year contract and is scheduled to make more than $3.4MM next season and nearly $3.6MM in 2016/17.