Eastern Notes: Alkins, Hawks, Evans, Moore

The Cavaliers took down the Celtics by a score of 111-102 to tie up the series at two games apiece. The effort was led by LeBron James who scored 44 points and told ESPN’s Doris Burke after the game that Cleveland needs to head to Boston on Wednesday with a “bunker mentality.” Brad Stevens’ team has yet to lose at home in the playoffs, going 9-0 thus far.

While we await Game 5, let’s take a look at some notes from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Arizona’s Rawle Alkins will work out for the Hawks this week, Adam Zagoria of The New York Times reports (Twitter link). In addition to the no. 3 overall pick, Atlanta owns the no. 19, no. 30 and no. 33 picks in the upcoming draft.
  • The Sixers may make sense as a destination for Tyreke Evans, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype contends. Philadelphia had interest in the swingman at the trade deadline, though it came at a time in which Markelle Fultz was not available to play. It remains to be seen whether the team still has interest in Evans.
  • The Pacers could also be a fit for Evans, as Urbina writes in the same piece. Urbina points to Evans’ ability to effectively run the pick-and-roll and Indiana’s financial flexibility as reasons why the pairing could happen.
  • Mark Montieth of Pacers.com takes a look at Ben Moore‘s season, one in which the combo forward played just nine minutes for the Pacers. Moore signed a two-way deal with Indiana partway through the 2017/18 campaign and spent nearly all of his time in the G League.

Community Shootaround: Best Seasons Of All Time

NBA Twitter is a beautiful place where entertainment and debate reign, and great ideas can be found. Recently, the team at NBAMath organized a #TimeMachineDraft in which 30 personalities from around NBA Twitter selected an ultimate roster comprised of individual seasons from NBA greats. Let’s take a look at the top 15 picks:

1. 1988/89 Michael Jordan (Bryant Knox of Bleacher Report).

2. 2012/13 LeBron James (B/R’s Andrew Bailey).

Who else was going to be selected in the top two? The Jordan-LBJ debate has been going on for several seasons now and with James showing no signs of slowing down, it’ll likely continue for quite some time. I wouldn’t determine whether GoodFellas or The Departed is the better film without seeing how each movie ended. With LBJ still playing at a high-level, I’m not ready to pick between the two.

3. 1971/72 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Former Bulls beat writer Sean Highkin).

4. 1986/87 Magic Johnson (HoopsHype’s Bryan Kalbrosky).

5. 2015/16 Stephen Curry (CBS Sport’s Adi Joseph).

You could talk me into these three in any order, though if I were picking third, I might pull the trigger on Curry, a player who looked like his 2015 self during Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals this week.

6. 1999-00 Shaquille O’Neal (T.J. McBride of Mile High Sports).

This pick might be too low or just right. Does this theoretical league play 82 games? When you pick a player, do you get him in peak form or how he looked prior to opening night of a given season? That might influence my pick in this spot. However, if we’re taking a Shaq season, this is probably the best one.

7. 1985/86 Larry Bird (NBAMath’s Coach Adam Spinella).

8. 1993/94 Hakeem Olajuwon (RotoBaller’s Justin Carter).

9. 1963/64 Wilt Chamberlain (NBAMath’s Tony East).

It would be fantastic to see each of these Hall-of-Famers play against each other in their respective primes. Also, can you image any of these players floor, surrounded by the long-range shooting in today’s game?

10. 2002/03 Tim Duncan ( The Score’s Chris Walder).

11. 2013/14 Kevin Durant (B/R’s Tyler Conway).

Two very underrated seasons. Not sure which moment was more emotional for basketball fans: Durant making his MVP speech or Popovich speaking about Duncan after the big man retired.

12. 2003/04 Kevin Garnett (NBAMath’s Tom Rende).

13. 2008/09 Chris Paul (B/R’s Dan Favale).

