Month: June 2024

Wolves Notes: Connelly, Anderson, Edwards, McDaniels

Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly reportedly has an opt-out in his contract. Amid an ownership dispute, there has been speculation that the veteran executive may exercise that opt-out clause.

However, he told reporters on Friday that he’s “super excited’ about the team’s future and doesn’t plan to leave Minnesota, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune (subscription required).

I mean, moving [from Denver] wasn’t fun,” Connelly said. “I’ve had a blast here. Feels like we have roots here. It’s pretty special. That’s the goal. It has been a great couple years, and hopefully, we can make it a much longer couple years.”

Connelly said he’d be comfortable no matter which group ultimately gains majority control of the franchise, Zgoda adds. Longtime owner Glen Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, is on one side of the dispute, with minority stakeholders Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez on the other. The matter is heading to a three-person arbitration panel.

Ownership is obviously in a unique place right now,” Connelly said. “Whatever happens is kind of a level up. I trust whatever happens will be the right path. We’ve all shared great moments throughout this whole season. There are conversations that we’ve had, and they’ll be ongoing. Now that we’re officially in the offseason, we’ll get a better sense of what we might do.”

The Timberwolves were eliminated from the Western Conference finals after being blown out by Dallas in Game 5 in Minnesota. It was just the second time the Wolves have advanced that far in the postseason, and Connelly believes they’re capable of advancing further in the future, according to Zgoda.

When you’re a home-court team and a final four team, all those teams can win a championship,” Connelly said. “So I don’t know if there is any linear path to that next step. I don’t think there is one singular answer. A lot of it is match-ups and health.”

Connelly praised Karl-Anthony Towns, who had an otherwise solid playoff showing but largely struggled against the Mavs. Minnesota’s top basketball executive also discussed the team’s future payroll, suggesting the Wolves would be willing to be a taxpayer, but not on a repeated basis due to the restrictions of the new CBA.

It’s a big task for ownership,” Connelly said. “It’s a lot, a lot of money. Relative to the impact on our flexibility, I think the jury is still out. It’s not a place you want to be long-term. It gets more and more harsh each year. Dipping your toe in it, it could have relatively limited impact on what we can and cannot do. But we’re learning it like the other 29 teams.”

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • Veteran forward Kyle Anderson, who has been rotation regular for Minnesota the past two seasons, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Retaining him will be a real challenge, considering how much money the Wolves have tied up in their other players. While Anderson said he enjoyed his time with the team and wants to return, he acknowledged he might be headed elsewhere this offseason, tweets Dane Moore. “I don’t know where I’ll be… but obviously (I) want to be back here,” Anderson said.
  • Star guard Anthony Edwards, who will be playing for Team USA at the Olympics in Paris this summer, said he plans to do some extra training this offseason to prepare for 2024/25, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes (subscriber link). “I’ve never played this deep into a basketball season,” Edwards said. “So now I know, like, OK, in order for me to be dominant in the third round, and if we get past this and finally go to the finals, I’ve got to train like I’m going to go to the playoffs. So I can’t be missing training days, I can’t take days off, you know what I mean? I’ve got to be ready. So I know what it takes, and I’ll be ready.”
  • Consistently unlocking Jaden McDaniels offensively is an offseason goal for Minnesota, says Patrick Reusse of The Star Tribune (subscriber link). McDaniels’ lucrative rookie scale extension begins next season. He earned a spot on the All-Defensive Second Team this season, but often wasn’t involved enough on offense, Reusse observes.
  • Mark Deeks of HoopsHype provides his offseason preview for the Wolves. In addition to Anderson, veteran point guards Monte Morris and Jordan McLaughlin will also be unrestricted free agents, and so will forward T.J. Warren. Big man Luka Garza will be the club’s lone standard RFA.

Suns To Hire Chad Forcier, Chaisson Allen As Assistant Coaches

The Suns plan to hire a couple of assistant coaches to join new head coach Mike Budenholzer‘s staff.

League sources tell Sarah Todd of The Deseret News that Phoenix will hire Jazz assistant Chad Forcier to work with his longtime colleague. Forcier and Budenholzer coached together in San Antonio before Budenholzer became a head coach and then Forcier spent four years on Budenholzer’s staff in Milwaukee, according to Todd.

