Giannis Antetokounmpo

NBA GMs Like Heat’s Offseason Moves, Nets’ Title Chances

Nearly half of the NBA’s general managers voted for the Heat as the team that had the best 2021 offseason, John Schuhmann of NBA.com writes in his annual survey of the league’s GMs. Miami got 14 of 30 possible votes, while the Lakers picked up five votes. The Nets, Rockets, and Wizards were the other teams picked by multiple GMs as having the best offseason.

The Heat’s acquisition of Kyle Lowry via sign-and-trade helped tip the scales in their favor. Asked which offseason player acquisition will make the biggest impact for his new team this season, GMs overwhelmingly chose Lowry — he received 23 of 30 votes. New Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook was the only other player to get multiple votes (five).

Although the Heat and Lakers received high marks from rival GMs for their work over the summer, neither club is considered the title favorite entering the 2021/22 season. That honor belongs to the Nets, who earned 22 votes from GMs for the team that will win the 2022 Finals. The Lakers (five) and Bucks (three) were the only other teams to receive any votes.

Here are a few more of the most interesting responses from Schuhmann’s GM survey, which is worth checking out in full:

  • The Trail Blazers‘ trade for Larry Nance Jr. received the most votes (28%) for the most underrated acquisition of the offseason, with the Nets‘ signing of Patty Mills (17%) and the Wizards‘ addition of Spencer Dinwiddie (14%) also receiving support in that category.
  • The NBA’s GMs view Rockets guard Jalen Green (47%) and Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (40%) as the best bets to win Rookie of the Year, but voted Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley as the rookie who will be the best player in five years. Mobley (33%) narrowly edged out Cunningham (30%) and Green (23%) in that category.
  • The GMs voted the Magic‘s selection of Jalen Suggs at No. 5 (23%) and the Rockets‘ pick of Alperen Sengun at No. 16 (20%) as the biggest steals of the 2021 draft.
  • The Bulls (27%) are considered the best bet to be the most improved team in 2021/22, while Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (17%) received the most support as the top breakout candidate.
  • Following their run to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks (50%) were overwhelmingly voted as the team with the best young core. The Rockets received three votes, while no other team got more than two.
  • Only two players received multiple votes when GMs were asked which player they’d want to start a franchise with: Mavericks star Luka Doncic (43%) barely beat out Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo (40%).

Injury Notes: Gay, Bogdanovic, Giannis, Robinson, Bryant

Jazz forward Rudy Gay won’t be ready to make his debut for his new team during the preseason or even by the start of the regular season, head coach Quin Snyder told reporters on Friday.

As Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune details, Gay underwent surgery on his left heel shortly after the 2020/21 season ended and is still recovering. He has been going through portions of practice with the Jazz, but hasn’t yet been cleared for contact, Walden writes. Gay is expected to remain sidelined through at least opening night.

Meanwhile, another Jazz forward – Bojan Bogdanovic – has also been held out of the full-contact portions of the team’s practices, according to Walden. However, it sounds like Bogdanovic is closer to returning to action than Gay. A team spokesperson said that Bogdanovic is experiencing some shoulder soreness and is being rested out of caution. If the regular season had begun, he’d likely be able to play, says Walden.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo acknowledged on Media Day that the knee he injured during last season’s playoffs still isn’t 100%, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic, and he hasn’t been a full participant in the team’s practices so far this week. Asked if there’s a chance Antetokounmpo won’t be ready to play by opening night, head coach Mike Budenholzer replied, “No, I wouldn’t go there. … I would say he’s in a good place and there’s a lot of confidence he’ll be good — and when exactly that is, we hope it’s sooner rather than later” (Twitter links via Nehm)
  • Knicks center Mitchell Robinson, who is coming back from a fractured foot, said on Thursday that he’s running but isn’t yet sprinting, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Head coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters that Robinson – who hasn’t been cleared to practice – still has a few checkpoints to hit, including some related to conditioning, before he’ll be ready to return to action. There’s currently no timetable for his return. Begley adds that the Knicks are unlikely to seriously consider negotiating a new contract for Robinson, who is extension-eligible, until they see him back on the court.
  • Wizards center Thomas Bryant admitted this week that the long recovery from an ACL tear has been a life-changing process for him, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington relays. It’s very hard because that’s like the one love that you have in your life right there. It’s the one thing that’s always been there, always intact that you know that you can always go to. When that’s taken away from you, it’s very hard,” Bryant said. “It’s almost depressing in a sort of way. But when you’re mentally strong and you keep talking to yourself and working with yourself mentally, the days don’t get so much harder, they get a little bit easier.” Bryant is expected to return sometime in December.

