Billy Donovan

Community Shootaround: Coach Of The Year Favorites

This season, the Coach of the Year race appears to have plenty of intriguing candidates. With the All-Star break upon us, we at Hoops Rumors deemed it a good time to reflect on where things stand currently.

Mike Budenholzer is leading the 46-8 Bucks towards potentially the NBA’s third-ever 70+ win season. Superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo may win his second consecutive MVP award under Budenholzer’s tutelage, while wing Khris Middleton has made his second straight All-Star team.

In their second year under Nick Nurse, the Raptors are miraculously on pace for a better record than they had during a champion run last year, minus 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Pascal Siakam has blossomed into an All-Star starter. Fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry has remained a steadying presence on the court. Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell have all taken notable leaps.

Erik Spoelstra has coached the new-look Heat to a 35-19 record in the East, helped center Bam Adebayo become a first-time All-Star, and made the most out of promising rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, plus second-year sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.

The Celtics lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to free agency over the summer, and signed Kemba Walker in Irving’s stead. Team chemistry appears to have improved significantly, and coach Brad Stevens has helped Walker return to the All-Star game and Jayson Tatum make his first appearance in the big show, while leading Boston to a 38-16 record (including a recent eight-game win streak).

Though the Lakers missed out on signing priority head coach options Tyronn Lue and Monty Williams over the summer, their supposed “consolation” option Frank Vogel has impressed in his first season with the team. The Lakers have a 41-12 record, tops in the West thus far, and have been able to incorporate several mercurial veterans into an upbeat, defensive-oriented locker room atmosphere.

There are several contenders elsewhere in the NBA. Billy Donovan has helped take the Thunder to a surprisingly robust 33-22 record. Rick Carlisle has brought the Mavericks back to the thick of the playoff hunt with an identical record to the Thunder’s and helped Luka Doncic become a first-time All-Star starter. 35-year-old coach Taylor Jenkins has brought the young Grizzlies back to relevance after the team offloaded former franchise cornerstones Marc Gasol and Mike Conley in 2019.

Who do you think will walk away with Coach of the Year hardware in 2020? Let us know!

Northwest Notes: Donovan, Wiggins, Jazz, Nuggets

The NBA implemented a new coach’s challenge for the 2019/20 season, giving head coaches an opportunity to challenge one questionable call per game that requires officials to pause the contest and review a designated play.

The challenge has mostly received poor feedback from the league’s head coaches, who cite that it bogs down what’s already become a slower last few minutes of the game. Among the coaches who believe the challenge should be changed, despite several contesting it should be removed altogether, is Thunder coach Billy Donovan.

“The thing with the challenge, which to me would be a little bit better, would be if you challenge and you’re successful, you keep your challenge,” Donovan said, as relayed by Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman. “Because what ends up happening is you don’t know when to use it. There’s no time to use it because you can look back the next day and go through every play and say, ‘Okay that should have been a time that I used the challenge. But I used it over here.’ You can’t tell.”

Roughly half of the coach’s challenges have come in the fourth quarter to date, showing teams’ tendencies to hold onto the challenge for when they need it most. Donovan’s idea likely won’t sit well with the portion of NBA viewers who wish the game was sped up in the final minutes.

Here are some other notes from the Northwest Division tonight:

  • Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins remains committed to staying aggressive and attacking the basket this season, Chris Hine of the Star Tribune writes. Wiggins has averaged a career-best 24.9 points on 45% shooting through 17 games. He’s seen his numbers slightly regress in the past couple of weeks, but that won’t deter the 24-year-old from continuing to do what he does best. “I feel like that’s how it goes,” Wiggins said. “I just haven’t been hitting. It’s not just shots. It’s layups. It’s stuff around the rim. I’m right there to drop it in, and they’re just going in and out. I’m just going to keep doing the same thing and I know it’s going to drop.”
  • Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune examines the easier December schedule for the Jazz, pondering whether the franchise will be able to take advantage of their upcoming games. Utah is just 13-10 through 23 games, good for the sixth-best record in the Western Conference.
  • The Nuggets’ success in recent seasons has hinged on players’ ability to sacrifice, Sean Keeler of the Denver Post writes. Denver has a roster loaded with offensive talent, making it imperative that everyone shares the ball and remains patient when it comes to scoring. “It’s definitely unique,” said Jerami Grant, who’s in his first season with the team. “We’ve definitely got a deep team. We’ve got a lot of players that would play a lot more minutes with other teams. But I think everybody who’s come here is willing to sacrifice to be one of the best teams in the league.”

