Domantas Sabonis

And-Ones: Pacers, Favors, Zhou, Teodosic

The Pacers were thrilled to see Goga Bitadze still available when the team picked at No. 18, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star relays. The scribe hears that many within the league were surprised Bitadze was still available at that spot. However, several executives told Michael that had they been running the Pacers, they wouldn’t have taken the center unless they planned on trading either Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis.

Most of the executives Michael spoke to believe that if the team decides to trade either Turner and Sabonis, the latter will be the one to go. Turner is entering the first season of a four-year, $80MM contract, while Sabonis is entering the last year of his rookie deal.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Pelicans were Derrick Favors‘ preferred destination once it was clear the Jazz were moving him, Tony Jones of The Athletic tweets. Utah needed to trade Favors in order to accommodate the Bojan Bogdanovic signing.
  • Former Rockets center Zhou Qi plans to play in Europe next season, Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Zhou has not yet picked a team.
  • Milos Teodosic will make slightly over $5MM during his three-year contract with Virtus Bologna, Carchia passes along in a separate piece. Teodosic last played for the Clippers during this past season.

Lowe’s Latest: Walker, Brogdon, Mavs, Rubio, Butler

The Celtics might be the frontrunner for Kemba Walker‘s services but devoting most of their cap space to the All-Star point guard would leave them without any proven frontcourt players and limited ways to acquire them, ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes in an in-depth look at free agency. The addition of Walker would force coach Brad Stevens to use either Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum or Gordon Hayward at power forward, Lowe notes. Walker also ran more pick-and-rolls with the Hornets than Kyrie Irving did with the Celtics, yet Irving was sometimes accused of being a ball hog, Lowe adds.

Here are some other interesting tidbits from Lowe’s column:

  • Bucks restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon will lose a suitor if the Celtics ink Walker. The Suns, Bulls, Mavericks and Pacers could potentially extend Brogdon an offer sheet but some teams are concerned about his foot issues.
  • The Mavericks are not looking to sign any high-level free agents.
  • The Pacers are looking to make a run at point guard Ricky Rubio. They are also likely to let power forward Thaddeus Young walk and go with a frontcourt of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.
  • The Heat could get involved in the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes via a sign-and-trade.
  • The Nets have no interest in doing a sign-and-trade with the Timberwolves involving restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell if it means taking back Jeff Teague or Andrew Wiggins.

Lou Williams Named Sixth Man Of Year Again

For the third time in five seasons, Clippers guard Lou Williams was named the league’s Sixth Man of the Year. The announcement was made at the NBA’s annual awards show on Monday.

There was little suspense that Williams would gain the honor for the second straight year. While the other finalists, Williams’ teammate Montrezl Harrell, and Pacers’ big man Domantas Sabonis, had plenty of big games, no bench player made a bigger impact than the veteran guard, who seems to get better with age.

Williams, 32, averaged 20.0 PPG and a career-high 5.4 APG in 26.6 MPG, more than six minutes less per game than the previous season when he averaged a career-high 22.0 PPG. He’s signed for two more seasons, though his $8MM salary for 2020/21 is not guaranteed.

He was Hoops Rumors’ unanimous choice for the award as well.

Pacers Rumors: Oladipo, Bitadze, Turner, Young

Speaking on Thursday night to reporters, including J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard acknowledged that the team isn’t expecting to have Victor Oladipo ready to go to start the 2019/20 season. Oladipo continues to recover from the torn quad tendon he suffered in January.

“I’m hopeful that he’s going to be back in December, January,” Pritchard said of Oladipo. “To put a true timeline is not really fair.”

