Warriors Targeting Anthony Edwards?

The Warriors are expected to take Georgia guard Anthony Edwards if they land the top pick in this year’s draft and decide to keep it, sources tell Connor Letourneau of The San Francisco Chronicle.

The 18-year-old shooting guard is ranked first on the list of the top 100 prospects compiled by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. Edwards averaged 19.1 points and 5.2 rebounds during his lone season with the Bulldogs.

Golden State can’t finalize any plans until after the lottery, which has been moved to August 25. The Warriors, Cavaliers and Timberwolves will each have a 14% chance at the No. 1 selection in the draft, which has been pushed back to October 15.

Letourneau states that if the Warriors slip to anywhere between the second and fifth picks, they will turn their attention to Iowa State point guard Tyrese Haliburton, Auburn forward Isaac Okoro, Israeli forward Deni Avdija and a few other players.

Another possibility, Letourneau notes, is packaging the pick and a $17.2MM traded player exception to acquire a proven player. Golden State is hoping to return to title contention next year and may not see anyone in the draft who could be a difference maker right away.

 Coronavirus concerns canceled this year’s pre-draft showcases and made individual workouts impossible, so the Warriors have been relying on videos and Zoom chats to assess prospects.

Idle Teams Consider Mini-Summer League

The teams that won’t be invited to Orlando for the resumption of the NBA season are discussing activities to make sure their players won’t be left without games for nine months, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. That plan could involve training camps, followed by a small summer league.

Wojnarowski lists seven teams — the Hawks, Hornets, Bulls, Cavaliers, Pistons, Timberwolves and Knicks — that are supporting a plan to hold joint practices as preparation for summer league games in August. Sources tell him that Detroit and Cleveland have talked about having practices together before a “mini-pod” of games.

Ideas presented by the teams, according to Woj’s sources, include two weeks of workouts in July, regional mini-camps in August with several days of combined practices and approximately three games on television, then organized team activities in mid-September.

Also, the teams left out of Orlando are seeking permission from the NBA to start to next season’s training camp a week to 10 days ahead of everyone else. Those teams are concerned that the long layoff will affect the development of their younger players, not only due to  the lack of games but because of the long separation from team facilities and the structured life in the NBA.

“Nine months is too long without organized basketball,” Hawks owner Tony Ressler said. “We just can’t risk that. I think the league has heard that loud and clear. We are pushing to remain competitive. That’s what our players want. We were desperate to have something that helps us to stay competitive.”

“Not playing for eight months puts us in a competitive disadvantage, but again, I think there are creative ways to do so,” adds new Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas. “Collectively, I think these eight teams we’re getting now on calls and we have conversations of how we can develop our players and how we can have structure in place to get some practicing and possibly some scrimmaging in the offseason to catch up to the teams that are going to be playing.”

Wojnarowski points out that any games, camps or other activities would have to be negotiated by the league and the players union because they’re not part of the collective bargaining agreement. Sources tell him that the league office has promised the teams that it will work with them to find a solution.

Knicks Open To Trading Julius Randle

With the NBA’s plan to return for the 2019/20 in place, the Knicks are officially in the offseason stage, as the organization was not one of the 22 teams summoned to Orlando.

In addition to searching for a new head coach, newly-minted team president Leon Rose will also have to focus on building the roster for next season. Last summer’s big free-agent signing, Julius Randle, is someone the team would be open to trading, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

The Knicks have already explored moving Randle, as the team had talks with the Hornets ahead of this year’s trade deadline. Randle signed a three-year, $63MM deal last summer after New York failed to land Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving in free agency.

Randle had flashes of brilliance this season, but his defensive shortcomings and ball-dominant style of play failed to mesh with the Knicks’ core of youngsters. Although Randle averaged 19.7 PPG and 9.7 RPG in 64 games, his strong three-point shooting from a year prior fell to 27.7%.

As Berman notes, there are some financial implications that could hinder dealing Randle, but his $18.9MM salary for next season is manageable. Also, still just 25 years old, Randle can be a helpful piece to an NBA team.

