Month: November 2020

Eastern Notes: Huerter, Bridges, Lowry, Sexton

Earlier this week, Kevin Huerter said he expects the Hawks to make the playoffs next season (h/t Sarah Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution). Atlanta is among the eight teams holding in-markets workouts this month.

The second-year wing player added that the Hawks are not far away from competing for a playoff spot, especially with the talent they have acquired. “There’s definitely teams that we think we can jump ahead of going into next year and we’re trying to make the playoffs,” said Huerter. “That’s kind of the main focus for us. It’s something we talked about even at the beginning of this training camp is a lot of individual stats and individual accolades have to be put aside and we have to really try to come together as a team.”

When the NBA postponed its season back in March, the Hawks had a record of 20-47,  which was the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference, behind the Cavaliers (19-47).

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Heading into his third season, Hornets forward Miles Bridges is looking to establish consistency, writes Sam Perley of Hornets.com. This season, the former Michigan State standout averaged 13 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 1.8 APG. Charlotte head coach James Borrego said that the team gave Bridges more responsibility on the defensive end, which he earned. However, he also wants the small forward to be consistent offensively. The 22-year-old agrees with those statements and feels he has room for improvement. “I always want to improve on my defense,” he stated. “My off-ball defense, I feel like that’s gotten better with my communication. I feel like my on-ball defense is pretty good, but if I get better on my off-ball and my communication, I feel like I’ll be good.”
  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic looks at some potential trade ideas for Raptors All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, noting that Toronto does not have to trade the veteran point guard – who is scheduled to make $31M next season – unless something drastic happens in the offseason. One trade that Koreen proposes is Lowry and a couple of draft picks to the Wizards for Bradley Beal. However, that proposal, among others, is tough and extremely unlikely.
  • Cavs general manager Koby Altman was impressed with second-year point guard Collin Sexton as in-market workouts wrap up, writes Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. Altman, who drafted Sexton two years ago, said that the young guard is the cultural leader of the team. “It’s really hard to compare him with other guards as that physique, that just speaks to his work ethic,” Altman explained. “It’s all him. We have certainly given him plans for how he wants to grow from a skill standpoint on the basketball floor, but everything off the floor, he’s locked in.” This season, the former first-round pick averaged 20.8 PPG and 3.1 RPG in 33 MPG.

Southwest Notes: Louzada, Burke, Rockets, Crowder

The Sydney Kings of Australia’s NBL announced Wednesday that Pelicans’ 2019 second-round pick Didi Louzada will be returning for his second season (Twitter link). The Brazilian wing player had confirmed the news of him coming back to Sydney a couple of hours earlier (Twitter link).

Last season as a rookie, the 21-year-old Louzada averaged 11.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, and 1.7 APG for Sydney. The NBL’s 2020-21 season is scheduled to begin in December and will wrap up in April.

Matt Logue of The Telegraph reported that Louzada can make his NBA debut at any time as the Pelicans own his draft rights. As things stand, there’s not a set date on when the 2020/21 NBA regular season will begin.

Here’s more from across the Southwest Division:

  • Before he joined the Mavericks in the bubble this summer, Trey Burke battled COVID-19, writes Callie Caplan of The Dallas News. The veteran guard discussed his trials and tribulations with the virus, including being quarantined for weeks in a Dallas hotel. “At this point, it was like 21, 22 days,” Burke said. “I was really concerned at that point because I was thinking my career was in jeopardy. I needed an opportunity before the bubble, and Dallas, a team I’m familiar with, calls me, and I can’t get to the bubble because of coronavirus.” The former first-round pick was eventually cleared to join Dallas in Orlando after his 25th day of quarantine.
  • With Mike D’Antoni not returning next season, the Rockets are beginning their search for a new head coach, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Wojnarowski reported on Wednesday that Houston has received permission to interview Nuggets assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr. and Mavericks assistant coach Stephen Silas. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle initially reported the Rockets’ interest in both assistant coaches, along with five other head coaching candidates.
  • At NBA Finals Media Day on Tuesday, Heat forward Jae Crowder spoke about his brief time with the Grizzlies this season, writes Mark Giannotto of Commercial Appeal. The veteran forward explained how he had to take on more of a leadership role for the young Grizzlies’ team. “Being in Memphis, I took on a different role. I took on a role I’d never taken on before in an NBA locker room,” he said. “And that’s just being a main leader, being a main vocal point, being the main guy who the young guys can lean on.” Crowder was acquired by Miami in a multi-player trade at February’s trade deadline.

