Evan Fournier

Southeast Notes: Young, Heat, Batum, Fournier

Hawks star Trae Young overcame several non-believers in his path to the NBA, proving doubters wrong while using their comments as motivation, Sam Amick of The Athletic writes. 

Young, 21, has quickly turned into one of the league’s most electric point guards. He’s averaged 26.6 points and 8.8 assists in 11 games for the Hawks this season, having being drafted fifth overall in 2018. The memories of his doubters still remain firmly in his mind.

“Yeah, it’s little stuff like that,” Young said. “I have pictures and stuff like that. Old tweets. Old different sayings and quotes from people who said things when I was coming into the draft, coming into college too. It’s stuff I just keep it in my mind. Some of it is mental notes, but at the same time some of it is stuff that I keep and I have my eye on. …But I think that type of stuff motivates you.”

Young, according to Amick, has a second phone filled with screenshots of those who doubted him. The phone itself isn’t attached to an actual line, but it’s something he’ll always have for motivation during his career.

“I’ve probably changed my phone twice, but I still have that same phone with all my pictures and all that stuff,” he said. “I’ll always have that phone, until I’m retired. And then, when I’m retired, I’ll go to the ocean somewhere and throw it in the water.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines whether the Heat have reached their development quota. Miami has several intriguing young players on its roster this season, including Justise Winslow, Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn.
  • Hornets forward Nicolas Batum returned on Saturday against the Knicks after missing nearly four weeks with a fractured left middle finger. Batum, 30, finished with three points, nine rebounds and six assists in 29 minutes of work, registering a positive-18 net rating.
  • Evan Fournier‘s renewed rhythm is leading the Magic to offensive improvement, writes John Denton of NBA.com. Orlando has won two straight games after a poor start to the season, though the team has yet to win a game on the road (0-4). Fournier has averaged 16.2 points per game on 48% shooting from the field and 43% shooting from 3-point range.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Southeast Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Southeast Division:

Devonte’ Graham, Hornets, 24, PG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $4MM deal in 2018
The Hornets have until July 7th to decide whether to guarantee Graham’s $1,663,861 for next season. Safe to say, that decision has already been made. In terms of salary vs. production, Graham might be the biggest bargain in the league this season. Making just over $1.4MM, Graham leads the team in scoring at 18.0 PPG and 7.3 APG while coming off the bench in all but one game. The Kansas product appeared in 46 games last season, averaging 4.7 PPG in 14.7 MPG. With Kemba Walker bolting to Boston, Graham has blossomed in an expanded role.

Goran Dragic, Heat, 33, PG (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $85MM deal in 2015
Dragic played in just 36 games last season due to right knee surgery. Dragic, now 33, has been a starter most of his career and had to adjust to a second-unit role this season. Thus far, he’s been healthy and productive. He’s averaging 16.1 PPG and 5.1 APG in 28.4 MPG while making just 1.8 TPG. Dragic’s $19.2MM expiring contract is a tradeable asset if the Heat decide to shed salary. For now, Dragic is a valuable part of an improved team that should make the playoffs out of arguably the weakest division in the NBA.

Evan Fournier, Magic, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $85MM deal in 2016
Following a couple of sluggish outings against Oklahoma City and Dallas in which he shot 3-for-12 from the field, Fournier has put together a nice three-game stretch. He’s averaged 18.0 PPG and 5.0 APG during that span while knocking down nine 3-pointers and committing just four turnovers. Orlando won two of those games. The team’s second-leading scorer has a $17.15MM option on his contract for next season. In a very weak free agent market, Fournier has plenty of incentive to decline that option in order to secure another long-term deal.

Evan Turner, Hawks, 31, SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $70MM deal in 2016
A rotation piece for a playoff team in recent seasons, Turner was swapped by the Trail Blazers for Kent Bazemore during the offseason. Turner was expected to provide veteran stability to a mostly inexperienced unit in Atlanta. But he only averaged 11.3 MPG during the Hawks’ first three games before being sidelined by Achilles soreness. It’s uncertain how much time Turner will require to recover from the injury. In the meantime, Atlanta has plenty of other options at the wing positions and the return of Allen Crabbe further clouds Turner’s role whenever he’s healthy enough to play.

