Luka Doncic

Mavs Notes: Vucevic, Doncic, Powell, Nowitzki

Magic center Nikola Vucevic praised Mavericks star Luka Doncic following their game on Friday, noting how impressive it is for Doncic to have such a high basketball IQ at just the age of 20.

Vucevic, who’s in the midst of his best NBA season to date, will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. His close relationship with Doncic could give the Mavericks an edge if they pursue Vucevic in free agency, especially if the Magic were to give an underwhelming offer.

“I got to know him a little bit at the All-Star game and when we played in Dallas – and also at the European championship, that’s where I first met him,” Vucevic said of Doncic, as relayed by Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News.

“I’m happy to see him do well. He’s a great kid and a great player and I’m very excited for him. I have to say, I didn’t expect him to play this well, this soon, as a rookie, especially a guy from Europe. But he’s been playing amazing. Obviously I always knew he would eventually get there because he’s very smart and with his skill-set and his I.Q., I know there’s really nothing he can’t do.

“He’s going to be a great player for the Mavs for a long time.”

The Mavericks’ first priority this summer is to re-sign restricted free agent Kristaps Porzingis, but Vucevic has been identified as a possible outside target. The veteran center is averaging a career-best 20.6 points, 12 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 31.3 games with Orlando this year.

There’s more out of Dallas today:

  • Mavs forward Dwight Powell could be a keeper for the club in the coming years, team play-by-play announcer Chuck Cooperstein said this week on ESPN Dallas 103.3. Powell has improved his three-point shooting and play-making since entering the league, with the 27-year-old holding a $10.2MM player option for the 2019/20 season. He’s averaged a career-high 9.8 points in 61 contests this season.
  • Tickets for the Mavericks’ final home game this season are noticeably more expensive than most other games, Brad Townsend notes in a different story for the Dallas Morning News. Unless he chooses to return for another season, it would be the final time Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki takes the court after a 21-year career in Dallas. Tickets are ranging from $145 for an upper-deck seat to $7,785 for a VIP courtside seat, according to Townsend. “That is a lot of money,” Nowitzki said. “That’s awesome, though. That means people want to come to that game. It’s amazing to hear about the support.”
  • Nowitzki isn’t interested in becoming an NBA head coach after his playing career despite having two decades of experience in the league, Dwain Price of Mavs.com writes. “Maybe like individual stuff, working with guys on skills, skill development, player development type stuff,” Nowitzki said. “I think that I would enjoy that, and I think obviously I’ve got some experience there. But head coaching? It’s just something that I’m not real interested in.”

Mavericks Notes: Porzingis, Nowitzki, Doncic

Kristaps Porzingis‘ camp contends that a story suggesting that Porzingis didn’t like the idea of playing in New York alongside Kevin Durant is “utter nonsense,” according to Frank Isola of The Athletic. In fact, Isola writes that Porzingis would welcome Durant with “open arms” if the Mavericks were to pursue and land 2019’s top free agent.

While Dallas created additional cap flexibility by trading Harrison Barnes to Sacramento at last month’s trade deadline, the idea of the Mavs signing Durant remains extremely unlikely. It’s possible that Dallas could make a splash in free agency this summer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the top available players remain a little wary of joining the Mavs until they see Porzingis back on the court — and until Luka Doncic gets a little more NBA experience under his belt.

