Month: April 2024

Eastern Links: Heat, Henry Bibby, Pistons, Nets

As we look forward to the Labor Day weekend, let's round up a few end-of-week items out of the Eastern Conference….

  • Caron Butler and Lamar Odom are no longer options for the Heat, but neither player was ever a real possibility, says Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Winderman adds that "there will be other Butler and Odom types that could shake free" over the course of the year for the Heat.
  • Former Grizzlies assistant Henry Bibby will join Maurice Cheeks' coaching staff with the Pistons, tweets Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
  • Making small adjustments to teams that already have a core in place is Joe Dumars' strength, so the Pistons GM should be well-positioned to handle the next stage of the team's development, writes Dan Feldman of PistonPowered (link via Detroit Free Press).
  • Former Queens prep star Kyle Hunt will work out for the Nets in September, reports Joshua Newman of SNY.tv.
  • Over at HoopsWorld, Lang Greene's list of potential training-camp logjams includes positional battles for the Celtics, Cavs, Bucks, and Knicks, among other teams.

Suns Notes: Butler, Beasley, Frye, Oriakhi

The Suns completed a pair of transactions yesterday, officially signing fifth overall pick Alex Len, and sending Caron Butler to the Bucks for Ish Smith and Viacheslav Kravtsov. On the heels of those deals, GM Ryan McDonough spoke to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic about the Butler deal, Michael Beasley's future, and a few other Suns-related topics. Let's dive in…

  • According to McDonough, the Butler trade had nothing to do with Beasley's situation, despite the fact that the money saved in the deal could make waiving the troubled forward more palatable. The GM expects resolution on Beasley in "the next week or so," and Coro suggests the former second overall pick will likely be released.
  • Assuming Channing Frye, who missed last season with heart problems, is able to participate in training camp, the Suns expect to have at least 16 players on guaranteed contracts in camp. "All the results we’ve gotten on Channing are positive," McDonough said. "We’re just waiting for a conclusion."
  • Coro also says that second-round pick Alex Oriakhi will be in camp with the team, which is interesting, since the big man signed a professional deal with a French team several weeks ago.
  • Smith and Kravtsov are expected to battle for regular-season roster spots, though it might be an uphill battle for Smith, since Phoenix already has several players capable of playing the point, including Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Kendall Marshall, Malcolm Lee, and even Archie Goodwin.
  • Further discussing the Butler trade, McDonough noted that the decision to move the veteran forward was a difficult one. "Caron is a great player," McDonough said. "Our timeline and Caron’s timeline were different at this stage of his career. This was just a unique opportunity because Milwaukee aggressively pursued him."

Sixers GM Talks Coach, Rebuild, Analytics, Goals

Since he was hired as the team's head of basketball operations in May, new Sixers GM Sam Hinkie has made some interesting decisions, including trading the club's best player (Jrue Holiday), launching a full-fledged rebuild, and conducting a head coaching search that lasted well until August. During his first several months on the job, Hinkie hasn't offered as many interviews as some of his fellow GMs, but he recently spoke to Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News about a number of topics of note. Here are a few of Hinkie's more interesting quotes from the conversation:

On the secrecy of the Sixers' new front office:

"Every little edge you can get is important. There is some level of secrecy as teams try not to let on to what they're doing. If we were to have had Nerlens Noel come in and work out before the draft, that would have caused a stir being that we had the 11th pick, and the kind of things that happened on draft night possibly couldn't have been possible. So we chose not to let teams know who we are working out, and a lot of forward-thinking organizations do that with the comings and goings of potential players. We did a lot of trading in the second round and that was because people didn't know our interest in [Arsalan] Kazemi."

On the team's coaching search:

"I would say things largely progressed as I would have anticipated. Finding the right guy was always the priority, and when we did in Brett Brown we moved forward. Our first interviews were in Las Vegas in mid-July when I went out there for the summer league, just after the Orlando Summer League. It was a solid week of interviews. Then there were a few more to follow and then some more. I was focused immensely on finding who was the best fit for what we were looking to do."

On whether a massive rebuild was hard to sell to potential coaching candidates:

"I think it's much easier than you might think. People recognize the tradition of the Sixers and what we're trying to do and they see what's ahead, and that's clear. Those plans were much clearer in July than they would have been in June. We found all the candidates that we spoke with open-eyed and excited."

On the role analytics will play in the team's roster decisions:

"We'll just try to make the best decisions with all the information, however we can get it. From everything we gather from the scouts and how players fit and how every time we get a chance to look at all the information we can. I don't think any time you look at a player you look solely at one area. Gathering as much information as you can is the way I will go about things."

