Month: April 2024

D’Angelo Russell May Be Option In Knicks’ Point Guard Search

If the Knicks can’t get their preferred choices at point guard, the TimberwolvesD’Angelo Russell could become an option this summer, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

New York has a strong connection to Russell in Gersson Rosas, who was recently named senior basketball advisor after spending time with the organization as a consultant. Fischer notes that when Rosas was president of basketball operations in Minnesota, he traded Andrew Wiggins and a lottery pick to the Warriors for Russell in 2020 after missing out on him in free agency.

Russell, who has a $31.4MM expiring contract next season, took some heat after a disappointing performance in the Wolves’ brief playoff run. The emergence of other backcourt options in Minnesota might make him expendable as the team looks to the future.

Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell remains the Knicks’ dream choice, but getting him appears unlikely even if Utah decides to shake up its roster, Fischer writes. He cites “healthy skepticism” around the league that New York can make the best offer for Mitchell, noting that Miami could potentially put together a deal centered around Tyler Herro and multiple first-round picks.

The Knicks have also been linked to Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson, who is headed toward free agency, but Fischer hears there’s a “growing sense” around the league that Brunson will remain in Dallas. Fischer expects Brunson’s new contract to top $20MM per season and says John Collins‘ five-year, $125MM extension could be a good comparison.

New York can only offer four years to Brunson and would need to clear out significant cap space first. Sources tell Fischer that the Knicks unsuccessfully tried to move Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel ahead of the trade deadline to begin opening cap room. Fischer cites league executives who believe New York would have to include either the No. 11 pick in this year’s draft or Immanuel Quickley in any deal to unload salary.

Fischer adds that one factor working in the Knicks’ favor in their pursuit of Brunson is that they can offer him the chance to be the undisputed leader of the offense, which he won’t have in Dallas playing alongside Luka Doncic. Fischer notes that if Brunson signs with the Pistons, who are also reported to be interested, he would be in the same situation with Cade Cunningham.

Sources also tell Fischer that New York won’t be among the teams pursuing Cavaliers free agent guard Collin Sexton. Cleveland is interested in keeping him, but it could be difficult considering the team’s salary commitment to other players. Fischer hears that the Pacers, Pistons and Wizards will all be in the market for Sexton.

Joel Embiid Undergoes Thumb, Finger Surgery

Sixers center Joel Embiid had surgery Monday to fix the torn ligament in his right thumb, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. He also underwent a procedure on his injured left index finger and is expected to be fully ready for training camp, Charania adds.

Embiid injured the thumb in Philadelphia’s first-round series against Toronto, but decided to keep playing in hopes of leading his team to a title. He suffered a concussion and broken orbital bone in the final game of that series, causing him to miss the first two games of the second-round series with Miami.

His facial fracture continues to heal without surgery, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Embiid is coming off another brilliant season, leading the league in scoring at 30.6 PPG, along with 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per night. He was the runner-up in the MVP voting for the second straight year and was a second-team All-NBA selection.

Terquavion Smith Withdrawing From Draft

Terquavion Smith has decided to take his name out of the NBA draft and return to North Carolina State for another season, writes Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

Smith is coming off a strong showing at the NBA Draft Combine and was widely expected to be taken in the first round, Givony adds. The 6’4″ shooting guard is ranked as the 22nd best prospect on ESPN’s big board.

“I have to be honest and admit money has never been at the center of my thoughts,” Smith said in his announcement. “My agent explained to me that teams as high as the late teens, through the rest of the first round, all have me ranked as a first-round talent. It’s exciting to hear that. But I told him I have more work to do. I like school and my college in particular. Remember, my last two years have been so strange, thanks to the pandemic. I just want one more season to get everything right and just be a college student.”

Smith caught the attention of scouts with an outstanding performance in drills on the first day of the combine, Givony notes. He posted 17 points in a second-day scrimmage, then opted to sit out the final day.

The 19-year-old averaged 16.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists as a freshman in 2021/22, earning a spot on the ACC’s All-Rookie Team and becoming an honorable mention All-Conference selection. He led the ACC with 96 made three-pointers, the fourth-highest total for a freshman in conference history.

Smith indicated that he’s already looking forward to next year’s draft process and the possibility of being a lottery pick.

