John Hollinger

Trade Rumors: Hill, Bledsoe, Redick, O. Porter, Knicks, More

George Hill‘s name has come up more frequently in conversations among team executives as the trade deadline approaches, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, adding that the Clippers, Lakers, and Sixers are among the teams with interest in the Thunder guard. Hill hasn’t played since January 24 due to a thumb injury, but is out of his cast and is working toward a return, as Brandon Rahbar of Daily Thunder tweets.

While some clubs are hoping the Thunder will buy out Hill, that seems unlikely, since he has another partially guaranteed year left on his contract, and buyouts aren’t really Sam Presti‘s “M.O.,” as one assistant general manager tells Fischer.

Plus, the Thunder are in position to take on salary in trades if it nets them greater draft compensation, Fischer writes. Oklahoma City is one of two teams – along with New York – that remains below the salary floor this season, as John Hollinger of The Athletic observes, so the club could take on about $12MM without taking any real financial hit.

Here are a few more trade rumors from around the NBA:

  • A number of Pelicans players were prominently involved in trade rumors in January and February, but some of that talk has died down as of late, according to Fischer, who says there doesn’t seem to be any real traction toward an Eric Bledsoe deal. As for J.J. Redick, a buyout seems more likely than a trade at this point, per Fischer.
  • Bulls forward Otto Porter Jr. is available in trade discussions, but would probably only make sense as a salary-matching piece for a high-salary player, such as DeMar DeRozan, writes Fischer. If Porter remains in Chicago through the deadline, it’s possible he could emerge as a buyout candidate.
  • The only way the Knicks would realistically pull the trigger on a Victor Oladipo trade this week is if the team receives assurances that he’ll re-sign this summer, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, who says the team isn’t interested in giving up any real assets for a rental.
  • Potential buyers are expecting – or at least hoping – that the price tags on certain big-name trade candidates, such as Oladipo, Aaron Gordon, and Harrison Barnes, will drop as the deadline nears, tweets Chris Mannix of SI.com. I’m not sure that’s a safe bet, since it seems to be a sellers’ market.

And-Ones: Thompson, Mozgov, Stone, FIBA

Klay Thompson‘s max deal was, at best, a risky proposition for the Warriors even before he suffered an ACL tear, according to The Athletic’s John Hollinger. Thompson’s five-year deal has the potential to be the league’s most regrettable contract, according to Hollinger, who takes a look at the 10 worst current free agent deals. The multi-year contracts handed to Tobias Harris, D’Angelo Russell and Harrison Barnes also rank as poor values compared to the purchase price, in Hollinger’s estimation.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA center Timofey Mozgov has suffered another injury setback, according to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia. Mozgov, currently signed by Russian team Khimki, will require another knee surgery and miss another 4-6 months of action. He did not play during the 2019/20 season due to knee issues. In November, the NBA permitted the Magic to remove Mozgov’s remaining cap hits from their books after determining that his health issues were likely career-ending.
  • Former NBA guard Julyan Stone has re-signed with Italy’s Reyer Venezia, Dario Skerletic of Sportando relays. Stone averaged 4.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG and 3.1 APG in EuroCup action. Stone played 70 NBA games, most recently for Charlotte (23 games) during the 2017/18 season.
  • The Board of FIBA Europe has officially cancelled the seasons of the FIBA Europe Cup, EuroLeague Women and EuroCup Women, according to Carchia. Play was halted in those leagues during March. The board also decided that FIBA EuroBasket qualifiers, scheduled for November, could be postponed until February, if necessary.

Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, Brunson, Mavs, Pelicans

Before transitioning back into a media role with The Athletic, John Hollinger held a high-level position in the Grizzlies‘ basketball operations department for seven years, providing input on many key roster decisions during that stretch. Although Hollinger says he doesn’t spend much time contemplating “what-if” scenarios, he admits that he still thinks about the possibility of Memphis drafting Nikola Jokic back in 2014.

Looking back on the 2014 draft today at The Athletic, Hollinger concedes the Grizzlies weren’t eyeing Jokic with their No. 22 pick in the first round, but points to the No. 35 selection – which Memphis acquired from Utah – as a spot where Jokic would have made sense.

