Wolves To Interview Nets’ Langdon For Front Office Job

We can add Nets assistant general manager Trajan Langdon to the list of candidates for the Timberwolves‘ president of basketball operations role, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. According to Woj (via Twitter), Langdon is interviewing with Minnesota for the position.

The list of contenders for the Wolves’ top front office job continues to grow, as Langdon joins a group that also includes ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups, Clippers assistant GM Michael Winger, Rockets executive VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, and Nuggets assistant GM Calvin Booth. As we noted earlier today, Minnesota is working to finalize interviews with all of those candidates.

Langdon, who has helped GM Sean Marks rebuild the Nets into a playoff team, has become a popular target in recent years for teams revamping their front offices. So far this spring, he has interviewed with the Pelicans and been linked to the Wizards’ opening as well. Previously, his name came up when the Pistons (2018) and Hawks (2017) were looking to hire new executives.

Prior to joining the Nets in 2016, Langdon worked for one year in Cleveland’s front office and several years in San Antonio’s scouting department. The 42-year-old played professionally from 1998 to 2011, though he only appeared in 119 NBA games, spending the majority of his playing career in international leagues.

Pacific Notes: Looney, Lakers, Suns, Kings

When it comes to Warriors players facing free agency this summer, the focus has rightly been on Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, but those aren’t the only players on the roster with expiring contracts.

One key role player up for a new deal this offseason is Kevon Looney, who played regular minutes at center this season as DeMarcus Cousins and Damian Jones dealt with injuries. Now, his role has increased once again with Cousins expected to miss the rest of the playoffs, perhaps putting him in a position to boost his value as he nears free agency.

The Warriors hold Looney’s Bird rights, allowing the team to go over the cap to re-sign him. But if Thompson and Durant return, it’s not clear how high Golden State would be willing to go to retain a role player. Asked about Looney’s upcoming free agency, teammate Andre Iguodala acknowledged that a more lucrative payday may await the youngster elsewhere.

“I hope he gets paid,” Iguodala said, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic (video link). “So I hope he doesn’t come back because I hope he gets all the money.”

Here’s more out of the Pacific:

  • Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka met with Sixers assistant Monty Williams earlier this week to discuss the club’s head coaching vacancy, and there’s an expectation on both sides that a second visit will occur at some point, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Williams is one of three known candidates for the Lakers’ job, along with Tyronn Lue and Juwan Howard.
  • The Suns‘ approach to the offseason will hinge largely on where the team’s first-round pick lands in the lottery, as Gina Mizell of The Athletic explains. Mizell sketches out multiple potential paths for Phoenix’s offseason — one that involves Zion Williamson, one featuring Ja Morant, and one in which the Suns land outside the top two in the draft.
  • In a story published shortly after Dave Joerger was let go by the Kings, Jason Jones of The Athletic passes along some fascinating tidbits on Joerger’s tenure in Sacramento. According to Jones, Joerger never really seemed to connect with youngsters Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles, favorites of the front office. Sources also told Jones that Joerger favored drafting Luka Doncic over Bagley, and would have been on board with trading Buddy Hield before the 2018/19 season.

Hoops Rumors’ 2019 NBA Award Picks: Rookie Of The Year

While the NBA won’t announce this year’s award winners until June, we’re making our picks for 2019’s major awards this week and next week.

The Hoops Rumors writing team has weighed in with our choices below, but we also want to know which players, coaches, and executives you think are most deserving of the hardware this season, so jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts.

We’re keeping things going today with the award for Rookie of the Year. Here are our selections:

Arthur Hill: Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
Trae Young rallied to make the race interesting, but Doncic stands atop a very talented rookie class. He arrived from the EuroLeague with more experience and poise than most first-year players and quickly proved to be as good as his reputation. He was the top rookie scorer at 21.2 points per game to go with 7.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists, making him the first rookie to reach that combination since Oscar Robertson. Triple-doubles should become common for Doncic in the future as the Mavericks improve.

JD Shaw: Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
Just like the MVP award, this is widely viewed as a race between two select players: Doncic and Young. While Young made a strong late-season push, Doncic’s impressive production lasted all year long for the Mavericks, with the 20-year-old proving he can play multiple positions and lead a young team for the future. His wizardry with the basketball, impressive court vision, willingness to rebound, and mature scoring abilities help him stand out at such a young age, giving him the edge to be my pick for this year’s award.

