The Magic are unlikely to add a player with the No. 5 overall pick who can make an immediate impact, so any dramatic roster improvements will need to come via the free agent market, Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel writes. Orlando would have about $14MM in available salary cap space if the team were to waive Ben Gordon and Luke Ridnour before their salaries for next season become guaranteed, Robbins adds.
“Organizationally,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said, “we’ve always maintained the same approach, the same philosophy: when available, spending up to the tax level as it relates to free agency. Our ownership has given us the ability to do that again, and we’ll continue to do that in these upcoming free-agent years, this offseason and next year as well.”
Here’s the latest out of the Southeast Division:
- One of the Wizards‘ top priorities this offseason will be to add a stretch four, which would result in Nene playing more at center, something the player might not be too keen on, Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post writes.
- Wizards coach Randy Wittman indicated that Nene shifting to the reserve center role wouldn’t diminish his value to the team, Castillo adds. “As we saw down the stretch, he played some five, he and Marc in that situation,” Wittman said. “Him playing that position doesn’t make it a lesser role. We’ve got to look at what works best for who we have here. … With what John Wall does and the pace of play, we’ve got to play fast.”
- Heat president Pat Riley indicated that the team is looking for an all-around player who can score from the outside with the No. 10 overall pick in this June’s NBA Draft, Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald writes. “A lot of times you have a player or two players who are playmakers that are your best playmakers and your best scorers, but they might not have that kind of range or that kind of game, so you need to go out and get two or three of those kinds of players,” Riley said. “And so, while we felt we had enough maybe on the perimeter, that might be an area where we look, but I don’t want him to be a one-dimensional guy.”
The Magic’s interest in Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has been overstated, a source tells K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter links). Thibodeau, whose seemingly rocky relationship with Bulls management appears poised to result in a split this summer, has long been linked to Orlando’s vacancy. However, recent reports that the Magic would be willing to pay him $7-9MM a year and that the Orlando job is Thibodeau’s for the taking are off-base, Johnson hears, as is the notion that the team is prepared to give the Bulls compensation for the right to hire him. The Bulls are widely expected to demand assets in return for letting Thibodeau out of his contract, which runs two more seasons, and a recent report indicated that the Magic would likely be willing to give up one or two second-round picks for the right to hire Thibs.
Still, the Magic may indeed still wind up talking to Thibodeau at some point, Johnson adds. As of Wednesday, no team had yet contacted the Bulls to request to interview Thibodeau, a league source told Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. The Bulls haven’t spoken with Fred Hoiberg, reportedly the team’s top choice to replace Thibodeau if Chicago indeed parts ways with its coach, the source also said to Berger. Alvin Gentry, another apparent front-runner for the would-be Bulls opening, reportedly has strong interest in the Pelicans job, which he interviewed for Monday. The Bulls want to set up a clear plan of succession before starting talks about what sort of compensation they’d want from other teams in exchange for letting them hire Thibodeau, Berger wrote last week.
Thibodeau isn’t about to quit and simply give up the nearly $9MM left on his contract, as Johnson recently observed, and if the Bulls are determined to make Thibodeau go away, they likely have a distinct financial motivation to work out a deal with another team. Most NBA coaching contracts, including those the Bulls have given out in the past, have a set-off clause that would absolve the team of whatever it owes the coach if he takes another job at an equal or greater salary during the term of the pact, Berger explains. So, if Thibodeau can find another team willing to pay him at least $4-5MM a year, the Bulls probably won’t owe him any money, according to Berger. The Nuggets are “not an option” for Thibodeau, Berger also wrote, apparently leaving Orlando and New Orleans as the only teams with existing vacancies left to bid.
The Lakers will look at D’Angelo Russell for the No. 2 overall pick, but preliminary indications are that they’ll take either Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns, depending on which one of those two is left after the Timberwolves pick, as Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times hears. Trading the pick is also an option, GM Mitch Kupchak says, as Sean Deveney of The Sporting News tweets. In any case, the choices at No. 2 are a bit better than the Lakers would have had if the lottery had gone according to form and the team had ended up with the fourth pick. Here’s more from around the Pacific Division:
- Kings president of basketball and franchise operations Vlade Divac said his team should be open to trading its draft pick, but in comments that Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee relays, he distanced himself from the mechanics of any such move. “I’m leaving that to my basketball people,” Divac said. It’s an odd statement from the team’s top basketball executive. In any case, Chad Ford of ESPN.com identified the Kings, who pick sixth, among the teams most likely to trade their top-10 pick, along with the Magic, Pistons, Heat and Hornets, as Ford wrote in a chat with readers.