Barcelona Coach: No Talks With Marc Gasol

Despite rumblings that a reunion with his old team in Spain could be in the cards for veteran center Marc Gasol, Barcelona head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius told Spanish outlet Gigantes Del Basket that the team hasn’t spoken to Gasol, as Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando relays.

Spanish podcast host Sergi Carmona (Twitter link) reported earlier today that Gasol had reached an agreement with Barcelona, but Ernest Macia of Catalunya Radio (Twitter links) hears there’s nothing currently happening between the two sides, and Jasikevicius’ comments also suggest no deal is done. Carmona has locked his Twitter account since publishing his initial report.

While we have no confirmation that any agreement between Barcelona and Gasol is imminent, there’s reason to believe it could be a possibility at some point this offseason. Previous reports have indicated that the 35-year-old big man may consider a return to Europe as a free agent this year. And Barcelona would be a familiar setting — Gasol spent three seasons with the club from 2003-06 before eventually making the move to the NBA.

For what it’s worth, Marc’s brother Pau Gasol was also said to have a deal in place with Barcelona back in July, but that report was shot down by the team and there have been no updates on Pau since then.

If Marc does elect to head back overseas, it would help simplify the Raptors’ decision-making process in this offseason. The team may not be able to re-sign all of its key free agents, including Gasol, Fred VanVleet, and Serge Ibaka. A Gasol exit would allow the team to focus its efforts on retaining Ibaka in the frontcourt in addition trying to re-sign VanVleet.

Kings Part Ways With G League GM Anthony McClish

Due to the ongoing financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Kings have eliminated a number of positions in their basketball operations department, Sean Cunningham of ABC10 Sacramento reports (via Twitter). Among the casualties is Anthony McClish, general manager of the Stockton Kings, Sacramento’s G League affiliate.

The Kings have elected not to renew McClish’s contract, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, who notes that the veteran executive spent seven seasons with the franchise in a handful of roles, including cap management and scouting.

While Sacramento didn’t officially announce McClish’s departure from the organization, the club did issue a statement confirming that changes are being made in the front office, as Jason Jones of The Athletic relays:

“Yesterday, a handful of full-time positions across the basketball operations departments of the Sacramento Kings and Stockton Kings were eliminated due to the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and a reorganization of the team’s basketball operations structure,” the club said.

Despite the cuts, league sources tell Cunningham (Twitter link) that essential basketball operation functions haven’t been affected as the Kings prepare for the draft and free agency under new general manager Monte McNair.

Draft Notes: Ball, Haliburton, Okongwu, Bane

LaMelo Ball was the highest-profile prospect to take part in this year’s virtual draft combine, but as we noted earlier this week, there was an expectation that his participation in the event might be limited.

According to Jeremy Woo of SI.com (Twitter link), that will indeed be the case. Sources tell Woo that Ball has withdrawn from the remainder of the combine after taking part in a media session on Monday, as well as the standard league interview.

According to Rod Beard of The Detroit News (Twitter link), Ball will still interview with team representatives, but won’t participate in the combine’s on-court program, so teams scouting him will have to rely on existing video.