In addition to Forcier, the Jazz lost assistant Lamar Skeeter to Charlotte this offseason. Utah plans to promote people from within the organization instead of hiring new coaches, Todd reports. In particular, Sean Sheldon will be promoted to a front-of-bench role.

Phoenix will also be hiring Chaisson Allen as an assistant, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (via Twitter).

Allen was a highly regarded college player for Northeastern and spent five seasons playing internationally before transitioning to coaching. He has mostly coached in the G League, including a two-year stint as head coach of the Wisconsin Herd, Milwaukee’s affiliate. He’s another person Budenholzer is familiar with, since their time with the Bucks overlapped.

David Fizdale and Vince Legarza will reportedly be assistant coaches under Budenholzer as well.

Pistons Hire Trajan Langdon As Top Basketball Executive

The Pistons have officially hired Trajan Langdon to be their new president of basketball operations, the team announced in a press release.

I have committed to building a front office in Detroit that brings together the most advanced capabilities and creative basketball minds,” said owner Tom Gores. “Trajan is an accomplished front office executive with an impressive track record. He’s worked his way up and seen it all as a player, scout and executive. He’s been successful at every level. I’m confident he will very swiftly get us to the standard of excellence I expect from every business.”

What was important to me was finding someone who was a hands-on leader and effective communicator that could connect with people, motivate our front office and deliver results,” Gores added. “I knew Trajan was universally praised and respected around the league, but as I spent time with him, he articulated a thoughtful, detailed plan to create a culture of winning and getting the best out of the talented people we have in our organization.”

Langdon has spent the last five years as New Orleans’ general manager, serving as the second-in-command to executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin. The news of Detroit intending to hire the former Duke star broke a week ago.

Langdon said he has begun interviewing candidates for roles with the team, per the release.

It’s an honor for me to join the Detroit Pistons and I’m excited for the opportunity,” said Langdon.  “I have spent considerable time with Tom over the past few weeks and am fully aligned with his expectations for the challenge ahead. The work starts immediately, and I appreciate Tom giving me the opportunity to build on the foundation that has been laid and help this team compete at the highest level. There is great tradition and history associated with this franchise. I’m excited to build on that for everyone associated with the organization and the passionate sports fans of Detroit.”

The 48-year-old was drafted with the 11th overall pick in 1999, though Langdon spent just three seasons in the NBA with the Cavaliers. He went on to become a star overseas, winning a pair of EuroLeague titles in 2006 and 2008 with CSKA Moscow. He made multiple All-EuroLeague teams, earned EuroLeague Final Four MVP honors in 2008, and was named top the EuroLeague’s All-Decade team for the 2000s.

After retiring as a player in 2011, Langdon got his first front office role in San Antonio, working as a scout for the Spurs from 2012-15. Before being hired by the Pelicans, he had a one-year stint in Cleveland’s front office and was an assistant general manager with the Nets for three years under Sean Marks.

A recent report said Langdon’s first major move was essentially offering a demotion to former GM Troy Weaver, who declined the new position. The two sides have parted ways.

The Pistons had the worst record in the league last season at 14-68. They control the No. 5 pick in June’s draft.

New York Notes: Nets, Tsai, Brunson, Knicks, Randle

The Nets have formally announced Jordi Fernandez‘s coaching staff for the 2024/25 season, officially confirming (via Twitter) that previously reported names like Steve Hetzel, Juwan Howard, and Jay Hernandez will be among the assistants flanking the first-time head coach.

Hernandez is a carryover from last season’s staff, as are Adam Caporn, Ryan Forehan-Kelly, Corey Vinson, and Travis Bader. Besides Hetzel and Howard, the newcomers include Deividas Dulkys and Connor Griffin, whose hirings were also previously reported.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York-based teams, starting with Brooklyn:

  • The Nets don’t publicly share the names of the prospects they’re working out during the pre-draft process, but as NetsDaily relays, a few names are being reported. For instance, Rick Pitino tweeted earlier this month that St. John’s guard Daniss Jenkins “killed” his workout with Brooklyn, while Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Thursday (via Twitter) that the Nets are among the teams that have worked out Adelaide 36ers wing Trentyn Flowers, who has also gotten a look from the Wizards, Bucks, Kings, Rockets, and Spurs, and has workouts on tap with the Lakers, Suns, Hornets, Jazz, Bulls, and Celtics.
  • While New York City has a history of bombastic sports team owners, Joe Tsai of the Nets has made it clear he doesn’t intend to be one of them, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “My first principle is don’t treat yourself too seriously. Don’t become the face of the franchise, because it’s not about you,” Tsai said recently. “Fans don’t care about you: They care about the players. They care about the star players. … You work for the fans. So you have to come in with that mindset, especially when you own a major sports team in a major city. It’s an institution. It’s not about you. It’s something that’s much much bigger than you and I feel like I’m a custodian of the team.”
  • Stefan Bondy of The New York Post (subscription required) takes a closer look at Jalen Brunson‘s contract situation, writing that while the Knicks’ point guard may ultimately be willing to sign an extension this offseason, he’d likely be in better position to maximize his long-term earnings if he waits until 2025.
  • Fred Katz and Seth Partnow of The Athletic recently discussed the Knicks‘ offseason. According to Partnow, various analytics models had Isaiah Hartenstein‘s 2023/24 season valued in the range of $28-35MM. The 26-year-old center made $9.25MM this season and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. New York only holds his Early Bird rights, which means it will be somewhat limited (four years, $72.5MM) in what it can offer him. A recent report said people around the league think Hartenstein could receive $20-25MM annually on his next deal, and potentially losing him would certainly dampen Partnow’s view of the Knicks. Katz and Partnow also discuss the pros and cons of Julius Randle and ways in which the Knicks can improve next season, among other topics.
  • Speaking of Randle, the injured All-Star forward said he’s recovering well from shoulder surgery, though he still isn’t doing on-court work yet, per Bondy of The New York Post. One of New York’s main offseason questions is what to do with Randle, who is eligible for a lucrative extension this summer. For his part, the 29-year-old said he wants to stay long-term. “Yeah, I’ve always said from the very beginning I would love to be here in New York and I would love to continue to add on to what the guys did in the playoffs,” said Randle, who can also become a free agent in 2025. “I feel like that was my personal — biggest personal goal, or I’d say team goal in a sense, was when I got here is to be able to build and compete and to be at the point where we’re at now, where it’s an actual possibility (to win a championship). So really, that’s what my focus is, doing whatever I can to make sure I get healthy and get back and make sure I’m ready whenever we start playing again and contribute to winning. That’s really all my focus is and that stuff always in my career has taken care of itself.”

Rory Maher contributed to this post.

Cavs To Interview Johnnie Bryant, Chris Quinn For Head Coaching Job

4:10pm: Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com confirms the Cavaliers have been granted permission to interview Bryant and Quinn. Sources tell Fedor that Cleveland could interview about 10 candidates for the head coaching vacancy, describing it as an “extensive process that may take weeks before completion.” One rival executive views Atkinson as the frontrunner for the position, Fedor adds.


3:40pm: After securing permission to meet with Kenny Atkinson and James Borrego about their head coaching opening, the Cavaliers have been given the green light to speak to two more NBA assistants, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that Cleveland will interview Knicks assistant Johnnie Bryant and Heat assistant Chris Quinn.

Multiple reports had stated that the Cavs were interested in Bryant, so it comes as no surprise that Cleveland asked for and received permission to meet with him. Bryant was an assistant coach with the Jazz from 2014-20 before joining the Knicks’ staff, overlapping with Cavs star Donovan Mitchell in Utah from 2017-20. Bryant also interviewed for the Jazz’s job back in 2022 before the team hired Will Hardy.

Quinn has been connected to a handful of head coaching vacancies this offseason, but wasn’t hired by Brooklyn, Charlotte, or Washington and doesn’t appear to be a frontrunner in the Lakers’ search. The veteran assistant and former NBA player has long been one of Erik Spoelstra‘s top lieutenants, having been with the Heat since 2014.

A recent report indicated that the Heat are working on a new deal for Quinn, with Spoelstra looking to keep his coaching staff intact, so if he doesn’t end up being the Cavs’ or Lakers’ top choice, he’ll almost certainly continue on in his role as Miami’s lead assistant.

