Latest On Trae Young

After averaging 26.4 points in 36.5 minutes per game during his first 51 contests this season, Hawks guard Trae Young scored 15.0 PPG while playing 26.6 MPG in three games last week upon returning from hand surgery. Having gotten a few appearances under his belt down the stretch, Young is hoping to see his usual playing time – and provide his usual production – in Wednesday’s play-in game vs. Chicago, according to Charles Odum of The Associated Press.

“I feel a lot better,” Young told reporters after practicing on Monday. “I’m just trying to make sure I can play at least close to my minutes that I played in the regular season in play-in games.”

Young logged fewer than 21 minutes last Wednesday in his first game back, but bumped that figure to 27 minutes on Friday and nearly 32 in Sunday’s regular season finale. As long as he can handle the increased workload, the Hawks figure to lean heavily on him, since they’ll be missing key rotation players like Jalen Johnson, Onyeka Okongwu, and Saddiq Bey due to injuries. Even on the road, without those teammates available, Young feels good about Atlanta’s chances.

“Obviously you just play the cards you’re dealt,” Young said. “… That’s just my mentality. You know I feel like we can still win with the players we have, so I’m going to go out there and try to do it.”

Here’s more on Young:

  • Echoing previous reporting, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report says that many sources around the NBA believe Young will be traded this summer, though he cautions that the diminutive, offense-first guard wouldn’t be an ideal fit on some rosters. “It’s difficult to win with a player like Trae,” one Eastern Conference executive said to Pincus. “He needs to be the best player on your team, but he’s not at that top-tier level.”
  • Pincus runs through a few potential landing spots for Young, considering what trades to the Lakers, Spurs, or Nets might look like. Pincus suggests that it’s tricky to find many other clear fits, though he identifies the Pistons as a possible wild card. Keeping Young and trading Dejounte Murray may ultimately make more sense for Atlanta, Pincus writes, since Murray would be more popular on the trade market due to his less pricey contract and his two-way ability.
  • Although the Spurs need a long-term answer at point guard and have been linked to Young since February’s trade deadline, Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News advises not betting on a deal that sends Trae to San Antonio. “There are a lot of different ways this can go, and a lot of different stars (the Spurs) might end up targeting, but they’re not going to be the team that meets Atlanta’s price for Trae Young,” Finger writes in a tweet.

Warriors Notes: Thompson, CP3, Kuminga, Wiggins, Offseason

Warriors wing Klay Thompson had his worst game of the season at the most inopportune time on Tuesday, as he went 0-from-10 from the field and was held scoreless in 32 minutes of action during Golden State’s season-ending play-in loss to the Kings.

It’s an inauspicious way for Thompson to wrap up a contract year, but his head coach and longtime teammates made it clear after the game that they still want to see the 34-year-old sign a new deal with the Warriors this summer, writes Kendra Andrews of ESPN.

“We need Klay back,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told reporters. “He’s still got good years left. And I know I speak for everybody in the organization: We want him back. … What Klay has meant to this franchise and as good as he still is, we desperately want him back.”

Draymond Green and Stephen Curry, who have won four championships with Thompson during their time in Golden State, agreed with Kerr’s assessment of the situation.

“(Klay is) going to make the best decision for him, the team’s got a decision to make and they’ll make the best decision for the team. … I don’t think there’s any scenario where Klay leaves and that’s the best decision for this team and organization,” Green said. “(The organization) has shown nothing but respect, loyalty, love and trust. I’ve got no reason to think, ‘Oh man, they’re not going to do right by Klay.'”

“I could never see myself not with those two guys (Thompson and Gren),” Curry said. “I understand this league changes and there are so many things that go into it and we’re not going to play forever, but we’ve experienced so much together and at the end of the day I know they want to win, I know I want to win, and that’s all I’m worried about.”

As Andrews writes, extension discussions between Thompson and the Warriors stalled in October and were put on the back-burner during the season. While Andrews suggests there were no reassurances from the team that the two sides would eventually work something out, there’s still reportedly mutual interest in a new deal.

Sources tell ESPN that Thompson would ideally like a contract that aligns with the rest of the Warriors’ core. Curry, Green, and Kerr are all under contract through at least 2026.