And-Ones: Big3, Giannis, Overtime Elite, GM Candidates

Jarrett Jack has joined the Suns’ coaching staff, but his playing career isn’t completely over. Jack hit the game-winning shot Saturday as the Trilogy defended its Big3 title, writes Jack Maloney of CBS Sports. Jack, who was named Co-Rookie of the Year in the summer three-on-three league, had 29 points in the championship game.

“Got a little emotional,” he said. “To be honest, man, this was crazy. This was my first time hitting a game-winner in front of my son. I’m happy for him to be a part of it. Our coach stuck with us through and through every week. We had a hell of a group man. I just want to shout out these guys, my teammates.”

Former NBA All-Star Joe Johnson was named league MVP for the second straight season (Twitter link). Other award winners were Kevin Murphy joining Jack as Co-Rookie of the Year, Isaiah Briscoe as Fourth Man of the Year and Larry Sanders as Defensive Player of the Year.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is considering a return to international basketball in the 2022 EuroBasket tournament, according to EuroHoops. He had to miss this year’s Olympic qualifying tournament because of the playoffs, and Greece failed to earn a spot in Tokyo. “Taking it day by day. But I can’t wait,” Antetokounmpo wrote in response to a tweet by FIBA previewing EuroBasket.
  • In a press release, Overtime Elite announced the signing of three more players — Jahzare Jackson, Jaylen Martin and TJ Clark. The league, made up of top high school prospects, now has 24 players for its inaugural season. OTE is also hoping to sign Kamari Lands, who recently decommitted from Syracuse, tweets Adam Zagoria.
  • The Bucks’ championship makes assistant general manager Milt Newton one of the top GM candidates in the league, per Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Newton has experience running a team in Minnesota and he helped build a title-winning roster in Milwaukee. Fischer also examines several other candidates who may be considered for the next GM openings.

Bucks Co-Owner Lasry Talks Budenholzer, Jrue, Tax, More

After watching the Bucks win a championship for the first time in 50 years during the 2020/21 season, co-owner Marc Lasry is confident that the team will remain in the mix for a title again in ’21/22. Lasry told Sam Amick and Anthony Slater of The Athletic that he views the Bucks and Nets as the top two teams in the East entering the fall.

Asked if the Heat – who eliminated the Bucks from the playoffs in 2020 – are in that top tier alongside Milwaukee and Brooklyn, Lasry praised Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, and P.J. Tucker, calling Miami a “really good” team. However, he said he believes the Bucks are better.

“Ultimately at the end of the day I’d rather have our team,” Lasry said. “… If we’re healthy, you know we should go pretty far.

“But I would say the same thing (about other teams). If the Nets are healthy, they should go pretty far. It’s who’s going to be the healthiest when you get there. And it’s been interesting trying to figure out (that part) because I bet you there’s going to be a lot of gaming of this… You want to be the No. 1 seed, but do you want to be the No. 1 seed, or do you want to make sure you’re the healthiest going into the playoffs?”

Lasry’s appearance on The Athletic’s Tampering podcast touched on several other topics of note. The discussion is worth checking out in full, but here are a few highlights from the Bucks’ co-owner, via Amick and Slater:

On head coach Mike Budenholzer getting a contract extension after being on the hot seat:

“Bud is really good. I mean, he is. He does have that quiet confidence, which is nice. So I think you go through all of this, and one of the things that I saw — and I told this to Bud — was I said, ‘Look, there was a huge amount of pressure on us, on him, on all of us, because everybody expects you to win.’ And what he showed us during that time is how well he handled the pressure, how well he prepared the team, and what a great job he did, so that after we won, we were like, ‘Look, it’s not like we want to reward you; we want to keep you.'”

