Whether he stays in Cleveland or not, Kevin Love has some intriguing financial decisions to make, according to Chris Haynes of Northeast Ohio Media Group. Love, whose first playoff run with the Cavaliers was cut short by injury, can opt out of his contract for next season, which is worth $16.7MM. Love stated in January that he planned to opt in and put off free agency until 2016, but Haynes notes that some circumstances have changed, including the shoulder injury, which could make Love seek long-term security right away. Cleveland owns his Bird Rights and can offer a five-year max deal, while other teams are limited to four years.
There’s more from the Central Division:
- Bucks coach Jason Kidd sees a bright future after his first season in Milwaukee, writes Jim Hoehn of The Associated Press. Although the Bucks were bounced from the playoffs Thursday with a 54-point loss to the Bulls, their 26-game improvement in the regular season is cause for optimism. Milwaukee will also benefit from the return of rookie Jabari Parker, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in December. Most of the Bucks’ key players are under contract for next season, but Jared Dudley can opt out and Khris Middleton is a restricted free agent. “I definitely feel like everybody wants me back here, but at the end of the day, it is a business,” Middleton said. “So, you’ve got to make the right decision for you, but I would just love to be here.”
- Kidd deserves the title of “point guard on the sidelines,” contends Steve Aschburner of nba.com. He credits the coach with infusing his personality into the Bucks and helping the team stay afloat after the injury to Parker, the buyout of Larry Sanders and the trade of Brandon Knight.
- The Bucks‘ John Henson saved some of his best games for the playoffs, writes Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times. After a subpar regular season, the Milwaukee reserve averaged nearly a double-double in the loss to the Bulls. “He brings a lot of energy off the bench,” Middleton said of his teammate. “He is a long, athletic big who can challenge at the rim.” Henson is signed through next season and will make nearly $3MM in 2015/16.
The Magic‘s biggest need heading into the 2015 NBA draft is for a rim protector who can also stretch the floor with his shooting, Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel writes. Two players who could fill that need, and who Orlando could look to select in the first round, are Kristaps Porzingis or Willie Cauley-Stein, Robbins notes. While Porzingis may have a higher ceiling, the Magic’s need to win now may predicate the team targeting the more NBA-ready big man in Cauley-Stein, the Sentinel scribe adds. Orlando had hoped it found the stretch-four it was seeking when the team inked Channing Frye to a four-year, $32MM contract last summer. But Frye only notched averages of 7.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in his 75 appearances for the team in 2014/15.
Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:
- The Nets have not picked up the team option on assistant GM Bobby Marks‘ contract for 2015/16, Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com reports (Twitter links). The deadline to do so was May 1st, though the team could still elect to extend Marks’ deal once other offseason personnel decisions have been made, Mazzeo adds.
- Celtics coach Brad Stevens is looking forward to what he hopes is a productive offseason for the franchise, Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe writes. When asked what he was most excited about this summer, Stevens responded, “I like the draft. I think it’s a fun thing to watch guys, to come in to learn, to meet them in interviews, to talk to them. I know a lot of them or at least a lot about them. And then free agency, we didn’t get a chance to experience it much last year because we didn’t have any [salary cap] space. And we knew that. We made a couple of calls but really we didn’t have any chance, because we didn’t have very much money available.“
- Khris Middleton, coming off of a season where he averaged 13.4 points and 4.4 rebounds, both career highs, is likely in line for a hefty pay raise this summer. The Bucks can make the 23-year-old a restricted free agent if they tender him a qualifying offer worth $2,725,003. For his part, Middleton hopes to re-sign with Milwaukee this offseason, Matt Velazquez of The Journal Sentinel writes. “I got here, nobody really knew what to expect,” Middleton said. “We had a terrible season, then this year I feel like we found our foundation of what we can be and what we can become. I feel like we have a great young team going in the right direction. Would love to be a part of that here.“
Bucks‘ swingman Khris Middleton wishes to return to Milwaukee next season, Charles F. Gardner of The Journal Sentinel relays (Twitter links). “I hope to be back here,” Middleton said. “I feel we have a great young team, going in the right direction.” The 23-year-old can become a restricted free agent this offseason provided the Bucks tender him a qualifying offer worth $2,725,003. Middleton also noted that he wouldn’t want negotiations between he and Milwaukee to become drawn out, and referenced Eric Bledsoe and the Suns’ dealings from last summer, Gardner adds. “That’s a terrible situation,” said Middleton. “It worked out for him but it’s something I’d rather not be in.”