Isaiah Thomas, Wizards, 30, PG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.32MM deal in 2019
Thomas’ latest attempt to revive his career seems to be working out. Since returning from a training camp injury, Thomas has jumped into the rotation and seen his playing time steadily increase. He’s averaging 13.9 PPG and 6.3 APG while shooting 38.5 percent from long range in 24.1 MPG. Following a lost season in Denver, Thomas has at least reestablished himself as a rotation player. That’s a heartwarming development for a popular player who was an MVP candidate just a few seasons ago in Boston.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

And-Ones: Lineups, Fournier, Roc Nation, Gasol

The league has made a proposal requiring teams to reveal their starting lineups at least 30 minutes prior to tip-off, Zach Lowe of ESPN tweets. Currently, teams only have to issue their lineups 10 minutes before the start of the game. The move would most likely facilitate wagering, particularly with daily fantasy leagues, who would have more advance knowledge of any lineup changes.

We have more from the basketball world:

  • Magic swingman Evan Fournier, who played for bronze-medalist France in the FIBA World Cup, was disappointed that many NBA stars chose to skip the event, Joe Vardon of The Athletic reports. “To be honest, like, when you look at (LeBron) James, KD (Kevin Durant), all these guys, they came here already, they won,” Fournier said. “Whatever, it’s fine. Friends of mine like Tobias (Harris), I thought it was a great opportunity for him to see something different and compete. I don’t think they realize how beneficial this is for their career.”
  • Veteran agent Roger Montgomery has resigned from Roc Nation Sports to focus on other management projects, Jabari Young of The Athletic tweets. Montgomery negotiated Rudy Gay‘s two-year, $32MM contract with the Spurs and also represented Hornets lottery pick PJ Washington.
  • Marc Gasol showed he’s still an effective player during the World Cup, Tom Ziller of SB Nation writes. Gasol was the defensive and offensive anchor of Spain’s gold-medal winning team and that provides hope for the Raptors that they can still make some noise in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, maligned point guard Frank Ntilikina showed he could be an elite defender for the Knicks with the way he handled Kemba Walker while playing for France.

World Cup Notes: Spain, Rubio, Popovich, Fox

Suns guard Ricky Rubio was named World Cup MVP as Spain captured the gold medal this morning by rolling past Argentina, 95-75. France claimed the bronze by defeating Australia.

The all-World Cup team had a strong NBA flavor as Rubio was joined by Spanish teammate Marc Gasol, Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic, France’s Evan Fournier and Argentina’s Luis Scola. Gasol capped a memorable three-month stretch that included an NBA title with the Raptors and the World Cup crown.

“We were not the most talented team,” Rubio said. “We were not the biggest team. But we played with heart. We will be family for life.” (Twitter link from Emiliano Carchia of Sportando)

There’s more World Cup news to pass along:

  • Coach Gregg Popovich blasted critics who are taking shots at Team USA after a seventh-place finish, relays Brian Windhorst of ESPN. The Americans won the past two World Cups, but fell far short this time, losing back-to-back games to France and Serbia. “Some people want to play the blame game. There’s no blame to be placed anywhere,” Popovich said. “They want to play the shame game, like we should be ashamed because we didn’t win a gold medal? That’s a ridiculous attitude. It’s immature, it’s arrogant, and it shows that whoever thinks that doesn’t respect all the other teams in the world and doesn’t respect that these guys did the best they could.” Windhorst notes that only four of the 35 players who were on the projected U.S. roster last summer wound up playing in China.
  • There are no hard feelings from USA Basketball toward Kings guard De’Aaron Fox, who left the team shortly before it departed for exhibition games in Australia, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. It was suggested on ESPN’s “The Jump” this week that Fox wouldn’t be considered for future international teams, but USA Basketball communications director Craig Miller said the organization “understands De’Aaron’s decision.”
  • Both of this year’s finalists were successful with players who are considered past their prime, strengthening the argument that continuity provides a huge advantage in international play, writes Tom Ziller of SB Nation. Argentina was led by the 39-year-old Scola, while Spain’s foundation of Rubio, Gasol, Sergio Llull, Rudy Fernandez and Victor Claver has been together for many years.

