Darius Garland

Cavaliers Notes: Nori, Garland, Allen, Mitchell, Mobley

Timberwolves assistant Micah Nori is among the candidates scheduled for an in-person meeting with Cavaliers officials this week to discuss their head coaching vacancy, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Fischer also cites Pelicans associate head coach James Borrego and Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, who were identified as finalists for the job in a report by Chris Fedor earlier today.

Fischer hears that the Cavs are continuing to hold interviews via Zoom as well, with Knicks assistant Johnnie Bryant and Bucks assistant Dave Joerger included in that group.

Nori has been an NBA assistant since 2009 and spent time in Toronto, Sacramento, Denver and Detroit before coming to Minnesota in 2021. He took on many of head coach Chris Finch‘s duties when Finch was immobilized due to knee surgery following the Wolves’ first-round playoff series.

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • The Cavaliers’ next coach will likely inherit a team with its current core intact, Fischer adds. Although Cleveland has received “a wealth of interest” in Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen on the trade market, sources tell Fischer that the front office isn’t expected to consider offers for them or for Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley. Expectations are growing that Mitchell will agree to an extension this summer, according to Fischer’s sources, while Mobley is still viewed as a vital part of the organization’s future.
  • ESPN’s Brian Windhorst also hears that trade talk regarding Garland has cooled off around the league. In an interview with ESPN Cleveland (video link), Windhorst said potential suitors were discouraged by a recent statement from general manager Koby Altman. “There are now teams that are sort of backing off, saying, ‘Well, maybe Garland is not gonna be available,'” Windhorst said.
  • With Borrego reportedly a finalist for both the Cavaliers and Lakers, Ethan Sands of Cleveland.com compares the two franchises and asks which situation is better. He notes that both teams have an urgency to win right away and share an uncertain future regarding their best player as Mitchell is pondering an extension while LeBron James has until June 29 to decide whether to exercise a $51.4MM player option for next season.

Southwest Notes: Ingram, Pelicans, Topic, Clingan

If the Pelicans decide to trade Brandon Ingram, they need to get a play-making guard in return, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Clark points out that Ingram has led the team in assists the past two years, including 5.7 in 64 games this season. With no clear choice to set up the offense, Clark believes New Orleans will have to insist on a creator in any Ingram deal.

Zion Williamson has helped in that area, but Clark notes that his susceptibility to injury — and the inability of the Pelicans’ offense to function without him — makes it too risky to not have a strong lead guard. The offense was among the NBA’s worst after Williamson’s hamstring injury last season, Clark adds, and his absence in this year’s playoffs left the team unable to top 92 points in any game while being swept in the first round.

The Pelicans had trade talks with the Hawks and Cavaliers before the February deadline, according to Clark, who expects negotiations to resume this summer. There are rumors that Atlanta wants to break up its Trae YoungDejounte Murray backcourt, while Cleveland might be open to parting with Darius Garland if Donovan Mitchell agrees to an extension. Any of those players could be the basis for an Ingram deal.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • In a separate story, Clark examines the possibility that the Pelicans will take a center in this year’s draft. New Orleans will have the 21st selection after deferring a pick from the Lakers until next year. Clark views Baylor’s Yves Missi, Indiana’s Kel’el Ware and Dayton’s DaRon Holmes as viable big man options at that stage of the draft.
  • Nikola Topic could be the ideal point guard to team with Victor Wembanyama, Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News states in a Spurs draft preview. Topic is considered the best passer in the draft, especially out of the pick and roll, and at 6’6″ he would bring some needed size to San Antonio’s backcourt. On the downside, he has never shot better than 30% from three-point range in a season and has hurt his right knee twice since January. If the Spurs opt for Topic with the fourth pick, McDonald expects them to target a shooter at No. 8.
  • Michael Shapiro of The Houston Chronicle looks at how Donovan Clingan might fit alongside Alperen Sengun if the Rockets take the Connecticut center with the third pick. Clingan would bring a much stronger defensive presence in the middle, but there are questions about whether he or Sengun can ever space the floor well enough to make the pairing work.

Fischer’s Latest: Hartenstein, Thunder, Claxton, Valanciunas, Cavs

There are few – if any – NBA free-agents-to-be whose stocks improved more in the postseason than Isaiah Hartenstein, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who suggests the Knicks big man has a case to be considered the best center on the free agent market this summer.

Nets big man Nic Claxton, widely viewed the top option at the position, is considered likely receive at least $20-25MM annually, according to previous reports. Fischer says there’s a belief around the NBA that Hartenstein could end up in that neighborhood too, with league executives and cap strategists speculating he might sign for $80-100MM. The Knicks would be limited to offering up to $72.5MM over four years using their Early Bird rights.

