P.J. Tucker

Sixers Lose 2023, 2024 Second-Round Picks Due To Gun-Jumping

After discovering that the Sixers held early free agent discussions with forwards P.J. Tucker and Danuel House prior to the permitted date, the NBA announced today (via Twitter) that it has rescinded the team’s 2023 and 2024 second-round picks.

The league noted that Philadelphia “fully cooperated” with its investigation into tampering, or “gun-jumping.” The Sixers released a statement confirming the news (Twitter link via ESPN’s Tim Bontemps).

The Philadelphia 76ers fully cooperated with the NBA’s investigation and acknowledge the league’s ruling. We’re moving forward, focused on the season ahead.”

As Shams Charania of The Athletic notes (via Twitter), while the NBA did dock the Sixers for the early discussions with Tucker and House, it found no wrongdoing with James Harden‘s significant pay cut, which gave the Sixers the flexibility to use their full non-taxpayer mid-level exception to sign Tucker and their bi-annual exception to sign House. Both players previously played with Harden on the Rockets under former president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, who is now Philadelphia’s top basketball executive.

Some around the league have wondered whether the Sixers and Harden already have a future deal in place, which is against the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Such a handshake agreement would involve declining his player option in 2023 and signing a lucrative new contract at that time.

Marc Stein first reported that the Sixers were likely to face a tampering investigation, and he was also one of the first reporters to link Tucker to Philadelphia, with rival teams reportedly convinced that Tucker was signing a three-year deal for the mid-level multiple days before free agency officially opened.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), the NBA and the Players Association are expected to discuss tampering and the punishments that teams face when found guilty, as early free agent discussions are “rampant, but hard to police and largely impossible to eliminate.” The two sides are currently in early negotiations for a new CBA.

NBA GMs High On Cavs’ Offseason Moves, Bucks’ Title Chances

The Cavaliers‘ acquisition of Donovan Mitchell made their offseason the most successful of any NBA team, according to the league’s general managers. In his annual survey of the NBA’s top basketball decision-makers, John Schuhmann of NBA.com writes that 41% of the GM respondents picked Cleveland as having made the best offseason moves, while 59% chose the addition of Mitchell as the move that will have the biggest impact.

The Timberwolves and Jazz were on opposite ends of one of the summer’s other blockbuster trades, but the two clubs tied for second (along with the Sixers) in the GM vote for which teams made the best overall offseason moves. Minnesota’s trade for Rudy Gobert was the second-leading vote-getter for the offseason’s most impactful single acquisition, earning 31% of the vote.

The team viewed by the majority of GMs as the title favorite for 2023 didn’t earn any votes for having the best offseason. According to Schuhmann, 43% of the poll respondents picked the Bucks to win next year’s Finals, with GMs apparently betting on continuity in Milwaukee. The Warriors (25%), Clippers (21%), and Celtics (11%) also received votes.

Here are a few more interesting results from Schuhmann’s GM survey, which is worth checking out in full:

  • NBA general managers expect the Clippers – who will have Kawhi Leonard back – to be the most improved team in 2022/23. L.A. received 41% of the vote, with the Cavaliers and Pelicans at 17% apiece.
  • The Celtics‘ trade for Malcolm Brogdon earned the most votes (28%) for the summer’s most underrated acquisition. The Sixers‘ signing of P.J. Tucker and the Clippers‘ addition of John Wall were the runners-up, with 14% each.
  • Asked which team has the most promising young core, NBA GMs overwhelmingly chose the Cavaliers (41%) and Grizzlies (38%). The Pistons (10%) were the only other club to get multiple votes.
  • NBA GMs view Magic forward Paolo Banchero as the best bet to win Rookie of the Year (79%) and also chose him as the 2022 draftee most likely to be the best player in five years (31%), narrowly edging Thunder big man Chet Holmgren (28%). As for the steal of the draft, GMs were split between Pistons big man Jalen Duren and Rockets forward Tari Eason (14% apiece), among many others.
  • Mavericks star Luka Doncic was picked as the favorite to win MVP, earning 48% of the vote from NBA GMs. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks came in second with 34%.

Sixers Notes: Harden, Rivers, Simmons, Tucker

James Harden had encouraging news for Sixers fans as the team wrapped up its training camp, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Harden put up decent numbers after being acquired from the Nets in February, but he was obviously lacking the explosiveness that made him a perennial MVP candidate in Houston. Harden, who blamed a hamstring injury for slowing him down last season, responded, “It’s getting there” when asked about his current condition.

“We’re playing with a full training camp,” he said. “So there’s times and periods that you have dead legs or rough legs. But those are the times when you’ve just got to push through it, those character things like that.”

The Sixers will need a return of vintage Harden to be contenders in a rugged Eastern Conference. He welcomes the opportunity of a full preseason to learn the team’s system after having a crash course in 21 games after the trade. Harden is accomplished as both a scorer and passer, and he’s figuring out the best ways to bring both skills to the Sixers.