In addition to the four candidates they’ve been granted permission to speak to so far, the Cavaliers have also been linked to Dave Joerger, Micah Nori, and Terry Stotts as they seek a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff. With the team apparently in the process of scheduling and beginning its first round of interviews, we should know soon whether those coaches – or others – will formally meet with the team.

2024 NBA Offseason Preview: Chicago Bulls

The Bulls went 39-43 during the 2023/24 season, a year after going 40-42 in ’22/23 and two years after posting a 19-23 second-half record following Lonzo Ball‘s season-ending knee injury in ’21/22.

Yes, it briefly looked like the pieces might all fit together when Ball was healthy early in his first year with the team and the Bulls went 27-13, but that was a long time ago. Kristaps Porzingis was still a Maverick back then; Tyrese Haliburton was still a King; Carmelo Anthony was still in the NBA.

Whether or not Ball is able to return to action this fall, three knee surgeries and two-and-a-half seasons later, his presence won’t turn a team that has been unable to play .500 ball without him into a legitimate contender.

Changes are badly needed in Chicago, and with no indication that the Bulls are planning to replace head coach Billy Donovan or remove decision-making power from head of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas, those changes will have to come on the court, where the team simply can’t run out this roster again with only cosmetic changes.

The Bulls haven’t completed a trade involving a player on their roster since before Ball got hurt — their only deal during that time came on draft night in 2023, when they sent a couple future second-round picks to Washington for the right to draft Julian Phillips at No. 35. I expect that period of inactivity on the trade market to end in a major way this summer, given the ample evidence that the current group isn’t built to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs.


The Bulls’ Offseason Plan

Of course, even if the Bulls’ brass accepts the premise that this roster is stuck in the middle and major changes are necessary, there are no easy answers about what exactly the next moves look like.

When a team retools its roster, the process typically involves building around a rising young star and/or trading away an impact veteran or two in exchange for a valuable package of team-friendly contracts and draft assets. But the Bulls, who haven’t had a first-round pick in two of the last three years, don’t exactly have a plethora of young talent on rookie scale contracts to build around.

Coby White enjoyed a major breakout year in 2023/24 and is on a relatively team-friendly deal, but he projects more as an above-average starter going forward than a true star. Former second-rounder Ayo Dosunmu, another player already on his second contract, also looks more like a solid rotation piece than a future All-Star. Dalen Terry, Chicago’s 2022 first-rounder, has yet to earn a regular rotation role, while 2020 lottery pick Patrick Williams is headed for restricted free agency after suffering two major injuries in the past three years and never averaging more than 10.2 points per game. The Bulls are also picking outside the top 10 in this year’s draft, reducing the odds of finding a franchise cornerstone there.

Maybe, then, cashing in on some veteran trade chips is the way to go for Chicago. But the Bulls don’t have a Donovan Mitchell or a Rudy Gobert on hand to kick-start their retooling process like the Jazz did two summers ago when they traded those two stars for a total of eight players (including former Bull Lauri Markkanen), seven unprotected or lightly protected first-round picks, and three pick swaps.

The Bulls’ top trade chips come with more red flags, starting with Zach LaVine. LaVine is a terrific scorer who has a pair of All-Star nods and a career 38.2% three-point percentage on his résumé, but he’s coming off season-ending foot surgery, has never been an asset on the defensive end, and is owed approximately $138MM across the next three seasons. That contract is harder to stomach under the new CBA, which has created additional challenges for teams carrying multiple maximum-salary players. LaVine’s trade value will be at an all-time low this summer, so there’s no guarantee a trade partner will give up even one unprotected future first-rounder for him unless the Bulls attach another asset or take back some unwanted money.

Moving 33-year-old center Nikola Vucevic won’t be much easier. Vucevic’s shooting percentages in 2023/24 (.484 FG%, .294 3PT%) were below his career rates and he’s not a feared rim protector. His contract, which runs for two more years and is worth $41.5MM, isn’t especially onerous, but it’s not team-friendly either, which will limit his appeal as a trade piece.

