- The Thunder became one of the last NBA teams to announce a plan to assist their arena workers financially, indicating in a press release that they’ll provide aid to part-time employees for games that would have worked the team’s final seven home games.
Iowa State sophomore Tyrese Haliburton might be the safest lottery pick for the Knicks among the guard prospects, ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg told Marc Berman of the New York Post. Haliburton was averaging 15.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 6.5 APG and 2.5 SPG before a wrist injury cut short his season. There isn’t any guard on par with Ja Morant in the draft, according to Greenberg, but Haliburton is a pure point guard who doesn’t carry any baggage.
We have more from around the Eastern Conference:
- The Raptors would probably be willing to pay unrestricted free agent guard Fred VanVleet $17-20MM annually to retain his services, Blake Murphy of The Athletic opines. The market for VanVleet could drop significantly if the salary cap is lowered, with only a handful of teams having the ability to sign him using their space. VanVleet’s best option may be to secure long-term money from the Raptors since they hold his Bird rights, Murphy adds.
- It’s doubtful the Bulls would make a serious run at Thunder GM Sam Presti during their planned front office restructuring, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Not only is it unknown whether Presti would be interested in a high-level front office role with the club but it would probably take $8-10MM annually to land his services, Johnson continues, and the Bulls historically haven’t forked up that kind of money. Presti would also likely want to bring in some of his own people, which would add to the tab, Johnson adds.
- A sign-and-trade is the most likely outcome for Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer opines. It’s increasingly likely that Andre Drummond will exercise his $28.7MM option, relegating Thompson to a bench role. The Cavs might want to bring back Thompson on a team-friendly contract, but if they draft a center that would also change the equation. Thompson has earned the right to test the market and a sign-and-trade could give him a chance to maximize his value and playing time, Fedor adds.
The Heat and AmericanAirlines Arena announced on Wednesday that they’ll be providing financial assistance to team and arena part-time staffers who have lost work as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Heat owner Micky Arison‘s foundation will be donating an additional $1MM to establish an initiative aimed at aiding employees and addressing other community needs in the coming months, Winderman adds.
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor also announced this week that he’s pledging $1MM of relief to part-time workers at the Target Center, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune details.
Miami and Minnesota join most of the rest of the NBA’s teams in having announced plans to assist their part-time arena workers displaced by the hiatus. A small handful of clubs, including the Jazz and Thunder, have yet to announce a formal plan or confirm that plans are in motion, but that isn’t to say that those teams won’t implement a program as well.
As Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune writes, Jazz center Rudy Gobert pledged $200K to part-time arena employees in Utah, but the team has yet to inform its 800+ part-time workers how that donation will be used or whether the franchise itself will be compensating its arena employees for lost games in any way — currently, staffers are only being paid for events they actually worked, according to Larsen, who notes that the Jazz ownership group seems “focused on job placement for their part-time employees, rather than subsidies.”
The Thunder announced that their players and staff have tested negative for the coronavirus, writes Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City was set to host Utah last Wednesday, but the game was postponed after Rudy Gobert‘s positive test.
OKC officials said they followed recommendations of infectious disease experts that all players and staff members should get tested. Jazz players were tested on the night of the game, with Donovan Mitchell also revealed to have contracted the virus, but the Thunder’s tests didn’t come until later.
“Recognizing the stress on the state of Oklahoma’s medical system, the Thunder did not use state resources and chose an alternative path for testing of its personnel,” the team explained today in a press release.
There’s more COVID-19 news from around the league:
- Sixers players underwent coronavirus tests Monday, multiple sources tell Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. A week ago, Philadelphia hosted the Pistons with Christian Wood, who became the third player to test positive for the virus over the weekend. Sixers players and staff have been in self-quarantine since Thursday while waiting for the tests, according to Pompey, who adds that some staff members still haven’t been tested.
- The Nets, who had four players test positive, issued a statement today stating that they had players and staff showing symptoms of the virus and obtained the tests from a private company, tweets Malika Andrews of ESPN. “As we learned NBA players on other teams had tested positive for COVID-19, we noticed that several of our players and staff had symptoms,” the statement reads. “Based on this information, and the judgment that all of our players are subject to high exposure due to the close physical nature of basketball, the communal nature of teams and the possibility of an accelerated spread from team to team, our medical experts advised that our players get tested. We sourced the tests through a private company and paid for them ourselves because we did not want to impact access to CDC’s public resources.”
- The NBA has come under criticism with so many of its players receiving tests that aren’t easily available to the public, so league spokesman Mike Bass offered an explanation to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN (Twitter link). “Public health authorities and team doctors have been concerned that, given NBA players’ direct contact with each other and close interactions with the general public, in addition to their frequent travel, they could accelerate the spread of the virus,” Bass said. “… Hopefully, by these players choosing to make their test results public, they have drawn attention to critical need for young people to follow CDC recommendations in order to protect others, particularly those with underlying health conditions and the elderly.”
- The Mavericks (Twitter link) and Hawks (Twitter link) both closed their practice facilities to players this week. Players are being told to stay home and engage in social distancing.
