De'Aaron Fox

And-Ones: Trades, Antetokounmpo, World Cup

Jae Crowder would be a nice contingency plan for the Warriors should they lose Kevin Durant in free agency, Kevin Pelton contends in a piece for ESPN+. Pelton argues a deal that sends Crowder, who has one year left on his contract, to Golden State for Shaun Livingston and a future first-rounder makes sense for both sides.

Other ESPN insiders write about the trade they’d like to see this summer, with Bobby Marks breaking down a Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade that sends Eric Gordon to Philadelphia and Clint Capela to Sacramento. The whole piece is worth checking out.

As we brace for an offseason of change, let’s take a look at some notes from around the league:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo will play for Greece in the Basketball World Cup, according to Demetris Nellas of the Associated Press“Whether I play the 1 [point guard] or the 5 [center], I don’t care,” the NBA MVP said. “I’m a basketball player. I want to help the team any way I can.”
  • The NBA has announced that the Academy Games will be in the United States for the first time in history. Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com provides a detailed look at the games in Atlanta, relaying that the camp will feature eight teams and approximately 90 players from around the world.
  • Isaiah Whitehead will play for the Trail Blazers‘ Summer League team, The Athletic’s Michael Scotto relays (Twitter link).
  • The Mavericks have announced their Summer League roster and former first-rounder Cameron Payne is among the notable players. Kostas Antetokounmpo, the brother of Giannis, is also playing for the team in Las Vegas.
  • Semaj Christon will play for the Kings‘ Summer League team, Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia tweets.
  • Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox has been invited to join Team USA’s Select Team, which will hold training camp in Las Vegas this summer, Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports passes along (Twitter links). Nets center Jarrett Allen has also been invited.

[In case you missed it: Team USA Announces 20-Player Roster For World Cup]

Pascal Siakam Named Most Improved Player

Raptors forward Pascal Siakam earned the league’s Most Improved Player award. The announcement was made at the annual NBA awards show on Monday.

Nets guard D’Angelo Russell and Kings guard De’Aaron Fox were the other finalists.

Siakam emerged as a major component for Toronto in his third season, as he averaged 16.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG and 3.1 APG for the champions. He posted averages of 7.3/4.5/2.0 in the same categories while mainly coming off the bench in 2017/18. He also became a 3-point threat, connecting on 36.9% of his long-range tries compared to 22% in his second NBA season.

Siakam was also Hoops Rumors’ choice for the award.

Harden, Giannis, George Named MVP Finalists

Defending champion James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George are the finalists for this season’s Most Valuable Player award, the league announced in a press release.

The voting is expected to be close between Harden, who averaged 36.1 PPG and 7.5 APG during the regular season, and Antetokounmpo, who carried the Bucks to the best record in the league while averaging 27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG and 5.9 APG. George averaged 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 4.1 APG.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors’ 2019 NBA Award Picks: Most Valuable Player]

The league also released the finalists for its other awards. The winners will be revealed during a TNT broadcast on Monday, June 24. Here are the rest of the finalists:

Rookie of the Year:

Sixth Man of the Year:

Defensive Player of the Year:

Most Improved Player:

Coach of the Year:

  • Mike Budenholzer (Bucks)
  • Michael Malone (Nuggets)
  • Doc Rivers (Clippers)

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.

Knicks Offered Porzingis To Kings For Fox

With Luka Doncic on the draft board, the Kings received several offers for De’Aaron Fox last June, including one from the Knicks that included Kristaps Porzingis, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN. Sources tell Lowe that New York was asking for additional assets along with Fox or would have required Sacramento to take on some unwanted salary.

That trade and others never materialized because the Kings didn’t want to move down and risk losing Marvin Bagley III. They also weren’t interested in taking Doncic because they didn’t want to interfere with Fox’s development as a playmaker.

“I like Luka,” GM Vlade Divac said, “but we didn’t want to overload with players who — maybe they don’t have the exact same characteristics, but if you want to develop the guys you have, you have to make sure they have room to develop.”

Fox has rewarded their confidence, posting a 17.4/3.8/7.2 line in his second NBA season and putting himself in the running for Most Improved Player. He also sparked a turnaround for the Kings that had them in contention for their first playoff berth in more than a decade before tailing off.

Sacramento’s front office will face some important decisions soon about how to build for the future, Lowe notes. Fox, Bagley and Harry Giles are all in their early 20s. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes, who was acquired from the Mavericks last month, are all 26 with free agency looming next summer. Willie Cauley-Stein will be a restricted free agent in July, and Lowe suggests that his defensive shortcomings should make the Kings pass on matching any offer that exceeds the mid-level exception of about $9MM.

Divac isn’t concerned about the gap in the timeline or the danger of losing any key pieces in free agency.