“If things go like I expect, I won’t have to go through the combine experience the same way,” he said. “Everyone will see my games and our team all season, we are going to make sure they are seeing something special. The NBA can wait one year, I have more work to do in the ACC first.”

Raptors May Make OG Anunoby Available In Trade Talks

Raptors swingman OG Anunoby may be a name to watch as offseason trade talks begin to heat up, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

Anunoby reportedly grew frustrated at times this season as much of his ball-handling responsibility in Toronto’s offense was taken over by Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes.

However, two sources told Fischer that Anunoby hasn’t informed the front office that he wants out and there is speculation that any rumors are coming from teams hoping to acquire him. Even so, the addition of Barnes could make Anunoby expendable if the Raptors are hoping to make an impactful move this summer.

According to Fischer’s sources, Toronto told teams at the trade deadline that it wasn’t willing to move any of its top six players: Anunoby, Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleetGary Trent Jr. and Precious Achiuwa. But the organization’s desire to land a top center could change that stance. After pursuing Jarrett Allen last offseason, the Raptors talked to the Pacers about Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis ahead of this year’s trade deadline and reached out to the Spurs about Jakob Poeltl, Fischer adds.

The Jazz and Trail Blazers would reportedly be among the most interested teams if Toronto decides to part with Anunoby, who has two more guaranteed seasons left on his contract, plus a $19.9MM player option for 2024/25.

Sources tell Fischer that Rudy Gobert is one of the Raptors’ prime targets for upgrading at center. Utah’s management is divided on whether to part with Gobert, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and an elite rim protector, but it could become necessary as the Jazz look to improve on the wing. Fischer notes that Toronto might have to offer Trent along with Anunoby to match Gobert’s salary, which would mean parting with one of the team’s only reliable outside shooters.

The Blazers are expected to offer the No. 7 pick to try to revamp its roster and Fischer states that Anunoby is one of their main targets, along with Pistons forward Jerami Grant. He notes that the Blazers have a decision to make next month on whether to guarantee Josh Hart‘s $12.9MM contract for 2022/23, but states that Hart and the lottery pick wouldn’t be enough for Toronto to move Anunoby. Fischer adds that Anunoby is seen as more valuable than Grant, for whom Detroit is seeking two first-round picks or a first-rounder and a promising player on a rookie-scale contract.

Atlantic Notes: Horford, Udoka, Ainge, Raptors

Al Horford, who was languishing with the rebuilding Thunder a year ago, is now headed to the NBA Finals in his second stint with the Celtics and couldn’t be more grateful, Jared Weiss of The Athletic writes.

“On the phone, I would look at photos from a year ago, exactly what I was doing at the moment, and today my son actually graduated from kindergarten,” Horford said. “So I remember that we had pictures for him, and I picked him up from school, and we had the cupcakes and we had all this stuff. So it’s like perspective for me, like I always look back and see where I was just day to day. I’m just very grateful to be in this position with these guys.”

Horford, 35, has been a major factor in the Celtics’ run. He is averaging 11.9 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.5 APG and 1.6 BPG in the postseason. As we noted earlier, Horford now has a $19.5MM guarantee on his $26.5MM contract for next season.

“When he came back, that gave us a sense of security,” Marcus Smart said. “We got Al back there, he’s always going to make the right play on both ends.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Ime Udoka was the runner-up for numerous head coaching jobs but is glad that he wound up with the Celtics instead of a rebuilding team, he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports“You really want me to tell you? Detroit, Indiana, Cleveland,” Udoka said of the jobs he nearly got. “I can go down the list. That was tough because I believe I was ready. But I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of an organization that’s pushing for winning and championships. You can be in a lot of different situations. There are only 30 teams and I get that, but to not be in a rebuild and being in an expectation pressure-filled situation, I wouldn’t trade that in any day.”
  • In an interview with Heavy.com’s Steve Bulpett, Jazz CEO Danny Ainge offered high praise to the man who replaced him in Boston, former Celtics coach Brad Stevens. Getting Kemba Walker‘s contract off the books was a particularly shrewd move, according to Ainge. “I think that, by moving Kemba, it allowed Marcus, Jaylen (Brown) and Jayson (Tatum) and Robert Williams to really thrive in positional size, with Horford taking up a big responsibility in the front line for Robert and moving Jaylen, Jayson and Marcus to their positions where they can have size advantages.”
  • Fred VanVleet can re-enter the free agent market with a player option next summer and The Athletic’s John Hollinger believes the Raptors should pursue an extension with him in the range of $25MM annually. Hollinger and Eric Koreen takes a closer look at all the Raptors’ free agent, draft and extension decisions.

