Nikola Milutinov

Texas Notes: Spurs, Milutinov, Walker, Bzdelik

Barring any surprises, the Spurs‘ starting five for next season appears set, writes Jeff McDonald of The Athletic. Dejounte Murray, returning from a torn right ACL, should take over at point guard, with Derrick White joining him in the backcourt. DeMar DeRozan will move to forward, alongside LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl, who impressed the coaching staff after a midseason move into the starting lineup.

That means, if he returns, Rudy Gay will continue in a bench role, along with Bryn Forbes, who started much of this season. Coach Gregg Popovich wants DeRozan to become more proficient from 3-point territory to make up for not having Forbes as a starter.

“That’s what the league is all about now,” Popovich said. “End of the game, the first thing that you look at is 3-point shooting, and it covers up a whole lot of warts. You can get beat on the boards —  I mean, in one of the games that we beat Denver, they had 28 second-chance points, but they shot horribly, and we shot very well. Game over. It’s not very interesting. It’s not much fun. But that’s the way the league is.”

There’s more NBA news from Texas:

  • The Spurs may be ready to add draft-and-stash project Nikola Milutinov to their roster, McDonald adds. The 26th pick in 2015, Milutinov has been playing for Olympiacos B.C. of the Greek Basketball League, where he averaged 10.7 PPG and 6.8 RPG this season. The Spurs will explore the 24-year-old center’s market value before bringing him to the U.S., and McDonald expects them to let him adjust to the league gradually, just as they did with Boban Marjanovic and Davis Bertans.
  • Kemba Walker appears to be the Mavericks‘ most realistic option in free agency, Marc Stein of the New York Times said in a recent radio interview in Dallas. Stein said the Mavs are “legitimately intrigued” by Walker, and he believes they will get a meeting with him when free agency begins in July.
  • Rockets associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik has found a way to balance basketball and family after briefly walking away from the game last fall, relays Brian T. Smith of The Houston Chronicle. Houston convinced him to return in November and he helped fix the defense after a disastrous start. “He was kind of resolute for a little while,” said Rockets CEO Tad Brown. “Fortunately for us, we were able to wear him down and end up bringing him back. The first thing was always, let’s make sure everything is OK, personally, with he and his family. And then, secondarily, how do we handle this, how do we move forward? But at the same time, he’s a key part of what we do. How do we get him back to (our) family?”

Southwest Notes: Barnes, Nowitzki, Duncan

The Mavericks are planning an expanded role for newly signed forward Harrison Barnes, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com. Dallas gave Barnes $94MM over four years after losing small forward Chandler Parsons to the Grizzlies in free agency. “You’re going to see a lot more to his game than you’ve seen in the past,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said of Barnes. “I think he can do a lot more than he’s been asked to do, and that’s what we expect to see. … Maybe not first year, but I think he’s going to grow into [the role of go-to guy]. Just because a guy hasn’t done things doesn’t mean he can’t do it.” Barnes, 24, averaged 13.6 points and 5.7 rebounds in 66 games with the Warriors last season.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Dirk Nowitzki probably would have left the Mavericks as a free agent or requested a trade by now if he hadn’t won a title in 2011, contends Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News. Cowlishaw also gives Dallas a C grade for its performance in free agency and speculates that medical reports on Parsons must have been scary for Cuban to let him go.
  • The SpursTim Duncan, who announced his retirement this week, has officially cleared waivers, according to Real GM. It’s a minor footnote for someone who almost certainly is done with the NBA, but Duncan would be a free agent if he ever does decide to return.
  • San Antonio has removed its cap hold for 2015 first-round pick Nikola Milutinov, Real GM notes. The move means the 6’11” Serbian center, who played this season with Olympiacos in Greece, will spend at least one more year overseas.
  • The Grizzlies have withdrawn their qualifying offer to shooting guard Nick Calathes, according to Real GM. Calathes, who spent this season with Panathinaikos in Greece, would be an unrestricted free agent if he returns to the NBA. The 27-year-old spent two seasons in Memphis.

Nikola Milutinov Signs To Play In Greece

Nikola Milutinov, who the Spurs drafted with the No. 26 overall pick, has signed a three-year deal with Olympiacos of Greece, Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia reports.