“But now, it’s a little bit more different,” he said. “Different because of the time (this summer) I had off to prepare and get my mind and my body right. And it’s just an opportunity with the new people that we have. And, honestly, just the communication with myself and (coach Doc Rivers) and Joel (Embiid) to know when it’s time for me to be aggressive and for Joel to be aggressive.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • Rivers had little to say about Ben Simmons, who is expected to make his Nets debut tonight in a preseason game against the Sixers, Pompey states in a separate story. Simmons hasn’t played since Philadelphia was eliminated in the 2021 playoffs, and he had a bitter public battle with the organization before being traded to Brooklyn. “We’re focused on the guys that want to be a Philadelphia 76er,” Rivers said when asked about facing Simmons. “We’re not going to focus on anyone that doesn’t want to be one.”
  • Rivers plans to hold out at least three of his starters for tonight’s game, Pompey adds in another piece.
  • One of the focuses in training camp was becoming more aggressive defensively, per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Joel Embiid has said he wants the Sixers to be the league’s best defensive team, and the offseason additions of P.J. Tucker, De’Anthony Melton, Montrezl Harrell and Danuel House were all made with defense in mind. “I know what it takes to get it done on a nightly basis in the league [and] playoffs,” Tucker said. “It’s tough and it comes down, a lot of times, to communication when plays break down on defense. You’ve got to make stuff happen, and it’s by communication. … You set those expectations right now in the preseason.”

Sixers Notes: Tucker, Harden, Petrusev, Embiid

The Sixers’ major free agent acquisition this summer, veteran forward P.J. Tucker, had an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee, according to a team press release. He’s already been cleared for on-court work and will participate in the team’s training camp in Charleston, South Carolina.

The procedure took just 10 minutes, Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Tucker clarified on Monday that the procedure was done six weeks ago, adding that he’s “back on the court and doing everything,” Derek Bodner of The Daily Six newsletter tweets.

We have more on the Sixers as they begin training camp:

  • Tucker said that he and James Harden were hoping to land Philadelphia sooner, Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice tweets. “Honestly, me and James were trying to come the year before,” Tucker said, presumably referring when both players suited up for the Rockets after Daryl Morey became Philly’s top executive. Harden was instead dealt to Brooklyn before he wound up with the Sixers last year with Ben Simmons landing with the Nets.
  • Draft-and-stash big man Filip Petrusev will spend at least another year in Europe, playing in his native Serbia after signing with Crvena Zvezda, as previously reported. According to Eurohoops.net, Petrusev is on board with the “plan” the Sixers have for him. “They supported it,” the No. 50 pick of the 2021 draft said in an interview with Mozzart Sport. “The EuroLeague is the highest level of competition in Europe and that’s where I’ll definitely develop the most.”
  • Joel Embiid said the team’s main goal this regular season is becoming a defensive force, Neubeck writes. “Our focus is on defense,” Embiid said. “We aim to be the best defensive team in the league, that’s going to take all of us.”
  • Harden says he’s happier and healthier after dealing with a nagging hamstring injury last offseason, Neubeck adds. “Mentally, it was very, very difficult to me, just because I was in love with the game of basketball. … It was very difficult, a lot of tough times, dark moments, which I’ve never really went through because I was always healthy and playing the game of basketball. But I’m in a really good space right now, and I feel like I’m back to where I needed to be, where I’m supposed to be.”

Atlantic Notes: Aldridge, Holden, Burrell, Simmons, Tucker

Free agent big man LaMarcus Aldridge appears more likely to retire than to sign another contract, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix and Howard Beck said in the latest episode of The Crossover NBA Show (hat tip to NetsDaily).

Aldridge was productive in 47 games with the Nets last season, averaging 12.9 PPG and 5.5 RPG in 22.3 MPG. Aldridge went in retirement the previous season due to a heart condition but was cleared to play again by the league last fall.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Long Island Nets, Brooklyn’s G League affiliate, have named J.R. Holden as GM and Ronnie Burrell as head coach, according to a team press release. Holden spent the past three seasons as director of pro personnel for the Brooklyn Nets. Burrell rejoins the Nets organization after spending the 2019/20 season as an assistant coach with Long Island. Burrell was as an assistant coach with the College Park Skyhawks, the Atlanta Hawks’ affiliate, last season.
  • Ben Simmons could turn into the Nets’ version of Draymond Green, Ajayi Browne of NetsDaily.com notes. Putting Simmons at the center position could provide the most spacing possible for the Nets offensively due to his play-making skills. He’s also a defensive ace, finishing second in Defensive Player of the Year votes during the 2020/21 season.
  • After losing the conference semifinals to the Heat last season, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey felt P.J. Tucker would be a great fit if he could sign the veteran forward in free agency, Morey said in a podcast with Philadelphia TV sportscaster John Clark (hat tip to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson). “Just finished playing a series [against] P.J. Tucker. P.J. was able to really impact that series in a lot of ways with his toughness, with his high-level defense, with his energy on the floor, with his offensive rebounding,” Morey said. “And (Joel Embiid) correctly said, ‘Hey, we could use a guy like that.’”

