Draft Notes: Bronny, Combine, Edey, Withdrawals

Bronny James‘ NBA draft stock continues to be one of the top storylines of the class, and he looked determined to establish himself as more than just a name at the combine. In the second day of scrimmage play, the USC guard led his team in scoring with 13 points in 23 minutes.

Bronny told reporters he’s trying to earn a roster spot individually of who his father is, according to Yahoo Sports’ Krysten Peek.

Honestly, I feel like this is a serious business,” Bronny said. “I don’t think there would be a thought of, ‘I’m just drafting this kid because I’m going to get his dad.’ I don’t think a GM would really allow that. I think I’ve put in the work and if I get drafted it will be because of not only the player but also the person I am.

According to The Los Angeles Times’ Dan Woike, the Lakers’ No. 55 pick in the draft appears to be the floor for Bronny’s stock, which would allow him to play next to LeBron. However, there’s a chance he could go even higher than that.

According to Peek, the Jazz have expressed an interest in bringing Bronny in for an individual workout and could look to select him with their No. 32 overall pick. Peek also identifies Miami (No. 43 pick), San Antonio (No. 35) and Oklahoma City (who doesn’t own a pick past No. 12) as potential landing spots, though those appear to be more based in speculation than the Utah report.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has moved Bronny up to No. 54 on his best available list (Twitter link). He was previously at No. 98.

We have more notes on the 2024 draft:

  • ESPN draft experts Givony, Jeremy Woo, Jamal Collier and Bobby Marks teamed up to analyze days two and three of the combine, assessing major takeaways and standouts. Illawara’s AJ Johnson and Colorado’s KJ Simpson were the only two players to make the scrimmage standouts list in back-to-back days. All of ESPN’s analysts agreed it was a general positive for scouts to see more high-level players than usual participate in scrimmages.
  • Former Purdue big man Zach Edey recognizes there are questions about how his game will translate to the next level, according to The Associated Press’s Andrew Seligman. Seligman writes that, despite Edey’s college dominance (25.2 points, 12.2 rebounds last season), the 7’4″ center is viewed as a slow-footed defender who isn’t much of a floor stretcher. Edey said he knows he needs to reinvent aspects of his game at the next level. “I think I need to show people I can shoot the way I believe I can,” Edey said. “But I think, for the most part, teams kind of know what I’m good at. Teams have tons of film on me. Obviously, I think I’m quicker than teams think I am. I think I can shoot better than teams think I can. I have to show that. I’ve been in college four years. They’ve got a lot of film on me. They kind of know what I can do.” Edey is ranked as ESPN’s 15th-best prospect in the class on its best available list.
  • Former Tennessee big man Jonas Aidoo is withdrawing from the 2024 draft and will play for Arkansas next season, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein (Twitter link). He averaged 11.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks on 51.5% shooting from the floor last season for Tennessee.
  • Arizona’s KJ Lewis, a bright, young defender, is withdrawing from the draft and returning to play for the Wildcats next season, Rothstein reports (Twitter link). He averaged 6.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals in 18.3 minutes in his freshman season.
  • Seton Hall’s Scotty Middleton (transfer from Ohio State) and Notre Dame’s Markus Burton, two impressive freshmen, are also withdrawing from the draft (Twitter links via Rothstein). Middleton was a four-star recruit and averaged 4.4 points in 15.3 minutes at Ohio State. Burton was highly productive in his first season, averaging 17.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Fighting Irish.

Poll: Who Will Win Nuggets/Timberwolves Game 7?

When we discussed the Western Conference semifinals between the Nuggets and Timberwolves back on May 1, we noted that it had the potential to be one of the very best series of the NBA’s 2024 playoffs. Sixteen days later, it seems safe to say that’s exactly what we got.

The Timberwolves surprised everyone by beating the defending champions in back-to-back games on their home court in Denver to open the series, taking a 2-0 lead back to Minnesota. With some media members already writing the obituary for the Nuggets’ season, Nikola Jokic‘s squad responded by reeling off three consecutive wins to reclaim the upper hand. Facing elimination on Thursday, Minnesota submitted arguably the most dominant performance by any NBA team this postseason, defeating the Nuggets by 45 points to force a Game 7.

