Mike Budenholzer

Central Notes: Markkanen, Giannis, Pacers, McGee

The Bulls and Lauri Markkanen have both expressed interest in working out a rookie scale extension for the fourth-year forward prior to Monday’s deadline, and conversations between the two sides are ongoing, says Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said he’ll leave those negotiations to executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and Markkanen’s agent, but referred to the former lottery pick as an “important piece to our team.” For his part, Markkanen confirmed that there have been contract discussions, but couldn’t offer any additional updates, telling reporters, “We’ll see what happens.”

With or without an extension in place for Markkanen, the Bulls project to have a significant chunk of cap room available in 2021, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Now that a number of potential top 2021 free agents have signed extensions and will be unavailable, the Bulls’ new front office regime may have to get creative when it comes to using that cap room, Johnson observes.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Michael Scotto of HoopsHype spoke to eight executives from around the NBA to get their reactions on Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s super-max extension with the Bucks, while Eric Nehm of The Athletic relays that head coach Mike Budenholzer learned of the agreement from his sons while he was driving. “It was a don’t-run-the-red-light moment and kill yourself (moment),” Budenholzer said with a laugh. “In the midst of the excitement, I was able to honor the red light and stop and do a little screaming and yelling with my boys.”
  • In his review of the Pacers‘ offseason and preview of their coming year, John Hollinger of The Athletic notes that there are still two big lingering questions hanging over the franchise: Whether Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner can thrive alongside one another, and whether it makes sense to trade Victor Oladipo before he reaches free agency.
  • Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said he received glowing reviews on JaVale McGee from Warriors assistant Mike Brown and Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, as Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com details. McGee told reporters on Thursday that he was surprised to be traded, but is looking forward to being “a great example of a hard-working vet” for his new team.

Bucks Rumors: Budenholzer, Bledsoe, Giannis

Despite leading the Bucks to the NBA’s best regular-season record in each of the last two seasons, head coach Mike Budenholzer has faced criticism in the playoffs after losses to the Raptors in 2019 and Heat in 2020. In each series, there were concerns that Budenholzer was slow to make adjustments when things weren’t working and was reluctant to lean more heavily on his star players for big minutes.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Budenholzer’s job is safe heading into the 2020/21 season. Still, Charania stresses that there’s an understanding across the Bucks’ leadership group that “everyone must learn from this season and be better.” It’s probably a safe bet that Budenholzer’s seat will get a whole lot hotter in 2021 if the team’s next postseason run closely resembles the last two.

Here’s more on the Bucks from Charania:

  • According to Charania, there’s an expectation among rival executives that the Bucks will focus this offseason on acquiring a play-maker and adding more shooting to the roster as they look to complement reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Chris Paul has already been cited multiple times as one possible target, but Milwaukee figures to explore many options on the trade market and in free agency.
  • Starting point guard Eric Bledsoe is considered likely to become a potential trade candidate this offseason, sources tell Charania. Bledsoe, who made the All-Defensive Second Team this season, has two fully guaranteed years left on his contract at $17.5MM annually. The final year of his deal in 2022/23 is only partially guaranteed ($3.9MM of $19.4MM).
  • Charania confirms that the Bucks intend to put a five-year, super-max contract extension offer on the table for Antetokounmpo as soon as the 2020/21 league year begins, which could happen in November. The value of that offer remains up in the air, since the starting salary will depend on where the ’21/22 cap lands.

Bucks Notes: Giannis, Budenholzer, Offseason, Korver

Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo badly wanted to play in Game 5 on Tuesday night despite his right ankle sprain, expressing a willingness to play on one leg. However, as Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, the Bucks prioritized Antetokounmpo’s health over any potential short-term gain, and the reigning MVP appreciates the decision to protect him.

“We have people in the team sometimes that have a bigger say than you and they have to protect you,” Antetokounmpo said. “They have to protect your health no matter what and it’s good. There’s a lot of cases, previous cases in the past that put the team over the player’s health and I love my organization for that, I appreciate that they protected me.

