Goran Dragic

Southeast Notes: McMillan, Hornets, Dragic, Capela

Hawks interim head coach Nate McMillan has been a major success with Atlanta since taking over for Lloyd Pierce earlier this season, prompting Chris Kirschner of The Athletic to wonder if McMillan could get the club’s permanent head coaching gig.

Atlanta, playing against the Raptors tonight, is 15-5 since Pierce was fired on March 1. The team boasts a plus-16.2 net rating in the fourth quarter in its 20 games with McMillan at the helm, the second-best mark in the league. The Hawks had a minus-8.2 net rating in the fourth quarter during Pierce’s stewardship this season.

Kirschner notes that McMillan has thrived during his head coaching stint despite having to deal with injury issues. Rotation players Cam Reddish, Kris Dunn, De’Andre Hunter and John Collins have each missed seven or more games for Atlanta during McMillan’s tenure. At 29-25, the Hawks are currently the No. 4 seed in the East.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • After losing four starters and roughly 80 points of offense per game to injury, the Hornets have had to get creative to find scoring, details Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Starting center P.J. Washington, starting guards LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier, and starting small forward Gordon Hayward are all currently absent with various maladies, as is core bench player Malik Monk. Washington and Rozier are expected back soon, though the timelines for the other three are murkier. “There are going to be a number of guys who get opportunities tonight who may not have expected it,” head coach James Borrego conceded. “At the start of the week, we never anticipated this type of rotation. But this is where we’re at.”
  • Veteran Heat reserve point guard Goran Dragic has struggled through an injury-plagued 2020/21 season thus far. He’s not thinking about the possibility of returning to his role as as a starter come playoff time, as he did for the Heat’s 2020 Finals run, Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald writes.
  • Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution details how Hawks starting center Clint Capela could be inching his way into the 2020/21 Defensive Player of the Year mix after helping vastly improve the club’s defense. Capela acknowledged that he would like to be considered as a DPOY and All-Defensive Team candidate this season. “I’m a guy who definitely thinks about that, because this is what I do and this is how I help my team win,” Capela said. “And this is how I also get to have a huge impact on the game, that’s defensively, and I think I’m definitely one of the best at doing it. … I feel that I’m playing the best defense of my career this season, yes, simply because I feel the guys give me the confidence to do so.”

Fischer’s Latest: Gordon, Vucevic, Lowry, Redick, Ball, DeRozan

On the eve of the trade deadline, the Nuggets have become the favorites to pry Aaron Gordon away from the Magic, league sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Denver’s offer would include guard Gary Harris, a first-round pick, and either R.J. Hampton, Zeke Nnaji or Bol Bol.

Although the Nuggets seem to have the momentum, the Celtics are still “very engaged” in the process, according to Fischer. Boston’s proposed deal has involved Marcus Smart and a first-rounder, and it’s possible that a second first-round pick and the Celtics’ $28.5MM traded player exception could be used as well, with Evan Fournier also headed to Boston, says Fischer. Previous reports indicated that the C’s were looking to keep Smart out of the deal, offering a younger player in his place.

The Timberwolves, Rockets and Trail Blazers all remain interested in acquiring Gordon too.

Fischer passes on a few more trade rumors as the deadline draws near:

  • The Celtics are one of the few teams to express interest in trading for center Nikola Vucevic, but the Magic are putting a much higher price on him than Gordon. Orlando is asking for multiple first-round picks and a player who fits with their young core. Fischer expects Vucevic to stay with the Magic.
  • The Clippers, Lakers, Sixers and Heat are all still pursuing Kyle Lowry, but the Raptors‘ high price tag may prevent a deal from getting done. Fischer believes Philadelphia would have to offer two players from the group of Danny Green, Seth Curry and Tyrese Maxey, while Miami would need to part with Goran Dragic, another large salary and either Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson or Tyler Herro. Both Los Angeles teams are limited by their lack of available draft picks.
  • J.J. Redick appears headed for a buyout as the Pelicans haven’t found a team willing to offer draft picks or prospects in return for the veteran guard. Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report suggests a return to the Sixers is possible or maybe a reunion with former teammate Chris Paul on the Suns.
  • The Knicks are interested in Lonzo Ball and have the cap space to keep him in free agency, Pincus adds. The price could be Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox and possibly the Mavericks’ 2021 first-round pick.
  • Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan is also high on the Knicks‘ wish list, states A. Sherrod Blakely of Bleacher Report.

Scotto’s Latest: Lowry, Aldridge, Oladipo, Wolves

The Heat are among the teams that have reached out to the Raptors about veteran guard Kyle Lowry, league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Some of the players discussed in a possible deal include Goran Dragic, Kelly Olynyk and Kendrick Nunn, according to Scotto.