Two players who have had heard their fair share of criticism. Add being partially responsible for Durant’s signing in Golden State to their haters’ lists.

14. 1993/94 David Robinson (HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy).

15. 2016/17 Kawhi Leonard (Nylon Calculus’ Krishna Narsu).

Leonard was my selection for the 2016/17 MVP award after putting up a great, efficient season. Russell Westbrook – whose 2016/17 campaign was also selected in the first round of this Twitter draft – won the actual award after averaging a triple-double for the season.

I’m not sure I’d take a player who took over 2,000 shots and committed 438 turnovers in a season with my top pick in this kind of draft, but then again Westbrook provided special moments over and over again during his lone MVP campaign.

So tonight’s Community Shootaround is all about which player had the best NBA season in history and which ones are severely underrated.

Think 2006/07 Dirk Nowitzki should have gone higher in the draft? How about a season from Kobe Bryant? What about Charles Barkley, Anthony Davis or Grant Hill?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. We look forward to what you have to say!

Northwest Notes: Exum, Wiggins, Towns

Dante Exum will be a restricted free agent this offseason and the Jazz are hoping to re-sign their former No. 5 overall pick.

“We hope to retain him,” said Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey (via Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News). “Obviously there’s a lot of conversations and in a free agent market, it’s hard to predict. Dante’s done his job, he’s had some unfortunate things happen. We don’t think he’s injury prone — things happen to young players. He’s the right guy, he’s got the right level of talent. You don’t get the same package of speed and size. It’s our job to develop him but we’ll see what happens.”

Exum is unlikely to supplant Ricky Rubio as the starting point guard any time soon, so there may be a limit on what Utah is willing to pay him. The 23-year-old isn’t focused on his next payday right now. He’s simply trying to get better this offseason. “I think the Jazz want me back, so hopefully it all works out. My agent’s going to take care of that and I think for me as a player, I just need to control what I can control,” the point guard said.

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz would also like to have Raul Neto back, but the soon-to-be 26-year-old may seek a greater role elsewhere, Sorensen relays in the same piece. “It’s always a time you’ve got to think, you got to look at all your offers and opportunities you have and try to pick the best one,” Neto said. “Right now, there’s nothing else I can do. Just keep working and waiting and make the decision I have to make. Sometimes it’s not only the player’s decision, there’s the Utah Jazz, so basically it’s in their hands. We’ll see.”
  • Jon Krawczynski of The Atlantic wonders if the Wolves should try to trade Andrew Wiggins. The former No. 1 overall pick signed a five-year extension worth nearly $150MM, though the scribe hears that a Wiggins-DeMar DeRozan swap remains a possibility should Toronto look to make major moves.
  • Does it make sense for the Wolves to deal Karl-Anthony Towns? Michael Rand of the Star Tribune isn’t so sure, but he notes that Towns hasn’t said anything to quiet down the rumblings that he and the team are “not in a good place.”

Budenholzer Seeks To Unlock Bucks’ Defensive Potential

Mike Budenholzer will prioritize improving the Bucks’ defense, Genaro C. Armas of the Associated Press reports. Budenholzer, who agreed to a four-year contract last week to become the team’s head coach, feels Milwaukee’s roster has plenty of good defensive pieces and it’s his task to put them together. “I think with the individual talents we have in Milwaukee … I think one of the words I used in the interview process was, ‘How can we unlock this talent defensively?'” Budenholzer said during his introductory press conference on Monday. “I just think there’s so much to work with.” Milwaukee finished 17th in the league’s defensive ratings last season, 21st in defensive field-goal percentage, 22nd in opponents’ second-chance points and 23rd in points allowed in the paint.

