Month: June 2017

Odds & Ends: Sixers, Draft, Timberwolves

With the Nuggets in control in Denver and Grizz-Clips set for the late game in Los Angeles, let's round up some odds and ends from around the league here on Tuesday night:

  • Regarding any Dwight Howard to the Sixers speculation, Tom Moore of PhillyBurbs.com agrees with our Luke Adams, tweeting that the team doesn't have the cap space to sign Howard.  Moore also adds that Howard would probably not want to come to Philadelphia even if they did.
  • Jeff Goodman and the CBS Sports crew unveil their latest mock draft, which shows Trey Burke (No. 4) and Shane Larkin (No. 14) as the latest risers.  We are exactly three weeks away from the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery.
  • In a phone conversation on Tuesday evening, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said he will have a major announcement regarding the ownership of the team within the next week, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.  Taylor didn't elaborate much, only suggesting that the news will likely be surprising.  Taylor said Rick Adelman's return "looks very favorable," but wouldn't comment on the job security of David Kahn or any rumors about Flip Saunders or Phil Jackson

Blazers Notes: Lillard, Robinson, Babbitt

Here is the latest out of Portland, where the Blazers missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season:

  • The Blazers released a statement that they will be making an announcement tomorrow at the Rose Garden.  As Ben Golliver of Blazer's Edge suggests, all signs point toward point guard Damian Lillard being announced as the NBA's Rookie of the Year on Wednesday.  A couple of notes on Lillard courtesy of Golliver; the rookie led the NBA in minutes and won all six Rookie of the Month awards in the Western Conference.  No surprise here.
  • In a separate post, Golliver wonders whether the Blazers will have interest in Bulls guard Nate Robinson, who will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.  Robinson went to school in Washington and is a Seattle native.
  • Oregon Live asks Blazers fans whether the team should retain free agent to be Luke Babbitt in their "You be the GM" series.  The Blazers declined Babbitt's fourth year option in October.  If Babbitt walks, the Blazers will likely look to replace his outside shooting ability in free agency or the draft.

Lakers Notes: Gasol, Bryant, Howard

Not only were they swept by the Spurs, but the Lakers lost all four games to San Antonio by double digits, culminating in Sunday's game four defeat at the Staples Center.  Today was exit interview day for the Lakers in Los Angeles.  Let's round up all the news coming out of those meetings here as it is reported throughout the night:

  • D'Antoni expressed confidence that a full offseason with the talented Lakers squad could make a world of difference under his command, writes Trudell.  The Lakers coach thought the team progressed in the second half and that their playoff hopes were largely derailed by injury.  
  • Like D'Antoni, Blake thinks the Lakers have the talent to win now, per Trudell.  Blake thought he fit well into D'Antoni's system, but admitted that either the system or the roster would probably have to be tweaked to make it work. 

Earlier updates:

  • Pau Gasol acknowledged on Tuesday that he may not be back with the team next season, writes Eric Pincus of the L.A. Times.  As Pincus points out, what happens with Dwight Howard in the offseason will go a long way to determining Gasol's fate in Los Angeles.  If the Lakers re-sign Howard, speculation that Gasol will be traded or amnestied is sure to accelerate.  Gasol did express his desire to remain a Laker.  
  • One Laker who seems to want both Gasol and Howard back is injured guard Kobe Bryant, writes Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News.  Bryant's torn Achilles has him unsure of his own NBA longevity, but in the short term he plans to help sell Howard on the Lakers as well as continuing to lobby for the retention of Gasol.  Bryant said, “I want Pau here.  It’s not a question or discussion.  He gives us the best chance to win titles."
  • Howard was continuously asked about his offseason plans after his exit interview, writes Lakers.com's Mike Trudell.  Howard didn't hint one way or another, per Trudell, but did say that he needs to "clear his head" to think.  He also expressed relief that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said he wouldn't pressure him into making a decision. 
  • Kupchak reiterated as much during his media session on Tuesday, adding that he is "hopeful" and "optimistic" that the Lakers will  be able to re-sign Howard, writes Medina.  Kupchak said that because of how the Lakers lost, "everything is in play" when it comes to improving the team, which includes bringing back Howard and Gasol.  The Lakers GM insinuated that Howard's decision won't affect Gasol's future in Los Angeles more than that of any other of the current Lakers. 
  • Finally, Kupchak maintained that Mike D'Antoni will be back and dodged a question about the state of the Lakers amnesty provision.  Medina writes that of the possible candidates – Bryant, Gasol, Metta World Peace and Steve Blake – only Gasol and World Peace seem to make sense as amnesty candidates.  World Peace has a $7.7MM player option to consider.  Kupchak said he has "no idea" if he plans to exercise it. 

