Evan Mobley

And-Ones: Team USA, Prospects, Load Management, Porter

It was reported earlier this week that LeBron James was recruiting stars for the 2024 Olympics, with several players planning on joining the NBA’s all-time leading scorer in Paris.

Kevin Pelton of ESPN (Insider link) recently crafted a 12-man roster for Team USA next summer by following three criteria: An ideal team, not necessarily the best individuals; prior success with USA Basketball; and young players who can continue with the national team in the future.

Pelton’s starting five features Stephen Curry, Devin Booker, James, Kevin Durant and Joel Embiid, with Tyrese Haliburton, Anthony Edwards, Mikal Bridges, Jayson Tatum, Anthony Davis, Bam Adebayo and Evan Mobley coming off the bench. Donovan Mitchell was “perhaps the single toughest cut” from Pelton’s ideal roster.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • John Hollinger of The Athletic attended the G League Fall Invitational between G League Ignite and the Perth Wildcats to scout prospects for the 2024 NBA draft and beyond. While next year’s class isn’t considered particularly strong, Hollinger writes that several players stood out at the event, including Ron Holland, Alexandre Sarr and Izan Almansa. Ignite forward Tyler Smith was another standout who may have moved up draft boards, according to Hollinger, who notes that Perth guard Ben Henshall will be closely monitored going forward as well, perhaps for 2025 or 2026.
  • NBA commissioner Adam Silver has a difficult balancing act when it comes to star players resting, with fans, revenue, and player health among the key factors to consider. But the new player participation policy is a step in the right direction, contends Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Having more stars on the court should make for a more compelling regular season, and Silver said at his press conference he had been weighing the advice of retired players, Goodwill notes. “You know, a lot of older players — by that I mean now, at this point, retired players — when I first came in the league, used to believe that they were more likely to get injured if they took nights off, that they would get out of rhythm,” he said. “In some cases, maybe (they) played fewer minutes, but they played. That’s something we want to look at as well.”
  • Kevin Porter Jr. was arrested this week on felony charges of assault and strangulation, but he’s far from the first NBA player to be accused of domestic violence. If the horrific allegations are proven true, Porter’s career in the league could be over, considering his history of off-court incidents. Chris Herring of Sports Illustrated believes the NBA should have a zero-tolerance policy for violence against women, though he concedes it would be a challenging rule to implement and would likely take several years. According to Herring, since salaries are rising across the board, players should be held to “extremely high behavioral standards.”

Stein’s Latest: Bahamas, Gordon, Thompson, Jones, Giannis

The Bahamas just had its most successful international run ever, winning a pre-qualifying tournament — and eliminating Argentina in the process — to have a shot at making next summer’s Olympics if the national team can win another six-team tournament.

FIBA drew some criticism for allowing veteran guard Eric Gordon to compete with the Bahamas, as he previously played for Team USA at the 2010 World Cup. However, as Marc Stein writes at Substack, Gordon does have a legitimate tie to the Bahamas — his mother was born and raised in the island nation, and the U.S. granted him permission to switch allegiances, likely due to his advanced age (he’s 34).

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Stein hears the Bahamian national team isn’t finished recruiting NBA players, with Evan Mobley, Isaiah Mobley and Naz Reid all eligible to represent the country. Stein also wonders if the team will recruit Klay Thompson, whose father, former top overall pick Mychal Thompson, is from the Bahamas.
  • Like Gordon, Klay Thompson would have to become a naturalized citizen in order to compete for the Bahamian team, and only one such slot is available in FIBA events. Thompson has already won a pair of gold medals with Team USA. His father neither confirmed nor denied that his son might attempt to compete for the Bahamas in the future, simply telling Stein, “We’ll see.”
  • Derrick Jones Jr. considered signing with the Heat in free agency, league sources tell Stein. The veteran forward, who played two-plus seasons in Miami, instead signed a one year, minimum-salary deal with the Mavericks.
  • The Lakers and Knicks are among the teams that may intrigue Giannis Antetokounmpo if he were to leave the Bucks in the future, according to Stein. The two-time MVP recently expressed a desire to keep winning championships, wherever that may take him. Antetokounmpo can become a free agent in 2025.

Cavs’ Bickerstaff Talks Strus, Niang, Mitchell, More

Cleveland’s 51-31 record in 2022/23 was the best mark for a Cavaliers team without LeBron James since 1992/93 and resulted in the franchise’s first playoff berth since James’ most recent departure in 2018. Unfortunately for the Cavs, their postseason run was short-lived, as the Knicks quickly dispatched them in a one-sided first-round series.

Speaking to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, head coach J.B. Bickerstaff admitted that the playoff loss “took some time to process.” But now that he’s a few months removed from it, Bickerstaff is more willing to focus on the Cavaliers’ regular season success and to find silver linings in their early postseason exit.

“I think when you sit back, look at the regular season – and I think the regular season was a test that was passed – and then you get to the playoffs where things ramp up a notch, it was the greatest learning experience our guys could have had, that I could have had,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s the opportunity to be in a position you have never been in before and a responsibility that you’ve never had before. Nothing worth having has ever come easy to anybody.

“At the end of the day, you sit back and look at it and the season was successful. The experience our young guys gained in the playoffs is only going to make them better. That’s the reality of it. We get caught up in the emotion of it all in the moment because we are all so competitive. But in reality, we’re not above the process either. There are steps that just can’t be skipped.”

As Bickerstaff notes, many of the Cavaliers’ core players – such as Evan Mobley and Darius Garland – are still young and were experiencing a playoff environment for the first time. He believes they learned important lessons during that five-game series and will benefit from the experience going forward.

Here are a few more highlights from Fedor’s interview with Bickerstaff:

On how adding Max Strus and Georges Niang as free agents will impact the Cavaliers’ playing style in 2023/24:

“I don’t want to give away too much. But the spacing on the floor becomes different. The attention that goes to those two guys because of Georges’ career 40% 3-point shooting and Max Strus’ ability to make shots off the move, defenses have to make different decisions now than they had to last year. Those are different dynamics that we added.

“Our offense can improve and be more dynamic and difficult to guard — even though we were a top-10 offense in the regular season. You learn from the playoffs about how to become more difficult to guard in that setting. I think there is a more dynamic nature that we can have offensively. Those are things I’m studying now and we will implement this coming season.”

On Donovan Mitchell‘s potential long-term future in Cleveland:

“He was with us in Las Vegas and stayed longer than most. He worked out with the guys and went to dinners. … There were conversations we had with him during free agency about trying to get the people we needed in here. There were conversations he had with the guys we were able to bring in.

“All those things tell you that Donovan is all in. If a guy is not attentive to free agency and how we are going to get better as a team, if he is not attentive to his teammates over the summer, if he is not attentive to working on the individual things that may make him uncomfortable but also are best for the team moving forward, to me that would be a guy who is not engaged. I have seen the opposite. I have seen a guy who is all in.”

On whether he’s feeling pressure to live up to increased expectations in 2023/24:

“Pressure from what? I think the funny thing for us coaches when it comes to pressure is you want to have a good team and you want expectations. If you have a team with no expectations, as a coach, competitor, and player, that is ultimately not the job you’re looking for. The word pressure is kind of comical, to be honest with you, because you have a good team and that’s what you want.

“… Pressure isn’t a word that coaches really think about because it’s our job to continue to get better. I think we have done that here. From where we started with this team to where we are now, there is no way to say we haven’t done the job building this the right way. Look at the environment. Look at individual development. Look at team development. There are no holes. Our job is to continue to do what we’ve already done but also continue to get better. That’s what we want.”

Suns, Jazz, Mavericks Join Pursuit Of Tobias Harris

The Sixers‘ options for a potential Tobias Harris trade are growing, but they seem more inclined to keep him, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Pompey hears that the Suns, Jazz and Mavericks have expressed interest in acquiring the veteran forward, joining the Cavaliers, Pacers and Pistons, who Pompey mentioned as possible trade partners prior to the draft.

A source tells Pompey that Phoenix views Harris as an ideal complement to its new Big Three of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. The Suns are hoping to get a deal done before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement takes effect on July 1 to avoid restrictions involving the second tax apron.

The main impediment to a deal with Phoenix is that the Sixers would have to take Deandre Ayton in return, Pompey adds. Philadelphia doesn’t have any use for another center with Joel Embiid on the roster, especially with Ayton owed $102MM over the next three years.

The Sixers wouldn’t be interested in any other trade package the Suns could offer, according to Pompey. His source says Phoenix wants to add a third team to facilitate the deal, but Philadelphia hasn’t been willing to pursue that option.

The Pacers made overtures about Harris during Thursday’s draft, but sources tell Pompey they don’t have enough assets to make a deal work. Pompey is skeptical that Indiana can change that in light of Harris’ $39.2MM salary for the upcoming season.

Pompey also hears that Sixers management is overvaluing Harris in trade talks and asking for outrageous compensation in return. A source tells him that when the Cavaliers inquired about Harris, Philadelphia responded by asking for Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and a draft pick. A source told Pompey that Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey “isn’t negotiating in good faith.”

Philadelphia appears determined to keep Harris, Pompey adds, knowing that more trade opportunities will arise before the deadline in February. A source told Pompey that Nick Nurse is looking forward to coaching Harris and plans to give him a larger role in the offense than Doc Rivers did.

Central Notes: Bulls, Pistons Pick, Weaver, Mobley

After finishing outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, the Bulls face some major decisions with the pricier players on their roster, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic writes in a new mailbag.

Mayberry believes Chicago may look to finally dismantle its roster following two trade deadlines and one offseason of extreme inactivity. Veteran center Nikola Vucevic is an unrestricted free agent this summer, while 33-year-old small forward DeMar DeRozan will become extension-eligible during the offseason.

There are a variety of approaches the Bulls could take in dealing with long-injured point guard Lonzo Ball, still not back after undergoing three major knee surgeries. Ball has two years and $41.8MM remaining on his deal with Chicago, and it already appears possible he will miss most or all of 2023/24.

The futures of Bulls role players Andre Drummond and Coby White are also addressed in the piece.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • After winding up with the fifth pick in this year’s draft, the rebuilding Pistons could opt to venture in a variety of directions, including a possible trade of the asset. James Edwards III of The Athletic unpacks some possible prospects Detroit could target if it retains the pick. Mike Curtis of The Detroit News (subscription required) examines some other potential draft options for the Pistons.
  • Pistons general manager Troy Weaver is putting an optimistic spin on a disappointing result, Curtis writes in a separate piece (subscription required). Detroit entered this year’s draft lottery with the best chance (14%) of nabbing the top pick and a potential generational talent in projected top selection Victor Wembanyama this year. “I wasn’t going in expecting the No. 1 pick,” Weaver said. “I don’t believe in luck and chance. If we landed there, we would’ve been excited, but we’re prepared to move forward. It’s not (No. 1) or bust.” Detroit last had the No. 1 pick in 2021, which it used on point guard Cade Cunningham.
  • For the Cavaliers to take a leap into meaningful playoff contention, power forward Evan Mobley needs to continue to develop, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

NBA Announces 2022/23 All-Defensive Teams

The NBA has officially announced its All-Defensive teams for the 2022/23 season.

A total of 100 media members vote on the All-Defensive awards, with players receiving two points for a First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote. This year’s All-Defensive teams are as follows:

First Team

Second Team

Unsurprisingly, Jackson – who was this season’s Defensive Player of the Year – received the most First Team votes (96) and showed up on the most overall ballots (99). Only one voter didn’t have Jackson on either All-Defensive team.

Milwaukee teammates Holiday (94) and Lopez (85) received the second- and third-most First Team votes. No other player earned more than 50.

While the Bucks have two players on the First Team, it’s a bit surprising to see former DPOY Giannis Antetokounmpo miss out altogether. Antetokounmpo earned 16 First Team votes and 28 Second Team votes for a total of 60 points, the most of any player who didn’t earn All-Defensive honors. Although he received more total points than Brooks or Adebayo, Giannis didn’t make the cut because there were four forwards with more points than him.

Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels (40 points), Celtics guard Marcus Smart (35), Nets guard Mikal Bridges (33), and Nets center Nic Claxton (25) would have joined Antetokounmpo on a hypothetical All-Defensive Third Team as the highest vote-getters who fell just short.

A total of 38 players showed up on at least one ballot — the full voting results can be viewed here.

Being named to an All-Defensive team will benefit a pair of players financially, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter). White earned a $250K bonus for his Second Team nod, while Holiday will receive $129,600 for making the First Team.

Cavaliers Won’t Consider Replacing J.B. Bickerstaff

The Cavaliers‘ moves this summer won’t include a coaching change, writes Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. Speaking to reporters on Friday, president of basketball operations Koby Altman quashed any rumors that the team might consider replacing head coach J.B. Bickerstaff following a first-round playoff exit.

“Yes. Absolutely,” Altman replied when asked if the organization remains committed to Bickerstaff. “There’s no question about that. I mean, look what he’s accomplished. It’s actually funny, I’ve not heard that, maybe because I haven’t been reading or not on Twitter, but I’ve not heard that noise. So that’s not even a question. […] End that speculation.”

Bickerstaff led the Cavaliers to a fourth-place finish in the East, and their 51 wins were the most since LeBron James left for Los Angeles in 2018. Altman said he worked with Bickerstaff on exit interviews this week, giving advice to players on how to improve during the offseason. He also credited Bickerstaff with building a culture in the post-LeBron era.

“You can’t fluke your way into 51 wins,” Altman said. “You can’t fluke your way into the No. 1 defensive rating in the NBA. That’s coaching. I know we have great defensive personnel, but you have to have buy-in from them, and that comes from the head coach. And so we’re extremely happy with J.B. and the job he’s done.”

Altman addressed several other topics in his session with the media:

  • The Cavaliers won’t panic after their short playoff run, and Altman said fans shouldn’t expect “sweeping changes” this summer, Russo adds. Many of the team’s rotation players were in the playoffs for the first time, and Altman believes the organization can build on that experience. “I also think the strength of our roster is the fact that we’re positioned really well for the future with the guys that are most important under contract,” he said. “… We have to look at what’s the piece that we really want to improve and enhance and then use the vehicle that we have to go do that.”
  • Re-signing free agent forward Caris LeVert will be an offseason priority, Altman said. Russo notes that LeVert’s role with the team changed after Donovan Mitchell was acquired last summer, and he evolved into a sixth man and secondary playmaker as the season progressed. “He’s a big part of our attack,” Altman said, “and it’s a big reason why, at the deadline, I didn’t do anything because he was a big part of what we were doing and I didn’t want to lose that. So we’d be fortunate to have him back.”
  • Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley were outplayed during the Knicks’ series, but there’s no thought of splitting up the big man duo, Altman adds. Allen is signed for three more years at $20MM annually, and Mobley is still on his rookie contract. “When you have the level of success that you’ve had with those two, it’s really hard to say, ‘Oh let’s just break them up based off one playoff series,’” Altman stated.

Jaren Jackson Jr. Named Defensive Player Of Year

Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. has been named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, the NBA on TNT tweets. Jackson received 56 of the 100 first-place votes, according to an NBA press release.

The Bucks’ Brook Lopez and Cavaliers’ Evan Mobley were the other finalists. Lopez was the runner-up, notching 31 first-place votes while Mobley received eight. Draymond Green (3) and Bam Adebayo (1) also received first-place votes and finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Joel Embiid claimed the final first-place vote, though the Sixers star finished ninth overall, behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, OG Anunoby, and Jrue Holiday. Nic Claxton, Alex Caruso, and Jimmy Butler also appeared on at least one ballot.

Jackson led the NBA in blocks per game (3.0) and also averaged one steal in 63 regular-season appearances for the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed. He had a career-best 2.0 Defensive Box Plus/Minus rating and a 3.8 Defensive Win Shares rating, ranking him among the top 10 in the league in both categories.

Lopez averaged a career-high 2.5 blocks while serving as the defensive anchor for the Eastern Conference’s top seed. His total of 193 blocks in 78 games led the league during the regular season.

Mobley averaged 1.5 blocks per game and, along with Jarrett Allen, anchored a defense that limited opponents to a NBA-low 106.9 points per game.

The Celtics’ Marcus Smart scored a rare victory for a guard when he won the award last season. Rudy Gobert won it as a member of the Jazz three of the previous four years. Antetokounmpo won it during the pandemic-shortened 2019/20 season.

Among active players, Green (2016/17 season) and Kawhi Leonard (2014/15 and 2015/16) have also earned the honor.

Cavaliers Notes: Mitchell, Allen, Mobley, Playoff Test, Green

The stink of last year’s 4-2 first-round postseason Jazz loss to the Mavericks lingers with All-Star Cavaliers shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

Now, Mitchell is looking to prove himself anew with Cleveland during its first-round matchup against the Knicks. The 6’1″ swingman spent his boyhood as a Knicks fan in Elmsford, New York.

“I’ve felt that way the whole year. That’s just been kind of my M.O. throughout my career — trying to prove my caliber of play,” Mitchell said ahead of the two teams’ first playoff meeting this weekend.

“I know who I am and these guys know who I am and what I’m capable of and I just go out there and be leader,” Mitchell continued. “This is a team game and we’re not going to win if I just tried to shoot every single time. Got to do this as a group collectively. That’s what got us to this point. Just continue to do that.”

There’s more out of Cleveland:

  • The Rockets played an outsized role in helping build the Cavaliers’ current starting frontcourt of center Jarrett Allen and power forward Evan Mobley, as Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports details. When trying to accommodate star guard James Harden‘s 2021 trade demand, Houston preferred to acquire a first-round pick instead of Allen, who was slipped to the Cavs. In that summer’s draft, the Rockets selected Jalen Green with the No. 2 pick, clearing the way for Cleveland to grab Mobley with the third pick.
  • In their first game hosting the fifth-seeded Knicks Saturday, the Cavaliers couldn’t close out New York and fell 101-97 at home. Fedor writes in a separate piece that Cleveland failed to effectively respond to a late Knicks rally, and that New York’s advantages in offensive rebounding and second-chance points helped put the Knicks in the driver’s seat.
  • The Cavaliers need to explore whether veteran marksman Danny Green can still contribute some of his signature playoff shot-making, opines Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. The three-time champ may not be the same defender he was in his prime, but the 36-year-old can still help Cleveland in one very critical area: corner triples. Cavs swingmen Isaac Okoro and Caris LeVert, ahead of Green in the team’s rotation, combined to go a lackluster 0-of-7 from deep.

NBA Announces 2022/23 Award Finalists

The NBA announced its finalists for all the major 2022/23 regular season awards on Friday evening (all Twitter links can be found here).

Here is the full list of finalists for each of the awards, listed in alphabetical order:

Most Valuable Player

Defensive Player of the Year

Rookie of the Year

Most Improved Player

Sixth Man of the Year

Coach of the Year

Clutch Player of the Year

TNT will begin announcing the winners next week during its coverage of the 2023 playoffs, according to the NBA. The three finalists for each award are based on voting results from a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.

Antetokounmpo, the league’s back-to-back MVP winner in 2018/19 and ’19/20, has finished fourth and third in MVP voting over the past two seasons, respectively. He averaged a career-high 31.1 PPG along with 11.8 RPG and 5.7 APG on .553/.275/.645 shooting in 63 games (32.1 MPG) this season in leading the Bucks to the NBA’s best record at 58-24.

Embiid, the MVP runner-up in each of the past two years, led the league in scoring for the second consecutive season, posting a career-high 33.1 PPG along with 10.2 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.0 SPG and 1.7 BPG on .548/.330/.857 shooting in 66 games (34.6 MPG). The Sixers finished third in the East with a 54-28 record, though it’s worth noting that record is also the third-best mark in the league.

Jokic, the reigning back-to-back MVP, averaged 24.8 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 9.8 APG and 1.3 SPG on .632/.383/.822 shooting in 69 games (33.7. MPG). In addition to breaking Wilt Chamberlain‘s record for most assists per game by a center (8.6), Jokic led the Nuggets to the top seed in the West with a 53-29 record.

It’s long been assumed that Banchero, Brown and Fox were the runaway favorites for their respective awards. Given Embiid’s excellent play to end the season and Denver’s stumble to the finish line, it seems likely that Embiid will edge out Jokic and Antetokounmpo to win his first MVP — all three finalists are more than deserving, just as they were last year.

However, the other three awards are more up in the air. Jackson and Lopez have been considered the betting favorites for DPOY for much of the second half of the season. Mobley’s inclusion is somewhat surprising, but maybe it shouldn’t be — the Cavs finished with the league’s top defense and he is arguably the best defender on the team.