Here’s more out of the Central Division:
- The dislocated shoulder that knocked Kevin Love out of action for four to six months also ruined his chance at redeeming what the forward termed a “so-so” first season with the Cavs, Chris Haynes of The Northeast Ohio Media Group writes.
- Bulls‘ swingman Jimmy Butler‘s uncanny ability to accept criticism from his coaches without reacting emotionally is a major reason that the 25-year-old has matured into a star player in the NBA, Eric Weiss and Kevin O’Connor of DraftExpress write in their profile of player. Butler will become a restricted free agent this summer if Chicago tenders him a qualifying offer of $4,433,683.
- The Cavs have already begun recruiting Love to remain in Cleveland with their statements about how much the big man will be missed now that he is out for the remainder of the playoffs, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today writes. The scribe cites comments like ones made by guard Kyrie Irving, who said, “When one of your brothers goes down, there’s a piece of us that went with him.”
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said that he believes sides are nearing an agreement that would secure the public’s share of funding for a new Bucks arena in Milwaukee, The Associated Press reports. Bucks president Peter Feigin said 10 days ago that he wanted to see negotiations wrap up by today, and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com wrote recently that funding had to be secured by June for the team to remain on course to satisfy the NBA’s demands for a new building. The NBA has imposed a November 2017 deadline for the arena to be in place and the league intends to exercise its right to seize control of the franchise from owners Wesley Edens, Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan and relocate it if construction doesn’t begin soon, according to Windhorst.
Walker’s proposal earlier this year for a $220MM bonding plan that would draw from a “jock tax” on players and other team personnel met with stiff opposition from the Wisconsin legislature, which instead is proposing a $150MM plan for the $500MM arena. Current Bucks ownership and former owner Herb Kohl have pledged a combined $250MM toward the building.
Bucks officials and state and local leaders have been meeting to try to hammer out a deal, and Walker joined the talks Thursday, the AP notes. Commissioner Adam Silver has publicly maintained an upbeat tone regarding the future of the team in Milwaukee and said last week that he maintained faith that a funding deal would come.
There’s little doubt that the Cavs would offer a maximum-salary deal to Kevin Love if he were to opt out this summer, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. That’s in spite of Love’s shoulder injury and a report in March from ESPN colleague Chris Broussard, who said that rival executives had begun to question whether Cleveland would shell out the max for the power forward.
Here’s the latest from the NBA’s Central Division:
- The Bucks‘ hard-nosed defensive style is a direct reflection on coach Jason Kidd‘s influence and personality, Teddy Greenstein of The Chicago Tribune writes. Not only has Milwaukee upped its win total by 26 from the previous season, the team improved from last in the league in defensive efficiency in 2013/14 to second overall this season, Greenstein notes. “He [Kidd] came in with the philosophy of: If you don’t play defense, you won’t play,” forward Jared Dudley said.
- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said he would step into negotiations personally with the intent of getting a deal done fairly quickly to finance a new downtown Milwaukee arena for the Bucks, Don Walker of The Journal Sentinel writes. “We appreciate the governor’s leadership and commitment to taxpayers throughout this process and look forward to further progress,” said Bucks President Peter Feigin.
- The loss of Love for the remainder of the playoffs removes much of the pressure for the Cavs and LeBron James to bring an NBA title to Cleveland this season, Michael Lee of The Washington Post writes.
- If the Cavs are able to advance deep into the playoffs without Love in the lineup it could alter the franchise’s bargaining stance with the forward, Tom Ziller of SBNation writes. The reverse will also hold true, and if the franchise struggles mightily it will serve to reinforce Love’s value to the squad as a floor-stretcher and rebounder, Ziller adds.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
The Pacers performed their due diligence last summer and shopped center Roy Hibbert, but Indiana predictably found no takers for the big man, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes. This offseason may offer the franchise more luck in dealing the 28-year-old since he’ll be on an expiring contract, provided Hibbert exercises his player option worth $15,514,031, Deveney notes. One NBA assistant coach said Hibbert might be a worthy gamble for another team if the big man could be motivated to stay in shape, Deveney adds. “The last two years, he has dropped off in the second half of the season,” the assistant said. “With big guys like that, the first thing you think of is conditioning. If you can make sure he is in shape for all 82 games, maybe give him time off here and there, he would be worth the risk.”