“… I wanted to play. Everybody – you know I wanted to play, I know I wanted to play, my coach knows I wanted to play, but at the end of the day, our organization put my health over Game 5 and that’s big for me.”

With the Bucks’ season now over, all eyes will be on Antetokounmpo’s future. As we detailed late on Tuesday night, Giannis has already said he won’t ask to be traded, but we still don’t know whether or not he’ll sign a super-max extension when the club offers it this fall.

Passing on that extension would result in all sorts of Giannis-related trade speculation, writes Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. However, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) outlines, it’s possible Antetokounmpo may prefer to wait on finalizing an extension even if he wants to remain with the Bucks. The same deal – a five-year max with the Bucks worth 35% of the cap and beginning in 2021/22 – would be available for Giannis during the 2021 offseason.

For now, teams are projecting no salary cap increase for the next couple years, per Marks. But by the ’21 offseason, Antetokounmpo and the Bucks would have a better idea of the cap outlook going forward. It’s possible at that time that the Defensive Player of the Year would want to sign a shorter-term contract to maintain flexibility and to potentially capitalize on a cap increase down the road by waiting to lock in a longer-term contract.

Here’s more on Giannis and the Bucks:

  • Michael Scotto of HoopsHype spoke to a pair of GMs, two team executives, and a scout about the Bucks’ outlook, including Giannis’ future, Mike Budenholzer‘s status, and the rest of the club’s roster. The consensus among Scotto’s sources is that it’s hard to read too much into bubble results and that Milwaukee shouldn’t be in a rush to make major changes. “I think they’re good enough to win,” an Eastern Conference GM said. “We definitely overreact to certain things. They’re a contending championship team. It’s like OKC back in the day. Play it out. If Giannis leaves, he leaves. His brother is on the team, for crying out loud.”
  • Another Eastern Conference executive who spoke to Scotto offered the following assessment: “If it were my decision, I think you run it back next year with the same squad. I think over the summer, Giannis will learn to extend past the 3-point line consistently. Then, if things aren’t looking good at the deadline next year, you see what you can get for (Khris) Middleton, (Eric) Bledsoe, (Donte) DiVincenzo.”
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic isn’t convinced that Budenholzer’s coaching style is destined to fail in the postseason. Hollinger concedes that the Bucks head coach made some mistakes against Miami, but contends that a bad matchup and some bad luck largely contributed to the club’s early playoff exit.
  • Veteran sharpshooter Kyle Korver, whose contract with the Bucks is expiring, told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link) that he’ll talk to his family before making a decision on his NBA future. His teammate Marvin Williams announced on Tuesday night that he has decided to retire, but it’s not clear if the 39-year-old Korver will follow suit.

NBA Announces Finalists For 2019/20 Awards

The NBA has announced the finalists for several awards as the seeding games on the Orlando campus move forward and the postseason nears. It was announced in July that all awards for the 2019/20 season would be based on games up until March 11, when the coronavirus pandemic shuttered play. Media members made their votes before the seeding games began on July 30.

NBA Most Valuable Player Finalists:

NBA Defensive Player of the Year:

NBA Rookie of the Year:

NBA Most Improved Player:

NBA Sixth Man of the Year:

NBA Coach of the Year:

  • Mike Budenholzer (Bucks)
  • Billy Donovan (Thunder)
  • Nick Nurse (Raptors)

The winners for the awards will be announced during the NBA playoffs after the seeding games period concludes on August 14.

Mike Budenholzer, Billy Donovan Win Coaches Association Award

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer and Thunder head coach Billy Donovan have been voted the co-coaches of the year by the National Basketball Coaches Association, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

This award, introduced in 2017, isn’t the NBA’s official Coach of the Year award, which is voted on by media members and is represented by the Red Auerbach Trophy. The winner of that award is expected to be announced at some point during the postseason this summer.