Ime Udoka Reportedly ‘Frontrunner’ To Be Bulls’ Next Coach

Sixers assistant coach Ime Udoka is currently the favorite to become the Bulls‘ next head coach, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

With the NBA’s 22-team format for resuming the 2019/20 campaign approved, Chicago is now in the offseason stage, as the club will not travel to Orlando. As we relayed last month, current head coach Jim Boylen appears to be on the hot seat, and Bulls ownership have indicated they’ll approve a new hire should Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley choose to make a change.

Udoka, 42, enjoyed a seven-year NBA career that ended in 2011 after suiting up for the Spurs, Trail Blazers, Kings, Knicks and Lakers. He was part of Gregg Popovich‘s staff in San Antonio for seven seasons before joining the Sixers. Udoka was also interviewed for head coach with the Cavaliers before the job was given to John Beilen.

Chicago has failed to crack 30 wins since 2017, the same year they made their most recent playoff appearance. Under Boylen, the Bulls were 22-43 before the coronavirus pandemic suspended play. As Chicago readies for next season, hiring a coach that can take an inexperienced team with youth and potential back into contention will be key.

Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin will also be “in the picture” for the Bulls if they replace Boylen, Cowley notes, echoing what we heard earlier this spring.

Mike Miller Has Support To Remain On Knicks’ Staff

As the Knicks intensify their pursuit for a new head coach, interim head coach Mike Miller has support from people in the organization to remain on the coaching staff, SNY’s Ian Begley reports.

Miller, 55, was moved up from assistant coach to interim head coach following the dismissal of David Fizdale in early December last year. While the Knicks’ losing record persisted, the team played better under Miller, going 17-27 in 44 games until the season was stopped amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With new team president Leon Rose in the fold, the Knicks reportedly have former Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau at the top of their list. However, in addition to Miller, the team also plans to interview former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson and former Knicks head coach  Mike Woodson.

While Miller’s lone head coaching experience has been a 44-game stretch this season, he has experienced success at other levels, most notably winning Coach of the Year with the G League’s Westchester Knicks in 2017/18. It remains to be seen if Miller will be given a serious opportunity to become the full-time head coach, but he has impressed team officials enough to at least be in the mix.

Kevin Durant Confirms “My Season Is Over”

Confirming a Friday report, star forward Kevin Durant told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated in a wide-ranging interview that he won’t play for the Nets when the 2019/20 season resumes this summer.

“My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all,” Durant said. “We decided last summer when it first happened that I was just going to wait until the following season. I had no plans of playing at all this season.”

Durant tore his Achilles tendon nearly a year ago during the 2019 NBA Finals and had originally been ruled out for the entire 2019/20 season. When the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the end of the season being postponed, there was some speculation that KD might not have to wait until 2020/21 to make his Nets debut after all. However, reports in recent weeks continually indicated that was unlikely to be the case.

Prior to the suspension of the season in March, Durant had progressed to scrimmaging with teammates, but his rehab process slowed down when practice facilities became unavailable and group activities were no longer permitted. The former MVP told Spears that his rehab is still going well and that he’s “feeling like a normal player again,” but said putting off his return until next season is the right call.

“It’s just best for me to wait,” Durant said. “I don’t think I’m ready to play that type of intensity right now in the next month. It gives me more time to get ready for next season and the rest of my career.”

As for teammate Kyrie Irving, the expectation for now is that he also won’t be healthy enough to return for the Nets this summer in Orlando. Irving is recovering from undergoing shoulder surgery earlier this year.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Irving suggested on Friday’s NBPA conference call that he may end up joining the Nets this summer as an inactive player supporting his teammates.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NBPA Views December 1 Start Date For 2020/21 As “Unlikely”

The National Basketball Players Association announced today that it has approved further negotiations with the NBA on its resumption plan and various changes to the league’s calendar. However, the NBPA also told its players that it considers a December 1 start date for the 2020/21 regular season “unlikely,” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

As we noted in our earlier story, the players’ union and the league still need to work out a number of details, with many aspects of the Collective Bargaining Agreement expected to be revisited and renegotiated.

