Joel Embiid

Atlantic Notes: Aldridge, Holden, Burrell, Simmons, Tucker

Free agent big man LaMarcus Aldridge appears more likely to retire than to sign another contract, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix and Howard Beck said in the latest episode of The Crossover NBA Show (hat tip to NetsDaily).

Aldridge was productive in 47 games with the Nets last season, averaging 12.9 PPG and 5.5 RPG in 22.3 MPG. Aldridge went in retirement the previous season due to a heart condition but was cleared to play again by the league last fall.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Long Island Nets, Brooklyn’s G League affiliate, have named J.R. Holden as GM and Ronnie Burrell as head coach, according to a team press release. Holden spent the past three seasons as director of pro personnel for the Brooklyn Nets. Burrell rejoins the Nets organization after spending the 2019/20 season as an assistant coach with Long Island. Burrell was as an assistant coach with the College Park Skyhawks, the Atlanta Hawks’ affiliate, last season.
  • Ben Simmons could turn into the Nets’ version of Draymond Green, Ajayi Browne of NetsDaily.com notes. Putting Simmons at the center position could provide the most spacing possible for the Nets offensively due to his play-making skills. He’s also a defensive ace, finishing second in Defensive Player of the Year votes during the 2020/21 season.
  • After losing the conference semifinals to the Heat last season, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey felt P.J. Tucker would be a great fit if he could sign the veteran forward in free agency, Morey said in a podcast with Philadelphia TV sportscaster John Clark (hat tip to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson). “Just finished playing a series [against] P.J. Tucker. P.J. was able to really impact that series in a lot of ways with his toughness, with his high-level defense, with his energy on the floor, with his offensive rebounding,” Morey said. “And (Joel Embiid) correctly said, ‘Hey, we could use a guy like that.’”

Atlantic Notes: Brunson, Grimes, Brown, Williams, Maxey

Who’s the best backcourt partner for Jalen Brunson on the current Knicks roster? According to analytics expert Joseph Gill in an interview with SNY TV’s Ian Begley, Quentin Grimes is the best fit alongside the high-priced free agent acquisition. Grimes is a legitimate threat to space the floor and he doesn’t turn the ball over very often. That makes him a better pairing with Brunson’s skill set than Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett or Immanuel Quickley, in Gill’s estimation.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • What would a Jaylen Brown extension look like? Keith Smith takes a deep dive into that subject in a Spotrac article. With two years left on his current contract, the Celtics wing is eligible to sign a three-year deal this offseason. He could wait until after next season and sign a Designated Veteran Extension or after the 2023/24 season and ink a Designated Veteran contract if he meets certain criteria. He could also sign with Boston or another team as a free agent in 2024.
  • Grant Williams has communicated with Brown regarding the trade rumors involving the Nets and Kevin Durant and says Brown is handling it well, Matt John of Heavy.com relays. “I feel like JB is mature in his mindset, and he knows that. I talk to him, texted him, reach out of as often as I can,” Williams said. “It’s one of those things. It’s the league. It’s a business. It’s one of those things that you can’t be discouraged by because we love JB. It also shows how valuable he is.”
  • Developing even greater offensive chemistry with Joel Embiid and getting selected to the All-Star team would be aspects of a best-case scenario for Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey in 2022/23, Kyle Neubeck of Phillyvoice.com writes. Not living up to increased expectations would be part of a worst-case scenario for Maxey next season.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Mitchell, Tatum, Embiid, Reed

The Knicks can deal up to eight first-rounders, including up to four unprotected picks, in a potential trade with the Jazz for Donovan Mitchell. They could add at least three first-round swaps, as well as young talents such as RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin.