The Coaches Association’s version of the award – named after longtime NBCA executive director Michael H. Goldberg – is voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches, none of whom can vote for himself.

Budenholzer, who also won the NBCA’s award in 2019, has had even more success with the East-leading Bucks this season. His team has a 54-13 record and – before the season was suspended – had been on pace to surpass the 60 victories that last year’s Milwaukee squad racked up.

As for Donovan, he has exceeded expectations with a Thunder team that was viewed as a borderline playoff contender and a candidate for a full-fledged rebuild. Instead of returning to the lottery following the offseason departures of Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Oklahoma City is 41-24, good for sixth in the Western Conference. A strong finish over the next couple weeks could result in a top-four record in the conference for the Thunder.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, widely viewed as the favorite to win the official Coach of the Year award in 2020, was one vote away from finishing in a three-way tie with Budenholzer and Donovan, per Wojnarowski.

Sources tell ESPN that Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies), Nate McMillan (Pacers), Erik Spoelstra (Heat), and Brad Stevens (Celtics), and Frank Vogel (Lakers) also received votes.

Community Shootaround: Coach Of The Year Favorites

This season, the Coach of the Year race appears to have plenty of intriguing candidates. With the All-Star break upon us, we at Hoops Rumors deemed it a good time to reflect on where things stand currently.

Mike Budenholzer is leading the 46-8 Bucks towards potentially the NBA’s third-ever 70+ win season. Superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo may win his second consecutive MVP award under Budenholzer’s tutelage, while wing Khris Middleton has made his second straight All-Star team.

In their second year under Nick Nurse, the Raptors are miraculously on pace for a better record than they had during a champion run last year, minus 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Pascal Siakam has blossomed into an All-Star starter. Fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry has remained a steadying presence on the court. Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell have all taken notable leaps.

Erik Spoelstra has coached the new-look Heat to a 35-19 record in the East, helped center Bam Adebayo become a first-time All-Star, and made the most out of promising rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, plus second-year sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.

The Celtics lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to free agency over the summer, and signed Kemba Walker in Irving’s stead. Team chemistry appears to have improved significantly, and coach Brad Stevens has helped Walker return to the All-Star game and Jayson Tatum make his first appearance in the big show, while leading Boston to a 38-16 record (including a recent eight-game win streak).

Though the Lakers missed out on signing priority head coach options Tyronn Lue and Monty Williams over the summer, their supposed “consolation” option Frank Vogel has impressed in his first season with the team. The Lakers have a 41-12 record, tops in the West thus far, and have been able to incorporate several mercurial veterans into an upbeat, defensive-oriented locker room atmosphere.

There are several contenders elsewhere in the NBA. Billy Donovan has helped take the Thunder to a surprisingly robust 33-22 record. Rick Carlisle has brought the Mavericks back to the thick of the playoff hunt with an identical record to the Thunder’s and helped Luka Doncic become a first-time All-Star starter. 35-year-old coach Taylor Jenkins has brought the young Grizzlies back to relevance after the team offloaded former franchise cornerstones Marc Gasol and Mike Conley in 2019.

Who do you think will walk away with Coach of the Year hardware in 2020? Let us know!

Central Notes: Middleton, LaVine, Cavaliers, Budenholzer

Sharpshooting Bucks All-Star wing Khris Middleton has been a key part of Milwaukee’s blistering 31-5 season start. He spoke with The Athletic’s Sam Amick at length about his tenure in Milwaukee, his chemistry with 2019 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the team’s outlook.

“So far, we’ve been special this season,” Middleton relayed to Amick. “But we know it’s just the regular season. That end goal of being the last team standing is our main focus.” The Bucks finished the 2018/19 season with a league-best 60-22 record, but fell to the eventual champion Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals.

