Kings, Hawks Likely To Pass On Luka Doncic?

Luka Doncic isn’t sure he’ll come stateside to play in the NBA next season, as he tells ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. “I will tell about all at the right time. Right now I just want to celebrate with my team. Soon I will tell,” the prospect said following Real Madrid’s win in the Euroleague Championship.

Doncic is in the conversation for the No. 1 pick, held by Phoenix, though he is not the favorite to go at that spot. The Kings and Hawks follow the Suns in the draft and Givony hears that both teams are likely to pass on the young wing. The scribe spent the weekend in Belgrade along with several NBA executives to watch Doncic in a game in which he scored just 15 points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

Sacramento and Atlanta may each look to add a long-term piece in the frontcourt with their top pick. It was previously reported that the Kings aren’t overly-impressed with their current bigs.

They have a real hole there in the frontcourt. I don’t think that they’re in love with Willie Cauley-Stein by any means. They started Zach Randolph at the four all year long,” Givony previously reported“What do they do there? Do they go with Marvin Bagley who is going to be a compelling prospect for them? 

Givony wonders whether a team will trade up into the top three to select Doncic and suggests without a trade occurring, the 19-year-old could drop to No.4 or No.5, picks held by Memphis and Dallas, respectively.

Hornets Notes: Walker, Sexton, Draft

It may be time for the Hornets to start looking for their point guard of the future, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer contends.

Kemba Walker, the franchise’s most valuable player, is just one season away from unrestricted free agency. Bonnell notes that Walker loves the city of Charlotte, but location preference isn’t the only priority for the point guard. Walker previously said he wasn’t sure he could go through another rebuild.

The team’s best in-house option for the point guard spot is Malik Monk. However, the 2017 No. 11 pick spent some time at the one this season with mixed results. It’s unclear if the Kentucky product can be the type of playmaker necessary to be a starting point guard in the league.

Here’s more from Charlotte:

  • Collin Sexton could be a nice option for the Hornets if he’s there at No.11, but the Alabama product would need to drastically improve his shooting if he wants to a top point guard in the league, Bonnell adds in the same piece. The scribe notes that Walker didn’t start playing at an All-Star level until he improved his outside shooting.
  • Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a much better shooter than Sexton, though Bonnell (same piece) believes he would be a high-risk/high-reward selection. Both players are expected to be taken in the top half of the draft.
  • Earlier today, we learned that the Hornets have agreed to hire Jay Triano as their top assistant under head coach James Borrego.

Jay Triano Agrees To Join Hornets As Top Assistant Coach

Jay Triano has agreed to join the Hornets as a top assistant under new head coach James Borrego, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. It was reported earlier this week that Charlotte was considering Triano for their coaching staff.

Triano, 59, coached all but three games for the Suns last season after Earl Watson was dismissed. With Triano at the helm, Phoenix went 21-58. He was a candidate for the permanent job in Phoenix before the Suns hired former Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov.

Aside from his stint as interim coach this past season, Triano brings previous head coaching experience from his stint with the Raptors from 2008-2011.

Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer noted that it’s common for first-time head coaches, such as Borrego, to bring in experienced head coaches to round out their staff. Steve Clifford, who the Hornets fired after the regular season, had former head coaches Bob Weiss and Eddie Jordan on his staff in Charlotte.

The Hornets are in the midsts of an organizational overhaul of sorts. The team recently brought in Mitch Kupchak as the new general manager in addition to replacing their head coach.

Luka Doncic Wins Final Four MVP Award

As a decision about jumping to the NBA looms, potential first overall pick Luka Doncic led Real Madrid to the EuroLeague championship with an 85-80 victory on Sunday. In the process, Doncic became the youngest player to win the EuroLeague Final Four Most Valuable Player award.

This is third major award Doncic earned the last two days as he was named the EuroLeague MVP and Rising Star. The MVP is determined by a vote of the media and fans, while the coaches select the Rising Star.

Doncic, 19, has enjoyed a historically productive season overseas, averaging  14.5 PPG, 5.2 APG, and 4.7 RPG for Real Madrid en route to the championship. The Slovenian is expected to be a top-three pick and has already declared for the NBA Draft. However, as we relayed earlier this week, Doncic said he has not made a final decision about leaving Europe for the NBA.

“I’m not sure if these are the last two [EuroLeague] games,” Doncic said. “We have yet to make this decision. Perhaps after the season.”

