Nicolas Batum

And-Ones: Durant, Superteams, French National Team

Multiple teams around the NBA still consider Kevin Durant a talent worth investing max money in, despite the ruptured Achilles that will sideline him through 2019/20. Ben Golliver of the Washington Post weighs in on several franchises that could entertain the idea this summer.

Golliver writes that the Clippers, backed by billionaire Steve Ballmer could afford to sign Durant, tinker with the impressive lineup that led them to the postseason this spring, and then hit the ground running with Durant in 2020/21. That’s a scenario that would be ever dreamier if they were able to land Kawhi Leonard this summer as well.

Of course Durant’s absence next season will still have some impact on his value. Could the revelation that Durant won’t play in 2019/20 derail a potential pairing with Kyrie Irving in New York? Would Irving prefer instead to work with a different star in Brooklyn?

These are questions we’ll get answers to eventually but for now one thing is clear, Durant’s value remains high but that’s not to say that his Achilles hasn’t still thrown the league for a loop.

There’s more from around the league:

  • Is this the beginning of the end of the Superteam Era? Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN wonders as much in a video released on Instagram, suggesting players around the league are showing a greater interest in leading their own teams. For the past decade, star players have seemingly gravitated to one another to stack the deck and win championships but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, if the Raptors’ 2019 title plays a small role in the ushering out the Superteam Era, they’ll be walking right back into a climate that saw former Raptor star Tracy McGrady bolt the franchise for the chance to get out of Vince Carter‘s shadow and lead his own Magic squad.
  • Former Knicks forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas has received interest from a number of NBA teams and has several offers to join teams on non-guaranteed pre-season camp deals, international basketball reported Donatas Urbonas tweets.
  • The preliminary French national team for the 2019 World Cup has been revealed and a number of household NBA names will fortify a competitive roster. As seen at Sportando, Rudy Gobert, Nicolas Batum and Evan Fournier are the biggest names on the preliminary roster but they’re not the only ones with big league credentials.

Hornets Notes: Batum, Walker, Offseason Plans

Hornets coach James Borrego isn’t sure how Nicolas Batum fits into his plans for next season, Borrego admits to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Batum was placed in a variety of roles but had another disappointing season and was briefly benched by Borrego. The team’s highest-paid player has two years and $52.5MM remaining on his contract, making him virtually untradeable unless Charlotte sweetens the pot with a first-round pick or young player. Bonnell suggests making Batum a utility player where he sees minutes at shooting guard, small forward and power forward.

We have more on the Hornets:

  • Unrestricted free agent Kemba Walker was unhappy that an attempt to acquire veteran center Marc Gasol from Memphis before the February trade deadline fell through, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (hat tip to NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman). The outline of the proposed deal would have sent out center Bismack Biyombo, forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a protected first-round pick for Gasol. Memphis instead chose to make a deal with playoff-bound Toronto.
  • If Walker re-signs with the club, Jeremy Lamb will likely be a cap casualty, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks points out in his offseason preview. Getting a commitment from Walker would push Charlotte past the luxury tax threshold. Re-signing Lamb for a conservative estimate of $11MM in the first year would trigger an approximate $27.5MM in additional luxury tax penalties. The team also has to make some hard decisions on non-guaranteed contracts, including Tony Parker‘s deal. The Hornets are unlikely to give forward Frank Kaminsky a $4.5MM qualifying offer before the June 30 deadline, Marks adds.
  • Walker’s chances of returning are pegged at 30% by Bonnell in his player-by-player breakdown of the roster. Those odds will rise only if GM Mitch Kupchak can pull off a blockbuster deal before free agency to entice Walker to stay.

Southeast Notes: Beal, Waiters, Graham, Hornets

Despite missing out on the playoffs, Wizards star Bradley Beal refuses to blame his team’s shortcomings on owner Ted Leonsis or upper management.

Washington fell to 31-46 on the season by losing to the Jazz on Friday, holding just a 22-16 record at home and 9-30 record on the road. Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld — overseen by Leonsis — put together a roster that many league observers were confident would make the playoffs when the season started. However, a series of injuries, shuffled pieces and bad chemistry eventually ended the team’s chances at making the tournament this year.

“And for me, my higher calling – I’ve let people down this year with the Wizards,” Leonsis said, according to NBC Sports Washington. “I want every one of our teams to make the playoffs and win a championship.”

Coming into the season, the Wizards sported a projected starting lineup of John Wall, Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Dwight Howard. However, Wall underwent season-ending heel surgery in December (in addition to rupturing his Achilles in January), Porter was traded to Chicago, Morris was traded (and then waived by New Orleans), and Howard has been forced to miss all but nine games due to injuries this year.

“He’s not playing, so I can’t sit here and just allow him to take all the credit for it,” Beal said of Leonsis. “We can just continue to move forward, continue to get better, but it’s not just on him, it’s on everybody.”