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • Although it’s not clear yet whether this will be Dirk Nowitzki‘s final NBA season, David Aldridge of The Athletic takes a look back at the German’s career and assesses his place in team – and league – history.
  • Within Aldridge’s story, Nowitzki says he believes the Mavs are set up well for the future: “Luka has obviously exceeded all expectations — we didn’t think he would be this good. We were hoping he would be this good. But he’s been tremendous, and it’s obviously something to build around. And we had a chance to go for a franchise-like talent like KP; you gotta go for it. Most of the league didn’t even know he was available. That was a steal for us. It obviously hurt, trading some of our guys, basically trading four of our five good starters, but with those two around for a long time, hopefully, it will be good for our franchise.”
  • Doncic has been considered a lock for the 2019 Rookie of the Year award for most of the season, but with Trae Young putting up huge numbers in Atlanta, Zach Harper of The Athletic revisits the race to determine whether Doncic still has it sewn up.
  • A 30-point home loss to Memphis on Saturday was embarrassing, but the matchup provided a reminder that things could be worse for the Mavericks. As Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News observes, well-paid Grizzlies veterans Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons were two of the free agents that the Mavs either missed out on (Conley) or opted not to sign (Parsons) in 2016. If that summer had gone differently in Dallas, there’s a good chance that Doncic and/or Porzingis wouldn’t be on the roster now, Townsend writes.

Schlenk: Hawks Would Have Drafted Luka At No. 3

The Hawks participated in the biggest draft-day trade of 2018, agreeing to move down two spots from No. 3 to No. 5 in a deal with the Mavericks. The trade will have a significant impact on both franchises going forward, with third overall pick Luka Doncic looking like a franchise player in Dallas while No. 5 pick Trae Young appears to be a foundational piece in Atlanta.

In an appearance on Adrian Wojnarowski’s Woj Pod, Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk revisited that blockbuster deal, explaining the thinking behind the move (hat tip to RealGM). According to Schlenk, Atlanta had been preparing to select Doncic at No. 3 – even tentatively letting agent Bill Duffy know when Doncic’s introductory press conference would take place – before the Mavs improved their trade offer on draft day.

“Not a lot of people know this,” Schlenk said. “If we would have stayed at three, we would have taken Luka. We had worked with his agent, he did a physical for us that morning in New York. … But then Dallas came in an hour or so before the draft. I told them all along that it would take another lottery pick for us to slide back, and that’s when the conversations got started.”

The price to move up two spots in 2018 was the Mavericks’ top-five protected 2019 first-rounder. While that pick wasn’t necessarily assured of becoming a lottery pick – and still isn’t – Schlenk told Wojnarowski that the work done by the Hawks’ analytics staff made him and the front office feel good about that selection.

“For us, what made (the trade) make sense is our analytics staff was projecting Dallas to finish eighth (in the reverse standings) this year,” Schlenk said.

As the Hawks’ GM observes, that projection looks pretty accurate so far — Dallas currently has the NBA’s ninth-worst record. Still, with draft experts somewhat bearish on the 2019 class as a whole, the Mavs will likely be fine with handing over a top-10 pick. Surrendering that selection gave them the opportunity to secure their first bona fide star since Dirk Nowitzki‘s decline began.

Southwest Notes: Carmelo, Cousins, Faried, DSJ

The Carmelo Anthony trade between the Rockets and Bulls is still expected to get done at some point soon, but the trade call has yet to take place, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. According to Stein, the deal may have to be amended due to a discrepancy involving the rights to a draft-and-stash player.

In addition to receiving Anthony and cash in the trade, the Bulls are also expected to receive the rights to Marko Todorovic, while the Rockets receive Tadija Dragicevic‘s rights, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. However, according to Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), the NBA has made an effort to crack down on swaps that include a player who aren’t expected to ever come stateside. It’s not clear if those efforts will impact what the Rockets/Bulls swap ultimately looks like.

Let’s round up a few more items from out of the Southwest…

  • Within an article about DeMarcus Cousins‘ free agency and his debut with Golden State, the big man admits to Shams Charania of The Athletic that he hasn’t forgotten about how his time with the Pelicans playing alongside Anthony Davis ended. “I think about our pairing all the time,” Cousins said. “Me and A.D. talk about it. It’s f—ed up. It could’ve been something great, something special, but other people had different things in mind. That’s out of our control, and you never know what’ll happen later on down the line.”
  • After sitting on the bench in Denver and Brooklyn, Kenneth Faried is happy to have an opportunity to play an actual role for the Rockets, as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle details. “The coaches and team believe in me,” Faried said. “They want me to come out and do what I do. I’m excited to be here.”
  • The Mavericks are listing Dennis Smith Jr. as a probable starter for his return game tonight, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, who tweets that the club never discussed a possible move to the bench with Smith before his sabbatical.
  • Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic has been fined $10K for kicking the game ball into the stands during Saturday’s game, the NBA announced today in a press release.

And-Ones: All-Rookie Teams, Trade Candidates, Europe, J. Young

Dallas guard Luka Doncic is the clear favorite for Rookie of the Year honors midway through the season, writes Ben Nadeau of Basketball Insiders as he selects his all-rookie teams. Doncic has transformed the Mavericks and has a chance to be the first rookie selected for the All-Star Game since 2011. Joining him as Nadeau’s first-team selections are the SunsDeandre Ayton, the GrizzliesJaren Jackson Jr., the KnicksKevin Knox and the HawksTrae Young.

The CavaliersCollin Sexton, the HawksKevin Huerter, the NetsRodions Kurucs, the KingsMarvin Bagley Jr. and the SunsMikal Bridges make up the second team, while the BullsWendell Carter Jr., the KnicksAllonzo Trier, the SixersLandry Shamet, the Clippers‘ Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Timberwolves‘ Josh Okogie get honorable mention honors.

There’s more NBA-related news to pass along:

  • Jabari Parker and Robin Lopez of the Bulls are among the most likely players to be traded before the February 7 deadline, according to Shane Rhodes of Basketball Insiders. Parker couldn’t take advantage of an opportunity when Lauri Markkanen missed the start of the season with an elbow injury, but Rhodes suggests a change of scenery might help. Lopez has seen his playing time reduced this year, but the Bulls are determined to work out a trade rather than consider a buyout. Rhodes lists the KnicksEnes Kanter, the Magic’s Nikola Vucevic and the MavericksDennis Smith Jr. as other players with a good chance of being dealt.
  • After this week’s sellout for the Wizards and Knicks in London, the NBA is looking at other European venues, relays Martyn Herman of Reuters. NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum indicated that Paris is likely the next destination and Berlin may follow. “There has been a lot of interest in teams wanting to go to Paris because France is a hotbed for basketball,” Tatum said. “We have nine French players in the NBA now. It’s just a matter of building the right business case and having the right partners in those areas. It is an important market for many of our marketing partners. It’s just a matter of time.” He added that Spain and Italy don’t have arenas yet that are capable of hosting a game.
  • Former Celtics first-round pick James Young was waived this week by the G League’s Wisconsin Herd, tweets Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days. It’s the latest setback for Young, who was waived by the Bucks shortly before the season began.

Mavericks Notes: Doncic, Free Agency, Porter

The Mavericks haven’t had much luck recruiting star free agents to Dallas over the last several years, but it’s possible that Luka Doncic could help change that, Sean Deveney writes in his latest Sporting News article. With longtime star Dirk Nowitzki on his last legs, Doncic looks like the Mavs’ next franchise player, and the idea of playing alongside the young star could appeal to players considering Dallas in free agency.

“It’s always hard to make that pitch and get over the hump with free agents,” a league source said to Deveney. “But they (the Mavericks) didn’t really have a chance with those guys. Players mostly like (owner Mark) Cuban, and they were always a compelling enough franchise to get in the room with LeBron (James) and Dwight Howard and other stars. But they could not present themselves as a team with a great future.

“They can do that now,” the source continued. “Not sure they can push a star to put his name on the line, but ‘Come play with Luka,’ it’s a better message.”

As that source hints, it still seems unlikely that the Mavs will be a serious player this summer for elite free agents like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, or Klay Thompson. However, Deveney believes that it might be worth the effort for the team to make an offer to one or more of those players. The franchise will have significant cap room this summer and it would serve as a reminder that Dallas can still be an appealing destination for top players. Khris Middleton and DeMarcus Cousins could also be targets, Deveney adds.

