Ben Simmons

Atlantic Notes: Zion, Raptors, Loyd, Moreland, Sixers

The Knicks apparently won’t have to worry about Zion Williamson demanding a trade if they win the lottery. Williamson said on Friday that he would “love to play” for the Knicks if they drafted him, Adam Zagoria of the New York Times tweets. The Duke freshman made the remark during a Final Four press conference while accepting the Oscar Robertson (Player of the Year) Award. He went on to say he’d be happy to go wherever he was drafted.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors made a number of cost-cutting moves during the course of the season that saved an approximate $18MM, as Blake Murphy of The Athletic details. Waiving Lorenzo Brown, dumping the salaries of Malachi Richardson and Greg Monroe, trading three players for Marc Gasol, getting Gasol to waive his trade kicker, and signing players to 10-day contracts to meet roster requirements all contributed to a healthier bottom line.
  • The Raptors still have an open roster spot heading toward the playoffs and will likely sign a player, Murphy writes in the same story. Guard Jordan Loyd’s two-way contract could be converted to a standard contract and center Eric Moreland, who recently played on a 10-day contract, is another candidate. Veteran center Marcin Gortat could also be in play.
  • The 76ers believe their powerhouse starting lineup will be the difference in the playoffs, even though they haven’t played much together, Michael Lee of The Athletic reports. They’ve gone 8-2 in games that Tobias Harris, J.J. Redick, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler have all been available to play. “Although that starting group hasn’t played that much basketball together, especially relative to the other teams, the excitement is to take the talent we have and quickly try to maximize that,” coach Brett Brown said.

Injury Notes: Embiid, Richardson, McCaw

Joel Embiid will miss the next three games for the Sixers, starting with tonight’s tilt against the Timberwolves, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. The move to leave Embiid home during the three-game road trip is part of pre-determined maintenance.

Embiid missed time following the All-Star break with knee soreness and other players, such as Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons, have also missed time because of injury and rest concerns. As a result, the team’s starting five has only played in 10 games together this season, as I detailed last week.

Here’s more injury notes from around the league:

  • Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said there is no timetable for Josh Richardson (left heel) to return to action, as Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald relays on Twitter. Spoelstra added that he doesn’t believe Richardson is done for the season.
  • Patrick McCaw will be in a splint for approximately three weeks, according to a Raptors press release. He will be re-evaluated at that time.
  • Kyrie Irving and Al Horford will both miss tonight’s contest against the Nets, Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com passes along. Irving’s nursing a sore back while Horford has a sore left knee. Neither player is expected to miss an extended period of time for the Celtics.

And-Ones: NBA Execs Poll, Mourning, Reid, Gray

Various NBA executives and coaches were polled this month by Tim Bontemps of ESPN, questioned on which sophomore player they’d rather have: Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum or De’Aaron Fox.

All four players are considered to be among the league’s best young talent, but ranking the players is tougher than what it seems. The polling from the ESPN article largely echoed the results of the 2018 Rookie of the Year Award race, with Simmons ranking first, Mitchell second, Tatum third, and Fox fourth. Simmons received as many first-place votes (nine) as the other three players did combined.

“Simmons is in his own class,” an Eastern Conference executive told Bontemps, “because of his size and passing ability, plus his defense. Having the ability to control the game at both ends is really valuable.”

Of the four players, Simmons is the only talent without a reliable jumpshot. The thought of him one day having a consistent jumper — in addition to his already mesmerizing passing, rebounding and driving abilities — could strike fear in teams around the league.

However, not all of those polled agreed with Simmons being one of the top choices of the four players.

“Simmons doesn’t shoot,” one West executive said. “If you’re a championship-caliber team, non-shooters can’t be on the floor.”

“He’s really f—ing good,” another said. “But where do you play him?”

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

  • NBA legend Alonzo Mourning is among 11 world class basketball personalities that make up FIBA Hall of Fame’s 2019 class of inductees, FIBA announced this week. Mourning joins Janeth Arcain (Brazil), Bogdan Tanjevic (Montenegro) and others to be inducted, having helped Team USA win the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 1994. He also went on to help win a gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
  • LSU expects to lose 19-year-old forward Naz Reid for the NBA Draft this spring, Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.com writes. “Yeah, we’re expecting to lose him,” LSU assistant Greg Heiar admitted last week. “If you’re a top-20 pick in the draft, you need to go. You need to go. It’s what his dream is so we want him to chase his dream. You never want to hold a young man back.” Along with Reid, another LSU player who could garner professional interest in the coming months is Tremont Waters, an improved 5’11” point guard with impressive handles and court vision.
  • Free agent Rob Gray has agreed to a deal in France with JL Bourg, according to Sportando. Gray started the 2018/19 season with Fort Wayne in the NBA G League, with their campaign officially coming to an end this past week. Gray played summer league and later joined the Rockets for training camp last fall, getting waived before the season began.

