Month: July 2021

Knicks Notes: Trade Deadline, Randle, Bullock, Vildoza

The Knicks didn’t make any significant upgrades at the trade deadline and it may be coming back to haunt them in their opening-round series against Atlanta, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. New York trails 3-1 in the series and there’s no hint of a comeback. Coach Tom Thibodeau was hoping for an upgrade, with Norman Powell high on his wish list, but management viewed this season as a stepping stone while protecting their ample cap space for a potential summer bonanza.

We have more on the Knicks:

  • Julius Randle has yet to return to his regular-season form and now it may be too late, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News notes. Randle is shooting 27% from the field in the series after winning the league’s Most Improved Player award. “This is all a learning experience,” he said. “I need to get better individually, we need to get better as a team.”
  • Reggie Bullock went scoreless in 34 minutes during Game 4 and Thibodeau attributes that to Bullock guarding Trae Young, Steve Popper of Newsday relays. “We’re asking him to do a lot,” he said. “He’s in a lot of actions offensively, but he’s guarding Trae. You’re using a lot of energy there.” Bullock will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
  • Luca Vildoza is out of quarantine but didn’t join the team in Atlanta, Mark Berman of the New York Post tweets. The Knicks signed the Argentinian guard to a four-year deal in early May but, according to Thibodeau, he’ll be added to the mix next season. “For later in the summer,” he said.

And-Ones: Jokubaitis, Banton, LeBron, R. Paul

Point guard Rokas Jokubaitis has declared for this year’s draft, Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas tweets. Jokubaitis is currently ranked No. 42 on ESPN’s Best Available list. Playing for Žalgiris Kaunas of the Lithuanian Basketball League and the EuroLeague, the 20-year-old averaged 7.0 PPG and 2.5 APG in 20.9 MPG in 31 games this season.

We have more from the basketball world:

  • Nebraska’s Dalano Banton has declared for the draft, according to his Twitter feed. The sophomore swingman averaged 9.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 3.9 APG last season. Banton played a season at Western Kentucky.
  • LeBron James‘ agent, Rich Paul, explained in a feature written by the New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner why his top client didn’t skip this year’s All-Star Game after expressing dismay about playing the game during the pandemic. “You have to value what drives our business,” Paul said. “All-Star weekend is a very important part of our business. To not have the All-Star Game, or not have all-stars playing in the All-Star Game, I think that would be a form of doing bad business. You don’t have to like it, and you don’t have to always feel up to doing something.”
  • In the same piece, a current NBA general manager said James’ decision to leave Cleveland for Miami, which ushered in an era of player empowerment, was the “worst thing” to happen to not only the NBA but sports in general. “Player empowerment is a catchall for the fact that the league has done a terrible job of empowering teams,” he said. “The players have all of the leverage in every situation. I think it’s the worst thing that ever happened to professional sports on all levels.” 

Embiid Leaves Playoff Game With Knee Soreness

Joel Embiid will not return to Game 4 of the Sixers’ first-round series against Washington with right knee soreness, the team tweets.

Embiid played 11 minutes on Monday before retreating to the locker room. Initial speculation was that Embiid had a tailbone injury after taking a fall, but the team’s official announcement could be even more ominous.

Embiid underwent surgery on his left knee in 2017 and has dealt with soreness in that knee at times.

An extended absence for Embiid, who averaged 29.3 PPG in Philadelphia’s three victories in the series, would obviously be a crushing blow to the Sixers’ title hopes. If the Sixers are able to close out the series quickly, it would buy more time for Embiid to heal for the conference semifinals.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Adams, Reynolds, Rockets

