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.
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.’’
The Trail Blazers are playoff-bound, though they’ll have a higher seed than their record shows they deserve because they won the Northwest Division. If the Thunder lose or the Pelicans win tonight, Portland will be the Northwest’s only playoff representative. Here’s more from a division that’s proven a drag on the Western Conference’s claim to supremacy this season:
- It was obvious to opposing front office executives that the Jazz were under a ton of pressure to trade Enes Kanter at the deadline, as one of those executives tells Sean Deveney of The Sporting News, adding that the Jazz were only seeking a pick for the now-Thunder center. Kanter, a restricted free agent this summer, had pushed for a trade, and when Utah accommodated him, the Jazz received a lottery-protected first-rounder, a second-rounder and the rights to a draft-and-stash prospect along with Kendrick Perkins and Grant Jerrett.
- Chauncey Billups tells Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post that Timberwolves coach/executive Flip Saunders reached out to him last spring with the idea of making him the team’s lead assistant this season and its head coach for 2015/16. Billups reiterated to Kiszla that while he’d “never say never,” he doesn’t want to coach. The retired point guard would rather work as a team executive, and Kiszla urges the Nuggets to pursue him for such a role. Denver wanted to hire Billups for a front office job before this season, as the Post’s Christopher Dempsey wrote in October.
- Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune suggests that Minnesota’s trade for Kevin Garnett is more about ticket sales than Garnett’s on-court impact or his influence on prize rookie Andrew Wiggins. Garnett has played only five games since returning to the Wolves.
Former Kings coach Michael Malone “would love to coach” the Magic, as Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel hears (Twitter link). Malone has seemingly been a hot commodity since the Kings fired him in December. Orlando has been expected to consider him, and he’s been linked to the Nuggets opening. Wolves coach/executive Flip Saunders organized a meeting between Malone and owner Glen Taylor earlier this year, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link), and Malone has spent time with the Wolves in an informal capacity on at least three different occasions this season. Schmitz advises the Magic to jump on Malone, draft Willie Cauley-Stein and float a max offer sheet to restricted free agent Draymond Green. While we wait to see if the team’s offseason plays out like that, there’s more on the Magic amid the latest from the Southeast Division:
- One executive from a team estimates that DeMarre Carroll will see annual salaries of $8-9MM on the deal he signs in free agency this summer, the exec tells Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops. The executive believes that most teams will try to convince the combo forward to sign for $7MM a year, adding that if a club comes up with a $10MM offer, the Hawks seem unlikely to match, as Scotto details.
- League sources expressed doubt to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders about Luol Deng‘s ability to find annual salaries better than the nearly $10.152MM he’d have if he opted in with the Heat, as Kyler writes in an NBA AM piece. Still, the possibility remains that Deng would seek a new long-term deal that offers more security, Kyler surmises. Deng is unsure of what he’ll do with the option.
- The Magic intend to make Kyle O’Quinn the qualifying offer necessary for them to be able to match offers for him in free agency this summer, in spite of his recent lack of minutes, reports Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. That qualifying offer would be worth more than $1.181MM.
The Suns could show their faith in coach Jeff Hornacek by picking up his 2016/17 contract option year, according to Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. Hornacek will enter the last guaranteed year on his contract next season, though he has a strong relationship with the team’s management. He has been hampered by the Suns’ major roster overhaul during the season, with point guards Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas getting dealt and replacement Brandon Knight getting injured, Coro continues. Hornacek’s system requires multiple playmakers and quality shooters but after all the changes the Suns have been the worst 3-point shooting team in the league since the trade deadline, Coro adds.
In other news around the Western Conference:
- Flip Saunders expects Kevin Garnett to play again for the Timberwolves next season, Jon Krawcyznski of the Associated Press reports. Garnett has missed 20 of 25 games since being traded back to Minnesota in February and he’s also expected to miss the season finale against the Thunder. Saunders says that’s an indication that Garnett plans on playing another season, the story continues. “If he plays, to me it would be an indication that he didn’t want to play next year,” Saunders said. “He’s looking at this as not being over.” Garnett becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer but is expected to stay with the club if he does not retire.
