- Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau is striving to keep his club dialed in with the playoffs in sight, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Thibodeau has guided the Knicks to six straight victories during the season’s home stretch. The club is now 31-27, the No. 6 seed in the East, and just 0.5 games behind the fourth-seeded Hawks for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. “We try not to get wrapped up in any of that stuff,” Thibodeau said after winning the team’s fifth straight game Friday. “If we’re taking care of all the little things, the big things will take care of themselves. Just stack good days.”
- All-Star Knicks forward Julius Randle is proving his doubters wrong with a career season at age 26, writes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. Randle, who appears to be well worth the three-year, $63MM deal he signed with New York in 2019, detailed how he has improved his approach for the improved Knicks. “It’s not just about the weight room and the court. I’m going to handle that,” Randle said Friday. “But my mentality and my mindset was just different. So I changed that aspect as well. And the results are showing.” Randle is averaging 23.6 PPG, 10.6 RPG and 6.0 APG for the Knicks, all career-bests. He is also connecting on 41% of his 5.1 three-point attempts per game.
Jabari Parker‘s new contract with the Celtics runs for two seasons and includes a pair of guarantee dates for 2021/22, according to Jared Weiss and Jason Jones of The Athletic. Parker will receive $100K if he remains on the roster through July 31 – although that date could change if the league calendar is adjusted – and another $1,041,517 if he is still with the team at the start of next season. According to The Athletic’s sources, those combined figures are half of his total $2,283,034 salary with Boston.
The Celtics represent the latest chance for Parker, who was the second player chosen in the 2014 draft. Injuries and other factors have prevented Parker from establishing himself, as Boston will be his seventh team in seven years. He played three games for the Kings this season before being waived last month.
Former Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac was intrigued enough by Parker to trade for him at last year’s deadline, Jones states, but Parker was injured and out of shape when he reported to the team. He contracted COVID-19 before the summer restart, which prevented him from making any impact in Orlando. He was in better condition when training camp began in December, but suffered a back injury and took time away from the team for personal reasons.
There’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- The Celtics‘ decision to waive Moritz Wagner to make room for Parker was a matter of fit, Weiss and Jones add. Luke Kornet has established himself as the team’s third center and Grant Williams has been playing in the middle in small-ball lineups. Wagner doesn’t have a next team lined up yet, but he will try to return to the league this season, a source tells the authors. He wouldn’t be eligible for the playoffs with a new team because he was on Boston’s roster past April 9.
- The Knicks‘ path toward becoming playoff contenders began with a mini-camp last summer, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. While 22 teams were in Orlando for the restart, the other eight were given permission to have a two-week session with players and coaches. That gave newly-hired Tom Thibodeau a chance to get to know his personnel and introduce his system.
- The Raptors have been fined $25K for “failing to comply with league policies governing player rest and injury reporting,” the NBA announced (via Twitter).
The Knicks will likely make a roster move at some point to replace John Henson, who didn’t receive another 10-day contract. A wild card could be Baskonia combo guard Luca Vildoza. According to Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas (Twitter link), Vildoza is on the Knicks’ radar. The 25-year-old, 6’3” Vildoza is averaging 10.1 PPG and 3.4 APG in the EuroLeague this season.
Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Atlantic Division:
Blake Griffin, Nets, 32, PF (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $1.23MM deal in 2021
Well, Griffin proved he could still dunk after agreeing to a buyout with the Pistons and joining the Eastern Conference favorite. He’s also proven that he’s a shadow of the All-Star performer who carried Detroit into the playoffs just two years ago. Other than a 17-point outing against his former team and drawing some charges, Griffin has made a minimal impact with Brooklyn. He went scoreless in 41 minutes of floor time against the Lakers and Timberwolves this week before getting rested on the second game of a back-to-back. Griffin might go from a max player to a veteran’s minimum backup as soon as this offseason.
Dwight Howard, Sixers, 35, C (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2.56MM deal in 2020
Speaking of former perennial All-Stars playing on a veteran’s minimum contract, Howard has managed to stay healthy again after playing just nine games for Washington two seasons ago. Howard helped the Lakers win last season’s title but his production has dropped as a second-unit center in Philadelphia. His turnovers are up and his field goal percentage is down, though he does lead the league in one category – most technical fouls. Howard has nearly as many turnovers (12) as shot attempts (16) in the last six games. Perhaps Howard will get another minimum contract to stay in the league but it appears the end is near for an NBA career that began in 2004.
