Cade Cunningham

Central Notes: Mitchell, Giannis, Bucks, Cunningham

Addressing Donovan Mitchell‘s contract situation on Thursday during an NBA Today appearance, Brian Windhorst of ESPN (Twitter video link) echoed a point he made in early August, suggesting that he doesn’t expect Mitchell to sign an extension this offseason and that he doesn’t believe that will be a major cause for concern for the Cavaliers.

Mitchell has two guaranteed years left on his current contract, which will pay him $33.2MM in 2023/24 and $35.4MM in ’24/25, with a player option for ’25/26. He’s eligible to sign an extension now, but could lock in a longer-term deal if he waits until next summer.

Still, Windhorst is curious to hear what Mitchell has to say publicly about his contract when he’s asked about on Media Day. It would raise eyebrows around the NBA if Mitchell follows Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s playbook and makes it clear to reporters that his future in Cleveland isn’t assured, Windhorst notes, though he doesn’t expect the All-Star guard to go that route.

“My expectation is Donovan, who’s a total pro, will handle this like he did in Utah, which was pledge his undying love to the Jazz but also keep his options open,” Windhorst said.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Antetokounmpo officially became extension-eligible on Friday, but the Bucks star has, of course, already signaled that he doesn’t plan to sign a new contract before the season begins. With that in mind, ESPN provides an in-depth look at Antetokounmpo’s options, explaining why it would benefit the star forward financially to wait until at least next offseason to consider a new deal and evaluating how the new CBA might impact the situation.
  • Asked on the Behind the Play podcast (YouTube link) about the odds of Antetokounmpo remaining in Milwaukee beyond his current contract, ESPN’s Windhorst said he thinks it’s very much up in the air. “I would say right now it’s 50/50 at best, and I don’t think that’s new information to the Bucks. I think the Bucks knew that already. They knew that even before they got knocked out of the playoffs last year,” Windhorst said. “If you look at the Bucks’ roster, which is primarily in its 30s, you look at the Bucks’ asset base, which is depleted, and you look at Giannis, who’s 28 years old, they are on different tracks.”
  • Pistons guard Cade Cunningham spoke to Tomas Azarly of ClutchPoints about his experience with the U.S. Select Team this summer and what he learned last season while spending most of the year sidelined due to a leg injury. Cunningham said that staying healthy is his biggest goal in 2023/24, followed closely by a desire to help Detroit win more games. “I want to take a leap for next year and get closer to being a championship caliber team,” he said.

Central Notes: Altman, B. Brown, Pacers, Cunningham

The attorney for Koby Altman submitted a plea of not guilty on his behalf on Tuesday after the Cavaliers president of basketball operations was charged with committing a marked lanes violation and operating a vehicle while impaired, per TMZ Sports.

Police video obtained by TMZ and News 5 Cleveland (YouTube link) showed Altman appearing to struggle to complete a series of field sobriety tests after being pulled over in Cleveland on Friday night. The Cavaliers executive told officers that he was “exhausted” after returning from a trip overseas and was driving home after a long dinner.

The Cavaliers, who initially issued a brief statement announcing that they were gathering information on the incident, have put out a follow-up statement, according to Chris Fedor of (Twitter links).

“We hold our team members to a high standard of conduct and expect leaders at every level of our organization to represent the Cavaliers with integrity, professionalism and accountability,” the Cavs said. We will continue to closely monitor the facts and circumstances of this matter and await resolution of the legal process.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • In a discussion about the best offseason move made by a Central Division team, Josh Robbins and James L. Edwards III of The Athletic both pick the Pacers‘ signing of Bruce Brown, while their colleague Darnell Mayberry chooses the Pistons‘ hiring of Monty Williams as their new head coach.
  • Within the same story, Edwards, Robbins, and Mayberry identify Pistons guard Cade Cunningham and Pacers forward Obi Toppin and Jarace Walker as some of the top breakout candidates in the Central.
  • The majority of the Pacers‘ players were in attendance for Summer League in Las Vegas, signaling the team’s growing chemistry and a culture that’s on the right trajectory, contends Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (subscription required).

Central Notes: Haliburton, Cunningham, Duren, Walker, Bucks

A Jan. 30, 2024 matchup with the Celtics is Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton‘s most anticipated game of next season because it marks the first time he’ll be playing a nationally televised game on TNT. In an interview with ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Haliburton talks about how he’s been overlooked in both NBA markets he’s played in so far (Sacramento and Indiana) and how he’s planning on becoming must-see TV next season even if his exposure is limited.