The Wizards only have four players under contract entering the 2019/20 season, with forward Jabari Parker holding a $20MM team option and Howard holding a $5.6MM player option. Trevor Ariza, Wesley Johnson, Tomas SatoranskyJeff Green, Thomas Bryant and Chasson Randle are all set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1, with Bobby Portis and Sam Dekker likely to become restricted free agents.

There’s more today out of the Southeast Division:

  • Heat guard Dion Waiters plans to vigorously focus on his weight once the season comes to an end. Waiters, who underwent a major transformation after his first season in Miami, has taken a step back in his overall health since undergoing ankle surgery. “My whole mindset after the playoffs is getting right to it,” Waiters said, according to Ira Winderman of the Sen Sentinel. “I took a year and a half off. This season for me is more about getting back in the feel and things like that, trying to find my rhythm and get acclimated by playing.”
  • Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham is proving to be a keeper for the team, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer contends. Graham’s development has been boosted by the veteran presence of Tony Parker, with the 24-year-old point guard improving on both ends of the floor in his rookie season. Charlotte’s future at point guard is mostly uncertain outside of Graham, with Kemba Walker reaching free agency in July and Parker set to turn 37 in May.
  • With less than two weeks left of the regular season, the Hornets‘ biggest challenge might be finding definitive roles for Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bonnell wrote in a separate story for the Charlotte Observer. “Where they fit in the rotation, I don’t know,” head coach James Borrego said when asked about the two players. Batum has missed each of the last four games (largely due to an illness), while Kidd-Gilchrist has played in just one of his last five outings because of a concussion. Kidd-Gilchrist saw just eight minutes in a loss to the Lakers on Friday.

Hornets Open To Trading Frank Kaminsky?

The Hornets may be ready to include big man Frank Kaminsky in a trade, according to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, who reports that teams – including some contenders – have expressed interest in the former first-round pick.

While the Hornets would likely have plenty of potential trade partners to choose from if they were to move Kaminsky on his own, they would prefer to attach him to another big contract, according to Deveney’s report.

Sources tell Sporting News that Charlotte would like to get out from under Nicolas Batum‘s deal, which has another two years and $52.7MM left after this season. At least one team was told Kaminsky could be had in a trade if Batum was included as well, per Deveney. Bismack Biyombo‘s contract, which has one year and $17MM left after this season, is another pricey deal the Hornets are interested in moving.

Pairing Kaminsky with a big contract may be a tough sell though — as Deveney notes, the 25-year-old will be a restricted free agent himself in July, so he’ll be in line for a raise on his $3.63MM salary later this year, especially if he plays well for a new team. Plus, Kaminsky’s role has been very limited under new head coach James Borrego this season, suggesting he may not be part of Charlotte’s future. As such, potential suitors figure to be wary about making substantial offers for him.

Kaminsky, the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft, was a reliable contributor for the Hornets in 2017/18, averaging 11.1 PPG and shooting 38.0% on three-pointers in 79 games (23.2 MPG). This season, however, he has been in and out of the rotation, playing just 11.6 MPG in 22 contests. Even with Cody Zeller sidelined, Kaminsky only played 16 minutes in Wednesday’s blowout loss to Dallas. That limited role prompts Deveney to speculate that the fourth-year power forward “would likely welcome a change of scenery.”

Back in 2015, the Hornets reportedly turned down a Celtics trade offer that included four first-round picks in order to draft Kaminsky, so the optics for the franchise wouldn’t be great if he’s moved now for a modest return. Of course, letting him walk for nothing in the summer might look worse.

Eastern Notes: Boylan, Hornets, Saric, Yabusele

Former Cavaliers assistant coach Jim Boylan has filed an age-discrimination lawsuit against the franchise, which the team has labelled “frivolous” and a “shameless cash grab,” according to an Associated Press report. Boylan, 63, worked five seasons under former coaches David Blatt and Tyronn Lue but did not have his option picked up this summer. Boylan contends GM Koby Altman told him owner Dan Gilbert wanted a younger coach.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Hornets have used a committee approach at the center spot and that position is likely to remain in flux, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports. Starter Cody Zeller, Willy Hernangomez, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nicolas Batum, Frank Kaminsky and Bismack Biyombo have all taken turns in the middle but first-year coach James Borrego isn’t worried. “We’re still searching (but) I like the dilemma I have,” he told Bonnell.
  • Sixers coach Brett Brown is allowing forward Dario Saric to work through his shooting slump, Sarah Todd of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Saric has scored in single digits in each of the last three games while shooting 2-for-13 from long range. Brown has no plans to reduce Saric’s workload. “If he came to me and said, ‘I need some time,’ I would listen,” Brown said. “But I don’t feel like I’m force-feeding anything, I do not feel like I’m hurting him. In fact, I feel like I’m helping him.”
  • Guerschon Yabusele’s option was picked up for next season because his game fits the modern NBA, according to coach Brad Stevens, and the Celtics believe the 22-year-old has high upside, the team’s PR department tweets. Boston’s brass decided to retain Yabusele despite a cap hit of $3,117,240, a figure that could grow if Boston pays the luxury tax. The 6’8” Yabusele has played just 18 minutes this season after seeing action in 33 games in his rookie campaign. But with several players hitting the free agent market next summer, the Celtics felt Yabusele was too valuable to give up, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald notes. “Having Guerschon gives us continuity. He knows our system,” GM Danny Ainge said. “He’s loved by everybody. It’s just not easy to find that type of player.”