According to Hollinger, Jokic was ranked atop the Grizzlies’ list of draft-and-stash possibilities when the No. 35 pick arrived, but the team had Jarnell Stokes – who could potentially contribute right away – rated higher on its overall board.

Revisiting the pick now, Hollinger notes that the decision to select Stokes rather than Jokic – who was taken by the Nuggets at No. 41 – created something of a ripple effect of missed opportunities for the Grizzlies. Because Stokes occupied a spot on the 15-man roster, the team ended up waiving Hassan Whiteside that fall, despite an impressive training camp. If Memphis had stashed Jokic instead of drafting Stokes, the club may have kept Whiteside out of camp with that final roster spot.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Appearing recently on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson said his rehab from a shoulder injury is “definitely going well,” but that he’s still a ways off from being able to suit up and play. “As much as I would want to, as much as I would try my hardest to force them to let me play (if the season resumes in June), I don’t think it would be a possibility,” Brunson said, per The Dallas Morning News.
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is holding off reopening the team’s practice facility for the time being, suggesting to Brian Dameris and Mark Followill on their 77 Minutes in Heaven podcast that an inability to test players and staffers for COVID-19 is a roadblock (Twitter link via Tim MacMahon of ESPN). I just don’t think the risk is worth the reward,” Cuban said, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who tweets that other teams share the Mavs’ concerns about not being able to test asymptomatic players entering their gyms.
  • The Pelicans aren’t reopening their facility this week and may not do so next week either, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. A source tells Lopez that May 18 may be a target date for the club. We heard on Wednesday that the Rockets are also circling May 18 as their reopening date.

Wizards Notes: Draft, Avdiji, Hachimura, Giles

Deni Avdija, who is expected to go in the top 10 of the NBA draft, plays the style of basketball that the Wizards like, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports details. His versatility and passing skills would fit well in Washington’s system, though his lack of shooting and rebounding may force the franchise to look at other options in the draft.

Here’s more from Washington:

  • The Wizards may see Rui Hachimura as their best young prospect on the roster, but former NBA executive John Hollinger believes that distinction goes to Troy Brown, as he explains on The Athletic. Brown, who is nearly 18 months younger than Hachimura, has play-making skills and Hollinger is curious why the young team didn’t feature the 20-year-old more often.
  • Washington is hoping that Hachimura can improve on defense and be the team’s go-to defender for larger wings, Hollinger passes along in the same piece.
  • The Wizards were terrible on the defensive end in 2019/20, but the franchise is hoping to acquire a rim protector this summer. Hollinger notes that either Thomas Bryant or Moritz Wagner could find themselves on another team as a result of Washington’s pursuit of a big.
  • Harry Giles is a name to watch for the Wizards’ mid-level exception, Hollinger relays in the same piece. JaVale McGee is another name worth monitoring, though the former executive cautions that it may not be feasible for the Wizards to use all of their mid-level, as they don’t want to enter the tax.

Northwest Notes: Pritchard, Paul, Millsap, Thunder

Oregon point guard Payton Pritchard and Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman are two potential draft targets for the Jazz, Tony Jones of The Athletic opines. Pritchard could replace free agent Emmanuel Mudiay, while Tillman would add toughness and defensive versatility, Jones continues. Utah owns a late first-round pick. Vanderbilt swingman Aaron Nesmith, a prolific shooter, is another player the franchise could consider at that spot, Jones adds.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Thunder’s best chance for long-term improvement is to cash in on Chris Paul‘s big season and move him this offseason, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Paul — who still has two years left on his contract, including a $44.2MM player option in the final year — will never again be higher in value than this summer, in Hollinger’s view. Paul’s situation is similar to that of Mike Conley‘s last offseason, when he was traded to Utah due to the size of his contract and the numbers of players likely to be required to match salaries, Hollinger adds. Hollinger and The Athletic’s Erik Horne break down the Thunder’s roster and outlook in their comprehensive story.
  • If unrestricted free agent Paul Millsap re-signs with the Nuggets, it will be at a vastly reduced rate, Mike Singer of the Denver Post speculates. Millsap, who is making $30MM this season, would probably have to settle for a short-term contract with a starting salary of $10-13MM.  Re-signing fellow power forward Jerami Grant, who is likely to opt out and become an unrestricted free agent, is probably a bigger priority, Singer adds.
  • The Thunder are in danger of losing their first-round draft pick, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman points out. It’s a scenario that we previously noted. Oklahoma City traded the pick in November 2016 with top-20 protection to Philadelphia for Grant. OKC is tied for the ninth-best record in the NBA, which means if the draft order remains in place, the 76ers would get the Thunder’s pick at No. 21 or 22.