Lowry, who will turn 35 this month, continues to remain productive, averaging 18.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.5 rebounds through 31 games. He recently pledged his loyalty to the franchise, but didn’t offer a guarantee that he will re-sign with Toronto when he becomes a free agent this summer.

As a one-year Bird player, Dragic has veto power over any trade, Scotto notes. If Dragic agrees to a deal and a new team declines his $19.44MM option for next season, his Bird rights will be reduced to Non-Bird when he enters free agency. Olynyk is headed for unrestricted free agency, while Nunn will be a restricted free agent if he receives a $4.7MM qualifying offer.

Scotto offers a few more tidbits in advance of the March 25 trade deadline:

  • The Heat have also talked to the Spurs about veteran big man LaMarcus Aldridge, who won’t play again until San Antonio can work out a deal. According to Scotto, Miami offered Avery Bradley, Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard to match salary and would be willing to include a minimum contract such as Chris Silva or KZ Okpala or possibly draft picks. The Spurs will have many suitors for Aldridge, and several league executives expect the Celtics to get involved with their $28.5MM trade exception, Scotto adds. Boston is about $19.9MM below the hard cap and would have to send at least $4.1MM in contracts to San Antonio in return.
  • Rockets guard Victor Oladipo may be the top player available before the deadline, a few executives tell Scotto. The Knicks and Heat are among the teams that are reportedly interested. Scotto adds that Christian Wood is the only player the rebuilding Rockets might consider untouchable.
  • Several teams have inquired about Timberwolves veterans Ed DavisRicky RubioJuan Hernangomez and Jake Layman. Minnesota would like to acquire a young forward such as the Hawks‘ John Collins or the Magic’s Aaron Gordon, Scotto notes, and has future first-rounders to offer starting in 2023.

Southeast Notes: Bogdanovic, Gallinari, Len, Dragic

Hawks swingman Bogdan Bogdanovic has progressed his rehabilitation to include one-on-one play with contact, the team tweets. Bogdanovic hasn’t played since January 9 due to an avulsion fracture in his right knee. His next step will be reintegration into team practice. Bogdanovic was one of the premier acquisitions of the offseason, signing a four-year, $72MM offer sheet that the Kings declined to match.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Another of the Hawks’ high-level acquisitions, Danilo Gallinari, is showing signs that he’s prepared to make a bigger impact. Gallinari’s 38-point eruption against Boston on Wednesday is more of what the team expected when Gallinari arrived in a sign-and-trade with the Thunder, as coach Lloyd Pierce told The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner“That’s Gallo. We know he’s capable. We know he can give us some more. We want him to give us more,” Pierce said.
  • Wizards center Alex Len has a strong bond with the team’s player development coach David Adkins and assistant Ryan Richman going back to his college days at Maryland. That was the biggest reason he signed with Washington after getting released by Toronto, Fred Katz of The Athletic writes. “I’m kind of like the brother and D.A. is kind of like the uncle/father type of guy in the relationship, I would say,” Richman said.
  • Goran Dragic has shown he can remain a rotation player beyond this season, so the Heat might be inclined to retain the veteran point guard this offseason at the right price, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel speculates. Miami holds a $19.44MM option on Dragic’s contract for next season, which it will almost certainly decline. However, the front office could ask him to return for one of its smaller exceptions.

Heat Notes: Bradley, Dragic, Herro, Nunn

While Heat guard Avery Bradley is frustrated to be missing more time after dealing with a positive COVID-19 test and a knee contusion earlier in the season, he said this week that he’s relieved his calf strain – which will sideline him for about three or four weeks – wasn’t a more serious injury.

“I could just feel the pop, which really scared me because first thing you’re thinking with a non-contact pop is my Achilles,” Bradley said, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. “So I was nervous and really frustrated. Now I’m just happy that it wasn’t anything severe and I’ll be able to rehab it.”

If the Heat play it safe with Bradley’s recovery, he likely won’t get back on the court until sometime after the All-Star break, which will run from March 5-10. However, the veteran guard hopes to beat that timeline and “get some games under my belt before the break,” as Chiang relays.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Although Bradley won’t be back anytime soon, fellow guard Goran Dragic (left ankle sprain) could rejoin the Heat as some point during their seven-game, 13-day road trip, which begins on Thursday night in Houston, per Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.
  • Within that same Herald story, Tyler Herro says he has had no problem readjusting to a bench role after opening the season as a starter. “I played the whole (2019/20) year off the bench,” he said. “Doing whatever works for the team (is most important). Everyone hates losing. Moving to the bench wasn’t hard for me. I’ll do whatever this team needs me to do to win.”
  • In a separate story for The Miami Herald, Jackson explores how the Heat could upgrade their roster in the coming months and how they could take advantage of their projected cap room in the offseason.
  • In a mailbag, Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel explains why the Heat didn’t try to beat the Knicks to the punch to acquire Derrick Rose and notes that Kendrick Nunn is unlikely to retain the starting point guard role once Dragic and Bradley are ready to go. It’s worth noting that if Nunn starts three more games this season, he’d meet the “starter criteria,” bumping the value of his qualifying offer as a restricted free agent from $2.1MM to $4.7MM.