Hornets Notes: Lamb, Kaminsky, Parker, Batum

Jeremy Lamb might be the Hornets’ starter at shooting guard, but he could also be entering his final season with the team, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer in his latest mailbag column. Lamb started 18 times in his 80 games last season and posted the best numbers of his six-year NBA career, averaging 12.9 points per game and shooting 37% from 3-point range.

Bonnell expects new coach James Borrego to use Nicolas Batum at small forward more often, opening a spot in the backcourt that will be filled either by Lamb or Malik Monk. Lamb improved his defense last year and provides more size than Monk, so he’s considered the favorite to win the starting job heading into camp.

Lamb is entering the final year of a contract extension he signed in 2015 and will be seeking a raise from his salary of just under $7.5MM. Charlotte will have a tight cap situation heading into the summer with Kemba Walker also as a free agent. With Batum, Monk and Dwayne Bacon as alternatives as shooting guard, the team may decide not to spend big on Lamb.

Bonnell offers more news on the Hornets in the same piece:

  • Expect Frank Kaminsky to see more minutes at center in the preseason, and that could wind up being his primary position in the future. Kaminsky has been used mainly as a power forward during his first three seasons in the league, but the Hornets may want a better outside shooter in the middle after trading away Dwight Howard. Charlotte’s front office will have to decide soon whether to extend a qualifying offer of roughly $5MM to Kaminsky to make him a restricted free agent next summer.
  • The Hornets plan to use free agent addition Tony Parker as Walker’s primary backup this season. The longtime Spur will play about 15 to 17 minutes a night and could be used in combination with Walker to close out games. Rookie Devonte’ Graham looked good in Summer League, but Bonnell doesn’t expect him to be given a large role this season.
  • Offseason changes may put Batum in position for a bounceback year. The addition of Parker, Batum’s close friend and teammate from the French national squad, should help, as should improved health after Batum missed the entire preseason last year with an elbow injury. Bonnell notes that Batum was an awkward fit with Howard, who liked to dominate the ball in the post and often slowed down the offense.

Western Notes: James, Batum, Katsikaris, Jones

LeBron James seriously considered joining the Sixers and Rockets before signing with the Lakers. In an extensive interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that was relayed by Dave McMenamin, James addressed a variety of topics, including which teams he considered during free agency.

“I definitely thought long and hard about the possibilities of lining up alongside Ben [Simmons] and [Joel] Embiid or lining up aside [James] Harden and Chris [Paul],” he told Nichols.

The Sixers had the salary-cap space to sign James but the Rockets would have likely required a sign-and-trade with the Cavaliers to acquire his services. James also insisted he doesn’t see next season as a rebuilding year for the Lakers.

“We have an opportunity to do something that a lot of people don’t think we can do, and we love the notion of it’s another rebuilding year and we don’t have enough. So that will motivate the guys that we have anyways.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Rockets are actively seeking a defensive-minded player on the trade market and are willing to take on a long-term contract, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN in comments relayed by digital journalist Ben DuBose. Houston would presumably move forward Ryan Anderson, who has two years and $41.7MM left on his deal. The Hornets’ Nicolas Batum would be a logical target, as Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype notes. Batum has three years and $76.7MM remaining on his contract, which includes a player option in the final year.
  • The Jazz have hired Fotis Katsikaris as an assistant to Quin Snyder, the team announced in a press release. Katsikaris becomes the first-ever native Greek NBA assistant coach. He was a head coach in Spain last season and served as head coach of the Greek national team from 2014-16.
  • The Warriors are unlikely to pick up center Damian Jones‘ fourth-year option, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Golden State must make a decision on the $2.3MM option prior to the start of the season. If it’s declined, Jones will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Hornets Notes: Borrego, Batum, Howard, Zeller

Nicolas Batum may benefit more than anyone from the Hornets’ coaching change, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Spurs assistant James Borrego is expected to install the motion offense used in San Antonio, which plays to Batum’s strengths of handling the ball and making quick decisions.

