Thunder Rumors

Andre Roberson Nearing Return?

  • Within his own look at what the restart plan means for the Thunder, Erik Horne of The Athletic reports that Andre Roberson would be ready to play now if the season hadn’t been suspended. Without being able to scrimmage or practice at all over the last three months, it’s not clear if Roberson will return this summer, but it sounds like it’s a possibility. The veteran forward, who has battled multiple knee issues, hasn’t played in an NBA game in over two years.

What Lottery, Draft Rules Mean For Traded 2020 First Round Picks

It got a bit lost in the shuffle amidst all of Thursday’s updates, but the NBA provided some important details on how this year’s draft lottery seeding and odds will work. They are as follows:

  1. The eight teams not included in the Orlando restart will be the top eight teams in the lottery standings.
  2. The 9-14 spots in the lottery will be made up of the six teams that don’t make the playoffs following this summer’s “seeding games” and possible play-in tournaments. Their seedings and odds will be based on their records as of March 11.
  3. The rest of the first round will be sorted by record, as usual. The order will be based on teams’ regular season results and the results of the eight seeding games this summer.

With those rules in mind, we have a pretty good sense of how traded first round picks for 2020 will be affected, so let’s take a closer look…

Picks whose fates have essentially been decided:

Cavaliers‘ first-round pick (traded to Pelicans if not in top 10)

  • As the league’s second-worst team in 2019/20, the Cavaliers can’t fall below sixth in the lottery, so they’ll keep their pick, which will land anywhere from No. 1 to 6.

Sixers‘ first-round pick (traded to Nets if not in top 14)

  • The Sixers have a nine-game lead on Orlando, which means they’ve now clinched a playoff spot and will send their pick to Brooklyn. It’s currently projected to land at No. 19 or 20, but it could move up or down based on this summer’s seeding games.

Pacers‘ first-round pick (traded to Bucks if not in top 14)

  • Like the Sixers, the Pacers have now clinched a playoff spot, which assures they’ll send their pick to Milwaukee. This pick is also currently projected to land at No. 19 or 20 (Philadelphia and Indiana are tied at 39-26), but it could move higher or lower once play resumes.

Rockets‘ first-round pick (traded to Nuggets)

  • This pick is unprotected, so the Rockets will send it to Denver. At 40-24, the Rockets are tied with Oklahoma City, putting their pick in line to be No. 21 or 22. They’re bunched up with a few teams in the standings though, so that could change when play resumes.

Jazz‘s first-round pick (traded to Grizzlies if it falls between 8-14)

  • The Jazz have now clinched a spot in the postseason, so they’ll keep their pick for at least one more year. It’s currently projected to be No. 24 overall, but that may change.

Nuggets‘ first-round pick (traded to Thunder)

  • An unprotected pick, the Nuggets’ first-rounder is currently projected to be No. 25. They’ll send it to Oklahoma City.

Clippers‘ first-round pick (traded to Knicks)

  • This is another unprotected selection, which the Clippers will send to New York. For now, it projects to be No. 27.

Bucks‘ first-round pick (traded to Celtics)

  • The Bucks, who will send this pick to Boston, have a four-game lead for the NBA’s best record, so this selection will likely be No. 30, though it could theoretically move up a spot or two.

Picks whose fates remain up in the air:

Nets‘ first-round pick (traded to Timberwolves if not in top 14)

  • At 30-34, the Nets have a half-game lead over Orlando and a six-game cushion over Washington. If they slump when play resumes, there’s a scenario in which they lose their playoff spot. The Magic would have to pass them and the Wizards would have to pull to within four games before beating Brooklyn twice in a row in a play-in tournament.
  • If the Nets miss the playoffs, this pick would end up at either No. 13 or 14 in the lottery standings, and Brooklyn would keep it.
  • If the Nets hang on a clinch a playoff spot, it figures to be the No. 15, 16, or 17 pick, and they’ll send it to the Timberwolves.