Here’s more on the Warriors as their offseason begins:

  • Tim Kawakami of The Athletic also explores Thompson’s upcoming free agency, predicting that the Warriors will make a fair offer, possibly in the range of $20MM per year for two or three seasons. If another team exceeds that offer, it will likely come down to whether Thompson wants a change of scenery or would take a little less to stay in Golden State, Kawkami writes.
  • Veteran point guard Chris Paul, who will turn 39 next month, made it clear on Tuesday that he doesn’t intend to retire, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll be back with the Warriors, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Kerr told reporters that he “loves” coaching Paul and that he “really hopes” the Warriors are able to retain him. However, it probably isn’t practical for the team to keep Paul on his non-guaranteed $30MM contract, and the Warriors would lose any form of Bird rights if they waive him. Within his story on Thompson, Kawkami suggests that CP3 “almost certainly” won’t remain in Golden State.
  • In addition to exploring Thompson’s free agency and Paul’s future in his preview of the Warriors’ offseason, Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) discusses the organization’s financial outlook and roster-building restrictions while pointing out that Jonathan Kuminga will be extension-eligible beginning in July. The Warriors spent a total of $382.5MM on this year’s roster in salary and tax penalties, Marks notes (via Twitter).
  • The Warriors have no interest in tanking and still plan to make the most of Curry’s remaining seasons, sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Insider link).
  • Within his look at what’s next for the franchise, Lowe suggests Andrew Wiggins is a possible trade candidate, but cites sources who say that Wiggins’ contract (three years, $85MM) may be viewed as a negative asset by potential trade partners, who would ask Golden State to attach a more valuable asset to take it on. Lowe adds that Golden State’s front office “remains very high” on Kuminga’s potential as the young forward becomes extension-eligible.

Poll: Who Will Win Wednesday’s Play-In Games?

When we polled Hoops Rumors readers on Tuesday’s play-in games 24 hours ago, nearly half the respondents predicted victories for both the Lakers and Warriors, with roughly 36.7% forecasting a Pelicans win and only about 13.9% picking both the Lakers and Kings.

But that latter scenario is the one that played out, as the Lakers escaped New Orleans with a narrow victory to secure the Western Conference’s No. 7 seed, while the Kings got some level of revenge for last year’s first-round playoff exit by dispatching Golden State in the No. 9 vs. 10 game.

The Pelicans will now host the Kings in Friday’s do-or-die play-in game for the West’s No. 8 seed, but in the meantime, we have a pair of Eastern Conference play-in games on tap for Wednesday night.

In the early game, the No. 8 Heat will visit Philadelphia and battle the No. 7 Sixers for the right to claim the seventh seed and a first-round matchup with New York.

The stakes are high — while either team would be a significant favorite at home in a play-in game on Friday, losing tonight would result in a best-case scenario of a first-round date with the Celtics, who had the NBA’s best record for nearly the entire season. The Sixers and Heat would presumably rather take their chances with the Knicks.

Both teams have some injuries to deal with entering Wednesday’s game. The 76ers will be missing De’Anthony Melton (back) and Robert Covington (knee), while the Heat will be without Josh Richardson (shoulder) and Terry Rozier (neck).

Sixers center Joel Embiid is listed on the injury report as questionable due to left knee injury recovery, but there’s no doubt he’ll suit up — whether or not he’ll be anywhere near 100% is an open question. Embiid has only played five games since returning from knee surgery, and while he scored at least 30 points in three of those outings, his knee seemed to be bothering him on Friday, forcing him to sit out Sunday’s regular season finale.

If Embiid looks like himself, it bodes well for the Sixers, who have a +10.3 net rating in the big man’s 1,309 minutes on the court this season and went 31-8 in the games he played.

On the other hand, the Heat showed last spring that they’re extremely comfortable playing as a lower seed on the road with their backs against the wall, though it’s worth noting that the Miami team that made it to the NBA Finals did lose its first play-in game. The Heat, whose 24-17 road record this season ranked second among Eastern teams, are currently listed as five-point underdogs, per

In the late game, the No. 9 Bulls are three-point favorites at home against the No. 10 Hawks. It has been an up-and-down season for both teams, who haven’t given us much reason to believe that a deep playoff run is in the cards.