Reggie Bullock, Knicks, 30, SF/SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $8.2MM deal in 2020
While the playing time of the Knicks’ younger players has fluctuated quite a bit under Tom Thibodeau, Bullock has been a steady presence in the starting lineup. He’s the quintessential 3-and-D player, spacing the floor offensively and providing hard-nosed defense at the other end. Bullock is attempting 8.1 field goals per game, with 5.6 of them beyond the arc. He’s made 39.9% of his long-range attempts, connecting with incredible consistency. He drained 40% in both January and February, 40.5% in March and 43.1% this month. He’ll be in demand when he hits unrestricted free agency this summer.
Gary Trent Jr., Raptors, 22, SG/SF, (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.92MM deal in 2018
The Raptors traded away Norman Powell to the Trail Blazers in part because they weren’t sure they could re-sign him in unrestricted free agency. Trent, one of the two players they acquired for Powell, will be a restricted free agent this summer. While Toronto can match any offer, the team may have a dilemma if another suitor makes a big offer to the young sharpshooter. He’s averaging 17.4 PPG in 11 games with the Raptors, including a 44-point eruption against Cleveland on Saturday when he missed just two of 19 field-goal attempts. He tossed in a clunker against Atlanta on Tuesday but no doubt, Trent is hitting restricted free agency at a very good time.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Knicks guard Alec Burks has been placed on the league’s health and safety protocols list, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Burks is coming off a 21-point outing against New Orleans on Wednesday.
Burks has exceeded all expectations since the Knicks signed him to a one-year, $6MM contract, having averaged 12.6 PPG on 40.8% shooting beyond the arc in 25.8 minutes per contest. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent once again this summer, but the club has plenty of cap room and will try to retain him, Berman writes in a separate story.
We have more on the Knicks and Nets:
- The Knicks have their eyes on Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson, according to Berman, though he won’t hit free agency until after next season. Dallas needs only to guarantee his contract this summer, a modest $1.8MM, to hold onto him for one more year.
- Brunson’s father, Rick Brunson, is under consideration as a possible Knicks assistant, Berman writes in the same story. The elder Brunson served under Tom Thibodeau in Chicago and Minnesota but left the Timberwolves amid allegations of workplace misconduct. He’s currently coaching Camden HS in New Jersey.
- After allowing big man John Henson‘s 10-day deal to expire, the Knicks might add to their backcourt instead of pursuing another center, according to Berman. Euro standout and former NBA point man Mike James is one of the players the team is considering. James was recently suspended by CSKA Moscow after an altercation with his coach and returned to the U.S., though he’s still technically under contract with the Russian team.
- With the abrupt retirement of LaMarcus Aldridge due to a heart condition, Nets GM Sean Marks is mulling all options regarding a roster move, Brian Lewis of the New York Post tweets. The team is “doing due diligence” and hasn’t decided whether to bring in another big man or add depth elsewhere.
Though the Nets certainly wouldn’t mind being the top seed in the Eastern Conference, what matters most to them is player health, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. The Nets are currently the second seed in the East with a 37-18 record, one game behind the 38-17 Sixers and 2.5 games ahead of the Bucks.
“Health is everything,” head coach Steve Nash noted. “It’d be great to have the No. 1 seed — I think it means a lot, it’s valuable — but not at the expense of losing players or prolonging our injury situation.”
There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:
- Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca wonders about the recent past and current trajectory for the Raptors if Toronto had never traded franchise stalwart DeMar DeRozan for 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who departed for the Clippers in free agency after leading the Raptors to a title during his lone season in Canada.
- With injured center John Henson not expected to be re-signed to a second 10-day contract, the Knicks are considering other veteran big men for the newly-opened roster spot, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Berman reports that one option on New York’s radar is 31-year-old power forward Kenneth Faried, who most recently suited up for the Zhejiang Lions of the CBA in 2019.
- Nets head coach Steve Nash appreciates that the team has had to adjust creatively to various absences. “We may not get any games with our whole roster,” Nash conceded, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “I don’t want to worry about or be concerned about things that are out of our control.” The club has employed 29 different starting lineups this season. Nash also acknowledged that, following a surgery on a fractured third metacarpal of his right hand, two-way Brooklyn point guard Chris Chiozza will be unavailable “basically for the regular season.”
John Henson‘s 10-day contract with the Knicks expired overnight and the team doesn’t plan to sign him for another 10-day stint, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, who notes (via Twitter) that the big man injured his calf on the second day of his deal and didn’t get a chance to play at all.