In other notable items from the press conference:

  • Budenholzer believes he can help All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo expand his game. He has already had breakfast with the team’s superstar and Khris Middleton. “He’s a smart player,” Budenholzer said. “I think together, he and I will probably push each other. But I look forward to pushing him. He believes it, I believe it. He’s going to get a lot better.”
  • GM Jon Horst interviewed at least seven candidates, according to Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Horst wanted to find someone with whom he could engage in casual, productive conversations. “It was just an enjoyable time the entire period of time,” Horst said of his initial interview with the ex-Hawks coach.
  • Budenholzer wants to his staff to be mainly comprised of former Hawks assistants. “I’m very hopeful that the majority of my staff will come with me,” Budenholzer said. “I’m a huge believer in my group that’s been with me the last five years.”

Draft Notes: Battle, Porter, Silva, Taylor, Munnings

Syracuse swingman Tyus Battle is likely to remain in the draft, a source informed Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.com. The 6’6” Battle averaged 19.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG and 2.1 APG while rarely coming off the court for the Orangemen as a sophomore. Battle is rated No. 32 by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony in his latest Top 100 list. Battle has already worked out for the Clippers and has four more scheduled workouts this month, Zagoria adds.

In other draft-related comings and goings:

  • Missouri big man Jontay Porter is leaning toward returning to school, T.J. Moe of St. Louis’ 590 The Fan tweets. The 6’10” Porter is ranked No. 36 by Givony. The brother of likely lottery pick Michael Porter Jr. averaged 9.9 PPG and 6.8 RPG in 24.5 MPG as a freshman last season.
  • South Carolina forward Chris Silva has decided to return to school for his senior season, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports tweets. The 6’9” Silva averaged 14.3 PPG and 8.0 RPG as a junior.
  • Fresno State Deshon Taylor is returning to school for his senior year, Jeff Goodman of ESPN tweets. The 6’2” Taylor averaged 17.8 PPG and 2.6 APG as a junior.
  • Louisiana-Monroe forward Travis Munnings has withdrawn from the draft, Goodman tweets. Munnings averaged 15.9 PPG and 7.3 RPG as a junior.
  • Marshall guard C.J. Burks will head back to school for his senior season, Rothstein tweets. The 6’3” Burks averaged 20.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 3.1 APG as a junior.
  • Bethune-Cookman forward Shawntrez Davis has opted to return to school for his senior campaign, Rothstein adds in another tweet. The 6’9” Davis averaged 14.7 PPG and 8.7 RPG last season.

Gentry: Pelicans Organization Wants Cousins Back

Everyone in the Pelicans organization wants DeMarcus Cousins to re-sign with the club, coach Alvin Gentry told ESPN’s Mike Triplett and other reporters on Monday.

The Pelicans made the playoffs despite Cousins’ season-ending Achilles tendon injury in January and then advanced to the conference semifinals by sweeping the Trail Blazers in the opening round. That hasn’t changed the team’s desire to retain the Twin Towers pairing of Cousins and Anthony Davis. Cousins is an unrestricted free agent this summer.

“I don’t really talk about free agency. But the bottom line is that obviously we’d like to have him back on our team,” Gentry said. “Anyone that thinks you’re better having a guy that averaged [big numbers] not on your team is really kind of not in tune to what it takes to win in this league. So there’s just so many factors that enter into it. But there’s not one single person, player or coach or in the basketball ops department or ownership that doesn’t want him back.”

Cousins indicated in an extensive interview last week that he hadn’t spoken with anyone in the front office “in awhile.” That hinted at a potential disconnect between the two parties, or even that the Pelicans might let him walk without an offer.

Gentry’s comments debunked that notion. Cousins did say in the same interview he was interested in re-signing with them, though he’d let the process play itself out.

Whether the Pelicans or any other team offers Cousins a max contract remains a mystery, given that Cousins is coming off a major injury, along with his reputation as one of the league’s most temperamental players. The Pelicans reportedly had internal discussions about offering Cousins a two- or three-year contract worth less than the max. It’s also expected that most of the teams with significant cap space this summer won’t pursue him.