Here are several more Pacers notes worth passing along:

  • First-round pick Goga Bitadze will join the Pacers right away rather than being stashed overseas, Michael writes. “Of any of the guys we’ve drafted in the last few years, I think he’s more polished and ready to play in an NBA game than a normal kid coming out of college,” Pritchard said of the Georgian center.
  • While the Pacers are committed to playing Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis together, with one of the two at power forward, the team will have trade options available, Michael writes. Multiple league sources have told Michael that no one on Indiana’s roster is really untouchable, though he doesn’t expect the team to move Turner, as he tweeted prior to the draft.
  • Bojan Bogdanovic remains the Pacers’ top priority in free agency, while Thaddeus Young appears less likely to be retained, per Michael.
  • Pritchard expects to be active in free agency as the Pacers look to fill out their roster, Michael relays. “We’ve got a lot of holes to fill. We’re going to have a lot of money to go out into the marketplace,” Pritchard said. “July 1 is going to be where the real dirty work starts. We got to make some hay in free agency.”
  • More from Pritchard, via Michael: “We’ll try to be a good team next year. We’re not going to go young and try to start at the bottom. We want to win again.”

And-Ones: Draft/FA, Martin, Barnes, Lithuania

Per Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston, the Celtics front office, long a staunch supporter of flipping the order of the NBA draft and free agency, once again spoke about the idea of having free agency occur before the draft after a pre-draft workout earlier this week.

“I have been a big proponent of switching the draft and free agency,” said director of player personnel Austin Ainge. “I think that most teams build from veteran players first… you more likely are fitting in draft picks in and around a veteran core group. So I think the calendar should follow our decision-making tree. So I think it should be switched.”

The NBA has been open-minded to changes, having recently modified the beginning of free agency to 6pm on June 30 as opposed to midnight on July 1. It remains to be seen whether the league will be as open to changing the order of the draft and free agency.

There are more odds and ends to report from around the basketball world this evening:

  • Kenyon Martin Jr., the son of former NBA player Kenyon Martin, is bypassing college basketball at Vanderbilt to pursue a professional career, reports Evan Daniels of 247Sports. He joins RJ Hampton as the second high-profile high school prospect to turn down a college career, although Hampton was a much more ballyhooed recruit than Martin.
  • According to a tweet from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPNKings forward Harrison Barnes will participate in USA Basketball’s August training camp ahead of the FIBA World Cup in China this fall.
  • Spurs big man Donatas Motiejunas was not named to Lithuania’s preliminary roster for the FIBA Basketball World Cup, per Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Carchia passes along the full squad, which features Domantas Sabonis and Jonas Valanciunas.

Central Notes: Gilbert, Turner, McMillan, M. Williams

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert won’t be involved with the team’s draft preparations as he continues to recover from a stroke, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Gilbert is still in a Detroit-area hospital, and Quicken Loans CEO Jay Farner issued a statement today suggesting that the recovery might be lengthy.

“Dan’s recovery is a process that will take time — but we are all confident that he will meet this challenge head on as he always does,” Farner wrote.

Sources tell Fedor that Gilbert has already approved an aggressive spending plan if GM Koby Altman believes it’s necessary to improve the team. That includes taking back a sizable contract to get rid of J.R. Smith, who was exiled from the team after playing just 11 games this season. Cleveland owns picks No. 5 and 26 in the draft and will reportedly try to buy into the second round.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Competing for a spot on Team USA for the FIBA World Cup tournament will give Pacers center Myles Turner another shot to gain recognition after being left off the All-Defensive team, notes Scott Agness of The Athletic. Turner led the league in total blocked shots with 199 and blocks per game at 2.7, but didn’t receive first- or second-team honors. Two of Turner’s teammates, Lithuanian center Domantas Sabonis and Canadian guard Cory Joseph, will be in China for the tournament.
  • Pacers coach Nate McMillan was slated to be an assistant to Gregg Popovich on Team USA, but he withdrew after Indiana was scheduled for a trip to India in early October, Agness adds in the same piece. The World Cup title game is September 15, and McMillan wants to focus on his NBA responsibilities. “My first priority is the Pacers,” he said. “I committed to USA Basketball before I got the schedule next season for us.”
  • Former Heat guard Matt Williams was invited to a free agent mini-camp with the Pistons, tweets Nicola Lupo of Sportando. Williams appeared in three games as a two-way player for Miami during the 2017/18 season before playing this year in Finland and Greece. Forward Marc Loving, formerly of Ohio State, also received an invitation (Twitter link). He played in the G League this season.