Grizzlies‘ first-round pick (traded to Celtics if it’s not in top six)

  • The Grizzlies have a 3.5-game lead over three Western teams (Portland, New Orleans, and Sacramento), with a four-game cushion over San Antonio and a six-game cushion over Phoenix.
  • They’re in position to secure a playoff spot, and if they do, they’ll send this pick to the Celtics. It would fall between Nos. 15-17.
  • If the Grizzlies lose their playoff spot, they’ll move to No. 14 in the lottery standings. In all likelihood, the pick would end up there and they’d still have to send it to Boston. However, they’d have a minuscule chance (2.4%) of moving into the top four via the lottery, in which case they’d keep the pick.

Thunder‘s first-round pick (traded to Sixers if not in top 20)

  • Based on the Thunder’s current 40-24 record, this pick currently projects to be No. 21 or 22, in which case OKC would have to send it to Philadelphia.
  • However, if the Thunder lose ground during this summer’s seeding games, they could be surpassed in the standings by as many as three teams, meaning the pick could end up in the No. 18-20 range. In that case, Oklahoma City would keep it.

Thunder Notes: Bazley, Donovan, P. Johnson

Despite being one of the youngest players on an NBA roster in 2019/20, Darius Bazley played a regular rotation role for the Thunder for most of his rookie season, logging 17.2 minutes per contest in 53 games. Although Bazley showed flashes of upside this season, particularly when he made use of his length and athleticism on defense, scouts who spoke to Erik Horne of The Athletic believe he still has a ways to go before realizing his potential.

“He’s got a lot of growing to do,” one Eastern Conference scout told Horne. “He’s athletic. Still really raw.”

As Horne notes, the Thunder traded down from No. 21 to No. 23 to draft Bazley, passing on the opportunity to select Brandon Clarke, who went to Memphis with that 21st overall pick. While Clarke certainly had the better rookie season of the two players, he’s nearly four full years older than Bazley, so the Thunder are still hoping they made the right call for the long term.

Here’s more out of Oklahoma City:

  • With the Thunder seemingly headed for a rebuild and Billy Donovan entering the final year of his contract in 2019/20, there were signs that a coaching change could be around the corner. However, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes, Donovan flipped the script based on the great job he did in OKC this season. While Donovan hasn’t received an extension yet, GM Sam Presti said in April that he expects to have that discussion soon.
  • Thunder pro evaluation coordinator Paul Johnson interviewed on Monday for the general manager role with the NBA G League’s new Mexico City franchise, a source tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link). Johnson previously served as a referee operations analyst for the NBA.
  • In case you missed it, Thunder owner Clay Bennett was among those on last Friday’s Board of Governors call who spoke out in favor of including as many teams – and particularly small-market franchises – as possible when the NBA resumes play.

More Details On Friday’s Board Of Governors Call

There’s concern among some NBA owners about the fact that a 22-team return-to-play format would result in a number of small-market teams not playing any games for nine months or more, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe.

The ESPN duo reports that Thunder owner Clay Bennett expressed those concerns on last Friday’s Board of Governors call, openly wondering if the NBA could bring back all 30 clubs when it resumes play. Other team owners, including Josh Harris (Sixers) and Robert Sarver (Suns) “enthusiastically” backed the idea of having as many teams as possible in the bubble environment, per Woj and Lowe, who add that Hawks owner Tony Ressler wants his team to be able to play in Orlando even without a path to the postseason.

While some team owners are in favor of having all 30 teams resume play, commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA don’t appear as bullish on that idea, given the health and safety concerns tied to bringing so many people to Orlando. Additionally, as ESPN’s report notes, Silver reminded those on Friday’s call that many players – and some teams – are “far less invested” in the idea of conducting several weeks of camps and enduring a quarantine period in order to play a handful of regular season games.