Northwest Notes: Donovan, Blazers, Jazz, Franklin

Billy Donovan‘s contract runs out after next season but he’s not sweating over his tenuous status with the Thunder, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes. Donovan has no real desire to return to the college ranks and will likely retire or become an NBA assistant if he loses his job with Oklahoma City, Horne continues. It’s possible the Thunder will give Donovan an extension during the season but he’s not lobbying for any assurances, Horne adds. The Thunder have lost three assistants — Mark Bryant, Darko Rajakovic and Bob Beyer — due to the lack of job security in OKC.

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • The Trail Blazers took a look at six guard and wing prospects in their latest pre-draft workout on Monday, according to a team press release. Boston College’s Ky Bowman, Brewster Academy’s Jalen Lecque, Clemson’s Shelton Mitchell, Nebraska’s James Palmer Jr., Oregon State’s Stephen Thompson and Belmont’s Dylan Windler were the participants. Lecque is ranked No. 48 overall by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.
  • The Jazz, who hold the No. 23 overall pick in the first round, have a better idea of which players will be available at that spot, Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News reports.  “I think we do have a better idea of 5-10 guys, I don’t have an exact number right now, but I think we’ve narrowed it down,” VP of player personnel Walt Perrin said. “We were in the theater the other day looking at players and talking about whether or not they should still be in the 23, as we call it, bucket. So, it’s again, 12 days and we’ll know better in another week, but I think the process is starting to narrow itself.”
  • Former NBA guard Jamaal Franklin participated in a free agent mini-camp with the Trail Blazers, according to Sportando’s Nicola Lupo. Franklin averaging 32.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, eight assists, and 2.4 steals this past season with the Sichuan Blue Whales in China. He last played in the league during the 2014-15 season with Denver. Franklin also recently participated in a Kings mini-camp.

Northwest Notes: Donovan, Rosas, Murray

Despite the fact that he’s already spent five seasons at the helm of the Thunder and that his All-Star dynamic duo was just dispatched in five games by the Trail Blazers, head coach Billy Donovan is expected to return to his post in 2019/20.

That patience in an era of scapegoating and quick fixes, Brett Dawson of The Athletic writes, could be attributed to general manager Sam Presti‘s tendency to take a long view on things.

Dawson writes about Donovan’s impact in Oklahoma City over the past few seasons, suggesting that he’s earned the faith of the organization and this is one organization in particular that isn’t afraid to see things through.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves CEO Ethan Casson has nothing but high praise for recent franchise hire Gersson Rosas, Chris Hine of the Minnesota Star Tribune writes. Rosas impressed the organization with a detailed vision not only for a generic basketball franchise but for the Timberwolves in particular. Beyond the team’s current roster, Rosas had a deep understanding of the team’s history and marketplace.
  • Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic logged a record-breaking 65 minutes played in Denver’s four-overtime loss to the Trail Blazers Friday night. Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told the media afterward that he apologized for giving his center such a heavy work load. Jokic averaged 31.3 minutes per game for Denver this season.
  • Despite struggles from the field in his first playoff experience, Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is figuring out the difference between regular and playoff basketball, Sean Keeler of The Denver Post writes.

Thunder Notes: George, Abrines, Matthews, Donovan

Thunder All-Star forward Paul George will soon have his right shoulder re-evaluated by a specialist, Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman reports. GM Sam Presti told the media during his annual post-season press conference that George will see a specialist outside of Oklahoma City but Thunder staff members will be present.

George saw action in 77 regular-season games but took four games off to rest his aching shoulder. He was effective in the playoffs despite the discomfort, posting averages on 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 4.1 APG during the Thunder’s 4-1 opening-round series loss to Portland. Presti declared that George “was at no risk of any type of future injury” this season and labelled the possibility of George undergoing surgery as “speculation.”

We have more from Presti’s press conference:

  • He took the blame for not having enough sharpshooting wings on the roster, Lee notes in a separate story. Presti thought Alex Abrines would have a “breakout year” but the swingman missed 17 games for personal reasons and was ultimately waived. The Thunder pursued Wesley Matthews after the Knicks bought him out and waived him but Matthews chose Indiana. “Once Wes Matthews went to Indiana there really wasn’t a lot of other options out there, and that put some stress on us offensively, and you never want to be in that position,” he said.
  • Billy Donovan is expected to return as head coach despite the latest postseason flameout. Presti said he has yet to meet with Donovan on the subject because he wanted to give his coach more time to “reflect and decompress,” Brett Dawson of The Athletic tweets. “I do think getting his perspective on things is important because there’s nobody that works harder than him,” Presti said. “If anything, I think he needs to take some time to think through the season himself and have a really good conversation.