Carchia initially reported negotiations between Milutinov and Olympiacos on Friday. The Spurs were not going to sign him, anyway, this season. The Spurs have already filed paperwork with the NBA stating that he won’t sign this season so that the team could remove his cap hold.

The big man had reportedly been close to a deal with Panathinaikos, another Greek team, but Panathinaikos landed Miroslav Raduljica instead. Milutinov spent this past season with KK Partizan in his native Serbia.

Southwest Notes: Curry, Fredette, McDaniels

The competition in the Western Conference is fierce, and Rockets GM Daryl Morey acknowledges that even in the wake of the Ty Lawson trade, his team isn’t the favorite, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle relays. Still, the Rockets made a key step forward, as Feigen examines.

“People always used to say our point guard position was terrible, the worst, whatever,” Morey said. “I always pointed out that Pat Beverley was a really good player. He’s just maybe suffering compared to all these perennial All-Stars we go against in the West. Obviously, we’re still going to be going against those very difficult All-Stars, but Ty Lawson is somebody who gives you a top-10 point guard in the league, somebody who can really help us.”

Here’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Pelicans only made a “token offer” to Seth Curry that included a partial guarantee, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). A previous report indicated that they were close to a deal with him for a guaranteed contract. Curry signed a two-year, fully guaranteed contract with the Kings.
  • New Orleans didn’t want to re-sign Jimmer Fredette, Wojnarowski says in the same tweet. The ex-Pelicans guard signed with the Spurs instead. Still, Fredette faces a challenge to find his niche in San Antonio, where he’ll have to prove he’s capable of replacing Marco Belinelli‘s shooting and beat out Kyle Anderson and Jonathon Simmons for minutes, as Jay Yeomans of the Deseret News examines.
  • The three-year contract that K.J. McDaniels signed with the Rockets includes a team option on the final season and starts at $3.19MM, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. That first-year salary figure means Houston is essentially prevented from using any more of its mid-level exception without triggering an $88.74MM hard cap.
  • Maurice Ndour‘s contract with the Mavericks is for three years, with this season’s salary and half of next season’s guaranteed, league sources tell Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com (Twitter link).
  • Nikola Milutinov, this year’s No. 26 overall pick, is negotiating with Olympiacos of Greece, sources tell Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia. The Spurs draftee had reportedly been close to a deal with Panathinaikos, another Greek team, but Panathinaikos landed Miroslav Raduljica instead. Regardless, the Spurs won’t sign him this season.

Western Notes: Durant, Matthews, Hamilton

Executives from around the league seem to think that Kevin Durant will end up re-signing with the Thunder next year, but the Wizards, Mavericks, Lakers, Heat, Knicks and Nets are expected to be among his most dogged suitors, writes Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post. Damion James, a Wizards summer-leaguer whom Castillo describes as Durant’s best friend, says it’ll come down to wins and losses.

“He’ll do whatever it takes to win. Whoever gives him the best chance to win is where he’s going to end up,” James said.

The Thunder certainly seem to have kept themselves in the discussion on that front, having just paid the max to avoid losing Enes Kanter. Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • No contract handed out this summer has seemed to draw as many surprised reactions for its munificence as the one Wesley Matthews ended up with from the Mavericks, observes Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. The shooting guard was going to make $57MM over four years with the Mavs before they bumped his deal up to the maximum of $70,060,025, notes Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com. “A healthy Wesley Matthews at $70MM is insane,” one GM told Bulpett. “But Wesley Matthews coming off Achilles’ surgery at $70MM? What’s a stronger way to say insane?”
  • Justin Hamilton is close to a deal with Valencia of Spain, according to Paco Garcia Caridad of the Spanish outlet Marca (Twitter link; translation via Trapani). Hamilton, who went to the Finals with the Heat in 2013/14, finished this past season as a member of the Timberwolves.
  • Miroslav Raduljica has agreed to sign with Panathinaikos of Greece, reports Sportando’s Enea Trapani. The Kings reportedly had interest in the big man who was briefly with the Wolves this past season. The team was reportedly close to a deal with Nikola Milutinov, whom the Spurs drafted 26th overall, but now the status of negotiations with Milutinov is unclear. Regardless, the Spurs have already filed paperwork with the league saying they won’t sign Milutinov this year, thus clearing his cap hold.

