Giannis Antetokounmpo

Central Notes: Markkanen, Oladipo, Antetokounmpo, Buckner, Bulls

Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen is eager to get a rookie scale extension done before the December 21 deadline, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago tweets. Markkanen said on Tuesday he’s pushing his agent, Michael (Boris) Lelchitski, to reach an agreement. “I really want to be here long-term so I’m putting some pressure on (my agent) to get (an extension) done,” he said. De’Aaron Fox, Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell and Bam Adebayo are the other members of Markkanen’s draft class who have already reached extension agreements.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Pacers guard Victor Oladipo has been the subject of trade rumors but he insists he didn’t ask to be dealt, according to Eric Woodyard of ESPN (Twitter link). “I never came out and said that I didn’t want to play for the Pacers or be in this organization,” he said. Oladipo, who said he think he’s much healthier than he was last season, added that he feels pressure to prove that he’s still an All-Star caliber player. “It feels like the world (is) on my back and I’ve got to make sure I hold it up,” he said.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo is expected to meet with the Bucks this week, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN (video link). The two-time MVP’s decision whether to sign a super-max extension or test the free agent market next offseason looms as the biggest story of the preseason.
  • The Cavaliers have hired Greg Buckner as an assistant coach, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Buckner has a history with head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, as they worked together on the Rockets and Grizzlies coaching staffs.
  • New coach Billy Donovan’s plans for Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Wendell Carter Jr. are among the questions looming over the Bulls as they open training camp, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic writes.

Lakers Notes: Schroder, Davis, Dudley, Cap Room

Dennis Schröder expects to start with the Lakers, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. Schroder, who was acquired from the Thunder, said that was addressed by his representatives before the trade was completed. “I think my agent talked to the organization (about starting) before they was trading me,” he said “So, that’s that.” Schroder served a sixth-man role with Oklahoma City. His main competition for a starting job would presumably be Alex Caruso, though LeBron James is the de facto point guard and led the league in assists last season.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Anthony Davis, who remains an unrestricted free agent, will meet with the team on Tuesday, according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. Davis, who will joined by agent Rich Paul, is widely expected to sign a max deal of undetermined length during training camp.
  • Davis might wait to see if Giannis Antetokounmpo signs an extension with Milwaukee before he decides how to structure his contract, Brian Windhorst of ESPN suggests (video link). The Lakers could have a significant amount of cap flexibility if Davis signs a two-year contract with a player option, which would help them pursue the two-time MVP.  However, Antekounmpo doesn’t have to make a decision until December 21 and it’s doubtful Davis will want to wait that long.
  • Jared Dudley has agreed to re-sign for one more season and he has the power to block a trade under the one-year Bird rule, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report tweets.
  • Dudley’s veteran minimum deal will leave the Lakers $2.9MM below the hard cap, Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (Twitter link). That would allow the club to add a player in mid-January or in early April after buyouts are executed around the league.

Central Notes: Bulls, Porter, Hayes, Giannis

Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports takes a look at some of the key storylines facing the Bulls roster heading into training camp. Though the club’s personnel off the court underwent some drastic revisions, the current on-court product looks fairly similar, Schaefer notes.

Rookies Patrick Williams and Devon Dotson join free agent additions Garrett Temple and Noah Vonleh. Guards Kris Dunn and Shaquille Harrison are currently the only significant departures from the 2019/20 roster. Individual workouts commence this Tuesday, December 1, while team workouts kick off on December 6.

Schaeffer notes that the starting point guard position could be up for grabs in new head coach Billy Donovan‘s first training camp with the Bulls. Though second-year guard Coby White started the Bulls’ most recent game, Tomas Satoransky was the lead guard for the other 64 games of the 2019/20 season. The fates of deep-bench centers Cristiano Felicio and Luke Kornet and the club’s two-way players are narratives that offer some intrigue as well.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Bulls will need for starting small forward Otto Porter to prove he’s worth his contract in the final year of his lucrative deal and become a trade asset by the deadline, and for starting power forward Lauri Markkanen to develop a game that stagnated last season, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes.
  • Former Pistons guard Will Bynum, now a trainer and founder of The Grind Family skills academy for basketball players, recently discussed his experience training new Detroit point guard Killian Hayes, according to Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press Pistons. “His lateral footwork is really, really good,” Bynum said. “His hands are quick. And he has the patience to defend really, really good rhythm players offensively.”
  • With his looming maximum salary extension now the talk of the league, Bucks MVP forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was set to depart his native Greece for the U.S. this weekend ahead of the team’s training camp kickoff, according to Antigoni Zachari of Eurohoops.