World Cup Updates: Lithuania, Joseph, Nigeria, France

The Lithuanian national team has announced its roster for the 2019 World Cup, according to Donatas Urbonas, who tweets that the 12-man squad will include Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas and Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis in the frontcourt. Former Knicks forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas is also on the roster.

Lithuania is viewed as a contender to make a deep run in this year’s tournament, but it won’t have an easy path to even make it out of the first round. The Lithuanian national team is part of a group that also includes Australia, Canada, and Senegal — only two of those clubs will advance to the round of 16.

Here’s more on the 2019 World Cup, which will tip off in just four days in China:

And-Ones: Durant, Superteams, French National Team

Multiple teams around the NBA still consider Kevin Durant a talent worth investing max money in, despite the ruptured Achilles that will sideline him through 2019/20. Ben Golliver of the Washington Post weighs in on several franchises that could entertain the idea this summer.

Golliver writes that the Clippers, backed by billionaire Steve Ballmer could afford to sign Durant, tinker with the impressive lineup that led them to the postseason this spring, and then hit the ground running with Durant in 2020/21. That’s a scenario that would be ever dreamier if they were able to land Kawhi Leonard this summer as well.

Of course Durant’s absence next season will still have some impact on his value. Could the revelation that Durant won’t play in 2019/20 derail a potential pairing with Kyrie Irving in New York? Would Irving prefer instead to work with a different star in Brooklyn?

These are questions we’ll get answers to eventually but for now one thing is clear, Durant’s value remains high but that’s not to say that his Achilles hasn’t still thrown the league for a loop.

There’s more from around the league:

  • Is this the beginning of the end of the Superteam Era? Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN wonders as much in a video released on Instagram, suggesting players around the league are showing a greater interest in leading their own teams. For the past decade, star players have seemingly gravitated to one another to stack the deck and win championships but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, if the Raptors’ 2019 title plays a small role in the ushering out the Superteam Era, they’ll be walking right back into a climate that saw former Raptor star Tracy McGrady bolt the franchise for the chance to get out of Vince Carter‘s shadow and lead his own Magic squad.
  • Former Knicks forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas has received interest from a number of NBA teams and has several offers to join teams on non-guaranteed pre-season camp deals, international basketball reported Donatas Urbonas tweets.
  • The preliminary French national team for the 2019 World Cup has been revealed and a number of household NBA names will fortify a competitive roster. As seen at Sportando, Rudy Gobert, Nicolas Batum and Evan Fournier are the biggest names on the preliminary roster but they’re not the only ones with big league credentials.

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.

Deveney’s Latest: Blazers, Harkless, Saric, Matthews

After officially acquiring Rodney Hood in a trade with Cleveland earlier today, the Trail Blazers may not be done dealing, writes Sean Deveney of Sporting News. According to Deveney, some executives around the NBA have suggested that Portland regretted its relative inactivity at last season’s deadline and is more willing to make moves this time around.

Whether the Trail Blazers do anything drastic may hinge on their willingness to move second-year big man Zach Collins, according to Deveney, who says that the team has “resisted inquiries” on Collins so far.

Maurice Harkless is among the Trail Blazers who could be had though, and the team is open to moving its first-round pick as well, per Deveney. Harkless has one more year on his contract after this season, which figures to limit his value — teams like the Knicks and Nets have had interest in him in the past, but won’t want to compromise their 2019 cap flexibility by acquiring him now, Deveney observes.