Andre Iguodala Listed As Doubtful For Game 4

Warriors forward Andre Iguodala is listed as doubtful for Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday due to knee soreness, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets.

Iguodala has a knee contusion that worsened overnight and caused him to miss practice on Monday, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN tweets.

Iguodala has been instrumental is dousing the Rockets’ normally high-octane offense, allowing Golden State to regain home-court advantage and take a 2-1 series lead. He’s played 27 or 28 minutes in each game and posted 10 points, three rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block in the 126-85 Game 3 blowout on Sunday.

Iguodala has played a minimum of 23 minutes in every postseason game this spring. It’s unknown how coach Steve Kerr will adjust his rotation if Iguodala can’t go, but Kevon Looney and Nick Young are the logical candidates for increased playing time, given that Kerr has gone with a small lineup to match up against the Rockets’ shooters.

Donte DiVincenzo Expected To Remain In Draft

Villanova sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo is expected to remain the draft barring an injury or significant change in performance during workouts, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

DiVincenzo’s stock soared during last week’s draft combine, according to Scott Gleeson of USA Today. He tied the combine’s best with a 42-inch vertical leap, Gleeson notes. He also hustled, defended well, made pinpoint passes and showed playmaking ability, Gleeson adds.

The 6’5” combo guard was ranked No. 33 on ESPN Jonathan Givony’s Top 100 prospects list prior to the combine and has now proven himself to be a first-round talent.

DiVincenzo worked out for the Celtics on Monday, Adam Zagoria of the New York Times tweets. Boston owns the No. 27 overall pick.

DiVincenzo was the breakout star in the national championship game against Michigan, pouring in 31 points and draining five 3-pointers. He averaged 13.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG and 3.5 APG in 29.3 MPG during the Wildcats’ championship season while making 40.1% of his 3-pointers.

DiVincenzo is showing that he can do more than just fill up the net, as he told Charania.

“I’m more than just a shooter,” he said. “I want to show teams that I can do more. Playing point guard is one big thing that teams want to see — if I can control the tempo, get into the offense, get shots and pocket passes.”

Raptors Interview Jerry Stackhouse For Coaching Job

The Raptors interviewed their G League head coach, Jerry Stackhouse, for their head coaching job last week in Chicago, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets.

Familiarity could work in Stackhouse’s favor. He moved into a coaching two years after he retired in 2013, serving as an assistant to former coach Dwane Casey. He took over the head coaching job with Raptors 905 prior to the 2016-17 season and guided them to a championship. They lost in the finals to Austin this past season.

The Raptors were reportedly interested in hiring ex-Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer before he selected the Bucks. Stackhouse is just one of three in-house candidates being considered as Casey’s replacement. Nick Nurse and Rex Kalamian also fall into that category.

Stackhouse is also considered a candidate for the Pistons’ head coaching position. Detroit was one of the teams Stackhouse played for during his long NBA career. He was one of many candidates interviewed by the Knicks before they chose former Grizzlies head man David Fizdale.

Josh Okogie Opts To Stay In Draft

Georgia Tech shooting guard Josh Okogie has decided to remain in the draft, he announced in a Twitter statement.

Okogie is ranked N0. 50 among ESPN’s Jonathan Givony’s Top 100 prospects. The 6’4” sophomore averaged 18.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 2.5 APG in his final college season.

He also showed a good stroke from long range, making 38% of his 100 attempts, and displayed quick hands by averaging 1.8 SPG. As a freshman, he posted 16.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 1.6 APG.

Okogie was influenced by his good showing last week at the draft combine, as Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal Constitution tweets. Okogie may even have a shot at getting picked in the first round.

He was one of the players that improved his stock at the combine, according to Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated. Woo noted, “His strong build and athletic tools are ideal for his role as an off-guard who plays both ends of the floor and adds a little bit of everything. After spending the season anchoring a struggling Georgia Tech team in a large role, it was positive to see Okogie rise to the level of talent around him.”