Paul George

Harden, Giannis, George Named MVP Finalists

Defending champion James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George are the finalists for this season’s Most Valuable Player award, the league announced in a press release.

The voting is expected to be close between Harden, who averaged 36.1 PPG and 7.5 APG during the regular season, and Antetokounmpo, who carried the Bucks to the best record in the league while averaging 27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG and 5.9 APG. George averaged 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 4.1 APG.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors’ 2019 NBA Award Picks: Most Valuable Player]

The league also released the finalists for its other awards. The winners will be revealed during a TNT broadcast on Monday, June 24.

Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic and Trae Young are the finalists for the Rookie of the Year award, while Lou Williams heads the field for the Sixth Man award. His Clippers teammate, Montrezl Harrell, and Domantas Sabonis are the other finalists.

Antetokounmpo and George are also finalists for the Defensive Player of the Year award along with Rudy GobertDe’Aaron Fox, D’Angelo Russell and Pascal Siakam will vie for the Most Improved Player honor, while Mike Budenholzer, Michael Malone and Doc Rivers received the most votes for the Coach of the Year award.

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Barton, Rubio, Jazz Workouts

Russell Westbrook dealt with significant pain in his left hand for approximately six weeks before the Thunder were eliminated from the postseason, Brett Dawson of The Athletic reports.

Westbrook, who shot 36% from the field during the opening round, and fellow Thunder All-Star Paul George underwent surgical procedures this week. Westbrook had a ligament repaired in his left hand as well as arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. George had a tendon repaired in his right shoulder and will soon undergo surgery to address a small labrum tear in his left shoulder.

It’s difficult to know how the injuries might impact the Thunder next season, though Westbrook should be ready in plenty of time for training camp, Dawson continues. Expected roster changes over the next four months will have a bigger impact, Dawson adds.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Trail Blazers traded Will Barton to the Nuggets four years ago but Barton downplays the significance of trying to eliminate his former team, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Barton is averaging 9.2 PPG and 4.9 RPG this postseason. “I’m past that. That was a long time ago in my career,” Barton said. “They just happen to be the opponent that we’re playing against and I just want to beat them, not because I used to play with them, just because they’re in our way for trying to advance. That’s the only thing I’m thinking about. I can’t try to make it personal or anything like that.”
  • The Pacers, Bulls and Suns are the most likely landing spots for Ricky Rubio if he doesn’t remain with the Jazz, Frank Urbina of Hoops Hype opines. Rubio could come at a lower cost than other point guard options for Indiana, while he could give Chicago and Phoenix a veteran presence while also grooming a younger player at the position, Urbina adds. Rubio will be an unrestricted free agent after making nearly $15MM this season.
  • The Jazz brought in six draft prospects on Wednesday, according to a tweet from the team’s media relations department. Power forwards Mamadi Diakite (Virginia) and Dewan Hernandez (Miami, Fla.), wings Tyus Battle (Syracuse) and Brandon Randolph (Arizona) and guards Matt Mooney (Texas Tech) and T.J. Gibbs (Notre Dame) were the visitors. Big men Neemias Queta (Utah State), Zylan Cheatham (Arizona State), Silvio De Sousa (Kansas) and Australian Harry Froling and guards Payton Pritchard (Oregon) and Devon Dotson (Kansas) are coming in on Saturday, according to another Jazz tweet.

Latest On Paul George, Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook and Paul George have begun the offseason by taking steps to recover from their respective injuries, as the Thunder pass along in a team press release.

Westbrook underwent surgery to repair ligament damage in his left hand. The 2016/17 MVP played the final six weeks of the season with the non-shooting hand injury. Westbrook also had a procedure on his right knee today and is expected to be sidelined for approximately three weeks.

George had elective surgery on his right shoulder to repair a partial tendon tear, per the team. The veteran forward will have another procedure on his left shoulder in the following weeks. He’s expected to miss at least the start of Oklahoma City’s training camp, Adrian Wojnarowski and Royce Young of ESPN.com relay.

George also played with his ailment as the season winded down. According to the ESPN duo, the Thunder went 11-12 after George suffered the injury.

Northwest Notes: Murray, Jazz Workouts, Thunder, Hood

Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray has been fighting through a right thigh injury, Mike Singer of the Denver Post reports.  Murray was limited to 15 points on 6-for-18 shooting, along with just one assist, in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinal series against Portland. But Murray refused to admit the injury might have affected him, Singer adds.

“I always play through pain,” the Nuggets’ guard said. “It’s something I’ve always done. I always put myself through more and do more than I can. Playing through pain is just another challenge for me. I’m gonna do it regardless of the stakes. Just try to be smart about it, obviously. If it’s something I can play through, it’s what I’m gonna do.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz are bringing in six prospects for pre-draft workouts on Saturday, the team’s PR department tweets. Centers Kevin Samuel (TCU) and Nathan Knight (William & Mary), forwards Tres Tinkle (Oregon State) and Jalen Hudson (Florida) and guards Lindell Wigginton (Iowa State) and Chris Clemons (Campbell) are the players they’ll evaluate.
  • The Thunder should make everyone but Russell Westbrook and Paul George available in trade talks, Brett Dawson of The Athletic argues in his offseason outlook. Oklahoma City needs to acquire more shooters to complement their All-Star duo and find a backup center, Dawson continues. Westbrook must also adjust his game in order for the Thunder to end their cycle of first-round playoff exits, Dawson adds.
  • Trail Blazers guard Rodney Hood has hired CAA Sports to represent him, Tony Jones of The Athletic tweets. Hood will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He was previously represented by Travis King of Independent Sports and Entertainment.

Thunder Notes: George, Abrines, Matthews, Donovan

Thunder All-Star forward Paul George will soon have his right shoulder re-evaluated by a specialist, Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman reports. GM Sam Presti told the media during his annual post-season press conference that George will see a specialist outside of Oklahoma City but Thunder staff members will be present.

George saw action in 77 regular-season games but took four games off to rest his aching shoulder. He was effective in the playoffs despite the discomfort, posting averages on 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 4.1 APG during the Thunder’s 4-1 opening-round series loss to Portland. Presti declared that George “was at no risk of any type of future injury” this season and labelled the possibility of George undergoing surgery as “speculation.”

We have more from Presti’s press conference:

  • He took the blame for not having enough sharpshooting wings on the roster, Lee notes in a separate story. Presti thought Alex Abrines would have a “breakout year” but the swingman missed 17 games for personal reasons and was ultimately waived. The Thunder pursued Wesley Matthews after the Knicks bought him out and waived him but Matthews chose Indiana. “Once Wes Matthews went to Indiana there really wasn’t a lot of other options out there, and that put some stress on us offensively, and you never want to be in that position,” he said.
  • Billy Donovan is expected to return as head coach despite the latest postseason flameout. Presti said he has yet to meet with Donovan on the subject because he wanted to give his coach more time to “reflect and decompress,” Brett Dawson of The Athletic tweets. “I do think getting his perspective on things is important because there’s nobody that works harder than him,” Presti said. “If anything, I think he needs to take some time to think through the season himself and have a really good conversation.

Western Notes: Dieng, George, Nelson, Williams

In an interesting pierce regarding former head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau‘s tenure with the Timberwolves, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic shares a story involving how the relegation of forward Gorgui Dieng to the bench was just one example of Thibodeau’s inability to effectively communicate and integrate with others in the organization.

Dieng, a starter for all 82 games in Minnesota during the 2016/17 season, Thibodeau’s first, showed up for training camp in 2017 expecting to continue starting, or at least have an opportunity to compete for a starting position with newly-signed Taj Gibson, a stalwart for Thibodeau during his days in Chicago coaching the Bulls. After all, Dieng had just signed a four-year, $62.8MM contract extension with the Timberwolves the previous summer.

However, before the first practice of camp, and without any communication of any kind from Thibodeau or any representative thereof, Dieng was relegated to the second unit by discovering a second-unit jersey hanging in his locker. Per Krawczynski, Dieng took the lack of communication as a sign of disrespect, one which he seemingly never got over during the course of Thibodeau’s tenure with the Timberwolves.

Rather, Dieng’s play suffered, as did his playing time, going from 10.0 points and 7.9 rebounds in 32.4 minutes per game in 2016/17 to averages of 5.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 16.9 MPG, with zero starts, during the 2017/18 campaign. With two seasons left on his current contract, Dieng, now 29, will look to return to the form he displayed during the 2016/17 season, as Gibson enters this offseason as an unrestricted free agent, his future with the Timberwolves still unknown.

There’s more news from the Western Conference this afternoon:

  • It’s clear from his decision to sign a long-term deal with the Thunder this summer that Paul George wants to be in Oklahoma City, but the question now becomes whether or not George is able and willing to overtake Russell Westbrook as the franchise’s marquee player, which Brett Dawson of The Athletic writes may be necessary if the Thunder ever want to reach their full potential with the team’s current core.
  • Pelicans‘ new general manager David Griffin is prioritizing hiring highly-respected trainer Aaron Nelson, currently the Suns’ Senior Vice President of Athlete Health & Performance, away from Phoenix, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times. As his profile on the National Basketball Athletic Trainers Association states, Nelson and his staff have built the Suns into an industry leader with a reputation for prolonging the careers of some of the game’s best players.
  • In other Suns’ news, 76ers’ assistant coach Monty Williams, a highly-regard head-coaching candidate this offseason for both Phoenix and the Lakers, had a “very positive” meeting with Suns’ brass on Friday (story). Williams, the first candidate to meet with the Suns’ front office since Igor Kokoskov‘s firing on Monday, is a top contender to be James Jones‘ pick for the team’s next head coach.

Thunder Notes: Roberson, George, Morris, Noel

Thunder swingman Andre Roberson, who has missed the last season and a half due to knee problems, is on track to be ready for training camp this fall, he told reporters, including Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman, during his end-of-season presser on Thursday. Roberson, who initially suffered a patellar tendon tear, estimates that he was about 85-95% recovered when he suffered a major setback in the form of an avulsion fracture.

“By me rupturing my patellar tendon it kind of shut off the blood supply to the patellar bone, which causes it to be weaker,” Roberson said. “And then when I was coming back I was working harder than the revascularizing of the tendon was happening, so you kind of see where the problem was there, and we did not know that at the time, unfortunately.”

Before his injury, Roberson was one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. If he returns to anywhere near that form, the Thunder will have happy to get him back in their lineup for the final year of his contract in 2019/20. He’ll earn $10.74MM before reaching free agency in 2020.

Here’s more out of Oklahoma City:

  • As Lee details in another story for The Oklahoman, Paul George hinted today that he may undergo surgery on his troublesome right shoulder during the offseason. “I will address it soon,” George said. “Try to get it fixed and get back out there come this next season.”
  • Markieff Morris was extremely complimentary of the Thunder today, calling it the best stop of his career from an organizational standpoint, tweets Brett Dawson of The Athletic. However, Morris didn’t express much interest in returning to play the same role he had down the stretch this season. The veteran forward averaged a career-low 16.1 MPG in 24 regular season games with the Thunder, then just 11.8 MPG in five postseason contests.
  • Nerlens Noel‘s minimum salary contract with Oklahoma City features a 2019/20 player option, but he’s not ready to commit one way or the other on it. As Dawson tweets, Noel said today that he’ll let his agent figure that out. I’d be a little surprised if Noel doesn’t seek at least a modest raise on the open market after a solid season as Steven Adams‘ backup.
  • With the Thunder’s offseason underway, Sean Deveney of Sporting News examines the major decisions facing the franchise, while ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) previews their summer from a cap perspective. Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer, meanwhile, explored the challenges of building a roster around Russell Westbrook.
  • We opened up our own discussion on the Thunder’s offseason on Wednesday.

Latest On Embiid, Griffin, George Injuries

With the 2019 postseason around the corner, three potential All-NBA players are battling nagging injuries that may threaten their availability for the start of their respective playoff series.

Sixers center Joel Embiid, who missed 14 of the team’s final 24 games due to left knee soreness, continues to deal with that issue and was only a partial participant in Friday’s practice. The big man called the situation “extremely frustrating,” and he and GM Elton Brand both indicated that there’s no guarantee Embiid will be able to play in Game 1 vs. the Nets on Saturday. His status will be updated soon.

Pistons power forward Blake Griffin, who was forced out of action for the club’s must-win regular-season finale on Wednesday due to his own left knee injury, is still considered day-to-day, head coach Dwane Casey said on Friday (link via The Associated Press). Like Embiid, Griffin isn’t necessarily a lock to play in Game 1. Detroit opens its first-round series vs. the Bucks on Saturday.

The news is a little more promising for Thunder forward Paul George, who is listed as day-to-day with right shoulder soreness. According to Royce Young of ESPN.com, George said on Friday that he intends to play in Game 1 vs. Portland on Sunday, regardless of his pain level.

“It’s playoff time, so it’s more than this, it’s about being out there with my guys,” George said. “As much as I can get it a hundred as possible, or close to it, you can expect me out there Sunday.”

Lakers Rumors: Zubac, LeBron, Butler, PG13, Randle

The Lakers‘ decision to trade Ivica Zubac to the Clippers in a deal for Mike Muscala was one of the more questionable deadline moves last month. To make matter worse, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes that the Lakers actually instigated those trade discussions.

Sources tell McMenamin that the Clippers never inquired on Zubac, and that it was the Lakers who made the offer, which the Clips “gladly accepted.” Veteran Clippers executive Jerry West “couldn’t believe how Zubac fell into his lap,” McMenamin writes.

The Lakers had hoped the roster spot they opened up in that swap – which also included Michael Beasley – would clear the way for the team to sign a player like Wayne Ellington, DeAndre Jordan, or Enes Kanter on the buyout market, per McMenamin. However, those players either chose other teams or never became available.

McMenamin’s latest article for ESPN digs into the Lakers’ disappointing season in detail, and includes several more noteworthy tidbits. Here are the highlights from the piece:

  • One team source tells McMenamin that they felt as if LeBron James didn’t fully engage with his younger teammates prior to the trade deadline.
  • Rajon Rondo organized a players-only meeting about a month ago in the hopes that the team would find “a better understanding of one another,” a source tells McMenamin. Players spoke up about LeBron’s “inconsistent body language,” and James took the criticism to heart, making an effort to improve on that going forward. Of course, the meeting hasn’t led to improved on-court results. “Just because [the meeting] was positive doesn’t mean we’re going to win 25 games in a row,” a team source told McMenamin.
  • Anthony Davis‘ name didn’t come up last summer when James met with Magic Johnson on the eve of free agency and discussed future plans. However, it has been clear all year that the Lakers intend to pair LeBron with a second maximum-salary free agent. L.A. was one of several teams to inquire on Jimmy Butler before he was sent to Philadelphia last fall, McMenamin reports.
  • Paul George‘s decision to stay in Oklahoma City last offseason was more about what the Thunder did right than what the Lakers did wrong, sources tell McMenamin. Still, it’s worth noting that George was somewhat familiar with how the Lakers ran things, having spoken to his agent Aaron Mintz and former teammate Corey Brewer about their experiences with the organization.
  • Mintz represents Julius Randle, who never received an offer from the Lakers as a restricted free agency last July, per McMenamin. Randle ultimately signed with the Pelicans because he felt like they really wanted him, which wasn’t a feeling he got from the Lakers, despite the fact that head coach Luke Walton and his staff hoped he’d be back, McMenamin writes.

Central Notes: Pistons, Bullock, Bucks, Pacers

Although the Pistons traded Reggie Bullock to the Lakers at last month’s trade deadline, Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press says he gets the impression that Bullock would be open to returning to Detroit as a free agent this offseason (Twitter link). The Pistons would likely reciprocate that interest, though it would depend on Bullock’s price tag, Ellis adds (via Twitter).

With the Pistons projected to be over the cap next season, they’ll be limited to a few modest exceptions, including the mid-level, as they attempt to upgrade their roster. Signing a three-point shooter like Bullock – or perhaps current Piston Wayne Ellington – will be a priority, but Detroit figures to commit part of its MLE to a point guard, Ellis notes. Reggie Jackson remains under contract for another season, but Ish Smith, a key part of the club’s rotation, will be a free agent.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • After officially signing Tim Frazier today, the Bucks are now only about $250K below the tax line, tweets cap expert Albert Nahmad. As Nahmad explains, Tony Snell can earn up to $400K in bonus money if Milwaukee wins the Finals, but the team should be on track to stay out of the tax if it falls short of a title — or if Christian Wood is claimed on waivers tomorrow.
  • In a pair of recent pieces by Sam Amick and Scott Agness of The Athletic, Indiana executives revisited the Paul George trade that turned into a rare win-win for both the Pacers and Thunder. “I think it worked out good for Paul, and I think it’s working out pretty well for us,” consultant Donnie Walsh said of the deal, per Amick.
  • In Agness’ story on that trade with the Thunder, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard raves about Domantas Sabonis, who gets somewhat overlooked as the only non-All-Star (so far) involved in the swap. “When we looked at all the deals, once we heard ‘Sabonis’ is when I said, ‘I’m in. I want to do this,'” Pritchard said. “And I asked everybody around the room, ‘Is everybody on board?’ As soon as that happened, we got pretty excited about that.”
  • Dwane Casey‘s ability to respond to adversity, which has been on display throughout his first season with the Pistons, is one reason why owner Tom Gores hired him as the club’s head coach last spring, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Despite a 9-22 stretch earlier in the season, Detroit currently holds the East’s No. 6 seed.