Draft Notes: Len, Plumlee, Hardaway, Saric

A 2013 draft that was already considered weak may have gotten even weaker when Sunday's early entry deadline passed without a few top underclassmen declaring their intent, says Sean Deveney of the Sporting News. Taking into account the prospects that will be in this year's draft class, Deveney tries his hand at forecasting the first round in his latest mock draft. Here are a few more of Tuesday's draft-related links, courtesy of Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com:

  • Likely lottery pick Alex Len will be represented by Michael Lelchitski of Sports International Group, Inc., tweets Givony.
  • Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports has picked up another handful of clients, adding Mason Plumlee, Tim Hardaway Jr., Isaiah Canaan, and Jackie Carmichael to his agency, tweets Givony. Priority Sports has also added Gonzaga's Elias Harris, who will be represented by Brad Ames, Givony adds.
  • Nick Young of DraftExpress.com spoke to Dario Saric about entering the draft and what his future holds. Saric is considered the top international prospect in the draft by ESPN.com's Chad Ford.

Odds & Ends: Dunleavy, Collins, Kings, Sixers

Let's check out a handful of Tuesday afternoon odds and ends from around the Association….

  • Mike Dunleavy is facing free agency this summer, and tells Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he'd be open to returning to Milwaukee, but that he'll have to talk to the Bucks to see what they're thinking.
  • The Wizards are unlikely to bring Jason Collins back for next season, considering he was included for salary purposes in a deadline deal and the team has plenty of frontcourt options already, as J. Michael of CSNWashington writes. Michael Lee of the Washington Post notes that the team's stance was unaffected by Collins' announcement this week.
  • The NBA relocation committee's recommendation to keep the Kings in Sacramento is more about Sacramento's future than its past, says Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.
  • After yesterday's vote, the Sacramento group is moving to finalize its offer for the Kings in time for May's Board of Governors meetings, according to Ryan Lillis of the Sacramento Bee.
  • Michael Kaskey-Blomain of Philly.com believes it makes sense for the 76ers to make a run at Dwight Howard this summer. I'm not sure how realistic a possibility this is, since the Sixers would have to either make other roster moves to clear the necessary cap space to make a max offer, or propose a sign-and-trade, less than a year after giving up many young assets and picks for Andrew Bynum.

Latest On Pistons, Bobcats Coaching Searches

3:21pm: The Bobcats have also requested permission to interview Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Sampson's Rockets remain active in the postseason, though the team is one loss away from elimination.

2:19pm: According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link), Pistons GM Joe Dumars met with McMillan last week. Ownership is expected to be involved in today's formal interview, says Wojnarowski.

1:02pm: While the Cavaliers struck quickly to fill their head coaching opening, two other Eastern Conference lottery teams appear to be moving at a more deliberate pace. The Pistons have begun to interview candidates, according to Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News, who tweets that Lindsey Hunter interviewed with the team yesterday, while Nate McMillan will do so today.

McMillan and Hunter appear to be the early favorites for the Pistons' coaching job, but they're unlikely to be the only candidates interviewed by the club. With 14 teams still alive in the postseason, teams searching for a new head coach may have to wait until later in the spring to seek permission to interview assistants on those playoff clubs.

Meanwhile, the Bobcats have asked for the Cavaliers' permission to talk to assistant coach Nate Tibbetts, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Twitter link). If that story sounds familiar, it may be because the Bobcats interviewed the Cavs assistant a year ago, before eventually hiring Mike Dunlap.

The Bobcats seem to be revisiting a number of past candidates, having also been linked this month to Pacers assistant Brian Shaw and former Lakers assistant Quin Snyder, both of whom were interviewed by Charlotte last spring.

Free Agent Market For Point Guards

Depending on how this year's free agent market develops, a handful of this year's playoff teams could be seeking a new point guard in July. The Clippers, Hawks, and Bucks are among the clubs who will see their own impact starters become free agents, while the Warriors will have a key backup hitting the open market. A pair of teams who just missed the postseason, the Mavericks and Jazz, also figure to be in the hunt for a long-term solution at the position.

With that in mind, and with the help of our list of free agents, let's take a look at this year's point guard market.

Unrestricted free agents

Chris Paul is the obvious headliner of this year's point guard class, if not the entire free agent class. However, unlike a year ago, when both Brooklyn and Dallas seemed like viable options for Deron Williams, it's hard to imagine Paul leaving Los Angeles. Various reports throughout the year have indicated Paul is leaning strongly toward re-upping with the Clippers, so while he may listen to other pitches, it'd be a huge shock if CP3 ends up anywhere else.

Besides Paul, there aren't any star-caliber players becoming unrestricted free agents this offseason, but there are a number of intriguing veterans that could be key pieces for contending teams. Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack lead the second tier of unrestricted point guards, along with Mo Williams, Devin Harris, and Nate Robinson, who has been an important contributor in Chicago with Derrick Rose out. This group offers a little of everything, whether it's Calderon's ability to facilitate, Robinson's knack for scoring in bunches, or Jack's flexibility to guard both backcourt positions.

Outside of the top five, there probably aren't any unrestricted point guards capable of running a team, but there are still a handful of guys with upside that should be able to handle backup duties. D.J. Augustin, Will Bynum, and Shaun Livingston are among the players that fall into this group.

Restricted free agents

Paul is a lock to receive the biggest payday of any point guard this summer, but Brandon Jennings is a good bet to be second. Jennings has recently softened his stance on wanting to leave the Bucks, probably because he and his agent recognize there's a very good chance the team will match any offer sheet he signs. Players who hit the open market typically land bigger deals than comparable players who sign extensions, so it wouldn't be surprising to see Jennings' new deal exceed those signed by fellow fourth-year point guards Ty Lawson, Stephen Curry, and Jrue Holiday last fall.

With Jennings atop this year's restricted point guards, Jeff Teague has flown under the radar a little. But Teague set career-highs virtually across the board in his contract year, and figures to be in line for a nice raise. Whether that comes from the Hawks or another club could depend on what other free agents the Hawks pursue, but Atlanta certainly has the room and flexibility to bring him back.

Eric Maynor's and Darren Collison's stocks weren't exactly boosted by their 2012/13 numbers, so it wouldn't be a surprise if the Trail Blazers and Mavericks, respectively, declined to offer qualifying offers, making Maynor and Collison unrestricted. Nonetheless, they probably represent the next-best options in the group of potentially restricted point guards.

Team and player options

It's hard to get too excited about potential free agents with team options or non-guaranteed deals, since the best of the bunch will invariably be brought back by their current teams. Kyle Lowry, for instance, is on a contract that's mostly non-guaranteed, but after trading a lottery pick for him, the Raptors aren't about to let him walk to save $5.21MM.

Still, there should be at least a couple intriguing point guards with options who ultimately hit the market. Jerryd Bayless might be one, if he elects to turn down his $3.14MM option with the Grizzlies in favor of a longer-term deal. Patrick Mills and Aaron Brooks will also be worth keeping an eye on, since both guys could become free agents and have shown flashes of upside in the past.