Those factors give New York an edge over other potential suitors for Mitchell, Fred Katz of The Athletic writes. Katz breaks down possible offers from the Wizards, Heat, Raptors, Hornets, Kings and Hawks — the other teams reportedly interested in a Mitchell deal — and how the Knicks might top them.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Jayson Tatum is brimming with confidence the Celtics will win the title next season, fortified by the additions of Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari, he told The Athletic’s Jared Weiss“I mean, what kind of teammate would I be if I said no?” he said. “We got this close, and we added two really good players. I think it makes us better.” Tatum is staying out of the way of other potential moves, including chatter regarding a Kevin Durant blockbuster. “(President of basketball operations Brad Stevens) lets me do my thing. I let him do his thing,” he said. “In all honesty, that’s his decision and that’s his job.”
  • Winning the Most Valuable Player award would be a best-case scenario for the Sixers’ Joel Embiid next season, Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com writes. The worst case scenario, beyond a significant injury, would be the superstar center growing disenchanted with the franchise’s inability to get over the hump in the postseason.
  • A best-case scenario for Sixers reserve Paul Reed, according to Neubeck, would be a more modest goal — getting more minutes and bringing youthful energy and production. A worse-case scenario would be for the Sixers to lose trust in Reed and wind up overusing  P.J. Tucker at the ‘five’ spot before the postseason.

Atlantic Notes: Achiuwa, Irving, Embiid, Sixers

Precious Achiuwa could be a strong candidate for Most Improved Player next season, Raptors coach Nick Nurse said in a recent appearance on the Rapcity Keleten-Nyugaton podcast (hat tip to Aaron Rose of All Raptors).

“Wait till this year because every time I see him this summer on the court it’s total focus, total intensity,” Nurse said. “I mean, something happened to him where he now understands what playing in the NBA is about and he is on a mission.”

The 22-year-old center got off to a rough start in his first season with Toronto, but he seemed like a different player after the All-Star break. He averaged 12.2 points per game over the last part of the season and shot 39% from three-point range.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • There may be a thaw in the relationship between Nets management and Kyrie Irving, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Lewis notes that owner Joe Tsai recently retweeted a post praising Irving after the paper reported that he plans to play the upcoming season in Brooklyn. Tsai retweeted another post related to the “NYC Point Gods” documentary that suggested Irving would have excelled in the old era of New York City playgrounds and added the word “truth.” Irving responded with a video of burning sage, which is used by Native Americans to get rid of negative energy.
  • Thumb and finger surgery prevented Sixers center Joel Embiid from playing for the French national team this summer, per Basket News. Former NBA player Boris Diaw, who serves as general manager for the French team, said Embiid is in the process of being registered as a player for the national team. “His request for naturalization has been accepted,” Diaw said. “We know that he’s still waiting for the French passport. When he obtains it, then he can start the process and apply for a FIBA license for the national team.” Embiid is expected to make his debut with France during the 2023 World Cup.
  • Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice examines the options for the Sixers‘ fifth starter and compares how the team would look with P.J. Tucker, Danuel House, Matisse Thybulle or De’Anthony Melton in a starting role alongside Embiid, James Harden, Tobias Harris, and Tyrese Maxey.

And-Ones: Koufos, Nunnally, Embiid, ABA

Veteran center Kosta Koufos, who played 11 years in the NBA from 2008-2019, is finalizing a contract to join the London Lions of the British Basketball League, sources tell Marc Stein (Twitter link).

Across 686 career games, including 229 starts, Koufos averaged 5.7 points and 5 rebounds in 16.4 minutes per night while playing solid defense. He played for Utah, Minnesota, Denver, Memphis and Sacramento during his time in the league.

The 33-year-old made a couple of international stops with CSKA Moscow in 2019/20 and Olympiacos in ’20/21, per Basketball-Reference. Both teams compete in the EuroLeague. Last season he was a veteran mentor for the G League Ignite.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA forward James Nunnally has signed with Serbian club Partizan Belgrade, according to Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. The 31-year-old played parts of three seasons in the league for five teams, most recently with the Pelicans in ’20/21. He only played in 37 career games with modest averages of 8.5 MPG and 2.6 PPG, but he has had a lengthy and productive career overseas, with career averages of 12.1 PPG and 3.1 RPG on an impressive shooting line of .471/.437/.896. He played in Israel last season for Maccabi Tel Aviv.
  • Joel Embiid has reportedly been granted French citizenship, clearing the way for him to join France’s national team in international competition, writes Antigoni Zachari of Eurohoops.net. The original report came from French outlet BeBasket.fr. The French team’s frontcourt could feature a staggering amount of size and talent in future competitions if Embiid participates, with the center potentially joining three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert and Victor Wembanyama, the projected first overall pick of the 2023 draft.
  • After reporting in February of last year that the NBA was in discussions with the Dropping Dimes Foundation about potentially assisting more than 100 remaining American Basketball Association players, many of whom are struggling financially and are in dire need of pensions, Dana Hunsinger Benbow of The Indianapolis Star writes that the NBA’s Board of Governors voted yesterday to pay the ABA players $24.5MM. According to Hunsinger Benbow, approximately 115 players are eligible for the payout, which the league is calling “recognition payments” instead of pensions. In order to be eligible, the players must have played at least three years in the ABA or at least three combined years in the ABA and NBA while never receiving a pension from the NBA. The players will receive $3,828 annually for each year they played in the league, for a minimum of $11,484 per year, Hunsinger Benbow reports. The funding for the payments will be split 50-50 between the NBA and the Players Association.

Michael Rubin Selling Stake In Sixers

Sixers minority owner Michael Rubin is selling his stake in Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the Sixers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, according to reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Shams Charania of The Athletic, and Yaron Weitzman of FOX Sports.

Rubin’s stake in the Sixers is just 10%, but he’s considered an influential figure in the team’s ownership group due to his relationships with the players, including Philadelphia stars Joel Embiid and James Harden.

Rubin is the CEO of the sports retail business Fanatics, which is branching out into sports gambling. That represents a conflict of interest for Rubin, who has no interest in buying a stake in another team as a result.

“When we first bought the Sixers, Fanatics was only in the merchandise business,” Rubin said to Weitzman. “Now we have the trading card business and the gambling business. By the end of the year, we’ll have individual contracts with thousands of players, and I’ll be taking bets on the Sixers. … No one came to me and said, ‘Hey, Michael, you need to sell.’ It was clear based on these businesses (that) we have no choice but to sell.”

The sale of Rubin’s equity in the Sixers is expected to close “imminently,” according to Charania.

Even though he’ll no longer be an official part of the 76ers’ ownership group, Rubin will continue to be “a presence courtside and a key partner in our collective commitment to be a force for good in Philadelphia,” team governor Josh Harris said in a statement.

“I’ll probably go to less games, but when there’s something going down that’s massive, I’ll stop what I’m doing to help,” Rubin told Weitzman. “That’s who I am. That’s what I like doing. I consider Josh and (co-owner David) Blitzer to be family. I consider Joel and James to be family. And I look at (president of basketball operations) Daryl (Morey) and (head coach) Doc (Rivers) the same way. I have a lot of investment in the group and will do whatever I can to help those guys in whatever small way I can.”

As Charania and Wojnarowski observe, Rubin could potentially exert more influence on behalf of the Sixers as a “super-fan” than he could in his minority ownership role, since he’s no longer prohibited from talking to players on other teams or entering into outside financial partnerships with 76ers players.

Rubin told Weitzman that he believes the Sixers are “really well-positioned” going forward, particularly since he expects Harden to be healthier and more comfortable in his first full season in Philadelphia.

Sixers Gauging Trade Interest In Harris, Thybulle, Others

The Sixers are exploring the trade market to gauge rival teams’ interest in forwards Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle, as well as guards Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton, multiple sources tell Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Pompey also previously confirmed that the 76ers are considering potential trade scenarios involving the No. 23 pick and Danny Green‘s expiring contract.