With the season over, Doncic can now make a decision without providing a distraction to his current team.

Atlantic Notes: Redick, Draft, Baynes, Bamba, Fizdale

J.J. Redick joined the Sixers as the well-paid, seasoned veteran who was expected to help the team reach the postseason with his leadership and three-point shooting ability. Redick did just that as the Sixers charged into the postseason, making it to the second round before losing to the Celtics.

As Rich Hofmann of The Athletic (subscription required) writes, Redick’s arrival was on a one-year deal with the hope that both sides can work out something more long-term in the future. However, after such as successful season, and the Sixers’ plan to pursue top free agents to pair with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Redick’s potential departure appears to be on the backburner. Redick remains optimistic about what will happen with his free agency this summer.

“I think it’s a mutual appreciation,” Redick said. “I’m sure we all hope that I am back. The numbers can get tricky. It’s not my job to worry about that. I’ll let Bryan, my agent, and the events over the next two months sort of play out, and we’ll make a decision.”

Check out more Atlantic Division notes below:

  • Derek Bodner of The Athletic examines which prospects make sense for the Sixers as they prepare to draft with the 10th overall pick. Among the names that Bodner feels makes sense for Philadelphia includes Michael Porter Jr., Trae Young, Collin Sexton, and Miles Bridges.
  • A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston writes about how Celtics big man Aron Baynes developed his perimeter shooting after coach Brad Stevens noticed Baynes knocking down mid-range jumpers with ease during practice. “He’s shot them every single day, through training camp, practice, through pre-game shooting and everything else,” Stevens recalled. “We’ve encouraged him to shoot all year especially from the corners.”
  • Former Knicks All-Star and Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo feels that David Fizdale did not get enough of an opportunity to prove himself as head coach with the Grizzlies, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. McAdoo worked with Fizdale in Miami for almost a decade and believes Fizdale can be an impactful coach if he’s not restrained. “He did do a good job in Memphis, but it’s a player’s league,’’ McAdoo said. “Gasol didn’t like sitting on the bench. David felt this was the best way to go. It was a problem and upper management got rid of him.’’
  • Texas’ Mohamed Bamba opened some eyes with his wingspan and defensive ability at the draft combine. As the Knicks prepare to draft ninth overall, the dream of pairing Bamba in the backcourt with Kristaps Porzingis may be fading, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

Weekly Mailbag: 5/14/18 – 5/20/18

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

Who is more likely to be traded this summer: Karl-Anthony Towns or Kawhi Leonard? –VJ Cruz, via Twitter

Let’s start by saying that neither should be considered likely to get traded. The Spurs will try to work through Leonard’s reported unhappiness and sign him to a long-term extension, while the Timberwolves would be taking a huge gamble by unloading a young talent like Towns. Rumors emerged this weekend that there is tension in Minnesota involving the 22-year-old center, but some of that could be the change in direction the franchise went through last summer by adding a veteran core in Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson. The focus changed from building around Towns and Andrew Wiggins to winning right away. It doesn’t sound like a problem that can’t be solved. Leonard is in position to force the Spurs’ hands because he can opt out next summer, while Towns is under Minnesota’s control for at least two more seasons. If Leonard is willing to give up the benefits of a super max extension for a fresh start with a new team, San Antonio will be tempted to move him now to ensure something in return.

Was Brad Stevens outcoached Saturday night? — Tobin22, via Twitter

When your team loses by 30, everybody was out-everythinged. The result could be explained by the desperation that comes with a 2-0 deficit, but Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers’ coaching staff deserve credit for some adjustments that are making this a more competitive series. Inserting Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup has reduced the effectiveness of Celtics big man Al Horford, and a more aggressive defense against Jaylen Brown cut into his production Saturday night. Stevens has gotten a lot of accolades during the playoffs, and rightfully so, but there are many smart coaches in the NBA. The postseason is all about adjustments, and we’ll see how Stevens responds in Game 4.

Luka Doncic is great in the EuroLeague, but how will he adjust to the NBA? — JJ, via Twitter

At age 19, Doncic has established himself as the EuroLeague’s top player, collecting both MVP honors and the Rising Star award. But it’s not clear what position he’ll fit into once he comes into the NBA. Doncic is a versatile offensive player at 6’8″ who can easily shoot over smaller defenders and is celebrated for his passing skills. However, there are concerns about his overall athleticism and fears that he doesn’t have the speed or explosiveness to keep up with NBA backcourts. It’s hard to imagine him slowing down opposing point guards if he lands next to Devin Booker in Phoenix. He would be most comfortable creating the offense as an off guard or small forward, but he’ll have to be surrounded with the right combination of talent for that approach to succeed.