Wojnarowski and Lowe provided several more details on Friday’s conference call. We’ll round up the highlights right here:

  • One Eastern Conference official on Friday’s call described the push to include as many teams as possible as follows, according to ESPN: “The message was something bigger, reminding people that some teams can’t just reopen the doors in nine of 10 months and so easily sell tickets or a sponsorship without having played basketball for that long.”
  • With the NBA focusing on a 22-team return to play, there have been conversations about the teams left out of this season’s resumption holding mandatory summer training camps or even participating in regional fall leagues to help bridge the gap between seasons, per ESPN. Such a concept would need to be collectively bargained with players, and Woj and Lowe say there’s an expectation that the league will reach out to the NBPA to discuss the issue.
  • The NBA is still determining how a potential play-in tournament would work in the 22-team format, Woj and Lowe say. It remains unclear how much of an advantage the current No. 8 seeds would receive in such a tournament, especially if they widen their leads on non-playoff teams when the season resumes. The unbalanced nature of bringing back 13 Western teams and just nine Eastern squads also complicates the play-in issue.
  • According to ESPN’s report, the NBA estimates that a 22-team format with some regular season games and a play-in tournament will be worth “several hundred million dollars more in revenue” than a 16-team format that advances straight to the postseason.

Pistons Notes: GM Search, Kennard, Bone

The Pistons will focus on external candidates in their search for a new general manager, according to James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. The new GM will work alongside senior advisor Ed Stefanski to chart a course for the future of the franchise, while Malik Rose and Pat Garrity will be retained as assistant GMs.

Edwards identifies several potential candidates for the position: Pelicans assistant GM Bryson Graham, former Hawks GM Wes Wilcox, Jazz GM Justin Zanik, Clippers assistant GM Mark Hughes, who was considered for the GM job in Chicago, and Thunder VP of basketball operations Troy Weaver. Edwards also suggests that University of Memphis assistant coach Mike Miller, who had Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem as an agent during his playing career, could be brought in as another assistant GM.

There’s more from Detroit:

  • Rod Beard of The Detroit News agrees on Hughes and Weaver and offers a few other candidates who might be in play. Shane Battier grew up in the Detroit area and serves as VP of basketball development and analytics with the Heat, but Beard believes it would be difficult to talk him into leaving Miami. Chauncey Billups is a Pistons hero from his playing days and has been considered for other front office openings. Tayshaun Prince, who teamed with Billups on the 2004 championship team, became VP of basketball operations for the Grizzlies last year. Celtics assistant GM Michael Zarren has spent 14 years with the organization and has turned down other opportunities, but Beard believes the Pistons should contact him.
  • Working Luke Kennard back into the rotation would have been a priority if the season had continued, writes Keith Langlois of Kennard, who had been battling tendinitis in both knees since December, was set to return in the Pistons’ next game when the hiatus was imposed. With Kennard about to enter the final year of his rookie contract, Detroit will have to decide soon whether to make a long-term commitment or try to trade him, and Langlois sees his shooting skills as an important element for a rebuilding team.
  • The Pistons may have other priorities at point guard that will prevent Jordan Bone from earning a roster spot next season, Langlois adds in the same piece. Derrick Rose has another year on his contract, and Langlois expects the team to find a veteran to complement him. Also, there will also be plenty of opportunity to fill the position in a draft that’s heavy on point guards. Bone saw limited time in 10 NBA games as a two-way player this season, but averaged 19.9 points per 36 minutes and shot 38% from 3-point range in the G League.

Knicks Officially Hire Perrin, Extend Perry

The Knicks have officially hired Walt Perrin as their assistant GM for college scouting and given GM Scott Perry a one-year extension through next season, the team announced in a press release.

Perrin’s decision to leave the Jazz and join the Knicks’ front office came to light on May 18. Perrin spent nearly two decades in Utah. He was initially hired as the team’s director player personnel before eventually being promoted to vice president of player personnel. Prior to joining the Jazz in 2001, he was a scout in Minnesota and Detroit, holding the title of director of college scouting with the Pistons.

News of Perry’s extension was reported nearly a month ago and confirmed today by team president Leon Rose.

The Knicks have also hired Brock Aller as VP of basketball and strategic planning and Frank Zanin as an assistant GM for pro scouting.

“We have assembled a diverse front office comprised of highly regarded and experienced basketball executives who have influenced some of the most successful players and organizations in the league,” Rose said in the press release. “These additions will complement the structure we already have in place and assist us in acquiring talent and developing strategies to build a team our fans can be proud of.”

Aller spent the last seven seasons with the Cavaliers in various roles. He has been their senior director of basketball operations since July 2017. He was also in the Pistons organization for nine years.

Zanin joins the Knicks after three years as a pro scout with the  Thunder. He previously held the title of assistant GM with the Nets.

