Kevin Punter

Atlantic Notes: Punter, Fournier, Knicks, Nets, Lillard, Herro

EuroLeague star Kevin Punter had serious contract talks with the Raptors but the 30-year-old shooting guard decided to stay overseas, Cesare Milanti of relays. Punter would up extending his contract with Partizan Belgrade for two years after rejecting an offer from FC Barcelona. Punter averaged 15.5 points in 34 EuroLeague games last season while making 41.7% of his 3-point attempts and 90.6% of his free throw attempts.

“We were talking with the Raptors really heavily. I thought that was going to be an opportunity. We’ve been speaking with them for a while now, so I thought that was possible I was going to go to Toronto,” he told Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews during a podcast. “It didn’t work out. Obviously, it’s a game of leverage. You can’t give the NBA too much of your leverage because the NBA will take it and run with it.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Evan Fournier and his expiring $18.9MM contract remains the biggest issue hanging over the Knicks, Zach Braziller of the New York Post writes. Fournier is in limbo, with no future in the organization. However, his contract would come in handy if the Knicks have a chance to complete a blockbuster trade. His salary could also facilitate a deal for a backup power forward in the aftermath of the Obi Toppin trade with the Pacers.
  • The Knicks are still far from their goal of being a championship-level team, Steve Popper of Newsday opines. They must determine whether to surrender their assets — including RJ Barrett or Immanuel Quickley — for an impact player such as Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine or OG Anunoby.
  • The cost of acquiring a star like Damian Lillard or a top-notch offensive player like Tyler Herro might not be in the Nets’ long-term interests, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Brooklyn isn’t close to contending for a title and even a perennial All-Star Lillard won’t change that, so the team would be better off exercising patience rather than taking on either of those multiyear contracts, Lewis concludes.

And-Ones: Trade Market, Front Offices, Coaches, EuroLeague, More

Tonight’s NBA draft lottery is highly anticipated due to the hype surrounding projected No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama. However, some league executives are more focused on the trade implications for the team that lands the top selection, noting that quality centers could be dealt to free up playing time and address other parts of the roster.

I’m as interested in what comes after the lottery as the lottery itself,” one general manager told Sean Deveney of “This could be a tidal wave after it gets decided.”

For example, if the Pistons land the top pick — which they have a 14% chance to do — an Eastern Conference executive speculated that Detroit could get an impressive return for Jalen Duren, who was recently named to the All-Rookie Second Team. However, it’s worth noting that the Pistons have shown no desire to move Duren to this point after trading for him during last June’s draft.

They probably could get a top-10 pick for him this year,” the executive said. “He has a lot of Robert Williams qualities, and he is like Williams because it might take a little time to polish. You can’t really play him and Wemby together, so he’d have to go. It would be crazy to see the market on him, he is still mostly upside.”

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Twenty-six clubs have been eliminated from title contention, but that doesn’t mean anyone is taking time off. In an interesting article for The Athletic, former league executives Seth Partnow and John Hollinger discuss the busiest time of the year for NBA front offices — the stretch that starts with the draft combine, which is currently ongoing, and runs through the first couple weeks of free agency.
  • Three of the past four championship-winning coaches are no longer with their former teams. The recent spate of dismissals — including Nick Nurse, Mike Budenholzer, Monty Williams and Doc Rivers — has left a negative imprint on some of the longest-tenured coaches, as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press writes. “It’s disturbing,” said Erik Spoelstra, who has been the Heat’s head coach since 2008. “Doc’s a Hall of Famer. … There’s only so many teams that can advance. It’s just a really hard thing to do. Yeah, it’s been a tough couple weeks, hearing the news of just some really surprising firings.”
  • The All-EuroLeague First and Second Teams were recently announced (Twitter links), and several former NBA players made the cut. The First Team features Walter Tavares, Mathias Lessort, Lorenzo Brown, Sasha Vezenkov and Dzanan Musa, while Darius Thompson, Kevin Punter, Nikola Mirotic, Wade Baldwin and Mike James comprise the Second Team. A recent rumor indicated that Vezenkov, whose NBA rights are controlled by the Kings, is seriously mulling the possibility of coming stateside and making his debut next season.
  • Leonard Solms at profiles Samkelo Cele, who is hoping to become the second South African-born player to reach the NBA (the first was Steve Nash). Cele is currently competing in the Basketball Africa League.