Blake Griffin

Pistons Notes: Snell, Wood, Doumbouya, Griffin

The Pistons want to put up plenty of three-point shots in 2019/20, but the club lost one of its top outside shooters in the offseason when Wayne Ellington headed to New York in free agency. As such, new forward Tony Snell – who is a career 38.2% three-point shooter but has never attempted more than 4.4 3PG in a season – will be asked to let it fly more than ever this season, head coach Dwane Casey tells Keith Langlois of Pistons.com.

“With Wayne Ellington with 10 attempts (per 36 minutes) going out the door and we want to be a three-point shooting team, you’ve got to bring those guys in and I think we did that in Tony,” Casey said. “He lit up like a Christmas tree when I said, ‘You’ve got a green light. We need your three-point shooting.’ We need to make up those 10 threes. Maybe not him getting them all up, but he’s going to get a big bulk of those shots coming in.”

With Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, and Reggie Jackson locked in as starters, the Pistons will have a couple spots in their starting five to fill out, and one of those spots will likely be Snell’s to lose, according to Casey, who praised the former Buck’s size and defensive versatility.

Here’s more on the Pistons, including a handful of additional comments from Casey on his new-look roster:

  • Speaking to Langlois, Casey pointed to Markieff Morris and Christian Wood as two players who could play center in smaller lineups. The Pistons’ head coach added that the team is looking for consistency and discipline out of Wood, who is on a non-guaranteed contract and isn’t a lock to make the 15-man roster. “There’s never been a question about Christian’s talent,” Casey said. “With Christian, it’s temperament, being a pro, doing the right things all the time and doing what you’re supposed to do all the time.”
  • Pistons first-round pick Sekou Doumbouya will still be 18 years old when his rookie season begins, and the team will bring him along at the right pace, per Casey. Still, Detroit’s head coach is bullish on Doumbouya’s chances to develop into an impact player, calling him a “keeper for our program” and suggesting the young forward could have a role sooner rather than later if he proves he can handle it. “I’m not one of these guys that just because a guy is young, not going to play,” Casey said to Langlois. “If he can help us win games, he’s going to be out there.”
  • The Pistons expect Blake Griffin, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery at the end of last season, to be 100% and “back to full speed” when the season gets underway, Casey tells Langlois. The club also hopes to limit the wear and tear on the All-Star forward in 2019/20 by surrounding him with a few more guys who can “handle the ball and make plays.”
  • In a mailbag, Rod Beard of The Detroit News takes a look at the upcoming battle between Wood and Joe Johnson for the 15th roster spot and explores whether the Pistons might consider a trade that would clear the way for both players to make the team to start the season.

Pistons Notes: Jackson, Rose, Frazier, Griffin

The Pistons are suddenly very deep at point guard, as Keith Langlois of the team’s website notes. Their lack of depth at that spot was exposed in recent seasons by injuries to Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith.

Though Smith signed with the Wizards this offseason, the Pistons have plenty of options beyond Jackson during the upcoming season. They signed free agents Derrick Rose and Tim Frazier and drafted Jordan Bone, who was signed to a two-way contract, in the second round. Bruce Brown and Langston Galloway can also run the offense.

It’s the best combination of players they’ve had at that spot since Chauncey Billups was a perennial All-Star and Lindsey Hunter backed him up, Langlois opines.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Jackson seriously considered retirement due to knee and ankle injuries prior to last season, when he played in every game, Rod Beard of the Detroit News reports. “I was just getting injured too much and I had hit basketball depression and it was a point in time that I really didn’t want to deal with the game anymore,” Jackson told Beard. “It was more the injuries that started to have that (retirement) thought creep in my head.” Arnie Kander, the team’s former strength and conditioning coach who was hired as a consultant prior to last season, devised a plan that helped Jackson overcome his issues.
  • Jackson has no doubt that he can mesh his skills with Rose when they play together, Beard writes in the same story. “I’ll have more of a chance to play with Derrick on the ball and off. I’m better at catch-and-shoot,” Jackson said. “The layout of the team is complementary to each other. All the pieces work really well and it’s ideal for my game, how we mesh.”
  • The additions of Frazier and power forward Markieff Morris give coach Dwane Casey a greater opportunity to rest Blake Griffin and Rose, Langlois writes in a separate story. Griffin only sat out three games for rest purposes last season as the Pistons relied heavily on the All-Star to make the playoffs. But with 13 back-to-backs this year, the Pistons will likely limit both Griffin and the oft-injured Rose to fewer than 70 games apiece, Langlois adds.

