Atlanta Hawks

Poll: Which 2-2 Series Will End In Upset?

Last year’s NBA Finals combatants, the Cavaliers and Warriors, made quick work of their first round playoff opponents, dispatching the Pacers and Trail Blazers respectively in four games apiece. However, many of the other first round series around the NBA remain very much up in the air.

Currently, four series are tied at 2-2, with two of those Game Fives scheduled for tonight, and two more on tap for Wednesday. The Clippers and Jazz have each split their home games, resulting in a 2-2 tie, while the No. 7 seeded Grizzlies won two home games over the Spurs following David Fizdale‘s post-Game 2 “take that for data” rant, pulling even in that series. Those four teams will be in action tonight.

Over in the Eastern Conference, the No. 1 seeded Celtics find themselves tied with the No. 8 Bulls in an unusual series in which road teams are 4-0 so far. Meanwhile, the Hawks ripped through the Wizards‘ defense in two games in Atlanta, evening that series at 2-2. Both of those series will resume on Wednesday.

In each of those four series, the higher seed maintains the advantage, with two of the final three games on their home court. But most of those higher seeds don’t look as formidable as they did entering the postseason.

What do you think? Will any of these series result in upsets? If the Jazz are able to knock off the Clippers, should that series even be viewed as a legit upset, given the absence of Blake Griffin and the teams’ identical regular season records?

Vote below on which lower seeds will make it through the first round — you can pick as many as you want. After placing your vote, share your thoughts in the comments section!

Hawks Will Try Hard To Keep Millsap

  • Re-signing free agent forward Paul Millsap will be an offseason priority for the Hawks, tweets Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal Constitution. The 31-year-old has been with Atlanta for the past four seasons, making the All-Star team in each one. He’s coming off a career-best scoring year at 18.1 points per game, along with 7.7 rebounds and a career-high 3.7 assists. “We are going to make every effort imaginable to keep him,” said Hawks owner Tony Ressler.

Dwight Howard Signs With Agent Andy Miller

  • Hawks center Dwight Howard, who was previously represented by Perry Rogers, has signed with ASM Sports and will be repped by agent Andy Miller going forward, tweets Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders. Howard remains under contract with Atlanta for two more years after this season, so he won’t be signing a new deal anytime soon.

Magic Rumors: G. Hill, Wright, Cousins, Hennigan

Shortly after the Magic fired general manager Rob Hennigan this morning, Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel reported that team officials have interest in pursuing Grant Hill as a potential president of basketball operations. Marc Stein of ESPN.com confirms Orlando’s interest in Hill, but tweets that the former Magic forward currently has no plans to leave the Hawks‘ ownership group.

As we wait to see if Hill’s stance changes, here are several more Magic-related notes, with a focus on today’s front office shakeup:

  • Spurs assistant GM Brian Wright is on the Magic‘s preliminary list of potential GM candidates, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Wojnarowski also notes that the leaked white board that went viral last week ultimately didn’t affect Orlando’s decision to replace Hennigan — the team had already decided to move on from him at that point.
  • Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated and Sam Amick of USA Today expressed surprise that the Magic dismissed assistant GM Scott Perry along with Hennigan (Twitter links). Both reporters note that the two men had different voices in the front office, suggesting that Perry would have likely been able to complete a trade for DeMarcus Cousins if Hennigan had been on board with it.
  • Although Hennigan didn’t have a ton of success in Orlando, he remains widely respected around the NBA and will likely have “attractive offers” to choose from when he looks for a new job, tweets Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com.
  • In non-Hennigan news, the Magic‘s D-League affiliate, which will begin play next season, will be called the Lakeland Magic, as Robbins details for The Sentinel.

Wizards’ Ian Mahinmi To Miss Start Of Playoffs

The Wizards will be without a key bench piece when their first-round series against the Hawks gets underway this weekend, reports Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. According to Buckner, veteran center Ian Mahinmi is dealing with a strained left calf, and will miss the team’s regular season finale, in addition to the start of the postseason.