Here’s more on the 2020 NBA draft:

  • Projected top-10 pick Tyrese Haliburton said today that he has interviewed with the Knicks, Warriors, and Pistons so far during the pre-draft process (video link via Ian Begley of SNY.tv). Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv (Twitter link) has heard that the Pistons – who hold the No. 7 pick – “really like” Haliburton.
  • In a Q&A with Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype, former USC big man Onyeka Okongwu said that he aspires to emulate Bam Adebayo‘s game at the NBA level. Like Haliburton, Okongwu is a projected top-10 pick, ranking fifth overall on ESPN’s top-100 list.
  • TCU sharpshooter Desmond Bane has interviewed with nearly every team in the NBA, telling reporters today that he has spoken to 26 clubs (Twitter link via Brian Lewis of The New York Post). Bane, the No. 41 prospect on ESPN’s big board, said that his agent thinks the Suns, Sixers, and Bucks have shown the most interest in him, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link).

Connelly Would “Love To See” Millsap Retire As Nugget

Paul Millsap will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly has expressed a desire to retain the big man, along with a hope that he’ll spend the rest of his career in Denver, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

“I would love to see Paul retire in a Nuggets jersey,” Connelly said on Wednesday. “What he brought to this team and this city has been pretty special. … I don’t think we could’ve asked for anything more in terms of where we are. He taught us so much about winning and how to get to this point.”

Millsap, who signed a three-year deal worth more than $90MM with the Nuggets back in 2017, has been a reliable presence in the frontcourt alongside star center Nikola Jokic. In 159 games (26.9 MPG) over those three seasons, he averaged 12.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 2.1 APG to go along with a .478/.381/.740 shooting line and his usual strong play on defense.

According to Singer, Millsap has yet to make any decisions regarding his free agency. The 35-year-old is still processing his 83-day stint in the Orlando bubble and plans to take his time as he considers his next move.

Singer suggests that this isn’t the first time Millsap has heard the refrain about the Nuggets wanting him to retire with the team, and that may be a factor in his decision. However, there will also be financial matters to consider.

The Nuggets hold Millsap’s Bird rights and can offer him any amount up to the max, but fellow free agent forward Jerami Grant will likely be the team’s first priority. If and when Grant signs a new deal, Denver’s maneuverability below the tax line will be a factor as the team mulls a potential offer for Millsap and other roster moves.

Singer notes that any offer from the Nuggets would reflect the fact that the Millsap wasn’t as effective in the playoffs as he was early in the season. While he played a part in helping Denver reach the Western Conference Finals, the big man’s production was down in the postseason (8.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, .398 FG%).

And-Ones: Roberts, China, Coronavirus, Gibson

NBPA executive director Michele Roberts turned down a seven-figure annual bonus earlier this year, a source tells Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic. As Kaplan explains, Roberts’ total compensation during the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2020 amounted to $1.47MM, down $2.85MM from the year before. Kaplan hears that Roberts’ base salary wasn’t reduced and that the difference was a result of her forgoing a bonus.

Roberts is one of a number of notable basketball executives whose earnings were affected by the coronavirus pandemic. NBA commissioner Adam Silver and about 100 of the league’s top executives accepted pay cuts of 20%, Kaplan notes.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • From the conflict with China to the deaths of Kobe Bryant and David Stern to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2019/20 NBA season has been one of the most turbulent in league history. With the help of a few players, Scott Cacciola of The New York Times takes a look back at a very strange NBA year.
  • In his own NBA year in review, ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz cites sources who estimate that the league’s potential losses as a result of the China conflict will amount to at least $200MM.
  • Appearing today on CNBC (video link), Nets owner Joseph Tsai expressed optimism about the NBA’s future, indicating that COVID-19 rapid testing and – eventually – a vaccine will allow fans to eventually return to arenas. “Next season is going to be a little bit tricky, because we don’t anticipate having a lot of fans or having full buildings into the arena anytime soon,” Tsai said. “But guess what? The following season, 2022, 2023, we look for a very nice rebound.”
  • Former Mavericks and Celtics guard Jonathan Gibson is signing with the Beijing Ducks, a source tells Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Gibson, who appeared in 21 NBA games between 2016-18, spent most of last season with another Chinese team, the Jiangsu Dragons.

Poll: Will LeBron James Win Fourth Finals MVP Award?

