Texas Notes: Ntilikina, Mudiay, Paul, Rockets

Several Mavericks executives have traveled to Europe over the past month to watch French point guard Frank Ntilikina, relays Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. At 6’5″, Ntilikina is among the bigger point guards in the draft, and he possesses athleticism and skill to go with his size. Dallas is believed to be targeting point guards after waiving Deron Williams in February so he could sign with a contender. The Mavericks hold the No. 9 pick, and Sefko expects Ntilikina to be among the players considered, along with North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr., Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen and Gonzaga’s Zach Collins.

There’s more news today out of Texas:

  • The Mavericks have a better shot at solving their point guard problems through the draft than by trading for someone like Emmanuel Mudiay, writes Matt Mosley of The Dallas Morning News. The seventh pick in the 2015 draft, Mudiay was a heralded prospect but has experienced shooting problems through his first two NBA seasons. He is a 37% shooter from the field and was stuck behind Jameer Nelson in the Nuggets’ rotation. Mosley says Ntilikina or Markkanen would be a better gamble with the No. 9 pick.
  • Signing Chris Paul may not get the Spurs any closer to challenging the Warriors for Western Conference supremacy, argues Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Adding the All-Star point guard would requiring sacrificing someone like LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol or Danny Green in a trade, and it would destroy the salary flexibility the team has set up for next summer.
  • North Carolina center Kennedy Meeks was the biggest name to attend a pre-draft workout for the Rockets this week, relays Tom Miller of The Grand Forks Herald. Also at the session were Quinton Hooker of North Dakota, Paris Lee of Illinois State, JaJuan Johnson of Marquette, Kavin Gilder-Tilbury of Texas State and Tacko Fall of Central Florida, who decided to withdraw from the draft and return to school. “My agent hadn’t said anything about the Rockets’ interest,” Hooker said. “I was anticipating at least one [NBA tryout]. But for the last month, I’ve just been waiting. It was definitely a humbling experience to get that first one and show my talents.” The Rockets own picks 43 and 45 in next month’s draft.

New York Notes: NBA Finals, Gaines, Mitchell, Draft

Personnel decisions by the Knicks and Nets helped turn the Cavaliers and Warriors into the NBA’s best teams, writes Fred Korber of The New York Post. New York gave Cleveland two much-needed pieces in J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert in a January 2015 trade that also involved the Thunder. Backup big man Channing Frye was drafted eighth overall by the Knicks in 2005, and reserve forward Derrick Williams spent time in New York. The Knicks were hoping Stephen Curry would fall to them with the eighth pick in the 2009 draft, but Kerber says they didn’t try to trade up because they didn’t believe the Warriors would take him at No. 7. New York has been through 23 point guards since then, and may be looking for another with Derrick Rose headed to free agency. Recent Golden State signee Matt Barnes was also briefly a Knick.

The Cavs’ bench is filled with players who have ties to the Nets. Richard Jefferson spent eight years with the team, including two finals appearances. Kyle Korver was drafted by the Nets in 2003 and shipped to the Sixers. Deron Williams spent nearly four years in Brooklyn before being bought out in 2015. Dahntay Jones signed a training camp deal last year, but was cut in preseason. The Nets sent the 35th pick in the 2012 draft to Golden State along with Troy Murphy in a 2011 deal that brought them Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric. The Warriors used that pick on Draymond Green. Shaun Livingston revived his career with the Nets in 2013/14, but they couldn’t afford to keep him and he signed with Golden State.

There’s more this morning out of New York:

  • Clarence Gaines Jr. is Phil Jackson’s secret weapon when it comes to draft preparation, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Formerly a scout with the Bulls, the vice president of player personnel was the first executive Jackson hired when he took over as team president. Gaines was a strong advocate for Kristaps Porzingis two years ago and pushed the team to sign Langston Galloway out of the D-League.
  • The Knicks have “more than a casual interest” in Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell, Berman writes in a separate story. At 6’3″, Mitchell was an undersized shooting guard for the Cardinals, but he projects as a point guard in the NBA. That’s a position of need for New York, which holds the eighth pick. That may be high for Mitchell, although he is reportedly rising on draft boards, but the Knicks might trade down and take him later in the lottery. New York’s front office requested an interview with Mitchell at the combine, though it wasn’t granted, and hopes to work him out before the draft.
  • Brooklyn, which has about $27MM in cap space available this summer, will see that figure trimmed slightly by the draft, tweets NetsDaily. If the Nets sign, rather than draft-and-stash, all three of their picks, it will cost them about $3.9MM — about $1.7MM for No. 22, $1.3MM for No. 27 and $852K for No. 57.