Southwest Notes: Mavs, Williams, Calathes

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban spoke Tuesday with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and “it started off more than a little frigid,” as Cuban recounted via Cyber Dust, his social media app, and as the Dallas Morning News relays. That’s not surprising, given the DeAndre Jordan saga, but Cuban said he and Ballmer cleared the air.

“I told him exactly what I told other owners, I didn’t have a problem with his hail Mary approach to keeping a player,” Cuban wrote. “I understood why they did it. And even how they did it. They got their player back. End of story.”

Cuban said he doesn’t have a problem with the July Moratorium, which seemingly helped facilitate Jordan’s reversal, but even if he did, the moratorium doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Deron Williams‘ two-year deal with the Mavs is worth $10MM and includes a player option, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
  • The clock appears to be ticking on an NBA future for Grizzlies restricted free agent Nick Calathes. The point guard denied to Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal that he has signed with Panathinaikos of Greece, but he’ll commit to that team if he doesn’t find an NBA deal today, according to David Pick of Eurobasket.com (Twitter link). Calathes is drawing NBA interest, but he’s hesitant to continue as a backup, Pick hears. The Mavericks have reportedly contacted him, though that was two weeks ago. Memphis has the power to match all competing bids from NBA teams, but not from overseas clubs.
  • Panathinaikos is close to a deal with center Nikola Milutinov, this year’s 26th overall pick, Sportando’s Enea Trapani writes. Regardless, Milutinov won’t soon be joining the Spurs, the team that drafted him, as San Antonio has informed the NBA that it won’t sign him or 2013 No. 28 pick Livio Jean-Charles during 2015/16, allowing San Antonio to remove their cap hits, notes Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter links).
  • The Rockets reportedly had hopes of signing draft-and-stash prospect Marko Todorovic this summer, but that won’t be happening, as the big man has signed a three-year deal with Khimki Moscow, the Russian club announced (Twitter link; hat tip to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia).
  • Spurs GM R.C. Buford said he and the front office didn’t think that they would have been able to snag Ray McCallum if he’d have been a free agent on the open market, so they were pleased to pull off the trade with the Kings that brought him in, as Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News chronicles. McCallum, who’s excited about the deal, earned a $200K partial guarantee on his salary when the Spurs didn’t waive him Sunday.
  • A $390,089 sliver of Houston’s Jeremy Lin trade exception expired Monday, though it was essentially too small to use. The Rockets had already used the majority of the exception, once worth $8,374,646, to trade for Corey Brewer and Alexey Shved in December.
  • Brewer’s new three-year deal with the Rockets is worth precisely $23,420,913, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders shows.

Texas Notes: Singh, Rondo, Milutinov

Mavs GM Donnie Nelson said No. 52 overall pick Satnam Singh will play with the D-League’s Texas Legends this coming season, tweets Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com, presumably meaning that Dallas will stash the Indian center with its D-League affiliate rather than sign him to the NBA roster. Singh may still pay dividends for the Mavs next season, since his agents, Happy Walters and Dan Fegan, also represent apparent free agent target DeAndre Jordan, notes Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. While we wait to see if that connection works for the Mavs, here’s more:

  • It’s doubtful that soon-to-be former Mavs point guard Rajon Rondo ends up with the Lakers now that they’ve drafted D’Angelo Russell, a source tells Sean Deveney of The Sporting News, though it’s unclear if that indicates a lack of interest from the team, from Rondo, or both. In any case, the Lakers once seemed the inevitable destination for the veteran.
  • The Rockets are reportedly aiming to pursue Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency, but GM Daryl Morey suggested that it’s a long shot they’ll open the cap room necessary to make a marquee free agent signing like that, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle relays. “I think there’s possible opportunities we have to explore that are bigger, but I think they’re unlikely,” Morey said. “It’s probably likely we’ll stay over the cap and use our mid-level [exception].”
  • Morey “wanted my first-born” for the No. 18 pick, Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said jokingly of talks with the Rockets, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press. Houston used the 18th pick on Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker.
  • No. 26 pick Nikola Milutinov is likely to remain overseas this season rather than sign with the Spurs, notes Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. The center spent this past season with KK Partizan in his native Serbia.
  • Mavs assistant coach Monte Mathis is leaving to take an assistant’s job with the Magic, the Mavs confirmed, as Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com tweets.