Poll: Golden State Warriors Vs. Boston Celtics

The last two teams standing have plenty of history in the NBA Finals.

The Celtics will be seeking to break their tie with the Lakers for the most NBA championships. They’ve both won it 17 times, though Boston hasn’t captured the Larry O’Brien trophy since 2008 and hasn’t reached the Finals since 2010.

The Warriors will be seeking their fourth title in eight years — they won it in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Defense has been the calling card of both teams. They finished first and second in the regular season in defensive field goal percentage — Boston held opponents to 43.4% shooting, while Golden State limited opponents to 43.8% shooting. They are second and third in that category in the postseason behind Milwaukee.

Both teams have versatile players who can guard multiple positions. Boston has the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, Golden State has former DPOY Draymond Green.

Offensively, the Celtics rely on their wings while the Warriors lean on their guards. Boston’s Jayson Tatum (27.0 PPG in this postseason) and Jaylen Brown (22.9 PPG) are capable of taking over games at any time. Of course, Golden State has the Splash Brothers. Stephen Curry (25.9 PPG) and Klay Thompson (19.8 PPG) are just as dangerous as ever and they’ve got plenty of support from 22-year-old Jordan Poole (18.4 PPG).

The Smart-Curry matchup could set the tone for the series. Andrew Wiggins will draw either Tatum or Brown.

The Celtics’ frontcourt of veteran Al Horford and Robert Williams, with a big assist from Grant Williams, will go toe-to-toe with Green and one of the postseason’s biggest surprises, Kevon Looney.

With the home court advantage and championship experience, Golden State enters the Finals as the favorite. However, Boston’s defense and dynamic scoring duo can’t be underestimated.

So now it’s your turn to decide how the Finals will play out. Vote in our poll, then head to the comments section below to share your thoughts!

Draft Notes: Murray, Cardwell, Harvey, Oduro, Battle

Long Beach State’s Joel Murray is taking his name out the draft and returning to college, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports tweets. The senior guard averaged 16.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG and 2.8 APG last season.

We have more draft decisions to pass along:

  • Dylan Cardwell has decided to return to Auburn, Rothstein tweets. Cardwell has been a reserve for the Tigers the past two seasons. He averaged 3.0 PPG and 3.0 RPG in 11.5 MPG last season.
  • Well-traveled D.J. Harvey is expected to remain in the draft, Jeff Goodman of Stadium tweets. He played at Detroit last season after two years at Notre Dame and another at Vanderbilt. He averaged 8.2 PPG and 5.6 RPG for the Titans.
  • Josh Oduro is withdrawing from the draft and heading back to George Mason, Goodman tweets. He averaged 17.7 PPG and 7.5 RPG for the Patriots last season.
  • Temple’s Khalif Battle will return to school next season, his father told Rothstein (Twitter link). Battle later posted a cryptic tweet that read, If it didn’t come out my mouth don’t believe it,” but given the lack of a clear denial, we’re assuming for now that Battle, who missed most of last season with a foot injury, will head back to college.

Heat Notes: Lowry, Butler, Tucker, Strus

Kyle Lowry looks at the Heat’s loss in the conference finals as a “waste” of a season, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Lowry missed eight postseason games due to a hamstring injury and struggled to regain the form that made him so effective in Toronto.

“I wish I would have been able to play a little bit better, at a higher level, but I didn’t,” Lowry said. “It just adds fuel. You don’t know how many more opportunities you will have to get back to this, so for me, honestly it was a waste of a year. “I only play to win championships. It was fun, and I appreciate my teammates, and I appreciate the opportunity. But for me, it’s a waste of a year. You’re… not winning a championship, it’s a wasted year.”

Lowry has two years left on his three-year, $85MM contract.