Southwest Notes: Ingram, Grizzlies, Barea, D’Antoni

Brandon Ingram‘s 2018/19 season came to an early end in March when he was diagnosed with a blood clot that required thoracic outlet decompression surgery. The health issue derailed perhaps the best stretch of Ingram’s career, as he had averaged 22.5 PPG on .558/.406/.748 shooting in the 17 games leading up to the diagnosis.

However, on Media Day in New Orleans, Ingram told reporters – including Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link) – that he’s no longer taking medication for his blood clot issue and expects to be healthy going forward.

That’s good news for the young forward and for the Pelicans, who could offer Ingram a rookie scale extension before an October 21 deadline. Head of basketball operations David Griffin acknowledged that possibility on Monday, but said New Orleans wants to see what Ingram looks like on the court with the team before engaging in any extension talks (Twitter link via Will Guillory of The Athletic).

Although the Pelicans should get the opportunity to see Ingram in action in some preseason games, the extension deadline falls before their regular season opener, so it would be a surprise if Griffin and the Pels seriously attempt to lock up the newly-acquired forward long-term before he reaches free agency in 2020.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Longtime Grizzlies executive John Hollinger has transitioned back into the media world, announcing this week that he has joined The Athletic. When Memphis shook up its front office in the spring, Hollinger was re-assigned to an advisory role, but he has apparently decided he’d rather return to his media roots — he formerly worked for ESPN, where he developed the Player Efficiency Rating (PER) stat.
  • After saying on Monday that he wasn’t ready to fully participate in training camp, Kyle Anderson reversed course and was a full go today, per head coach Taylor Jenkins (Twitter link via Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian). The Grizzlies‘ forward is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.
  • Veteran Mavericks guard J.J. Barea suffered an Achilles tear less than 10 months ago, but he says he “feels great” and doesn’t expect many limitations with the preseason around the corner, writes Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. “I’m going to go,” Barea said. “Depends how I feel [if I] take some shortcuts here and there, but I’m going to try to get ready like normal.”
  • With newly-renewed championship aspirations, an expiring contract, and a former MVP to incorporate into his lineup, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni may be facing his biggest challenge yet this season. Kelly Iko of The Athletic explores how D’Antoni is preparing for it.

Grizzlies Fire J.B. Bickerstaff, Re-Assign Chris Wallace

3:44pm: The Grizzlies have sent out a press release officially confirming Bickerstaff’s firing and the front office changes detailed below.

“In order to put our team on the path to sustainable success, it was necessary to change our approach to basketball operations,” Pera said in a statement. “I look forward to a re-energized front office and fresh approach to Memphis Grizzlies basketball under new leadership, while retaining the identity and values that have distinguished our team.

“I want to thank Chris and John for their long-term service and dedication to the Memphis Grizzlies and for their considerable contributions to our past successes, and look forward to their contributions to our future ones. I also want to thank J.B. for his leadership and commitment to our organization in his time as our coach.”

3:01pm: The Grizzlies are shaking up their front office and coaching staff, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that the team has dismissed head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and re-assigned head of basketball operations Chris Wallace to the scouting department. VP John Hollinger will also move to a senior advisory role, Wojnarowski adds.

The Grizzlies will promote Jason Wexler to team president and will have him oversee both the basketball operations and business operations for the franchise, reports Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Wexler had previously been the club’s president of business operations.

According to Wojnarowski, Zach Kleiman – previously an assistant GM – will be elevated to executive VP of basketball operations and will take the lead on day-to-day basketball matters. Memphis will launch a search for a new head coach and will also pursue some more experienced basketball executives to join the front office, sources tell Woj (Twitter link).