Mahinmi, who sustained the injury on Monday, underwent an MRI that revealed some swelling. While Washington’s playoff schedule hasn’t yet been announced, the team intends to re-evaluate Mahinmi in seven to 10 days, so even if he’s ready to get back on the court at that point, he’d likely miss the first two or three games of the first round.

It’s a disappointing setback for Mahinmi, whose first season with the Wizards after signing a four-year, $64MM deal last summer has been marred by injuries. Although knee problems kept the 30-year-old out of action for most of the first half of the season, he had played well off the bench for Washington over the last couple months, averaging 5.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 1.1 SPG in 31 regular season contests (17.9 MPG).

“We’ll definitely miss Ian because he was actually playing his best basketball, defensively he was giving us a very good rim protector and pick-and-roll player,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said. “I’m still confident in the group. We’ll still play hard and play well.”

With Mahinmi out, the Wizards may lean more heavily on starting center Marcin Gortat, with players like Markieff Morris and Jason Smith spelling him as needed.

Hawks Name Malik Rose GM Of NBADL Affiliate

  • The Hawks announced today in a press release that front office executive Malik Rose has been promoted and will serve as the general manager of Atlanta’s new D-League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks. The BayHawks had been Orlando’s NBADL affiliate this past season, but the Hawks will assume control of the Erie club when the Magic introduce a new Lakeland affiliate in 2017/18.

Southeast Notes: Sefolosha, Reed, Porter, Georges-Hunt

Thabo Sefolosha settled his civil lawsuit with five members of the New York City Police Department, Thabo and his attorney announced Wednesday. Sefolosha’s attorney – Alex Spiro – told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he is “glad this matter is resolved.”

While financial terms of the settlement were said to be confidential, James C. McKinley Jr. of the New York Times reported a $4MM settlement from New York City, resulting from false arrest and using excessive force. Sefolosha released a statement through the Hawksofficial website, announcing his intent to make a donation to a nonprofit organization.

“While I alone can’t bring the type of change needed to eliminate these issues, I want to help make a difference,” Sefolosha stated. “A substantial portion of my settlement will be donated to Gideon’s Promise, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that helps support and train public defenders across the country…It is an extremely gratifying feeling to know that justice has been served and that now, finally, I can truly put this behind me.”

More from around the Southeast…

  • Willie Reed won’t comment on his impending opt out clause decision this offseason, claiming he’ll make that decision once the season’s over. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Reed’s excellent play may have placed him out of the Heat‘s price range. While Reed could stay in Miami for $1.5MM in 2017/18, he may command twice that amount on the open market, or more. “I think I’ve proved that I belong, that I can be a factor in this league for time to come. All I wanted to do was play in the NBA since I was a kid. I want to continuously show everyone I belong and I can be a factor in this league,” Reed said.
  • Otto Porter‘s “unassuming” game has lifted the Wizards to postseason contention, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports writes. Porter, who ranks 19th in the NBA in Win Shares, will be “coveted” as a restricted free agent this summer. Still just 23 years old, Porter may command a max contract- projected to be worth more than $146MM over five seasons.
  • Marcus Georges-Hunt has settled in with the Magic in his first NBA season, rewarding Frank Vogel for giving him a late-season look. An undrafted rookie, Georges-Hunt earned his NBA promotion by averaging 15.8 points over 45 games with the Maine Red Claws. “Marcus is a big-time scorer,” Vogel told Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders. “[He] really has the ability to score, especially in a game like this where you have so many exceptional drivers and the ability to move his feet and have some toughness to him and contain the basketball. That is a skillset our team has lacked this year.”

Potential 2017 RFAs Whose Qualifying Offers Will Be Impacted By Starter Criteria

The NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which will go into effect on July 1, 2017, includes a number of changes to the free agent process, including some that apply specifically to restricted free agents. However, one aspect of restricted free agency unaffected by the new CBA is what’s referred to as the “starter criteria,” which can affect how much an RFA’s qualifying offer will be worth.

