Giannis Antetokounmpo

NBA GMs Weigh In On 2018/19 Season

NBA.com has completed its annual survey of NBA general managers, with John Schuhmann of NBA.com asking each of the league’s 30 GMs to answer an array of questions about the league’s top teams, players, and coaches. Unsurprisingly, the Warriors are once again viewed by the NBA’s general managers as the overwhelming favorites to be the last team standing, with 26 of 30 GMs (87%) picking Golden State to win the NBA championship for the fourth time in five years.

While there are many responses in the GM survey worth checking out, we’ll focus on rounding up some of the more noteworthy ones related to rosters and player movement. Let’s dive in…

  • LeBron James (30%) and Kevin Durant (27%) are viewed as the frontrunners for the 2018/19 MVP award, but two younger players led the voting for the player GMs would most want to build a franchise around starting today. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo (30%) and Pelicans big man Anthony Davis (23%) led the way in that category. Interestingly, Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns didn’t receive a single vote this year after leading the way with 29% of the vote in 2017.
  • The Lakers‘ signing of James helped them earn 70% of the vote for the team that made the best overall moves this offseason. The Raptors, buoyed by their acquisition of Kawhi Leonard, finished second at 20%.
  • A ton of different signings and trade acquisitions received votes for the most underrated addition of the summer, with the Pacers‘ signing of Tyreke Evans barely leading the way with four votes. The Spurs‘ trade for DeMar DeRozan, the Bulls‘ signing of Jabari Parker, the Pelicans‘ addition of Julius Randle, and the Thunder‘s acquisition of Dennis Schroder received three votes apiece.
  • DeMarcus Cousins‘ decision to join the Warriors (35%) was considered the most surprising move of the offseason, followed by the Spurs/Raptors blockbuster trade (29%) and Paul George remaining with the Thunder (19%).
  • While Mavericks guard Luka Doncic is the strong frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, GMs expect Suns center Deandre Ayton and Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. to be the best players five years from now. Meanwhile, the Clippers‘ selection of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at No. 11 was viewed by the most GMs as the steal of the draft.
  • The Sixers (47%) and Celtics (33%) dominated voting for the teams with the most promising young cores.

And-Ones: 2019 FAs, MVP Odds, Oldest Vets

An ESPN panel was asked where they think some of the top-projected free agents of 2019 might end up next summer. The results were interesting, with the panel making a prediction for five players: Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson.

As we explored earlier this summer, both Irving and Butler have reportedly expressed interested in playing together, and the panel obviously took that into consideration, predicting both players to suit up for the Knicks next season. However, the Celtics were a close second for Irving.

Interestingly, the Lakers were the second-highest voted selection for both Butler and Thompson, and the first-place selection for Leonard by a wide-margin. Meanwhile, both Thompson and Durant are projected to return to the Warriors.

We have more from around the league:

Sean Sweeney Agrees To Join Pistons’ Staff

The Pistons have reached an agreement with Bucks assistant Sean Sweeney to join Dwane Casey’s staff, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Detroit had been making a hard push to convince Sweeney to make the switch. Sweeney has worked closely with Bucks’ star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

One of the concessions the Pistons made in negotiations with the former Raptors head coach was that he could pick his own assistants.

Sweeney was one of the candidates for the Nets’ head coaching job two years ago when they wound up hiring Kenny Atkinson.

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.