DeMar DeRozan would have more value on the trade market than either LaVine or Vucevic, but his contract with the Bulls will expire next month, so he’s not a legitimate trade candidate unless the team can find a sign-and-trade partner. Alex Caruso might be Chicago’s most sought-after trade chip, but the team has set a high asking price for him during recent transaction windows, and now that he’s on an expiring contract, suitors would be reluctant to give up a substantial return unless they’re pretty confident they’d be able to extend him.

Given all these challenges, what might the Bulls’ offseason look like? Well, even if LaVine won’t return a huge package of first-round picks, it’s probably the right time for the two sides to go their separate ways, and there will likely be at least one team willing to take a swing on a player who once averaged 27.4 points per game on .507/.419/.849 shooting and is still just 29 years old.

Chicago’s blueprint in a LaVine trade should be the Russell Westbrook deal the Wizards made with the Lakers in 2021 — in that swap, Washington gave up Westbrook and a pair of future second-round picks in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and that year’s No. 22 pick.

The Bulls likely won’t come out as well as Washington did, since Westbrook’s value was higher then than LaVine’s is now, but the goal should be to acquire a few role players whose cap hits are more manageable than LaVine’s $43MM figure and whom the Bulls might be able to get more out of than their previous team did. Any draft assets they can acquire on top of that would be great, but even just turning LaVine into two or three players who could play lesser roles and who could be flipped more easily in future deals could be a win, especially if the club can shed some salary in the process.

All indications are that the Bulls and DeRozan are interested in continuing their relationship as he enters his age-35 season. While I’m skeptical that DeRozan will still be playing at a high level by the time Chicago becomes a legitimate contender, I don’t hate the idea of re-signing him to a relatively short-term deal, perhaps one that includes two fully guaranteed years. The return in a sign-and-trade would likely be minimal, and he’s still a valuable enough asset that you’d prefer not to lose him for nothing. If the Bulls re-sign him and decide by the 2025 trade deadline that they want to tear the roster down further, DeRozan would be movable at that time.

Re-signing Williams to avoid losing the asset is also probably the right play — he has shown flashes of real two-way upside and the Bulls will be wary of repeating what happened with Markkanen, who blossomed into an All-Star after leaving Chicago. But the team will have to tread carefully in negotiations with Williams, who reportedly turned down a four-year, $64MM extension offer last fall. Investing long-term in the former No. 4 overall pick means betting on further growth and more consistent production. It’s a bit of a risk, so if there’s another suitor pushing up the price for Williams, the Bulls will have to determine just how high they’re willing to go to match it. It’s also worth noting that since he’ll be restricted, a sign-and-trade deal involving Williams would probably be more viable than one for DeRozan.

The Bulls will have to be careful about their proximity to the luxury tax line as they discuss new contracts with DeRozan and Williams. Once they fully guarantee Caruso’s salary and take into account the cap hold for the No. 11 overall pick, the Bulls will have about $130.4MM committed to 10 roster spots. On the surface, that looks like plenty of breathing room below the projected luxury tax line of $171.3MM, but DeRozan and Williams earned $38.4MM last season and are unlikely to make less than that in 2024/25. Bringing back those two players and adding two more minimum-salary players would almost certainly push team salary into tax territory, which the franchise has made an effort to avoid over the years.

With those financial constraints in mind, there are certain scenarios in which the Bulls may be inclined to let DeRozan or Williams walk, though that would be a tough sell to fans when the only real benefit is saving team ownership some money. Ideally, the Bulls would be able to cut costs elsewhere, perhaps by sending out more salary than they take back in a LaVine deal or by trading Jevon Carter‘s $6.5MM contract into another team’s cap room or trade exception.

Of course, moving off of Vucevic’s or Ball’s $20MM+ salaries would create more significant cap savings, but the Bulls couldn’t realistically expect anything of value back if the goal is to just dump those contracts. They’d definitely have to attach an asset or two to find a taker for Ball, and that may be true of Vucevic too if they’re not taking back an equivalent salary. It’s probably more prudent to hang onto those guys for now and see if they can improve their value as the season goes on.

Waiving and stretching the final year of Ball’s contract is another option if his knee continues to be a problem — that would save the team upwards of $14MM on its ’24/25 cap, likely avoiding tax issues in the short term, but would add $7MM per year for the following two seasons, so it’s not an ideal path.