- The Kings and the Pacers are the teams with the most interest in Willie Cauley-Stein, Ford adds in the same piece.
- Andrew Bogut is a fan of the way Steve Kerr handles his assistant coaches, as the big man tells Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group a year after assistant coaches were squarely in the spotlight for Golden State. The departures of assistants Brian Scalabrine and Darren Erman from the Warriors bench last year were symbolic of the tumult near the end of Mark Jackson‘s time as Warriors coach. “In their own way, they all have free reign,” Bogut said of Kerr’s staff. “You see them talk to the media, which is something that wasn’t happening with us the last couple of years. There’s no agendas where a coach thinks, ‘Oh, he’s doing extra workouts with this guy, he’s trying to take my job, or vice-versa, or he’s trying to get himself a head-coaching job.’ We don’t have any of that. We have guys that say something when they need to say something and to be professional throughout.”
Notre Dame point guard Jerian Grant tells Hoops Rumors (Twitter link) that he’ll be working out for the Hornets on June 8th. That audition will mark just the second team workout for Grant, who previously worked out for the Pacers.
Grant and his agent are hearing (link) that he could go as high as No. 8 with teams estimating his range to be somewhere between No. 8 and No. 20. He added that based on those rumblings, it sounds unlikely that he’ll be available for teams selecting beyond No. 22. Stay tuned for Grant’s entire conversation with Hoops Rumors as a part of our Draft Prospect Q&A series which also features conversations with Cameron Payne, Richaun Holmes, and more.
Here’s today’s look at the Southeast Division..
- Historically, the No. 10 pick — owned by the Heat this year — has produced plenty of high-caliber, rotation-worthy players, as Couper Moorhead of Heat.com writes. Some of the most notable players to come off the board at No. 10 include Paul Pierce, Eddie Jones, Jason Terry, and Joe Johnson. In recent years, Brook Lopez, Andrew Bynum, Paul George, and Brandon Jennings have heard their names called at No. 10.
- Heat president Pat Riley has indicated that he’ll be looking for perimeter defending and three-point shooting in the draft, Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald writes. In a perfect world, Riley has said he would like a player similar to Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson, who was the 11th pick of the 2011 draft.
- The Magic weren’t thrilled to land at No. 5, but GM Rob Hennigan and CEO Alex Martins put a positive spin on it, as Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel writes. “We feel good about it,” Hennigan said. “We stayed where we expected to stay. Luckily, we didn’t move back, so we’ll take the hand that was dealt to us and certainly make the most of the pick we have.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel is less bullish about the talent available at No. 5 and he feels that the Magic should dangle the pick in a trade.
- More from Schmitz, who looked back at Kyle O’Quinn‘s season. Fellow Sentinel scribe Josh Robbins reported last month that the Magic will make O’Quinn the qualifying offer necessary for them to be able to match offers for him in free agency this summer.
Former Thunder coach Scott Brooks plans to decline opportunities to interview with the Pelicans and Nuggets and seems to be leaning toward taking next season off, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. It’s not entirely clear from the report whether New Orleans, Denver or both had extended invitations to interview for their vacancies, though Wojnarowski wrote Monday that the Pels were interested in the coach whom Oklahoma City dismissed last month. The Yahoo! scribe heard from league sources who identified Brooks as a top candidate for Denver and for the Magic in the immediate wake of his exodus from the Thunder, and Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders wrote recently that Brooks was second behind Tom Thibodeau on Orlando’s list of preferred candidates. It’s uncertain what Brooks would do if the Magic came calling, but Wojnarowski (on Twitter) describes Brooks as “likely” to sit out 2015/16.
Brooks spent most of the last seven seasons as the Thunder’s coach, his first NBA head coaching gig. His 338-207 record there is impeccable, but he’s only 39-34 in the playoffs and took the vastly talented Thunder to the NBA Finals only once, losing to the Heat in 2012. Still, the lack of postseason success had to do with injuries as much as it did with any of Brooks’ strategic shortcomings to which critics often pointed, and health was the culprit this season as Oklahoma City missed the playoffs. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, the team’s preeminent stars, all missed significant time in 2014/15.