Bucks Rumors: Bogdanovic, Giannis, Oladipo, DiVincenzo, More

Bogdan Bogdanovic was considered Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s preferred target for the Bucks in free agency, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who says that Thanasis Antetokounmpo had been in contact with Bogdanovic for months as the brothers attempted to lure the swingman to Milwaukee.

As Fischer explains, Giannis admires Bogdanovic’s “toughness and swagger” and considers him someone you could “go to war with in the postseason.” As a result, the Bucks pursued Bogdanovic aggressively, discussing sign-and-trade scenarios with the Kings in the hopes of effectively taking the RFA-to-be off the market before last Friday by agreeing to a deal with Sacramento.

Early discussions between the Kings and Bucks included Eric Bledsoe, according to Fischer, who points out that sending Bledsoe’s $16.9MM contract to Sacramento would have made it simple for Milwaukee to meet Bogdanovic’s asking price of $18MM per year. However, the Kings insisted on Donte DiVincenzo‘s inclusion on any deal and Bledsoe’s salary was required for Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday acquisition.

After they struck a deal for Holiday, the Bucks reached a tentative agreement with the Kings, but Bogdanovic’s camp insists it never discussed the particulars of a contract agreement with Milwaukee, per Fischer. Bogdanovic even phoned the Antetokounmpo brothers to reiterate that point, Fischer adds.

When at least one rival team filed a formal complaint about the fact that the Kings had seemingly lined up a deal for Bogdanovic days before the start of free agency, the NBA launched an investigation and essentially took Milwaukee off the table as a destination for the 28-year-old due to the risk that the league would block the deal, says Fischer.

Now, the Bucks will have to hope that their failed pursuit of Bogdanovic doesn’t cause Giannis to pass on their super-max offer. According to Fischer, the franchise had been very confident about the odds of reaching an agreement with Antetokounmpo, but there has been a “categorical step back in that confidence” since the Bogdanovic debacle. That doesn’t mean an agreement won’t be reached — just that the Bucks aren’t as sure about it as they once were.

Here’s more on the Bucks from Fischer’s article, which is packed with interesting details:

  • The Bucks and Pacers had conversations about a possible trade for Victor Oladipo, Fischer confirms, adding that a package of DiVincenzo, George Hill, and the No. 24 pick was discussed at one point. Like the Kings did, the Pacers insisted on DiVincenzo being included in any offer.
  • DiVincenzo ultimately remained in Milwaukee and the Bucks are still “bullish” on his potential, writes Fischer. They were willing to move him for Bogdanovic because the RFA was considered a “necessary target in line with Antetokounmpo’s wishes.”
  • Before the Bucks struck a deal for Holiday, the Hawks discussed a package that included the No. 6 pick, Kevin Huerter, and Dewayne Dedmon, says Fischer.

Stein’s Latest: Williams, Clippers, Giannis, Bucks, Knicks

After adding Serge Ibaka and Luke Kennard to their roster while losing Montrezl Harrell, JaMychal Green, and Landry Shamet, the Clippers may not be done, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times. A number of rival teams expect L.A. to trade away Lou Williams at some point, Stein says.

Although Williams is now 34 years old, he’s on a team-friendly expiring $8MM contract and remains a very talented scorer, having averaged 18.2 PPG off the bench in 2019/20, so he’d certainly draw interest if the Clippers put him on the trade block.

Interestingly, Stein notes that the Clippers made it a top priority this offseason to make “dramatic chemistry changes.” There were reports last season of tension in the locker room based on what some incumbent players viewed as preferential treatment for new Clippers stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. While he doesn’t specify whether it was related to those issues, Stein says that team officials “quietly decided (Harrell) had to go.” The Sixth Man of the Year ended up with the rival Lakers.

Here’s more from Stein’s latest newsletter:

  • For weeks leading up to the offseason, there had been “promising rumblings” about the Bucks‘ ability to sign Giannis Antetokounmpo to a super-max extension this fall, according to Stein. As Stein explains, there was an increasing belief that Antetokounmpo would opt for long-term financial security and reserve the right to ask for a trade down the road if he becomes dissatisfied with the situation in Milwaukee. The Bucks are now in wait-and-see mode, with Giannis expected to soon arrive back in the U.S. from Greece.
  • People around the NBA are wondering if the Bucks gave up too much to acquire Jrue Holiday, having surrendered three first-round picks and two pick swaps for the standout guard, writes Stein. However, he contends that if Holiday and Antetokounmpo end up sticking around beyond 2021, Milwaukee’s “all-in approach will be redeemed.”
  • After initially offering Gordon Hayward a two-year deal in free agency, the Knicks increased their offer to four years and remained in the chase for the veteran forward “throughout the process,” according to Stein, who notes that head coach Tom Thibodeau is an “admirer” of Hayward. Ultimately though, Charlotte’s four-year, $120MM was at a level that neither New York nor any other suitor was willing to match.