The news comes just hours after Wallace addressed local media in his end-of-season press conference, telling reporters that he wasn’t particularly concerned about his job security and that Bickerstaff was expected to return for next season.

It’s not a particularly good look for the Grizzlies, who probably shouldn’t have let Wallace move forward with his end-of-season presser and discuss his plans for Memphis’ future if they intended to do this later in the day. David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal calls it “blatantly disrespectful” (Twitter link), while longtime Grizzlies beat writer Ronald Tillery asserts that team owner Robert Pera “doesn’t care about” Memphis’ fans or players (Twitter link).

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter), Bickerstaff conducted exit meetings with Grizzlies players today, discussing expectations for the summer and ways to improve. Bickerstaff’s own exit meeting with ownership happened afterward.

Bickerstaff, who took over as the Grizzlies’ interim head coach during the 2017/18 season when David Fizdale was fired, led the team to an underwhelming 15-48 record to finish the season. However, Memphis opted to make Bickerstaff the permanent head coach last spring, citing his connection with – and his ability to develop – the team’s players. After posting a 33-49 record in 2018/19, the Grizzlies will now once again be on the lookout for a new head coach.

As for Wallace, this isn’t the first time he has been demoted by Grizzlies ownership. Initially hired as the team’s general manager in 2007, he was displaced in 2012 when Jason Levien assumed control of basketball operations. Wallace regained his front office power in 2014, with mixed results since then.

Prior to selecting Jaren Jackson with the fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft, Wallace’s first-round selection since ’14 were Jordan Adams, Jarell Martin, and Wade Baldwin. His most notable free agent signing over the last few years was Chandler Parsons, who received a four-year, maximum-salary contract from the Grizzlies and has limited to just 95 games since then due to injuries.

While Wallace’s front office has made a few savvy moves, including netting a first-round pick for Jeff Green, his missteps – such as flipping that first-rounder to Boston for Deyonta Davis and Rade Zagorac – likely outnumbered his successes. Since winning 55 games in 2014/15, Memphis has gone 140-188 in four seasons and hasn’t won a playoff series.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Grizzlies’ Hollinger Talks Offseason, Evans, Brooks, Tax

After winning just 22 games in 2017/18, the Grizzlies entered the summer as a capped-out team with limited resources to make major upgrades. Still, the club made use of its lottery pick, the mid-level exception, and various trade assets in an effort to improve its roster and return to playoff contention for 2018/19.

Grizzlies executive vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger spoke to Peter Edmiston of The Memphis Commercial Appeal about the club’s offseason, addressing Memphis’ major personnel moves, the decision not to bring back Tyreke Evans, the team’s proximity to the tax line, and more.

The conversation is worth checking out in full, particularly for Grizzlies fans, but here are a few highlights from Hollinger:

On whether the Grizzlies’ achieved their primary offseason goals:

“People have this idea that you come in with a plan, when you really need about 20 or 30 different plans that are contingent on other things that may or may not happen. I’d say the outcome here was close to our best- or better-case scenario. We were able to get a player we really wanted (Jaren Jackson Jr.) with our pick, using our mid-level exception to get what we see as a long-term piece in Kyle Anderson. Those were two huge things for us, not just for the present but for the future of this team. I guess it’s too early to say whether we nailed those or not, but we feel pretty good about the outcomes we had from that. Those were probably the primary goals and we achieved them.”

On the Grizzlies’ decision not to trade Tyreke Evans at last year’s deadline because they planned to re-sign him:

“Hindsight is always 20-20. You make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time. We had no idea that MarShon Brooks was going to emerge as a potential bench scorer for us that could make it easier for us to go in a different direction and go after someone like Kyle with our mid-level.

“I look at it like it was a stock option. We knew there wasn’t a 100% chance we were going to be able to re-sign Tyreke. There was some percentage chance we had to estimate based on the factors in the market, and we had to weigh that relative to the return that we were looking at on trading him, which was likely to be pretty paltry. 

“When you’re dealing with second-round picks in the 50s that end up on playoff teams, now you’re getting into a scenario where there’s been six rotation players picked in the last 10 years, so you’re getting into pretty low odds you can get anything out of that.”