The 49-year-old Brooks still wants to coach again at some point, but he’s planning to concentrate on television opportunities and family in the season ahead, Wojnarowski hears. Oklahoma City will still be paying Brooks his salary next season, as Wojnarowski points out, since his contract had one more guaranteed season left when the team cut him loose, so the coach has the financial wherewithal to stay out of the game for a while.
Kansas big man Cliff Alexander‘s draft stock has plummeted since the beginning of his freshman campaign, and Alexander went from a projected lottery pick to a probable second-rounder, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv writes. Discussing his decline, Alexander said, “I kind of expected it. My stock was going to go down, how my season was going but it don’t matter where you get picked at. It all depends on how long you stay in the NBA.” An NBA scout explained Alexander’s slide to Zagoria by saying, “His draft stock has slipped because of his limited upside as an undersized center. It is a shame that the NCAA ruled him ineligible at the end of his freshman year because he really needed at least one more year of college. He is D-League guy no matter where he gets drafted.”
Here’s more from the NBA Draft:
- Duke freshman Tyus Jones is confident that he is the best pure playmaker in the 2015 NBA draft, Sean Deveney of the Sporting News relays. “There are a lot of great point guards in this draft,” Jones said. “This draft is strong and heavy with point guards. As far as pure, I think I am the best one. I am not an attacking or a driving point guard, but I do think I am the best pure point guard in terms of running a team.” You can check out our full prospect profile for Jones here.
- ESPN.com’s Bradford Doolittle broke down what the Sixers‘ needs are heading into the 2015 draft, as well as the franchise’s potential targets with each of its picks. Doolittle also provided an overview for the Magic.
- UNLV’s Christian Wood understands that he is a project and the team that drafts him will do so based more on his upside than his past production, Jesse Blancarte of Basketball Insiders writes. “Yes, I know I’m based off potential,” Wood said. “But I think I can produce at the next level and that’s why I made the decision to come up. I feel like I have to get stronger. Especially at the next level, there are guys that [will be tougher]. If DeAndre Jordan was guarding me, how am I going to back DeAndre Jordan down in the post? You know? He’s a big guy. So that’s one thing I need to work on.” Wood is currently the 23rd best prospect according to Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress, while Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) slots him at No. 25.
It’s conference finals or bust for the Wizards next season, opines Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com. Coach Randy Wittman acknowledges the challenge is to find the right complements to John Wall and Bradley Beal, as Youngmisuk notes. J. Michael of CSNWashington.com reported in October that the team is planning an extension for Beal, who’s eligible to receive one this summer, and Wittman hinted that the team has no intention to let the shooting guard go anywhere anytime soon.
“We know what we have to do and the pieces that I would like to add moving forward,” Wittman said. “Brad and John will be here a long time and so we got to utilize their strengths and find the right people to put around them.”
There’s more on the Wizards amid the latest from the Southeast Division:
- Marcin Gortat said Monday that he wants to play with a stretch four, but Nene, who doesn’t fit that description, made it clear that he’d prefer not to have to play more center, as Michael relays in a pair of pieces. Moving to center might mean a backup role for Nene as he enters the final season of his contract with the Wizards, Michael suggests. “As much as I love Nene, and I think Nene understands this, too, I would love to play with a stretch four, with a guy who shoots the ball from the three-point line because that automatically gives me more room under the basket to operate,” Gortat said. “It gives me more opportunity to play pick-and-rolls to the paint where the paint is open.”
- The Board of Governors are expected to complete the approval process for Tony Ressler’s deal to buy the Hawks within the next four to six weeks, a source told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The draft is five weeks from Thursday, and free agency begins six weeks from Wednesday.
- Offseason trade acquisition Evan Fournier was a revelation early in the season for the Magic, but his numbers were inconsistent after a switch to the bench, and he’d likely be a reserve again next season if the team re-signs Tobias Harris, writes Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel. Fournier is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer.
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.
It’s time for the Wizards‘ Paul Pierce to retire, argues A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. The former Celtics star has enjoyed a legendary career, Blakely writes, and there is little to be gained by trying to extend it. Pierce, 37, posted statistical lows in just about every category this season. He has a player option worth more than $5.5MM for next year.