NBPA executive director Michele Roberts has informed members that next season’s start date and “a myriad of items” will be part of the union’s negotiations with the NBA in the coming weeks, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

A November 10 training camp date and December 1 regular season tip-off date were among the most surprising details put forth by the NBA on Thursday. There’s a belief that the league hopes to start the 2020/21 season that early in part because it would allow next year’s Finals to wrap up before the Tokyo Olympics begin on July 23, 2021.

However, since this year’s NBA Finals could run as late as October 12, some players could have less than a month off if such an aggressive timeline is approved. As such, those proposed 2020/21 dates were considered tentative and subject to change even before Charania’s report this afternoon.

Details related to the league’s health and safety protocols for this summer’s restart will also need to be negotiated and finalized. A number of financial issues – including how much players are ultimately paid for 2019/20 and what the salary cap for ’20/21 will look like – will need to be addressed and resolved as well.

NBPA Approves NBA’s 22-Team Return-To-Play Format

After a virtual meeting today, the National Basketball Players Association has approved the NBA’s 22-team return-to-play format, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links). Charania reports (via Twitter) that all 28 team player representatives on the call approved the plan.

As Wojnarowski notes (via Twitter), the two sides still need to work out a number of details related to the resumption of the season, with many aspects of the Collective Bargaining Agreement expected to be revisited and renegotiated. For instance, just because the NBPA approved the tentative plan today, that doesn’t mean the two sides are locking in the NBA’s target date of December 1 as the start of the 2020/21 season.

“The Board of Player Representatives of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) has approved further negotiations with the NBA on a 22-team return to play scenario to restart the 2019/20 NBA season,” the NBPA said in a statement. “Various details remain to be negotiated and the acceptance of the scenario would still require that all parties reach agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.”

Still, now that the Board of Governors and the players’ union have both signed off on the league’s restart plan, two crucial hurdles have been cleared. The two sides intend to work together toward resuming play on July 31 at Walt Disney World.

One important aspect of the return-to-play plan that will require further discussion is the long list of healthy and safety protocols the NBA plans to implement to help individuals in Orlando avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19.

Sources tell Charania (Twitter link) that the NBPA informed players today that coronavirus testing will happen every night after everyone reports to Orlando. According to Charania, a quarantine period of at least seven days will be required if a player tests positive for COVID-19.

Additionally, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), players have been told that the goal is to have a maximum of 1,600 people within the NBA’s Disney bubble at a given time. Players’ families are expected to be allowed after the first round of the playoffs, with up to three family members at a time permitted, Woj adds. Those family members will need to quarantine for seven days upon arriving, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times.

Here are a few more details that were discussed on today’s call, per Charania:

  • The plan is to have teams play two or three exhibition games before the eight “seeding games” begin.
  • The NBA and NBPA are still discussing how to handle the no-fans environment. Using crowd noise via NBA 2K audio is one option.
  • Players won’t be blood-tested (ie. for anti-drug policy violations) in Orlando.
  • Players are expected to once again receive their full pay checks this summer after accepting a 25% reduction as of May 15.

Interestingly, Charania also reports (via Twitter) that NBPA leadership stressed to players that staying within the campus environment during play is mandatory in order to ensure player safety. We’ve heard that the league would permit players to leave that “bubble,” but it sounds like the NBPA is strongly discouraging that idea in order to keep the playing environment as uncompromised as possible.

Kevin Durant Reportedly Won’t Play This Summer

Despite ongoing speculation about the possibility of Kevin Durant making his Nets debut this summer when the 2019/20 NBA season resumes, multiple sources tell Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily that Durant won’t return for the rest of the season.

Puccio’s report is the most definitive update we’ve gotten yet on Durant, but it aligns with everything we’ve heard over the last few months about the star forward’s recovery from an Achilles tear suffered last June.

Durant’s manager and business partner Rich Kleiman has repeatedly stated that it’s unrealistic to expect KD to play this summer; after initially leaving the door open to the possibility of Durant’s return, Nets general manager Sean Marks seemed to close that door last month; and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski stated in a podcast nearly a month ago that Brooklyn wouldn’t be playing the two-time Finals MVP this summer.