On the 2020 acquisition of Jrue Holiday and how it influenced Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s decision to sign a long-term extension with the Bucks:

“(General manager) Jon Horst felt that (Holiday) was going to be the missing piece, and he was dead right. You know, I remember the first practice and Jrue is covering Giannis. And same thing — Giannis knew Jrue by reputation. After practice that day, Jon says to me, ‘Yeah, Giannis now knows how good he is. (Holiday’s) covering him. He’s good.’ It was actually great. It was. And I think 100 percent it was a huge factor in Giannis re-signing because he saw what we were willing to do.”

On the Bucks becoming a taxpayer in 2020/21 and going further into the tax in ’21/22:

“Look, (the tax) is a big part. I’m not going to tell you it’s not. I mean, it’s just — if you sign somebody for $5MM, you’re not signing him for $5MM, you’re signing him for $25MM, $20MM. You sort of look at that, and you’re trying to figure out, ‘Alright, look, if we’re going to do that, OK, there is a cost to it. Yeah, we want him, but that’s going to cost us $25MM or that’ll cost us $35MM.’ I mean, whatever the numbers are. And I think we’re very focused on that.

“Look, we’re a small-market team. It’s expensive. I mean, for us, this year we’re going to lose quite a bit of money. … But at the end of the day, the goal is that you want to keep winning a championship, so you’re going to spend the money.”

Central Notes: Giannis, Sykes, Nance

Bucks All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has bought a stake in MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers, the Brewers announced on Friday (link via ESPN). He certainly has the means: the 6’11” reigning Finals MVP inked a five-year, $228MM+ supermax extension with Milwaukee ahead of his championship 2020/21 season with the Bucks.

“This is a dream come true for a kid from Sepolia, Athens, Greece, born from immigrant parents. I could have never imagined I would be in this position,” Antetokounmpo said during a news conference about the purchase on Friday. “I want to be involved in the community as much as possible. I know Milwaukee invested a lot in me, and I want to invest a lot of me back into the city of Milwaukee.”

For more on Antetokounmpo’s foray into MLB ownership, check out the story at MLB Trade Rumors.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

Eastern Notes: Magic, Keefe, Giannis, Embiid, Dinwiddie, Wizards

The Magic intend on targeting veterans once free agency begins this week, president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said, as relayed by Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

Orlando currently has a roster filled with younger players — including Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs, Jonathan Isaac and Wendell Carter Jr. — making it imperative that the team also has some veterans by the time next season starts.

“Our goal would be to add experience to the roster,” Weltman said. “But it has to come in the right form and fashion. It has to be guys that we feel will help move our team forward, help our young guys navigate the early stages of their careers and can also help us on the court and show what hard work and preparation leads to.”

One veteran who spent time with Orlando the past two seasons, James Ennis, is set to reach the open market, though he recently told Hoops Rumors that his top priority will be finding a winning situation. The Magic finished with just a 21-51 record last season.

Here are some other notes from the East tonight:

  • The Nets are hiring Brian Keefe as an assistant coach, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Keefe, a veteran NBA assistant, was a finalist for the Thunder’s head coaching job one year ago, Wojnarowski notes. Keefe will replace Mike D’Antoni on Steve Nash‘s staff.
  • Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t need surgery on the knee he hyperextended during the playoffs, according to general manager Jon Horst“He’s fine,” Horst said, as relayed by The Associated Press. “I can’t explain it, but he’s fine.”
  • The Sixers are refusing to address questions about Joel Embiid‘s lingering knee injury, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Embiid sustained the injury in Game 4 of the team’s first-round series against the Wizards, though he still went on to average 28.1 points and 10.5 rebounds in 32.5 minutes per game during the postseason.
  • A potential sign-and-trade for Spencer Dinwiddie won’t be easy to figure out for the Wizards, as detailed by Fred Katz of The Athletic. Washington is operating over the salary cap, meaning Dinwiddie could only join the team via a sign-and-trade, and the Nets won’t be eager to take on any significant salary for a player they don’t love. Dinwiddie missed most of last season after suffering a partially torn ACL. He averaged a career-high 20.6 points and 6.8 assists per game the season before, however, shooting 41.5% from the field.

