Atlantic Notes: Valanciunas, Thomas, Colangelo

It’s evident that Jonas Valanciunas is happy coming off the bench for the Raptors so long as he’s still a core component of the team’s rotation, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. Prior to Toronto’s series-clinching victory over the Bucks Thursday, the 24-year-old discussed his new role.

I’m good. I don’t feel bad if I don’t start,” the Raptors big man said. “I’m playing the same minutes, doing good things on the court, that’s all I need to do, right? I’ve just got to do my job. As long as we’re winning — I’ve been saying that a long time — as long as we’re winning I’m OK.

Even though he came off the bench for Game 6, the Raptors appeared to make an effort to get the pivot involved early. Though he wasn’t featured as heavily toward the end of the contest, he was on the court serving as a potent post threat through to the final buzzer.

It’s unclear if Valanciunas will slide back into the Raptors lineup against the Cavaliers. He had started Games 1 and 2 against Milwaukee but moved to the bench when Dwane Casey employed a smaller lineup featuring Norman Powell.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets rested their players in the final game of the regular season, despite the fact that they were long eliminated from the postseason, had zero incentive to tank and were matched up against a Bulls team that needed a win to sneak into the playoffs. Anthony Puccio of Nets Daily recently wrote about the controversy the decision has stirred up.
  • Does Isaiah Thomas deserve a max contract? A panelist of NBA writers at CSN New England discussed the topic in a recently published video segment and were torn as to whether or not the Celtics could justifiably pay up.
  • Less than two weeks since the conclusion of the 2016/17 campaign, Sixers president Bryan Colangelo is already in Europe scouting players. Per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Colangelo has recently watched Milos Teodosic and Philly draft pick Furkan Korkmaz.

Northwest Notes: Murray, Napier, Snyder

After an excellent debut season with the Nuggets, 20-year-old guard Jamal Murray has undergone successful surgery to repair “core muscle-related” injuries, the team has stated in a press release.

When the procedure was announced by Nuggets personnel yesterday, we relayed that the rookie had been plagued by a sports hernia for much of the season.

The Kentucky product averaged 9.9 points per game for the Nuggets and played in all 82 contests, once taking Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors.

Murray is expected to return to basketball activities this summer and will be at full strength when the Nuggets open training camp.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • If we learned anything from the Rockets/Thunder series in the first-round of this postseason, it’s that a franchise need not choose between investing in either a system or a superstar. Daryl Morey and Mike D’Antoni did both. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN writes about how Oklahoma City may be wise to embrace a similar attitude heading forward as opposed to so heavily relying on Russell Westbrook.
  • While it’s already been announced that the Trail Blazers won’t be bringing Festus Ezeli back next season, the big man officially said farewell to Portland over Twitter.
  • In a candid exit interview, backup Trail Blazers point guard said that while he understands coming off the bench and has bought into the team’s process he isn’t necessarily comfortable with it. Sean Meagher of the Oregonian broke down the guard’s comments about the organization.
  • The Jazz have wrested control of their first-round series with the Clippers in large part to the return of Rudy Gobert. The big man has resumed shutting down the paint, which teammate Rodney Hood discussed with the Associated Press. “Rudy erases a lot of mistakes,” Hood said. “And he cleans up a lot of bad offensive possessions by rebounding the ball. It’s great just to have him back.
  • Although it’s his first time serving as a head coach in the NBA playoffs, Jazz bench boss Quin Snyder has no shortage of experience. Jody Genessey of the Deseret News discussed the coach’s leadership with club point guard George Hill. “He’s one of the smartest coaches I’ve been around. His mind’s always going other places. He’s very technical with what we do,” Hill said. “We listen to him. I think he’s got a great coaching staff around him that give us one heck of a game plan. It’s our job to follow him.

 

 

Southeast Notes: Waiters, Johnson, Schroder

If the Heat are to retain James Johnson and Dion Waiters, it will likely be on short-term deals, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes in his weekly mailbag.

Both Johnson and Waiters saw their careers take off this season after years of bouncing around and each were instrumental in the Heat’s impressive push for an Eastern Conference playoff berth.

That said, while the pair seem to be a good fit with the Heat, the franchise will look to maintain flexibility by committing only to short-term deals. Eventually, Winderman writes, the club could explore signing them to a longer term deal when their Heat Bird Rights take effect.