Eastern Notes: Pistons, D. Green, Celtics, Sixers

An Eastern Conference executive who spoke to Sean Deveney of Heavy.com believes the Pistons are a team to watch if Draymond Green doesn’t sign an extension with the Warriors before he becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2023. Green was born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan, attended Michigan State, and grew up rooting for the Pistons, who have long had interest in acquiring him, according to the executive.

“(Pistons owner Tom) Gores is a Michigan State guy, and they wanted to give Draymond an offer sheet when he was a free agent (in 2015), but by then, the Warriors were going to match any offer,” the executive told Heavy.com. “So they just have not had the chance. If they can show some improvement this year with their young guys, they could get themselves in the mix.”

The idea of Green playing a mentor role on a young Pistons team is an intriguing one, and the combination of his local connection, Detroit’s projected 2023 cap room, and the rising cost of the Warriors’ roster make it a possibility worth considering. But for now, this feels more like idle speculation by a rival executive than anything concrete.

If Green and the Warriors are far apart in contract talks and he seriously considers leaving in 2023, Detroit could certainly emerge as an option, but there’s no reason at this point to think that Golden State won’t make every effort to lock up one of the cornerstones of its recent dynasty.

Here are a few more notes from around the East:

  • In a separate story for Heavy.com, Sean Deveney spoke to a pair of assistant coaches about veterans the Celtics could theoretically target with one of their trade exceptions if they want to fortify their frontcourt. Alex Len, Tony Bradley, and Marquese Chriss are among the names mentioned, though I suspect the team may simply fill that spot on the depth chart with a minimum-salary signing.
  • Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com considers the best- and worst-case scenarios for newly-signed Sixers forward P.J. Tucker, noting that the veteran’s age (37) increases the risk of a decline in his performance.
  • Addressing recent rumors linking Kevin Durant to the Sixers, David Murphy of The Philadelphia Inquirer says the team needs to answer two important questions: Do the 76ers have the assets necessary to acquire Durant? And if so, would it make sense to cash all of them in for the two-time Finals MVP?

NBA Investigating Sixers’ Free Agency Moves For Tampering

The NBA is investigating the Sixers‘ free agency moves for possible tampering and “early contact,” according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

As Wojnarowski details, James Harden declined his $47.4MM player option and instead took a pay cut by signing a two-year, $68.6MM deal with a second year player option. That gave the Sixers the flexibility to use their full mid-level exception to sign P.J. Tucker and their bi-annual exception to sign Danuel House — two of Harden’s former teammates with the Rockets under president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, who is now with Philadelphia.

Marc Stein first reported that the Sixers were likely to face a tampering investigation, and he was also one of the first reporters to link Tucker to Philadelphia, with rival teams reportedly convinced that Tucker was signing a three-year deal for the mid-level multiple days before free agency officially opened.

Some around the league have wondered whether the Sixers and Harden already have a future deal in place, which is against the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Wojnarowski notes. Such a handshake agreement would involve declining his player option in 2023 and signing a lucrative new contract at that time.

The Sixers are complying with the investigation, Wojnarowski adds. The Knicks are also likely to face a tampering investigation due to an early free agency agreement with guard Jalen Brunson, as Fred Katz of The Athletic wrote last week.

The Heat (Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade last summer) and Bucks (Bogdan Bogdanovic deal that fell through in 2020) both lost their 2022 second-round picks as a result of previous tampering investigations, and the Bulls will lose their 2023 second-rounder for their early sign-and-trade agreement for Lonzo Ball in 2021.

Stein’s Latest: Mitchell, Knicks, Sixers, Lakers, Beverley

New York’s impending pursuit of Jalen Brunson became obvious once a Knicks contingent led by Julius Randle, William Wesley and Allan Houston was spotted at Game 1 of the first-round series between the Mavericks and Jazz. However, as Marc Stein writes in his lastest article for Substack, it’s clear now that New York had designs on pursuing Donovan Mitchell as well as Brunson.

Recent reports from Tony Jones of The Athletic and Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune indicate that the Jazz are looking for six first-round picks and young players in exchange for Mitchell, but the Knicks balked at that asking price. According to Stein, even if the Knicks have more draft picks to offer at the moment, they should be “careful not to underestimate” the Heat and Nets as potential Mitchell suitors.