The Bulls had the NBA’s 19th-best offensive rating and 22nd-best defensive rating this season for an overall net rating of -1.7 (20th). They also have a lengthy injury report. Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball, Patrick Williams, and Onuralp Bitim are out due to season-ending injuries, while Julian Phillips (right midfoot sprain) remains unavailable and Andre Drummond (left ankle sprain) and Ayo Dosunmu (right quad contusion) are considered questionable to suit up.

Still, Chicago will have DeMar DeRozan, Coby White, and Nikola Vucevic available to provide offensive firepower, while defensive ace Alex Caruso attempts to slow down Atlanta’s star backcourt.

Like Embiid in Philadelphia, Hawks leading scorer Trae Young only recently returned from a lengthy injury absence, appearing in the team’s final three regular season games after missing the previous 23 due to hand surgery. If he’s not in peak form, more offensive responsibilities will fall to fellow guards Dejounte Murray and Bogdan Bogdanovic.

The Hawks had the NBA’s 12th-best offense this season but ranked just 27th on defense and finished behind the Bulls in overall net rating, with a -2.0 mark (No. 21). They also have some key injury absences of their own, with Jalen Johnson (right ankle sprain), Onyeka Okongwu (left big toe sprain), and Saddiq Bey (torn ACL) all sidelined.

Given that the two teams look relatively evenly matched, it’s possible home-court advantage could be the difference for the Bulls. The Hawks went just 15-26 on the road this season.

We want to know what you think. Will it be the Sixers or Heat clinching their playoff berth today? Will it be the end of the road for the Bulls or the Hawks?

Make your Eastern Conference play-in picks in the poll below, then head to the comment section to weigh in with your thoughts!

Zion Williamson Leaves Pelicans’ Play-In Game With Leg Soreness

APRIL 17: Williamson is believed to have suffered a left hamstring injury, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The Pelicans star wasn’t walking with a limp when he exited the arena on Tuesday, notes Will Guillory of The Athletic (via Twitter).

APRIL 16: Zion Williamson left the Pelicans’ play-in game against the Lakers during the fourth quarter on Tuesday with what coach Willie Green described as “left leg soreness,” ESPN’s Andrew Lopez tweets. Williamson will undergo an MRI on Wednesday.

The Pelicans lost to the Lakers 110-106 and will need to win on Friday to grab the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

Williamson made a tying basket with 3:19 remaining with a drive into the lane. However, he felt pain in his leg immediately after scoring and had to be removed after that play. The former No. 1 overall pick went to the bench briefly, then slammed a towel onto the floor while retreating to the locker room.

Williamson had played arguably the best game of his career until that point, pouring in 40 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing five assists in 36 minutes.

Williamson, whose career has been marred by injuries, appeared in a career-high 70 games this season. He averaged 22.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists per night.

Jazz’s Ainge Going “Big Game Hunting” This Summer

The Jazz failed to make the playoffs for the second straight season. CEO Danny Ainge will look for difference-makers this offseason to change their fortunes, according to Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune.

“We’re ready to go big game hunting,” Ainge told reporters on Tuesday, adding that the Jazz will ideally trade for an All-Star level player in the prime of his career.

We’re not really interested in dinosaurs,” he said. “We’re interested in like, good six or seven years guys, those are good players. I’m not saying that we wouldn’t go get some veteran players for a short-term fix while we take buy us some time. But that’s not as likely.”

Naturally, acquiring one of those players is easier said than done. There aren’t many of them and they’re rarely available in trade discussions. However, Ainge said he almost landed that type of player last offseason.

“We felt like we were close (on a trade) once in this process that would have changed the dynamic of our team immediately,” Ainge said. “But that hasn’t happened.”

Larsen speculates that player was Jrue Holiday before he was dealt to Boston.

What Ainge doesn’t want is to go into training camp with a roster relying heavily on rookies and second-year players, according to Sarah Todd of the Deseret News. Utah currently has three of the top 32 picks in this year’s draft. The Jazz had three first-round picks last June.

“If we start all over, then we’re three years, possibly four years from being anywhere. We feel like we’re closer than that, and we have a chance. We’re going all in this summer,” Ainge said. “When I say ‘all in,’ that doesn’t mean that we’re going to throw all our chips in, like championship or bust. I’m saying our mindset is that we’re doing everything only to try to win. That’s our only objective … and if we don’t land anything, we don’t make any deals, we don’t land anything, then our direction could change.”