Waiters averaged 15.8 points in 46 games for the Heat this season while Johnson added 12.8 points, 5.0 rebounds per game while providing a sense of toughness that fit the traditional Miami mold.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Although it’s easy to second guess decision in the NBA, Hawks owner Tony Ressler is careful not to when it comes to his own club’s contracts, Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. “The NBA is all about second-guessing,” Ressler said. “[…] Listen at the end of the day I’m going to argue that if you look at our payroll this year, I think we did OK. We had a $98 million payroll. We won 43 games. We are in the middle of the playoffs. We are really competitive.
  • Don’t expect Dion Waiters or James Johnson to give the Heat a discount during free agency, the Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman writes in a separate mailbag. Money, he says, always talks loudest when it comes to free agency.
  • In the postseason of his fourth campaign, Dennis Schroder is showing off just how dominant he can be. According to Hawks teammate Kent Bazemore, the 23-year-old’s playing style is eerily similar to that of Wizards guard (and current playoff opponent) John Wall‘s, Keely Diven of CSN Mid-Atlantic writes. “[He] is un-guarable regardless of if he’s making shots or not. He is one of the quickest guys in the league. He can get by anyone. He is a great finisher around the rim. He is growing, a young guard. He has a bright future ahead of him. Glad he’s my point guard. I would hate to guard that guy for 35 minutes.

Eastern Notes: Sessions, Magic, Rondo, LeBron

The Hornets have an important decision to make with Ramon Sessions, Bobby Marks of The Vertical writes. The point guard has a $6.2MM team option for next season and Charlotte is over the salary cap, so declining it wouldn’t net the team additional room to sign a replacement. If the franchise decides to let Sessions hit the open market, it would have to find another option off the bench either in the draft or by using the mid-level exception.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Magic need to build through the draft and work the trade market this offseason rather than look to sign high-priced free agents, Marks contends in a separate piece. Orlando has made a quite a few major signings over the last few seasons and the moves haven’t helped the team in the win column.
  • Rajon Rondo, who was reportedly unable to play over the last three games because of a thumb injury, revealed that he also has a torn ligament in his wrist, Nick Friedell of ESPN.com tweets. The point guard remains a “longshot” to play in the Bulls‘ first-round series, according to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link).
  • Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue isn’t worried about giving LeBron James too many minutes in any one playoff game, as he tells Chris Haynes of ESPN.com“Bron today just said he feels worse when he doesn’t play,” Lue said. “Like right now, he said he feels worse, so, we just got to gauge it and see how he feels. Everyone else’s minutes were great outside of LeBron. He said he feels great. He didn’t really have a defensive assignment. He was able to roam off guys during the series and, so, it was good for him. With him playing the minutes he played during [the] course of the regular season, it has helped him in the playoffs.

New, Fan-Voted Awards To Be Assigned In June

We already know that the NBA has changed how the annual award winners will be presented but with the launch of the first inaugural official award show this June will come the presentation of six all new awards, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details.

While the traditional awards voted on by the media will headline the June 26 event, fans will be able to determine the winner of the NBA’s Dunk of the Year, Block of the Year, Assist of the Year, Game Winner of the Year, Top Performance of the Year and, *sigh*, Best Style.

Per AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today, fans can cast their votes through the league’s official website, Facebook, Twitter of Instagram.

The nominees for each award are detailed in the USA Today piece with highlights when appropriate but here they are in list format.

2017 Offseason Salary Cap Digest: Oklahoma City Thunder

The 2016/17 campaign was a banner season for Russell Westbrook, who may take home his first MVP award after averaging a triple-double. It was about as successful a year as the Thunder could have expected after losing Kevin Durant, but players like Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo didn’t take big steps forward after signing long-term deals, as the team might’ve hoped. Heading into the summer, the Thunder are over the cap and will have to get creative to further bolster their roster.

Here’s where things currently stand for the Thunder financially, as we continue our Offseason Salary Cap Digest series for 2017:

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

  • Andre Roberson ($4,588,840 qualifying offer / $5,457,681 cap hold)
  • Total: $5,457,681

Cap Holds

Trade Exceptions

Projected Salary Cap: $101,000,000

Maximum Cap Room: $12,453,256

  • After Durant departed in free agency last July, the Thunder’s books looked wide open for the foreseeable future, creating a number of different paths the team could go down. However, in the subsequent months, Oklahoma City finalize lucrative extensions for Westbrook, Oladipo, and Adams. Those new deals will count for more than $72MM on the Thunder’s books for 2017/18, limiting the club’s flexibility, barring trades. With nine guaranteed salaries, the cap hold for their first-rounder, and two empty roster charges, the Thunder are carrying $113,453,256 in projected salary for ’17/18, and that’s assuming they renounce all their free agents, including Roberson. They won’t have cap room.

Footnotes:

  1. Christon’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 8.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders and The Vertical was used in the creation of this post.