According to Fischer, the Thunder are the possible Hartenstein destination mentioned most frequently by team executives, despite the fact that he seems “incongruent” with the playing style they established en route to the No. 1 seed in the West this past season. Fischer suggests Hartenstein’s ability as a passer and screener to bring a new dimension to Oklahoma City, while his rebounding would improve one of the league’s worst teams in that area.

Hartenstein almost signed with the Magic before joining the Knicks, Fischer notes, but it’s unclear whether Orlando would still be a fit, given Moritz Wagner‘s emergence in the frontcourt during the last couple seasons and Jonathan Isaac‘s return to health. The team also rebuffed trade offers for Wendell Carter at February’s deadline, Fischer adds, which indicates he’s part of the plans going forward.

The Pistons are another team with cap room that has been frequently linked to Hartenstein over the years, per Fischer, but it’s unclear whether new head of basketball operations Trajan Langdon will share that interest or whether Detroit will be in the market for a center this summer.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • Addressing Claxton’s free agency, Fischer says that NBA personnel have “long prepared” for the 25-year-old to remain with the Nets. If the two sides are able to reach an agreement between the end of the Finals and the start of free agency, it would improve Hartenstein’s leverage on the open market.
  • Pelicans big man Jonas Valanciunas is another starting-caliber center on track for unrestricted free agency this offseason, but league executives don’t anticipate a huge payday for the Lithuanian, forecasting a deal in the range of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (approximately $12.9MM), Fischer writes.
  • The Cavaliers don’t seem motivated to listen to trade inquiries on any of their core four of Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, and Evan Mobley, sources tell Fischer. It’s unclear if that will change later in the offseason — if Mitchell signs an extension to remain in Cleveland, it’s possible that Garland would seek a change of scenery. For what it’s worth, head of basketball operations Koby Altman has stated publicly that he doesn’t anticipate making “sweeping changes” to the roster in the coming months.

Western Notes: Murray, Young, Conley, James, Spurs

The Pelicans are expected to explore the trade market for high-scoring forward Brandon Ingram this offseason and might find a trading partner in the Hawks. New Orleans had discussions with Atlanta prior to the February trade deadline and could reengage this summer, with the Hawks reportedly considering breaking up their backcourt.

If the two sides do talk, the Pelicans will likely be focusing on one guard more than the other. New Orleans seems to have more interest in Dejounte Murray than Trae Young, according to Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. That’s because the taller Murray is considered a stronger defender and he’s on a cheaper contract. Murray’s four-year, $114MM extension kicks in next season, whereas Young still has three years left on his five-year, maximum-salary extension.

The Pelicans could also be involved with the Cavaliers’ Darius Garland, who could return to his previous status as lead guard on a team like New Orleans after playing alongside Donovan Mitchell for two seasons.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • With his team facing elimination on Tuesday, Timberwolves guard Mike Conley is listed as questionable with a right soleus strain, the team’s PR department tweets. Conley had 16 points and four assists in 31 minutes in Game 3 on Sunday.
  • LeBron James is very likely to re-sign with the Lakers, Brian Windhorst said on ESPN’s Get Up program (video link). “The Sixers are a threat, but I don’t think a serious threat,” Windhorst said of the contender with the most money to spend this summer. Windhorst added he expects Philadelphia to make a run at James, who can opt out of his contract this summer.
  • The Spurs should be open to doing pretty much anything to build around Victor Wembanyama, according to The Athletic Mike Monroe, who doesn’t view any other player on the roster as an untouchable. In Monroe’s estimation, nobody should be surprised if the number of new players on San Antonio’s roster on opening night outnumbers the returning players from the 2023/24 roster.

Cavs Notes: Mitchell, Garland, Morris, Bickerstaff, Nori

After previously reporting for The Athletic that people around the league expect Donovan Mitchell to sign an extension with the Cavaliers, Shams Charania reiterated on Thursday that Cleveland is optimistic about that outcome (Twitter video link via FanDuel’s Run It Back Show). That aligns with what president of basketball operations Koby Altman said on Friday about the star guard.

That same report also stated that if Mitchell inks an extension, Darius Garland‘s agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, “would have a conversation with Cavs officials on potentially finding a new home for the one-time All-Star.”

In an interview with Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report, Paul didn’t exactly refute that rumor.

As of now, there’s nothing to discuss on that,” Paul said as part of a larger quote. “My job is to evaluate every situation for every guy that we as a company represent. I’m a representative of players, and I help advise them on business decisions. It’s a lot more to it than just negotiating a contract after four years. Some guys choose to do that and only focus on that. I’m different. I try to look at everything.

You try to position guys a certain way to continue to have value. … And so these guys have to make sure they understand that having the talent they have, and the production, allows them to maintain value.”

When asked about potentially splitting up the backcourt tandem, Altman said, “I don’t see why we should” (Twitter link via Danny Cunningham of Cleveland Magazine).

Here’s more on the Cavs:

  • Veteran forward Marcus Morris was only with the Cavaliers for about two months, but he admits he saw signs of disconnect between the team and J.B. Bickerstaff, he said on Run It Back (Twitter video links). Bickerstaff was fired on Thursday after leading the Cavs to the second round of the playoffs. The 34-year-old unrestricted free agent also said he expects Mitchell to stay with the Cavs. “I think Cleveland is a great place for (Mitchell)…I would be highly surprised if he left.”
  • Jason Lloyd of The Athletic argues that Bickerstaff deserved to stay on the job for another season, writing that the 45-year-old “consistently had his players’ backs, even when they didn’t have his.” Lloyd also contends that Altman didn’t want to fire Bickerstaff but felt forced to due to Mitchell’s contract situation — the five-time All-Star was one of the players who reportedly questioned the coach’s “tactics and strategies.”
  • Appearing on NBA Today (YouTube link), ESPN’s Brian Windhorst agreed with Lloyd about Altman’s decision, pointing out that there’s an “extreme closeness” between the Bickerstaff family and Altman. J.B.’s father Bernie Bickerstaff has been a longtime advisor to the Cavs and Altman.
  • According to Windhorst, Timberwolves assistant Micah Nori is a potential name to watch in the Cavaliers’ coaching search. The Cavs’ vacancy may be more attractive than normal due the strength of the Western Conference and perceived weakness of the East — Windhorst has heard player agents are trying to steer their clients to the East too.
  • In an Insider-only story, ESPN’s Bobby Marks outlines the options Mitchell and the Cavs will have this offseason. Marks also explores hypothetical trades from teams that would have interest in Mitchell if he becomes available.

Cavs’ Altman: “I Don’t See Sweeping Changes” In Offseason

Speaking to the media on Friday, Cavaliers president of basketball operations Koby Altman discussed the team’s dismissal of J.B. Bickerstaff, the process of hiring a new head coach, and Donovan Mitchell‘s future, among other topics.

While rumors have circulated that the Cavs may explore shaking up their core four of Mitchell, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, Altman says he doesn’t envision major changes on the horizon, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscription required).

I don’t see big major sweeping changes. I just don’t,” Altman said. “Like I said, more data speaks to [how] this works than it doesn’t. You can’t win 99 games over the regular season, make it to a conference semis and be like, ‘This doesn’t work.’ Again, this is just year two of this iteration of this core being together and I have a lot of excitement for the future for this group and belief in this group. The other piece that the outside doesn’t see is you meet with every player and they have a really strong belief in the core of the group and their fellow teammates. They think they can win here. There’s a lot of camaraderie and belief and they like each other and so it’s hard for me to glean anything other than how do we pour more into the group that we have?

Sure, there’s some moves you can make around the periphery, but what are the levers we can pull? What can we tighten up? Where’s our upside? Where’s the low hanging fruit in-house to elevate this thing? … There’s a lot more in-house than I need to find out outside of this building. There’s a lot of belief in our players and each other in this organization, and so I don’t see the need to make sweeping changes.”

Here’s more from Altman’s media session:

  • While Atlman praised Bickerstaff and called it a “tremendously difficult decision” to fire him, he said the team needs a new leader to take it where it wants to go. “Someone with a new approach, someone with a different voice, a fresh set of eyes to help us move forward,” Altman said, per Tom Withers of The Associated Press. “We’ve accomplished a lot in the last few years, getting to a conference semifinal, and we don’t want to be complacent. … We feel we’re not far off.”
  • According to Withers, Altman said he hasn’t compiled a list of coaching candidates yet, and the front office won’t begin that process until next week. However, he did say the new coach would have to meet “very highly specific” criteria. Altman added that the search could last over a month, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. We’d love to have a coach in place for the draft,” he said. “I think that’d probably be too aggressive a timeline. It’s when we come up with the right decision…and if it has to drag on a little longer, it does.”
  • Altman said owner Dan Gilbert could end up having a “big influence” on whichever coach gets hired, but he won’t be involved in the process until the front office has compiled its list of finalists, per Fedor.
  • Regarding Mitchell, who will be eligible for a four-year extension this summer, Altman said his exit meeting with the star guard left him feeling encouraged, according to Fedor. “I’ll say that my exit interview with him was really good in that he was talking about the future and how excited he was about the team, the organization,” Altman said. “This is a player that has had two of the best years of his career here, has had a lot of success here, understands the infrastructure. I think he has a lot of trust in what we’re doing and understands that our goal is to win a championship. … From his own words, he says he’s happy here. He likes it here. He’s always been very genuine. He’s always been very intentional. He’s been a great teammate. We have to take all that at face value and say, ‘OK, we feel good about where we are with Donovan.’ Obviously, things could change. In terms of his contract future, it’s nothing we can talk about until July.”

Central Notes: Bulls, Donovan, Allen, Middleton

This year’s All-NBA voting offered another reminder of the depressing state the Bulls find themselves in, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. DeMar DeRozan, who received one third-team vote, was the only Bulls player mentioned on any of the 99 ballots. That comes after not having an All-Star and missing the playoffs for the second straight season.

Executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas promised changes following last month’s loss in the play-in tournament. The front office will reportedly scour the trade market in another attempt to find a taker for Zach LaVine, but Johnson notes that there were more rumors about LaVine at the 2023 draft combine than this year’s version.

If nobody is willing to take on the $139MM that LaVine is owed over the next three seasons, Johnson sees sign-and-trades involving DeRozan and fellow free agent Patrick Williams as the best chances for immediate improvement, along with a potential Lonzo Ball comeback. However, Karnisovas has already stated that he hopes to re-sign both DeRozan and Williams this summer.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The recent addition of former Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. to Billy Donovan‘s staff doesn’t mean the Bulls‘ coach is in danger of losing his job, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Cowley states that Donovan is “as safe as he has been since the day he was hired,” noting that Karnisovas expressed support for him after the season ended.
  • The Cavaliers may give serious consideration to breaking up their big-man tandem of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen this summer, suggests Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscriber only). The team has believed Mobley would eventually develop into a full-time center since he was drafted in 2021, according to Fedor, who adds that the two big men often appear to be in each other’s way on offense. Fedor believes the Cavs might be ready to part with Allen and maybe Donovan Mitchell or Darius Garland for an upgrade at the wing.
  • The Bucks only got minimal financial benefit from Khris Middleton missing out on a combined $2.1MM in bonuses tied to games played and the team’s success in the playoffs, Jim Owczarski of the Journal Sentinel states in a mailbag column. Milwaukee will have a slightly lower tax bill, but all bonuses count in determining the new salary aprons, even if they’re not earned, so the Bucks still project as a second apron team for next season.

Central Notes: Pacers, Allen, Mitchell, Garland, Grimes

Sunday afternoon will mark the first experience with a Game 7 for most of the Pacers‘ roster, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Indiana extended the series with a convincing win in front of a home crowd Friday night, but a much different atmosphere will await the team at Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks have won all three matchups.

“It’s the ultimate game,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s a great opportunity. … This team has been through a lot of new experiences over the last 3 1/2 weeks and this will be another new one. We’ll do everything possible to get them ready. In Game 7s, it comes down to compete level and how well you’re tied together.”

Dopirak notes that Pascal Siakam and T.J. McConnell faced each other in a Game 7 in 2019 when Toronto topped Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Myles Turner and James Johnson also have Game 7 experience, as does Aaron Nesmith, but he only played two total minutes in a pair of seventh games with Boston.

“The team that exerts the most energy and plays to exhaustion comes out on top and it’s win or go home,” McConnell said. “It’s something that I feel like every player plays for, a Game 7. Excited for the opportunity, but we have to be more dialed in than any of have ever been before. … If you’re not playing to exhaustion in this next game, why even go?”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers may explore trade opportunities involving center Jarrett Allen this offseason, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst stated on his Hoop Collective podcast (YouTube link). “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.”
  • On his latest Lowe Post podcast (YouTube link), ESPN’s Zach Lowe speculates that the Pelicans could be among the teams with interest in Mitchell and that the Spurs might pursue Darius Garland if the Cavaliers decide to break up their backcourt. “I will be surprised if Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland are both on the Cavaliers next season,” Lowe said. Which guard is more likely to land on the trade block will depend on whether or not Mitchell agrees to an extension.
  • A sprained knee limited Quentin Grimes to six games after the Pistons acquired him from New York at the trade deadline, but he should enter training camp with a chance to earn significant playing time, according to Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Grimes is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer.

Central Notes: Garland, Pistons Draft, Haliburton, Pacers

It might make more sense from a cost perspective for a team seeking a point guard to acquire Cavaliers guard Darius Garland rather than Hawks guard Trae Young if both become available this offseason. Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer says some teams are giving off the impression they’ll lean toward Garland in the event that both players end up on the trade block (Apple Podcasts link).

As has been widely reported this week, the Cavaliers may be forced to decide between Garland and Donovan Mitchell to keep long-term. If an extension is reached with Mitchell this offseason, Garland could be on the way out. The Hawks, meanwhile, are expected to seriously consider breaking up their backcourt of Young and Dejounte Murray.

Even though Young has been more productive in Atlanta than Garland has in Cleveland, teams may prefer Garland based on what they’d have to give up to acquire him, as well as his contract situation. Garland averaged 18.0 points and 6.5 assists per game, while Young averaged 25.7 points and 10.8 assists this season. Garland is under contract through 2027/28, whereas Young’s contract runs through at least ’25/26 with an early termination option for ’26/27.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • While James L. Edwards III of The Athletic believes the Pistons should trade their first round pick in this year’s draft, there should still be some intriguing options available when Detroit picks at No. 5. Stephon Castle, Alexandre Sarr, Donovan Clingan, Dalton Knecht and Reed Sheppard top Edwards’ list of desired prospects after the NBA Combine, though it’s likely one or more of those players are gone by the time Detroit picks.
  • The Pistons trading their No. 5 pick might make more sense as the team wants to get better and not necessarily younger, Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press writes. The Pistons’ record has gotten worse in recent years as they’ve added more young first-rounders to their core, and pursuing veterans via the trade market might help Detroit improve sooner rather than later.
  • Tyrese Haliburton is under more scrutiny as he takes the Pacers deeper into the playoffs, but he’s always longed for the kind of pressure he’s feeling before Sunday’s Game 7, according to James Boyd of The Athletic. “He’s changed things for the better for this franchise and for this city,” teammate T.J. McConnell said. “When you got a guy, who’s your franchise guy, that really gets people involved … it’s easy for everyone to rally around a guy like that.
  • The Pacers responded well to harsh criticism from coach Rick Carlisle, who was upset by the team’s lack of aggression in Game 5, according to The Athletic’s Eric Nehm. On Friday, the Pacers upped their intensity and came away with a big win. Every player is anticipating a tight Game 7 on Sunday. “I expect probably the most unbelievable environment I’ve ever played an NBA game,” Haliburton said. “I think we’re all excited to go. There’s going to be a lot of energy in the building, from them and from us. And I think just weathering our emotions as much as we can.

“Growing Sentiment” Mitchell Will Sign Extension With Cavs

While there are reportedly teams waiting to make trade offers for him if he decides not to sign, there is a “growing sentiment” around the NBA that Donovan Mitchell will wind up inking a maximum-salary extension with the Cavaliers this offseason, according to Shams Charania, Joe Vardon and Jason Lloyd of The Athletic.

A four-year extension for Mitchell is projected to be worth $200MM+. A new deal would require Mitchell to decline his $37.1MM player option for 2025/26.

A five-time All-Star, Mitchell played at an All-NBA level again in his second season with Cleveland, averaging 26.6 PPG and career highs of 5.1 RPG, 6.1 APG and 1.8 SPG. However, the 27-year-old was limited to 55 games, largely due to a left knee injury, and is thus ineligible for an All-NBA nod.

Even if he had made an All-NBA team, Mitchell would have been ineligible for a super-max extension, since he was traded from Utah to Cleveland two years after signing his rookie scale extension.

Mitchell signing a new long-term deal with the Cavs after they gave up a major haul of assets to acquire him two years ago is theoretically a major positive for the organization. However, sources tell The Athletic that if Mitchell re-ups with Cleveland, Darius Garland‘s agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, “would have a conversation with Cavs officials on potentially finding a new home for the one-time All-Star.”

The fit of Garland and Mitchell, two diminutive guards who are at their best with the ball in their hands, has long been a question mark. The same is true of the big man pairing of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen.

According to The Athletic’s trio, Wasserman, which represents Mobley, tried to convince Cleveland not to draft him a few years ago — the agency wanted him to land with the Thunder, who unsuccessfully tried to trade for Cleveland’s (at the time) No. 3 overall pick. The Cavs ignored that ploy, and have maintained a “healthy and positive” relationship with Mobley and his representatives since then.

Mobley, 22, is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer. He finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting in ’22/23.

As for Allen, the former All-Star is coming off a strong season and is on a very reasonable contract ($40MM over the next two seasons). But the rib contusion that sidelined him for the team’s final eight playoff games reportedly “caused frustration toward him in at least some corners of the organization with teammates and staff members who felt he could have done more” to attempt to suit up — according to The Athletic, Allen “refused an injection to try and numb the pain to play.”