Jalen Williams

Northwest Notes: Holmgren, Thunder, Scott, Dunn

Thunder big man Chet Holmgren admits that spending an entire season rehabbing a foot injury was tough, as he told Sam Yip of Hoops Hype.

“Anything like that is gonna be challenging for anybody, but I feel like I’ve stayed the course really well, and I didn’t let my focus, attention to detail or confidence waver,” he said. “It was a challenging year, but I feel like I made the most out of it.”

Holmgren could battle Victor Wembanyama and the rest of the 2023 rookie class for the Rookie of the Year award, since he sat out last season. However, he’s only interested in team goals.

“My focus is on helping this team win games,” he said. Things like Rookie of the Year, and everything else are not important, so I’m just focused on helping the team. Everything else follows the team’s success.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Despite all the assets that Thunder executive Sam Presti has hoarded in recent years, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman doubts he’ll cash a bunch of them in to land a star. Mussatto believes OKC will most likely focus on retaining Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams and Holmgren on rookie scale extensions when they’re eligible, as the team did with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
  • The Timberwolves have named Ernest Scott as head coach of the Iowa Wolves, the team’s G League affiliate, according to a team press release. Nathan Bubes has been named an assistant coach for Iowa, while Michael DiBenedetto will have to dual title of assistant coach and director of operations for the G League team. Scott replaces Jeff Newton, who was previously promoted to assistant coach/quality control coach for the NBA team.
  • Kris Dunn could begin the season in the Jazz‘s starting lineup, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News opines. Todd views Dunn as Utah’s best point guard. However, with Talen Horton-Tucker, Collin Sexton and rookie Keyonte George also in the mix, head coach Will Hardy could go a number of different ways with that key position. Dunn signed a multi-year contract with the Jazz in March.

Thunder’s Williams, Holmgren Among Players Joining USA Select Team

Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren of the Thunder and Jalen Green of the Rockets are among the young players joining the USA Select Team ahead of the upcoming FIBA World Cup, league sources tell Shams Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Those three players will be eligible to travel with Team USA to the Philippines and could potentially be added to the 12-man national team roster in the event of an injury, per The Athletic.

Williams, Holmgren and Green will be joined by Pistons guard Cade Cunningham and Kings forward Keegan Murray for Team USA’s training camp in a couple of weeks, where they will practice and scrimmage against the main roster, according to Charania and Vardon. As many as 12 players could end up being named to the Select Team.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported (via Twitter) that Cunningham would attend the training camp. The 2021 No. 1 overall pick was actually offered a spot on the senior team’s roster, according to Wojnarowski, but decided to forgo the opportunity in order to focus on the 2023/24 season. Cunningham was limited to 12 games last season due to a shin injury which required surgery.

Williams, the runner-up for the ’22/23 Rookie of the Year award, is coming off a stellar first season with OKC, averaging 14.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.3 APG and 1.4 SPG on .521/.356/.812 shooting in 75 games (30.3 MPG). Holmgren, the No. 2 overall pick last year, missed the entire season due to foot surgery, but he’s healthy again and recently played during Las Vegas Summer League.

Green, the No. 2 overall pick in 2021, averaged 22.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 3.7 APG on .416/.338/.786 shooting in 76 games (34.2 MPG) for Houston last season. Murray was the fourth pick of last year’s draft. The former Iowa product averaged 12.2 PPG and 4.6 RPG while shooting 41.1% from three-point range during his All-Rookie First Team campaign.

The Americans will start training camp for the World Cup on August 3 in Las Vegas, with their first game scheduled later that month in the Philippines.

Northwest Notes: Micic, Williams, Holmgren, Wolves, Blazers’ Pick

Former EuroLeague MVP Vasilije Micic is in Oklahoma City to discuss a potential contract with the Thunder, Aris Barkas of Eurohoops.net reports. Negotiations can commence after the draft, Barkas adds.

Micic, who plays for Anadolu Efes, hired the Wasserman Media Group as his new representative in March. Micic, whose draft rights are owned by the Thunder, is a two-time Euroleague Final Four MVP. However, it’s unclear whether the Thunder would have a role for the 29-year-old guard, whose rights could be traded if he wants to make the jump to the NBA.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Coming off an excellent rookie season, Jalen Williams will play in Summer League games for the Thunder in Salt Lake City next month, Thunder reporter Rylan Stiles tweets. Ousmane Dieng will also play and it’s “very possible” Chet Holmgren, who missed all of last season with a foot injury, could participate.
  • The Timberwolves hosted six prospects in a pre-draft workout on Monday, the team tweets. They took a closer look at Tosan Evbuomwan (Princeton), Jazian Gortman (Overtime Elite), D’Moi Hodge (Missouri), Gabe Kalscheur (Iowa State), Mojave King (G League Ignite) and Jalen Slawson (Furman).
  • Rumors have been flying that the Trail Blazers will deal their lottery pick. Bill Oram of The Oregonian argues that the Blazers need to hold onto the No. 3 overall selection and choose their next star, regardless of whether Damian Lillard remains with the team or requests a trade.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Irving, Smith, Williams, Braun, Watson, Anunoby

The Nuggets’ path to the championship was a testament to perseverance and patience. They didn’t panic when they fell short in previous postseasons, nor did they feel the need to replace coach Michael Malone. They were rewarded this season but there was some measure of luck involved. ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Insider link) offers some sourced nuggets on the Nuggets, sharing details about the steps along the way to the first title in franchise history. Here are some of the highlights from Lowe’s story:

  • The Nuggets never seriously considered trading Jamal Murray as he rehabbed from his ACL injury but former executive Tim Connelly approached Malone five or six years ago to say that Murray could be moved for a high-profile veteran player or two. Kyrie Irving, who requested a trade from the Cavaliers during the 2017 offseason, was one of the players Denver considered acquiring in a Murray deal, but the team ultimately decided against pursuing Irving.
  • The Nuggets had an opportunity to move journeyman point guard Ish Smith prior to this season’s trade deadline, but coaches and players lobbied the front office to keep him. Smith didn’t play much but he proved to be a powerful influence behind the scenes, including mimicking the Heat’s playbook as part of Denver’s scout team at Finals practices.
  • General manager Calvin Booth considered trading up to the No. 10 spot — held by the Wizards — in last year’s draft with the idea of selecting Jalen Williams. The Nuggets also considered moving up later in the lottery to nab Christian Braun, even though he was projected as a late first-rounder. They got him anyway at No. 21. They were also concerned that the Warriors would take Peyton Watson with the No. 28 pick. Golden State passed on Watson and Denver grabbed him at No. 30.
  • In one of the few mistakes they made, the Nuggets traded down from No. 13 to No. 24 in the 2017 draft — the 13th pick turned out to be Donovan Mitchell. Denver had considered taking OG Anunoby at that spot but felt he was a reach at that point in the draft. Anunoby came off the board at No. 23 and the Nuggets wound up with long-forgotten Tyler Lydon with the next pick.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Knight, Williams, Wojciechowski

After Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard floated a few destinations that would hypothetically appeal to him if he were to ask for a trade, his longtime backcourt mate CJ McCollum spoke with ESPN’s Alan Hahn, Zach Lowe and Jay Williams on “Get Up” about what he considers the best future trajectory for the Portland All-Star (YouTube video link).

McCollum, now with the Pelicans, believes the Heat would have the edge if Lillard were to request a trade, but says the Nets might also be an appealing fit for his former teammate.

“I’m going to preface this by saying Dame is my guy and I know he wants to be in Portland,” McCollum said. “He’s always talking about his affinity for bringing a championship to Portland… The obvious answer here is that if something (i.e. a trade) were to occur… Miami’s in the Finals right now, right? They have great culture, they have obviously (head coach) Erik Spoelstra, they have a young core… they have a need for what he brings to the table.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Current Trail Blazers owner Jody Allen has turned down a second proposal by Nike head honcho Phil Knight and Dodgers minority owner Alan Smolinsky to purchase the team. Bill Oram of The Oregonian writes that Knight, a unique fixture in the Portland sports world, would represent a worthy successor to Allen’s late brother Paul Allen, known for his passion about the Trail Blazers and his NFL franchise, the Seattle Seahawks.
  • Thunder rookie swingman Jalen Williams intends to play in this year’s Summer League, per Daniel Bell of BSO (Twitter link). The All-Rookie First Teamer enjoyed a standout inaugural NBA season, averaging 14.1 PPG on .521/.356/.812 shooting splits, along with 4.5 RPG, 3.3 APG, and 1.4 SPG across 75 contests.
  • Former Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski is looking forward to his new pro ball opportunity, serving as the head coach of the Jazz‘s NBAGL affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars, per Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. “I’ve spent two years in Park City, and during those two years, the Jazz organization — Justin (Zanik) and Danny (Ainge) and those guys, and (former head coach Quin Snyder), who’s a good friend of mine — were very generous with allowing me to observe and watch them work,” Wojciechowski said. “I want to do a great job of creating a culture that mirrors the Jazz (on the Stars).”

NBA Announces All-Rookie Teams

Rookie of the Year winner Paolo Banchero was a unanimous choice for the 2022/23 All-Rookie First Team, the NBA announced today (via Twitter).

Players receive two points for a First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote, and Banchero received the maximum possible 200 points.

Here’s the full five-man squad, listed in order of their total points received via voters:

The All-Rookie Second Team was announced as well, with a couple of teammates headlining the group (Twitter link).

In my opinion, the most surprising omission from the All-Rookie Second Team was Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard, who received 46 points. Nembhard was actually listed on one more ballot than Eason, but Eason received two First Team votes versus Nembhard’s zero, giving him a narrow edge.