Finals Notes: West, Pachulia, Williams, Coaches

The Warriors would like to extend the contract of executive board member Jerry West, relays Tim Kawakami of The San Jose Mercury News. Golden State owner Joe Lacob said there have been contract talks with the Hall of Famer, whose current deal runs out in July. Nothing has been finalized, and negotiations are on hold until the playoffs are complete. “We have met; we have discussed the future,” Lacob said. “And it’s really something that I’m sure at the end of the season we will return to and figure out what Jerry wants to do. We want him back. We love him. He’s been a great contributor to the organization, someone I consider a personal friend as well.” West indicated several months ago that he might be interested in rejoining the Lakers in an advisory role, but the team’s recent front office shakeup may have eliminated that as an option.

There’s more tonight as we count down to the start of the Finals:

  • Warriors center Zaza Pachulia has fully recovered from the heel problem that kept him out of Games 3 and 4 of the conference finals, relays Anthony Slater of The San Jose Mercury News. Pachulia has been medically cleared and was a full participant in Golden State’s last three practices.
  • The Cavaliers’ bench had a productive game in the clincher of the Eastern Conference finals, which offers hope for the series against Golden State, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Deron Williams, who signed with Cleveland in late February after being waived by Dallas, is excited about reaching the NBA Finals for the first time. “Twelve years in the league,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you don’t know if it’s ever going to happen and don’t know if it’s going to happen again so for me I just want to make the most of this opportunity, enjoy it, soak it in and try to win a ring.” 
  • Warriors acting head coach Mike Brown claims Cavs coach Tyronn Lue still owes him $100 from a bet they made in 1998, Fedor notes in a separate piece. Lue claims he has tried several times to pay off the wager, which was related to a shooting contest, but Brown won’t take the money. The stakes will be much higher starting Thursday when they oppose each other for an NBA title.

Draft Notes: Wilson, Fox, Suns, Mitchell

The Jazz are denying a report that they offered a guarantee to take Michigan’s D.J. Wilson in the first round, according to Aaron Falk and Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune. That story was passed on by Rod Beard of The Detroit News, who said the team promised to select Wilson with either its 24th or 30th pick in the June 22nd draft. Walt Perrin, Utah’s vice president of player personnel, said the Jazz haven’t offered a definite guarantee to any player in his 16 years with the organization. “It does put you at somewhat of a disadvantage because if someone comes to you with a great trade, you’ve made your commitment to that player, so you can’t trade,” he said. … “We try to keep our flexibility.”

There’s more news as draft day approaches:

  • Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox will hold workouts for the Lakers, who hold the second pick, and the Sixers, who have No. 3, tweets Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News. The workout in L.A. is expected to happen between June 11th and 17th.
  • The Suns will begin draft workouts Monday, writes Doug Haller of The Arizona Republic. A session is also set for Tuesday, with Jarrett Allen of Texas and Luke Kornet of Vanderbilt expected to attend. Kornet, a 7-foot senior who is projected to be taken in the second round, grew up near Phoenix and would love to join the organization. “The Suns were my favorite team growing up, like when Steve Nash was there,” he said. “Right now I know they’re super young with [Devin] Booker and [Marquese] Chriss and [Dragan] Bender. They’re growing and finding their identity, but they have some great pieces.” Phoenix owns the fourth pick, along with second rounders at 32 and 54, and is expected to bring in most of the top-billed players.
  • Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell is steadily moving up NBA draft boards, relays Chris Reichert of The Step Back. Reichert compares Mitchell to Celtics guard Avery Bradley and says he has decent offensive skills to go with his celebrated defense.

Community Shootaround: Brighter Future, Cavaliers or Warriors?

When Ohio State and Michigan were dominating Big 10 football in the 1970s, the conference was often referred to as the “Big 2 and the Little 8.” That same feeling has taken hold over the past three years in the NBA, which is turning into the Big 2 and the Little 28.

The Cavaliers and Warriors are preparing to meet in a third straight finals, which has felt inevitable since training camp. After winning 67 regular-season games, Golden State tore through the Western Conference playoffs with three straight sweeps. Cleveland nearly matched that in the East, with its only loss coming in Game 3 of the conference finals on a last-second shot.

The lack of competitiveness doesn’t bother Kevin Durant, who is largely responsible for it. The former MVP, who joined a record-setting Warriors team in free agency last summer, said to fans last week, “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.”

But people are watching it. ABC’s ratings are up 5% from a year ago, and ESPN’s online audience has grown by 24%. Just as fan interest spiked when the Celtics and Lakers were battling for supremacy in the 1980s and when Michael Jordan’s Bulls ruled the league in the 1990s, fans seem drawn to the idea of superteams.

Whether sustained dominance will remain good for the league is an interesting question, but we have another one: How long can this last? No teams have ever met in three straight finals before, but the Cavs and Warriors look like overwhelming favorites to do this again next year, and possibly a few years after that.