“I would be if Foxy, Harry and Marvin weren’t better than people think,” he said. “They will be ready earlier. And if they are not, they are still the core. We will surround them with players who will help them get to the next level.”

Kings Notes: Deadline, Barnes, Fox, Brewer

Having entered trade deadline week carrying $11MM in cap room and a handful of expiring veteran contracts, the Kings were expected to be among the NBA’s most active teams at the deadline, and they delivered, completing a pair of deals for Alec Burks and Harrison Barnes. Discussing those trades following the deadline, GM Vlade Divac explained that the club was thinking about both its short- and long-term future.

“Our focus going into this process was to improve our team and not jeopardize our future,” Divac said, per James Ham of NBC Sports California. “I think we achieved exactly what we tried. We brought talent that is going to help us be a better team, not just for now, but moving forward.”

The Kings had long been seeking an answer at the small forward position and are hoping Barnes can be that player after they acquired him from the Mavs for Zach Randolph and Justin Jackson. The veteran forward could theoretically leave Sacramento in free agency this summer, but the Kings sound hopeful that Barnes will stick around, either on his 2019/20 player option or on a new deal, as Ham relays.

“We want to focus on the rest of the season, and we’re going to talk about it after,” Divac said of Barnes’ future. “But definitely, we have interest to have him here for a long time.”

Here’s more on the Kings:

  • Following the trade deadline, Divac spoke to star point guard De’Aaron Fox, who was said to be disappointed to see the Kings lose Jackson and Iman Shumpert, as Sam Amick of The Athletic details. “I tried to explain (the team’s deadline moves), why we did it, where we want to be, the experience with the playoffs and all that,” Divac said. “Look, De’Aaron is our marquee player. That’s the guy. I want De’Aaron to take this team to the next level, and I’m here to help him. Whatever I do, I try to make this team better.”
  • Corey Brewer, who signed a 10-day contract with the Kings after the trade deadline, called Sacramento a “perfect situation,” according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Brewer said he received interest from other teams, but likes the way the Kings “get up and down” the court and hopes to help the club’s push for a playoff spot.
  • Even after signing Brewer, the Kings still have one open spot on their roster, as our list of NBA roster counts shows. Sacramento is under no obligation to fill that opening, but the team would have to eventually get back up to 14 players if it lets Brewer walk once his 10-day deal expires.

Details On How Porzingis Trade Talks Played Out

In his latest newsletter for The New York Times, Marc Stein takes a deep dive into the trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis from New York to Dallas, sharing several interesting new details on the negotiations leading up to the deal itself.

Here’s a round-up of the highlights from Stein:

  • The Knicks spent a good portion of January canvassing the NBA for possible Porzingis trades, according to Stein, who hears the team was rebuffed when it inquired on potential targets like Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Kings guard De’Aaron Fox. After devoting much of the month to possible trade scenarios, the Knicks were convinced that no team besides Dallas would take on the Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee contracts while also offering a player like Dennis Smith Jr. along with multiple first-round picks, says Stein.
  • New York’s management group has known for years that the Mavericks were very interested in Porzingis, with one Mavs official joking to Stein that Dallas had approached the Knicks “about a hundred times” before they finally showed a willingness to move the All-Star big man. Conversely, the Knicks had been expressing interest in Smith all season, per Stein.
  • The Knicks and Mavericks had been discussing the framework of a possible Wesley Matthews/Hardaway deal for weeks, and began expanding those talks to include Porzingis on January 28, Stein writes. The two teams then worked in person toward finalizing the framework of a deal last Wednesday when the Mavs played the Knicks in New York. However, the Knicks wanted to wait until after they met with the Porzingis brothers on Thursday to make any decisions.
  • Following that Thursday meeting between Knicks management and the Porzingis brothers, Janis Porzingis (Kristaps’ agent) provided the club with a four-team list of preferred destinations, a source tells Stein. The Nets and Clippers were on that list, but the Mavericks weren’t. The Knicks opted to move quickly on the Mavs deal in part due to concern that Porzingis’ camp would leak that list and threaten to only sign long-term with those clubs, Stein adds.
  • The Knicks were informed that Porzingis was ready to leave the team and continue his injury rehab in Spain if he remained on the roster through the trade deadline, Stein hears.
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, with an interesting quote to Stein: “It was my mistake to not keep Dirk [Nowitzki] and Steve [Nash] together longer. I won’t make the same mistake with Luka [Doncic] and KP.”
  • For what it’s worth, Stein reports that the threat of Kevin Durant leaving for the Knicks has “never felt more real” to the Warriors than it does now that New York has cleared two maximum-salary slots for the summer.