Bucks Notes: Giannis, Holiday, Budenholzer

As recently as last fall, there was major uncertainty about whether Giannis Antetokounmpo would remain with the Bucks for the long term, as his second contract with the team was nearing an end and he was weighing whether or not to sign a super-max extension.

Antetokounmpo, of course, eventually accepted that super-max offer last December, a decision that paid off in a major way on Tuesday, when the Bucks secured their first championship in 50 years. After the Game 6 victory, Giannis expressed satisfaction that he opted to stick with Milwaukee rather than joining forces with other stars elsewhere.

“I could go to a super-team and just do my part and win a championship,” he said on Tuesday, according to Steve Megargee of The Associated Press. “But this is the hard way to do it and this is the way to do it. And we did it.”

As Megargee writes, Antetokounmpo spent much of his post-game press conference thanking the people who helped him get to this point, including the current and former Bucks officials who had a hand in his development. He also reiterated his love for the city of Milwaukee.

“This is my city,” Giannis said. “They trust me. They believe in me. They believe in us.”

Here’s more on the new NBA champions:

  • Kevin Durant, whose Nets nearly got by the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals said after Team USA practice in Tokyo on Wednesday that he wasn’t dwelling on “what-ifs,” per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Durant also referred to the Bucks as “somewhat of a dynasty,” as Joe Vardon of The Athletic relays. “I know it’s the first chip and a lot of people call you a dynasty after a few,” Durant said. “But the continuity of that team is something that’s impressive and how they continue to build and add and now they’re champions, and you can appreciate that.” Durant will be seeking a gold medal alongside Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton at the Olympics.
  • Sam Amick and Eric Nehm of The Athletic take a deep dive into the road the Bucks took to the 2021 championship. The in-depth report includes several interesting tidbits, including that Antetokounmpo required fluid IV treatment after Game 5 due to dehydration and that Holiday was “ecstatic” last offseason to be traded to the Bucks, who were on his list of preferred destinations.
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) examines what’s on tap for the Bucks this summer and how they can keep their championship roster intact. The first step the team takes this offseason may be to reward head coach Mike Budenholzer – who is entering a contract year – with an extension, Marks notes.
  • In case you missed it, Holiday earned a $1MM bonus as a result of the Bucks’ title. Milwaukee will now be a taxpayer this season for the first time since 2003, and it’s safe to assume team ownership is just fine with that.

Bucks Win 2021 NBA Title, Giannis Named Finals MVP

The Bucks closed out the Suns on Tuesday night, winning the 2021 NBA Finals by a 4-2 margin and earning the franchise’s first championship in 50 years. Milwaukee last won a title in 1971, led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and hadn’t earned a spot in the Finals since 1974 before this year.

Two-time Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks, improbably earning NBA Finals MVP honors in a unanimous vote just three weeks after suffering what initially looked like it might be a season-ending knee injury.

Antetokounmpo’s knee hyperextension caused him to miss the last two games of the Eastern Conference Finals against Atlanta, but Milwaukee advanced to the Finals without him and he was able to get back on the court for Game 1 vs. Phoenix. The 26-year-old subsequently showed no ill effects from the injury, averaging an incredible 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game on 61.8% shooting in the six-game series.

Antetokounmpo’s performance on Tuesday was especially remarkable, as he became the first player in postseason history to register at least 50 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks in a single game, per Justin Kubatko (Twitter link). Giannis’ 50 points tied the record for most points in an NBA Finals closeout game, according to ESPN Stats and Info (Twitter link).

Antetokounmpo becomes the third player in NBA history to win an MVP award, a Finals MVP award, and a Defensive Player of the Year award over the course of his career, joining Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.

The Bucks’ championship victory is especially meaningful not just for Antetokounmpo but also for head coach Mike Budenholzer, whose job would have been in jeopardy if Milwaukee had been eliminated earlier in the playoffs, and for general manager Jon Horst, who took a big swing by giving up several first-round picks and swaps for Jrue Holiday during the 2020 offseason.