Eastern Notes: Giannis, Hayward, Raptors, Bulls, Wizards

It has been a frenzied week of NBA roster moves since the league lifted its months-long moratorium last Monday, but there have been no updates on perhaps the biggest storyline of the offseason, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. As Windhorst points out, the league is still waiting to see whether or not reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will agree to a five-year, super-max extension with the Bucks.

League sources tell Windhorst that the Bucks – in recent weeks – have moved from “cautiously optimistic to cautiously confident” that Antetokounmpo will make a long-term commitment to the club when he returns from Greece. However, moves made by other teams across the league this week suggest that not everyone on the outside views it as a lock.

Clubs that have long been cited as likely free agent suitors for Giannis if he reaches the open market in 2021 went to great lengths this week to preserve their cap room for next summer. The Heat, Mavericks, and Raptors were among the teams that made an effort to keep money off their books for next season — in some cases, it may have even cost them key free agents.

Here’s more from around the East:

  • While a panel of analysts at The Athletic agree that the Hornets‘ four-year, $120MM deal for Gordon Hayward is an overpay, sources tell Sam Amick of The Athletic that the forward did have another four-year offer in the $100MM range. It’s not clear whether it was the Pacers or another team that made that offer.
  • In negotiations with Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, it was clear the Raptors prioritized their future cap flexibility over keeping the free agent centers in Toronto for 2020/21, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca, who says the team knew it might have to take a step backward in the short term in order to achieve their ambitions in the long term.
  • While losing two more key pieces from their 2019 championship roster will be a tough pill to swallow for the Raptors, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca warns not to assume the club will take a big step backward in 2020/21.
  • The Bulls entered the offseason needing to fortify their wing rotation, which is why they agreed to sign Garrett Temple and bring back Denzel Valentine, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Temple is a good teammate and a versatile veteran who can play multiple positions, while the Bulls like Valentine’s ability to shoot, pass, and rebound, Mayberry writes.
  • Jerry Brewer of The Washington Post makes a case that the Wizards need to reboot their roster by trading both John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Free Agent Rumors: Bogdanovic, VanVleet, Augustin, Thompson

Now that Bogdan Bogdanovic has re-emerged as a free agent option for teams outside of Milwaukee, the RFA swingman and his representatives are expected to take meetings when free agency opens, according to Sam Amick and Eric Nehm of The Athletic, who say that the Hawks and Lakers are known to have interest.

Amick and Nehm suggest it’s “widely known” that Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo had been recruiting Bogdanovic to Milwaukee. Since it seems that union won’t happen, teams hoping to eventually lure Giannis away from the Bucks will probably become a little more interested in Bogdanovic, according to The Athletic’s duo, who mention the Mavericks and Heat as a couple of those clubs.

Here’s more on free agency:

  • Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News tweets that he has consistently heard the Raptors‘ goal is to re-sign Fred VanVleet on a Malcolm Brogdon-type contract. Brogdon’s four-year, $85MM deal was cited way back in August as a probable market-setter for VanVleet’s new contract.
  • The Suns have reached out to D.J. Augustin, who is also drawing real interest from the Bucks, according to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link). Gambadoro adds that the veteran point guard is likely to accept the best offer he receives.
  • Even after winning a championship, the Lakers aren’t content to be passive in free agency, says general manager Rob Pelinka. As Dave McMenamin of ESPN relays, Pelinka vows his club will be “aggressive” as it looks to continue making upgrades. “We’re not going to just sit back and not expect others who are in position to try to better their roster or better their teams,” Pelinka said. “So we have to stay aggressive. I think the danger of winning is complacency, and I won’t — we won’t allow that to creep in here. We’re going to try to improve our team and put Coach (Frank) Vogel and his staff in the best possible position to defend.”
  • The Lakers would love to land Tristan Thompson in free agency, according to Chris Mannix of SI.com. Mannix says the Raptors are also expected to express interest in Thompson, though Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link) hears Toronto hasn’t reached out to the Canadian center yet.

Eastern Notes: Giannis, Hawks, Finch, Knicks

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo briefly discussed his future with the team in a recent interview, explaining that his plans largely depend on whether Milwaukee is willing to make the necessary moves to contend.

“There are a lot of rumors. Everyone has opinions. But at the end of the day, I will do what is best for my family,” Antetokounmpo said in an interview with Swedish outlet Aftonbladet, as relayed by CBS Sports’ Jack Maloney. “I do not see why I could not be in Milwaukee for several years. As long as Milwaukee and I are on the same page when it comes to being one of the best teams in the league and winning championships, that’s fine. When it changes, it will not be good.