- Interim coach Melvin Hunt has the Nuggets playing the fast-paced style of his former boss and current Kings coach, George Karl, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reports. Hunt, who replaced Brian Shaw, will receive consideration for the full-time job in part because of his willingness to make bold changes, Jones adds. “He [Karl] has showed me a lot of things – that it is OK to not be traditional,” Hunt said to Jones.
- The Jazz will host a summer league for the first time since 2008, the team announced on Monday. The Celtics, Sixers and Spurs will join the Jazz in the six-game event on July 6-9.
There’s no indication that Kevin Garnett has made any final decision about playing in 2015/16, but he’s still leaning toward doing so, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Garnett, who’s on an expiring contract, wouldn’t commit to another season during the press conference that followed his deadline trade to the Timberwolves. However, Minnesota is planning to make the 20th-year veteran a two-year offer this summer, as Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press reported at the deadline, and Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune reported shortly thereafter that Garnett was expected to sign such an offer.
Garnett’s return to Minnesota has not gone according to script so far. He’s played in only five games because of a troublesome left knee. Still, the Wolves acquired him in large measure for his influence on the locker room. He turns 39 in May, and another NBA season would tie him with Robert Parish and Kevin Willis for the most seasons played of all time. The Andy Miller client makes $12MM this season, but his market value is difficult to peg given the juxtaposition of his declining on-court productivity and the priority the Wolves have placed on his mere presence around the franchise. Minnesota has about $51MM committed to nine players for next season, not including a $5MM player option for Chase Budinger that he seems sure to pick up.
Garnett has acknowledged an interest in buying the Wolves at some point, and owner Glen Taylor has said that his return as a player enhances his chances of becoming a part-owner. He and coach/executive Flip Saunders, who already owns a minority stake in the team, are expected to put together a group to buy the majority of the franchise from Taylor over the next two years, but Taylor has made it clear the franchise isn’t currently on the market.
Lakers coach Byron Scott believes Jordan Hill, who will enter the final year of his contract with the team next season, needs to change his offseason preparation to avoid crashing at the end of the season like he did this year, Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News writes. Hill, 27, is averaging career-bests in points per game (11.9), rebounds per game (eight) and minutes played per game (26.8) in his sixth NBA season. But Hill’s statistics have declined since February and he has averaged only four PPG in April.
“I don’t know what he does in the summer time to get ready for the season,” Scott said. “But whatever it is, you have to up it. He’s got to up it. Then you have to look at what he’s eating and change eating habits as well. There’s a lot that goes into it when you’re trying to get ready for the NBA season.”
Here’s more from the Lakers and the Western Conference:
- Scott said he expects the Lakers to bring back Dwight Buycks for the team’s final two games, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. Buycks’ 10-day deal expires after tonight’s game against the Mavericks. The team can keep Buycks for the rest of the season without waiving anyone, Pincus adds (on Twitter). Buycks has made seven of nine three-pointers in five games with the Lakers.
- The Timberwolves got a glimpse of how bright the future could be when rookies Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins each had big games Saturday as the dreadful season, from Minnesota’s perspective, comes to an end, Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune writes. LaVine had 37 points and nine rebounds, both career-bests, and Wiggins added a career-high nine assists in Saturday’s loss against the Warriors.
The Knicks may have cost themselves a few ping-pong balls by beating Orlando Saturday night, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. New York and Minnesota are now tied atop Hoops Rumors’ Reverse Standings with 16-64 records. If they finish deadlocked, they will basically split the ping-pong balls used to determine the lottery order, with a coin flip deciding who gets one extra ball and the No. 1 designation. Each team would have about a 22.5% chance of winning the lottery. Had the Knicks lost last night and their last two games, their odds would have been at 25%. “I don’t believe in trying to lose,’’ Knicks coach Derek Fisher said.