Wizards Notes: Jones, Offseason, Coaching Search, Coulibaly

Most veteran free agents on rebuilding teams would prefer to play for a contender. Wizards guard Tyus Jones would rather stay put, according to Ava Wallace of the Washington Post.

Jones got a long-awaited opportunity to start for Washington after an offseason trade from Memphis. He started in all 66 games he played, averaging 12.0 points and 7.3 assists per contest.

“From the day I was traded, obviously, knowing that I’m on an expiring deal, just being in the league, anyone who pays attention to the NBA, you know what that can mean sometimes. But without saying what that means, that was never the plan from the front office with me,” Jones said. “They’ve said from the beginning: ‘We want you here. The plan is for you to be here long term, and when we get to that bridge, we’ll cross it.'”

We have more on the Wizards:

  • It will be a busy spring and summer in D.C., Wallace notes in her offseason outlook. The franchise is searching for a head coach, and while they only have two free agents, the Wizards will be evaluating their young roster and looking for ways to accumulate more assets.
  • Speaking of the coaching vacancy, The Athletic’s Josh Robbins reports that the front office plans to spend the next week or so mapping out and refining their search process before they begin the interviewing process. Interim coach Brian Keefe will receive consideration for the permanent position, per Robbins. The front office will focus on candidates who relate well to players and have a player-development focus.
  • Even though he didn’t post eye-popping stats, Bilal Coulibaly had a solid rookie season, Robbins writes in a separate story. Coulibaly played in 63 games until he suffered a season-ending fracture in his right wrist on March 16. Coulibaly showed a willingness to keep the ball moving rather than taking low percentage shots. “If you look back on young wings and young bigs getting on the floor, getting the minutes, getting the experience in Years 1 and 2, through our research, is the most important thing,” Washington general manager Will Dawkins said. “And he was able to get those consistently this year, which is very valuable for his future and predicted success.”

Draft Notes: Mitchell, Love, Jackson, Blums, Bowman

Junior guard Ajay Mitchell, a projected second-round pick, is declaring for the draft, agent Todd Ramasar tells ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Twitter link). The 6’4″ UC Santa Barbara floor leader averaged 20.3 points and 4.3 assists while making 38% of his 3-point attempts this past season. He’s currently ranked No. 54 on ESPN’s Best Available list.

We have more draft-related news:

  • Arizona guard Caleb Love will enter the draft while maintaining his college eligibility, he revealed on a Twitter post. Love averaged 18.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists this past season. Love played three seasons for North Carolina and averaged 18.8 points during a 2022 NCAA Tournament run when the Tar Heels reached the title game.
  • Overtime Elite’s Jahzare Jackson is declaring for the draft, he announced on Instagram. The 6’11” center averaged 12.1 points and 7.5 rebounds for the developmental team.
  • VEF Riga combo guard Roberts Blums will declare for the draft, Jon Chepkevich tweets. Blums was the 2023 FIBA European U18B’s MVP. This season, he was named the Estonian-Latvian League’s Best Young Player.
  • American-born Malik Bowman, who is playing in Portugal, is also declaring for the draft, he announced on Instagram. Bowman, a power forward, has averaged 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in 12 games for SC Lusitania.

Kawhi Leonard Completes Team USA’s Star-Studded Roster For Olympics

Team USA has completed its selection of an All-Star laden 12-player roster for the 2024 Paris Olympics, Shams Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic report (Twitter link). Kawhi Leonard was chosen for the final roster spot, USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt tweets.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Monday the 11 other selections for the roster. Team USA received a firm commitment from Leonard on Tuesday, Wojnarowski tweets.

Unlike USA Basketball’s FIBA World Cup roster last summer, which lacked size and interior strength, the Olympic roster is filled with quality bigs. Joel Embiid, Bam Adebayo and Anthony Davis will be joined at the power positions by LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

The wings will be manned by Jayson Tatum, Leonard, Devin Booker and Anthony Edwards. Jrue Holiday, Tyrese Haliburton and Stephen Curry round out the backcourt.

Haliburton and Edwards are the only players from the FIBA World Cup roster to make Team USA’s Olympic roster.