For what it’s worth, it wouldn’t be hard to find a taker for Caruso’s expiring $10MM contract on the trade market without taking salary back, especially since teams will be able to use their mid-level exceptions as trade exceptions beginning this offseason. But the Bulls would likely only go that route if they’re hitting the full reset button and don’t intend to be competitive at all next season.

There’s certainly a case to be made that that’s the route management should take, but after Karnisovas stuck with this group for so long, it’s hard to picture him totally blowing it up all at once — the changes will likely be incremental, with LaVine among the first dominoes to fall.

Finally, while the No. 11 pick might not put Chicago in position to draft a future All-Star, there’s no reason the team shouldn’t be able to secure a prospect who will develop into a high-level rotation player. With White and Dosunmu expected to return and at least one or two of LaVine, Caruso, Carter, and/or Ball in the mix, the Bulls should be relatively set in the backcourt, but they could use help on the wing and in the frontcourt.

Tidjane Salaun, Ron Holland, Cody Williams, Ja’Kobe Walter, and Tristan Da Silva are some possible fits who could be available at No. 11. Zach Edey may be an intriguing option there too, since he appears more NBA-ready than many prospects in that range and the Bulls could have a hole at backup center if Andre Drummond commands a raise in free agency. Unless they’re able to shed salary in other moves, the Bulls will likely have to let Drummond walk and sign a minimum-salary veteran to back up Vucevic.


Salary Cap Situation

Guaranteed Salary

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • Alex Caruso ($6,890,000)
    • Partial guarantee. Rest of salary noted above. Caruso’s salary will become guaranteed if he remains under contract through June 30.
  • Onuralp Bitim ($1,891,857)
  • Andrew Funk (two-way)
  • Total: $8,781,857

Dead/Retained Salary

  • None

Player Options

Team Options

  • None

Restricted Free Agents

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 11 overall pick ($5,210,760 cap hold)
  • Total (cap holds): $5,210,760

Extension-Eligible Players

  • Lonzo Ball (veteran)
  • Alex Caruso (veteran)
  • DeMar DeRozan (veteran)
    • Extension-eligible until June 30.

Note: Unless otherwise indicated, these players are eligible for extensions beginning in July.

Unrestricted Free Agents

Other Cap Holds

  • Matt Thomas ($2,093,637 cap hold)
  • Total (cap holds): $2,093,637

Note: Thomas’ cap hold is on the Bulls’ books from a prior season because he hasn’t been renounced. He can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.

Cap Exceptions Available

Note: The Bulls project to operate over the cap and under the first tax apron. If they approach or exceed the first apron, they would lose access to the full mid-level exception and bi-annual exception and would gain access to the taxpayer mid-level exception ($5,183,000).

  • Non-taxpayer mid-level exception: $12,859,000
  • Bi-annual exception: $4,681,000

Fischer’s Latest: Hartenstein, Thunder, Claxton, Valanciunas, Cavs

There are few – if any – NBA free-agents-to-be whose stocks improved more in the postseason than Isaiah Hartenstein, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who suggests the Knicks big man has a case to be considered the best center on the free agent market this summer.

Nets big man Nic Claxton, widely viewed the top option at the position, is considered likely receive at least $20-25MM annually, according to previous reports. Fischer says there’s a belief around the NBA that Hartenstein could end up in that neighborhood too, with league executives and cap strategists speculating he might sign for $80-100MM. The Knicks would be limited to offering up to $72.5MM over four years using their Early Bird rights.

According to Fischer, the Thunder are the possible Hartenstein destination mentioned most frequently by team executives, despite the fact that he seems “incongruent” with the playing style they established en route to the No. 1 seed in the West this past season. Fischer suggests Hartenstein’s ability as a passer and screener to bring a new dimension to Oklahoma City, while his rebounding would improve one of the league’s worst teams in that area.

Hartenstein almost signed with the Magic before joining the Knicks, Fischer notes, but it’s unclear whether Orlando would still be a fit, given Moritz Wagner‘s emergence in the frontcourt during the last couple seasons and Jonathan Isaac‘s return to health. The team also rebuffed trade offers for Wendell Carter at February’s deadline, Fischer adds, which indicates he’s part of the plans going forward.