No Tampering Penalty For Lakers’ Comments On Simmons

The NBA has announced that it completed its investigation into possible contact between Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and Sixers star Ben Simmons and found no wrongdoing.

“We have concluded that Magic Johnson’s statements regarding Ben Simmons do not constitute a tampering violation,” the league said in its statement. “The Philadelphia 76ers initiated the contact with the Los Angeles Lakers by requesting a meeting between Johnson and Simmons. Both organizations ultimately concluded that such a meeting did not make sense at this time but in that context, Johnson’s response to a media inquiry regarding Simmons does not run afoul of league rules.”

Johnson kicked off an unusual news cycle over the weekend by revealing that Simmons had interest in meeting with him during the offseason to pick his brain about playing in the NBA as a point guard with size. While Johnson said he was open to the idea, subsequent reports indicated that both teams had decided it wouldn’t happen. Nonetheless, the league looked into the matter to see if there was communication between Lakers and the Simmons that violated anti-tampering rules.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com and Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times painted a clearer picture of the chain of events, reporting that Simmons initially mentioned his idea to a member of the Sixers. According to Ganguli, that person was Allen Lumpkin, Philadelphia’s director of basketball administration, who reached out to Lakers GM Rob Pelinka. Pelinka, in turn, called 76ers GM Elton Brand, and both GMs decided they were uncomfortable with the idea.

Brand told ESPN that he considers the situation a non-issue, and apologized to the Lakers for insinuating during a Monday radio appearance they they reached out to the Sixers unprompted to ask about a Simmons/Johnson meeting, per Shelburne.

The Lakers were fined $500K in 2017 for tampering with Paul George, and were hit with another $50K fine last year after Johnson made comments about Giannis Antetokounmpo. On Monday, Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry was penalized $25K for publicly discussing Anthony Davis.

Lakers Notes: Simmons, Hart, Ball, Zubac

The Lakers released a statement stating that the Sixers had sought their permission for floor leader Ben Simmons to speak with team president Magic Johnson, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. Philadelphia emailed the Lakers in November, according to the statement, asking if Simmons could speak with Johnson about his Hall of Fame career. Lakers GM Rob Pelinka subsequently told Sixers GM Elton Brand that Johnson could only do that with Philadelphia’s written pre-approval. That was the end of the matter, the release adds. The league has launched an investigation to determine if any communication between the parties violated league rules.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Guard Josh Hart received a PRP injection to treat tendinitis in his right knee, according to a team press release. Hart will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break, the release adds. Hart didn’t play in blowout losses against Indiana and Philadelphia and only lasted eight scoreless minutes against Boston.
  • Lonzo Ball isn’t considered a defensive specialist but the Lakers have missed him at that end of the court, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times notes. The Lakers’ defensive rating is the third-worst in the league in the nine games since Ball was sidelined by a severe ankle sprain. “He allows us to switch a lot,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “If they want to run any pick and roll minus the center, the 1-5 pick and roll, we can just switch it. And we feel confident Lonzo can guard most of the other players there. We have Lonzo picking up full-court the other team’s points guard. He’s great at instincts, getting deflections.”
  • Trading young center Ivica Zubac to the Clippers to ‘rent’ power forward Mike Muscala doesn’t make much sense, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report argues. Zubac could have been an inexpensive, long-term contributor for the Lakers, Pincus continues. He would have been a restricted free agent with a modest cap hold of $1.9 million. Muscala’s cap hold is $9.5MM and he might not be any more productive than Zubac would have been the rest of this season.
  • LeBron James claims the reason he drafted Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis for his All-Star team had nothing to do with recruiting, according to another Ganguli story. “That’s all part of the speculation that continues to drive our sport,” he said. “It’s all good and well and dandy, but for me I picked according to my draft board and I picked according to who was the best available.”