“You have to win to get on TV and that’s what we need to do,” Haliburton said. “It won’t change either. When we win in Indiana, we’ll get three national games.”

Haliburton is in the midst of an eventful summer. Soon after inking a max contract extension that can be worth up to a projected $260MM, the Pacers guard was named to Team USA’s 2023 FIBA World Cup roster.

During his time with Team USA, Haliburton is shooting well and distributing the ball at a high level. He’s also flashing his ability on the defensive end, putting up five steals in three games.

He’s like a quarterback who’s finding five different receivers and then if there’s no pass rush, he’ll just line up his set shot and knock it down,” Team USA head coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s really a unique player and a beautiful player to watch and obviously very effective.

Team USA and Haliburton are advancing to the second round of the group stage in the World Cup and will next play Montenegro on Friday.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Former Pistons No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham missed most of last season due to a stress fracture in his left shin. Cunningham has just one full season under his belt, but he’s showed flashes of superstardom, including during his stint with Team USA’s Select Team in Las Vegas prior to the World Cup. In a conversation with The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III, Sam Vecenie discusses how Cunningham’s play is crucial to the Pistons improving on their 17-win season from last year. Jalen Duren‘s growth was also on display during the Select Team scrimmages and Vecenie notes that he’s another key for the Pistons to earn a play-in spot.
  • Pacers No. 8 overall pick Jarace Walker sat down with The Fieldhouse Files’ Scott Agness (YouTube link) to talk about his thoughts on the upcoming season. Walker said that he’s excited to join forces with Obi Toppin at the power forward position. “I feel like we’re going to complement each other a ton,” Walker said. “I love to pass, play-make, get my teammates the ball, and he’s such a versatile player offensively and defensively. I feel like what we can bring to the team and what they need, I feel like we’re two key pieces for the [organization].
  • The Bucks exited from last season’s playoffs in disappointing fashion, falling to the No. 8-seeded Heat in the first round of the playoffs. This offseason, Milwaukee opted to bring back most of its core while fleshing out its depth. Eric Nehm of The Athletic explored answers to a fan survey he released last week. In general, fans feel confident in the team but have lower expectations relative to last season. One interesting tidbit is that 86.9% of fans thought the decision to move on from former coach Mike Budenholzer was the right move.

Central Notes: Rubio, Washington, Cunningham, Thompson

Ricky Rubio‘s decision to take time away from basketball and focus on his mental health leaves the Cavaliers with an uncertain situation at backup point guard, Chris Fedor of writes in a mailbag column. Rubio didn’t offer any indication of how long he might be inactive, so there’s no way of knowing if he’ll be available when training camp opens in seven weeks or when the season starts in late October.

There’s no urgency for Cleveland to make a roster move, Fedor adds. The Cavs signed free agent Ty Jerome in the belief that he can handle a larger role than he had with Golden State, and Donovan Mitchell, Caris LeVert and two-way player Craig Porter Jr. are all capable of running the offense for short stretches. Fedor points out that there aren’t any strong options remaining in free agency, but Kendrick Nunn, Michael Carter-Williams, George Hill, Ish Smith, and D.J. Augustin are among the players still available.

General manager Mike Gansey scheduled a trip to Malaga, Spain, this summer to visit with Rubio and watch the Spanish World Cup team in action, according to Fedor. However, Rubio left training camp before Gansey arrived, so he devoted the trip to scouting instead.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers have expressed interest in P.J. Washington and may be “lurking” as his standoff with the Hornets continues, Fedor adds. He notes that Cleveland was able to take advantage of a similar situation in a sign-and-trade with Lauri Markkanen two years ago by offering a contract beyond what the Bulls were willing to pay. Fedor states that Rubio and Dean Wade would be enough to match salary if Washington would accept about $15MM per year, but he’s not sure if that and a few second-round picks would satisfy Charlotte.
  • Cade Cunningham is the only untouchable player on the Pistons‘ roster, James L. Edwards III of The Athletic writes in his annual evaluation of the team’s most valuable assets. Even though he missed most of last season after shin surgery, Cunningham is still viewed around the league as a potential superstar, according to Edwards. Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren and rookie Ausar Thompson follow Cunningham on Edwards’ list.
  • Overtime Elite general manager Gerald Wilkins believes Thompson has a bright NBA future, per Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. Wilkins offered a glowing recommendation to Jarrett Jack, a new member of the Pistons‘ coaching staff under Monty Williams. “He would ask me things like what are his strengths, what are his weaknesses, how can I get him the ball,” Wilkins said. “I would just tell him, ‘Just put him on the floor. Just put him in the game. They are basketball players, Ausar and Amen. They’re basketball players. You put him on the floor and a lot of good things are going to happen.’”

And-Ones: Cunningham, Jones, Flagg, Macura, Wade

Pistons guard Cade Cunningham tops the list of potential breakout candidates for the upcoming season, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Cunningham, who missed most of last season with a shin injury, dazzled while playing this month for the USA Select Team.

Wizards guard Tyus Jones, who has a chance to start after serving as a backup with the Timberwolves and Grizzlies, and Trail Blazers second-year wing Shaedon Sharpe, who put up big numbers late last season, are among the other players who make Cowley’s list.

We have more news from around the basketball world:

  • Cooper Flagg’s decision to reclassify makes a significant impact on the 2025 draft, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN. The 2025 draft wasn’t considered particularly strong, so with Flagg eligible to be taken that season, that group now has more star power. Despite his unorthodox game built around defense and passing, rather than scoring prowess, Flagg is the early favorite to be the top pick of that draft.
  • J.P. Macura is signing with Happy Casa Brindisi of Italy, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando (Twitter link). Macura made three cameo appearances in the NBA — two games with the Hornets in 2018/19 and one with the Cavaliers the following season. Macura has played the last two seasons in Italy after a one-year stop in Turkey.
  • Dwyane Wade, who was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame on Saturday, wasn’t a slam dunk to be selected by the Heat in the lottery in 2003, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel notes. Team president Pat Riley said the club was in need of a big but when Toronto took Chris Bosh, Wade slipped to Miami’s pick at No. 5 overall.

Stein’s Latest: USA Basketball, Wood, B. Griffin

Multiple reporters have confirmed the news — originally reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski — that Pistons guard Cade Cunningham was offered a spot on Team USA’s World Cup roster. Cunningham said last week that he declined the invitation to manage his workload for the upcoming 2023/24 season after being to 12 games in ’22/23 following shin surgery.

According to Marc Stein at Substack, USA Basketball had a longstanding interest in Cunningham joining the senior men’s team, but the organization also recognized that it was an “extreme long shot” to land him.

As Stein explains, Cunningham would have needed to commit to the full six-week time frame, which includes several exhibition games and lengthy international travel. Given how long he was sidelined, it makes sense that the 2021 No. 1 overall pick decided to be cautious; Detroit wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about the idea either, according to Stein.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Why was USA Basketball so interested in Cunningham? As Stein observes, he fits the mold of a physical guard that was a priority for the roster, which includes Jalen Brunson, Anthony Edwards, Austin Reaves and Josh Hart (though Hart is more of a wing than a traditional ball-handling guard).
  • The lack of physicality may explain why Hawks guard Trae Young isn’t on the World Cup roster, despite USAB managing director Grant Hill being a part owner of Atlanta, Stein writes. Young was disappointed to not make the team and recently said he’d welcome the opportunity to represent Team USA at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, Stein adds.
  • Former ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy will serve as Team USA’s scouting director for the World Cup, Stein reports. Van Gundy has been associated with USAB for several years, including serving as head coach from 2017-19 when the team was comprised of non-NBA players during qualifying rounds, Stein notes.
  • The Lakers remain interested in free agent big man Christian Wood, sources tell Stein. However, they used most of their non-taxpayer mid-level exception on Gabe Vincent and their bi-annual exception on Taurean Prince, so they can basically only offer Wood the veteran’s minimum. While the Mavericks are open to a Wood sign-and-trade, neither the Lakers nor the Heat are believed to be viable partners in that scenario, according to Stein.
  • The Celtics are interested in re-signing free agent big man Blake Griffin, league sources tell Stein, but it’s unclear if that interest is mutual. Griffin appeared in 41 regular season games with Boston in ’22/23, averaging career lows of 4.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 13.9 MPG. He also only played one game for six total minutes in the playoffs, despite the Celtics having 20 postseason contests.

Central Notes: Mitchell, Rubio, Cunningham, P. Williams

Donovan Mitchell is eligible for a contract extension this offseason, but there’s no indication that he and the Cavaliers intend to seriously discuss a new deal, and that shouldn’t be a cause for concern in Cleveland, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said during a recent NBA Today appearance (YouTube link).

“Maybe if the Cavs had won the championship last year, maybe Donovan would extend, but I don’t think under any (other) circumstances he was ever considering extending this season, and I think the Cavs knew that when they traded for him,” Windhorst said. “I think the pressure point comes a year from now, when he’s got one year left on his contract. … The Cavs have another year to see where their team is at and where Donovan sees that the Cavs are at.”

Mitchell actually has three seasons left on his current contract, but the final year is a player option, so he can reach free agency as early as 2025. That means he’ll essentially be entering a contract year next summer, which is why Windhorst refers to it as a “pressure point.” The Cavs’ performance – and Mitchell’s own play – in 2023/24 could go a long way toward determining whether the star guard is willing to sign a long-term extension with the team a year from now.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Although Ricky Rubio made his announcement about putting his career on hold for mental health reasons through the Spanish Basketball Federation, the Cavaliers were aware the news was coming and are “fully supportive” of the veteran point guard, sources tell Chris Fedor of It remains to be seen whether or not Rubio will be available for the Cavs when the NBA season begins this fall.
  • Pistons guard Cade Cunningham has been the standout player on the U.S. Select Team that has been competing against Team USA’s World Cup squad this week in Las Vegas and has beaten it in multiple scrimmages so far, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. While Cunningham’s play in those scrimmages is encouraging for the Pistons and their fans, the former No. 1 pick says he’s simply happy to be back to 100% after a leg injury limited him to 12 games in 2022/23. “I feel healthy again,” Cunningham said. “My leg isn’t a problem for me right now. So I think that’s the biggest difference, just that I can just play freely and not think about my body too much.”
  • Given Cunningham’s strong play in Vegas, it’s fair to wonder whether he should be a part of Team USA’s actual World Cup roster instead of the Select Team. A previous report indicated that the Pistons guard was invited to join the World Cup team, which Joe Vardon of The Athletic confirms. According to Vardon, Cunningham explained this week that a desire to manage his workload this summer ahead of his NBA return was the “deciding factor” in turning down that invitation.
  • While it’s unclear if former No. 4 overall pick Patrick Williams has shown enough in his first three NBA seasons to warrant a rookie scale extension from the Bulls this offseason, teammate DeMar DeRozan remains a big believer in Williams’ potential, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times details.

Central Notes: Toppin, Catlin, Pistons, Bucks

Forward Obi Toppin, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal and is currently eligible for a rookie scale extension, says he’s looking forward to playing for the Pacers in 2023/24 after being acquired from New York in a trade last month. Part of that is Indiana’s “family-type environment,” but he also thinks it’ll be a good fit on the court as well, according to Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star.

That’s my game,” Toppin said at his camp in Dayton. “Everybody knows my game. In the open floor, I run the floor really hard. We’re gonna play with a fast pace. That what’s the league is. We’re not slowing it down. They’re trying to get a bucket in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock. I feel like that’s good for us, getting us as many easy buckets as we can.

“I just feel like Indiana’s vision is going to be playing me to my strengths. I feel like they’re going to allow me to get back to what I do best, which is put pressure on the rim, attack the rim.”

Here’s more from the Central:

  • Longtime Pacers staffer Vance Catlin, who previously held the title of director of pro scouting, has been promoted to vice president of pro scouting, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. Catlin is known as a tireless worker and has been with the organization for 20 years, Agness notes.
  • How do Pistons fans feel about the team’s offseason? Are they confident in Detroit’s direction? James L. Edwards III of The Athletic received over 1,500 votes from subscribers for his annual survey, and fans seem to be cautiously optimistic for the most part, despite the Pistons winning just 17 games last season. Notably, fans are bullish on Cade Cunningham‘s potential and the hiring of new head coach Monty Williams. Fans are less optimistic about Marvin Bagley III and James Wiseman, but Edwards believes the former No. 2 overall picks likely won’t have major roles, as Jalen Duren is firmly entrenched as the center of the future.
  • The Bucks have a new head coach in Adrian Griffin and he will face some tough rotation decisions entering 2023/24, writes Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Starting shooting guard and backup point guard are the two spots that appear the most tenuous at the moment. In fact, Milwaukee doesn’t have a traditional backup point guard on its 15-man roster, which makes Nehm wonder if the team will eventually take the “simplest” route by addressing the position with a trade or free agent addition.

Pistons Notes: Cunningham, Harris, Morris, 2024 Cap Room

The Pistons made a few roster upgrades this summer, but the biggest reason for optimism is the return of Cade Cunningham, who was limited to 12 games last season before deciding to have shin surgery. Anthony L. Schulte of The Detroit Free Press takes a look at how Cunningham’s presence will affect the rest of Detroit’s backcourt.

The biggest influence may involve second-year guard Jaden Ivey, who became one of the team’s top play-makers with Cunningham out of action. They will likely be the starting backcourt, and Schulte expects Ivey to adopt more of a scoring mentality with Cunningham running the offense.

Schulte adds that Cunningham’s return may cause the Pistons to move on from Killian Hayes, who flourished somewhat last season but still faces an uncertain future in Detroit. The Pistons reportedly talked to the Mavericks about a Hayes trade this summer, but weren’t able to make much progress.

There’s more from Detroit:

  • The Pistons may have trouble finding minutes for Joe Harris, who was acquired in a trade with the Nets, Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press states in an overview of the roster. Even though there’s a need for more shooting, Bojan Bogdanovic appears locked in as the starting small forward and the team invested a high lottery pick on Ausar Thompson, who was impressive during Summer League.
  • There will also be a competition for playing time in the backcourt, where newly acquired Monte Morris will benefit from his ability to handle either guard position, Sankofa adds. Morris used to play alongside Nikola Jokic in Denver, so he has plenty of experience in moving without the ball. “I ain’t gotta be on the ball all the time, so I’ll be able to play off the ball alongside Cade, kinda like the Jamal Murray role when me and him was in the backcourt together,” Morris said. “Whatever situation they want me to play, I’ve seen it all. I’ve played third, fourth option, second option, all that. I’m just a hooper, bro. I don’t really care.”
  • Instead of signing free agents, the Pistons used most of this year’s cap money to trade for Harris and Morris, who both have expiring contracts, notes Marlowe Alter of The Detroit Free Press. Detroit is projected to have more than $50MM in cap space next summer, and the 2024/25 season will be the final year before Cunningham’s expected extension kicks in.

Central Notes: Williams, Pistons, Haliburton, Toppin, Mitchell

The inclusion of young Pistons guards Cade Cunningham and Jalen Duren on USA Basketball’s Select Team ahead of the August FIBA World Cup is a positive sign for Detroit, writes Keith Langlois of

As Langlois explains, even being named to the group against which Team USA will scrimmage should be seen as a big honor, and being able to rub shoulders with some of the elite young players in the game should help clue the two young Pistons into just what it takes to thrive as a pro.

According to Langlois, Cunningham, the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft, actually received an invitation to join Team USA’s World Cup roster, but opted for a “more measured approach” as he continues to rehabilitate his surgically repaired shin.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • New Pistons head coach Monty Williams will have numerous options as he susses out Detroit’s rotation, writes Langlois in a separate piece. Langlois notes that, while the starting roles of Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and power forward Bojan Bogdanovic are secure, it will be up to Williams to configure the rest of the club’s rotation.
  • Pacers All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton and newly acquired power forward Obi Toppin gave fans a tantalizing look at their on-court fit during Kyle Guy‘s Dizzy Runs Pro Am in Noblesville, Indiana, per The Indianapolis Star (subscriber-only link). Toppin discussed his offseason program. “It’s been mostly making shots and working on some of the actions that are different than New York’s,” Toppin said. “It’s just learning the new lingo and the offense that they run. I’ve been working with Ty with that and he’s been teaching me a little bit.”
  • The Cavaliers’ priority is holding onto All-Star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell long-term with a team that he enjoys, not trading him, writes Sean Deveney of Mitchell has a player option for 2025/26, meaning he could reach free agency in just two seasons. “They’re doing their best to reconfigure things around him and just keep rolling out the red carpet, making sure he knows he is taking care of, all of that,” a source told Deveney. “No one is hitting the eject button on this… Make him happy, make him comfortable, that is the job.”