International Notes: Zizic, EuroLeague, Schroder, Sirvydis

Maccabi Tel Aviv is interested in signing Cavaliers center Ante Zizic next season, according to Dario Skerletic of Sportando. Zizic will be a free agent after Cleveland declined his fourth-year option in October.

Zizic got into just 22 games this year, averaging 4.4 points and 3.0 rebounds in 10 minutes per night. The 23-year-old center is in his third season with the Cavs after being acquired from Boston in the Kyrie Irving deal.

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • Most EuroLeague players are against resuming the season, tweets Greek basketball writer George Zakkas. A conference call was held yesterday in which players expressed their concerns about the coronavirus and the risk of injury if the season were to start again. The players were unanimous in their stance, which surprised league officials, according to Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. The 11 A-licensed EuroLeague teams will vote tomorrow morning on whether the season will resume. Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia has heard that four teams seem to be in favor of restarting, while five clubs are against it (Twitter link).
  • The BBL in Germany has released its schedule for a 10-team tournament to crown a league champion, Borghesan writes in a separate piece. The opening game is set for June 6 with the finals on June 26 and 28.
  • Thunder guard Dennis Schroder will become the sole owner of his hometown team in Braunschweig, Germany, on July 1, Skerletic notes in a separate story. “I am very happy to be the sole shareholder of the Lions.” Schroder said. “… I want to give something back to the region. I am convinced that we can develop the team further and make it a top club in the league.”
  • Pistons draft-and-stash player Deividas Sirvydis has agreed to a long-term deal with Hapoel Jerusalem, Carchia writes. Detroit selected the 19-year-old forward in the second round last year.
  • Former NBA center Tarik Black has left Maccabi Tel Aviv, Lupo relays.

Knicks Notes: Ball, Smith Jr., Playoffs, Aller

LaMelo Ball tops the Knicks‘ wish list for this year’s draft, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. A 6’7″ playmaker who spent this season with the Illawarra Hawks in the NBL, Ball would solve New York’s long search for a point guard. However, unless they get some lottery luck, the Knicks would have to trade up to land Ball, who is expected to be among the first players selected.

Berman notes that new team president Leon Rose has experience in dealing with Ball’s controversial father LaVar during his time with Creative Artists Agency. League insiders told Berman that LaVar likes the idea of his son playing in a big market and will attempt to work behind the scenes to get him to New York.

If the Knicks’ pick remains in the 6-10 range, Berman expects Cole AnthonyTyrese Haliburton, Killian Hayes and Tyrese Maxey to all be considered, along with trading down to target RJ Hampton or Kira Lewis.

There’s more from New York:

  • The Knicks would like to part with Dennis Smith Jr.‘s $5.7MM salary for next season if they can put together a trade involving Chris Paul, Berman adds in the same story. The Thunder guard will make $41.36MM in 2020/21, so accommodating his salary would require sending out some contracts. Berman suggests that Kevin Knox ($4.6MM), whom Rose hasn’t committed to keeping, and Frank Ntilikina ($6.2MM) could also be included.
  • A “playoffs plus” scenario being considered in a survey of general managers could leave the Knicks out in the cold, Berman observes in a separate story. New York currently ranks 12th in the East, so it wouldn’t be included if seeds seven through 10 are involved in play-in games for postseason spots.
  • Plenty of people around the league believe Brock Aller will make a difference in the Knicks’ front office, writes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Aller left the Cavaliers last month to become VP of strategy in New York. “He’s a big-picture guy who is also a diabolical genius from a cap standpoint,” said David Griffin, VP of basketball operations for the Pelicans, who formerly served as general manager in Cleveland.

Schroder To Become Majority Owner Of Hometown BBL Team

  • On July 1, Thunder guard Dennis Schroder will become the majority owner of his German hometown team, Löwen Braunschweig in the Basketball Bundesliga League, per Nick Crain of Forbes. Schroder’s first pro experience was with Löwen Braunschweig’s farm team in 2010. After three seasons in the BBL, Schroder took the leap to the NBA, where he’s currently in the third year of a four-season, $62MM contract extension he signed with the Hawks before being traded to Oklahoma City in 2018/19.