This week alone, several more updates have indicated that Durant still isn’t expected to suit up for the Nets until the 2020/21 campaign begins. As Greg Logan of Newsday notes, teammate Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot recently told a French outlet that he didn’t think KD would be back this summer.

Appearing this morning on ESPN’s Get Up (video link), Brian Windhorst said the Nets’ official stance is that Durant won’t play this summer, adding that the compressed nature of the tentative schedule make it an even unlikelier proposition. And following up on Puccio’s report, Chris Mannix of tweeted that the idea of Durant returning this summer was “never a serious idea.”

Getting Durant and Kyrie Irving back for July 31 would have made the Nets an intriguing challenger in the Eastern Conference playoffs, even though they won’t be higher than a No. 7 seed. However, with Durant’s return apparently off the table and Irving’s status still up in the air, according to Puccio, the idea of Brooklyn making a deep postseason run looks like a long shot.

It makes sense that the Nets would prefer to play it safe with Durant, given the unusual nature of the summer schedule and the fact that he’ll likely be very rusty upon returning. The optics of KD’s Finals return and subsequent re-injury for the Warriors a year ago may also be in the back of the Nets’ minds. And even with Durant on the court, Brooklyn probably isn’t a serious title contender this season, so there’s little upside in risking another setback.

As Durant continues to rehab and work toward his return to the court, he’s also been busy off the court. Mark J. Burns of SportsBusiness Daily reports that the 31-year-old has become a stakeholder in the Philadelphia Union, a Major League Soccer franchise. Durant’s share is believed to be worth between between one and five percent, according to Burns.

What We Learned On Thursday About NBA’s Plans

Thursday represented perhaps the most eventful day of NBA news since the league suspended its season back on March 11. The NBA’s Board of Governors formally approved the return-to-play plan put forth by commissioner Adam Silver, as the league took a major first step toward getting back on the court this season.

While that 29-1 vote in favor of Silver’s 22-team plan was the big headline of the day, it was just one of many significant updates we got from the NBA and the reporters that cover the league. Since there was a lot of information to take in, we wanted to round up all the key headlines in one place — we’ve done so below.

Here are some of Thursday’s biggest stories:

The ball is now in the NBPA’s court:

The NBA and its teams have given the green light to the league’s return-to-play plan, but the National Basketball Players Association hasn’t technically done so yet.

The players’ union reportedly scheduled a call on Friday with team player representatives, and there’s an expectation that they’ll sign off on the plan. After all, Silver and NBPA president Chris Paul have stayed in close contact throughout the process and are believed to be on the same page.

However, giving a tentative go-ahead to the broad strokes of the NBA’s proposal doesn’t mean that the NBPA will be on board with every single detail. Many changes, especially those applying to the offseason and the 2020/21 season, will need to be collectively bargained before they can be officially finalized.

More light was shed on the NBA’s new summer schedule:

In addition to getting confirmation from the NBA that the league is aiming to begin regular season games on July 31, we were able to fill in some of the gaps between now and then, based on reports from Shams Charania of The Athletic and others.

Not all of these dates are set in stone, but here’s a rough timeline on what the next several weeks may look like:

  • June 15: Players located internationally return to their team’s market.
  • June 21: All players report to their team’s market.
  • June 22: Coronavirus testing begins.
  • June 30: Training camps begin.
  • July 7: Players travel to Orlando.
  • July 8-30: Quarantine period, camps, and possibly exhibition games?

Once the season resumes on July 31, it’s expected to take 16 days for each team to play eight games, so by mid-August, we could be looking at one or two potential play-in tournaments, with the postseason to follow.

The NBA has officially rescheduled its draft:

Originally scheduled for June 25, the 2020 NBA draft is now tentatively penciled in for October 15. That means it could take place just three days after the NBA Finals conclude.

We’re still waiting to see if the league will be able to conduct some form of revamped combine for many of this year’s top prospects. For now, we know that NCAA early entrants will have to withdraw from the draft by August 3 or 10 days after the combine (whichever comes first) in order to maintain their college eligibility.

