Bucks Rumors

Pistons Notes: Griffin, Drummond, Kennard

There’s still plenty of uncertainty regarding Blake Griffin‘s status for the opening round of the playoffs. While Yahoo Sports reported that the Pistons All-Star power forward would likely miss the series against the Bucks, coach Dwane Casey said after practice on Monday that Griffin could play as soon as Game 2 on Wednesday. Griffin sat out Milwaukee’s 121-86 blowout victory on Sunday with a sore left knee.

“We need all hands on deck. He wants to play,” Casey said. “So when his body says he’s ready, whether it’s Wednesday night or Saturday (for Game 3), whenever it is, he’ll be available.”

Griffin, who worked out with the training staff during practice, said after the game that he wanted to play but the medical staff nixed it. Casey confirmed that Griffin is eager to return.

“He’s lobbying. He wants to play,” Casey said. “It’s the medical staff, the doctors are the ones making those decisions. Not me, not Blake.”

We have more on the Pistons:
  • Casey doesn’t think Andre Drummond‘s ejection during the third quarter on Sunday was warranted. Drummond received a Flagrant Two foul for shoving Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo to the court after Antetokounmpo grabbed an offensive rebound. “I’ve seen worse,” Casey said. “What do you expect our defense to do when you’re driving through there 100 miles an hour? Just move out of the way and let you go where you want to go?” Drummond was tight-lipped about the ejection because “I’m not trying to get fined.” There hasn’t been any indication the league will discipline Drummond for the foul.
  • Drummond recorded a minus-45 in the plus/minus category before he was tossed. That was the lowest in playoff history since at least 2001, according to Basketball-Reference. “I was more than ready. Prepared, ready to go,” he said. “I just have to do it a step harder.”
  • Casey felt his team played like it was just happy to be in the postseason while Milwaukee acted as if it had waited all season for the game. “The moment, playoffs, atmosphere, whatever it is, got us out of sync,” he said. The lone bright spot was the play of reserve guard Luke Kennard, who scored a team-high 21 points. “Luke was probably the most aggressive offensively of everybody and he was making the right basketball play,” Casey said.

Execs Project Four Years, $60MM+ For Malcolm Brogdon

While Malcolm Brogdon is unlikely to receive the same sort of maximum-salary or near-max contract that Bucks teammate Khris Middleton will sign in free agency, the former Rookie of the Year is in line for a significant raise of his own after earning the minimum this season.

Executives around the NBA believe that Brogdon – who is eligible for restricted free agency – is looking at a contract worth just north of $60MM over four years, writes Sean Deveney of Sporting News. One general manager described Brogdon’s market as “Marcus Smart-plus,” Deveney adds.

Smart, a restricted free agent in 2018, ultimately re-signed with the Celtics on a four-year deal worth $52MM. While Smart’s contract was worth $13MM per year, it sounds like execs expect Brogdon to reach at least $15MM annually on his next deal. The 26-year-old is currently sidelined with a foot injury, but had his best season in 2018/19, averaging 15.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 3.2 APG with a sparkling .505/.426/.928 shooting line in 64 games (28.6 MPG).

It will be an interesting offseason for the Bucks, who already have approximately $70.6MM on their books for 2019/20. That’s before taking into account possible new deals for Middleton and Brogdon, not to mention role players like Nikola Mirotic, Brook Lopez, and George Hill — Mirotic and Lopez will be unrestricted free agents, while Hill will almost certainly be waived to avoid guaranteeing him an extra $17MM.

If the Bucks are forced to commit over $40MM in starting salaries for Middleton and Brogdon, it would significantly limit the team’s ability to make additional upgrades.

Of course, the fact that Brogdon will be a restricted free agent makes him a wild card as the Bucks enter the summer. If another team wants an RFA badly enough, it can force a team to make a tough decision by extending an aggressive offer sheet — Tim Hardaway, Allen Crabbe, and Tyler Johnson are among the RFAs who have signed oversized offer sheets in recent years.

On the other hand, if that sort of offer sheet doesn’t materialize by the time that cap room around the league dries up, leverage shifts back to the team, potentially forcing the free agent to accept a below-market deal. I don’t necessarily expect that to happen in Brogdon’s case, but it will be an intriguing situation to watch as Milwaukee potentially makes an effort to lock up its core for years to come.

Blake Griffin May Not Return In First Round

After missing Game 1 of the Pistons‘ series vs. the Bucks, Blake Griffin appears no closer to returning to the court. According to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, Griffin will likely end up missing Detroit’s entire first round series.

Griffin, who was the Pistons’ best player during the regular season, initially missed three games with a sprained knee before returning on April 5 vs. Oklahoma City. After that game, the knee swelled up again, limiting his availability and effectiveness vs. Charlotte and Memphis during the final week of the season. Griffin was sidelined for the team’s must-win regular season finale vs. New York and also sat out Game 1 on Sunday.

According to Goodwill, Griffin is expected to be listed as day-to-day for the remainder of the series, with a source suggesting there’s a “slim chance” he plays on the weekend. Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press notes (via Twitter) that he’s gotten the same vibe from people he has spoken to, adding that the club is “holding out hope” that the star forward will be able to return. Game 2 will take place in Milwaukee on Wednesday, with Game 3 in Detroit scheduled for Saturday.

Although there’s no structural damage, Goodwill writes that Griffin and the Pistons will determine after the season ends whether he requires a procedure on his troublesome knee.

If Griffin is unable to play vs. the Bucks, the Pistons’ season will likely come to an end sooner rather than later. Milwaukee blew out Detroit by 35 points on Sunday, as the Pistons were unable to keep up with MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks’ high-powered attack.

Injury Updates: Mirotic, Griffin, Anunoby, Oladipo

Nikola Mirotic has only played 14 games since the Bucks traded for him in February, but the club expects him to be ready for its playoff opener against the Pistons tomorrow, relays Malika Andrews of ESPN. Mirotic, who has been sidelined for nearly a month with a broken left thumb, was able to participate in a full practice Friday and a non-contact workout today, both times with the thumb lightly taped.

“Not much soreness, as we expected,” he said. “I should be ready to go.”

Mirotic moved into the starting lineup three games before getting hurt, replacing injured guard Malcolm Brogdon. Sterling Brown has been starting in Mirotic’s absence.

“Niko has been traveling with us,” Eric Bledsoe said. “He has been around practice. We have been feeling his energy. Him just being around has been big for us. I think he’s doing pretty good.”

There are more injury updates to pass along:

  • The Pistons aren’t sure if Blake Griffin‘s sore left knee will allow him to be ready for Game 1, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Griffin offered no clues after today’s practice as the team prepared to fly to Milwaukee. “We’re taking this day by day,” he said. “I’m not looking forward to a day that’s not here right now in front of me. I’ll sit with our training staff and whoever else needs to be in on that decision and make that each day.” Griffin sat out four of Detroit’s final seven games as the team was battling for a playoff spot. He was limited to riding an exercise bike during today’s practice.
  • On top of their loss to the Magic today, the Raptors got some bad health news about OG Anunoby, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Originally projected to miss at least two weeks after an emergency appendectomy on Thursday, Anunoby may now be sidelined until the Eastern Conference Finals.
  • There’s no chance he’ll return for the playoffs, but the Pacers are encouraged by the progress Victor Oladipo has made since suffering a ruptured quad tendon in January, tweets Scott Agness of The Athletic. Oladipo has been in Miami since the injury and is reportedly doing “really well.” He will see a doctor in a few days and hopes to be in Indiana for Games 3 and 4 of the Pacers’ playoff series.

Mike Budenholzer Named Coach Of The Year By NBCA

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer has been elected the 2019 Coach of the Year by the National Basketball Coaches Association, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

The award is voted on by all 30 NBA head coaches and does not permit any coach to vote for himself. Per Wojnarowski, the NetsKenny Atkinson, NuggetsMichael Malone, PacersNate McMillan, SpursGregg Popovich, and others were among those to receive votes.

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. That award will be presented at the league’s awards show in June. The Coaches Association’s version of Coach of the Year is voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches.

In his first season at the helm in Milwaukee, Budenholzer led the team to an NBA-best 60-win regular season.