On his goals for the next two or three years:

"We want to bring in a real influx of new talent into our team. We've already added several young players and we want more. I hope they come in and I hope they come in waves. We want to do a lot of things that lead to a better environment. We want to finalize a new practice facility. That not only helps how potential players view us, but how current players view their work every day. That is the way we will get where we want to go. That is what I want for this organization."

Kammron Taylor Accepts Celtics’ Camp Invite

Former Wisconsin guard Kammron Taylor has accepted an invitation to join the Celtics' training camp this fall, agent Keith Kreiter tells Shams Charania of RealGM.com. Details of the deal aren't known, but if it's just a camp invite, it will be fully non-guaranteed.

Taylor, 29, graduated from Wisconsin in 2007, having averaged 13.3 PPG in his senior year. He has played for a variety of teams overseas since then, including spending last season with Germany's Neckar Riesen Ludwigsburg, with whom he averaged 13.2 PPG. Taylor also was a part of the Timberwolves' Summer League squad last month.

Boston already has 14 players on guaranteed contracts, plus Donte Greene on a non-guaranteed deal, so earning a regular-season roster spot is a long shot for Taylor. It's possible that he and fellow camp signee DeShawn Sims will end up joining the Celtics' D-League affiliate in Maine, though that's just my speculation.

Luke Babbitt Signs With Russian Team

FRIDAY, 8:07am: Babbitt has officially signed with BC Nizhny Novgorod, according to a Sportando tweet.

WEDNESDAY, 11:20am: Ex-Blazers forward Luke Babbitt will head overseas for the coming season, according to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. Haynes reports that Babbitt has reached an agreement to play for Russia's BC Nizhny Novgorod on a one-year contract that doesn't include an NBA out. Agent Bill Duffy of BDA Sports confirmed the deal.

"My take is Luke needs to play 30 minutes a game and play a more expanded role," Duffy told Haynes. "We've had recent success with both Danny Green and Patrick Beverley getting an opportunity to develop their games in Europe and return to the NBA. The NBA is a league of opportunity. We feel strongly this is the best move for Luke at this time."

Babbitt hit free agency for the first time this summer after the Blazers declined their team option for the 2013/14 season. After a promising sophomore year in Portland, the 24-year-old took a step backward this past season, with his rates slipping to 3.9 PPG, a .348 3PT%, and a 9.4 PER. The Sixers were mentioned as a possible suitor a month ago, but other than that, Babbitt didn't seem to garner a whole lot of NBA interest.

Odds & Ends: Roster Spots, Hunt, Mavericks

ESPN.com's Marc Stein (via Twitter) points out that the Lakers, Bulls, and 76ers are the three teams that still need to sign players in order to reach the league minimum of 13 players by opening night, although it's worth noting that L.A. is still yet to sign second round pick Ryan Kelly and Philadelphia is in the same boat with Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams. Also, as we pointed out a few days ago, Dexter Pittman accepted a training camp invite with Chicago and could fill that 13th roster spot if they end up offering him a guaranteed contract.

Here are more of tonight's news and notes from around the league:

  • Jeff Haubner of ESPN.com offers a two part preview of the upcoming FIBA Americas tournament.
  • Charles F. Gardner of The Journal Sentinel notes that the Bucks/Suns deal keeps Milwaukee about $1.9MM under the salary cap and saves Phoenix around $5.6MM in cap space. Gardner also has more comments from Caron Butler regarding his happiness with the trade. 
  • Former 76ers star Charles Barkley isn't happy with the way his former team handled their assistant coaching situation, saying that those who were released upon the Brett Brown hiring had worked for the team the entire summer and therefore didn't have the opportunity to look for another job (Michael Kaskey-Blomain of The Philadelphia Inquirer).  
  • Keith Schlosser of RidiculousUpside.com takes a look at Kyle Hunt, who while eligible for the D-League draft in the fall is also looking to earn an NBA training camp invite.
  • Tim Cowlishaw of SportsDayDFW suggests Mavericks fans should be happy with 45 wins and a 7th seed in the Western Conference next season. 
  • Ben Couch of BrooklynNets.com provides a brief breakdown of the Nets' depth at the center position, profiling Brook Lopez, Andray Blatche, and Mason Plumlee
  • Former Knick and now a member of the Canadian men's national basketball team, Andy Rautins tells Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun about how prepared he and his teammates feel heading into the FIBA Americas tournament.
  • NBA.com posted an article from Atlanta-based freelance writer Jon Cooper about Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer. Though he stressed the importance of forming good relationships with each player up to the 15th man, Budenholzer specifically mentioned Al Horford and Jeff Teague as two players that he's very much looking forward to working with.
  • Suns.com passes along an article from the archives which delves into the mind of the late former Suns coach Cotton Fitzsimmons