The Pistons are another team with cap room that has been frequently linked to Hartenstein over the years, per Fischer, but it’s unclear whether new head of basketball operations Trajan Langdon will share that interest or whether Detroit will be in the market for a center this summer.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • Addressing Claxton’s free agency, Fischer says that NBA personnel have “long prepared” for the 25-year-old to remain with the Nets. If the two sides are able to reach an agreement between the end of the Finals and the start of free agency, it would improve Hartenstein’s leverage on the open market.
  • Pelicans big man Jonas Valanciunas is another starting-caliber center on track for unrestricted free agency this offseason, but league executives don’t anticipate a huge payday for the Lithuanian, forecasting a deal in the range of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (approximately $12.9MM), Fischer writes.
  • The Cavaliers don’t seem motivated to listen to trade inquiries on any of their core four of Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, and Evan Mobley, sources tell Fischer. It’s unclear if that will change later in the offseason — if Mitchell signs an extension to remain in Cleveland, it’s possible that Garland would seek a change of scenery. For what it’s worth, head of basketball operations Koby Altman has stated publicly that he doesn’t anticipate making “sweeping changes” to the roster in the coming months.

Mavericks Notes: Playoff Success, Irving, Doncic, Finals Matchup

The Mavericks didn’t mind being under the radar when the playoffs started, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Dallas didn’t get much notice after going 50-32 and finishing as the No. 5 seed in the West, but the team was much more dangerous than its record indicated. The Mavs closed the regular season on a 15-1 run and were fully confident heading into the postseason, as Kyrie Irving explained after the team punched its ticket to the NBA Finals Thursday night.

“We’ve grown over the past few months,” Irving said. “This has been a journey for us. I like to think that being fifth took some pressure off of us coming into this postseason. Everybody was looking at the top three seeds, so I felt like we snuck in there a little bit and surprised a few teams. But the guys in the locker room have always had that utmost confidence in one another.”

The Mavericks’ journey from a lottery team last season to potential NBA champs was punctuated by a pair of deadline deals in February that brought in Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington. Combined with the addition of Dereck Lively II in last year’s draft, that created a versatile supporting cast around Irving and Luka Doncic.

“If you look at our regular season, I don’t think it tells the whole truth of who we are — or who we were,” Irving added. “I felt like the second half of the season, everybody got to kind of see what we were made of.”

There’s more on the Mavericks:

  • Minority team owner Mark Cuban believes Dallas was able to rejuvenate Irving “by listening to him and not telling him,” Marc Stein notes in a Substack column. There were plenty of doubters when the Mavs traded for Irving in February 2023 and again when they re-signed him last summer, but he and Doncic have figured out how to be successful together. The organization has created an ideal environment for Irving, Stein adds. Jason Kidd is a head coach he respects, general manger Nico Harrison was Irving’s longtime business partner at Nike, assistant coach God Shammgod is a close friend who works with Irving every day, and Markieff Morris is a trusted teammate who provides emotional support.
  • Doncic took control early in Game 5 and sent a message that the Mavericks were ready to close out the series, observes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. He finished with 36 points, his highest-scoring game of the playoffs, and 10 of those came in the first 2:33 of action. “It was Luka magic mode,” Kidd said. “He set the tone, and then he made it easier for everyone else. Everybody else stepped up.”
  • The Celtics will present a fresh matchup problem for the Mavericks in the Finals, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Hollinger points out that Dallas likes to keep its centers close to the basket, even if that means giving up three-point shots to opposing big men, but that’s a risky strategy against Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford.

And-Ones: Wiggins, Canada, Magnay, Draft History

With the 2024 Olympics just a month-and-a-half away, Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins offered no clarity during a conference call on Thursday about whether he’ll be part of the Canadian national team competing in Paris, as Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca relays.

“They had a great summer last year when they had qualified for the Olympics, all those guys did their thing and really put on [a show] for the country, and I’d be honored to play for our country,” Wiggins said. “We’ll see what happens, you know, you guys just stay tuned and, you know, we’ll see what the road brings.”

Wiggins has represented his country in past international tournaments, including the 2020 Olympic qualifiers. He also competed in the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship, leading the team in scoring and helping Canada claim a bronze medal.