Luka Doncic‘s neck strain appears to be improving heading into Wednesday’s pivotal Game 5 against the Clippers, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. The Mavericks superstar downplayed the nerve issue in his neck after his subpar shooting performance in Game 4, Tim MacMahon of ESPN writes. “Injuries are part of basketball, but I was 100 percent,” Doncic said. “I played terrible, so just got to move on to next one.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Pelicans handed center Steven Adams a two-year, $35MM extension in November but they may be having second thoughts about that decision, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes. While Adams is a beloved teammate, there are major questions regarding his on-court fit and durability, which may compel the front office to explore trade options.
  • Cameron Reynolds has an uphill climb to remain with the Rockets, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle opines. An excess of players at the the wing positions could make it difficult to Reynolds to work his way into the team’s plans. He was signed on a 10-day deal using the hardship provision in the last week of the regular season. He appeared in two games, including a 31-minute stint against San Antonio.
  • The Rockets own three first-round picks, though they would have to convey their highest pick to Oklahoma City as part of a pick swap if they slide out of the top four in the draft lottery. Feigen takes a look at the prospects in each of the areas where the Rockets might be selecting.

Northwest Notes: Timberwolves Sale, Micic, Barton, Porter Jr.

A lawsuit filed by a limited partner regarding the agreement to sell the Timberwolves has revealed that there’s no language in the contract that prevents the team from being moved into a different market, as Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic details. The filing made in district court alleges that team owner Glen Taylor was in breach of contract because limited partner Meyer Orbach, who has a 17% stake in the team, was not given the opportunity to sell his shares before the agreement was completed.

The agreement between Taylor to sell the team to former baseball star Alex Rodriguez and tech entrepreneur Marc Lore was announced earlier this month.

Taylor has repeatedly said he wants the team to stay in Minneapolis. Sources told Krawczynski that Lore and Rodriguez are committed to the Twin Cities market and there haven’t been any discussions about moving the Timberwolves.

According to the The Athletic’s report, Taylor entered a unique arrangement with Lore and Rodriguez, subject to league approval this summer. They’ll initially invest $250MM and will not be majority partners right from the start. The plan is for the duo to purchase shares of the team gradually and gain  controlling interest by December 2023.

Taylor would thus retain control over the team for two more seasons unless Lore and Rodriguez can pay him off earlier than that.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Thunder draft-and-stash prospect Vasilije Micic was named the EuroLeague’s Final Four Most Valuable Player after leading Anadolu Efes Istanbul to the championship for the first time in club history, according to EuroLeague.net. He averaged 25.0 points and 5.5 assists in the Final Four. He previously was named the league’s MVP after averaging 16.3 PPG and 4.8 APG in 38 EuroLeague games. He is a candidate to come stateside for the 2021/22 season.
  • Nuggets swingman Will Barton won’t play against Portland in Game 5 on Tuesday but he could be available for Game 6 and a potential Game 7, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. Barton, who has been sidelined by a right hamstring strain, practiced in full on Monday.
  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. vows to be much more aggressive in Game 5 after a lackluster outing in Game 4, Singer writes. “It’s on us as a team but a lot of it is on me as well,” he said. “If I’m not getting any actions, I’ve got to figure it out in transition, on the glass. I can’t let myself be as small of a factor as I was the last couple of games.”

Heat Notes: Olympics, Dedmon, Robinson, Haslem

Nine Heat players spoke to reporters today as part of the team’s end-of-season media availability, and many of those players intend to represent their countries in international play this summer, as Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald details.

Nigeria, one of the eight countries to have already clinched its spot in the men’s basketball event at the Tokyo Olympics, has talked to Precious Achiuwa about playing this summer, but he has yet to make a final decision. Teammate Gabe Vincent will train with Nigeria and hopes to make the Olympic roster.