Free Agent Stock Watch: Earl Barron

One of the remaining free agents that has drawn interest lately is Earl Barron, who appeared in 11 games for the Wizards and one for the Knicks last season. As we noted yesterday, the 7'0" center has drawn interest from the Pacers, Pelicans, 76ers, and is still under consideration for a return to New York. Barron displayed a few standout performances in 2012/13, including an eight point, eight rebound (four offensive) effort in 16 minutes of action against the Cavaliers, a four-point, four-block, and 14 rebound line over 26 minutes in Atlanta, and 11 points along with 18 rebounds in 35 minutes during New York's final game of the season against the Hawks.

One thing worth paying attention to is the ability he's shown to rebound the basketball at a high-rate, as the 18-rebound performance in April was somewhat reminiscent of Barron's last stint with the Knicks in 2009/10, when he averaged 11.0 RPG along with 11.7 PPG over the last seven games of that season. Although Barron's field goal percentage (35.7%) isn't much to look at, it's arguable that 12 games isn't much of a sample size to work with. Based on his shot charts over the course of several seasons, it appears that he's not shy about taking jumpers from mid-range, and coupled with his rebounding ability, Barron could be an option worth keeping around as insurance in the frontcourt.

With teams looking to fill out roster spots and/or hand out training camp invites at this point, it wouldn't be surprising either way if Barron was offered a guaranteed contract for the minimum or the opportunity to earn a roster spot in the fall on a non-guaranteed deal. Even if he can't make a team before the start of the regular season, he'll certainly be worth keeping an eye throughout the year in case teams find the need to add more depth at center. 

Poll: Most Improved Player In The Atlantic?

The Atlantic Division saw plenty of player movement during this offseason, with teams either adding significant rotation players or dealing them away to create bigger roles for their younger ones. Let's take a look at a few players who could continue to elevate their standing next season:

After sitting out the 2011/12 season to recover from open heart surgery, Jeff Green returned to the Celtics last year as a productive contributor and arguably the team's most important reserve, appearing in 81 games (17 starts) and averaging 12.8 PPG and 3.9 RPG in 27.8 MPG while shooting a career best 46.7% from the field and 38.5% from three.  Over the final three months of the season, the former Georgetown Hoya put on a tremendous display of efficient shooting, posting scoring averages of 15.3/17.6/17.1 and never averaging less than 48.8% overall and 41.4% from long distance per month. Green could very well be relied on in a primary scoring role next season following the departures of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry – three of Boston's top five scorers last year. 

One of the biggest question marks for the Knicks heading into last season was how Iman Shumpert would fare after returning from an ACL injury suffered during the 2011/12 playoffs. After sitting out the first 37 games, the sophomore swingman returned in mid-January, averaging 6.8 PPG and 1.0 SPG in 22.1 MPG the rest of the way. While those numbers may not stand out very much, Shumpert proved to be an intriguing young player within a playoff atmosphere, going for 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting in a closeout win against the Celtics and 6-for-10 (with an uncanny 5-for-6 performance from long distance) in a comeback attempt that fell short against the Pacers in Game 6 of the Conference semi-finals. Although his shooting numbers appeared to have wildly fluctuated at times during last season (26.4% from the field/ 27.2% from three in February followed by 47.9% from the field/49.9% from three in March), Shumpert has also garnered recognition as a strong defensive player, and there is some belief that his development is strongly tied to how far the Knicks can go this year.  

With last year's team leading scorer Jrue Holiday now donning a Pelicans uniform and Jason Richardson still rehabbing from knee surgery, Evan Turner will most likely stand as the 76ers' most experienced guard in their backcourt to start the season. The fourth-year player was actually given an enormous amount of minutes last year and put up some of the best numbers of his career thus far – 13.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.3 APG, and 36.5% from long range in 35.6 MPG.  A few things to keep an eye out for in terms of Turner's offensive development are how much he can increase his scoring average by, how well he can improve from last season's 41.8% overall shooting average, and if he can get to the free throw line at a higher rate.