There’s more this morning from the Big Apple:
- Berman reports in a separate story that Alexey Shved would like to remain in New York. The Knicks traded Pablo Prigioni to Houston at the deadline for the Russian guard and two second-round picks. He has been effective since the deal, averaging 14.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists. “My agent will do his work summertime but I want to stay here,” Shved said. “We had a lot of problems and injuries. Everything will change next year and I want to be part of it.’’
- Former Knicks player and current Bucks coach Jason Kidd told Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com that New York could be a major player this summer in free agency. The Knicks will have at least $25MM to spend, along with a high draft pick and the lure of playing with Carmelo Anthony. “Melo is a talented player; he’s a great guy on and off the floor,” Kidd said. “So I wouldn’t see that there would be problems with guys coming in to play [with him].”
- While the team waits for the offseason, a few young players and castoffs from other organizations are trying to make an impact in 2014/15, writes Dan Barry of The New York Times. Langston Galloway, Ricky Ledo, Louis Amundson and Lance Thomas, who all joined the team on 10-day contracts, are trying to establish themselves before the season is over. “I’ve just been waiting to play,” Ledo said. “Coming from the D-League, I’m getting my shot here.”
An MRI performed on Trail Blazers guard Arron Afflalo confirmed that he has suffered a right shoulder strain, the team announced. Afflalo is expected to be out of action for one to two weeks, and if that timetable holds, the injury will likely cause the guard to miss Portland’s opening round playoff series. With the team already without Wesley Matthews, who is out for the season with a torn left Achilles, losing Afflalo puts a major dent in the team’s postseason hopes. In 25 games for the Blazers since being acquired from Denver the 29-year-old has averaged 10.6 points and 2.7 rebounds in 30.1 minutes per contest.
Here’s more from around the Western Conference:
- The Warriors have assigned James Michael McAdoo to the Santa Cruz Warriors, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. McAdoo has appeared in 33 games for Santa Cruz this season, averaging 19.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 32.8 minutes per contest.
- Alex Abrines, a draft-and-stash prospect for the Thunder, in an interview with Gigantes.com (translation by HoopsHype.com) said that he isn’t ready to make the jump to the NBA just yet. The 21-year-old swingman was the No. 32 overall selection in the 2013 NBA draft, and he is under contract with Barcelona through 2016.
- Timberwolves‘ rookies Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins have learned much about what it takes to make it through the rigors of an NBA season, and the pair hope to take the momentum that they have gained into the summer to continue their development as players, Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune writes.
Former lottery pick Meyers Leonard appears to have turned a corner for the Trail Blazers, as Joe Freeman of The Oregonian details. That’s fortunate timing for him, as the client of recently hired agent Aaron Mintz is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer, though usually such extensions are the domain of budding stars, like Damian Lillard, who also becomes extension-eligible in July. In any case, it’ll be an active summer for the Blazers, with LaMarcus Aldridge headlining several key free agents on the team, which has yet to commit any money for 2016/17, when the salary cap is set to spike. Here’s more on the Blazers and their Northwest Division rivals:
- Nicolas Batum is still friendly with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, but while Batum sometimes thinks about what might have been if the Blazers hadn’t matched the offer sheet he signed with Minnesota in 2012, he tells Freeman, who writes in a separate piece, that he’s “very happy” in Portland. Then-Wolves coach Rick Adelman, since retired, was the main reason he wanted to play in Minnesota, Batum added. The small forward will be on an expiring contract next season.
- It took a while for Rodney Hood to start to see consistent playing time, but last year’s 23rd overall pick is looking like a steal lately, as Ryan McDonald of The Deseret News writes in a look at the improvement that he and fellow Jazz first-rounder Dante Exum have made over the season. Hood is averaging 14.3 points in 27.0 minutes per game with 39.0% three-point shooting since March 10th.
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman offers a peek behind the scenes at the Thunder front office, where a team of GM Sam Presti‘s hand-picked contributors work in a collaborative environment.