Here’s more on the Blazers, plus a couple other notes from Deveney on the trade market:

  • Nikola Mirotic (Pelicans), Jeremy Lin (Hawks), Evan Fournier (Magic), and JaMychal Green (Grizzlies) are among the players the Trail Blazers have expressed interest in, sources tell Deveney.
  • Dario Saric‘s production and playing time has dipped since Ryan Saunders took over as the Timberwolves‘ head coach, and Deveney suggests that it wouldn’t be a shock to see Saric back on the trade block in the offseason, or even this week. “He could be had for a decent offer, a first-rounder and a player,” one league executive told Deveney.
  • Deveney reiterates that the Raptors and Rockets are expected to be among the favorites for Wesley Matthews if he’s bought out, as we heard earlier today. The Bucks wouldn’t be among Matthews’ suitors, per Deveney, though Milwaukee hopes to add one more frontcourt piece via trade or free agency.

Magic Veterans Feeling Urgency To Win

The Magic haven’t made the postseason since 2012, but they’re in position to push for a playoff spot this year. While their 20-27 record puts them just 11th in the Eastern Conference, they’re only 2.5 games removed from the No. 8 seed. And, as Josh Robbins of The Athletic details, Orlando’s veterans are feeling pressure to earn a top-eight spot or risk having the roster broken up in the offseason.

“We’re not stupid,” Evan Fournier said on Monday, per Robbins. “We know if we don’t make the playoffs this year, this is probably over for us as a team.”

As Robbins writes, after the Magic fell to 19-27 with Saturday’s loss to the Bucks, Nikola Vucevic conveyed to his teammates that there wasn’t much room for error if the club wants to reach the postseason. According to Fournier, Vucevic said that the Magic’s next three games – starting with last night’s win over the Hawks – “were basically our season” and that they needed to come out with some urgency.

“I just told the team that this is it,” Vucevic said. “These next couple of games we have to get some wins. Otherwise, it’s going to be very, very hard for us to achieve our goal to get to the playoffs. I just wanted to make sure that they understand that, that every game going forward for us is a big game. But it has to be done now.”

Fournier has another guaranteed season on his contract after this year, plus a player option for 2020/21, so he could return to the Magic even if the club shakes things up this summer. However, Vucevic and Terrence Ross will be unrestricted free agents, and if Orlando makes major changes, those changes might also involve trading a veteran like Fournier. For his part, the 26-year-old Frenchman says he and his veteran teammates are hoping this isn’t their final run with the Magic.

“We like it here,” Fournier said. “We like to play with each other. We’re starting to get better (as a team), and we’ve been struggling for so long here, we want to see the results. We’ve spent so many times and hours with the Magic. You want to see it work, you know? It’s like when you’re trying to make it work with your wife. You want to make it work. It’s not like you want to change wives. It’s the same thing (with the Magic). So, yeah, of course, we want to have great moments together.”

The Magic will look to build on Monday’s win with games against a pair of Eastern playoff hopefuls on tap for Wednesday (at Brooklyn) and Friday (vs. Washington).

Southeast Notes: Waiters, Fournier, Adebayo, Howard

In order to improve upon their 2017/18 campaign without having made any significant changes this offseason, the Heat had better hope that Dion Waiters, who missed 52 games last season, becomes this season’s Victor Oladipo, opines Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

There are some unquestionable similarities between Oladipo and Waiters. As Winderman notes, both were traded from Oklahoma City, both were top five selections in their respective drafts, and both are now playing for their third NBA franchise.

“You can never predict anything in this league,” Riley said. “You look at what happened last year to Indiana and how good they became getting [Domantas] Sabonis and Oladipo, how they changed, how their mentality changed. They made some good additions. Very few people talk about them.”

Per Winderman, it’s that type of under-the-radar approach from Riley that has defined the Heat’s offseason thus far. Riley seemingly believes that his team is good enough to complete already.

“One thing we have going for us is we have familiarity, we have continuity,” Riley said. “There is a system that’s been intact here. (And) not having Dion Waiters play hardly at all, you’ve got to give it another shot. You can’t just keep ripping things up every year and changing your roster.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division: