Giannis Antetokounmpo

Draft Decisions: Antetokounmpo, Bowen, Kurucs, Bonga

Kostas Antetokounmpo opted to remain in the draft prior to Monday afternoon’s early-entry deadline, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony tweets. The 6’10” forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s brother, cancelled all of his remaining scheduled private workouts, Givony adds. That suggests that he might have a guarantee from some team to draft him.

The Dayton freshman averaged a mere 5.2 PPG and 2.9 RPG in 15.1 MPG during his lone college season. Givony has the younger Antetokounmpo ranked No. 57 in his latest Top 100 rankings.

We have other early-entrant decisions to pass along:

  • Swingman Brian Bowen has withdrawn his name from the draft, Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.com reports. Bowen, who was swept up in the Louisville scandal and then transferred to South Carolina, would have had to sit out next college season. He is now free to pursue opportunities in the NBA G League or overseas and then potentially re-enter the draft next year, Zagoria adds.
  • Rodions Kurucs will remain in the draft, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets. The 6’10” Latvian forward, who withdrew from the draft last year, is ranked No. 42 by Givony. Isaac Bonga has also remained in the June draft, Charania adds in another tweet. The 6’9”, 18-year-old German forward is ranked No. 54 by Givony.
  • Matur Maker, brother of the Bucks’ Thon Maker, has withdrawn from the draft, Zagoria tweets.
  • Karim Jallow, a small forward from Greece, has decided to pass on this year’s draft, according to Givony (Twitter link). He was ranked No. 67. Georgios Kalaitzakis and Vasilis Charalampopoulos, another pair of Greek prospects, have withdrawn their names, Givony tweets. The same goes for two French prospects, Adam Mokoka and Amine Noua, Givony adds in another tweet.
  • We relayed several other prospects’ decisions earlier today, including that of Luka Doncic.

Draft Notes: Antetokounmpo, Grizzlies, Sanon

Kostas Antetokounmpo suffered a groin injury during his workout with the Hornets, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer tweets. Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s younger brother could not complete the workout, but Bonnell notes that the injury does not appear to be serious.

The Dayton product has a workout scheduled with the Grizzlies on Monday, though it’s unlikely he’ll participate in it after sustaining the injury. Here are more notes on the upcoming draft:

  • The Grizzlies will work out Jordan Barnett (Missouri), Demetrius Dyson (Samford), Obi Enechionya (Temple), Devon Hall (Virginia), and Malik Newman (Kansas) on Monday, according to a team press release. Memphis owns the No. 4 and No. 32 picks in the upcoming draft.
  • Bruce Brown Jr. (Miami) will work out for the Timberwolves on Monday, Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News passes along via Twitter. Wolfson notes that Brown interviewed with Minnesota at the NBA Combine.
  • Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon has interviews with 24 teams at the NBA Global Camp in Italy, Fran Fraschilla of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). The analyst adds that the 19-year-old would be a great draft-and-stash prospect.

Middleton Hopes To Play Long-Term With Bucks

Khris Middleton feels appreciated by the Bucks’ management team and hopes to play in Milwaukee beyond his current deal, he told Michael Scotto of The Athletic. Middleton has two years and $26MM remaining on his contract, with a player option in that final year. During the process in which Mike Budenholzer was hired as head coach, Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo were invited to a breakfast with the ex-Hawks coach.

“They want me to be there long-term. They brought it to my attention that they wanted me to be a part of the process,” Middleton said. “That’s a huge thing for me. It makes me feel comfortable. It makes me want to be there longer.”

Some other nuggets from Scotto’s story:

  • Budenholzer will emphasize player and ball movement over isolation plays. That should help take some of the scoring burden off of Antetokounmpo and Middleton.
  • Co-owner Jamie Dinan is impressed by the way Budenholzer takes responsibility for a team’s success or failure. “He basically said a poor coach blames his players,” Dinan said. “He says, ‘I think I can get the most out of my players, and you’d be amazed at how good, if you motivate people, that they can actually be.’”
  • Middleton has toured the team’s new arena, slated to open next season, and gives it a big thumbs up. “It’s top-notch and first class. The locker rooms are amazing,” he said. “I gave Peter Feigin, our president, a little bit of grief about the visiting locker rooms being nice, too. They can’t be this nice in the arena.”

NBA Announces 2017/18 All-NBA Teams

The NBA has formally announced the All-NBA First, Second, and Third Teams for the 2017/18 season, with James Harden and LeBron James leading the way as the two unanimous selections for the First Team.

The voting results will have major financial implications for the three All-NBA centers, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, and Karl-Anthony Towns. As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter), Davis is now eligible for a supermax extension from the Pelicans next summer. Davis will be eligible to sign that deal, which projects to be worth $230MM, as of July 1, 2019.

As for Embiid, missing out on a First Team nod means his maximum-salary contract will remain at 25% of the cap rather than being bumped up to 30%. That means he’ll miss out on approximately $29MM over the next five years, as Dan Feldman of NBC Sports details.

Towns, meanwhile, will be eligible for an extension worth 30% of the cap this summer, Marks tweets. An extension of that sort, which would make the cap outlook in Minnesota very interesting, would go into effect for the 2019/20 season.

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 Harden and James scored a perfect 500 — First Team nods from all 100 voters.

First Team

  • Guard: James Harden, Rockets (500)
  • Guard: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers (432)
  • Forward: LeBron James, Cavaliers (500)
  • Forward: Kevin Durant, Warriors (426)
  • Center: Anthony Davis, Pelicans (492)

Second Team

Third Team

Among those results, the tightest race saw DeRozan edge Curry by a single point for a spot on the All-NBA Second Team. Both players received two First Team votes and 39 Second Team votes, with DeRozan grabbing one extra Third Team vote (38 to 37) to bump him up to the Second Team ahead of Curry.

As for the players who didn’t quite make the cut, Rockets point guard Chris Paul (54 points), Jazz center Rudy Gobert (51), Celtics guard Kyrie Irving (42), and Sixers guard/forward Ben Simmons (36) received the most support.

Al Horford (Celtics), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Andre Drummond (Pistons), Clint Capela (Rockets), Draymond Green (Warriors), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Steven Adams (Thunder), Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Trevor Ariza (Rockets), DeMarcus Cousins (Pelicans), Dwight Howard (Hornets), Kevin Love (Cavaliers), and Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks) also each received at least one All-NBA vote.

Budenholzer Seeks To Unlock Bucks’ Defensive Potential

Mike Budenholzer will prioritize improving the Bucks’ defense, Genaro C. Armas of the Associated Press reports. Budenholzer, who agreed to a four-year contract last week to become the team’s head coach, feels Milwaukee’s roster has plenty of good defensive pieces and it’s his task to put them together. “I think with the individual talents we have in Milwaukee … I think one of the words I used in the interview process was, ‘How can we unlock this talent defensively?'” Budenholzer said during his introductory press conference on Monday. “I just think there’s so much to work with.” Milwaukee finished 17th in the league’s defensive ratings last season, 21st in defensive field-goal percentage, 22nd in opponents’ second-chance points and 23rd in points allowed in the paint.

In other notable items from the press conference:

  • Budenholzer believes he can help All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo expand his game. He has already had breakfast with the team’s superstar and Khris Middleton. “He’s a smart player,” Budenholzer said. “I think together, he and I will probably push each other. But I look forward to pushing him. He believes it, I believe it. He’s going to get a lot better.”
  • GM Jon Horst interviewed at least seven candidates, according to Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Horst wanted to find someone with whom he could engage in casual, productive conversations. “It was just an enjoyable time the entire period of time,” Horst said of his initial interview with the ex-Hawks coach.
  • Budenholzer wants to his staff to be mainly comprised of former Hawks assistants. “I’m very hopeful that the majority of my staff will come with me,” Budenholzer said. “I’m a huge believer in my group that’s been with me the last five years.”

Latest On Bucks’ Head Coaching Search

Bucks stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton had breakfast today with head coaching candidate Mike Budenholzer in Milwaukee, league sources tell Zach Lowe of ESPN.com (Twitter links).

While Budenholzer’s Wednesday sitdown with Antetokounmpo and Middleton probably isn’t as important as his Tuesday meeting with Bucks management and ownership, it’s certainly notable. The opportunity to coach Antetokounmpo is viewed as a prime selling point for the Bucks’ coaching position, so the fact that Budenholzer is getting to know the star forward is a sign of how serious a candidate he is for the job.

Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel made a similar point this afternoon, tweeting that he hasn’t heard about the Bucks bringing in any new finalists for their coaching vacancy. Milwaukee met with Budenholzer and Spurs assistant Ettore Messina on Tuesday, with team ownership represented at those meetings.

While it’s still possible that the Bucks will opt to hire Messina or bring in more finalists, all signs point to Budenholzer being the club’s top choice. The former Hawks head coach has also received interest from the Raptors or the Bucks, so it remains to be seen where he’ll land, but Budenholzer looks like a prime candidate to replace Joe Prunty in Milwaukee.

Central Notes: Bucks, Doncic, Pacers

As we relayed yesterdayBucks’ interim head coach Joe Prunty is still a candidate to retain Milwaukee’s head coaching position. However, as we also indicated, former Hawks’ coach Mike Budenholzer is just one name circulating as a possible replacement for Prunty, with the Bucks planning to conduct an open and active search for their next head coach.

According to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, the Bucks would be wise to move on from Prunty and seek a head coach who can do a better job of inserting franchise cornerstone Giannis Antetokounmpo into a superstar role. Per Deveney, the Bucks have failed to do so to this point in Antetokounmpo’s young career, and it is negatively affecting both Antetokounmpo and the team.

Deveney mentions Budenholzer, former Grizzlies coach David Fizdale, and former Cavaliers coach David Blatt as worthwhile candidates for the position, but ultimately opines that whoever the Bucks hire, he needs to be able to formulate an offense that runs through Antetokounmpo, creating mismatches and finding options for when teams double team him.

Deveney also touches on what he deems disappointing seasons from role players Tony Snell, Thon Maker, and Matthew Dellavedova, as well as the upcoming free agency of former No. 2 overall pick, Jabari Parker. Deveney feels that the best case scenario for the Bucks, although highly unlikely, is a total lack of suitors for Parker, thereby opening the door for the Bucks to potentially sign Parker to a one-year deal at the value of his qualifying offer.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Regardless of how the Bucks plan on approaching Parker’s free agency, at least one teammate is extremely confident that the former Duke star is not leaving Milwaukee (story).
  • As one part of a 10-part series focusing on the upcoming 2018 NBA Draft, Marc Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago argues that the Bulls should select Luka Doncic if he is available when Chicago makes its selection in June, as his elite-level passing ability is a perfect fit for today’s fast-paced NBA game.
  • Fresh off a heartbreaking loss to the Cavaliers in Game 7 of the teams’ first round series, the Pacers should be excited about their promising future, writes Michael Marot of The Associated Press. As Marot notes, the Pacers could have their top eight players all back next year if Thaddeus Young and Cory Joseph exercise their player options and the Pacers exercise their team option on fan favorite Lance Stephenson.

Giannis Confident Parker Will Remain With Bucks

Former second overall pick Jabari Parker will be eligible for restricted free agency this offseason, and given his underwhelming play down the stretch and the Bucks’ lack of cap flexibility, his future in Milwaukee isn’t a lock. Still, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo fully expects his teammate to be back, as Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel details.

“Jabari ain’t going nowhere,” Antetokounmpo said. “He’s going to be here and he’s going to be ready for next season. And we will be all excited and playing in the new arena. And everyone is going to be having fun.”

While Antetokounmpo seemed “totally confident” about Parker’s status, the RFA forward’s future will ultimately hinge on whether he and the Bucks can reach a deal that both sides are happy with. If another suitor swoops in and makes Parker an offer he can’t refuse, Milwaukee would face a difficult decision on whether or not to match that offer sheet.

It has been a rough year for Parker, who missed more than half the season as he recovered from a second ACL tear. He showed flashes of his old self upon returning, but his role (24.0 MPG) was modest, and he struggled to make an impact in the postseason (10.0 PPG on .452/.316/.615 shooting). A winter report suggested that the Bucks offered Parker an extension worth $18MM per year last offseason during his ACL rehab process, but the 23-year-old said earlier this month that he “wished” that offer had been on the table.

Despite his comments on Parker, Antetokounmpo downplayed the idea that he has – or wants to have – a significant role in influencing roster decisions, writes Velazquez. The Bucks star would like to remain in the loop when the team makes major moves, but says he prefers to trust the front office on those decisions.

“I just want them to do the right moves for us to be successful, that’s it,” Antetokounmpo said. “That’s what I care about. I care about coming back and winning games, that’s it. At the end of the day, you’ve got to draw a line … ‘Can you help me? Can you not?’ Overall, our goal is to be one the best teams in the East, win a championship.”

Bucks Notes: Antetokounmpo, Henson, Rodgers, Ilyasova

The Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo are both envisioning a long-term relationship, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. Antetokounmpo will be 26 when his current contract expires after the 2020/21 season, and he hopes to sign another long-term deal in Milwaukee.

“Definitely. That’s one of my goals,” Antetokounmpo said about spending his career with one franchise.Kobe [Bryant] did it. Tim Duncan did it. Dirk Nowitzki did it. I just want to be one of those guys … that stays for the city, play for the city for 20 years.”

That view is shared by the Bucks, who want to hold onto their MVP candidate for as long they can. Antetokounmpo is coming off his best NBA season, averaging 26.9 points and 10.0 rebounds per game and leading the team to its third playoff appearance in the past four seasons. Bucks president Peter Feigin calls him a “unicorn” and says the franchise is doing all it can to maximize Antetokounmpo’s appeal.

“I think all of us feel like extremely lucky and have a big responsibility to do fantastic things for him, for the team, for the league,” Feigin said. “So we spend a lot of time and just being as innovative as we can and [discussing] how do we really take his likability and just blow it out of the sky.”

There’s more today from Milwaukee:

  • John Henson is sitting out his second straight playoff game with back issues, the Bucks announced this morning (Twitter link). Milwaukee’s starting center averaged 9.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in the first two games of the series with Boston.
  • Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has become a limited partner in the Bucks’ ownership group, relays Rob Demovsky of ESPN. A longtime NBA fan, Rodgers was introduced to the crowd in his new role during Friday’s Game 3. “I am excited and honored to deepen my connection to the region by joining Wes Edens, Marc Lasry, Jamie Dinan, Mike Fascitelli and the ownership group of the Milwaukee Bucks,” Rodgers said. “As a huge fan of the NBA and the sport of basketball, this is a dream come true for me, and I look forward to furthering my affinity for Wisconsin sports as a minority owner in a team I love and support.”
  • Sixers forward Ersan Ilyasova gave serious consideration to the Bucks after his buyout from Atlanta, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Ilyasova broke into the NBA with Milwaukee and his family still lives there, but he was more excited about the opportunity in Philadelphia.

Injury Notes: Gallinari, Celtics, Giannis, Markkanen

Danilo Gallinari, identified this week by head coach Doc Rivers as the player the Clippers have missed the most this season, is targeting Tuesday’s game against Milwaukee for his potential return, according to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times, who passes along comments Gallinari made to Italian outlet Sky Sport. The veteran forward indicated that he hopes to get back on the court after the Clippers’ current road trip ends, but before the end of this month.

Gallinari, the Clippers’ major free agent addition of 2017, has been limited to 19 games this season as he has battled a variety of injuries. His latest ailment, a right hand fracture, has sidelined him for the last month.

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

  • There likely won’t be an update on Kyrie Irving‘s status today, a league source tells Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Mannix reports that the Celtics should know more within the next day or two about Irving’s ailing left knee. The team did get some good news on Jaylen Brown, who said today that he’s feeling better and hopes to play on Sunday in Sacramento (Twitter link).
  • Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo left Wednesday’s game against the Clippers with a right ankle sprain. While no recovery timetable has been announced for Antetokounmpo, the Bucks figure to play it safe with their franchise player. He is considered doubtful to play on Friday vs. Chicago, according to the team (Twitter link).
  • Lauri Markkanen, who last played for the Bulls on March 11, is optimistic about playing in that Friday game against Milwaukee, says K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter links). Markkanen, battling a back issue, likely wouldn’t be available on Saturday in Detroit if he plays on Friday, Johnson notes.
  • Traded from Cleveland to Los Angeles at last month’s deadline, Channing Frye appeared in just one game for the Lakers before undergoing an appendectomy. However, the veteran forward is set to return to action on Thursday night against New Orleans, per Bill Oram of The Southern California News Group (Twitter link).