Nemanja Bjelica, meanwhile, plans to play for Serbia at the Tokyo Olympics, while Omer Yurtseven – who signed with the Heat at the end of the season – intends to be part of the Turkish team as the club looks to secure an Olympic berth in next month’s qualifying tournament.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Veteran center Dewayne Dedmon said that he’d like to return to the Heat next season, but added, “That’s up to the people upstairs.” While Miami’s front office would probably reciprocate Dedmon’s interest, given how he played down the stretch, he’ll only have Non-Bird rights, limiting the team’s ability to give him much of a raise beyond the veteran’s minimum, as Jackson notes.
  • Asked about his priorities in free agency, Duncan Robinson offered the following response: “First and foremost, a fit, a place I can really feel comfortable. Winning is a priority for me. And also a business and there’s an opportunity to take care of people that I love.” Robinson will be a restricted free agent, so the Heat will have the ability to match if he signs an offer sheet.
  • Udonis Haslem remains undecided on whether he’ll retire or return to the Heat for 2021/22, but he made it clear he doesn’t take his spot on the roster for granted, as Jackson writes. “I don’t have an offseason. I’m 40 years old. If I have an offseason, I might as well retire,” Haslem said. “Straight from the season to back in the gym. I’m calling Bam (Adebayo); his (butt) is coming with me. I’m calling Precious. He’s coming with me.” Haslem added that he doesn’t have interest in coaching, but suggested he wants to eventually own part of a franchise, according to Jackson.

Lakers Notes: Davis, LeBron, Schröder, Kuzma, Caruso

Lakers star Anthony Davis is reportedly considered unlikely to play in a pivotal Game 5 on Tuesday due to a strained groin. But even if they’re missing their second-leading scorer and frontcourt anchor, the Lakers remain confident in their ability to hang with the No. 2 Suns, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times.

“There is plenty of confidence that we have now without AD. That’s not even a question for anybody in the locker room,” center Marc Gasol said on Sunday.

“It’s just gonna be more opportunity for (LeBron James) and obviously we need more guys to step up,” head coach Frank Vogel said. “Not one other guy, but everybody. It’s gotta be a group effort. We need contributions from everyone, and we did have a stretch like this where we played without AD that we’ll draw on to take us into Game 5 if AD’s not available.”

As Jovan Buha of The Athletic writes, the Lakers had a winning record (19-17) without Davis this season, including an 11-7 mark in games that James played and Davis didn’t. The club may have also discovered an effective Davis-less lineup in Game 4, as LeBron, Gasol, Wesley Matthews, Alex Caruso, and Dennis Schröder were a plus-six in seven minutes. All five of those players can make outside shots and are solid defenders, Buha observes.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • James is prepared to shoulder a heavier workload and more responsibilities if the team is missing Davis for the next game or two, as Mark Medina of USA Today relays. “These shoulders were built for a reason,” LeBron said on Sunday. “If it takes for me to put some more on top of it, then so be it. Win, lose or draw. I’m ready for the challenge.”
  • Rival executives expect the Lakers to shake up their roster a little if they don’t make it past the first round of the playoffs, says Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Dennis Schröder will be perhaps the most important free agent worth monitoring — L.A. probably can’t afford to lose him for nothing, so re-signing him or working out a sign-and-trade will be a priority.
  • Within the same Bleacher Report story, Fischer cites sources who say that the Lakers discussed potential Kyle Kuzma trades with teams at the deadline in March. Prior to Spencer Dinwiddie‘s ACL injury, Los Angeles inquired about a swap involving the Nets guard and Kuzma, according to Fischer.
  • There’s a sense among Lakers officials that Alex Caruso has enjoyed playing alongside LeBron and will be interested in re-signing with the team in free agency this summer, reports Fischer.

Poll: 2021 All-NBA Third Team

The competition for the league’s 15 All-NBA spots was fiercer than ever in 2020/21, with tens of millions of dollars up for grabs for certain players based on the voting results. Since the NBA has already started to announce its end-of-season award winners, we want to give you an opportunity to vote on the All-NBA rosters for 2020/21 before they’re officially revealed.

We started last Wednesday with the First Team before moving onto the Second Team on Friday. We’ve closed those polls and now we’re wrapping things up by focusing on the Third Team.