Given the typically rigid nature of the NBA’s annual calendar, the current hiatus threatens to complicate a number of dates and deadlines that will arrive in the coming months. In his latest Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks takes a closer look at how those dates – linked to contracts and the salary cap – may be impacted, noting that the NBA and NBPA are expected to collectively bargain a set of transition rules once the league establishes a return timeline.
For instance, there are 29 player options and 12 team options that are currently scheduled to be exercised or declined before the end of June. Those dates will almost certainly have to be adjusted. The same goes for certain salary guarantee dates and the expiry dates on traded player exceptions, as Marks explains. Of course, the start of the 2020/21 league year will have to be pushed back too, so players with expiring contracts don’t become free agents on July 1.
Contract incentives will also be an issue worth keeping an eye on. Marks observes that during the lockout-shortened 2011/12 season, players’ incentives were prorated based on the fact that the league played 66 games instead of 82 games. The NBA could take similar measures this season. For instance, if a player needs to play 1,000 minutes to earn a bonus and his team ends up playing just 70 of 82 games, his incentive requirement would be adjusted so he only needs to play 70/82nds of 1,000 minutes (854 minutes).
Marks’ article is jam-packed with interesting info and is worth checking out in full if you have an Insider subscription. Here are a few more highlights:
- Although the NBA’s basketball related income for 2019/20 is projected to take a huge hit as a result of this hiatus and the controversy with China in the fall, it’s too early to say what that will mean for the 2020/21 salary cap, according to Marks. In situations like this, the NBA and NBPA generally negotiate in good faith a cap adjustment that satisfies both sides, so we’re unlikely to see a big drop-off next year.
- Still, with the cap for the next year or two no longer expected to increase by nearly as much as the NBA initially projected, the ripple effect could be significant. Maximum-salary contract extensions scheduled to go into effect next season or in 2021/22 for players like Jamal Murray, Ben Simmons, Pascal Siakam, and Damian Lillard won’t be as lucrative as previously estimated, and teams will no longer have as much cap or tax flexibility as expected. As Marks points out, that could influence players with option decisions — they may be more inclined to opt in for ’20/21, with less leaguewide spending power available in the offseason.
- Resuming the regular season – rather than just jumping straight to the playoffs – may not be a top priority for many fans, but there are reasons why the NBA won’t want to skip that step, Marks writes. Teams that wanted to make roster moves prior to the postseason wouldn’t get a chance to do so if the NBA moves straight from its current moratorium to the playoffs. For example, in that scenario, the Thunder wouldn’t get the opportunity to convert two-way player Luguentz Dort to their 15-man roster. As such, the NBA may want to play a few regular season games or at least give teams a few days to make necessary roster moves.
Earlier today, we explored what the lottery odds for the 2020 NBA draft would look like if the regular season doesn’t resume. We’re now applying that hypothetical to another aspect of the draft and examining which traded 2020 picks would and wouldn’t change hands based on the current standings.
Our projections below assume that the NBA will sort its standings by winning percentage in scenarios where teams haven’t played the same number of games this season. Again, this is just a hypothetical exercise — if the season resumes, the order below would likely change.
With that in mind and with the help of our reverse standings, let’s take a closer look at where this year’s traded draft picks would land if the NBA has played its last regular season game of 2019/20.
- Minnesota Timberwolves (from Nets)
- Boston Celtics (from Grizzlies)
- Brooklyn Nets (from Sixers)
- Note: Could be No. 20 depending on random tiebreaker.
- Milwaukee Bucks (from Pacers)
- Note: Could be No. 19 depending on random tiebreaker.
- Philadelphia 76ers (from Thunder)
- Note: Could be No. 22 depending on random tiebreaker.
- Denver Nuggets (from Rockets)
- Note: Could be No. 21 depending on random tiebreaker.
- Oklahoma City Thunder (from Nuggets)
- New York Knicks (from Clippers)
- Boston Celtics (from Bucks)
- Golden State Warriors (to Nets; top-20 protected)
- Cleveland Cavaliers (to Pelicans; top-20 protected)
- Utah Jazz (to Grizzlies; top-7 and 15-30 protected)
- The Thunder pick would be the one worth watching closest if the season does resume. It’s top-20 protected, so OKC would keep it if it were to move up a spot or two, sending the Sixers second-round picks in 2022 and 2023 instead.
- Dallas Mavericks (from Warriors)
- Charlotte Hornets (from Cavaliers)
- Philadelphia 76ers (from Hawks)
- Sacramento Kings (from Pistons)
- Philadelphia 76ers (from Knicks)
- Washington Wizards (from Bulls)
- New York Knicks (from Hornets)
- New Orleans Pelicans (from Wizards)
- Memphis Grizzlies (from Suns)
- Boston Celtics (from Nets)
- Chicago Bulls (from Grizzlies)
- Golden State Warriors (from Mavericks)
- Atlanta Hawks (from Rockets)
- Note: Could be No. 51 depending on random tiebreaker.