Central Notes: Horst, Pistons, Kornet, Holidays

Eric Nehm of The Athletic recently sat down with the Bucks’ award-winning GM Jon Horst to discuss the team’s free agency this summer. Here are a few noteworthy passages from Horst’s interview.

Regarding the team’s ability to bring back Khris Middleton on a five-year deal:

“Khris was always a focus… He’s our second superstar, our second star. He’s an All-Star. He’s been one of our best players for a long period of time here… Khris was a target obviously and he got a contract that represents that and we think it’s a great contract because we got our second All-Star locked up for the next five years.”

Regarding the team’s trade of Tony Snell and a first-round pick for Jon Leuer in order to create the requisite cap space needed to re-sign Brook Lopez:

“When we got Brook last offseason, we understood, at some level, how important he was going to be to us… (and) we also understood if he’s as good as we think he’s going to be, it’s going to present a lot of challenges.”

“So, we spent the entire year trying to prepare for that… Just different things we did throughout the year were in preparation to position ourselves to either be prepared to keep Brook, be in a position to keep Brook or be prepared to react if we couldn’t… I don’t know if a lot of people saw it coming, maybe after the Tony Snell deal. Then, maybe they were like, ‘Okay, this is how they’re going to try to do it.’ But before that, I don’t think people saw the moves we lined up to position ourselves to hopefully keep Brook and I’m very thankful we were able to.”

Regarding the decision to trade RFA Malcolm Brogdon to Indiana and whether the luxury tax was a factor in that decision:

“I think there’s a lot that goes into restricted free agency. It’s a monster. Malcolm is very, very important and we knew how important he was to our team. It will be hard to replace him. I think we’ve done the best that we can and we’ll continue to work in ways to be creative and fill that gap.”

“I would say the luxury tax was only part of the consideration for not matching or not being willing to pay Malcolm the market that he was able to get from Indiana. Whether or not he had that market from anywhere else besides Indiana, I don’t know. The decision on Malcolm was much more about our internal evaluations, the roster fit, the ability to be flexible and have options going forward and just building a team that, as I always say, can sustain success over a long period.”

There’s more from the Central Division this afternoon:
  • Horst confirmed in the above interview that the Bucks were not able to create a traded player exception when they traded Brogdon to Indiana, as the signing of George Hill with cap space occurred after the trade, and teams lose their exceptions (other than the Room MLE) when they go under the cap.
  • Taking a look at what each player’s role may be for the Pistons’ during the 2019/20 season, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com opines that there are five guys locked in to being sure-fire rotation pieces – Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, and Derrick Rose, and three who will almost certainly join that group – Markieff Morris, Tony Snell, and Bruce Brown.
  • The Bulls are hoping that the three-point shooting ability of free-agent addition, big man Luke Kornet, will be a nice complement next to starter Wendell Carter Jr. and fellow reserve, rookie Daniel Gafford, writes Sam Smith of Bulls.com.
  • Pacers’ new addition Justin Holiday is excited about the prospect of playing with his baby brother, reserve point guard Aaron Holiday, reports Scott Agness of The Athletic. “It was the best situation I had at this time,” Justin said. “(T)he Pacers obviously being a contender every year and going to the playoffs, and then also them having my brother was something that was very, very enticing for me. To be able to be a part of that culture and play with my brother, I think it made it pretty simple where I needed to go.”

Eastern Notes: Young, Westbrook, Siakam, Hawks

Thaddeus Young gives the Bulls a much-needed glue guy, Sam Smith of the team’s website writes. Not only does Young fill the stat sheet but he also provides other valuable assets, such as contesting shots, staying in front of his man and forcing opponents to pass late in the shot clock, Smith adds. Young signed a three-year contract with Chicago that could be worth up to $43.6MM. Young will embrace a leadership role, as Sean Highkin of NBC Sports Chicago relays. “I know the task is very, very hard,” the former Pacers big man said. “I carry that weight each and every day. I know I can help these young guys get better, I know I can push them over the hump.”