As Pompey writes, Philadelphia is committed to keeping Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, and there’s an expectation James Harden will be back as well. However, the front office realizes the rest of the roster isn’t championship-caliber and is weighing possible ways to upgrade it.

As we noted on Tuesday when we previewed the Sixers’ offseason, Harris’ contract – which will pay him $37.6MM in 2022/23 – would be the team’s most logical trade chip in any major deal involving multiple veteran players. However, Harris was the third or fourth option for the Sixers and his exorbitant cap hit will likely make potential trade partners view him as a negative – or, at best, neutral – asset.

Most of the other possible trade candidates mentioned by Pompey aren’t earning significantly more than the minimum, so their salary-matching value would be limited. Korkmaz will make $5MM next season, while Thybulle is on the books for $4.4MM.

The 76ers hold a $2MM team option on Milton for ’22/23, and Pompey suggests there’s a belief around the NBA that the Sixers won’t pick it up. However, it would need to be exercised in order to make Milton trade-eligible — if it’s declined, he’d become an unrestricted free agent. I’d be surprised if that option isn’t exercised, but the fact that there’s even a question about whether or not that will happen means Milton probably isn’t a very valuable trade asset.

Korkmaz, Thybulle, and Milton were all part of Philadelphia’s regular rotation this past season, but all come with some red flags. Kokmaz made a career-worst 28.9% of his three-pointers, Thybulle failed to take a step forward as an offensive player, and Milton also saw his three-point rate dip (to 32.3%).

Joel Embiid Undergoes Thumb, Finger Surgery

Sixers center Joel Embiid had surgery Monday to fix the torn ligament in his right thumb, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. He also underwent a procedure on his injured left index finger and is expected to be fully ready for training camp, Charania adds.

Embiid injured the thumb in Philadelphia’s first-round series against Toronto, but decided to keep playing in hopes of leading his team to a title. He suffered a concussion and broken orbital bone in the final game of that series, causing him to miss the first two games of the second-round series with Miami.

His facial fracture continues to heal without surgery, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Embiid is coming off another brilliant season, leading the league in scoring at 30.6 PPG, along with 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per night. He was the runner-up in the MVP voting for the second straight year and was a second-team All-NBA selection.

2021/2022 All-NBA Teams Announced

The 2021/22 All-NBA teams have officially been announced by the NBA. For the fourth straight season, Bucks All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was unanimously selected to the All-NBA First Team by a voter panel of 100 media members. Antetokounmpo, 27, is making his sixth All-NBA team overall.

Antetokounmpo, reigning MVP Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, and Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic received the most votes. Suns All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker and Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid rounded out the list of top five vote-getters. Because the All-NBA teams, unlike the All-Star squads, require just one center per team, Embiid was relegated to an All-NBA Second Team placing.

Below is a list of the three All-NBA teams. Vote tallies are listed in parentheses next to player names. Five points were awarded to players for a First Team Vote, three points netted for a Second Team vote, and one for a Third Team vote. Antetokounmpo earned a perfect 500 points.

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

Jazz center Rudy Gobert and shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, Heat center Bam Adebayo and small forward Jimmy Butler, Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown, Bucks guards Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, Grizzlies shooting guard Desmond Bane, Suns small forward Mikal Bridges, Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray, and Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet all received All-NBA votes. Surprisingly, Nets point guard Kyrie Irving, who played in just 29 games this season, also received a single vote.

As we previously outlined, the All-NBA selections come with significant financial ramifications. As a result of being named to All-NBA teams, Booker and Towns have become eligible for super-max extensions that would begin in 2024/25. If they’re signed this offseason, those deals would be for four years and would start at 35% of the ’24/25 cap. According to Bobby Marks of ESPN (via Twitter), they currently project to be worth $211MM apiece.

Young’s five-year contract extension, which was signed last August and will go into effect in 2022/23, will now be worth 30% of next season’s cap instead of 25% by virtue of his All-NBA selection. Based on a projected $122MM cap, that means it’ll be worth about $212MM instead of $177MM.