“We lose Malcolm [Brogdon, to the Pacers in free agency], a big piece of what we did last year,” Middleton continued. “But the guys we had in the locker room were guys who we still felt could get the job done.” Antetokounmpo’s offensive improvement this season has helped, too. His play with the Bucks has already put him in the driver’s seat for earning repeat MVP honors.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Despite an intimidating January schedule, optimistic Bulls guard Zach LaVine remains confident in his team’s ability to compete for a playoff spot in the East. “We understand the position we’re in,” LaVine said, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I think we’ve thrown some games away. I think we should be right in that hunt. As poorly as we’ve played some nights, we can still make up for it.”
  • The Cavaliers continue to struggle in late-game situations this season, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes. They coughed up a lead in the fourth quarter yet again tonight, this time in a 109-106 loss to Charlotte. Fedor notes that this failure to close games is a symptom of the team’s young, relatively green roster.
  • Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer was named the NBA’s Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for December, according to Bucks.com. Milwaukee boasted the league’s best record at 13-2, and led the NBA in offensive rating (115.5) and defensive rating (99.3).

Central Notes: Rose, Beilein, Giannis, Brogdon

Guard Derrick Rose signed with the Pistons because he feels the team can contend, Vince Ellis of the Free Press writes. Rose inked a two-year, $15MM deal with Detroit in free agency to lead its second unit. “I’ve had all the accolades in the past. I’m past that. Now I want to win,” he said. “The only thing on my résumé I’m missing is a championship and being here, seeing what happened last year with the Raptors in (the) East, you never know what can happen.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers are amazed by new coach John Beilein’s work ethic and the 66-year-old’s energy level, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “He has more energy than I do,” forward Larry Nance Jr. said. “He’s always going, always has something on his mind, always something he’s ready to talk about, teach and coach. It’s really exciting to see because as a player that’s what you want. You want somebody that is so eager to get started that they can’t even slow down.
  • The Bucks bet on continuity in their efforts to convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign a super-max extension next summer, Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes. They managed to re-sign Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and George Hill in free agency and only lost one starter, Malcolm Brogdon. “We brought back a big part of the group; we believe in continuity,” GM Jon Horst said. “We think that gives us an advantage to have continuity. … This group looks like they’re growing, looks like they’re getting better, looks like they fit and they make sense and that we can compete and sustain success for a long period of time with this group and that’s been the goal.”
  • Despite Brogdon’s departure, the Bucks have plenty of options at shooting guard and small forward, Ben Steele of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out. “I think the vision going forward is with the addition of Wes Matthews and Kyle Korver as wings that have proven that they are elite-level shooters and great defenders,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Got young guys like Donte (DiVincenzo), Pat (Connaughton) and Sterling (Brown) that are all proven to some degree.” Hill, who signed a three-year, $29MM deal, is another option for Budenholzer.

Budenholzer Named Coach Of Year

The Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer was named Coach of the Year at NBA’s annual awards show on Monday.

The former Hawks coach was hired last summer and guided Milwaukee to the league’s best record. The Bucks became an offensive juggernaut under his watch, scoring a league-best 118.1 points per game.

The Nuggets’ Michael Malone and Clippers’ Doc Rivers were the other finalists.

Budenholzer was also named Coach of the Year in 2015 with Atlanta. He was also Hoops Rumors’ consensus choice this year.

Harden, Giannis, George Named MVP Finalists

Defending champion James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George are the finalists for this season’s Most Valuable Player award, the league announced in a press release.

The voting is expected to be close between Harden, who averaged 36.1 PPG and 7.5 APG during the regular season, and Antetokounmpo, who carried the Bucks to the best record in the league while averaging 27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG and 5.9 APG. George averaged 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 4.1 APG.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors’ 2019 NBA Award Picks: Most Valuable Player]

The league also released the finalists for its other awards. The winners will be revealed during a TNT broadcast on Monday, June 24. Here are the rest of the finalists:

Rookie of the Year:

Sixth Man of the Year:

Defensive Player of the Year:

Most Improved Player:

Coach of the Year:

  • Mike Budenholzer (Bucks)
  • Michael Malone (Nuggets)
  • Doc Rivers (Clippers)