Golden State is built around four elite players who are all still in the prime of their careers. Stephen Curry (age 29) and Durant (28) are both expected to sign long-term deals this summer. Klay Thompson (27) is inked through 2018/19, and Draymond Green (27) is under contract through 2019/20. The Warriors may have to juggle some pieces around them, but the core of this team should remain together for at least five more seasons.

Cleveland’s fortunes have risen and fallen with LeBron James since he entered the league in 2003. Now 32, he may be having the best postseason of his career, averaging 32.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists through 13 games. For all the talk about resting James, he appeared in 74 games and averaged a league-high 37.8 minutes per night. He doesn’t appear to be showing any effects of age, and with his physical conditioning he might be able to play five more years at an elite level.

If LeBron does slow down, the Cavs still have Kyrie Irving (25) and Kevin Love (28), who are both signed for two more seasons with player options in 2019/20.

Both teams are well positioned for the future, but obviously this can’t last forever. Considering their current rosters and their potential challengers in each conference, who do you believe misses the finals first, the Warriors or the Cavaliers?

Spurs Notes: Free Agents, Simmons, Paul, Lee

The Spurs’ decision on whether to pursue Chris Paul will play a role in which free agents return next season, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. The organization would have to clear a massive amount of cap space to offer Paul a max deal, which would probably mean renouncing Patty Mills and not matching an offer sheet for restricted free agent Jonathon Simmons. In addition, Dewayne Dedmon and David Lee both have player options and might also be renounced if they opt out. If the Spurs are able to sign Paul, they will have to fill out the roster using their mid-level exception and veterans minimum deals.

There’s more news out of San Antonio:

  • If the Spurs want to keep Simmons, they will get some help from an “arcane” rule, McDonald notes in the same story. The Gilbert Arenas provision limits first-year offers to Simmons to the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, which will be roughly $8.4MM next season. Of course, offer sheets can be heavily backloaded over the final two years, similar to what the Nets did with Tyler Johnson last summer. If the Spurs are operating over the cap, they won’t have the ability to spread the hit evenly over four seasons, so they could be looking at a substantial salary commitment in 2019/20 and 2020/21 for a player who turns 28 in September.
  • To make a realistic run at Paul, the Spurs would have to find a taker for LaMarcus Aldridge, Danny Green or Tony Parker, writes Nick Moyle of The San Antonio Express-News. That means trading them without taking back salary, which will almost certainly require giving up draft picks. Aldridge would probably be the most difficult of the three to move, as he is signed for $21.461MM for next season, along with a $22.347MM player option for 2018/19. Green will make $10MM next year, with a $10MM player option the following season. Parker is entering the final year of his contract at $15.453MM.
  • Lee won’t need surgery for a strained patellar tendon in his left knee, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com. The injury, which Lee suffered in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, is expected to heal in about six weeks.

Stern Wanted To Rework Chris-Paul-To-Lakers Deal

Former NBA Commissioner David Stern addressed the NBA’s most famous non-trade during a recent appearance on the Nunyo & Company podcast [hat tip to Dan Feldman of NBC Sports].

The Lakers, Rockets and Hornets [now known as the Pelicans] worked out a three-team trade in 2011 that would have sent Chris Paul to Los Angeles. Stern, acting as owner of the New Orleans franchise after George Shinn sold it to the league, vetoed the deal on the basis that the Hornets weren’t getting enough in return for an All-Star point guard who was just entering his prime.

The full trade would have sent Paul to L.A., Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. Stern blocked the deal, but says he intended to rework it.

“In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal,” Stern explained. “We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with [Kyle] Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But [Lakers GM] Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.”

Later that year, New Orleans dealt Paul to the Clippers in exchange for Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and a 2012 first-round pick that became Austin Rivers. The Lakers lost a potential star to pair with Kobe Bryant for the final part of his career and haven’t been a title contender since.