Any draft combine the NBA puts together seems unlikely to be completed by July 24, so for now we’re assuming that August 3 will be the withdrawal deadline for early entrants.

We’ve got a new draft lottery date and details:

The 2020 draft lottery, which was initially supposed to happen in Chicago on May 19, is now tentatively scheduled for August 25.

While it’s not clear exactly what form the lottery will take, the NBA provided more details today on what the seeding and odds will look like. According to the league, the eight teams not invited to Orlando are locked into the top eight spots in the lottery. The 9-14 seeds will be filled out by the rest of the teams that don’t ultimately make the playoffs, sorted by their records as of March 11.

In other words, even if the Wizards go 0-8 and finish with a worse winning percentage than a couple teams left out of the return to play, they’ll have the ninth-best lottery odds. The same is true if they go on a hot streak and pass a couple top-22 teams in the standings in Orlando — unless they make the postseason, they’ll still be No. 9 in the lottery standings.

Here’s what the lottery odds will look like for the eight teams not invited to Orlando:

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
GSW 14 13.4 12.7 12 47.9
CLE 14 13.4 12.7 12 27.8 20
MIN 14 13.4 12.7 12 14.8 26 7.1
ATL 12.5 12.2 11.9 11.5 7.2 25.7 16.8 2.2
DET 10.5 10.5 10.6 10.5 2.2 19.6 26.7 8.8 0.6
NYK 9 9.2 9.4 9.6 8.6 29.6 20.6 3.8 0.2
CHI 7.5 7.8 8.1 8.5 19.7 34.1 12.9 1.3 >0
CHA 6 6.3 6.7 7.2 34.5 32.1 6.7 0.4 >0

The tentative odds for the rest of the teams can be found here, though they’re dependent on the Grizzlies, Magic, and Nets not surrendering their playoff spots.

As for the rest of the first round draft order, that won’t be based on March 11 records — teams’ performances in the eight “seeding games” in July and August will also be taken into consideration. For instance, the Heat (41-24) are currently projected to have the No. 23 pick, but if they go 1-7 when play resumes, they’ll almost certainly move up in the draft order.

The NBA is planning on a very short offseason:

In one of the more surprising announcements of the day, the league indicated it’s targeting November 10 for the opening of next season’s training camps and December 1 for opening night of the 2020/21 campaign.

While teams not involved in the NBA’s return will welcome the opportunity to get back on the floor at that point, those dates may not be popular among playoff teams, who would have an extremely compressed offseason. The 2019/20 season could run as late as October 12 (with free agency to follow just six days later on October 18), which would result in an offseason of less than a month for a couple teams.

Comments made by NBPA executive director Michele Roberts suggest she was surprised by the December 1 target date, and it’s worth noting that it will require approval from the players’ union. Of all the dates and details the NBA has announced so far, this is one I could see changing — a December 25 opening day just seems to make a lot of sense.

On the other hand, a December 1 start could give the NBA a chance to finish the 2020/21 season before the Olympics get underway on July 23, 2021 — avoiding any overlap with the Tokyo games could be important for some players.

There still aren’t a ton of details on the NBA’s health and safety protocols for the summer:

Even as we received a ton of new information today on dates and formats, there were few updates about the most important issue facing the NBA this summer — how does the league plan to keep its players safe and healthy amid the coronavirus pandemic?

A report confirmed that individuals are expected to be tested for COVID-19 daily within the Orlando bubble, and commissioner Adam Silver confirmed that the league doesn’t want a single positive test to prevent that player’s team from continuing to participate. But we already strongly suspected both of things.

Silver’s most noteworthy comment during his Thursday TNT appearance was his suggestion that certain older coaches may not be permitted on the sidelines due to their increased risk if they were to contract COVID-19. However, he has already walked back that stance to some extent. Either way, we’ll need more details on the NBA’s health and safety protocols soon.

For more details on the NBA’s return-to-play plan, check out our full breakdown here.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.