Team USA has won the gold medal in each of the last four Summer Olympics.

Potential Lottery Pick Ron Holland To Enter Draft

G League Ignite wing Ron Holland, a potential lottery selection, will enter the draft, he told ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

The 6’7” Holland averaged 19.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game for the Ignite this season after decommitting from Texas last spring. Holland is currently rated No. 13 overall on ESPN’s Best Available list.

“This season was an opportunity to learn and grow,” Holland said. “Emotionally, all the losing was draining, but it helped me grow mentally learning my role, how to play and letting the game come to me.”

In past years, players who joined the Ignite became automatically draft-eligible after their first season or during the calendar year in which they turned 19, but the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement tweaked that rule so that those prospects now won’t become draft-eligible until they enter of their own accord or until the calendar year when they turn 22. That’s why Holland has to declare for the draft.

Holland’s stock has slipped a bit, since he rated No. 2 in the ESPN 100 back in 2023. He said he plans on reminding NBA scouts during the pre-draft process why he was so highly touted prior to joining the Ignite, which won only six of 50 games. The Ignite program, which was created to develop prospects, will be disbanded.

“Nothing has changed with me,” Holland said. “I’m still the same competitor who won two gold medals with USA Basketball, won AAU tournaments and state championships, and was on the No. 1 team in high school basketball. I’m going to keep doing what it takes to win games, diving on the floor for loose balls and making 50/50 plays. I can defend every position and [I’ve] improved as a facilitator quite a bit playing with other great players.”

Holland’s season was cut short by a ruptured tendon in his right thumb, forcing him to miss the Ignite’s final 19 games. He said he was cleared for full basketball activities several weeks ago.

Bucks Notes: Lillard, Giannis, Green, Portis, Edens

Bucks point guard Damian Lillard didn’t participate in the team’s practice on Tuesday, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Lillard said after Sunday’s game that his sore left adductor muscle was bothering him at times, citing “little irritation-type moments” (link via Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

As Nehm relays (via Twitter), head coach Doc Rivers told reporters on Tuesday that Lillard has undergone imaging, which came back clean, so today’s absence from practice was mostly just about giving him “a little more rest.”

“I think it’s that,” Rivers said when asked if the adductor was still bothering Lillard. “His Achilles. His groin. We want him to be as close to 100 percent as possible, if you can be that at this point.”

Teammate Bobby Portis downplayed Lillard’s lack of involvement in Tuesday’s practice session, noting that Game 1 of the Bucks’ series against Indiana is still several days away.

“I mean, to start off, man, it wasn’t a shock or anything that Dame sat out,” Portis said, per Nehm (Twitter link). “It’s, what, Tuesday? The game’s on Sunday. I don’t want nobody to put too much stress on that. I think we kind of blow things out of proportion too much.”

Here’s more on the Bucks:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (calf strain) and A.J. Green (ankle sprain) also missed Tuesday’s practice, tweets Nehm. A report earlier today indicated that Milwaukee is preparing to be without Antetokounmpo for the start of round one.
  • Portis discussed several topics in an interview with Shams Charania of Stadium (Twitter video link), including his Sixth Man of the Year candidacy and a February trade rumor involving him and then-Mavericks forward Grant Williams. “When I got hints of (that rumor), I’m like, no way I’m getting traded for – excuse my French, that’s my guy, I love competing against him – but I shouldn’t get traded for Grant Williams,” Portis said. “That don’t even sound right. … I don’t know how that moves the needle. The things I do and the things he can help the team do are just different.”
  • Wes Edens spoke to Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about his first 10 years as the Bucks’ co-owner and his expectations for the next decade, stressing that he has no plans to sell his stake in the team anytime soon, like his fellow co-owner Marc Lasry did last year.
  • Owczarski’s feature also includes quotes from various members of the Bucks organization discussing the impact that the current ownership group has had on the franchise in the last decade. “He brought a winning culture,” Khris Middleton said of Edens. “He’s a great businessman and him and his partners wanted to bring that business culture of winning to our sports team. He did a lot. He had his hands on a lot of things, on the day-to-day operations as far as making sure things were running smoothly and put people in place that he had confidence in that can take us to the next level as a world-class, first-class organization.”