Heat Notes: LeBron, Draft, Haslem, T. Johnson

The Heat are often mentioned as a potential destination for LeBron James if he decides to leave Cleveland, but Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel doesn’t believe such a move is realistic. Miami, of course, is where James went the last time he parted ways with the Cavaliers. He spent four seasons with the Heat and combined with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to reach the NBA Finals each year.

However, a reunion is extremely unlikely, Winderman notes. The Heat don’t have any cap space to work with and would need to have a massive sell-off or have James opt in and engineer a trade. Winderman estimates Miami would have to part with Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo and the high salary of either Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic, which would leave LeBron with a worse supporting cast then he has now in Cleveland.

There’s more news from Miami:

  • Without a pick in this year’s draft, the Heat can’t get prospects to come to Miami, so scouts are going on the road to see them, Winderman writes in a separate piece. Team representatives are headed to Bradenton, Florida, New York City, Atlanta and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, this week to attend workouts being held by agents and trainers. Next week, the scouting staff will be at seven workouts in Los Angeles and one in Las Vegas. “We go there not only to watch that workout, but we also would use that as a mini-Chicago [draft combine], where we interview players,” VP of Player Personnel Chet Kammerer explained. “It’s not us running the workouts, but we’re going to get to look at as many people as we can among our staff.”
  • At age 38, Udonis Haslem hasn’t decided if he will return for another season, but he continues to work out as if he’ll keep playing, Winderman relays in another story. “When you get to this stage of your career and life, you either do it or you don’t,” Haslem said. “You can’t really turn it on and off. It becomes a lifestyle.” Interviewed Saturday, Haslem repeated that he has no interest in coaching but would be intrigued by a front office position.
  • Tyler Johnson won’t try to change his game to live up to the salary increase that’s about to kick in, writes Jordan McPherson of The Miami Herald. The backloaded offer sheet Johnson received from the Nets two years ago increases from $5.88MM this year to $19.25MM in each of the next two seasons. “It doesn’t bother me,” Johnson said. “It’s just a nicer paycheck when I go home.”

Thunder Notes: Presti, Donovan, Grant, T. Young

After making significant trades the past two summers, Thunder GM Sam Presti is hoping for a quieter offseason, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. Of course, that will largely be determined by Paul George, who is expected to opt out of his $20.7MM salary for next season and test the free agent market. George, who grew up in the Los Angeles area, has long been rumored to want to join the Lakers.

“We arrived here and haven’t turned the page because we haven’t rebuilt the team since 2008,” Presti said. “I’m happy about that. We’re trying to make it work as long as we can. Ultimately us, like every other team, is going to have to find ourselves in a position where we’ll have to rebuild.”

Whether George returns or not, OKC will be over the salary cap if Carmelo Anthony declines to use an early termination option on his $27.9MM contract for next season. Presti expects to spend the offseason looking for more free agent bargains like Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton.

There’s more today from Oklahoma City:

  • Coach Billy Donovan is safe for another year, but he needs to make changes to keep his job beyond that, according to Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. With two years and about $12MM left on his contract, Donovan is entering the danger zone for NBA coaches, who frequently get fired or extended heading into their final season. Donovan has two straight first-round playoff ousters working against him, but Presti understands the difficult position he has been in because of roster turnover. “If you think about the last three years for our organization, and the last three years for him, it’s been a little bit of a whipsaw in respect to just the team he inherited in 2016,” Presti said, “the performance of that team being within a couple minutes of going to the finals, then not being able to capitalize on that.”
  • Jerami Grant, part of a group of minimum-salary free agents the Thunder will have this summer, sees a good chance of returning to Oklahoma City, tweets Royce Young of ESPN. “I definitely think it’s a possibility,” Grant told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. “I know it’s a lot of moving pieces but I definitely think it’s a great possibility me being there. There’s a lot of things they have to figure out but I think it’s a good chance.” 
  • The Thunder were among the teams to meet with Oklahoma’s Trae Young at this week’s draft combine, according to Ryan Aber of The Oklahoman. The Thunder, whose first-rounder belongs to the Timberwolves, would have to trade into the lottery to have a shot at Young.