Although Holiday’s offensive production was up and down during the series, his defense on Suns guards Chris Paul and Devin Booker was a crucial part of the Bucks’ success and ensured that Horst’s gamble paid off.

While the Bucks will have some roster issues to address in free agency, especially if Bobby Portis and Bryn Forbes opt out, the team has its entire starting lineup under contract for next season, with Antetokounmpo, Holiday, and Khris Middleton all locked up for multiple years. The Suns will be in a similar position if Paul returns to Phoenix.

The NBA offseason is now officially underway.

Bucks Notes: Holiday, Giannis, Thanasis, Team Building

The Bucks paid a high price to get Jrue Holiday last November, but he has silenced any doubts about whether he was worth it, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Holiday delivered 27 points and 13 assists Saturday night and had a game-changing steal in the final minute as Milwaukee closed in on its first NBA title in 50 years.

Holiday said he was “in the right place at the right time” as he took the ball away from Devin Booker on a play where Phoenix had a chance to take the lead. Holiday pushed the ball up court and delivered an alley-oop pass to Giannis Antetokounmpo that virtually sealed the victory.

“I saw it in Portland, when he was in New Orleans and we got swept in the first round,” Pat Connaughton said. “Just the way he defends on a nightly basis and the way that he’s able to do it in different ways. He’s physical, he’s quick, he’s strong. He’s got a lot of things to him. And he’s got quick hands. First-team All-Defense play. It was a Defensive Player of the Year (play). It just kind of shows we’re built on defense.”

There’s more on the Bucks:

  • Antetokounmpo was dehydrated after the game and had to be treated for cramping before he could conduct his post-game interviews, according to Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press. Giannis played more than 40 minutes and posted 32 points, nine rebounds, and six assists.
  • Antetokounmpo said it was hard for him to play without his brother, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, who missed Saturday’s game after being placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, per Marc Berman of The New York Post. “It was extremely difficult for him not to be here to cheer for the team,’’ Giannis said. “He gives the team a lot of energy and the team feels it. As much as it hurts, we still got to do our job and I Facetimed him after the game.’’ Berman pointed out that Giannis hugged his brother for about 15 seconds before the start of Game 4, but his COVID-19 tests have presumably been fine.
  • The Bucks’ success is erasing the “super-team” narrative that has surrounded most of the NBA champions of the last decade, notes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Rather than relying on free agency, Milwaukee slowly built a contender around Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, who have been with the franchise since 2013.

Central Notes: Doumbouya, Middleton, Antetokoumpo, Simonovic

While fielding a number of questions about the Pistons’ No. 1 pick, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com also addressed the future of 2019 draft pick Sekou Doumbouya. Langlois anticipates Doumbouya, who wasn’t drafted by current general manager Troy Weaver, will play in the summer league where he can show greater consistency and effectiveness. The Pistons must decide this offseason whether to pick up the forward’s fourth-year option at $5.5MM for the 2022/23 season.

We have more on the Central Division:

  • Bucks forward Khris Middleton is focused on the Finals but he’s also a minority owner with the Brisbane Bullets in Australia’s NBL. Middleton told Marc Spears of The Undefeated many players are looking into similar ventures. “Being a part of an ownership group is something I wanted to do, for sure,” Middleton said. “As a player it could be tough. But I realize the responsibilities I had wasn’t going to really affect my basketball career right now. But it’s something I think a lot of players are starting to trend towards is finding ways to invest their money, finding things to do with their money that can grow, and it’s something I’m interested in.”
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo and Middleton are the two main building blocks that made the Bucks a championship-level team. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today examines the lengthy partnership between the two teammates. Middleton was acquired in 2013 from Detroit in the same year the two-time MVP was drafted. “At first, friendly competition, a guy like him from Detroit and I just got drafted,” Antetokounmpo said. “We just tried to get on the floor, going at one another in practices. But throughout the time, there was a lot of times that he proved that he’s going to do whatever it takes to help the team win. That’s the type of guy that you want next to you.”
  • Draft-and-stash prospect Marko Simonovic is expected to sign with the Bulls this summer and from what K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago hears, he can be a rotation player at least. Simonovic was a second-round pick so the team’s fans should set their expectations for the 6’11” big man accordingly, Johnson adds.