Chris Crouse: Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
Doncic wasn’t held back by the learning curve that typically accompanies rookies. Showcasing command of the Mavs offense early in the season, he built a Rookie of the Year award candidacy that would be hard for any player to overcome.

Young, Deandre Ayton, and Jaren Jackson Jr. are among those who deserve recognition for their respective rookie seasons and each should have a bright future in the league. However, Doncic’s debut was more deserving of the award.

Dana Gauruder: Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
Young made a spirited run after the All-Star break, but Doncic’s numbers also rose as the year went along. Even after posting 21.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 6.0 APG in his first NBA season, he’s still younger than many college juniors — the Mavericks’ future is bright with Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis as their franchise cornerstones. Doncic also racked up eight triple-doubles, tying for fourth in the league, and he’ll likely rank second to only Russell Westbrook in that category over the next few seasons.

Luke Adams: Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
Young’s second-half stats (22.8 PPG and 8.9 APG in 40 games) made this race more interesting than it had any right to be, given that at least one sportsbook paid out Rookie of the Year bets on Doncic in mid-February. Still, the gap between the two rookies’ early-season performances make this an easy choice.

Before they slumped during the holiday season and then traded away half their team early in 2019, the Mavericks got off to a 15-11 start – capped by a win in Atlanta – with Doncic looking like their MVP. Meanwhile, during the Hawks’ first 26 games, Young was putting up a shooting line of .373/.243/.781 with a league-worst turnover rate. Young’s second-half run wasn’t enough to overcome that slow start.

While a number of players from the 2018/19 rookie class should go on to have long, productive NBA careers, Doncic has been the best of the bunch so far.

Who is your pick for Rookie of the Year? Share your choices and your thoughts in the comment section below!

Previously:

Still to come:

  • Defensive Player of the Year
  • Most Valuable Player

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Wolves, Chauncey Billups To Discuss Front Office Role

The Timberwolves will meet with Chauncey Billups sometime in the near future to discuss their open president of basketball operations position, sources tell Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

A longtime NBA guard who spent two seasons of his playing career in Minnesota, Billups has long been rumored to be a potential target for the Timberwolves, even before Tom Thibodeau was dismissed from his president of basketball operations role by the team.

Billups lacks front office experience, but Minnesota isn’t the only team that views him as a potential decision-maker for an NBA franchise — he previously interviewed for top jobs with the Cavaliers and Hawks.

Recently, Marc Stein of The New York Times wrote that there was some skepticism about owner Glen Taylor‘s ability to make Billups an offer attractive enough to lure him away from his analyst job at ESPN. However, it appears the two sides will at least meet to discuss the idea.

Billups is hardly the only candidate being considered by the Timberwolves as they seek out a new head of basketball operations. Reports earlier this week indicated that Minnesota is also in the process of securing interviews with Clippers assistant GM Michael Winger, Rockets executive VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, and Nuggets assistant GM Calvin Booth.

According to Charania and Krawczynski (via Twitter), the Wolves have been finalizing interview dates with those candidates.

Draft Updates: Drell, Mikhailovskii, Montgomery, More

A pair of international prospects who show up in ESPN.com’s top-100 list for 2019 have declared for the draft, as Jonathan Givony of ESPN details in a pair of stories.

Estonian wing Henri Drell, the No. 55 prospect on ESPN’s big board, is one of those two players, Givony writes. Drell has spent the 2018/19 season in Germany, splitting time between Bamberg and lower-level teams. Despite still being just 18 years old, he joined the Estonian national team earlier this year for FIBA World Cup qualifiers.

If Drell goes through the pre-draft process and isn’t thrilled with the feedback he’s getting from NBA teams, he could withdraw anytime before the June 10 deadline.

The same can be said for 18-year-old Russian wing Nikita Mikhailovskii, who has also submitted paperwork to the league office to make himself eligible for the 2019 draft, agent Arturs Kalnitis tells Givony.

Mikhailovskii, the no. 63 prospect on Givony’s draft board, is the fourth-youngest player in ESPN’s top 100, so if he keeps his name in the draft pool and is selected in June 20, he’d likely end up being a draft-and-stash player. The 6’8″ wing is currently playing for Avtodor Saratov in Russia and has made 44% of his three-point attempts this season, per Givony.