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Adding Russell Westbrook would have made the Pistons better in the short term but it wasn’t worth the long-term risk, Keith Langlois of the team’s website opines. The Pistons couldn’t afford to give up future first-rounders and agree to pick swaps as Houston did to acquire Westbrook from Oklahoma City. With Blake Griffin‘s big contract and Andre Drummond holding an option to become a free agent next summer, the Pistons would not have been able to make any more notable future upgrades if they took on Westbrook’s huge contract, Langlois adds.
  • The Raptors might as well offer Pascal Siakam a max four- or five-year extension this summer, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca argues. Ben Simmons has reportedly received a similar offer from the Sixers, while Jamal Murray has already signed an extension with the Nuggets. Siakam has outperformed both of his peers in many categories, Grange notes. The Raptors also don’t have any salary-cap restraints in future seasons that would prevent them from maxing out Siakam, Grange adds.
  • Rookie of the Year finalist Trae Young and young big John Collins will see an increase in playing time, Hawks GM Travis Schlenk told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Lottery picks De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish will also get thrown into the fire for the rebuilding Hawks. “Last year, Trae and John played about 30 minutes. They are probably going to play 35 minutes this year as they continue to grow,” Schlenk said. “De’Andre is obviously going to play a lot of minutes. Cam, we are going to play a lot.”

Eastern Notes: Pistons, J. Brown, Ujiri, Hawks, Heat

Pistons head of basketball operations Ed Stefanski said this week that he isn’t going into the offseason looking to move any of the team’s three highest-paid players – Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, and Reggie Jackson – as Rod Beard of The Detroit News details. However, he did admit that he doesn’t have a clear vision yet for what the rest of the Pistons’ offseason will look like.

“The philosophy right now is we have those three and we’re going with them,” Stefanski said. “But I have no idea what (else is) going to happen.”

The Pistons won’t have any cap room available this summer, but they have the No. 15 pick in the draft, the full mid-level exception (worth approximately $9.2MM) and the bi-annual exception ($3.6MM).

While Detroit is expected to try to add a backup center and a wing or two, a source tells Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press that the team’s No. 1 priority will be the point guard spot, with Ish Smith and Jose Calderon headed for free agency. For his part, Stefanski acknowledged that both positions will be of interest to the Pistons this offseason.

“I think free agency is where you look more for (immediate help) than the draft,” Stefanski said, per Ellis. “I think everyone hits it right on the head. We don’t know if we’ll be able to sign Ish, so we need a point guard. We don’t have really a starting wing right now.”

Here’s more from around the East:

  • Some teams near the top of the draft are wondering about Jaylen Brown‘s availability, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. There has been no indication that the Celtics would make Brown available, but one report indicated that Boston is among the teams that has considered trading for the No. 4 pick. A player like Brown would likely be needed to make that happen.
  • The Raptors would need “significant compensation” to allow president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri to leave the franchise, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (podcast link). The Wizards were rumored to have interest in Toronto’s top executive, but owner Ted Leonsis shot down those reports on Tuesday.
  • Holding three first-round picks and three second-rounders heading into Thursday’s draft, Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk recently said he’s more inclined to package and trade his second-round selections, per Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). It wouldn’t surprise me if Atlanta makes deals involving picks from both rounds.
  • The Heat officially hired a replacement for Juwan Howard on Erik Spoelstra‘s staff, announcing in a press release that Malik Allen is the club’s newest assistant coach.
  • With Anthony Davis – and Mike Conley – now off the trade market, it will be interesting to see whether the Wizards eventually reconsider their stance on keeping Bradley Beal, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. As Hughes points out, Beal might be the most sought-after prize on the trade block if Washington makes him available.

Chris Crouse contributed to this post.

NBA Announces 2018/19 All-NBA Teams

The NBA has formally announced the All-NBA First, Second, and Third Teams for the 2018/19 season, with Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden leading the way as the two unanimous selections for the First Team.

The full All-NBA teams are listed below, with their vote totals in parentheses. Players received five points for a First Team vote, three points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote, so Antetokounmpo and Harden scored a perfect 500 — First Team nods from all 100 voters.