Budenholzer, 49, spent five seasons as the Hawks’ head coach, leading the team to a 60-win season in 2014/15.  Atlanta’s strong regular season earned Budenholzer the Red Auerbach Trophy as the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2015.

After a 24-win season in Atlanta last season, Budenholzer and the Hawks parted ways, paving the road for him to join the Bucks.

Potential 2019 RFAs Whose Qualifying Offers Will Be Impacted By Starter Criteria

The NBA’s rookie scale, which determines how much first-round picks earn during their first four NBA seasons, also dictates how much the qualifying offers will be worth for those players when they reach restricted free agency after year four. However, the value of those qualifying offers can fluctuate depending on whether or not a player has met the “starter criteria.”

Here’s how the starter criteria works:

A player who is eligible for restricted free agency is considered to have met the starter criteria if he plays at least 2,000 minutes or starts 41 games in the season before he reaches free agency.

A player can also meet the criteria if he averages either of those marks in the two seasons prior to his restricted free agency. For instance, if a player started 50 games in 2016/17 and 32 in 2017/18, he’d meet the starter criteria, since his average number of starts over the last two seasons is 41.

A player’s ability or inability to meet the starter criteria can affect the value of the qualifying offer he receives as a restricted free agent, as follows:

  • A top-14 pick who does not meet the starter criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 15th overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A player picked between 10th and 30th who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the ninth overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A second-round pick or undrafted player who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 21st overall pick would receive if he signed for 100% of the rookie scale.
  • For all other RFAs, the standard criteria determine the amounts of their qualifying offers.

Extending a qualifying offer to a player eligible for restricted free agency officially makes that player an RFA, ensuring that his team has the right of first refusal if he signs an offer sheet with another club. It also gives the player the option of signing that one-year QO.

Generally, the value of a restricted free agent’s qualifying offer isn’t hugely important, since very few RFAs accept those offers outright. There are exceptions though.

Two years ago, for instance, both players who signed their one-year QOs – Suns center Alex Len and Mavericks center Nerlens Noel – failed to meet the starter criteria heading into restricted free agency, reducing the value of their QOs to approximately $4.2MM (from $6.4MM and $5.85MM, respectively). Had Len and Noel met the starter criteria and been eligible for those larger QOs, their free agencies could have played out differently.

Top-14 picks who failed to meet starter criteria:

With that in mind, let’s check in on how this year’s RFAs-to-be will be impacted by the starter criteria. Listed below are the former top-14 picks on track for restricted free agency who have not met the starter criteria. These players will be eligible for qualifying offers worth $4,485,665.

No player was hit harder by missing out on the starter criteria than Porzingis, who had no chance at meeting the playing-time requirements due to his torn ACL. If he’d stayed healthy, the former No. 4 overall pick would’ve been in line for a qualifying offer worth just over $7.5MM. Of course, it may not matter much, since Porzingis is expected to sign a long-term deal with the Mavericks anyway.

For Johnson, Kaminsky, and Lyles, falling short of the starter criteria was more about their roles than health issues.

First-round picks between 10-30 who met starter criteria:

Only one player falls into this group this season.

Because Oubre was selected between No. 10 and No. 30 in the 2015 draft and met the starter criteria, he’s eligible for a qualifying offer worth $4,915,726 instead of $4,485,665. No other players fit the bill this year, as many of the players drafted between Nos. 10 and 30 in 2015 have either already been extended or are no longer on their rookie contracts.

Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the 23rd overall pick in 2015, was the strongest candidate to join Oubre in this group, but fell just short of meeting the criteria, having started 80 games over the last two seasons — he needed to get to 82. Wizards forward Bobby Portis, the 22nd overall pick, also would have had a shot if he stayed healthy, but injuries limited his minutes over the last two seasons.

Second-round picks and UDFAs who met starter criteria:

The players listed below signed as second-round picks or undrafted free agents, but have met the starter criteria and are now eligible for a qualifying offer worth $3,021,354.

Tomas Satoransky (Wizards) was another player who qualified for this group, but because his initial NBA contract was more lucrative than most, his qualifying offer will already be worth $3,911,484 based on other criteria.