Jokic (28.2 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 8.0 APG) has played like the Most Valuable Player he is in the series, and rising Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards (29.7 PPG on .551/.415/.838 shooting) has performed like a future MVP. But several of their co-stars have been inconsistent.

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, who was already dealing with a calf issue before injuring his elbow in Game 6, has averaged just 15.7 PPG on 38.2% shooting through six games, and is coming off a forgettable 4-of-18 night. Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. has scored single-digit points in four of six games. Wolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns found ways to contribute as a rebounder, passer, and defender in Game 6, but he scored a series-low 10 points and has now averaged 15.0 PPG on 42.6% shooting in the past four contests.

If Jokic and Edwards are both operating at the peak of their powers in Game 7, the result may ultimately come down to whether Murray or Towns gets going, or which role players come up big at the right time. In Game 5, that was Aaron Gordon (18 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (16 points, 4-of-5 on three-pointers). In Game 6, it was Jaden McDaniels (21 points on 8-of-10 shooting) and Mike Conley (13 points, five assists, no turnovers).

Even though both teams have 1-2 home records in the series, home court advantage could also be a deciding factor. The Nuggets were 33-8 during the regular season playing in the elevation of Denver and are currently listed as 4.5-point favorites for Sunday’s game, per BetOnline.ag.

Whatever the outcome, it would be great to see Game 7 go down to the wire. As entertaining and as back-and-forth as the series has been so far, none of the first six games featured a possession in which the trailing team could tie the score or take the lead in the final five minutes, notes Zach Kram of The Ringer. Maybe that will happen for the first time on Sunday.

Which team will win Game 7 and advance to the Western Conference Finals? Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thinking!

And-Ones: RSNs, Kerr, Curry, 2024 FAs, Media Rights, More

Speaking in court on Wednesday, lawyers for the NBA, MLB, and NHL aimed “pointed criticism” at Diamond Sports Group and expressed skepticism about the company’s ability to produce a viable business plan to emerge from bankruptcy, according to reports from Evan Drellich of The Athletic and Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.

Diamond, which controls the “Bally Sports”-branded regional sports networks, has yet to reach a new agreement with Comcast, its third-largest distributor, following the expiration of their previous contract, prompting Comcast to pull the Bally networks off the air earlier this month. Diamond will also need to make a new linear cable and digital rights deal with the NBA after its previous contract expired. Fifteen NBA teams aired their games locally on Bally Sports networks last season.

“We simply cannot afford to have our next season disrupted by the uncertainty as to whether Diamond will or will not have a viable business,” NBA attorney Vincent Indelicato said on Wednesday.

A confirmation hearing is scheduled for June 18. If the hearing isn’t postponed, the court will decide at that time whether to approve Diamond’s restructuring plan.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • A pair of Warriors were honored by the Professional Basketball Writers Association this week (Twitter links). Head coach Steve Kerr received this season’s Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which is related to a coach’s “cooperation with the media and fans,” while star guard Stephen Curry won the Magic Johnson Award, given to the player who “best combines excellence on the court with cooperation and grace in dealing with the media and fans.”
  • Frank Urbina and Raul Barrigon of HoopsHype have ranked this summer’s free agents by position. James Harden tops the list of point guards, with Tyrese Maxey (shooting guards), Paul George (small forwards), Pascal Siakam (power forwards), and Nic Claxton (centers) also at No. 1 for their respective positions.
  • Ben Koo of Awful Announcing rounds up a handful of reports from various outlets breaking down where things stand in the NBA’s media rights negotiations. As Koo outlines, Warner Bros. Discovery (TNT Sports) has reportedly sought to exercise its matching rights on reported bids by NBC ($2.5 billion) and Amazon ($1.8 billion), but the NBA isn’t recognizing those matching rights because Amazon’s package is a new one and NBC’s includes an over-the-air broadcast network. The league is said to be seeking $2.8 billion from TNT if it wants to match NBC’s offer and get the same package of games. Former Fox Sports Networks president Bob Thompson provides a few more details (via Twitter).
  • In an in-depth story for The Ringer, Mirin Fader checks in on the NBA’s female coaching pipeline and considers whether the league is any closer to getting its first female head coach.
  • In the wake of the Jontay Porter betting scandal, David Purdum of ESPN explores how the NBA and other major sports leagues are pushing for U.S. sportsbooks to tweak the betting options and limits they offer, especially for specific players.