Here are the voting results so far:

2021 All-NBA First Team

2021 All-NBA Second Team

Lillard is a lock for the Second Team if he doesn’t make the First Team, and Beal is absolutely a worthy second guard. The forward spot is a little trickier, though I think Randle deserves this spot. A healthy James would’ve been a strong contender for a First Team spot, but since he played just 45 of 72 regular season games, it won’t surprise me if he ends up on the Third Team in the actual vote.

As for the center spot, it’ll be interesting to see how voters handle the NBA’s generous dual positional eligibility for Embiid and Jokic. If they both make the First Team (one as a center, one as a forward), Gobert has a clear path to a Second Team spot. If not, Gobert will be bumped to the Third Team.

On that note, before we move on to the Third Team polls, don’t forget that several players qualify at multiple positions on the NBA’s official ballot. We won’t share that full list of notable multi-position players again here, but you can check it out in our Second Team post.

Be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to select two players apiece in both the guard and forward polls. We’ll leave the polls open for a couple days before sharing and breaking down the results later this week.

Vote for your All-NBA Third Team below, then take to the comment section to explain your picks!


Guards

(choose two)

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote on the All-NBA Third Team guards.


Forwards

(choose two)

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote on the All-NBA Third Team forwards.


Center

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote on the All-NBA Third Team center.

Anthony Davis Unlikely To Play In Game 5

Lakers big man Anthony Davis is unlikely to be available for Game 5 on Tuesday, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

As Charania explains, although Davis – who suffered a left groin strain on Sunday – may not be ready to go on Tuesday, there’s optimism that he won’t have to be ruled out for the series. He’ll continue to be evaluated on a daily basis this week. If Davis misses Game 5, his next opportunity to suit up would be on Thursday for Game 6.

The Lakers and Suns are tied at 2-2 in their first-round series, and L.A. has been at its best when Davis has been at his best. He averaged 34.0 points and 10.5 rebounds in the team’s two wins in Game 2 and 3. In a Game 1 loss, he put up just 13 points and seven rebounds. Prior to his early exit in Game 4, he had recorded six points and four rebounds in 19 minutes.

If Davis is sidelined for Game 5, frontcourt players like Markieff Morris, Kyle Kuzma, and Montrezl Harrell could see increased roles, while LeBron James and Dennis Schröder will have to take on added scoring and play-making responsibilities.

Jared Butler, Others Enter 2021 NBA Draft

Ahead of Sunday’s early entry deadline, Baylor junior guard Jared Butler announced (via Twitter) that he was declaring for the 2021 NBA draft. While his announcement doesn’t explicitly state that he’s forgoing his remaining NCAA eligibility, it strongly suggests he intends to go pro.

While it took a while for him to make it official, Butler was always considered a good bet to enter this year’s draft following an impressive 2020/21 campaign in which he averaged 16.7 PPG, 4.8 APG, and 2.0 SPG on .471/.416/.780 shooting in 30 games (30.3 MPG) for the eventual national champs.

A consensus first-team All-American, Butler was named the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player after the Bears defeated Gonzaga in the championship game. He’s the No. 23 prospect on ESPN’s big board, making him a strong candidate to be a first-round pick in July.

Here are a few more draft-related updates:

  • Fresno State sophomore guard Deon Stroud is testing the draft waters while maintaining his NCAA eligibility, according to an announcement from the school (Twitter link). Stroud, who began his college career at UTEP, averaged 12.2 PPG on .482/.357/.613 shooting in 23 games (23.1 MPG) in 2020/21.
  • Italian wing Gabriele Procida has declared for the draft, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, who tweets that the 18-year-old is a projected second-round pick.
  • Givony also published a series of tweets listing several more international players who have entered the 2021 NBA draft pool. Those players are as follows (the countries listed represent where they last played, not where they were born):
  • Since the NBA’s early entry deadline has now passed, we should get a full, official list of early entrants from the league on Tuesday. In the meantime, our unofficial tracker is here.