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

As we detailed in March, this year’s All-NBA selections have significant financial implications for several players. Here’s a breakdown of how several All-NBA candidates were impacted:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo is now eligible for a super-max extension with the Bucks, which he can sign in 2020. It would start at 35% of the cap in 2021/22 and would extend his contract by five years.
  • Damian Lillard is now eligible for a super-max extension with the Trail Blazers, which he can sign in 2019. It would start at 35% of the cap in 2021/22 and would extend his contract by four years.
  • Kemba Walker is now eligible for a super-max contract with the Hornets, which he can sign in 2019. It would start at 35% of the cap in 2019/20 and would be for five years.
  • Bradley Beal, Klay Thompson, Nikola Vucevic, and other super-max candidates who didn’t earn All-NBA honors aren’t eligible for super-max contracts (or a super-max extension, in Beal’s case). Thompson’s and Vucevic’s maximum contracts this summer would start at 30% of the cap.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns‘ extension with the Timberwolves, which goes into effect in 2019/20, will start at 25% of the cap, rather than 30%, because he didn’t earn All-NBA honors.

Beal and Thompson received the most All-NBA votes of any guards who missed out on the All-NBA teams, receiving 34 and 27 points respectively. Sixers guard Ben Simmons got seven points, while no other guards had more than four.

LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs) and Danilo Gallinari (Clippers) were the runners-up at forward, receiving 17 and seven points, respectively. Pascal Siakam (Raptors) had four points, while no other forwards had more than three.

At center, Towns received 20 points, followed by Vucevic at four and Pistons center Andre Drummond with three.

Interestingly, the 15 players named to the All-NBA teams for 2018/19 were the same 15 players that Hoops Rumors readers voted for in our end-of-season All-NBA polls last month. The only differences were George swapping places with Durant and Irving flipping spots with Westbrook.

The full and official All-NBA voting results can be found right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Central Notes: Pistons, Adams, Cavaliers, Ham

Per Keith Langlois of Pistons.com, the Pistons should disregard any positional need with the No. 15 overall selection in this year’s draft and simply pick the player whom the team feels with have the biggest impact during his rookie contract.

Langlois provides examples of teams who have had success employing the same strategy, noting the Spurs in 2011 (traded George Hill for Kawhi Leonard when they had Richard Jefferson) and the Bucks in 2013 (shocked the world by drafting Giannis Antetokounmpo while already having John Henson and Ersan Ilyasovsa on the roster) as ideas for the Pistons to emulate.

One would think that the Pistons should look to upgrade their backcourt to complement both Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, but as Langlois notes, Drummond can opt out of his contract after next season and Griffin is versatile enough to play alongside another power forward.

So who should the Pistons take? For now, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has Detroit taking Indiana swingman Romeo Langford, his 11th ranked prospect and the top-ranked player left on the board when the Pistons make their selection.

There’s more from the Central Division tonight:

  • In addition to adding Chris Fleming to his staff, Bulls’ head coach Jim Boylen is trying to add one more assistant, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. The top candidate appears to be Texas Tech assistant coach Mark Adams.
  • The Cavaliers were left without an identity for the first time in nearly two decades when homegrown superstar LeBron James left for Los Angeles, but as Ben Golliver of The Washington Post writes, new head coach John Beilein should be able to create a new identity and culture for the franchise.
  • As we relayed yesterday afternoon, Bucks’ assistant coach Darvin Ham has been identified by the Timberwolves as another head coaching candidate under Gersson Rosas and the team’s new front office.

Blake Griffin Undergoes Knee Surgery

Pistons All-Star forward Blake Griffin underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in Los Angeles on Wednesday, according to a team press release.

The procedure addressed the issue that caused soreness in the knee late in the regular season and the playoffs. He is not expected to miss any planned offseason training for next season, the release adds.

Griffin had a banner season, carrying the Pistons to the playoffs for just the second time since the 2008/09 season. He averaged 24.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG and 5.4 APG during the regular season while staying healthy until the knee issue cropped up. He appeared in 75 games this season after playing 67 or fewer games the previous four seasons.

He was a late scratch against Portland on March 30 and then missed the next two games before scoring 45 points in a loss to Oklahoma City. He played the next two games with diminishing returns and sat out the playoff-clinching win over New York in the regular-season finale.

He missed the first two games of the opening round against Milwaukee, then averaged 24.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 6.0 APG in the last two games of the lopsided series. Griffin has three years and approximately $110MM remaining the contract he signed with the Clippers before getting traded to Detroit during the middle of last season.

As Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer notes, Griffin has dealt with a sprained MCL, broken kneecap, meniscus tear, partially torn quadriceps and bone bruise in the same leg during his career.