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)

Pacers Notes: Free Agency, Bogdanovic, Oladipo

Heading into the 2019 offseason, the Pacers expect to have about $43-45MM in cap room available to spend, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said today at his end-of-season press conference, per Scott Agness of The Athletic (Twitter link).

“I think that brings a lot of excitement and I think that allows for us to be super aggressive,” Pritchard said of the team’s financial situation, adding that the Pacers expect to highlight their strong culture as a primary selling point to free agents.

Asked about the Pacers’ potential spending power, Pritchard indicated that no significant restrictions have been placed on him by ownership, as Agness relays (via Twitter)

“(Team owner) Herb (Simon) wants to win. We set a budget. It’s a very high budget, I’ll tell you that,” Pritchard said. “Herb has never told me ‘No’ if it makes the team better. Not one time. … I want to think big.”

Here’s more on the Pacers:

  • Bojan Bogdanovic will be the Pacers’ most notable free agent this summer, and Pritchard expects plenty of competition for the veteran swingman. “We would like to have extensive talks with Bojan. The truth is he’s a complete (unrestricted) free agent so he’s gonna have interest. You can feel that already,” Pritchard said today (Twitter link). “On July 1, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a long conversation with Bojan.”
  • There’s still no timeline for Victor Oladipo‘s return to the court, but Pritchard said Indiana’s injured star is “coming along nicely,” with the focus still on his ongoing physical therapy (Twitter link via Agness).
  • Pritchard feels good about the No. 18 pick in the draft, but suggested that the team would be “open-minded” and “aggressive” about moving up or down in the draft, tweets Agness. “I would not be surprised if that pick is not the pick we pick,” Pritchard said.
  • Pritchard praised young big man Domantas Sabonis, suggesting that the team would like to find a way to get him a bigger role next season (Twitter link via Agness). Sabonis will be eligible for a rookie scale extension starting in July.

Eastern Notes: Celtics, Giannis, Dragic, Heat, Pacers

The Celtics picked up their defensive intensity to seal an impressive Game 1 road win over the Bucks on Sunday, swarming the paint and putting an emphasis on slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo’s primary defender, Al Horford, recorded three blocks (two of which were on him). The Celtics as a whole held the Bucks to just 35% shooting from the floor, including a 7-for-21 performance from Antetokounmpo. Boston’s energy drained Milwaukee, leading to the dominate 112-90 win.

“They were loading [the paint] a lot,” Antetokounmpo said, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “Lots of guys in the paint. Whenever I got in the paint, when I spin or try and change direction, the second guy was right there.

“I’ve just gotta go watch tape. If they are going to play like this the whole series, I have to be able to make the right pass, trust my teammates to knock down shots.”

For Horford and the Celtics, containing Antetokounmpo was the game plan entering Game 1. The next challenge for Boston is dealing with Milwaukee’s adjustments entering Game 2 on Tuesday night.

“I just think that our group, we all understood how we needed to defend and how dangerous he is once he gets it in the paint,” Horford said of Antetokounmpo. “So constantly tonight, we had a couple of breakdowns, but for the most part, I feel like everyone was very aware. Our guards really did a good job of helping and closing down lanes and things like that, and we just wanted to challenge and contest every shot as best we could.”

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • The Heat could wait it out with Goran Dragic entering the final season of his contract, Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel writes. Dragic will decide in the coming weeks whether to exercise his $19.2MM player option for next season, though Winderman notes it wouldn’t be beneficial for the team to extend him on a cheaper, multi-year deal that cuts into future cap space. Should Dragic opt into his player option, he’d become an unrestricted free agent in July of 2020.
  • Miami has a long way to go before achieving star status in the East, Winderman writes in a separate article for The Sun Sentinel. The Heat essentially have the same roster situation they did a year ago (minus the fact that Dwyane Wade has retired), leaving more questions than answers about the organization entering this summer. The team is coming off a disappointing 2018/19 season that saw them finish at 39-43, the sixth worst record in the conference.
  • The Pacers would be smart to consider trading one of Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis this summer, Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star opines. Indiana was swept by Boston in the first round of the playoffs this spring, failing to effectively play without injured star Victor Oladipo.

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.”