Kings In Position To Be Active At Trade Deadline

Sacramento remains the only team in the NBA to have any cap space on its 2018/19 payroll, and as the February 7 trade deadline fast approaches, this means that the Kings are positioned to be a major player in the trade market, if they so choose, writes James Ham of NBC Sports California.

That being said, the Kings aren’t interested in taking on any long-term deals with their cap space unless a player on a long-term deal can help the team win now and in the future. Additionally, the team is reportedly not interested in taking on any expiring contracts to help another club save money unless assets are attached to said contract.

So, what do the Kings want? Per Ham, the Kings are motivated to add more length and size at the small forward position, while also interested in adding a veteran point guard to bring off the bench in a back-up/potential mentorship role for budding star De’Aaron Fox.

[RELATED: Kings Among Teams Interested in Jeremy Lin]

In addition to their $11MM in cap space, the Kings have the expiring contracts of Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos, and Ben McLemore to worth with. Swingman Iman Shumpert is also in the final year of his contract, but has provided a veteran spark to a young team still competing for a playoff spot. Then again, Shumpert is only 6’5″ and plays small forward. As mentioned above, the team is interested in adding length to that position, so Shumpert could also be expendable if an attractive enough deal comes along.

As for the Kings’ current assets, Sacramento has no interest in moving any of its young talent (e.g. Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley, or Buddy Hield) unless it means the team is making a massive long-term investment in a star-level player. And even then, the aforementioned core group of youngsters is close to untouchable.

In Ham’s view, general manager Vlade Divac should look to be active, as Sacramento has worked hard to be a player in the trade market and is the only team with cap space to use. However, the Kings should also be wary of using that cap space to take on future money that could eat into future cap room. Ultimately, Ham would be surprised to see no moves made before the deadline.

Pacific Notes: Kings, Durant, Zubac

The Kings haven’t necessarily solidified a spot in the deep Western Conference playoff picture but there’s still reason to celebrate given their 18-15 record at this point in the season. Jason Jones of The Athletic examines how the team has drastically improved in 2018/19.

The Kings have benefited from the monstrous strides De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield have taken this season. That backcourt, Jones writes, is emerging as one of the most fun to watch in the NBA.

Of course contributions from other young veterans like Willie Cauley-Stein and Bogdan Bogdanovic have helped the Kings at least appear to turn a corner early on.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division today:

  • Potential free agent Kevin Durant hasn’t exactly tipped his hand as to what he plans to do this summer but he did tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he wants to make sure he can get “as much money as [he] can on his next deal.” The Warriors are the only team eligible to offer him a five-year max contract, worth around $221MM. That’s one year and nearly $60MM more than any other team.
  • Although he can’t vote for his own player, Suns coach Igor Kokoskov told Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic and the rest of the media that he thinks more people should consider Deandre Ayton when discussing potential Rookie of the Year winners. In his last five games, Ayton has averaged 22.8 points and 15.6 rebounds per game.
  • While it’s not always easy to find three pure centers minutes in a regulation basketball match, that’s one problem Lakers coach Luke Walton will be happy to welcome after two solid spot starts from third-stringer Ivica Zubac this week. The third-year center dropped 16 and 11 on the Pelicans on last Friday and followed that up with 19 points and four blocks against the Grizzlies on Saturday. “Luke’s always been saying to me that he trusts me,” the 21-year-old big man told Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. “If there’s a chance to put me on the floor, he’s gonna put me there and he’s gonna always trust me like every other player on the team. I’ve been doing the same stuff every day”.

Joerger: Fox, Bagley Are Next Westbrook, Durant

Kings head coach Dave Joerger made some headlines after he praised standout rookie Luka Doncic following Sacramento’s tilt against the Mavericks on Sunday. Despite some skepticism about Doncic’s ability to translate his overseas success to the NBA, the 19-year-old is the early frontrunner for Rookie of the Year.

“Perhaps there was an idea that there was a ceiling on him.,” Joerger said, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “I don’t see it, unfortunately for us. But he’s great for them and he’s great for our league”.

Some interpreted Joerger’s comments as veiled criticism of the organization, given his reportedly tumultuous relationship with certain front office members — the Kings passed on Doncic in the NBA Draft and instead used the second overall pick on Duke’s Marvin Bagley III. Doncic was taken third overall by the Hawks and traded to Dallas.

On Monday, Joerger clarified his comments, stating this praise for Doncic involved “no veiled shots at anybody,” per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link). Instead, Joerger used a high benchmark to predict the ceiling on the Kings’ young core of Bagley and De’Aaron Fox, the fifth overall pick in 2017.

“When we drafted Marvin at 2, we were high-fiving like crazy,” Joerger added. “We got the right guy for us. This isn’t going to be a story in three days and it’ll be definitely buried five years from now when we have the next Durant-Westbrook. That’s how good they’re gonna be.”