That’s not to say Eason (or anyone else) was undeserving — he had a strong season as a tenacious offensive rebounder and defender. I just thought Nembhard should have been honored because he started the majority of the season for a competitive Indiana team and was frequently tasked with guarding the opposing teams’ best player, as Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files notes (via Twitter).

According to the NBA (Twitter link), others receiving votes included Trail Blazers guard Shaedon Sharpe (36), Hawks wing AJ Griffin (26), Nuggets forward Christian Braun, Thunder center Jaylin Williams (seven), Mavericks guard Jaden Hardy (four), Spurs guard Malaki Branham (three), Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels (two), Hornets center Mark Williams (two) and Bucks wing MarJon Beauchamp (one).

In case you missed it, more NBA awards will be coming later this week. The All-Defensive teams will be announced on Tuesday, followed by All-NBA on Wednesday and the Teammate of the Year award on Thursday.

Paolo Banchero Named Rookie Of The Year

Magic forward Paolo Banchero has been named the league’s Rookie of the Year, NBA on TNT tweets.

Orlando selected Banchero with the No. 1 overall pick ahead of Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith Jr. The former Duke Blue Devil immediately made the Magic look good with a 27-point, nine-rebound, five-assist debut against Detroit.

Banchero went on to average 20.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 0.8 steals per game in 72 starts. He’s Orlando’s first Rookie of the Year since Mike Miller in 2001.

Banchero easily topped the other finalists, Thunder forward Jalen Williams and Jazz center Walker Kessler, for the award. Banchero received 98 out of 100 first-place votes, according to an NBA press release. Williams finished second and Kessler, who picked up the other first-place votes, was third.

Williams averaged 14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 75 games, including 62 starts. The No. 12 pick in the draft came on strong after the All-Star break, averaging 18.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 4.3 APG down the stretch.

Kessler was part of the Rudy Gobert blockbuster deal between Utah and Minnesota. The big man, selected with the No. 22 pick, averaged 9.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 74 games, including 40 starts. Kessler ranked fourth in the league in blocks per game.

Bennedict Mathurin, Keegan Murray, and Jaden Ivey were the only other rookies to receive votes, finishing fourth, fifth, and sixth, respectively.

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.

Paolo Banchero, Jalen Williams Named Rookies Of The Month

Magic forward Paolo Banchero and Thunder forward Jalen Williams have been named the NBA’s Rookies of the Month for March and April, the league announced today (Twitter link).

The Eastern Conference winner and the strong frontrunner to claim Rookie of the Year honors, Banchero earned the award for a fourth straight time, having also been named the East’s Rookie of the Month in December, January, and February.

In 17 games in March and April, he averaged 20.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists in 33.9 minutes per night (17 games) while shooting .445/.387/.681. Orlando went 8-9 in those games.

Williams was named the Western Conference’s Rookie of the Month for a second time, having also won the award for October/November. Last year’s 12th overall pick finished the season on a tear, averaging 18.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.3 APG, and 1.7 SPG with a scorching hot .547/.451/.882 shooting line in 18 games (33.7 MPG).

Williams, who strengthened his Rookie of the Year case with his second half performance and should show up on most ballots, helped the Thunder secure a spot in the play-in tournament. They’ll visit the No. 9 Pelicans on Wednesday with their season on the line.

The other nominees for Rookie of the Month honors for March/April, according to the NBA, were Jaden Hardy, Keegan Murray, Shaedon Sharpe, and Jabari Smith in the West, and Jaden Ivey, Bennedict Mathurin, and Andrew Nembhard in the East (Twitter link).

Northwest Notes: Grant, Reddish, Markkanen, Williams

The Trail Blazers may try to re-sign Jerami Grant regardless of whether they pursue a teardown, considering they gave up a future first-round pick for him, Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype opines.

However, they’ll have competition. Cap space teams like the Rockets and Pacers could be in the market for a versatile veteran forward like Grant, Gozlan writes. The Thunder could also look to add a veteran presence to their improving team and a reunion with the Pistons, who traded Grant to the Blazers last summer, isn’t out of the question.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Forward Cam Reddish missed the Trail Blazers‘ game against Minnesota on Sunday due to lumbar soreness, the team tweets. Reddish, a restricted free agent after the season, has missed three consecutive games.
  • Forward Lauri Markkanen returned to the Jazz lineup on Sunday after missing the two previous games with a bruised left hand, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. Markkanen had 23 points and nine rebounds in a one-point loss to Brooklyn.
  • Jalen Williams has averaged 19.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.7 steals since the All-Star break. Barry Tramel of The Oklahoman (subscription required) takes a closer look at the Thunder lottery pick, noting that Williams has star potential. “I don’t know how good he’ll be. But I think it’s pretty safe to look at the fact that his floor’s going to be pretty high, because he’s big, he plays great defense, he’s got a great feel for the game,” coach Mark Daigneault said.