Here’s more from the Central Division:
- LeBron James says that he hasn’t spoken with Kevin Love recently about whether or not the big man intends to opt out of his deal, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes. When asked if Love would return to the Cavs next season, James said, “That’s a question that I can’t answer right now. I think that’s the last thing on his mind right now. What’s on his mind is his shoulder and how disappointed he is, how hurt he is over the fact that he can’t play in this postseason. I don’t think he’s thought about the offseason or what he wants to do. I haven’t had that conversation with him, and I shouldn’t have to have that conversation with him, especially right now when we’re going through this challenge and this battle of trying to win a championship. So I can’t answer that question.“
- The mid-season trade for Michael Carter-Williams shows that the Bucks are looking toward their future rather than trying to simply make the playoffs, Deveney writes in a separate piece. “That’s the difference between the past and now,” GM John Hammond told Deveney. “There’s the big difference. We’re not building toward that now. We’re building toward becoming a championship-caliber team.”
- The Pistons would like to bring back unrestricted free agent Joel Anthony to fill the role of backup center next season, but the team needs to address more pressing needs prior to making a decision regarding the big man, Keith Langlois of NBA.com writes.
Jazz draft-and-stash prospect Ante Tomic is set to sign a three-year extension with FC Barcelona, and will not be making the jump to the NBA next season, Jose Ignacio Huguet of Mundo Deportivo.com reports (translation by Jody Genessy of The Deseret News via Twitter). It was Tomic’s wife who vetoed the move to the NBA, tweets David Pick of Eurobasket.com, though the idea of being stuck behind Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors on Utah’s depth chart could have played a part as well, Genessy adds (Twitter link). Tomic had previously suggested that this offseason was likely going to be his last opportunity to enter the NBA.
Here’s more from around the league and abroad:
- Brazilian point guard Marcelo Huertas, also known as Marcelinho Huertas, is planning a move to the NBA next season, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports. The 31-year-old is expected to be aggressively pursued as a backup guard this offseason, Wojnarowski notes. In 29 games for FC Barcelona this past season, the 6’3″ Huertas averaged 7.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 4.4 assists in 21.7 minutes per contest. “This is the right time,” Huertas told Wojnarowski. “[Rockets guard] Pablo Prigioni is the guy most likely to get compared to me, because our career trajectory had been similar in Europe. And like him, I can run a team without worrying about scoring.”
- According to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com, five free agents whose playoff performance helped improve their stock are Khris Middleton (Bucks), Tristan Thompson (Cavs), Jae Crowder (Celtics), Josh Smith (Rockets), and Austin Rivers (Clippers).
- On the flip side, Blakely lists Patrick Beverley (Rockets), Brandon Bass (Celtics), Lou Williams (Raptors), Omer Asik (Pelicans), and Rajon Rondo (Mavs) as players whose stock has taken a hit since the postseason began.
The Bucks‘ new owners, Wes Edens and Marc Lasry, along with Peter Feigin, the team’s president, have reinvigorated the franchise and have raised expectations, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today writes. In the near future, just making the playoffs, which seemed to be the ceiling under previous ownership, won’t be the goal, notes Zillgitt, who adds the team doesn’t need to land superstars; they need to sign talented players, similar to the Hawks signing Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver as free agents. With a promising young roster and under the leadership of Jason Kidd, the Bucks won 41 games this season after only winning 15 times last season.
Here’s more from Milwaukee and the Eastern Conference:
- In the same piece, Zillgitt writes that Bucks GM John Hammond said Kidd has been an integral part of the changing culture. “These jobs are all about managing people, and he’s done a great job with that,” Hammond said. “He was a very cool customer the way he played and he coaches the same way. Keeps his emotions in check, pushes the right buttons when necessary. I know at the end of the day the vote did not go this way, but in my book, he’s the coach of the year.” Kidd finished third for the award.