Eight Heat Players Unavailable Due To COVID-19 Protocols

3:58pm: In addition to Bradley, the Heat will be without the following players for Tuesday’s game in Philadelphia due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, per Reynolds (Twitter link): Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Bam Adebayo, Kendrick Nunn, Maurice Harkless, Udonis Haslem, and KZ Okpala.

That would leave the team with nine available players, assuming everyone else is healthy. Meyers Leonard (shoulder) is currently listed as questionable, while Kelly Olynyk (groin) and Gabe Vincent (knee) are probable, Reynolds notes (via Twitter).

2:14pm: The Heat are preparing to be without “at least five” players for the next several days due to possible exposure to the coronavirus, reports Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.

Miami didn’t have the required minimum of eight players available on Sunday due to an inconclusive COVID-19 test and subsequent contact tracing, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. As a result, the team’s scheduled game in Boston was postponed. Subsequently, the Heat spent Sunday and Monday awaiting the results of the NBA’s contact tracing investigation to find out which players may be required to self-isolate for the next week, says Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald.

According to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Heat are arranging for the players who need to self-isolate due to contact tracing to fly back to Miami on a private plane. The player who tested positive for COVID-19 will be sequestered in a hotel, while the rest of the team flies to Philadelphia in anticipation of playing vs. the Sixers.

Based on Winderman’s report, it sounds like the Heat expect to have enough players to resume their schedule on Tuesday vs. Philadelphia, though we don’t know yet who will and won’t be available. Avery Bradley‘s absence due to the league’s health and safety protocols was the only one reported on Sunday — all signs point to Bradley being the player who tested positive for the coronavirus, Winderman notes, but that hasn’t been confirmed.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Hayward, Robinson, Dragic

The Wizards have opened the 2020/21 season with three straight losses — the most recent coming on Sunday against the Magic — despite leading by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter.

Washington played without Russell Westbrook (rest) on the second night of its back-to-back, losing 120-113.

“You don’t go from 17 points, damn near 20 points, to losing the damn game,” Bradley Beal said, as relayed by Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “That’s unacceptable on all fronts.”

Beal played well in the team’s first game against Orlando on Saturday, scoring 39 points on 14-of-24 shooting, though he shot just 10-of-29 on Sunday. As a whole, the team allowed 250 points during the two contests (an average of 125 per game).

“If it’s a three-game season, we didn’t have a very good year,” coach Scott Brooks acknowledged, working to remain positive. “But we’ve still got 69 games left. We’ve gotta keep fighting.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division today:

  • Hornets veteran Gordon Hayward demonstrated that he can help the team in a variety of ways on Sunday, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. Hayward, who joined the Hornets on a four-year, $120MM deal in free agency, carried the load offensively against Brooklyn. The 30-year-old recorded 28 points, six rebounds and seven assists, helping secure a 106-104 victory.
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel explores the impending restricted free agency of Heat guard Duncan Robinson, noting that several teams have prioritized re-signing their sharpshooters in recent years (ex. Joe Harris with Brooklyn, or Davis Bertans with Washington). Robinson has established himself as one of the league’s top shooters, sinking seven threes in Miami’s game against New Orleans on Christmas Day, and Winderman believes the Heat are very likely to lock him up in 2021.
  • Goran Dragic has thrived off the bench for the Heat, proving his worth as a quality back-up ball-handler for the club, Winderman writes in a separate story for the Sun Sentinel. Dragic appears to be comfortable with starting or coming off the bench, a positive sign for a team that hasn’t finalized its starting lineup yet. “He’s a decorated veteran,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Dragic. “He keeps himself in great shape, at a high fitness level. So it’s really about getting your basketball rhythm. That’s a great lesson to any young player. As long as you’re not woefully out of shape during the offseason, you can get it back with experience pretty quickly.”

Southeast Notes: Heat, Herro, Magic, Hornets

The next phase in the development of Heat All-Star center Bam Adebayo could be improving his shot creation, and veteran point guard Goran Dragic should still have a huge role for the club even as he returns to the super-sub role he had ahead of the Heat’s Finals run this summer and fall, per Seth Partnow and Dave DuFour of the Athletic.