And-Ones: Batum, Booker, Milutinov

A change that would allow underclassmen greater capacity to return to school after declaring for the draft would indeed take effect for next year if the NCAA approves the proposal in January, as Dan Guerrero, chairman of the NCAA men’s basketball oversight committee, said to Andy Katz of ESPN.com. The committee lent its sponsorship to the measure Wednesday, and a formal vote on adoption is to take place in January, according to Katz.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Hawks have discussed moving up from the No. 15 overall pick in the draft with a number of teams, including the Pacers, who sit at No. 11, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders relays (via Twitter). A number of executives around the league believe that Atlanta is trying to land Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky, Kennedy adds. Kaminsky is a draft possibility for the Hornets (No. 9), Heat (No. 10), and the Jazz (No. 12), which could complicate the Hawks’ designs on snagging the talented shooter.
  • Speaking about newly acquired swingman Nicolas Batum, Hornets GM Rich Cho said, “He is a quality defender and a solid outside shooter who brings versatility and playoff experience,” Mike Tokito of The Oregonian tweets. Batum’s deal includes a trade bonus that will lift his cap hit by about $890K for the 2014/15 campaign and approximately $890K again for 2015/16, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders notes (Twitter links). The Blazers also end up with a trade exception, according to Pincus, worth $3,241,300.
  • Many executives around the NBA believe that Kentucky guard Devin Booker is the player in this year’s NBA Draft who could benefit the most from significant time spent in the D-League during his rookie campaign, Keith Schlosser of SBNation writes. While Booker is regarded as the best pure shooter in this year’s draft, a large number of NBA and D-League executives believe that Booker could stand to improve his agility, quickness, and instincts on both ends of the floor, Schlosser adds.
  • Serbian big man Nikola Milutinov is climbing up the draft boards and could possibly be selected in the first round, Marc Stein of ESPN.com relays (on Twitter). It’s doubtful that the Spurs would be the team to select the seven-footer, a league source informed Dan McCarney of The San Antonio Express-News tweets. San Antonio currently owns the No. 26 overall pick.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

NBA Draft Withdrawal Deadline Updates

The deadline for college underclassmen to pull out of the draft and retain NCAA eligibility was way back on April 12th, but the NBA’s deadline isn’t until 4:00pm Central time today. That means that prospects from overseas who aren’t automatically draft-eligible finally have a decision to make. It’s possible that an early entrant from college or two will pull out, too, though that would force them to play in the D-League or overseas next season.

We’ll be tracking news of each player withdrawing from the draft today with this post, and we’ll pass along news about players deciding to stay in the draft here, too. A few reports came in over the recent days and weeks — Cyprus-born small forward Aleksandar Vezenkov is expected to withdraw, and so will German forward Paul Zipser, while South Korean center Jong-Hyun Lee is staying in the draft — but if the narrative changes on them, we’ll note it.

A few prospects changed their minds in the hours leading up to the deadline last year, so we’ll transfer names from one list below to the other if that happens again. Once it’s all settled, we’ll update our early entrants list with the final account as the draft, set for a week from Thursday, approaches.

So, here’s our list as it stands now. We’ll update it and bump it to the top of our home page as new information comes in.