Atlantic Notes: B. Simmons, Lakers, Gasol, Knicks

Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson told reporters over the weekend that Ben Simmons had reached out to the team asking if he could get together with Johnson during the offseason to talk to him about playing in the NBA as a point guard with size. While Johnson suggested he’d be on board if the Sixers, the Lakers, and the NBA all signed off, it sounds like it won’t happen.

Appearing on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia (Twitter link), Sixers GM Elton Brand said today that Lakers GM Rob Pelinka contacted him to ask for authorization and Brand said no “over a month ago.” Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link) hears a different account, citing a source who says that the 76ers initiated the discussion about Simmons wanting to meet with Johnson, with Pelinka calling Brand back to say the Lakers weren’t comfortable with it.

While it’s not clear which team shot down the idea first, neither side appears to be on board, so presumably Simmons and Johnson won’t meet this summer. The fact that the young 76er is represented by Rich Paul is sure to generate some speculation, but Ganguli tweets that Simmons’ desire to talk to Johnson was simply due to their on-court similarities, and he intends to be a Sixer for a long time.

Ganguli’s report won’t necessarily satisfy the NBA though. According to league spokesperson Mike Bass, the NBA is looking into whether there was any communication between Simmons and the Lakers that violated league rules (Twitter link via Ganguli).

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Marc Gasol waived the 15% trade kicker on his contract to help finalize the trade sending him to Toronto last week, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks on The Lowe Post podcast. While the trade bonus would only have been worth about $1.29MM, Gasol’s decision could save the Raptors about $3.2MM in projected tax penalties, as Blake Murphy of The Athletic notes (via Twitter).
  • Speaking of Gasol, the Raptors are still experimenting with a fluid frontcourt rotation as they figure out how to best use Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and Pascal Siakam, head coach Nick Nurse said today (Twitter link via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca).
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic takes a wide-ranging look at what the summer could bring for the Knicks and their two maximum-salary contract slots, from the “utopia” outcome to the “doomsday” scenario.

Magic Johnson Discusses Trade Deadline, Free Agency

Magic Johnson spoke to the media prior to the Lakers‘ game against the 76ers on Sunday, discussing several topics that ranged from the trade deadline to the team’s upcoming free agency plans. Below are a sample of his comments.

Asked about the trade deadline – and implicitly the negotiations with the Pelicans for Anthony Davis – Johnson said that the Lakers didn’t feel as if they’d entered good-faith negotiations. “At the end of the day, what happened happened,” Johnson said (video link via Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group).

Johnson also downplayed the idea that players would be negatively impacted by having had to deal with the possibility of being traded, suggesting that it’s part of the business. “A lot of people got traded on Thursday and Wednesday,” Johnson said (video link via Bill Oram of The Athletic). “Guess what’s going to happen next year? A lot of players are going to get traded.”

Johnson also indicated that the lack of success negotiating a trade for Davis won’t affect the Lakers’ free agency plans (Twitter link via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com).

Finally, Johnson revealed that Ben Simmons reached out to the Lakers about the possibility of working with Johnson over the summer, as Simmons hopes to learn from the best big guard in league history. Johnson expressed his willingness to work with Simmons, but only if the league approves such an arrangement (video link via Oram).

LeBron, Giannis Draft 2019 All-Star Teams

LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo drafted their teams for the 2019 All-Star Game on Thursday, officially finalizing the rosters for this year’s contest. James and Antetokounmpo were chosen as captains because they were the All-Star starter from each conference with the most fan votes.

Both James and Antetokounmpo first had to select from a pool of starters, then from a list of reserve players. The starters, which consisted of eight other players, were voted on by the fans, players and media this season. The reserve players were voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches.

James drafted Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden as starters, choosing Durant as his first selection. His reserves were Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge, Karl-Anthony Towns, Bradley Beal and Dwyane Wade.

Antetokounmpo drafted Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid, Paul George and Kemba Walker as his starters, selecting Curry with his first pick. He drafted Khris Middleton, Nikola Jokic, Ben Simmons, Blake Griffin, D’Angelo Russell, Nikola Vucevic, Kyle Lowry and Dirk Nowitzki as his reserves.

James later traded Westbrook to Team Giannis in exchange for Simmons, making an effort to repair the relationship of Westbrook and Embiid.

The 68th NBA All-Star Game is set to commence on February 17 at Spectrum Center, featuring 26 of the best basketball players in the world.