Here’s how the starter criteria works: A player who is eligible for restricted free agency is considered to have met the starter criteria if he plays at least 2,000 minutes or starts 41 games in the season before he reaches free agency. A player can also meet the criteria if he averages either of those marks in the two seasons prior to his restricted free agency. For instance, if a player started 50 games in 2015/16 and 35 in 2016/17, he’d meet the starter criteria, since his average number of starts over the last two seasons exceeds 41.

A player’s ability or inability to meet the starter criteria can affect the value of the qualifying offer he receives as a restricted free agent, as follows:

  • A top-14 pick who does not meet the starter criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 15th overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A player picked between 10th and 30th who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the ninth overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A second-round pick or undrafted player who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 21st overall pick would receive if he signed for 100% of the rookie scale.
  • For all other RFAs, the standard criteria determine the amounts of their qualifying offers.

Extending a qualifying offer to a player ensures that a team has the right of first refusal if he signs an offer sheet, and gives the player the option of signing that one-year QO. Generally, the value of a restricted free agent’s qualifying offer isn’t hugely important, since very few RFAs accept those offers outright. Still, those QOs can have an impact on a team’s salary cap outlook during July’s free agent period, so it’s worth checking in to see which potential RFAs will be eligible for higher or lower qualifying offers this summer.

Listed below are the top-14 picks on track for restricted free agency who have not met the starter criteria. These players will be eligible for qualifying offers worth $4,187,598.

Len and Noel had the worst QO luck this season. As the fifth and sixth overall picks in 2013, they would have been in line for qualifying offers worth about $6.4MM and $5.85MM, respectively. Instead, their QOs will be worth less than $4.2MM. Both players were very close to meeting the starter criteria too — they’ve started 77 games apiece in the past two years, so they’ll fall just short of the 82 required.

The players listed below are non-lottery first-round picks who will meet the starter criteria. That will make each of them eligible for a qualifying offer worth $4,588,840.

All four of these players were selected in the 20-26 range in the 2013 draft, and their QOs would’ve ranged from about $3.39MM to $3.22MM if they hadn’t met the starter criteria.

Here are the rest of the RFAs whose qualifying offers won’t necessarily be determined by the standard criteria:

  • Undrafted power forward JaMychal Green (Grizzlies) has met the starter criteria, putting him in line for a QO worth $2,820,497 instead of the more modest amount he would’ve received as a minimum-salary player.
  • Two players – Joe Ingles (Jazz) and Ben McLemore (Kings) – still have a chance to meet the starter criteria depending on how the season’s last four days play out. Ingles has played 1,848 minutes this season, meaning he would have to average about 38 MPG in Utah’s last four contests to reach 2,000, which is a tall order. McLemore may fall just short as well, as he currently sits at 79 starts over the last two seasons. He’ll need to start three of the Kings’ last four games in order to average 41 starts per year, but he has only been in Sacramento’s starting lineup twice since the start of March. (End-of-season update: Neither Ingles nor McLemore met the starter criteria.)

Paul Millsap Close To Returning

It has been a rough few weeks for the Hawks, who have struggled to keep their hold on the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, having been caught by the Bucks in the standings. Still, Atlanta has won its lost two games and more good news is on the way. According to Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Paul Millsap has returned to practice and signs are pointing toward him returning to action soon.

Millsap underwent a non-surgical procedure recently to help address the swelling and fluid buildup in his knee, following his diagnosis of synovitis. The four-time All-Star has missed the Hawks’ last seven games and his return would be a boon for a team that has posted an 8-14 record since mid-February.

Hawks' Ilyasova Understands Business Side Of Basketball

  • Ersan Ilyasova was both surprised and not surprised to be traded from the Sixers to the Hawks at the deadline, tweets Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly. He thought he fit well in Philadelphia, but adds that he understands the business side of basketball. Ilyasova has been with six teams since the 2014/15 season and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
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