There’s more from the Southeast Division:
- Kentucky’s Devin Booker would be just the kind of shooter the Hornets need, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Charlotte was the worst 3-point shooting team in the NBA at just 31.8% this season. Booker hit 41% of his treys at Kentucky and considers himself “definitely” the best shooter from distance in the draft. The Hornets are currently slotted with the ninth pick heading into Tuesday’s lottery.
- The Heat and Goran Dragic should be able to come to an agreement shortly after free agency begins, writes Surya Fernandez of Fox Sports Florida. Dragic has made numerous statements about how much he likes the city and the team, and the Heat have been open about their desire to keep Dragic, whom they acquired from Phoenix in a three-team deal at the trade deadline. “So far I had a great experience here with the Heat,” Dragic said. “Great coaching staff and teammates.”
- Arizona’s Stanley Johnson would be a nice draft pickup for the Heat, contends Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post. Lieser writes that Johnson could provide immediate wing depth and would be an able replacement if Luol Deng leaves the team this summer or in 2016. However, Miami won’t know if it even has a first-round pick until the lottery. If the Heat pick falls to 11th or worse, it will be conveyed to Philadelphia.
- The Magic interviewed Kentucky’s Trey Lyles at the NBA Draft Combine, tweets Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Also interviewed was Bobby Portis of Arkansas, Robbins adds (Twitter link).
The Bulls have been out of the playoffs for less than a day, but already plenty of rumors about Tom Thibodeau the future of their head coaching job are flying. We’ll round up today’s latest here, with any updates that come in added to the top:
- Chicago won’t even begin to discuss what compensation they would require in exchange for Thibodeau until a clear succession plan is in place, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports. The Bulls want to find a coach who is not only the right fit, but also dynamic enough to justify letting Thibodeau out of his deal, Berger notes.
- Several NBA executives believe that the Bulls will have difficulty getting compensation in return for Thibodeau since teams are aware of the dynamic between the coach and front office, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune tweets.
- The consensus opinion amongst rival NBA executives at the draft combine is that the split between Thibodeau and the Bulls is going to be a protracted, and possibly ugly affair, Chris Mannix of SI.com tweets. One executive likened the situation to a “game of chicken,” Mannix adds.
- Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck says that the same source who called Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry the favorite to succeed Thibodeau in Chicago expects a quick ending to the Thibs/Bulls drama, adding that the source pegs New Orleans as Thibodeau’s likely destination (Twitter link).
- If Thibodeau isn’t coaching in Chicago next season, he’ll most likely be coaching the Pelicans, a source tells Johnson, largely echoing what Beck heard (Twitter link).
- Chicago will “absolutely” try to reap compensation for Thibodeau, with management viewing him as an asset, according to Johnson, who writes in a full piece. The Tribune scribe expects the Pelicans and Magic to request permission to talk with the coach and for the Bulls to grant that permission.
- One source put it bluntly to Marc Stein of ESPN.com: “Thibs is gone. They know it and he knows it.” Most people around the league have similar feelings, Stein adds, having heard from one source who indicates that Thibodeau and GM Gar Forman have barely talked since November.
- The Bulls are optimistic about their chances to land Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, in spite of his heart ailments, Stein also writes.
- Thibodeau won’t quit and walk away from the money in the remaining two years of his contract, a source close to him told Ken Berger of CBSSports.com Thursday night. That jibes with what K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune surmised last month when he wrote that he believed Thibodeau would stay if the choice were up to the coach.
- Derrick Rose is rumored to be in Thibodeau’s corner, and he essentially confirmed that Thursday, making it clear he backs the coach, as David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune relays. “It’s not up to me, but if it was, he would be back,” Rose said. Taj Gibson also said that he wants Thibodeau to stay, as Berger notes in his piece.
- Anthony Davis‘ “family and friends are already salivating at the idea” of Thibodeau joining the Pelicans, as Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher says (video link). Stein, in his report, emphasizes that Thibodeau’s interest in New Orleans is strong. Still, Bucher suggests that Mike D’Antoni and Mark Jackson are other coaches who would meet with the approval of Davis, and the Pelicans know that Davis is an unassuming type whom they don’t have to keep in the loop as they navigate their coaching search, Bucher says. New Orleans is confident that if it makes the right choice, Davis will be on board, according to Bucher.