Here are more early entrants who have recently declared for the 2019 draft:

NCAA:

International:

Grizzlies Notes: Cho, Valanciunas, Anderson, Assistants

After being let go by Charlotte in 2018, former Hornets GM Rich Cho had been consulting work for the Grizzlies, so it made sense that new Memphis executive VP of basketball operations and former Hornets intern Zach Kleiman contacted him right away last week when a permanent, high-level position opened up in the team’s front office.

“Yeah, he reached out to me pretty quickly,” Cho said, per Peter Edmiston of The Athletic. “Zach did a really good job for us in Charlotte as an intern, he’s a really bright guy and he’s passionate about the game. He’s an extremely hard worker. I’ve watched his career progress from afar and I’m really happy the way things have gone for him, especially that he’s getting this opportunity.”

As for his new role in Memphis, Cho said that he’ll be overseeing the team’s analytics department and all of the salary cap administration. He’ll also be advising the rest of the management group on player personnel issues and acquisitions, as Edminston details. Kleiman will be running the show for the Grizzlies, so Cho is ready to do what he can to assist the 30-year-old executive.

“On a 30,000-foot level, I’ll be helping Zach out wherever he needs help, and advising him accordingly,” Cho said. “As the GM, he’s going to have to wear a lot of hats and be involved in everything, and I’m going to try to help him out wherever I can.”

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • Of players who appeared in at least 10 games in March, Jonas Valanciunas has the league’s 16th-highest usage rate, and averaged 10 more minutes per game than he had been playing in Toronto, writes David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. As Cobb notes, Valanciunas was very happy with his increased role in Memphis, which could have an impact on his contract decision this summer — the big man has until June 13 to decide whether or not to pick up a $17.62MM player option.
  • As expected, Grizzlies forward Kyle Anderson underwent thoracic outlet decompression surgery on his injured right shoulder on Wednesday, the team announced in a press release. According to the Grizzlies, Anderson is expected to make a full recovery and resume full basketball activities before the club opens camp in the fall.
  • The Grizzlies have now lost a pair of assistant coaches to Vanderbilt. After leaving Memphis to become Vanderbilt’s new head coach, Jerry Stackhouse has brought fellow assistant Adam Mazarei to his staff, the school confirmed today in a press release. Grizzlies assistant Chad Forcier also announced earlier this week that he’s moving on, as J.B. Bickerstaff‘s staff disperses in various directions in advance of a new coach being hired.

2018/19 Hoops Rumors Contract MVPs: Part II

Hoops Rumors is breaking down each type of contract in the NBA to find out which players were the most valuable under each type of deal.

If you missed Part 1 of the “Contract MVPs,” we covered two-way deals, 10-day contracts, and various mid-level and bi-annual exceptions. The rules in Part 2 remain the same: To qualify, a player must have played under that contract during the 2018/19 campaign. Players who see their status change (such as Enes Kanter, who began the season on a max deal but then signed with Portland for the minimum) maintain the same status they began with.

Here are our remaining “Contract MVPs”:


Minimum Salary

The Nets signed Dinwiddie to a minimum-salary deal back in 2016 and while injuries delayed his breakout, he showcased his offensive ability over the past two seasons. He scored a career-high 16.8 points per game in 2018/19, sporting a 16.8 player efficiency rating in the process.

The combo guard was able to parlay his success into an extension worth $34MM over three years starting in the 2019/20 campaign. It’s a massive raise on this year’s salary, which came in just under $1.66MM.

Honorable mentions: Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose


Rookie-Scale Contract

  • Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves): Four-years, $25,720,035 rookie-scale contract (signed in 2015).

Towns signed a long-term, maximum-salary extension back in September, but he earned just slightly under $7.9MM this season during the fourth and final year of his rookie deal. You could argue that no player has provided more value on a per-dollar basis than Towns (though Ben Simmons also has a case) and that’s a product of the NBA’s ever-valuable rookie-scale contracts.

Jimmy Butler‘s departure allowed Towns to truly take the lead role in Minnesota. The center finished the season fifth in both VORP and NBA Math’s TPA. He was fourth in player efficiency rating and top-10 in win shares.