However, he wasn’t part of the Canadian squad that won bronze at the 2023 World Cup last summer and didn’t make the three-year commitment to the program in 2022 that many of his fellow countrymen did, so it would probably require some buy-in from the core to have him “parachute in” for the Olympics, Grange observes.

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

  • Australian center Will Magnay, who won a National Basketball League title with the Tasmania JackJumpers earlier this year, is exploring NBA opportunities this offseason, per Olgun Uluc of ESPN (YouTube link). Magnay has a workout lined up with the Hawks and will also audition for four other NBA teams, Uluc reports. Magnay spent most of the 2020/21 season on a two-way contract with New Orleans, but appeared in just one NBA game that season.
  • The recent history of top-20 picks who are 22 years old or older isn’t great, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, who takes a deep dive into the players who have met that criteria since 2008. As Vorkunov points out, a number of players who are 22 or older look like potential top-20 picks in the 2024 draft, which will make it a fascinating case study on how much age still matters to teams picking in that range.
  • Meanwhile, Howard Beck of The Ringer examines the history of No. 1 overall picks, noting that the only two No. 1 picks since 1993 who have led their teams to titles (as the best player on the roster) are Tim Duncan and LeBron James. As Beck acknowledges, a few other No. 1 picks have won titles as co-stars (Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Wiggins) or role players (Glenn Robinson, Andrew Bogut, Dwight Howard). “I think actually the no. 1 pick in the NBA mostly has a perception problem,” Sixers president Daryl Morey told Beck, “because there have been so many iconic players selected no. 1. And the fanfare around them is so large when they’re coming into the league that people remember that.”

Wolves Notes: Towns, Edwards, Ownership Fight, Connelly

As the Timberwolves deal with the disappointment of a Game 5 blowout that ended their playoff run, the focus now turns to the future and whether the franchise can afford to keep the core of its current team together. Karl-Anthony Towns, who has been the focus of some trade speculation because of his pricey contract, told reporters after Thursday’s game that he wants to stay in Minnesota, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I’m confident I’ll be able to be here with my brothers and continue what I love to do here at home,” said Towns who has spent his entire nine-year NBA career with the team. “So that’s the plan. Nothing’s changed on my side. I love this city. I love this organization. I love this city. It’s given me my life, me and my family.”

Towns’ $221MM extension will take effect next season, paying him roughly $49.4MM, $53.3MM and $57.3MM over the next three years with a $61.2MM player option for 2027/28. With an expensive roster around him and an unsettled ownership situation, there’s no guarantee the Wolves will be willing to keep Towns and deal with the second tax apron restrictions that will result.

Towns refused to comment on the team’s financial situation following Game 5.

“That’s not for me to worry about,” he said. “My job is to go out there every day and do something this summer in the offseason and continue to take steps forward in my game and my mentality not only as a player but as a person too.”

There’s more from Minnesota:

  • Anthony Edwards wasn’t discouraged by the loss, promising that the Wolves will be ready for another long playoff run next season, McMenamin adds. Edwards, who had three 40-point games in the playoffs, believes the organization has a bright future after reaching the conference finals for the first time in 20 years. “It’s a lot of our guys’ first time being in this light, especially me. It’s my first time,” he said. “But we’ll be ready, man. We’ll be all right. First time. Took a loss. Congratulations to the Mavericks. But we’ll be back. We’ll be all right.”
  • A three-person arbitration panel has been selected to oversee the ownership dispute, but there are no signs of a quick resolution, according to Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania of The Athletic. Arena sources tell the authors that the bitter feelings between current majority owner Glen Taylor and prospective owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez have intensified, reporting that Taylor tried to approach the duo several times during the playoffs and even attempted to hug Rodriguez, but was turned away.
  • President of basketball operations Tim Connelly, who has an opt-out clause in his contract, will have to make a decision on his future before the ownership situation is settled, Krawczynski and Charania add. They note that Lore and Rodriguez led the recruiting pitch that convinced Connelly to leave Denver, and he joined the Wolves with the expectation of eventually working for them. Sources tell the authors that Minnesota was very concerned about the Pistons making a huge offer to lure Connelly away before they opted to make Trajan Langdon their new head of basketball operations.