Community Shootaround: Cavaliers’ Offseason

This year’s Cavaliers became the first Cavs team in over three decades to make the second round of the playoffs without LeBron James on its roster. But as successful as the season was in Cleveland, there’s a sense that major changes could be around the corner.

The Cavs will have to make a decision on head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, whose future with the club is said to be in “serious jeopardy.”

They’ll have to figure out whether or not Donovan Mitchell will sign a long-term extension as he enters a contract year.

If Mitchell is unwilling to extend, he could very well end up in the trade block, whereas if he does re-up with the Cavs, it may be Darius Garland who becomes the offseason trade candidate.

Cleveland will also have to decide on whether Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley can coexist in the frontcourt going forward as Mobley becomes eligible for a rookie scale extension.

There has been speculation for months – or even years – that Mitchell won’t want to commit to a long-term future in Cleveland and will ultimately have to be traded, but that’s far from a sure thing. In fact, one report following the Cavs’ elimination from the postseason this week suggested there’s a “growing sentiment” Mitchell will sign an extension.

Still, in the latest episode ESPN’s Hoop Collective podcast (YouTube link), Brian Windhorst advised listeners not to assume Mitchell has finalized a decision one way or the other yet.

“I hope to be very careful to not make too much into what the secondary chatter is about what Donovan’s going to do,” Windhorst said. “Because I have heard stuff – from what I would consider reliable sources – all over the board, which leads me to believe that the accurate answer or real answer may not be out there, and that Donovan is doing a great job of keeping everybody in a happy place.

“I will say this, the Cavs organization feels very optimistic he’s going to sign, and maybe that’s the way it’s going to go — I’m not here saying that it won’t. But there’s other people out there saying the opposite.”

Regardless of what happens with Mitchell, Windhorst and his ESPN colleagues Tim MacMahon and Tim Bontemps agreed during their discussion of the Cavs’ offseason that it probably doesn’t make sense to move forward with the team’s four core players, given the overlap between Mitchell’s and Garland’s skill sets, as well as Allen’s and Mobley’s.

While Mitchell will be the focus of the summer in Cleveland for many fans, the frontcourt issue looms large. Mobley had a solid series vs. Boston in the second round of the playoffs with Allen sidelined, and Allen was at his best earlier in the season when Mobley was on the shelf recovering from knee surgery. If the Cavs have to choose one of the two, it seems likely to be Mobley, who is younger, probably has a higher ceiling, and will be under team control for longer if he signs an extension this offseason.

“I would just say that while there’s extreme interest and excitement probably from certain fanbases to go to the trade machine and work out Donovan Mitchell trades, and maybe those will be needed in a month, we’ll see,” Windhorst said. “I would think the Cavs are going to be spending more time in this next month looking at possible Jarrett Allen trades, and what that could bring.”

As Bontemps observed in the Hoop Collective podcast, the Cavs seem unlikely to completely tear things down this offseason. Even if Mitchell doesn’t agree to an extension and ends up being traded, there’s still too much talent on the roster to bottom out, so in any trade discussions, the team would likely seek players who could step in and make an impact right away — or draft assets that could be flipped to acquire those sorts of players.

If the Cavs end up looking to move Allen and/or Garland, one obvious potential trade partner would be the Pelicans, who have been linked to Allen several times in the past and also have a need at point guard. A deal involving rumored trade candidate Brandon Ingram could be the sort of move that would better balance both rosters.

We want to know what you think. Does Bickerstaff need to go or has he earned another year at the helm in Cleveland? Will Mitchell sign an extension? If he doesn’t, what kind of trade should Cleveland be seeking? If he does, will Garland have to go? And what about the frontcourt? Should Allen be on the trade block this summer?

Head to the comment section to weigh in with your thoughts and predictions!

Olympic Notes: France, Australia, Germany, Brazil

Ahead of the 2024 Olympics in Paris, the host nation has announced its preliminary 19-man roster (Twitter link). As Eurohoops relays, the headliners on France’s squad are big men Victor Wembanyama and Rudy Gobert, the top two finishers in this year’s Defensive Player of the Year vote.

However, there are several more notable NBA names on the list, including Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, Bilal Coulibaly, and Ousmane Dieng. Other recent NBAers who didn’t finish the 2023/24 season on a roster include Killian Hayes, Frank Ntilikina, and Theo Maledon.

One player not on France’s roster is veteran guard Mike James. The 2023/24 EuroLeague MVP is an American, but according to a report from L’Equipe (hat tip to BasketNews.com), the French Basketball Federation explored the possibility of getting a French passport for James, who has played for AS Monaco in France’s LNB Pro A since 2021. That effort didn’t make any real headway, however.

“We do not have the culture of other nations which use naturalized players in a systematic way,” an unnamed executive told L’Equipe. “But we have a duty to explore all possibilities. In this case, we were asked, we looked at it and quickly established that it was not a question.”

The French national team will have to make seven cuts and set a 12-man roster for this July’s event.

Here are a few more updates related to the 2024 Olympics:

  • The Australian national team has trimmed its preliminary Olympic roster from 22 players to 17, the Boomers announced in a press release. None of the NBA players on the roster – including Josh Giddey, Joe Ingles, Patty Mills, Dante Exum, Matisse Thybulle, and Dyson Daniels, among others – were among the cuts, but potential 2024 first-round pick Johnny Furphy was. The plan is for those 17 Australian players to attend training camp this summer before setting the final 12-man roster.
  • The German national team announced this week that head coach Gordon Herbert won’t continue on in that role after the conclusion of the Paris Olympics (hat tip to Sportando). The two sides are going their separate ways after a fruitful partnership that included a gold medal at the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
  • The Brazilian national team has announced its preliminary roster for this summer’s Olympic qualifying tournament in Latvia. The notable names include veteran point guard Raul Neto, former first-round pick Bruno Caboclo, Warriors rookie Gui Santos, and former NBA guard Didi Louzada. The Brazilians will need to win the six-team qualifier to earn a spot in the Olympic men’s basketball tournament.

Thunder Notes: Giddey, Offense, SGA, Williams, Holmgren

The Thunder‘s decision to move Josh Giddey to the bench came at an odd time, in the view of Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman, who notes that the guard’s fit in the starting lineup has been a concern for much of the season, and certainly for the entire series vs. Dallas. Head coach Mark Daigneault explained on Wednesday why he decided to wait until after Oklahoma City’s Game 4 win to make a change.

“Considering all the information before every single game and treating every game as its own life, I just wasn’t comfortable doing it up until now,” Daigneault said. “At the end of the day I’m making a lot of different decisions. They’re not all gonna be right or wrong.”

Benching Giddey didn’t do a whole lot for the Thunder’s offense, which was limited to 92 points in a Game 5 loss, Mussatto writes. Still, as Anthony Slater of The Athletic relays, Daigneault came away from Wednesday’s loss feeling good about the way the offense functioned, even if the results weren’t there. The NBA’s best three-point shooting team during the regular season (38.9%) made just 10-of-40 attempts from beyond the arc in Game 5.

“I’m careful to say I loved a 92-point night,” Daigneault said. “But I did feel like we were bumping up against some hurdles on the offensive end of the floor the (previous) three games. I did feel like (in Game 5) we were able to find some cracks. We made them a little bit more uncomfortable. We had them in rotation a little bit more.”

Here’s more on the Thunder ahead of a must-win Game 6 on Saturday:

  • Regardless of what happens in Game 6, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander passed an important test this spring, Mussatto writes for The Oklahoman. After having established himself as a No. 1 option, a multi-time All-Star, and a true MVP candidate, Gilgeous-Alexander has shown during this postseason that he’s capable of maintaining his level in the playoffs and being the best player on a legitimate contender. That bodes well going forward for a Thunder team still on the rise, Mussatto observes.
  • After scoring 19 or more points in each of the Thunder’s four games vs. New Orleans in round one, Jalen Williams has only topped 18 points once in five games vs. Dallas. The second-year forward, who is playing in the postseason for the first time, is still working out just how aggressive he should – or needs to – be on offense, tweets Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman. “I think sometimes I should probably force a little more. But I’m big on playing within the team, like we’ve been doing all year,” Williams said. “I think (I’m) sometimes getting caught up in trying to create for others the whole game. It’s a balance that I’m still trying to figure out.”
  • In a series of feature stories, Slater of The Athletic takes a look at Gilgeous-Alexander’s evolution as a team leader in Oklahoma City, Marc J. Spears of Andscape examines how Williams’ self-confidence permeates through a young OKC roster, and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN explores Chet Holmgren‘s perfect fit in the Thunder’s frontcourt.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Ted Stepien Rule

While a rule like the Gilbert Arenas provision can flatter its namesake, the late Ted Stepien, former owner of the Cavaliers, may have preferred not to go down in history as the reference point for the Ted Stepien rule.

Stepien, who owned the Cavs in the early 1980s, made a series of trades that left the franchise without first-round picks for several years. To avoid having its teams end up in similar situations going forward, the NBA eventually instituted a rule that prohibited a club from trading out of the first round for consecutive future seasons. It’s now informally known as the “Stepien rule,” even though the Cavs owner isn’t explicitly mentioned in the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Because the Stepien rule applies only to future draft picks, teams are still permitted to trade their first-rounders every year if they so choose, but they can’t trade out of the first round for back-to-back future drafts.

For instance, since the Mavericks have traded their 2024 first-round pick to New York, they aren’t currently permitted to trade their 2025 first-rounder. Following the 2024 draft, Dallas would regain the right to trade that 2025 first-round pick, since the ’24 first-rounder will no longer be considered a future pick.

The Stepien rule does allow a team to trade consecutive future first-round picks if the team has acquired a separate first-rounder from another team for either of those years. So if Dallas were to trade for another team’s 2025 first-rounder next week, that would give the Mavericks the flexibility to move their own 2025 pick immediately, without having to wait until after the 2024 draft.

Teams are permitted to include protection on draft picks. This can create complications related to the Stepien rule, which prevents teams from trading a first-round pick if there’s any chance at all that it will leave a team without a first-rounder for two straight years.

For example, the Trail Blazers owe their lottery-protected 2025 first-round pick to Chicago — it will only convey if it falls outside of the top 14. That traded 2025 pick is protected through 2028, and as long as there’s still a chance it won’t convey immediately, the Blazers are prevented from unconditionally trading any of their next few first-round picks.

Portland could trade a conditional 2027 first-round pick, but a team acquiring that pick would have to be OK with the fact that it would be pushed back by one year every time the protected pick Portland has traded to Chicago doesn’t convey.

There are a handful of ways for teams to work around the Stepien rule. Phoenix is one team that has taken advantage of those workarounds in recent years. When the Suns acquired Kevin Durant at the 2023 deadline, they gave up first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027, and 2029. The Stepien rule prevented them from surrendering their 2024, 2026, or 2028 picks at that time, but remember, a team just needs to control one first-round pick in every other future draft — not necessarily its own pick.

That means the Suns were also able to include “swap rights” to their 2028 first-rounder in the deal for Durant and swap rights for their 2024, 2026, and 2030 first-rounders in a subsequent trade for Bradley Beal. Phoenix has actually traded swap rights twice on a couple of those future picks, putting them in line to receive the least favorable of three separate first-rounders. Giving up swap rights is a way for teams to extract value from a future first-round pick without moving out of that year’s first round.

The Suns will be able to work around the Stepien rule again this summer if they so choose by trading their 2024 first-rounder after a selection has been made. As noted above, once a pick has been used to draft a player, it’s no longer subject to the Stepien rule. Phoenix could agree to move its 2024 first-rounder prior to the draft, select a player on behalf of its trade partner, then officially finalize the deal after the draft.

Here are a few more rules related to trading draft picks:

  • The “Seven Year Rule” prohibits teams from trading draft picks more than seven years in advance. Once the 2024/25 league year begins on July 1, a 2031 draft pick can be traded, but a 2032 pick cannot be dealt.
  • The Seven Year Rule applies to protections on picks as well. If a team wants to trade a lottery-protected 2031 first-rounder this July, it can’t roll those protections over to 2032. That’s why, typically, the further into the future a traded pick is, the less likely it is to be heavily protected.
  • A team can add protection to a pick it has acquired as long as there wasn’t already protection on the pick. For instance, Brooklyn currently controls Phoenix’s unprotected 2025 first-round pick. If the Nets want to include that selection in a trade, they would be permitted to put, say, top-four protection on it.
  • Beginning in 2024/25, a team that finishes the season with a team salary above the second tax apron will lose the right to freely trade its first-round pick seven years out — that pick would become “frozen.” For example, if the Suns finish next season above the second apron, their 2032 first-rounder can’t be traded. If the team stays below the second apron for at least three of the subsequent four seasons, its pick becomes “unfrozen” and is once again tradable; if not, it remains frozen and is moved to the end of the first round for that draft.
  • For salary-matching purposes, a traded draft pick counts as $0 until the player signs a contract.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

Earlier version of this post were published in previous years.

Wolves Notes: Conley, Edwards, Towns, McDaniels

Facing elimination on Thursday, the Timberwolves turned in arguably the most dominant performance of any team this postseason, holding the Nuggets to 70 points on the night and going on separate 20-0, 13-0, and 24-0 runs en route to a 45-point victory. What was the difference for Minnesota? According to Anthony Edwards, the answer was simple, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“We got Mike Conley back,” Edwards said of his backcourt mate, who missed Game 5 due to a right soleus strain. “That was it.”

It’s a little reductive to give Conley full credit for the Wolves’ incredible performance. After all, he was also on the floor for the team’s home losses in Games 3 and 4. But Minnesota’s players and coaches have spoken all season about the outsized impact the veteran point guard – who was the team’s fifth-leading scorer during the season – has on the Wolves.

“Mike means everything for us,” head coach Chris Finch said after Game 6. “Unbelievable next to Anthony in terms of being able to set him up, play off of him, be in his ear all of the time. Smart defender. Just everything you want in an experienced, veteran point guard and just the very fact that Ant doesn’t have to handle it every single time, that alone helps us. … We desperately missed him the other night.”

Here’s more out of Minnesota:

  • As Sam Amick of The Athletic details, several Timberwolves players credited a video the coaching staff showed prior to Game 6 for helping the club regain its swagger and get in the right head space heading into Thursday’s contest. “Normally we have a (film) edit, just with certain offensive possessions This edit was more of a production, one of those that show all the big dunks and highlights and the ball movement and with music behind it,” Conley said. “It was a surprise. We’ll usually see the defensive stuff and offensive stuff, but this time they plugged it up to the big speaker. We normally don’t have anything plugged into the big speakers, just the (film) and coach will be talking over it. But this was more of a change-our-mentality sort of thing.” Edwards told reporters that the team’s “energy shifted” after watching the hype video, while Karl-Anthony Towns said it reminded the Wolves of the “discipline, the execution, (and) the tenacity” that they’d been lacking in their losses.
  • Edwards – who said on Thursday that he wants to be “the best player on both sides of the ball in the NBA,” per McMenamin – was the primary defender on Jamal Murray in Game 6. It was a miserable night for the Nuggets guard, who scored just 10 points on 4-of-18 shooting, though Murray suggested after the loss that a right elbow injury he suffered early in the game was more to blame for his off night. “I put some numbing cream on it just so I didn’t have to feel it every time it extended,” Murray said, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “… We got two days off. I just got to get ready and be able to be better for Sunday. Yeah, (it’s got) to be better for Sunday, man.”
  • Towns scored a playoff-low 10 points on Thursday, but his fingerprints were “all over” Minnesota’s Game 6 win, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic contends. Towns grabbed 13 rebounds, handed out five assists, only turned the ball over once, and – perhaps most crucially – stayed out of foul trouble while defending Nikola Jokic. “I told him today, ‘We’re thankful that you didn’t foul because if you foul we lose,'” Edwards said. “Because you are the best matchup we’ve got for Jokic. Like, you do the best job on him.”
  • After making just 2-of-12 three-pointers and scoring a total of 35 points in the first five games of the series, Jaden McDaniels hit 3-of-5 threes and scored 21 points on Thursday. Chip Scoggins of The Star Tribune takes a closer look at the impact that the Wolves’ “X-factor” had in the victory.

Eastern Notes: Thibodeau, DeRozan, Carter, Nets, Bucks

The Knicks and head coach Tom Thibodeau will discuss an extension this offseason ahead of his contract year in 2024/25, confirms Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter video link).

In an appearance on FanDuel’s Run it Back show, Charania said the Knicks “very much want to lock (him) in long-term,” adding that Thibodeau is expected to get a raise on his current deal, which is worth about $7MM per year. Both Charania and Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports suggest that an eight-figure annual salary for Thibodeau is a realistic outcome in those negotiations.

Thibodeau has compiled a 175-143 (.550) regular season record since taking over as the Knicks’ head coach in 2020. The team won a playoff series last spring and is on the brink of a conference finals appearance this year, with a 3-2 lead over the Pacers in the Eastern semifinals.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Asked during another Run it Back segment this week whether he can envision himself playing in the NBA for five more seasons, 15-year veteran DeMar DeRozan admitted that sticking around that long isn’t a priority for him. “I don’t want play 20 years, I’ll be honest,” DeRozan said (Twitter video link). “Just from the standpoint of missing my kids, and I kind of love being normal at times. Twenty years is a lot.” The Bulls forward also reiterated (Twitter video link) that he hopes to re-sign with Chicago this summer, a stance that he made clear at season’s end.
  • The Nets announced this week that they intend to retire Vince Carter‘s No. 15 jersey next season (Twitter link). Carter, who began his career in Toronto, was traded to New Jersey in 2004 and averaged 23.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game with the Nets across 374 regular season contests in four-and-a-half seasons, earning a pair of All-Star berths with the franchise.
  • Could the Bucks‘ G League team be looking for a new home sometime soon? Justin Marville of The Oshkosh Northwestern details how a dispute between the Wisconsin Herd and Oshkosh Arena owner Fox Valley Pro Basketball Inc. over their lease agreement could result in the Herd leaving Oshkosh. As Marville notes, the Oshkosh Arena is currently for sale, so a new owner could help smooth things over with the Herd, though it’s unclear how long the sale process might take.

Rockets’ Rafael Stone Talks Draft, Udoka, Free Agency, More

This season, the Rockets finished with a solid 41-41 record but missed the postseason as the West’s No. 11 seed. The team then moved up in this past weekend’s draft lottery, claiming the No. 3 pick.

General manager Rafael Stone recently explained to The Athletic’s Kelly Iko that, despite the middling reputation of this year’s draft class, his front office likes a lot of the prospects available.

“I think it’s a really talented draft, and there will be very good players in it,” Stone said. “Historically, what we’ve seen is that people do not do a very good job predicting how good a draft is or is not. There are kind of unicorn-type players that occasionally appear in drafts and that signal early on in their lives that they have a chance to be extraordinarily special. And you see teams kind of falling over themselves to get themselves in positions to pick No. 1 in those drafts, even though the way everything’s set up, that’s a pretty impossible task. In that sense, there’s not someone like that in this draft.”

Their conversation is well worth reading in full, but here are some key highlights.

On how new Houston head coach Ime Udoka’s input impacts Stone’s draft process:

“Ime is a really good coach and basketball mind. We definitely solicit his opinion and get his thoughts as another smart person who can give us some insight on who’s likely to be successful. But in terms of draft philosophy, it’s very much let’s try and bring in guys who can be good basketball players.”

On whether the team’s strong season will affect its offseason approach:

“We’re comfortable with our team and we think we’re going to improve internally. Because of that, I don’t think we’re likely to be super aggressive. It doesn’t mean we won’t listen. And it doesn’t mean if we think that there’s a unique opportunity, we won’t jump at it. But we have very talented players, they’re young and we lost a ton of games to injury. That combination means our primary focus is bringing back our core group as a better core group than it was last year, both through internal improvement and health.”

On the growth of young talent like Alperen Sengun and Jalen Green, both of whom are extension-eligible:

“We want those guys to start next year at or above the level they finished at the end of the year. I think all of our young players got materially better. They understood what Ime wanted, how to play defense better, the right reads on offense. It needs to not be two steps forward, one back. If we do that, we’ll be in a good position. Those guys just have to work and we have workers. I’m very confident they will do it, but there is no magic elixir. It’s all about putting in the work. We don’t expect it to be linear. And some of the reason is because of externalities — playing time from the coach, the way the offense flows. All these other things can influence how people play. But notwithstanding, it’s mainly on them. They need to make sure they stay on this trajectory.”