Western Notes: Suns, Morrow, Jamison, Smith

The Rockets avoided being the second Western Conference team to be swept out of the first round last night, defeating the Thunder to send the series back to Oklahoma City. While we wait for that series to resume on Wednesday, tonight's schedule features a pair of Western matchups, including a chance for the Warriors to pull off a first round upset and eliminate the Nuggets. Here are a few updates out of the conference as we look forward to the evening's games:

  • Ric Bucher of 95.7 The Game (via Sulia) confirms reports that Bucks assistant GM Jeff Weltman is the frontrunner to be the next Suns' general manager, adding that president Lon Babby was eyeing Weltman back before the team hired Lance Blanks. Bucher also echoes another rumor we heard recently, writing that the valuation of the Kings has owner Robert Sarver wondering "if it's time to cash out."
  • As he continues his look at the Mavericks' free-agents-to-be, Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com predicts that Anthony Morrow will sign a veteran's minimum contract this summer.
  • Antawn Jamison, who underwent wrist surgery today after missing his exit interview yesterday, isn't expected to return to the Lakers next year, writes Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times.
  • Nolan Smith won't be back with the Trail Blazers next season, but he's looking forward to free agency, as he tells Susan Bible of HoopsWorld.

Kyler’s Latest: Howard, Hawks, Mozgov, Biedrins

Having already examined free-agents-to-be on postseason teams at each of the other four positions, Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld turns his attention to the playoff centers heading for free agency this summer. Here are a few highlights from his piece:

  • The Lakers will be able to offer Dwight Howard over $30MM more than any other team, as I outlined here, but that doesn't mean he's a sure bet to be back. As Kyler notes, money and market are usually deciding factors, but L.A. will have to convince Howard that he won't be signing up for five more years as bad as 2012/13.
  • Zaza Pachulia will be recovering from a partially torn Achilles, raising significant questions about his next contract. The Hawks are unlikely to bring him back for more than the minimum, according to Kyler.
  • With Pachulia out in Atlanta, Johan Petro has improved his stock recently and could be in line for a new deal with the Hawks, particularly if the team strikes out on higher-profile targets.
  • Despite a report suggesting the Nuggets will extend a qualifying offer to Timofey Mozgov, Kyler is skeptical that Denver will really make such an offer (one year for nearly $4MM), since Mozgov could accept it. A two-year deal from another team is the most likely scenario for Mozgov, in Kyler's view. There has been enough reported interest for Mozgov that it wouldn't surprise me if the Nuggets retained him and considered him a trade asset going forward.
  • Kyler hears from sources that when Samuel Dalembert worked out for the Heat prior to the 2011/12 season, the team decided he had put on too much weight, and passed. As such, it's probably unlikely that Dalembert ends up in Miami this offseason.
  • Although Andris Biedrins is viewed as a lock to opt in to the final year of his contract, worth $9MM, Kyler wonders if the Warriors could convince him to opt out if it meant adding an extra year to his deal. For instance, the team could re-sign him to a two-year, $10MM pact to reduce his cap hit for 2013/14. I'd be surprised to see that happen though.

Seattle Group Responds To Kings Vote

In the wake of the NBA relocation committee's recommendation not to allow the Kings to relocate to Seattle, Chris Hansen has responded. Hansen, the head of the Seattle investment group that reached an agreement to buy the Kings from the Maloofs family, issued a statement on SonicsArena.com late last night, which read in part:

"While we are disappointed with the relocation committee’s recommendation, we just wanted to let you all know that we remain fully committed to seeing this transaction through. As you are all well aware, we have a binding transaction to purchase the Kings for what would be a record price for an NBA franchise, have one of the best ownership groups ever assembled to purchase a professional sports team in the US, have clearly demonstrated that we have a much more solid Arena plan, have offered a much higher price than the yet to be finalized Sacramento Group, and have placed all of the funds to close the transaction into escrow. As such, we plan to unequivocally state our case for both relocation and our plan to move forward with the transaction to the league and owners at the upcoming Board of Governor’s Meeting in Mid-May."

Despite Hansen's apparent confidence, multiple league sources were surprised by his response, according to Aaron Bruski of NBCSports.com (Twitter link), who was told by one source that Hansen is "fighting for expansion at best, flailing at worst." Sam Amick of USA Today expresses similar thoughts (Twitter links), noting that no one on the NBA or Sacramento side seems concerned with Hansen's reaction, and that the rest of the process is being characterized as a "mere formality."

The NBA's Board of Governors figures to formally vote on the relocation of the Kings franchise and the sale to the Hansen-led group on May 13th. Barring a huge surprise, the league's owners are expected to follow the recommendation made yesterday by a smaller group of owners.

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