- Sacramento Kings (from Heat)
- Golden State Warriors (from Jazz)
- Brooklyn Nets (from Nuggets)
- Charlotte Hornets (from Celtics)
- Philadelphia 76ers (from Lakers)
- New Orleans Pelicans (from Bucks)
- Indiana Pacers (to Nets; 45-60 protected)
- Portland Trail Blazers (to Nets; top-55 protected)
- The Hawks will receive the more favorable of Houston’s and Miami’s second-round picks, while the Kings will receive the less favorable of those two picks. Those two picks could end up right next to one another, since the Rockets (40-24) and Heat (41-24) have nearly identical records.
- The Celtics’ pick looks like it will be one of the rare second-rounders with heavy protection that will actually change hands. Boston would have kept it if it had fallen in the top 53.
- While many NBA players didn’t fully understand the serious nature of the coronavirus outbreak until Rudy Gobert‘s positive test and the NBA’s shutdown last week, Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari had been keeping up on the situation for weeks as he saw how it impacted his home country, writes Marc Stein of The New York Times. “Of course we did a mistake not taking it seriously in Italy and now we are the second- or third-worst country in the world for this virus,” Gallinari said. “Hopefully we’re not going to make the same mistake in the States.”
After reporting on Wednesday that the Knicks were the only NBA team that wanted to maintain the status quo until forced by a government mandate to play games without fans, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski updated that report today.
According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), two other teams expressed reservations about playing games behind closed doors before receiving a formal mandate to do so. Those teams were the Rockets and Pacers. Woj adds (via Twitter) that while the Rockets were resistant to the idea of playing games in the short-term without fans, they were in favor of a three-or-four-week hiatus that would have pushed the schedule into the summer.
That discussion is moot now, in the wake of Jazz stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell testing positive for coronavirus and the NBA shutting down its regular season indefinitely. Mitchell confirmed his positive test today in an Instagram post.
“We are all learning more about the seriousness of this situation and hopefully people can continue to educate themselves and realize that they need to behave responsibly both for their own health and for the well being of those around them,” he wrote in his statement. “… I am going to keep following the advice of our medical staff and hope that we can all come together and be there for each other and our neighbors who need our help.”
Here’s more on the coronavirus situation:
- The NBA has a call with its Board of Governors scheduled for 2:30pm central time this afternoon, according to Wojnarowski (via Twitter). The call was initially supposed to happen earlier in the day.
- There’s some concern among NBA players about coronavirus test results being leaked to the media, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic (Twitter link), given the damage it can do to a player and his family and the stigma it creates. As Amick notes, the fact that it’s a public health crisis complicates the situation. When the Jazz and the NBA announced Gobert’s and Mitchell’s positive tests, they didn’t identify them — the two affected stars were revealed by media reports.
- Although they weren’t initially tested for coronavirus at the Chesapeake Energy Arena following Wednesday night’s postponed game against Utah, Thunder players and staffers were advised to self-quarantine for 24 hours and will be tested, writes ESPN’s Royce Young. Since Gobert wasn’t at the arena at all on Wednesday, the risk wasn’t considered high for members of the Thunder, but now that Mitchell has tested positive as well, the Oklahoma State Health Department feels that testing is warranted.
While it remains to be seen exactly how long that suspension will last, one person who spoke to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press said the NBA expects the league to be shut down for at least two weeks. That source cautioned that the situation is very fluid.
As Dan Feldman of NBC Sports passes along, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said in a TV appearance tonight that there’s a feeling around the NBA that the season will eventually be resumed. It’s “clearly going to be a truncated schedule” though, according to Woj.
No games will take place while the suspension is ongoing, but Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said tonight that the NBA has told teams they can continue to practice, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link). Players have been told they shouldn’t have any visitors from out of town, MacMahon adds.
Here’s more on how the coronavirus situation has shaken up the NBA:
- After Gobert was tested for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Jazz and Thunder officials worked together to make sure no Oklahoma City players had any contact or exposure to Utah players, tweets Wojnarowski. According to ESPN’s Royce Young (Twitter links), Thunder players were tested tonight for fever, but not for the coronavirus. Jazz players are still expected to be tested tonight, however — the team is currently quarantined in OKC, per Woj (Twitter link).
- According to reports from Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald (Twitter link) and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, players from teams that have played the Jazz in the last 10 days have been advised to self-quarantine. That list of clubs includes the Cavaliers, Knicks, Celtics, Pistons, and Raptors.
- Knicks players aren’t being tested yet, according to Steve Popper of Newsday (Twitter link). Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets that Raptors players are getting tested. Cavaliers coaches and players haven’t yet heard about potential testing, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.
The Thunder–Jazz game that was set to play tonight has been postponed. According to Maddie Lee of the Oklahoman (Twitter link), the game was moved “due to unforeseen circumstances.”
According to ESPN’s Royce Young (video link), the teams were seconds away from tipping off when the Thunder’s head medical staffer sprinted on the floor to talk to referees. Players and staff were subsequently sent back to their respective locker rooms.
Rudy Gobert and Emmanuel Mudiay had both been ruled out of tonight’s game with illnesses. According to the Thunder’s broadcast, because there were illnesses among players prior to the game, the teams were waiting on NBA approval to proceed with the contest (Twitter link via Nate Duncan).