Under president Leon Rose, the Knicks have unsuccessfully pursued other star players, which is why it’s so important to the incumbent regime to land a player of Mitchell’s stature, Stein says.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Mitchell has multiple ties to the Knicks, Stein adds. Mitchell is “very close” with Knicks assistant Johnnie Bryant, who was an assistant with the Jazz for several seasons and recently had multiple interviews for Utah’s head coaching job. He’s also friends with Brunson due to their shared connection with Eric Paschall, who is Mitchell’s closest friend in the NBA and was college teammates with Brunson at Villanova, per Stein.
  • Like the Knicks’ pursuit of Brunson, the Sixers are likely to face a tampering investigation due to the signing of P.J. Tucker, according to Stein, who reported four days before free agency opened that several rival teams were convinced that Tucker would land with Philadelphia. Stein and others had linked Tucker to the Sixers even before the draft, a week before free agency opened, and Stein notes that Tucker’s agent informed Shams Charania of The Athletic that he was heading to Philly a minute after free agency opened.
  • It has been rumored that the Lakers might be interested in Jazz guard Patrick Beverley, but a source tells Stein that L.A. has no plans to deal Talen Horton-Tucker for the veteran. The Lakers have been prioritizing speed and youth in the offseason, so swapping a 21-year-old for a 34-year-old would detract from that, Stein notes. Horton-Tucker had been floated as a possibility because the Lakers don’t have any other mid-size contracts for salary-matching purposes — he’ll make $10.26MM in 2022/23, while Beverley will earn $13MM.

Atlantic Notes: McBride, Randle, Stevens, Tucker

The addition of Jalen Brunson could make playing time scarce for Miles McBride but he’s trying to remain confident, Zach Braziler of the New York Post writes. The 2021 second-round pick played in 40 games last season and projects as the Knicks’ third-string point guard behind Brunson and Derrick Rose. “Doing whatever I can to be on the floor [is my mindset],” he said. “If that means making shots, bringing the ball up, finding the open man, playing defense, I’m doing anything I can to be on the floor.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Julius Randle showed his leadership by inviting young players Jericho Sims and Feron Hunt to summer weight and cardio sessions in Dallas, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News notes. “It was cool. He wanted me to come down, so I said, ‘Hey, he’s a big-time player, why not get close to him, build that relationship,’” Sims said. Randle is trying to improve an image that was tarnished during a disappointing season for him and the Knicks. He’s at the beginning of a four-year extension.
  • Brad Stevens is happy with his current status as the Celtics’ top executive but he’s not ruling out coaching again someday, as he told Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com. “I’ve enjoyed both roles I’ve been in. I love the people I’ve worked with in both roles, and my family loves it, so, yeah, we’re really happy,” he said. “I’m not going to try to predict the future. I have no idea. No idea. I don’t know if I’d ever coach again. We’ll see.”
  • Toughness, durability and 3-point shooting are among the attributes that P.J. Tucker brings to the Sixers. Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com breaks down all the aspects of Tucker’s game and the intangibles he adds to the table as the veteran forward transitions from one Eastern Conference contender to another.

Atlantic Notes: Porter, Brunson, Gibson, Tucker, Davison

After winning a ring with the Warriors this year, Otto Porter Jr. is now focused on getting another one with the Raptors, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Porter called it “a tough decision” to leave Golden State and sign a two-year, $12.4MM deal with Toronto.

The 29-year-old forward said he had some other offers, but he was most comfortable with the Raptors. Porter’s wife is from Toronto, which played a role in his choice.

“Winning a championship last year in Golden State, I feel like I can bring that experience here to help the younger guys out,” Porter said. “Being with (Thaddeus Young) again (after being teammates in Chicago two seasons ago), I know he has been there and done it with his leadership and (he is going) to continue to give guidance to the young guys.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The trade sending Kemba Walker to the Pistons was finalized today, but the Knicks still have options if they want to turn their agreement with Jalen Brunson into a sign-and-trade, tweets Fred Katz of The Athletic. A separate deal that has Detroit acquiring Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel still hasn’t been made official and could be folded into a larger transaction. Katz adds that the Pistons needed to complete the Walker trade so that Jalen Duren will be eligible for Summer League.
  • Several teams would be interested in Taj Gibson if the Knicks waive him to create cap room to sign Brunson, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). Gibson’s contract for next season is non-guaranteed.
  • The Sixers gave P.J. Tucker a player option for the final season of his three-year, $33MM contract, tweets Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.
  • JD Davison feels like he has something to prove in Summer League after sliding to the 53rd pick in the draft, per Brian Robb of MassLive. Even though the Alabama guard was disappointed to be taken so low, he was happy to wind up with a successful organization like the Celtics. “When I got that call from the Celtics,” Davison said, “when my agent called and said the Celtics got you, it’s an organization where they win. So it was just really important to where I know I can come in here and get better every day and just come here and win. I was very happy.”