Sixers Unlikely To Pursue Anthony Davis

The Sixers have the pieces to put together a competitive offer for Anthony Davis, but the team currently has no plans to pursue a deal, sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

It’s hard to envision the Pelicans coveting a package centered around Jimmy Butler, and Joel Embiid simply isn’t going anywhere. That leaves Ben Simmons as the blue-chip asset which makes the most sense and a Simmons-led package would likely beat any other offer should the Sixers put it on the table.

Davis and Simmons are both represented by Rich Paul and a swap of the two is “highly unlikely,” Haynes writes. Philadelphia would be taking an incredible risk by dealing Simmons for Davis without assurance that Davis will stick around long-term.

Philadelphia could ostensibly put together a package without including their big three. Davis will bring in approximately $25.43MM this season and the Sixers a bevy of players on mid-sized deals, such as Wilson Chandler ($12.80MM), J.J. Redick ($12.25), Markelle Fultz ($8.34MM), and Mike Muscala ($5.00MM), whose salaries could be aggregated to match Davis’ figure.

The issue comes down to providing New Orleans value. Fultz was a former No. 1 overall pick but his struggles have deflated his price tag on the trade market, and the team’s veterans hold no value to a franchise that will ultimately begin a rebuild.

The Sixers wield draft capital, as they possess all their future first-round picks, though a closer look at the cupboard and the assets appear more glittery than golden. The Pelicans know that trading Davis to the Sixers would help them win more games and decrease the value of any of Philadelphia’s pick they receive.

The Sixers have an outside chance at landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft should the Kings win the lottery (Sacramento’s pick will go to the Celtics if it’s not the top selection as part of 2017’s Fultz trade). The Kings currently sit 13th in our Reverse Standings, meaning if the season ended today, the odds of the pick becoming the top selection would be one percent.

The pick simply isn’t that valuable, given how the odds are to receive nothing (there would be a zero chance at keeping the pick if the Kings make the playoffs). On the other hand, if Davis is still available on the trade market in late spring and the pick becomes the top selection, is it worth trading the No. 1 pick for a player who may bolt in a year?

The team does own Miami’s 2021 unprotected first-round pick and it could be the key piece in making a splash that doesn’t involve its trading away a current member of its big three. Still, unless Davis adds Philadelphia to its wish list, Elton Brand & Co. will look elsewhere for another big addition.

O’Connor’s Latest: Spurs, Porzingis, Sixers, Wolves

The Spurs are viewed by front office sources around the NBA as a team with “significant interest” in Kristaps Porzingis, reports Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Porzingis will be a restricted free agent this summer and while the Knicks are expected to retain him, they may be pushed by rival suitors if they’re unwilling to put a fully guaranteed maximum salary offer on the tables themselves.

Of course, as O’Connor acknowledges, San Antonio isn’t particularly well positioned to make Porzingis a lucrative long-term offer. Even if they waive and stretch Pau Gasol, who has a partially guaranteed salary for 2019/20, the Spurs will have about $96MM+ in guaranteed contracts on their books for next season.

That $96MM+ figure doesn’t account for San Antonio’s first-round pick or any other cap holds. Assuming a projected salary cap of $109MM, the team would need more than $27MM in room to offer Porzingis his maximum salary. In other words, even if the Spurs’ does have serious interest in the Knicks’ young big man, they’d have to reshape their roster substantially to go after him — New York’s top competition for Porzingis may ultimately come from elsewhere.

Here’s more from O’Connor:

  • While Jimmy Butler‘s issues with the Sixers‘ offensive system appear real, league sources tell O’Connor that the All-NBA swingman has “developed a good relationship” with Philadelphia stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. On Monday night, we passed along Butler’s comments on Brett Brown and the coach’s system.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns said on Monday that no one saw the firing of Tom Thibodeau coming, and it seems that doesn’t just apply to the Timberwolves‘ players — sources tell O’Connor that the decision came as a shock to many in the organization, and some staffers are “in limbo with no idea about what will happen next.”
  • According to O’Connor, league sources believe Fred Hoiberg will be a top candidate for the Timberwolves‘ permanent head coaching position, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Sunday. However, there have been no formal conversations between Hoiberg and owner Glen Taylor about the job, and the club is expected to wait until the offseason to make any decisions on its full-time coach and general manager. For now, coach Ryan Saunders and GM Scott Layden will remain in those roles.