Central Notes: Thompson, Perkins, Billups, Bucks

Tristan Thompson who was barely playing when the postseason began, has become an important part of the Cavaliers’ quest to reach the NBA Finals, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. After Al Horford‘s huge performance in Game 1, Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue made a lineup change, swapping Thompson for Kyle Korver and giving the Cavs a bigger player to match up with Horford, who managed just seven points in 30 minutes Saturday.

“I wanted that matchup from the beginning,” Thompson said. “I feel like for me as a big, my job is to match up against whoever their best big is and make it tough for him. From the beginning of the series I knew that Al Horford was going to be my matchup regardless of when and it’s on me to try to cool him down and make it tough for him this series.”

It’s a moment of triumph at the end of a frustrating season for Thompson, who averaged career lows in minutes (20.2) and points (5.8). He still has two years and roughly $36MM left on his contract.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Veteran center Kendrick Perkins is thrilled to be on a title-contending team again after nearly two full seasons out of the league, relays Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. The 33-year-old couldn’t get an opportunity after finishing the 2015/16 season with the Pelicans. “It was tough,” he said. “Being away from the game is something I didn’t do by choice. I just didn’t get a call. I just worked out every day hoping to get a call. I was in Houston, and every day I’d get up and go to the gym. That’s about it. It was humbling and all type of stuff, but I always say God don’t make mistakes, so at the end of the day you’ve got to take the punches or whatever it is and just keep moving.”
  • It’s surprising that Chauncey Billups wasn’t included on the list of potential front office candidates in Detroit, notes Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. The former Pistons star, now an ESPN analyst, has been open about his desire to become an executive. Ellis writes that the organization prefers someone with experience in running a team, but states that if Billups does get hired he is likely to bring along former teammates such as Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton and Ben Wallace.
  • New Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer is eager for the challenge in Milwaukee, relays Matt Velazquez of The Journal-Sentinel. Budenholzer interviewed for several openings, but he was convinced the Bucks were the next logical step for him. “Very excited about the roster, excited about the things we can do together,” he said. “Obviously, Giannis [Antetokounmpo] is a special player, but I think the entire roster’s got a lot of great players — Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, you keep going down the list, Jabari [Parker], all the guys. I just think it’s a great opportunity for me, a great fit for me.”

Draft Notes: DiVincenzo, Spellman, Walker, Bearden

Coach Jay Wright will recommend to Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman that they return to Villanova if it doesn’t look like they’ll be drafted in the first round, according to Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv. DiVincenzo goes to the Mavericks at No. 33 in the latest mock draft compiled by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, while Spellman isn’t projected to be taken. Players have until May 30 to make their decisions.

“Omari and Donte are out there to try to prove themselves as first-round picks,” Wright said of his players’ trips to the NBA Draft Combine. “For them, I hope they are. And I think this process has been good for them. I think they will get some good information.”

DiVincenzo met with the LakersMagicTimberwolvesTrail BlazersCavaliersSpursHawks and Grizzlies at the combine and said he received a lot of “positive feedback.” Spellman has upcoming workouts with the Lakers [May 23], Clippers [May 24], Spurs [26] and Jazz [28] that will likely influence his decision, Zagoria adds.

There’s more draft news as the deadline for decisions draws closer:

  • The Sixers may consider Miami guard Lonnie Walker at No. 10, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Walker met with Philadelphia officials Friday and was impressed by the experience. “It went well,” he said. “See a little bit of Elton Brand and all those guys, I felt like a little kid, seeing guys I watched on TV.” Givony has Walker projected at No. 13 to the Clippers.
  • Lamonte Bearden of Western Kentucky will sign with an agent and stay in the draft, tweets ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. The guard averaged 11.8 points and 3.4 assists as a redshirt junior.
  • Kent State’s Jaylin Walker tweeted that he will return to school for his senior season. He averaged 16.6 points per game for the Golden Flashes this season.
  • The Nuggets have pre-draft workouts scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, the team announced in an e-mail. Scheduled to appear at Monday’s session are Tyler Davis of Texas A&M, Cody Martin of Nevada, William McDowell-White of Brose Bamberg, Isaiah Reese of Canisius, Admiral Schofield of Tennessee and Reid Travis of Stanford. Tuesday’s schedule features Tyler Cook of Iowa, Jon Elmore of Marshall, Ethan Happ of Wisconsin, Mustapha Heron of Auburn, Charles Matthews of Michigan and Shamorie Ponds of St. John’s.