Follow @pfrumors (ProFootballRumors.com) For The Latest NFL Draft News

The NFL Draft is here!  This year’s draft is the hardest one to predict in recent memory and you’ll want to stay tuned to Pro Football Rumors for every update whether you’re a casual or hardcore NFL fan.

The draft is hours away and we still don’t know who the No. 1 overall pick will be. Most of the football world views Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett as the top overall talent in this year’s class, but Browns ownership is reportedly pushing for UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky.  If the Browns bypass the best player available in favor of the best quarterback available, it will trigger a ripple effect that will turn the rest of the first round upside down.

The uncertainty doesn’t stop there. The 49ers could break with tradition and select running back Leonard Fournette at No. 2.  The Bears, at No. 3, are eager to trade down.  The Jaguars, picking at No. 4 overall, are reportedly considering Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, a player previously projected as a late first round or early second round type.  With so many question marks early on, the entire draft is in flux and things could get insane.  We mean that in a good way.

To stay plugged in with up-to-the-minute updates, follow Pro Football Rumors on Twitter: @pfrumors.  You can also bookmark ProFootballRumors.com and follow us on Instagram.

Pacers Notes: Teague, Bird, George

Coach Nate McMillan said Jeff Teague, who will be a free agent this offseason, wants to be back with the Pacers next season, as the team’s Twitter feed relays. The coach added that he believes he can get the best out of the point guard. “He needs to be better. I think I can make him better,” McMillan said.

Teague previously said he loves playing for the team. The point guard made $8.8MM last season in the final year of his contract. Teague will likely see a raise on that figure and the Pacers will have upwards of $32MM in cap space, as our Offseason Salary Cap Digest indicates:

  • Larry Bird has an incredible pulse on Pacers and that gives him the ability to make the best moves for the team, as Indiana’s Twitter feed passes along. “Larry [Bird] is at every practice, every game… He knows what this team needs. That was the reason he went out and got Lance [Stephenson],” McMillan said.
  • The Pacers cannot afford to add long-term money in free agency if they feel Paul George will leave next summer, Bobby Marks of The Vertical opines (video link). Indiana doesn’t currently have many long-term commitments and if George leaves, the team can build around Myles Turner and its cap space. However, if the organization makes a few bad signings, the eventual rebuild becomes more difficult.
  • McMillan expects George to return to Indiana next season, as the Indianapolis Star relays (video link). The coach added that he and George both want the same thing and that’s to win.

Knicks Notes: Noah, Porzingis, Kobe, Livingston

Joakim Noah, who signed a four-year, $72MM deal last offseason, underwent rotator cuff surgery on Wednesday, Al Iannazzone of Newsday relays. Noah was suspended by the league for taking a banned substance at the end of this season. He was able to serve eight of his 20 games since he was deemed healthy enough to play toward the end of the 2016/17 campaign. He’ll serve the remaining 12 games of the suspension once he’s recovered from his left shoulder surgery and ruled healthy enough to play. The Knicks didn’t give a timetable for his return, but coach Jeff Hornacek previously said the rehab process should take approximately five months.

Team president Phil Jackson remains hopeful that Noah can return from his injury and live up to his current contract. “We talked a lot about, ‘Can you get yourself back into this condition? Hamstrings, hamstrings, hamstrings,” Jackson said earlier this month. “‘Eventually it ended up being the knee that was creating ultimately other problems. So we hope going forward – he expresses great dedication in getting back to what he was and who he is as a basketball player. So I have to trust him in that.”

Here’s more from the city that never sleeps:

  • Kristaps Porzingis may be frustrated with the Knicks‘ organization, but that doesn’t extend to assistant coach Joshua Longstaff, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. Longstaff will join Porzingis in Latvia this summer and Bondy hears that the big man wants Longstaff to be an assistant coach for the Latvian National Team. New York previously offered to approve Porzingis’ participation in the European Championships if the Latvian team allowed the assistant to be on its staff.
  • Can Jackson and Carmelo Anthony coexist in New York after a season of turmoil? Kobe Bryant believes there’s a chance the two parties can, as Marc Berman of the New York Post relays. Michael [Jordan] had his rough times with him as well. The history is you get through rough times after you win a good amount of championships. We certainly had our rocky times, but we still stuck to it, we figured out our way through it and came out better because of it. I think the most important thing is sticking to it, being patient. Sometimes things work out. Sometimes they don’t,” Bryant said.
  • Shaun Livingston, who will be a free agent this offseason, is a longtime favorite of Phil Jackson and could be a reasonable target for the Knicks to go after this summer, Keith P. Smith of RealGM writes. Smith argues that Livingston would be a good fit in the triangle offense.
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