Jokic had already met the super-max requirements prior to this announcement, since he won last year’s MVP award — he’s eligible to sign a five-year, super-max extension this offseason and has said he plans to do so. Doncic, who signed a maximum-salary contract extension last summer, also previously met the super-max criteria by earning All-NBA nods in 2020 and 2021.

Notable players who are not eligible this offseason for super-max deals include Morant and Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine. As Marks tweets, Morant needs to make the All-NBA team again in 2023 to qualify for a starting salary worth 30% of the cap (instead of 25%) on his next deal.

LaVine, a free agent this offseason, would have been eligible to earn up to 35% of next season’s cap from the Bulls if he had made an All-NBA team, but will instead be able to earn no more than 30% of the ’22/23 cap on his next contract.

With their inclusions, Morant, Booker, and Young are making their All-NBA team debuts. Meanwhile, on the other side of the NBA aging curve, two 37-year-old veterans further cemented their Hall of Fame credentials during the 2021/22 season. James made his 18th All-NBA team, while Paul was named to his 11th All-NBA team.

Sixers Notes: Harden, Thybulle, Embiid, Toughness

As we previously relayed, when James Harden was asked whether he’d opt in to his $47.37MM player option for next season, he said, “I’ll be here.”

Following up on Harden’s statement, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey confirmed that the team plans on having the former MVP on its roster going forward.

That’s the plan, is to have him back,” Morey said, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “That’s been the plan since the trade. Obviously, we have to work with his representation and that’ll be between us to figure out how that works.”

Morey added that improving the defense will be a focus in the offseason, while coach Doc Rivers said the team needs to improve its toughness.

Well, I think it’s something that our players can grow,” Morey said of a lack of mental toughness being a common theme in exit interviews with players. “I mean, going through losses and how you respond to that and how you take it as your own look in the mirror. I think we all need to look in the mirror and say, ‘How can we each be better?’ … And that goes for myself as well.”

Here’s more from Philadelphia:

  • In an appearance on “Get Up,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said, Nobody in the NBA believes that the Sixers are going to give James Harden a max contract.” If Harden is willing to take a pay cut to improve the team’s financial flexibility, Windhorst points to Chris Paul‘s contract structure with the Suns as something that might work for both sides. Paul declined his $44MM player option last summer and signed a four-year, $120MM contract, but only $75MM is guaranteed.
  • Matisse Thybulle, who was only partially vaccinated and thus ineligible to play in Toronto, was removed from the starting lineup for the postseason after starting 50 of 66 regular season games. Thybulle was asked at his exit interview whether he regretted his decision to not get fully vaccinated, with the hindsight that it impacted his performance and – by his own admission – his confidence. However, Thybulle said he was content with his choice and had no regrets, according to Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice (Twitter link). Thybulle averaged 25.5 minutes per contest in the regular season, but just 15.2 during the playoffs.
  • Joel Embiid was understandably frustrated that his otherwise-healthy season ended with injuries, writes Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I’m not looking for any excuses, but those are just the facts,” Embiid said of his orbital fracture and torn thumb ligament. “It [stinks]. I don’t think anybody would believe that I was 100%, so it does [stink] to get to this stage and not be yourself, not being able to do what you want and your body not allowing you to just be yourself … I would say [I should] try to make sure it doesn’t happen again, but those are freak injuries. If it happens, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
  • Rivers’ comments about improving the team’s toughness were initiated by Embiid, who said the Sixers have “never had P.J. Tucker” during his tenure, a nod to Tucker’s hard-nosed defense and all-out effort. “[He] believes that he can get from Point A to Point B and he believes that no one can beat him,” Embiid said of Tucker, per Mizell. “They [Miami] have a few of those guys. … Since I’ve been here, I’d be lying if I said that we’ve had those type of guys. Nothing against what we have. It’s just the truth.”