We have more on the Heat:

  • Jimmy Butler scored a combined 82 points in Games 6 and 7 but the Heat still came up short. He vows that Miami will be back in the Eastern Conference Finals again next season, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. “We had enough (pieces),” Butler said. “Next year, we will have enough and we’re going to be right back in the same situation, and we’re going to get it done.”
  • P.J. Tucker only played 17 minutes in Game 7 and coach Erik Spoelstra hinted it was injury-related, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald tweets. Tucker had been listed on the injury report with left knee irritation but it’s unclear if that was the issue. Tucker can opt out of his $7.35MM contract for next season and become a free agent this summer.
  • Max Strus had a 3-pointer overturned after several minutes of game action during the third quarter of Game 7. The NBA replay center in Secaucus, New Jersey deemed that Strus was out of bounds. Spoelsta was frustrated about the length of time between the shot and the overturn decision, Nick Friedell of ESPN writes. “I’m sure they will look at that, and we’ll probably be the case study for it,” Spoelstra said. “I’m OK if it happens the way it used to. They would look at it at the next foul or break and look at it and notice it, but it was probably 10 minutes of real time — somebody check on that.”

CJ McCollum Joins ESPN As NBA Analyst

Draymond Green joined Turner Sports on a multi-year deal in January. Another prominent active player is following in his footsteps.

Pelicans guard CJ McCollum has joined ESPN as a multi-platform NBA analyst, the broadcasting giant announced in a press release.

His new responsibilities will begin on Thursday, coinciding with Game 1 of the Finals. McCollum, the current NBPA President, will appear as part of NBA Finals: Celebrating 75, ESPN2’s alternate presentation for Game 1.

McCollum will work with ESPN to develop a new podcast, Joe Reedy of The Associated Press relays. He will also be an analyst on games during coverage of the NBA Summer League as well as some appearances on studio shows throughout the year.

It is my honor to be joining the ESPN family in this new role and I am excited to bring what I feel is my unique perspective, based on my vast knowledge of the game that I’ve gained during my nine years as a player in the NBA,” McCollum said. “To have an opportunity to put my journalism background to use on the largest stage with the many talented professionals at ESPN is a dream come true.”

Numerous current WNBA players have appeared on ESPN in a variety of roles, including Los Angeles Sparks forward Chiney Ogwumike, who has been working for the network since 2018.

McCollum gives the network a prominent and outspoken presence on its NBA broadcasts.

David Roberts, ESPN’s Head of NBA and Studio Production, said in a statement, “CJ is one of the most respected players in the NBA, which is evident by his role as President of the NBA PA. Furthermore, he’s an extremely talented member of – and leader on – one of the most interesting teams in the league: the New Orleans Pelicans. CJ’s commitment to this opportunity, combined with his passion for journalism and sports broadcasting, will be a clear benefit for NBA fans.”

NCAA’s Withdrawal Deadline Looms For Draft’s Early Entrants

College players who are “testing the draft waters” this spring, having entered the 2022 NBA draft pool while maintaining their NCAA eligibility, will have to make a final decision this week on whether or not to go pro.

The NCAA has set a withdrawal deadline of Wednesday, June 1 at 11:59 pm Eastern time (10 days after the end of the draft combine). A player who still has college eligibility left but who doesn’t pull out of the draft pool by that deadline will forgo his remaining eligibility and won’t be able to return to his school or transfer to a new one for the 2022/23 season.

A total of 247 college players – either underclassmen or seniors who still have an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19 – initially entered the draft prior to April’s early entry deadline.

In the weeks since then, many have either opted to withdraw after getting feedback on their stock, or have made a final decision to remain in the draft. However, as our early entrant tracker shows, there are still dozens with decisions to make by Wednesday night.

A college player who doesn’t withdraw from the draft by Wednesday’s deadline still technically has another 12 days to do so, since the NBA’s own withdrawal deadline is on Monday, June 13 at 5:00 pm ET, 10 days ahead of the June 23 draft.

However, a college player who pulls out of the draft pool at that point would no longer have his NCAA eligibility, so he’d have to play in a non-NBA league for the 2022/23 season. That’s why the NBA’s withdrawal deadline is often only meaningful for international players, who don’t have to worry about the NCAA’s rules.

NC State’s Terquavion Smith, Duke’s Trevor Keels, Wake Forest’s Jake LaRavia, and Colorado State’s David Roddy are some of the top-50 prospects on ESPN’s big board who have yet to formally confirmed whether they’ll stay in the draft. We’ll be tracking their decisions – and all the rest – ahead of Wednesday’s deadline.