With Henson no longer under contract, the Knicks have an open spot on their 15-man roster and could create a second one if they don’t re-sign Norvel Pelle after his second 10-day deal expires next Wednesday night. Pelle made a case on Wednesday for a rest-of-season contract, as he was a plus-19 in just 13 minutes in New York’s victory over New Orleans.
Here’s more on the Knicks:
- The Knicks haven’t played any worse with Mitchell Robinson sidelined this season than they have with him in the lineup, prompting Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News to wonder how heavily the team should be willing to invest in Robinson on his next contract.
- Nerlens Noel has played a major part in making up for Robinson’s absence. Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report takes a closer look at Noel’s resurgence and how it could impact the former lottery pick’s upcoming free agency.
- Like Mark Cuban‘s Mavericks, Tom Thibodeau‘s Knicks may have to earn their playoff spot in a play-in tournament despite a possible top-eight finish. However, Thibodeau is more enthusiastic than Cuban about the merits of the play-in tournament, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. “I think we have to let it play out first and then assess it again,” Thibodeau said. “But I think a lot of a lot of teams being involved in important games, I think that that’s good for the league. I think you’re always concerned about that. And so let’s see we’ll how it plays out but the initial thought of it I think is very good.”
- Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy pointed to the “extra training camp” that Thibodeau and the Knicks got last fall as one reason for the team’s surprise emergence this season, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. The teams that weren’t invited to the Walt Disney World bubble last summer were granted up to two weeks of organized team activities in September and October — that was Thibodeau’s first real chance to get familiar with his players, though it’s worth noting the roster was overhauled to some extent after that.
The Bulls were among the most active teams at the trade deadline, adding five new players to their roster, but so far the changes haven’t worked out the way they hoped, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports. Chicago has gone just 3-7 since then while playing a difficult schedule that featured nine road games and seven against playoff contenders.
“Every night we have one category I would say we don’t perform well,” said center Daniel Theis, who was one of the new additions. “One night it’s turnovers that cost us a game. (Sunday), we didn’t get to the line a lot. (Monday), we didn’t shoot the ball well from 3. Now we’ve got to put together a complete game. If we play defense like (Monday) and we make our shots, we’re gonna win games.”
There’s more from Chicago:
- Before the Bulls hosted Orlando tonight, Magic coach Steve Clifford talked to his former center, Nikola Vucevic, about the adjustment to a new team, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. “He’s getting comfortable here (with Chicago),” Clifford said. “I think it’ll be a great place for him. He’s very upbeat, very excited about his teammates … loves (Bulls coach) Billy (Donovan).”
- The decision to trade for Vucevic was a way for the Bulls’ front office to show Zach LaVine that they’re serious about winning, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of Bleacher Report. LaVine is widely expected to turn down an extension offer from Chicago in order to sign a more lucrative deal as a free agent, Blakely says.
- The addition of Vucevic has cut into Lauri Markkanen‘s playing time and there’s reason to question whether he’ll return next season, Blakely adds. Vucevic and Markkanen both excel as scorers, but haven’t been effective as a defensive combo. “In the right kind of system, Markkanen could be a really good player,” an Eastern Conference executive told Blakely. “I don’t know if Chicago is it; it’s certainly not it if they think him and Vucevic can play together.” The Spurs may make a strong effort to sign Markkanen this summer, according to Blakely.
- The Knicks are eyeing Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball in free agency and their main competition could come from the Bulls, sources tell Marc Berman of The New York Post. Chicago was involved in trade talks regarding Ball at last month’s deadline.
- The Knicks had internal discussions last week about the possibility of adding Anthony Tolliver, per Marc Berman of The New York Post. As Berman explains, New York was looking for a player who could play the center position, and Tolliver – who ended up signing with Philadelphia – is more of a forward.
It’s been nearly two months since we checked in on the status of 2021’s traded first-round picks, and there have been plenty of shifts in the NBA standings since then. Those changes have an impact on where in the draft certain traded picks will land, as well as whether or not some protected picks will change hands at all.
With just over a month left in the 2020/21 regular season, it’s worth revisiting the traded first-round picks for 2021. With the help of our reverse standings tool, here’s our latest look at which of those traded picks are most and least likely to change hands, and which ones are still up in the air:
Picks that will definitely change hands:
- Knicks acquiring Mavericks‘ pick (unprotected).
- Rockets acquiring Bucks‘ pick (top-nine protected swap).
The only unprotected traded pick for the 2021 draft, the Mavs’ selection currently projects to be the No. 21 overall pick. That would be a reasonably good outcome for the Knicks, but there’s even more upside here — since Dallas is currently the No. 7 seed in the West, a win in the play-in tournament may be necessary to secure a playoff spot.