Partnow and DuFour also wonder whether the 34-year-old Dragic’s incredible run during the 2020 Orlando restart, including a scorching playoff tear, was a blip on the radar or can be replicated this season.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Tyler Herro has supplanted Dragic as the Heat’s starting point guard in his second season, as Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald details. Dragic started at the point for most of the 2020 NBA playoffs.
  • Newly-extended Magic players Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac are excited for their opportunity to contribute to Orlando’s growth as a club, per Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel“Not everybody gets extended, and to be a part of this group… and to be with this organization, it means everything to me,” Isaac said. “I love the coaching staff. I love the team. I love that they have belief in me, and they have it because I have belief in myself.” Isaac is expected to miss the entire 2020/21 season with a torn left ACL.
  • The Hornets will be forced to scramble a bit after losing starting center Cody Zeller for four-to-six weeks with a fractured left hand, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. While Bismack Biyombo will probably get the nod as Zeller’s replacement at the five, Bonnell expects head coach James Borrego to lean more on small-ball lineups that would feature 6’7″ forward P.J. Washington at center and Miles Bridges at power forward.

Southeast Notes: Dragic, Bamba, Hawks, Rondo

If the Heat opt to insert center Meyers Leonard back into their starting lineup – where he spent most of last season – alongside Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, it would leave just two slots in the starting five available for Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson, and Avery Bradley, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

Dragic did well coming off the bench last season before joining the starters in the playoffs. However, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said he hasn’t talked to the veteran point guard yet about whether or not he’ll start. Spoelstra, who pointed out that the opening night lineup wouldn’t necessarily be permanent, is confident that Dragic would be willing to accept any role.

“We’ve been in this a long time together,” the Heat coach said. “It’s great to have guys who are all about winning.”

For his part, Dragic recently said that if Spoelstra asks himself to come off the bench again, it’ll be easier to adjust to this time around, since he now has a year of experience as a Heat reserve under his belt.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

Heat Notes: Frontcourt, FAs, Achiuwa, Dragic, Olynyk

Based on their offseason moves, the Heat certainly don’t appear to be focusing on playing any smaller during the 2020/21 season, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel.

As Winderman observes, the club drafted Precious Achiuwa with its first-round pick, re-signed Meyers Leonard and Udonis Haslem, extended Bam Adebayo, and didn’t trade Kelly Olynyk after he picked up his player option. Chris Silva is also back on a guaranteed salary, with undrafted free agent Paul Eboua vying for a two-way contract.

“I feel like it’ll work because we brought back a lot of skilled big men,” Adebayo said on Sunday. “All of us are versatile. When you got bigs that are versatile, that can help the team and help the guards do different things, it just makes our team better. … Then you have two of us out there on the court at the same time, it’s a big difference. I feel like us being so versatile at the big spot is going to help us out a lot this year.”

Despite the Heat’s size up front, the team is confident it’ll be able to comfortably adjust against any team playing small ball.

“Just because some of us are big men doesn’t necessarily mean we’re put in a box and, ‘Oh, man, if a team goes small, there’s nothing we can do about it,'” Leonard said. “No, no, we still have plenty of athleticism, plenty of versatility at the big position and all the way throughout our roster.”

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Discussing the Heat’s new free agent additions, head coach Erik Spoelstra referred to Avery Bradley and Maurice Harkless as “plug-and-play guys” and said the team has been fans of both players “for a while,” as Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald writes. “The way they play, they can fit in really in anybody’s system,” Spoelstra said of the two veteran wings.
  • Within that same Herald story, Spoelstra explained that Precious Achiuwa‘s improvement over the course of his freshman year at Memphis and a belief that his game will translate to the next level were factors in the Heat’s decision to draft him at No. 20. “His athleticism, his quickness, his fluidity, his ability to play multiple positions jumped off the screen,” Spoelstra added, per Chiang.
  • After beginning individual workouts last week, Heat point guard Goran Dragic was encouraged by how his left foot felt. A torn plantar fascia in that foot sidelined Dragic during the NBA Finals. “I just finished three straight hard practices, running, shooting,” he said, according to Chiang. “My foot reacted well, no pain, nothing. Just a little bit of stiffness in the morning and that’s it.”
  • While a $12.6MM guarantee was likely a major factor, Kelly Olynyk said this weekend that a desire for continuity following a short offseason also contributed to his decision to exercise his 2020/21 player option. “The way the league is going and the new season just jumped upon us, it just made sense to come back here to a familiar place and continue what we had,” Olynyk said, per Khobi Price of The Sun Sentinel.