Here’s more out of Dallas:

  • Michael Scotto of The Athletic previously reported that the Mavericks have interest in Otto Porter, which Deveney confirms. According to Deveney though, the Wizards seem uninterested in moving Porter as a pure salary dump, and Dallas likely wouldn’t want to include draft picks or Dennis Smith Jr. as part of an offer to Washington.
  • Count Dirk Nowitzki among those optimistic about the Mavericks’ future, as Deveney relays. “We’ve been through some tough years — a lot after the championship — but the last couple, extremely tough,” Nowitzki said. “But we feel like we have got some great young guys. We drafted Dennis last year and we drafted Luka this year. Those are some great young guys we can build around. They’re both only 20 years old or so. We have some cornerstones we can build on. Hopefully this franchise is going in the right direction.”
  • Jalen Brunson and Devin Harris are among the guards who could see increased workloads with J.J. Barea sidelined for the rest of the season, writes Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. As Caplan details, head coach Rick Carlisle called Barea’s torn Achilles a “gut-wrenching” injury.
  • The Mavericks applied for a disabled player exception as a result of Barea’s injury. Here’s our full story on what exactly that means.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Payton, Knight, Walker IV

Mavericks sensation Luka Doncic has drawn comparisons to a young LeBron James early in his rookie season, stuffing the stat sheet and impacting the game on both ends of the floor as the team’s lead player through 33 games.

Doncic, who was drafted by the Mavs with the No. 3 pick in June, has been a prime Rookie of the Year candidate with averages of 19 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 5.1 APG on 43% shooting from the field. The sudden comparisons to a player of James’ caliber have amazed the young star.

“I mean, it’s amazing,” Doncic said of the comparisons, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “You all know that he’s my idol, so it’s just amazing to be there.”

Doncic’s preferred team on draft night was the Mavericks, with agent Bill Duffy making a strong push to land his client in Dallas at the time, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. Doncic has quickly become a household name at just 19 years old, working to become the next face of the Mavericks organization.

“He’s made a name for himself,” Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki said. “Any time you’re known by just your first name after just a few months in the league, that’s a great sign.”

Here are some other notes from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans guard Elfrid Payton participated in parts of practice Thursday with a splint on his finger, according to Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link). Guillory also reports the Pelicans are hopeful Payton can return in the next week, with the 24-year-old rehabbing from a broken finger suffered in November.
  • Brandon Knight is still acclimating to his new situation with the Rockets, Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle writes“He’s in a tough spot,” coach Mike D’Antoni said of Knight. “He hasn’t played in a year and a half. This is not an experimental league. We don’t really practice. He needs to play, and we’re not in a position to allow that.” Knight has appeared in six games with the Rockets this season.
  • Spurs rookie Lonnie Walker IV continues to have a positive mindset despite not making his season debut yet. Walker has traveled to the Spurs’ G League team and back several times this season, working to improve after tearing his meniscus in the preseason. “Everyone always has higher hopes,” Walker said, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “It’s your rookie season. You can’t compare yourself to other people. It’s a horse race. You’ve got to stay in your own lane. Sooner or later, I see that light at the end of the tunnel. Whether it’s now or next year or my third year, it’s only a matter of time until people understand who Lonnie Walker is. So I’m not (in) too much of a rush. Patience is key.”

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Knight, House, Doncic

Despite all of the attention on Anthony Davis and the speculation about his long-term future, Scott Kushner writes for The Journal Times that the Pelicans have more pressing issues to solve, most notably their inability to close out games.

As Kushner points out, the Pelicans are the worst clutch team in the NBA, as they are 5-11 in games that are within five points in the final five minutes. In fact, during those situations the Pelicans are outscored by 28.6 points per 100 possessions, the worst net rating.

This is a stark contrast to last season, when the Pelicans led the league in clutch wins with 30. Before they have to deal with Davis’ future, the Pelicans have to figure out how to win this season, which will often come down to their ability to close out games in crunch time.