On the impression Brooks made on the Grizzlies late in the 2017/18 season:

“There’s obviously an eye test element to this, because we’ve all seen people do things in April that aren’t necessarily replicable in November. But at the same time, these weren’t garbage games for our opponents on most nights. Minnesota’s fighting for a playoff spot, and he’s basically our go-to guy in the fourth quarter to help win that game. Utah, at Utah, is playing for seeding with their best players, an elite defensive team, and he’s getting buckets.”

On the Grizzlies’ team salary currently sitting narrowly below the tax line:

“We’re comfortable where we’re at, there may be one or two small moves still coming as we optimize things a bit, but I don’t really see any haymakers coming. I think we’re pretty happy with how our offseason has gone, and the types of guys we’ve brought in. The luxury tax dance is one I’m familiar with — this is my seventh season, and in six of them we’ve danced right up to the line, so this is not unfamiliar territory.”

Grizzlies Extend Three In Front Office

The Grizzlies have agreed to multi-year extensions with GM Chris Wallace, VP of Basketball Operations John Hollinger and VP of Player Personnel Ed Stefanski, according to a team press release. The terms of the three deals were not disclosed, per the team’s policy.

“I am pleased to announce that our Basketball Operations executive team, led by General Manager, Chris Wallace, will continue to lead our franchise for years to come,” controlling ownder Robert Pera said. “Chris, John and Ed bring a wealth of NBA experience and success, and have done a tremendous job establishing the strong culture that I believe is necessary to ensure sustained success in this ultra-competitive environment. More importantly, I am confident that the toughness, resilience, discipline and unselfishness that are embedded in the fabric of our culture will continue to serve as a point of pride for Memphis, the surrounding region and all Grizzlies fans.”

Wallace joined the organization back in 2007 and the team believes the culture he helped established has been a major factor in attracting players in free agency as well as retaining its own free agents.

Hollinger joined the Grizzlies in 2012 and he is best known for his work in the field of basketball analytics. Stefanski, who is a graduate of University of Penn’s Wharton School of Business, has been with the team since 2014.

Grizzlies Notes: Joerger, Wallace, Hollinger

Jason Levien is no longer CEO of the Grizzlies, but he does retain a small minority ownership share of the team, as Geoff Calkins of the Memphis Commercial Appeal notes via Twitter. It’s just one piece of an odd-looking puzzle in the wake of the Grizzlies’ announcement Monday that Levien and assistant GM Stu Lash are no longer at the controls. Calkins gives a fuller picture in a pair of subscription only pieces, pointing out that owner Robert Pera only let one of the Grizzlies’ multitude of minority owners, other than Levien, know about the shakeup ahead of time. Joe Nicosia and Pitt Hyde, speaking for a group of Memphis-based minority owners, issued a press release minutes ago.

We would like to thank Jason for his contributions to Memphis and wish him well in his future endeavors,” the statement reads. “We fully support Robert in his building of a world-class organization and look forward to continuing to work in concert to achieve our ultimate goal of bringing a championship parade down Beale Street.  We are confident that as the 2014/15 season draws near, all of Grizz Nation will share in our excitement regarding the future of this organization.”

Here’s more from Calkins’ pieces:

  • Coach Dave Joerger hasn’t met with Pera, but he did meet with Pera’s attorney, Joe Abadi, who assured him that he’ll remain as coach, according to Calkins.
  • The last time GM Chris Wallace set foot in the Grizzlies offices was last summer, as he tells Calkins. Wallace had been marginalized under Levien’s regime.
  • Wallace is fully confident that vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger will stay with the organization after speaking with him, as Wallace tells Calkins, and the organization would like to retain the former ESPN.com writer, Calkins adds. Still, Calkins casts doubt on Hollinger’s willingness to stick around.
  • Neither Levien, Lash or Joerger saw Monday’s developments coming, Calkins hears.
  • Calkins’ sources are split on whether Levien’s rancorous history as part of the Sixers and Kings organizations repeated itself in Memphis, leading Pera to oust him.
  • Levien’s supporters allege that David Mincberg, whom Levien hired as a protege of sorts, helped force Levien out, Calkins reports.