Presti Anticipates Donovan Returning As Thunder Coach

After a disappointing first-round exit in this year’s postseason, there has been some speculation that the Thunder might consider a head coaching change. However, speaking today to reporters – including Brett Dawson of the Athletic (Twitter link) – general manager Sam Presti said that he anticipates bringing back Billy Donovan to coach the club in 2019/20.

Presti’s wording isn’t quite as definitive as if he’d said that Donovan absolutely will be back. However, it sounds like that’s less about any lingering uncertainty, and more about the fact that the two men have yet to sit down for a full-blown post-mortem on the 2019/20 season.

According to Dawson (via Twitter), Presti said today that he plans to take a little time before meeting with Donovan to talk about the season and the future. The head coach’s perspective is important, but Presti doesn’t anticipate any changes regarding his job status, he added today (Twitter link via Dawson).

Donovan, who took over as Oklahoma City’s head coach before the 2015/16 season, has led the team to four straight years of 47+ wins, including a 49-33 mark this season. The Thunder won two playoff series in Donovan’s first year, but haven’t made it out of the first round since Kevin Durant‘s departure in 2016.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Saunders, Layden, Donovan

The Nuggets wrapped up their first playoff series victory in a decade last night, but the franchise would have been well positioned for the future no matter what happened, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Franchise cornerstone Nikola Jokic is signed through the 2022/23 season, while young star Jamal Murray remains on his rookie contract. Denver has a $30MM option for next year on Paul Millsap and can get nearly $20MM under the cap by declining it. They hold three trade exceptions totaling roughly $33MM that don’t expire until July, and first-round pick Michael Porter Jr. is expected to be ready next year after missing this season because of back surgery.

“What gets me really excited is when I think about what this team has in the next couple of years,” coach Michael Malone said. “I think we have a great window that we’re just beginning with this young group, and Malik (Beasley), Jamal, all of our young guys are a big part of that.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders and GM Scott Layden have been meeting with prospective candidates for the president of basketball operations job and both seem in position to return next season, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Layden, who was rumored to be on thin ice after the Jimmy Butler fiasco, solidified his relationship with owner Glen Taylor after Tom Thibodeau was fired, Krawczynski adds. Sanders is still classified as an interim coach, but he has the full support of star center Karl-Anthony Towns and virtually all the players.
  • Thunder coach Billy Donovan didn’t offer any clues about his future with the franchise during this week’s exit interviews, relays Clay Horning of The Norman Transcript. “For me, it’s just kind of business as usual,” said Donovan, who is coming off his third straight first-round playoff ouster. “(GM) Sam (Presti) and I had a chance to visit a little bit on the plane yesterday on the way back, just talking about the next couple of days and getting together. So, I’m sure he and I will get a chance to sit down as some of this stuff slows down and talk in detail and (I) look forward to that.”
  • Thunder rookie Deonte Burton thinks he benefited greatly from the time he spent in the G League, relays Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman. Burton started the season as a two-way player before signing a multi-year contract in March. “G League is good talent, too,” he said. “Like a lot, a lot more talent than people think.”

Western Notes: Morris, Fournier, Kanter, Booker

Celtics forward Marcus Morris believes Thunder coach Billy Donovan made a big mistake by using his brother Markieff Morris sparingly during their playoff series against Portland, Jay King of The Athletic reports.

Markieff Morris chose to play with Oklahoma City after reaching a buyout with New Orleans, which acquired him from the Wizards at the trade deadline. Markieff played just four minutes in Game 5 and between 13 and 15 minutes in the other games of the series won by the Trail Blazers, 4-1.

“I’m not a coach or anything like that, but I feel like they just didn’t utilize their bench enough. I feel like my brother went over there for no reason,” Marcus said. “He never got an opportunity to play. I thought that he would really help them in the playoffs, but from what I seen he should have went somewhere else just to be able to show that veteran leadership and that experience.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Trail Blazers made an offer for Magic swingman Evan Fournier that Orlando passed on prior to the trade deadline, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders tweets. Portland was willing to ship a roster player and a protected first-rounder for Fournier, who will make $17MM next season and holds a player option on his $17MM salary for the 2020/21 season.
  • Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter played with a separated left shoulder in Game 5, Kevin Pelton of ESPN reports. Kanter suffered the injury during the opening quarter but managed to play 32 minutes. He received a pain-killing injection at halftime. Kanter averaged 13.2 PPG and 10.2 RPG in the series as the primary replacement for injured Jusuf Nurkic. Portland would have to rely more on Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard in the conference semifinals if Kanter is forced to miss any games.
  • Suns star guard Devin Booker had no input in the firing of coach Igor Kokoskov, GM James Jones told the Arizona Republic’s Katherine Fitzgerald and other media members. “I speak to Devin, I speak to all of our players, about our organization. But in these instances, this isn’t a decision for Devin to make. This is my decision,” Jones said. That’s curious, since Booker indicated after signing his five-year maximum salary extension that he’d have a say in all major moves going forward.  I think it’s a collective agreement. Moving forward, throwing in any advice I can, stay in the loop and watch what’s going on and know what’s going on,” Booker said last month.
  • The Rockets held a predraft workout on Wednesday that included Mississippi guard Quinndary Weatherspoon, Washington guard Jalyen Nowell and Campbell guard Chris Clemons, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets.  Houston does not currently own a pick in this year’s draft. Nowell is the highest-ranked prospect among the trio, as he’s ranked No. 87 by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