Another name to keep an eye out for in Philadelphia is Thaddeus Young, who finished the year as the team's second-leading scorer.  The 6'8 forward posted 14.8 PPG on an efficient 53.1% from the field along with 7.5 RPG in 34.6 MPG. While 57.4% from the charity stripe leaves a lot left to be desired – especially considering he shot 77.1% in 2011/12 – Young showed a tremendous amount of promise overall as a scorer in March, going for 16.7 PPG on a 58.0% clip.

A very intriguing name to follow north of the border is second-year center Jonas Valanciunas, who was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2013 Las Vegas Summer league. As a rookie, the 6'11 center delivered 8.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 1.3 BPG for the Raptors last season. In what could reasonably have been a preview of what to continue to expect, Valanciunas averaged 11.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.1 BPG, and 27.1 MPG in March, followed by 14.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.4 BPG, and 31.6 MPG in April. What's even more interesting are his field goal percentages and accuracy from the line over those final two months of the year (62.0%/82.0% and 55.8%/85.2% respectively). With that in mind, the 21-year-old big man figures to have the keys to the starting center position in Toronto.

Of the aforementioned players in the Atlantic Division, who stands to take their game to another level in 2013/14?

Odds & Ends: Abdur-Rahim, Kazemi, Butler

According to a team press
release
, former NBA All-Star and Kings' director of player
personnel Shareef Abdur-Rahim has
been named as the general manager of the Reno Bighorns, which serves as Sacramento's D-League affilliate. Abdur-Rahim will be joined by Chris Gilbert,
who was named assistant general manager. Here are some more of this evening's miscellaneous news and notes:

  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer tweets that the 76ers could still send second-round pick Arsalan Kazemi overseas for the coming season. 
  • Caron Butler is "thoroughly excited" about returning home to Wisconsin to play for the Bucks, writes Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times
  • Suns GM Ryan McDonough issued a statement about the team's trade agreement with Milwaukee, saying that the deal was about creating more cap space (Paul Coro of AZCentral.com). 
  • Yannis Koutroupis of Hoopsworld profiles this year's rookie head coaches and identifies some challenges that may lie ahead for each of them. 
  • Later in the same piece, Koutroupis wonders if Marcin Gortat is the next player in Phoenix to be on the move. 
  • The newly created Delaware 87ers of the NBDL acquired the rights of 16 players via the D-League's expansion draft last night (NBA.com). Among the more notable names on that list with NBA experience are Ish SmithSean Williams, Willie Warren, Jerome Dyson, and Josh Akognon. Smith and Akognon remain on NBA rosters, but if they were released and wanted to play in the D-League, Delaware would hold their rights.

Sixers Acquire Tony Wroten From Grizzlies

August 29th: The league has officially approved the trade, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer

August 22nd: The second-round pick going to Memphis will be heavily protected and may never change hands, a source tells Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

1:29pm: A week after acquiring a 2012 first-round pick from the Celtics, the Grizzlies have sent their own 2012 first-rounder to Philadelphia. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Grizzlies have traded Tony Wroten to the Sixers in exchange for a future second-round pick.

Wroten, 20, was selected 25th in last year's draft by the Grizzlies, but appeared in just 35 games for the team in his rookie season, playing limited minutes. In 11 contests for the D-League's Reno Bighorns, the University of Washington product averaged 17.0 PPG, but didn't shoot particularly well (.415/.326/.548).

Like Fab Melo, who the Grizzlies acquired from Boston, Wroten is viewed as a young player with upside. However, while Memphis was willing to roll the dice on Melo, it seems the team was ready to cut ties with Wroten. The move indicates that the Grizz have confidence in Nick Calathes as their backup point guard behind Mike Conley. Jerryd Bayless is also available to play at the point, though he's more of a combo guard, and Josh Akognon is under contract as well, but has a non-guaranteed deal. Wroten's departure could bode well for Akognon's chances of earning a regular-season roster spot.

The Sixers, meanwhile, had only been carrying 12 contracts (10 guaranteed), and need to add more players if they intend to surpass the league's required salary floor. Wroten's modest salary won't raise team payroll to the minimum threshold, but it's a start. Philadelphia had also been carrying just one point guard (Michael Carter-Williams), so taking a chance on Wroten makes sense for a team not expecting to compete for the playoffs.

Because they still have plenty of cap room, the 76ers able to absorb Wroten's contract without sending out any salary in return. The over-the-cap Grizzlies will create a traded player exception worth Wroten's salary ($1,160,040), the latest in a long list of TPEs for the club. Clearing that salary from their books should also give Memphis a little more breathing room below the luxury tax.