Charlotte’s approach under Steve Clifford this season was heavy on postups for center Dwight Howard, which restricted Batum’s effectiveness. His scoring average dropped to 11.6 points per game, the lowest in his three years with the Hornets, and Bonnell speculates that he needs a new approach on offense to become productive again.

Bonnell addresses more Hornets topics in a mailbag column:

  • New GM Mitch Kupchak would like to move at least one big contract this summer to provide cap relief, but the organization might be wise to hold onto Howard. Bonnell states that the team may be in a better long-term position by allowing Howard’s $23.8MM contract to expire next summer rather than trading it for other expensive assets. However, he questions how much Howard will play next season, especially if the Hornets fall out of contention early.
  • Of the five players with large contracts, Cody Zeller may be easiest to trade. Zeller is signed for the next three seasons at an average of about $14MM per year, but he is only 25 and could develop into an effective center if he can overcome his injury history.
  • Young players Malik Monk, Willy Hernangomez and Dwayne Bacon may get a better chance to prove themselves under Borrego than Clifford. Bonnell says all three will be closely watched and supervised over the offseason, although Hernangomez will spend a large part of the summer with the Spanish National Team.
  • Borrego may try to add a former NBA head coach to his staff, just as Clifford did with Bob Weiss and Eddie Jordan.
  • The most pressing offseason need is finding a point guard to back up Kemba Walker. Monk played there late in the season, but Bonnell notes that it’s too early to say if that’s his best position. It’s also a long-term concern because Walker is headed for free agency in 2019.

Southeast Notes: Batum, Fournier, Heat, Wade

In a mailbag piece for The Charlotte Observer, Rick Bonnell argues that despite the frustration voiced by fans over the contract of Nicolas Batum, who’s still owed $76.7MM in guaranteed money over the next three seasons, the Hornets should not even consider waiving the swingman.

That’s because under the new CBA rules, Batum’s salary would continue counting against the Hornets’ cap even after his release, as there is no longer an amnesty provision incorporated into the new CBA. Moreover, the Hornets had more issues this season than Batum.

Instead, Bonnell suggests that Batum’s contract, although troublesome, is not “untradeable,” and that the Hornets should be able to trade Batum away if they are willing to take on some other bad contracts in return.

And in another article for the Observer, Bonnell opines that Batum doesn’t necessarily need to be traded. Rather, the Hornets’ next head coach should look to resurrect Batum’s game, which may mean letting him handle the ball more as arguably the team’s top ball-mover and facilitator.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • After a tough season in which his team finished 25-57 and missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, Magic guard Evan Fournier plans on joining his countrymen on the French National Team for the third window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers, he tells FIBA.
  • In a season-ending piece for the Sun-Sentinel, Ira Winderman gives his thoughts and other information on the 17 players who finished the 2017/18 NBA season as members of the Heat – including two-way players Derrick Walton Jr. and Derrick Jones Jr.
  • In another article for the Sun-Sentinel, Winderman compares this upcoming offseason to the summer of 2016, when Dwyane Wade left the Heat for Chicago. Ultimately, Winderman believes that unlike two years ago, it’ll be wholly up to Wade as to whether he wants to play in Miami next season, as long as he’s willing to accept a reasonable contract.

Hornets Notes: Clifford, Bacon, Zeller, Batum

The Hornets have already announced that general manager Rich Cho won’t have his contract renewed after this season, and according to Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer, head coach Steve Clifford probably shouldn’t be retained either.

Despite being one of the best coaches that the city of Charlotte has ever had – in Sorensen’s eyes – Sorensen wonders whether the team has reached a point where the players have stopped listening to Clifford and his message.

The Hornets have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA this year. The team was widely expected to compete for a playoff spot, but have been out of the hunt for much of the season, currently sporting a record of 34-41 with seven games remaining after finishing with a similarly disappointing record last season at 36-46.

There’s more out of Charlotte from Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer:

  • The Hornets selected Malik Monk with the 11th overall pick in last year’s draft, with expectations that Monk could come in and help the team this season. However, the Charlotte rookie who has probably ended up having the best season is second-round pick Dwayne Bacon, the 40th overall selection. With that in mind, Bonnell analyzes whether Bacon could end up being the better catch.
  • Hornets big man Cody Zeller missed his 10th consecutive game tonight against the Cavs, leaving Bonnell to wonder whether Zeller may be done for the season. Zeller, who thought he might be ready to play in Dallas on Saturday, said his injured left knee had begun to swell again after he tested it.
  • Part of the Hornets’ problem is a high payroll for next season, leaving the team with few options to improve upon its current roster. One albatross of a contract is that of Nicolas Batum, who is scheduled to make $24MM next season. In a mailbag piece, Bonnell answers some readers’ questions regarding Batum and his contract, among others.