- Speaking of the Bucks’ plans for a better future, the team’s owners and state and local officials did not reach a financing deal for a new $500MM arena during a closed-door meeting last week, writes Scott Bauer of The Associated Press. The team, state and local leaders are trying to come up with a plan to split the costs of the new arena in downtown Milwaukee that would be part of a larger $1 billion entertainment district, as Bauer details. Without a new building by 2017, the NBA has said it will buy back the team and relocate it, according to Bauer.
- Amir Johnson said he hasn’t thought about whether or not Game 4’s elimination loss Sunday was his last game with the Raptors, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun tweets. Johnson, who was linked to trade rumors earlier this season, is set to be an unrestricted free agent.
J.R. Smith has fit in much better with the Cavaliers than many predicted he would when the guard was acquired earlier this season from the Knicks, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes. “For J.R., I think he’s been misunderstood,” LeBron James said. “He had a great column last week about the perception of him before he got here. I think you should read it, it’s pretty great. And he said at the end, it doesn’t matter if he’s playing in New York, or Cleveland or Denver or Timbuktu, all he cares about is winning. For a guy that’s been highly scrutinized throughout his career, saying he’s not a team guy and takes bad shots and he follows around everyone else, I think it’s unfair to him. He comes out every single day and works his tail off to try to get better, to help our team win. He defends at a high level and he’s a great teammate and he’s a great guy.” Smith has a player option worth $6,777,589 that he can opt out of this summer if he wishes to become an unrestricted free agent.
Here’s more from the Central Division:
- Bucks coach Jason Kidd sees a lot of himself in Michael Carter-Williams, and he believes that the change of scenery from the losing culture the Sixers have cultivated will be good for the young guard, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com writes. Kidd also believes that having a healthy offseason can help Carter-Williams improve his outside shooting, which is a glaring weakness in the young point guard’s game, Youngmisuk adds.
- Acquiring Carter-Williams also helped the Bucks‘ salary cap situation, Youngmisuk notes. By swapping Brandon Knight, who is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason, for Carter-Williams, who has two years remaining on his rookie contract, the team can now focus solely on re-signing Khris Middleton, who will also be a restricted free agent this summer, the ESPN scribe adds.
- Kevin Love has seemingly found his niche with the Cavaliers now that the playoffs have begun, and the veteran forward appears to be more at peace with being in Cleveland, Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon Journal writes. “People have focused my whole career on what I couldn’t do rather than what I could do,” Love said. “I know my teammates and coaching staff has my back. I know the organization has my back. I’m sending the love right back to them.”
Knicks team president Phil Jackson has sounded like a defeated man during his end of season press conferences, which isn’t what the organization or its fans need to see at this critical juncture in New York’s rebuilding process, Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post writes. The Zen Master has taken on a somewhat pessimistic attitude when discussing the team’s ability to attract free agents, Vaccaro notes. “The market value is going to be really interesting,” Jackson said. “There’s going to be a zillion guys being chased, and it’s not just us trying to do this. It only takes one individual team that says, ‘We want this guy.’ The prevailing attitude is: Guys get overpaid in this situation. You have do that in free agency to get a player. We know we have a limited amount and have to do some judicious shopping. We’re not going to the dollar store, but we may not be at one of the bigger [stores].”
Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:
- If Knicks guard Ricky Ledo is still under contract through August 1st, $100K of his minimum salary arrangement for 2015/16 will become guaranteed, with another $100K becoming guaranteed if he begins the season under contract, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets.
- Jorge Gutierrez‘s minimum salary deal for 2015/16 with the Bucks is non-guaranteed, Pincus tweets.
- Will Bynum‘s contract with the Wizards was strictly for the remainder of the 2014/15 campaign, and the guard will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, Pincus notes (Twitter link).
- Commissioner Adam Silver indicated that he still has faith that a deal can be reached on a new arena in Milwaukee for the Bucks, Kami Mattioli of The Sporting News tweets. The franchise is struggling to secure $250MM worth of public financing toward the construction of a $500MM arena.