The former Kentucky Wildcat put himself in position to make an additional $30MM+ on his $158MM extension by inserting himself into the All-NBA Team conversation. He’ll have more competition for a “contract award” in a new tier next season.

Honorable mention: Ben Simmons


Rookie-Scale Extension (Including Max)

Antetokounmpo was willing to take less than the max during extension negotiations in 2016, since he wanted Milwaukee to have the flexibility to make sound additions around him. The 2018/19 season was a culmination of those efforts, with the Bucks securing the top record in the NBA.

With a deep team that complements him, Antetokounmpo took yet another leap forward. The 2017/18 Most Improved Player led the league in player efficiency rating and in win shares per 48 minutes. The only real stain in his MVP candidacy is his minutes played total (2,358), which ranked 47th in the league (between CJ McCollum and Nicolas Batum). Still, he’s favored to win the league’s award and he gets our MVP for this tier.

Honorable mentions: Joel Embiid, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis


Max Contract (25% Starting Salary, Non-Rookie-Scale Extension)

These contracts generally exist as a result of a player on a rookie contract hitting restricted free agency. Sometimes it’s a player who was not selected in the first round severely overachieving leading up to the end of his contract. Outside of the rookie-scale extensions, there aren’t many desirable max deals that start at 25% of the cap (reserved for players with 0-6 years of experience).

The 2016 offseason shopping spree littered the market with max contracts of this criteria. Chandler Parsons, Hassan Whiteside, and Harrison Barnes can thank the biggest salary cap spike ever for their status. Different circumstances led Andre Drummond and Otto Porter Jr. to receive their deals, though both contracts are considered player-friendly.

Jokic, Bradley Beal and Kawhi Leonard are the only real contenders for the MVP of this max contract tier. There are arguments for Beal and Leonard, but Jokic’s dominant campaign, in which he finished third in the league in NBA Math’s TPA Metric, gives him the nod.

Honorable mentions: Bradley Beal, Kawhi Leonard


Max Contract (30%)

  • James Harden, (Rockets): Four-year, $117,964,846 extension (signed in 2016 and renegotiated a year later).

Harden signed an extension in 2016 before the current CBA went into effect, then inked a new, super-max extension a year later after the players’ union and the league came together to add a provision to the new CBA. The passage grandfathered Harden and Russell Westbrook into the pool of players that were eligible for the Designated Veteran Extension.

Harden’s super-max extension doesn’t kick in until next season where he’ll make $37.8MM. His original extension, which began at 30% of salary cap and will ultimately run for three seasons from 2016/17 through 2018/19, has produced an MVP season sandwiched by two (likely) runner-up campaigns. The Rockets arguably received the most production from any one player regardless of contract type over this three-year stretch.

Honorable mention: Paul George


Max Contact (35%)

Had Curry not missed a stretch of 11 games early in the season, perhaps he’s in the NBA’s MVP discussion. Although sharing the court with several other Warriors stars does not help his narrative.

Curry further shifted his offensive load beyond the 3-point line in 2018/19, attempting a career-high 11.7 shots per game from behind the arc. He made 5.1 of those tries (the same amount as his 2015/16 MVP season) and it resulted in the second-highest scoring season of his career (27.3 points per game).

Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and LeBron James are the only other players who played on this tier of max contract this past season. Each star had a season deserving of accolades, but Curry was a notch above them this year.

Honorable mentions: Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, LeBron James

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

L.A. Notes: Lakers, Lue, Williams, Clippers, West

As we detailed earlier this week, Tyronn Lue‘s meeting with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka about the team’s head coaching vacancy is taking place today, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski confirms (via Twitter).

Lue has experience coaching LeBron James in Cleveland, which could be a point in his favor as Pelinka and the Lakers weigh their options for Luke Walton‘s replacement. As ESPN’s Brian Windhorst writes, coaching James isn’t without its challenges, but if a coach comes in with a game plan, holds LeBron accountable, and is prepared for push-back, he can succeed.

Lue and Monty Williams are among the candidates apparently in the running for the Lakers’ job, though both men have reportedly been warned to proceed with caution. As Colton Jones of Amico Hoops relays, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said during an appearance on 710 ESPN that “everyone in the league” has told Williams not to take the job, while Jorge Sedano of ESPN said one of Lue’s close friends has given the former Cavs coach a similar warning.