There’s more from the Southwest division:

  • With Chris Paul out for the next couple of weeks, Brandon Knight is ready to step up and contribute if given the playing time. As Jonathan Feigen writes for The Houston Chronicle, Knight has struggled to find his shot since returning from injury, and with the Rockets adding Austin Rivers earlier today, Knight may find himself short on minutes in the rotation.
  • Danuel House has provided an unexpected lift for the Rockets off the bench in recent weeks, and he even started against the Spurs this weekend due to Paul’s injury. As Feigen reveals for The Houston Chronicle, starting in his hometown was a meaningful experience for House.
  • When asked about his comments regarding his desire to play with Anthony Davis, LeBron James mentioned several other great players in the league that he would love to play alongside. As SportsDay Dallas points out, James included Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic in that list, highlighting his respect for the rookie’s strong start to the season.

Suns Notes: Rivers, Oubre, Doncic, McDonough

Although initial reports suggested the Suns would likely release Austin Rivers without a buyout, the veteran guard ended up giving back $650K to the team when he was waived this week, per Gina Mizell of The Athletic (Twitter link). Rivers had been on a $12.65MM expiring deal, so he’ll still make $12MM in 2018/19 as a result of that contract, with Phoenix paying the majority of that money.

As cap expert Albert Nahmad details (via Twitter), Rivers should still come out ahead as long as it doesn’t take him long to finalize a new deal. If Rivers signs shortly after clearing waivers on Thursday, a minimum salary contract for the rest of the season would pay him about $1.2MM. He could tack on that figure to the $12MM he’s already earning on his previous deal, exceeding $13MM for the season.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Following last week’s failed three-team trade drama and an eventual move to Phoenix, Kelly Oubre spoke to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News about his new NBA home, suggesting that he’s “excited” about the change. Sources tell Deveney that Oubre drew interest from multiple teams, including his hometown Pelicans, before the Suns acquired him.
  • Deveney also reports that Oubre would “certainly be willing” to remain in Phoenix beyond this season, despite the club’s spot at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Of course, since he’s a restricted free agent in 2019, it might be tricky for him to change teams even if he wanted to.
  • Within a profile on Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon cites a source who says that Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov “loved” Doncic, but had minimal input in Phoenix No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft.
  • After being fired by the Suns in October, former general manager Ryan McDonough plans to stay involved in the NBA in some capacity, but it still figuring out his next steps, he tells Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. In the meantime, he’s staying busy in an informal capacity for some NBA clubs. “A number of teams — probably a majority of the other 29 clubs — reached out, and a lot of them expressed interest in having me come visit or just kind of come observe what they do and exchange ideas and all that kind of stuff,” McDonough said. “So that’s what I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. I was in Oakland on Monday night for the Grizzlies-Warriors game and was around the Golden State group for a few days, and in the weeks before that I’ve been to Denver and Utah and San Antonio, as well.”

Joerger: Fox, Bagley Are Next Westbrook, Durant

Kings head coach Dave Joerger made some headlines after he praised standout rookie Luka Doncic following Sacramento’s tilt against the Mavericks on Sunday. Despite some skepticism about Doncic’s ability to translate his overseas success to the NBA, the 19-year-old is the early frontrunner for Rookie of the Year.

“Perhaps there was an idea that there was a ceiling on him.,” Joerger said, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “I don’t see it, unfortunately for us. But he’s great for them and he’s great for our league”.

Some interpreted Joerger’s comments as veiled criticism of the organization, given his reportedly tumultuous relationship with certain front office members — the Kings passed on Doncic in the NBA Draft and instead used the second overall pick on Duke’s Marvin Bagley III. Doncic was taken third overall by the Hawks and traded to Dallas.

On Monday, Joerger clarified his comments, stating this praise for Doncic involved “no veiled shots at anybody,” per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link). Instead, Joerger used a high benchmark to predict the ceiling on the Kings’ young core of Bagley and De’Aaron Fox, the fifth overall pick in 2017.

“When we drafted Marvin at 2, we were high-fiving like crazy,” Joerger added. “We got the right guy for us. This isn’t going to be a story in three days and it’ll be definitely buried five years from now when we have the next Durant-Westbrook. That’s how good they’re gonna be.”