There were a few second-round picks and UDFAs who just missed out on meeting the starter criteria, including Dorian Finney-Smith of the Mavericks (1,985 minutes played), Bulls guard Ryan Arcidiacono (1,961 minutes), and Clippers center Ivica Zubac (37 starts).

Those players, and the rest of this year’s restricted free agents, won’t have their projected qualifying offers impacted by the starter criteria.

Eastern Conference Semifinals Will Have Major Offseason Implications

Not every list of 2019’s top 10 NBA free agents will look the same, but it’s a safe bet that all of those lists will include Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard and Celtics guard Kyrie Irving. It’s hard to imagine leaving Sixers forward Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris out of the top 10 either. And after his first All-Star season, Bucks sharpshooter Khris Middleton deserves a spot in that group too.

In other words, five of the top 10 players expected to reach unrestricted free agency this summer are on the four teams currently atop the Eastern Conference: Milwaukee, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Boston. Throw in veteran marksmen J.J. Redick (Sixers) and Danny Green (Raptors), as well as key Bucks contributors Malcolm Brogdon and Brook Lopez, and you could put together an awfully talented rotation of free-agents-to-be among those four Eastern contenders.

Those four teams have something else in common, besides having standout players in contract years: They’ll all be disappointed if they don’t make it beyond the second round of the postseason.

The Bucks haven’t advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2001, but this year’s group looks like it has NBA Finals potential. Milwaukee has clinched the NBA’s best record, has a winning record against all its potential postseason opponents, and features the odds-on favorite to win the Most Valuable Player award, in Giannis Antetokounmpo. A second-round exit would be a letdown.

Right behind them are the Raptors, who blew up last year’s 59-win team with an eye toward making a deeper playoff run. With newcomers like Leonard, Green, and Marc Gasol in Toronto to lead the way – and Raptor-killer LeBron James no longer in the picture – this is another team that feels as if it has a real chance of advancing to the Finals. After a season of nagging injuries and load management, Toronto seems to be getting healthy and coming together at the right time.

While Milwaukee and Toronto are the odds-on favorites to represent the East in the Finals, the Sixers and Celtics certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. Philadelphia has gone all-in on its star-studded starting five, and owner Josh Harris has said that the Sixers want to “at minimum” advance deeper in the playoffs than they did last year, when they were knocked out in the second round by Boston. As for those Celtics, they entered the 2018/19 season as the Eastern frontrunners, and still believe they’re the team to beat if they’re playing up to their potential.

The Pacers and the rest of the conference’s still-to-be-decided playoff teams will be looking to play spoiler, but regardless of whether any of those clubs can pull off an upset, no more than two of the Bucks, Raptors, Sixers, and Celtics can advance past the Eastern Conference Semifinals. And the outcome of that round figures to have a significant impact on the NBA’s offseason landscape.

If the Raptors are bounced in the second round, it’s hard to imagine Leonard seriously considering a return. A second-round loss for the Celtics would cast even more doubt on the idea of Irving re-signing in Boston. There’s already some skepticism that the Sixers will bring back both Harris and Butler, and an ECF loss would make that an even less likely scenario. The Bucks, who have exceeded expectations this season, are probably the club least likely to undergo major offseason changes, but Middleton will be a popular target in free agency — if Milwaukee is knocked off in round two, it could increase his willingness to test the open market.

On the other hand, the team that makes a run all the way to the NBA Finals will be in a far more secure position entering free agency. If Irving is on the fence about Boston, winning the East would definitely help convince him that the Celtics are capable of continuing to win going forward. Ditto for Leonard and the Raptors.

The idea that a team’s postseason success can influence a top free agent’s offseason decision is a common one. This spring in the Eastern Conference, we’ll get an opportunity to see just how big a factor that is for a handful of star players, as at least two teams are set to fall short of their playoff goals.

Latest On Pelicans’ GM Search

The Pelicans continue to make progress in their search for a new general manager, according to Will Guillory of The Athletic, who reported this morning (via Twitter) that the team was starting to conduct in-person interviews. According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (via Twitter), New Orleans interviewed former Cavaliers GM David Griffin today.

Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune (Twitter link) has confirmed that, in addition to Griffin, the following candidates are on the team’s list:

  • Interim GM Danny Ferry
  • Warriors assistant GM Larry Harris
  • Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon
  • Rockets VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas
  • Wizards interim GM Tommy Sheppard

Meanwhile, while his name doesn’t show up on Duncan’s list and hadn’t been previously reported, Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton is also in the mix for the GM job in New Orleans, tweets Jabari Young of The Athletic.

It’s not clear whether all of those candidates reciprocate New Orleans’ interest, or if they’ll all interview with the team. Several of them are believed to be options for some of the other clubs around the NBA who are seeking new heads of basketball operations, including the Wizards, so the Pelicans won’t necessarily be able to hire their top choice.

Still, it appears as if the franchise is moving quickly in the hopes of installing a permanent head of basketball operations sooner rather than later. A big offseason looms for the Pelicans, as Anthony Davis‘ future will almost certainly be decided in the coming months.

Central Notes: Brogdon, Wilson, Bulls, Sexton

Even though Malcolm Brogdon is sidelined for the rest of the regular season and probably at least the first round of the playoffs, he says the plantar fascia tear in his right foot isn’t nearly as problematic as the torn quadriceps tendon he suffered last year, relays Matt Velasquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. That injury forced the Bucks guard to miss 30 games before returning just prior to the postseason.

Brogdon said he had been experiencing plantar fasciitis for weeks before suffering the tear March 7. He has already made significant progress toward a comeback, getting rid of crutches and a walking boot last week and doing small exercises to try to rebuild his strength before he starts running again.

“The injury is minor; I’ll come back and be full speed,” Brogdon said. “The team is better this year, so they can hold it down while I’m gone. I just want to get back in time so when we play a tough opponent I can help in the playoffs.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • A summer of intense workouts transformed Bucks forward D.J. Wilson from an afterthought to a valuable reserve in his second NBA season, writes Lori Nickel of The Journal Sentinel. Wilson is playing 17.6 minutes per night this year after averaging just 3.2 in 22 games as a rookie. “I’ve always kind of been that guy to be the first one out and then the last to leave,” he said. “I think that’s the mentality my mom and my godfather instilled in to me at a young age.”
  • Finding a point guard to pair with their young talent should be the Bulls‘ top priority this summer, observes Sean Deveney of Sporting News. The ideal scenario would be to land the No. 2 pick in the draft and add Ja Morant, and the team is likely to turn to the free agent market if that doesn’t happen. Deveney states that Chicago isn’t in position to compete for top-tier players like Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker, but may pursue Utah’s Ricky Rubio, a pass-first point guard who doesn’t need a lot of shots to be productive.
  • After a rough start to his NBA career, Cavaliers point guard Collin Sexton has become a candidate for the All-Rookie Team, according to Joe Gabriele of NBA.com.

Wizards Notes: Grunfeld, Leonsis, GM Search

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said he alone made the call to relieve Ernie Grunfeld of his duties. “No one made this decision other than me,” Leonsis said (Twitter links via Candace Buckner of the Washington Post).

“My main goal is to right now as fast as I can bring in an outside firm to provide some services for us,” Leonsis said. “I want to do what’s called ‘best practicing.’ What do the best organizations look like? What do they spend?

“Maybe I made the mistake in the way we spent and invested out money. I have to be open-minded.”

Leonsis does not believe the organization will have issues attracting a top candidate for the GM gig, a sentiment echoed by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Resources and geography are among the reasons to expect the position to be highly sought after.

Here’s more from Washington:

  • Tommy Sheppard, the team’s interim GM, is a strong candidate for the position, per Leonsis. Sheppard is the senior vice president of basketball operations and has been with the organization for 14 years.
  • Leonsis called both Bradley Beal and John Wall shortly after making the move to notify them of the change, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports tweets.
  • Scott Brooks’ job status will be determined after a general manager is hired, Leonsis added (via Hughes in a separate tweet). The new GM won’t be restricted in terms of the direction the franchise goes in, as Leonsis is open to all ideas.
  • Hughes (in a full-length piece) identifies 10 possible candidates for the GM position, including Sheppard and former Cavs GM David Griffin. Hughes also speculated that Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton, who was with the Wizards from 2003 until 2013, could be a candidate for the position.