The NBA has yet to clarify exactly how draft positioning will be affected by the play-in results, but presumably if the Mavs don’t clinch a postseason berth in the play-in, that pick would move into the lottery.
Meanwhile, the Rockets will acquire the Bucks’ pick, currently projected to land at No. 24 overall, in a swap for their own second-rounder (No. 32, for now).
Picks that definitely won’t change hands:
- Grizzlies acquiring Jazz‘s pick (1-7 and 15-30 protection).
- Pelicans acquiring Lakers‘ pick (8-30 protection).
- Rockets acquiring Pistons‘ pick (top-16 protected).
The Jazz are definitely making the postseason and the Pistons definitely aren’t, so their picks (currently projected to be No. 30 and No. 4, respectively) won’t change hands.
The Grizzlies should at least be able to count on getting Utah’s first-rounder in 2022, when it will become top-six protected. It may be a while before the Rockets get a pick from Detroit though — that first-rounder remains heavily protected in 2022 (top-16), 2023 (top-18), and 2024 (top-18) before those protections start to loosen a little.
As for the Lakers‘ pick, it isn’t technically a lock yet — there’s theoretically a scenario in which L.A. misses the playoffs and then moves into the top four in the lottery, sending its pick to the Pelicans. But that’s an extreme long shot. The Lakers’ pick is at No. 23 for now.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Knicks have the ability to swap their own 2021 first-rounder for the Clippers‘ pick. At the moment though, New York’s pick would be No. 15 and L.A.’s would be No. 26, so that won’t happen.
Still up in the air:
- Warriors acquiring Timberwolves‘ pick (top-three protected).
- Magic acquiring Bulls‘ pick (top-four protected).
- Thunder acquiring Warriors‘ pick (top-20 protected).
That Timberwolves pick will be a fascinating one to watch in the lottery. If Minnesota finishes with a bottom-three record, there will be a 40.1% chance it remains in the top three.
The Warriors will actually be rooting for the Wolves to finish with the NBA’s worst record, since in that scenario, there’s a 59.9% chance the pick lands at No. 4 or No. 5. If the Wolves instead have the third-worst record, the pick would be just as likely to land in the top three, but could slip as far as No. 6 or No. 7.
The Magic will have a good chance of landing the Bulls‘ pick, which currently projects to be the No. 10 overall selection. If Chicago remains in that spot, there would only be about a 14% chance of the pick moving up into the top four.
Golden State’s own pick, which currently projects to be No. 13, is unlikely to be sent to the Thunder unless the Warriors get hot late in the season. Assuming the Warriors’ first-rounder is protected, Oklahoma City would instead receive Minnesota’s second-round pick (currently No. 31).
Latest on the Rockets/Thunder/Heat/Blazers/Nets situation:
As a reminder, this series of trades and pick swaps is too convoluted to fit cleanly into any of the above sections. Here’s a breakdown of how it works:
- The Thunder will have the right to swap either their own first-round pick or the Heat’s first-round pick for the Rockets‘ first-round pick, but only if Houston’s pick doesn’t fall in the top four. In other words, if Houston gets a top-four pick, the Rockets will keep their own first-rounder; if not, the Thunder will get the two most favorable picks of their own, the Heat’s, and the Rockets’, and Houston will get the least favorable.
- Once the first step is complete, the Rockets will be left with at least one first-round pick, and almost certainly two, since they’re also owed the Trail Blazers‘ first-rounder (top-14 protected). They would then have the right to swap either of those picks for the Nets‘ first-rounder (unprotected).
As of today, the Rockets have the second-worst record in the league, giving them a 52.1% chance of having their pick land in its top-four protected range on lottery night. In that scenario, Houston would keep its first-rounder (tentatively No. 2) and would get the Trail Blazers’ pick at No. 22. The Thunder would keep their own pick (No. 6, pending lottery results) and receive the Heat’s first-rounder (No. 17), while the Nets would hang onto their own selection (No. 27).
On the other hand, if the Rockets’ pick falls outside of the top four, the Thunder would acquire it along with their own first-rounder, while Houston would get Miami’s pick at No. 17.
No matter how the rest of the season plays out, it’s safe to assume that lottery night on June 22 will have massive implications for the Timberwolves, Warriors, Rockets, and Thunder, and potentially for the Magic and Bulls as well.
While the Pistons, Cavaliers, and a handful of other lottery teams will also be invested in the results that night, the outcome won’t be quite as all-or-nothing for those clubs.