Central Notes: Bickerstaff, Smith, Griffin, Connaughton

Former Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff is “definitely interested” in the Cavaliers’ head coaching opening, he said in a SiruisXM interview with Mitch Lawrence, Zach Harper and Sarah Kustok (Twitter link). “It would be an honor to have an opportunity to work with that group,” said Bickerstaff, who was fired by Memphis two weeks ago. Bickerstaff is reportedly on Cleveland’s radar screen, though there has been no indication if he’ll be interviewed for the job.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Backup point guard Ish Smith is willing to return to the Pistons but it’s uncertain if there’s mutual interest, Rod Beard of the Detroit News reports. Smith will enter unrestricted free agency this summer. “Obviously, if they call, I’m for sure going to pick up,” Smith said. “This has been home the last three years.” The cap-strapped Pistons could look to re-sign Smith at a lower cost than the $6MM he made this season. Otherwise, they might go with an in-house alternative, such as Luke Kennard or Bruce Brown.
  • Pistons All-Star forward Blake Griffin said he won’t get involved in personnel decisions this offseason unless his opinion is requested, Beard writes in a separate story. “I’m not here to make decisions; it’s the front office. (Senior adviser) Ed (Stefanski) and all those guys do a really good job, in the short time I’ve known them,” Griffin said. “They have plans and an idea and a direction. It might not happen overnight because of the (financial) situation. They have a great grasp on that. If they ask my opinion, I’ll, of course, give my honest opinion. I’ve never been the type of player to go in and make demands, just because sometimes as players and coaches, we’re all about winning right now, which is very important but not at the expense of the next year or however that may be.”
  • Bucks reserve guard Pat Connaughton hasn’t given up his dream to play major league baseball, as he explained to NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner in a Q&A session. Connaughton was a minor-league pitcher in the Baltimore Orioles system five years ago before choosing to pursue his basketball dreams. “Obviously I’ve wanted to be as successful at both sports as possible. You have to shoot for being an All-Star to have a chance to even make it in either, right? But I did think, “If I really went into baseball right now, if I dropped basketball when I was coming out of high school, I fully believe I’d have had the chance to be an All-Star, to be one of the top two pitchers on a championship team.” But something drew me to basketball, something drew me to having success in two sports,” Connaughton said. The Bucks have until July 1 to guarantee his $1.723MM salary for next season.

Central Notes: Sabonis, Middleton, Griffin, Pitino

After giving Myles Turner a four-year, $70MM extension last summer, the Pacers will likely be reluctant to make a similar move this year with Domantas Sabonis, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Both players are primarily centers and it’s difficult to use them together in a league where downsizing is the trend. Sabonis is extension-eligible this summer and will hit free agency next year if the Pacers don’t work out a deal.

Coach Nate McMillan put Turner and Sabonis on the court together occasionally this year to gauge their effectiveness. That strategy worked during the regular season, Bontemps notes, as the Pacers outscored opponents by 3.1 points per 100 possessions, but the Celtics have exploited the pairing in the playoffs.

This offseason will be vital is charting the future in Indiana, where six key players will be unrestricted free agents. Starters Darren CollisonWesley MatthewsBojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young will be joined on the market by rotation members Cory Joseph and Tyreke Evans. Bontemps notes that owner Herb Simon is reluctant to go into the luxury tax, so some difficult decisions will have to be made.

There’s more this morning from the Central Division:

  • Bucks swingman Khris Middleton, who is headed for a major payday in free agency, learned about the business side of the league as a rookie with the Pistons in 2013, writes Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Detroit legend Tayshaun Prince was traded during the season, then Middleton got shipped to Milwaukee over the summer. “You get a reminder of what this league is about, how it’s a business and business decisions are made,” Middleton said. “It’s nothing personal. It’s all about the organization. You see stuff like that, right in front of your face, you always hear about it, but hey, you learn anything can happen in this league. You got to be prepared for it and be ready to move on.”
  • Blake Griffin returned to action last night, but he couldn’t help the Pistons overcome the Bucks, relays Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Griffin, who missed the first two games of the series with swelling and pain in his left knee, wore a heavy brace under a leg sleeve as he scored 27 points in 31 minutes.
  • The Cavaliers are denying a report that they have talked to Rick Pitino in their coaching search, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com“False. We are, respectfully, not interested in him at all,” a source told Fedor. “No conversations with him by (team chairman) Dan (Gilbert) or anyone else.”