It remains to be seen which direction the Lakers are leaning, or whether they’ll expand their search beyond Lue, Williams, and Juwan Howard. However, Shelburne also notes that it wouldn’t be a total surprise if Williams prefers to remain with the Sixers, where he’s an assistant on Brett Brown‘s staff. His family is settled there, and he could be next in line if Philadelphia were to move on from Brown, says Shelburne (via Jones).

Here’s more on the NBA’s two Los Angeles teams:

  • According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, there’s no indication that the Lakers plan to reach out to Clippers consultant Jerry West about the possibility of returning to the franchise following Magic Johnson‘s resignation from his president of basketball operations role. For his part, West said he’s preparing for an eventful offseason with the Clippers, but made no guarantees about his role next season and beyond. “Well, as far as I can tell, I really don’t have a future, OK? My future is now,” West told Amick. “I don’t really worry about that. I worry about getting through this season, and really concentrating – all of us, concentrating – on free agency.”
  • Although they fell back to earth last night, the fact that the Clippers made the postseason and are capable of performances like their Game 2 win over Golden State bodes well for the pitch they can make to free agents this summer, writes Shaun Powell of NBA.com. Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times conveys a similar sentiment, writing that the club’s future is bright regardless of what happens in the playoffs.
  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks takes a deep dive into the Lakers’ offseason, exploring the head coaching search, the possibility of revisiting Anthony Davis trade talks, the club’s free agency options, and more.

Sekou Doumbouya Enters 2019 NBA Draft

Another potential lottery pick has entered the 2019 NBA draft pool, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com, who hears from agent Bouna Ndiaye that French forward Sekou Doumbouya has submitted the paperwork necessary to declare as an early entrant.

While he won’t arrive with the same sort of fanfare that Luka Doncic did a year ago, Doumbouya is widely considered to be the top international prospect in 2019’s draft class. He comes in at No. 8 overall on the big board at ESPN.com, with Mike Schmitz praising the combo forward’s strong potential as a defender and shooter.

As Givony observes, Doumbouya also has youth on his side. He won’t turn 19 until December 23, so assuming he stays in the draft and suits up for an NBA team in 2019/20, he’ll become the youngest player to appear in a game since the league instituted its age limit in 2005.

In 2018/19, Doumbouya has been playing for Limoges in the French Pro A league and the EuroCup, averaging 6.7 PPG and 3.0 RPG with a .497/.328/.759 shooting line in 28 games (16.7 MPG).

Wizards’ Dwight Howard Opts In For 2019/20

In an unsurprising move, Dwight Howard has picked up his 2019/20 player option, opting in for next season, reports ESPN’s Zach Lowe (via Twitter). The decision ensures that the Wizards center locks in his $5,603,850 salary for ’19/20.

Howard, 33, signed a two-year deal with the Wizards last summer after spending his previous three seasons with three different teams in Houston, Atlanta, and Charlotte. Having used the full taxpayer mid-level exception to sign him, Washington viewed Howard as its major offseason addition, but the big man’s stint in D.C. hasn’t gone as planned.

Sidelined by spinal surgery for most of the 2018/19 season, Howard also injured his hamstring during his rehab and was ultimately limited to just nine games. He was reasonably effective when he saw the court, averaging 12.8 PPG and 9.2 RPG in 25.6 minutes per contest as the Wizards’ starting center, but the question marks surrounding his health ensured that he wouldn’t land a contract on the open market this offseason worth more than his $5.6MM option.

With Howard back in the fold, the Wizards are now on the hook for approximately $89.5MM in guaranteed salaries for 2019/20, per Basketball Insiders. That doesn’t include potential contracts for free agents like Tomas Satoransky, Bobby Portis, Trevor Ariza, Thomas Bryant, or Jeff Green. It also doesn’t account for Jabari Parker‘s $20MM team option, though that’s a lock to be declined.

Portis and Bryant are both eligible for restricted free agency this summer, so it will be interesting to see how the Wizards handle their situations, given the team’s limited financial flexibility and the fact that veteran centers Howard and Ian Mahinmi are entering contract years.

Howard is the sixth player so far to exercise a 2019/20 player option or confirm that he plans to do so. The full list can be found right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.