Southeast Notes: Magic, Vogel, Reed, Hawks

Kevin Durant‘s decision to use the Magic as an example of a bad NBA organization reflects the team’s reputation around the league, writes Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Railing at suggestions that he helped create competitive imbalance, Durant started his response with, “Like I’m the reason why [expletive] Orlando couldn’t make the playoffs for five, six years in a row?” Robbins notes that new president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and new GM John Hammond will have to overcome that perception before they can attract top-level free agents. Orlando has inherent advantages with a warm climate and no state income tax, but most elite free agents prioritize winning, and that’s something the Magic can’t offer right now.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Magic CEO Alex Martins insisted that candidates for the newly filled front office positions be willing to work with coach Frank Vogel, relays John Denton of NBA.com. There were rumors during the season that Vogel might be in jeopardy as he led Orlando to a 29-53 record in his first year on the job. But the moves made since the season ended show that blame for the disappointing year fell on the front office rather than the coaching staff. Weltman says he admires Vogel’s coaching ability, and Vogel welcomes the change at the top. “These are very well-respected basketball men who have done a good job and who, quite frankly, know what they are doing and what they are talking about,’’ Vogel said. “I’m excited about the coming weeks, the meetings that we’re going to have and getting to know these guys.’’
  • Willie Reed has a strong desire to stay in Miami, but financial realities might prevent that, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Reed had his first impactful NBA season this year as a member of the Heat, playing 71 games and averaging 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per night. He faces a June 29th deadline to decide on a $1.577MM option for next season and may elect to chase his first-big money deal at age 27. Reed is still working out with the team, but says there have been no discussions with management about his contract status. “We spoke just about how a good season it was and how I progressed and have grown,” he said. “But there haven’t been talks about anything else yet, kind of just coming in here and just working out, making sure they see you and let them know that I love being here and I want it to work out.”
  • After 10 straight playoff seasons, the Hawks need to decide on a direction for their future, writes Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders. He notes that Atlanta has limited options heading into the summer because the team’s best trade assets, Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr., are both free agents, and last year’s big signees, Kent Bazemore and Dwight Howard, have experienced declines in their market value.

Five Key Stories: 5/20/17 – 5/27/17

Here are some of the biggest stories from the last week at Hoops Rumors:

Paul Millsap opted out of his contract with the Hawks and will become a free agent. The decision to opt out was expected and Millsap reportedly plans to remain in Atlanta. In opting out, the star power forward turned down a salary of slightly more than $21.4MM for next year.

Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward <a rel=

Isaiah Thomas missed the remainder of the postseason after re-aggravating a hip injury in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The news came as a crushing blow to a top-seeded Celtics team that lost the first two games of the series at home to the defending champions Cavaliers. The injury first occurred in March, forcing the star point guard to miss two starts. IT aggravated the injury in Game 6 against the Wizards before re-aggravating it again against the Cavs in Game 2.

Former Bucks GM John Hammond was hired by the Magic to be their new GM. In addition to hiring Hammond, Orlando also brought in Jeff Weltman to be the team’s President of Basketball Operations. The Raptors will receive a 2018 second-round pick from Orlando as compensation for Orlando’s decision to hire Weltman.

Travis Schlenk was named the general manager of the Hawks. The team has a GM again after being without one since Wes Wilcox was reassigned to a different front office role earlier this month. Schlenk will begin his duties on June 1st.

Chris Bosh and the Heat have reached a tentative agreement to part ways and the players’ association has granted its approval. The agreement would permanently remove Bosh’s cap figure, which was set to be an approximate $52.1MM over the next two years, from Miami’s books. Bosh would still get paid, of course, and would now stand a much better chance of playing again in the NBA for a different team. The pact has not yet been finalized.


Ten More Stories

 

Poll: Best Unrestricted Free Agent Point Guard

Among unrestricted free agents this offseason, point guard is easily the deepest position. Stephen Curry, Kyle Lowry, George Hill, Jeff Teague, Jrue Holiday, and Derrick Rose headline this group. Deron Williams, Darren Collison, and Patty Mills are also unrestricted free agents. In all, there are 28 unrestricted free agent point guards this offseason.

Two-time MVP Curry has scarcely been mentioned as an unrestricted free agent because most take for granted that he will return to the Warriors to dominate the NBA with the likes of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green for years to come.

Probably the second best player in this group, Lowry, will be coming off a breakout season, but he is 31 years old, has a long history of playoff struggles, and the Raptors would need to offer him a 5-year max contract. Still, Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combine for one of the most lethal backcourts in the league, and it is difficult to imagine Toronto not laying out the red carpet for its star point guard’s return.

After seven seasons with the Hawks, Teague played in all 82 games for the Pacers, averaging 15.3 PPG, 7.8 APG, and 1.2 SPG.

Although limited to 49 games due to injury in his first campaign with the Jazz, Hill averaged a career-high 16.9 PPG to go with an impressive slash line of .477/.403/.801.

Holiday shot a career-high 45.4% from the floor for the Pelicans, posting 15.4 PPG, 7.3 APG, and 1.5 SPG.

Rose, a former MVP, averaged 18.0 PPG and 4.4 APG, while shooting a stellar 47.1% in 64 games in his first season with the Knicks.

Without further ado, here’s today’s poll question: Beyond Curry and Lowry, who among this group would be most helpful for a team to sign and suit up as their starting point guard next season? Don’t limit yourself to a click of a button. Do you believe someone in the group is better than each of the available options? Are we underrating someone’s potential? Let us know in the comment section below. We look forward to your insight!

 

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