Withdrawing from the draft

  • Brazilian point guard George de Paula, aka George Lucas, has left the draft, tweets Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.
  • Rade Zagorac, a Serbian small forward is out of the draft, agent Misko Raznatovic says, as Givony reports (Twitter link).
  • Russian center Andrey Desyatnikov will withdraw from the draft, according to the ASM Sports Agency, Givony tweets.
  • Nedim Buza, a small forward from Bosnia and Herzegovina, will pull out of the draft, Givony tweets.
  • Combo forward Lucas Dias, aka Lucas Dias Silva, and small forward Humberto Gomes, both from Brazil, have withdrawn from the draft, according to their agent, as Givony tweets.
  • Point guard Miroslav Pasajlic, shooting guard Dusan Kutlesic and center Djoko Salic, all from Serbia, are pulling out of the draft, agent Alex Raskovic tells Givony (Twitter link).
  • Another Serbian, center Marko Tejic, will also withdraw from the draft, Raznatovic tells Givony (Twitter link).
  • Vladislav Korenyuk, a Ukrainian center, will pull out of the draft, agent Saulius Svetkauskas confirmed to Oleksandr Proshuta of basket-planet.com (Twitter link; hat tip to Givony).
  • Brazilian shooting guard Danilo Fuzaro will withdraw, agent Vinicius Fontana tells Givony (Twitter link).
  • Moussa Diagne, a center from Senegal, is out of the draft, according to agent Herb Rudoy, as Givony tweets.
  • French power forward Alexandre Chassang will pull out of the draft, according to agent Pedja Materic, Givony tweets.
  • Big man Alpha Kaba of France won’t keep his name in, either, Materic says, as Givony relays (Twitter link).
  • Swingman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, another Frenchman, is also coming off the early-entrant list, Materic tells Givony (Twitter link).
  • Simone Fontecchio, a small forward from Italy, is pulling out of the draft, a source told Daniele Labanti of Corriere di Bologna (Twitter link).
  • French small forward Kevin Harley has decided to come off the draft board, agent Olivier Mazet tweets (hat tip to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia).
  • Latvian center Andzejs Pasecniks is withdrawing from the draft, agent Artūrs Kalnītis tweets (hat tip to Givony).

Remaining in the draft

  • It’s no surprise, but Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis and Croatian shooting guard Mario Hezonja, both candidates to become top-10 picks, will stay in the draft, tweets Chad Ford of ESPN.com.
  • Guillermo Hernangomez, a center from Spain, will stick on this year’s early entrants list, according to the ASM Sports Agency, tweets Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.
  • Serbian point guard Nikola Radicevic is staying in the draft, agent Alex Raskovic said to Givony (Twitter link).
  • Mouhammadou Jaiteh, a center from France, will remain draft-eligible, agent Herman Manakyan tells Givony (Twitter link).
  • Serbian center Nikola Milutinov will stay in the draft, agent Marc Fleisher says, according to Givony (on Twitter).
  • Satnam Singh, a center from India, is keeping his name on the draft list, agent Travis King tells Givony (Twitter link).
  • Macedonian-born small forward Cedi Osman will stay in the draft, tweets Can Pelister of Trendbasket.
  • Greek power forward Dimitrios Agravanis is staying in the draft, tweets agent Georgios Dimitropoulos (hat tip to Givony).

Western Notes: Chandler, Kings, Milutinov

The Mavericks need to retain Tyson Chandler if they fall short in their pursuit of DeAndre Jordan this summer, Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com opines. Both become unrestricted free agents this summer and Jordan is the more attractive option because he’s younger, a better defender at this stage of his career and has led the NBA in field-goal percentage the last three seasons, MacMahon continues. Jordan would be a foundation piece for Dallas but the Clippers’ success in the playoffs makes it more unlikely he’d leave the organization, MacMahon adds. Losing Chandler without upgrading the center spot would be a disastrous situation for the Mavs since it would also hamper their chances of signing a top-level power forward like LaMarcus Aldridge, MacMahon concludes.

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Kings owner Vivek Ranadive admits he made a mistake in hiring ex-coach Michael Malone before selecting a GM and assembling his front office, Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee reports. Malone was fired in mid-December and replaced by interim coach Ty Corbin before Ranadive hired George Karl in February. “People told me not to do that. But I knew Malone from when he was an assistant with the Warriors, and again, with the draft only weeks away, I had to make very quick decisions,” Ranadive told Voisin about the Malone hire in June 2013. “I didn’t know any GMs.”
  • The Timberwolves would probably not pursue David Blatt as their head coach if he’s fired by the Cavaliers, Darren Wolfson of KSTP.com tweets. Minnesota president of basketball operations and head coach Flip Saunders was interested in Blatt as an assistant and coach-in-waiting last offseason but wasn’t considering him for the head coaching job, Wolfson adds.
  • The Timberwolves could consider 6’11” Serbian center Nikola Milutinov as a stash prospect with either of their second-round picks, Wolfson reports in a separate tweet. Minnesota owns the No. 31 and No. 36 overall picks and the team’s European scout, Zarko Durisic, is a fan of Milutinov, Wolfson adds. Milutinov is ranked No. 44 on Chad Ford’s ESPN Insider Big Board and No. 35 on Jonathan Givony’s DraftExpress prospect list.