Western Notes: Capela, Brunson, Kings, Roberson

Clint Capela‘s thumb injury could cost him a $2MM bonus, Bobby Marks of ESPN notes. The Rockets center has a 2,000-minute criteria tied into the team reaching the Western Conference Finals and for a defensive rebounding percentage above 30%. He has another bonus for attempting 150 or more free throws and a free throw percentage above 65%. He is currently shooting 62.6% from the line. Through 42 games, Capela has played 1,436 minutes. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • Mavericks rookie Jalen Brunson and veteran Devin Harris will pick up the minutes vacated by backup point guard J.J. Barea, who suffered a torn Achilles on Friday, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. Brunson played 30 minutes against the Warriors on Sunday but Harris will see his role expand as well. “He’s going to be ready and he’s going to be there for us,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Harris.
  • Kings assistant coaches under Dave Joerger are having their options for next season picked up by the front office, Sam Amick of USA Today tweets. That group includes Bryan Gates, Elston Turner, Bob Thornton, Jason March, Duane Ticknor, Larry Lewis, Bobby Jackson, Phil Ricci and Dan Hartfield. It’s a way of aligning the contracts of the staff with Joerger’s deal. The surprising Kings are currently a game above .500.
  • Kings GM Vlade Divac warned members of the executive board to stop meddling in the team’s affairs, Sam Amick of USA Today reports. Divac made the pronouncement during a conference call with 13 members of the  executive board, along with lead owner Vivek Ranadive. Divac has been frustrated by internal complaints and used the forum to demand respect, Amick adds.
  • Thunder shooting guard Andre Roberson remains sidelined indefinitely, coach Billy Donovan told Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman and other media members. “He’s worked hard, he’s doing all he needs to do but he’s still in the rehab process.”  Roberson suffered a season-ending left knee injury last January and suffered a setback in late November when an MRI revealed an avulsion fracture in the knee.

Western Notes: Favors, Cousins, Donovan, Lakers

Jazz forward Derrick Favors has seen his name surface in several trade rumors over the years, but the 27-year-old remains the longest-tenured player on the active roster. The latest rumor of Utah expressing interest in Bulls forward Jabari Parker once again brought forward the idea of trading Favors, who is taking everything with a grain of salt.

“I was telling one of the coaches, I could go back years and years ago and I can name each guy I was supposed to get traded for,” Favors said before the Jazz-Rockets game on Monday, according to Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News. “Every year, I can just name them so I have fun with it, I enjoy it.

“Definitely use it as motivation. But I have fun with it most of the time because most of the time I look forward to it, like ‘Who am I going to get traded for this year? Who they want me to get traded for? Where the rumors at?’ so I enjoy it.”

Favors’ awkward fit alongside Rudy Gobert could once again force the team to explore trading him, with the Georgia Tech product averaging 11.1 points and seven rebounds per game this season. He’s started in 26 of 31 games so far and signed a two-year, $40MM deal to stay with the club this past free agency.

There’s more from the Western Conference tonight:

  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr has stressed patience on DeMarcus Cousins‘ eventual return, Mark Medina of The Mercury News writes. Cousins suffered a torn Achilles this past January and remains several games away from returning. “We’re not right there. It’s still going to be some time,” Kerr said. “We’re going to be patient and continue to give DeMarcus the space he needs to prepare. When the time is right, we’ll have some things planned for him.”
  • Brett Dawson of The Athletic breaks down the Thunder‘s decision to pick up coach Billy Donovan‘s option for next season, detailing why the front office is happy with the direction Donovan is guiding the team. Oklahoma City holds the league’s fourth-best record at 20-10, including a stellar 12-3 home record, and has played with great enthusiasm and effort so far this season.
  • Rajon Rondo (hand) and Brandon Ingram (ankle) participated in full practice Thursday as they continue to work toward returning, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com. The two players were assigned to the South Bay Lakers, G League team of the Lakers, this past week to help expedite their recoveries and allow them to practice further.