Only one player in NBA history has won more than three Finals MVP awards — Michael Jordan has six, having earned the award during each of the six championship series he won with the Bulls.

Lakers forward LeBron James, one of four players to have been named Finals MVP three times, has a chance to win the award for a fourth time this year against Miami. And the odds are in his favor.

As we noted on Tuesday, the Lakers are fairly heavily favored to win this year’s Finals. And James, who has been named MVP each of the last three times his team has won a title, is the odds-on favorite to earn the award again if the Lakers win this year. At BetOnline.ag, he’s listed at -165 for Finals MVP, meaning you’d have to risk $165 to earn a $100 profit on a winning bet.

If you expect the Lakers to win this year’s championship, James is the safe bet. He finished second in 2019/20 regular-season MVP voting, and is leading the Lakers in a number of postseason statistics, including 10.3 RPG and 8.9 APG.

However, LeBron isn’t the only superstar on his team. Anthony Davis has been the Lakers’ leading scorer during the playoffs, with 28.8 RPG on .571/.366/.810 shooting — all of those percentages are better than James’ shooting rates. And it’s Davis who is considered the anchor of Los Angeles’ stout defense, having finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting this season. So even if the Lakers win this year’s title, it could be Davis, not James, that takes home the Finals MVP award.

Of course, if the Lakers can’t defeat the Heat, the odds of LeBron earning Finals MVP honors fall off drastically. James received some votes for the award back in 2015, when he averaged 35.8 PPG, 13.3 RPG, and 8.8 APG in a losing cause. But even then, with no clear-cut choice on the Warriors, losing the series meant losing out on the Finals MVP award. Andre Iguodala, whose numbers (16.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.0 APG) were pedestrian by comparison to LeBron, received more MVP votes.

In other words, if you expect Miami to pull off the upset, it’s safe to assume your Finals MVP pick will be a member of the Heat, whether it’s Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, or someone else.

What do you think? Will LeBron make history by becoming the second player in NBA history to win a fourth Finals MVP award? Or will he be beaten out for this year’s award by a teammate – presumably Davis – or a Heat player?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Doc Rivers To Meet With Sixers

Doc Rivers will meet with the Sixers in the Philadelphia area to discuss the team’s head coaching position, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

As we outlined this morning, Mike D’Antoni and Tyronn Lue – who interviewed with the team on Tuesday – were considered last week to be the two finalists for Philadelphia’s coaching vacancy. However, Rivers’ split with the Clippers on Monday created a wild card in the team’s search process. The Sixers reached out to Rivers shortly after word broke of his exit from L.A.

Rivers still had two years left on his contract with the Clippers when the two sides parted ways and there’s no set plan yet for when the 2020/21 NBA season will begin or what it will look like, so it’s been unclear whether the veteran head coach will seek another job right away. The fact that Rivers is meeting with the Sixers does suggest he’s interested in another coaching job for ’20/21 though.

The belief as of this past weekend was that 76ers ownership prefers D’Antoni, but Rivers wasn’t available at that point. Rivers’ coaching résumé includes a higher winning percentage (.581) than D’Antoni’s (.560), a championship, and a reputation as one of the league’s most popular head coaches among players.

If Rivers, D’Antoni, and Lue are all interested in the Philadelphia job, it would create a fascinating decision for the franchise. There’s an expectation that a decision will come this week, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

If Rivers and the Sixers don’t come to an agreement and he wants to coach in 2020/21, he should have other options. The Pelicans reportedly contacted him and the Rockets are said to have interest as well.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Knicks, Raptors, Sixers

The Celtics‘ lack of depth was exposed during the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, who contends that president of basketball operations Danny Ainge deserves some criticism for the club’s thin bench and a failure to make upgrades at the trade deadline.

In Washburn’s view, the Celtics’ squad was “cluttered” with too many non-contributors who couldn’t help the team this year. Ainge needs to focus this offseason on adding more players who can be counted on for minutes in big games, says Washburn.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic: