Jalen Duren

Pistons Notes: FA, Trade Targets, Draft, President, More

Appearing on the HoopsHype podcast with Michael Scotto, James L. Edwards III of The Athletic said the Pistons will likely explore the viability of pursuing Miles Bridges or Tobias Harris in free agency, though he conceded that could change depending who they hire to be the new president of basketball operations.

While he doesn’t expect Detroit to give anyone a long-term, maximum-salary deal, Edwards suggested a short-term deal with a higher annual salary could be an option if the team pursues Bridges or Harris. Edwards also thinks the Pistons will undergo a “significant roster overhaul” this offseason through a combination of trades and free agent signings, with Malik Monk another impending free agent to potentially keep an eye on.

Scotto said the Nets want to keep Nic Claxton on a long-term contract, and Brian Lewis of The New York Post recently told Scotto he believes there’s better than a 50/50 chance the center will remain with Brooklyn. However, Edwards thinks Claxton would fill a major need for Detroit as a rim protector, even though it might push Jalen Duren to a reserve role.

Edwards previously listed five ideas for the new head of basketball operations, and Scotto believes Bucks GM Jon Horst, a Michigan native, is the main name to keep an eye on.

As for the futures of GM Troy Weaver and head coach Monty Williams, Edwards said he wouldn’t be surprised if neither is back next season, particularly Weaver. Despite being on a lucrative long-term deal, Edwards placed the odds at 60/40 that Williams would not be Detroit’s head coach in 2024/25.

Here’s more on the Pistons:

  • Edwards of The Athletic predicts that, of the veteran free agents Detroit has this offseason, only Simone Fontecchio will be retained. Edwards is convinced of that happening, putting the odds at 100%. He also thinks Fontecchio will receive a four-year deal worth in the range of $56-68MM as a restricted free agent. The Italian forward has said he expects to be back next season.
  • In a mailbag for The Detroit Free Press (subscription required), Omari Sankofa II discusses the Pistons’ basketball operations hierarchy, among other topics. The objective of hiring a president of basketball operations, according to Sankofa’s sources, is to “unify a front office that has clearly hit a significant stump, to say the least, in its ongoing remake of the team.” That person would have full autonomy over who gets hired and fired, Sankofa adds.
  • If the Pistons decide to keep their first-round pick, who should they target? If it lands No. 1 overall, Edwards of The Athletic would select French big man Alexandre Sarr, who played for the Perth Wildcats of the NBL this season. However, if it were up to him, Edwards says he’d trade the pick. After finishing with the worst record in the NBA for the second straight season, Detroit has a 14% chance of landing the top selection and can do no worse than No. 5 overall.

Central Notes: Pacers, Lillard, Middleton, Bulls, Pistons

With All-NBA Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo on the shelf for tonight’s Game 1 matchup against the Pacers, the team’s second- and third-most important offensive contributors, Damian Lillard and Khris Middleton, are being expected to step up.

As Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes, Milwaukee will count on Lillard and Middleton to keep the team cooking with their distribution, not just their own shooting. Both are excellent when it comes to scoring in isolation, but the team as a collective will need to be strong, too.

“It’s the best team I’ve been on,” Lillard said. “So we’re capable. We can win games. And when we get (Antetokounmpo) back, we’ll be even better. So I think that’s that’s how I’m looking at it. I’m not looking at it like ‘Aw man. We can’t…’ We’ve shown it and I’ve been there before.”

Nehm notes that the team can go through major scoring droughts without Antetokounmpo operating as the fulcrum of the Bucks’ attack.

“We just can’t get stuck,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “When we get stuck, we have proven over years that we’re not great offensively. But when that ball is now there and we move it there and we get to the second side — or get to the second action, may be even a better way of saying that — we’ve proven that we’re really good. So we have to do that.”

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • For as long as Antetokounmpo is out in this series for the Bucks, the Pacers’ focal point on defense now becomes the team’s only other All-Star, Lillard. As Kelly Iko of The Athletic details, Indiana has already enjoyed some success in slowing him down during the regular season. In games played against the Pacers this season, Lillard’s field goal shooting declined to 32% from the floor and 26.5% from long range. “I’m not going to give away too many secrets,” guard Aaron Nesmith said of how the team defends Lillard. “They’re a very different team when we played them earlier in the year — different coaching staff, different roster a bit. There are things we’re going to do differently, but we’re excited — it’ll be fun.”
  • After missing the playoffs for a second straight season despite fielding a veteran-heavy team, Bulls team vice president Arturas Karnisovas conceded that personnel changes could be in order this summer. Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic breaks down how he thinks Chicago can begin to construct a winning team culture.
  • After a 14-68 run in 2023/24, the Pistons face a lot of questions regarding their roster this summer. Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (subscriber link) lists which players he deems most — and least — likely to return in 2024/25. Perhaps most surprisingly, he thinks 2022 lottery picks Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren could serve as intriguing trade chips for Detroit this summer. The Pistons are still looking to add a new lead executive in their front office, which obviously could dictate how the team moves forward in terms of its personnel.

Central Notes: Bucks, Middleton, Cavaliers, Donovan, Pistons

Bucks coach Doc Rivers responded to the team’s late-season swoon by holding a film session on Saturday, according to Eric Nehm and Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The meeting involved the team’s nine veteran rotation players — Giannis AntetokounmpoDamian LillardKhris MiddletonBrook Lopez, Malik Beasley, Bobby PortisPatrick Beverley, Pat Connaughton and Jae Crowder — and each of them was given the opportunity to share his perspective on the team’s recent slide and offer suggestions on how to address it.

“It’s only the start of these tough and necessary conversations,” a source told Nehm and Charania.

While the session may have cleared the air, it didn’t help Milwaukee end its slump as the Bucks fell to New York on Sunday while getting outscored 72-48 in the second half. Although they remain in second place in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks are now just one game ahead of the Magic and Knicks and a game-and-half up on the Cavaliers, as home court advantage in the first round is no longer a guarantee.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Middleton’s bad luck with injuries continued Sunday as he had to leave the game after being accidentally struck in the face by Donte DiVincenzo, Nehm and Charania add. Rivers said Middleton had to make an emergency trip to the dentist, which is why he didn’t return to the game. “You just feel bad for him. The guy can’t catch a break,” the Bucks‘ head coach said. “I mean, what are the odds you go into a game, ‘OK, tonight, it will be my tooth gets knocked out.’ He’s having one of those seasons right now, but that’s OK because it can all turn for him. I thought he came with great spirit tonight, too, so just tough luck.”
  • The Cavaliers had a disastrous end to their five-game Western swing as they let a 26-point lead slip away in Sunday’s loss to the Clippers, per Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Cleveland went 1-4 on the trip and returns home in fifth place in the East. “Just a very disappointing loss,” said Isaac Okoro, who was able to return after missing four games with pain in his big toe. “Think we all know right now we need wins. Wanted this one bad.”
  • Head coach Billy Donovan admits that the Bulls aren’t having the type of season he expected, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago is just a game ahead of Atlanta for ninth place in the battle to host next week’s play-in game between the two teams. “I certainly didn’t come here [when I was hired in 2020] to say, ‘Hey, listen, let’s be a play-in team,’” Donovan said. “When I sat down first with [executive vice president of basketball operations] Arturas [Karnisovas] and [general manager] Marc [Eversley] about this, it was to try and build something. I still feel like we’re building something, but I don’t think anyone is happy with where we’re at.’’
  • James L. Edwards of The Athletic ranks the Pistons‘ best assets heading into the offseason. Not surprisingly, Cade Cunningham tops the list, with this year’s first-round pick coming in second, followed by Ausar Thompson, Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey.

Injury Notes: Mitchell, LeBron, Clarke, Holiday, Heat, Duren

Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell, who hasn’t played since March 16 while he recovers from a nagging knee injury and a nasal fracture, is hoping to return to action as early as Friday, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). After playing in Charlotte on Wednesday, the Cavs will return home to host the Sixers on Friday.

If Mitchell isn’t able to suit up vs. Philadelphia, his next opportunity to return would be on Sunday in Denver for the start of a five-game Western Conference road trip. The Cavs will also visit Utah, Phoenix, and Los Angeles (to play both the Lakers and Clippers) on that trip before wrapping up the regular season with three home games.

Cleveland is in a battle for playoff positioning in the East and currently holds a narrow lead on New York for the No. 3 seed. At 44-28, the Cavs have a half-game cushion on the 43-28 Knicks, who would hold the tiebreaker edge if the team finish with identical records.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Lakers forward LeBron James has officially been listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game vs. Memphis (Twitter link via Jovan Buha of The Athletic). However, Dave McMenamin of ESPN, confirming previous reporting, tweets that James remains on track to be available for that contest.
  • There’s a chance that Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke will be able to make his 2023/24 debut in that game against the Lakers. Clarke, who has spent the season recovering from an Achilles tear, has been upgraded to questionable, per the team (Twitter link).
  • Celtics guard Jrue Holiday participated in practice on Wednesday after missing the team’s past five games due to a right shoulder injury, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. It’s unclear whether Holiday will be available on Thursday vs. Atlanta.
  • Providing updates on a pair of injured Heat players, Shams Charania of The Athletic said on FanDuel’s Run it Back show (Twitter video link) that Duncan Robinson (back) should return within the next week or so but that “the big worry” is Tyler Herro (foot), who still doesn’t have a return timeline. For what it’s worth, Herro replied to Charania’s report with a “cap” emoji, sarcastically adding in a follow-up tweet, “I just had a great workout , but I ain’t coming back no time soon.”
  • Pistons center Jalen Duren will return on Wednesday in Minnesota vs. the Timberwolves following a three-game absence due to back spasms, tweets Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press.

Central Notes: Morris, DeRozan, Terry, Cunningham, Duren

Cavaliers forward Marcus Morris, who is on a 10-day contract, was ejected from Monday’s win over the Hornets, according to ESPN News Services. Morris threw a high elbow that struck Charlotte center Nick Richards in the jaw.

Morris said he wanted to send a message to his new Cavaliers teammates: “There’s been a lot of grueling games and I was just wanted to toughen us up. Step in front of it like, listen this is what’s going to be expected moving forward, not just for today. Set the precedent going into the playoffs. We’re not about to have anybody coming in here and doing what they want to do. I wanted to play the game, I didn’t want to get thrown out, but I definitely wanted to put a little lick on him. I was happy the way we responded.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls lost by two points to Washington on Monday. DeMar DeRozan was angry that his team didn’t take advantage of a matchup against a depleted team playing out the string, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “All these games matter. You want to be playing good basketball towards this part of the season,” DeRozan said. “I’m pretty sure I’m going to be pissed off until we get back out on the court. We shouldn’t drop games like this right now. We’re resilient. But we can’t live on the edge every game. We gotta leave it out there these last 10 games. We can’t have no more excuses. We gotta play like your life depends on it.”
  • Bulls forward Dalen Terry has been working on his three-point shot since being drafted in the first round in 2022. However, it hasn’t shown on the court. He’s shooting 24.1% from deep this season. “I definitely believe it’s going to be a real big offseason for me, just taking care of my shot,” Terry told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times.
  • The Pistons are listing Cade Cunningham as questionable and Jalen Duren as probable for Wednesday’s game at Minnesota, James Edwards III of The Athletic tweets. Cunningham has missed the last two games due to knee soreness, while Duren has sat out three games due to back spasms.

Central Notes: Haliburton, Cunningham, Duren, Thompson, Bulls, Garland

Tyrese Haliburton‘s offensive numbers took a dive this month, in part because he was still working his way back after a hamstring injury. Pacers coach Rick Carlisle believes his star guard is rounding back into form, Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star tweets.

“He’s making constant progress,” Carlisle said. “It may not be huge leaps, but he is making progress. Big difference now between how he’s moving and how he was moving two, three weeks ago.”

It showed on Friday, as Haliburton had 26 points and 11 assists against Golden State.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • As if the Pistons didn’t have enough injury issues, Cade Cunningham sat out Sunday’s loss to New Orleans due to left knee injury management, James Edwards III of The Athletic tweets. “The medical team deemed he couldn’t play,” coach Monty Williams said. Center Jalen Duren missed his second straight contest due to back spasms, while starting forwards Ausar Thompson and Isaiah Stewart are already out for the season. Jaden Ivey was the only starter available.
  • With Pistons rookie Thompson out for the season due to a blood clot, Detroit Free Press beat writer Omari Sankofa II talks to medical experts about how the issue could impact the lottery pick’s career.
  • Defensive breakdowns have prevented the Bulls from moving up the standings, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Head coach Billy Donovan points to two major issues. “The two things that have hurt us have been the rebounding and also the fouling,” Donovan said. “Our first-shot defense has not been bad. It’s been pretty good. It’s been the second chance opportunities that have hurt us. And then also, I think, some of the fouling, the ability to go vertical and not try to reach (and foul).”
  • In a subscriber-only story, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com details Darius Garland‘s recent offensive struggles. The Cavaliers’ guard has 20 or fewer points in each of the last four games.

Central Notes: Antetokounmpo, Bucks, Pistons, LeVert

The Bucks won’t have their best player in uniform for their showdown with Eastern Conference leader Boston tonight. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been ruled out due to a hamstring injury, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Antetokounmpo also missed Sunday’s game against Phoenix. Bucks coach Doc Rivers stated earlier this week that his goal is to ensure his superstar is healthy for the postseason.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks still hold the rights to their first-round pick in this year’s draft and also owns Portland’s second-rounder. With that in mind, The Athletic’s Eric Nehm breaks down potential prospects participating in the NCAA Tournament who could be available late in the first round and early in the second.
  • The Pistons’ young core of Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Ausar Thompson, Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren have a fatal flaw that may force the front office to seriously consider whether they can succeed in the long run, James Edwards III of The Athletic opines: Detroit doesn’t have enough three-point threats within that group. Stewart has developed as a solid outside shooter but he lacks the upside of the other four building blocks. Cunningham has improved in that area but Ivey is subpar from deep and the other two aren’t three-point threats at all.
  • Caris LeVert is making a case for the Sixth Man of the Year award and Cavaliers teammate Tristan Thompson feels he needs to spread the word, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets. “Gotta start the campaign,” Thompson said. “We don’t reward teams that are in seventh place. We don’t reward guys who start. Caris LeVert for Sixth Man. For real. Start pushing it.” LeVert is averaging 14 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 56 games.

Central Notes: Middleton, Vucevic, Craig, Gibson

Bucks wing Khris Middleton, out since Feb. 6 with an ankle injury, spoke to reporters for the first time since his injury, writes Jim Owczarski of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Middleton said he couldn’t think of a worse ankle sprain he’d had than this one in terms of the pain he’s experiencing.

After it happened I tried to play, run it off a little bit, see if it was going to loosen up or whatever. Just didn’t. Didn’t feel comfortable,” Middleton said. “Went into the back, tried to get re-taped, and as soon as I took my shoe off it just blew up. So had to shut it down.

He said the process of recovery has taken longer than he’s hoped, but that he has seen improvement. He also said he wouldn’t rule out playing on Milwaukee’s road trip that ends against Sacramento on March 12. The only obstacle left before Middleton is able to return is continued swelling, according to Owczarski.

Middleton knows he needs to play soon to be able to get back to normal form in time for the postseason. He began the year on a minutes restriction and has only played three games under Doc Rivers. With only 19 games remaining in the regular season, Middleton, who is averaging 14.8 points per game this season, is eager to get back into game action.

I want to get back out there,” Middleton said. “I need to be playing. I’ve been on a minute restriction most of the year so at this point I just need to be on the court. So, I’m fighting every day that I can.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Bulls coach Billy Donovan said Nikola Vucevic has been one of the team’s best defenders over the last three years, and the numbers back that claim up, writes Joe Cowley of Chicago Sun-Times. Vucevic consistently ranks among the team leaders in defensive rating, and Donovan likes the way he can utilize the 13th-year big man. “He’s not going to be as good as [Timberwolves center] Rudy Gobert in drop, but we felt comfortable switching with him in certain situations and putting him on different guys, and he understands how to gap and move his feet,” Donovan said. “He’s a smart defender. I would say he’s played very well for us defensively.
  • Bulls forward Torrey Craig, who hasn’t played since Feb. 14 and has played just six games since Dec. 16, made his return to the lineup against the Warriors on Thursday. According to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson (Twitter link), he was on a restriction of 12-to-16 minutes.
  • The Pistons signed Taj Gibson to a 10-day deal on Wednesday after he spent time with the Knicks earlier this season. Head coach Monty Williams explained the signing, saying that he envisions Gibson helping young players like Jalen Duren (Twitter link via The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III). “I just like having another veteran guy around our team,” Williams said, per Omari Sankofa II of Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). “You look at Evan [Fournier] and how he’s had an impact on the floor and some other areas. I told the guys how you approach your career can pay dividends down the road. He’s had a 15-year-career.

Central Notes: Beverley, Lillard, Lowry, Duren, Siakam

The Bucks’ biggest trade deadline move was the acquisition of pesky guard Patrick Beverley from the Sixers. General manager Jon Horst said Beverley provides “point-of-attack defense and defensive versatility.”

“He’s proven to be able to guard multiple positions in his career. He is an impactful point-of-attack defender,” the Bucks GM said, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “He plays with a physicality and a toughness that we think will help us.”

Damian Lillard has had some tense moments with Beverley during his career but he’s glad to have him as a Bucks teammate, Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report tweets. “He brings an edge and a defensive tenacity on the perimeter that we need,” Lillard said. “There are not many players who bring it on a nightly like him. I look forward to working together. Our past personal issues don’t trump an opportunity to win a championship.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls had some interest in signing Kyle Lowry after he was bought out by Charlotte, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports, but Lowry chose to sign with the Sixers. Chicago could still sign another player via the buyout market. ‘‘If there’s someone who has an interest or [the front office feels] like it would be a good fit, they’ll bring me in and we’d probably get on the phone with the player,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. ‘‘But as of right now, nothing has moved forward in terms of any plans.”
  • The Pistons are increasingly looking to take advantage of Jalen Duren‘s passing skills, James Edwards III of The Athletic writes. Duren had a six-assist game against Sacramento during their current West Coast road trip. “When we throw it into him, it’s an opportunity for everyone to be open,” guard Jaden Ivey said. “He looks for us out on the perimeter. He’s finding guys. If he doesn’t have anything, he uses his strengths and abilities to put the ball in the basket.”
  • Pacers forward Pascal Siakam is still getting adjusted to playing with point guard Tyrese Haliburton. Siakam has been dazzled by Haliburton’s creativity, Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes. “I’ve just got to like always be ready and we’ve got to figure out rhythms. Him understanding my rhythms and me understanding also his rhythms,” Siakam said. “I definitely haven’t played with someone like him before, so I’m just learning on the fly and, and I think the more we’re out there we’ll get comfortable.”

Central Notes: Merrill, Haliburton, Bucks, Ivey, Duren

The Cavaliers have continued to fire on all cylinders with Evan Mobley and Darius Garland making their respective returns from injuries this week — they’ve won four games in a row and 12 of their last 13.

In a look at Cleveland’s hot streak, Joe Vardon of The Athletic highlights the role that sharpshooter Sam Merrill has played in the team’s recent success. The 27-year-old, who wasn’t part of the Cavaliers’ rotation earlier in the season, has made 3.4 three-pointers per game at a 43.5% clip over the club’s past 14 contests.

Merrill has a non-guaranteed minimum salary for 2024/25, so if he continues to produce for the Cavs in a part-time role, the team will certainly guarantee that money and consider it a bargain. The fourth-year wing will become eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2025.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Although Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle has confirmed that Tyrese Haliburton is on a minutes restriction following his return from a hamstring injury, Carlisle has declined to offer any details on the distribution of those minutes or explain why the star point guard hasn’t played in the fourth quarter of either of his first two games back, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. On both Tuesday in Boston and Thursday in New York, Haliburton was subbed out for good with about six minutes left in the third quarter — in each case, Indiana held a lead at some point after that, but faded down the stretch and lost the game.
  • The Bucks have made another addition to Doc Rivers‘ coaching staff, hiring Pete Dominguez as an assistant, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Dominguez previously worked under Rivers with the Clippers and Sixers.
  • Former eighth overall pick Marquese Chriss has joined the Wisconsin Herd, per an announcement from the Bucks‘ G League affiliate (Twitter link). The 26-year-old power forward last played in the NBA with Dallas in 2022.
  • The Pistons‘ two 2022 lottery picks, Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, were named to the Rising Stars event for the second straight year, but both players have higher expectations for themselves going forward, according to Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required). “The goal is still to be an All-Star one day,” Duren said. “That’s what I want to come back for.”