“It’s easy, I want to be a winner. I do not care about the money. My family is fine and I can take care of my children and grandchildren so that’s not the most important thing right now, it’s winning. As long as we can win and create a winning culture, it will be good.”

Antetokounmpo is eligible to sign a five-year, $228MM super-max extension with the Bucks this offseason, but the Most Valuable Player could also opt to bypass the extension and test free agency next offseason. He’s coming off a campaign which saw him average a career-high 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 30.4 minutes per game.

“I do not know what the plan is. It depends on what decisions they make,” Antetokounmpo continued. “If they make the right decision, I’ll be there for many years. If they do not, we’ll see. The NBA is business and we take it day by day. Hopefully we can succeed together.”

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference today:

  • The Hawks are expected to be “aggressive but smart” in free agency, a source tells Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Atlanta will seemingly prioritize the draft and adding more than one player in free agency, rather than spend for a star such as Fred VanVleet (unrestricted free agent) or Brandon Ingram (restricted free agent). “We’re not just going to pay a guy so we can look good on paper,” the source said.
  • Chris Finch is finalizing a deal to join Nick Nurse‘s coaching staff with the Raptors as an assistant, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Finch has a storied history with Nurse, Wojnarowski notes, with the veteran coach most recently spending time in Denver and New Orleans.
  • The Knicks are considering drafting Oregon’s Payton Pritchard with the No. 27 pick, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News tweets. Pritchard averaged 20.5 points, 5.5 assists and 36.6 minutes per game last season, shooting 47% from the floor and 42% from deep. New York also has the No. 8 and No. 38 selections in the draft, which is set to be held on November 18.

Bucks Rumors: Giannis, Bogdanovic, Barnes, Oladipo

Many people within the Bucks organization remain confident that Giannis Antetokounmpo will sign the five-year, super-max extension the team is prepared to offer him once the NBA’s new league year begins, writes Zach Lowe of ESPN.

As Lowe writes, the Bucks’ plan if Antetokounmpo doesn’t sign that extension before the start of the 2020/21 season hasn’t changed — the team still has no intention of trading him and is prepared to play out the year with or without a long-term deal in place.

Here’s more on the Bucks from Lowe’s super-sized offseason preview at ESPN.com:

  • Confirming an October report that suggested the Bucks will pursue Bogdan Bogdanovic, Lowe says Milwaukee “loves” the Kings‘ restricted free agent swingman. According to Lowe, the Bucks have explored some sign-and-trade ideas involving Bogdanovic that would also see them take on Sacramento forward Harrison Barnes. However, it’s unclear if they’ve engaged in the Kings in any real trade talks or if those discussions have been mostly internal and/or exploratory.
  • The Bucks are keeping an eye on Pacers guard Victor Oladipo, but no substantive talks have taken place yet between Milwaukee and Indiana, sources tell ESPN. Many of the teams monitoring Oladipo would like to see him in action again before engaging with the Pacers, Lowe adds.
  • There has been no traction – and possibly no talks – on a potential Chris Paul trade between the Thunder and Bucks, multiple sources tell Lowe. A previous report indicated that Milwaukee was unlikely to pursue the All-Star point guard.

And-Ones: Herro, Season Start, Coaching Carousel, Superstars

Heat guard Tyler Herro leads a group of nine players who raised their stock during the 2019/20 restart in Orlando, John Hollinger of The Athletic opines.

Herro, 20, averaged 16 points per game during the playoffs, shooting 43% from the field and 38% from downtown in 21 contests. He came off the bench in 16 of those outings, averaging 33.6 minutes per game.

In addition to Herro, Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, Nuggets wing Michael Porter Jr. and Clippers center Ivica Zubac also emerged during the restart, proving their worth in the postseason. While it’s still unclear when the 2020/21 season will begin, all of these players have unquestionably increased their stock entering next year.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world today:

  • A panel of ESPN writers debated the pros and cons of starting next season before or on Christmas Day. The NBA is examining a number of different options for next season, including starting it earlier than originally anticipated. The players’ union would ultimately have to agree to the league’s proposal to finalize details for the campaign.
  • Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated assesses the NBA coaching carousel of 2020, with several teams replacing their coaches throughout the offseason. Among the new head coaches for the 2020/21 season are Stan Van Gundy (Pelicans), Nate Bjorkgren (Pacers) and Tom Thibodeau (Knicks).
  • Seth Partnow of The Athletic rates the league’s best players this year, with LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Kawhi Leonard and James Harden leading the way in the first tier. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, both of whom nursed injuries during the 2019/20 season (Curry played just five games), are located in the next tier.