Trae Young

And-Ones: Ignite, 2024 Draft, Unsuccessful Pairings, Eddy Curry

The G League Ignite’s impressive collection of talent was on display Wednesday night in Nevada, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Six players who may be selected in next year’s draft were on the court for the Ignite, and a seventh, Thierry Darlan of France, missed the game against Perth, Australia, with an ankle injury.

The biggest attraction was guard Ron Holland, whom Hollinger considers the “betting favorite” to be the top pick in 2024. Hollinger adds that Holland isn’t a clear-cut No. 1 choice like Victor Wembanyama was this year, but he looked good in his first pro game, using a mix of explosiveness and ferocity to put up 23 points.

“Ron is very, very competitive” Ignite coach Jason Hart said. “So now I’m wanting to channel it to where the opposition doesn’t know if you’re mad or you’re happy. I just told him to relax, calm down … I think he heard me. But that’s going to be a process because he’s so competitive, and I don’t want to take that from him. That’s his thing; he’s just has to learn how to use it.”

Matas Buzelis and Izan Almansa, who are projected to be top-10 picks, also showed off their skills, Hollinger adds, along with Tyler Smith, London Johnson and Perth prospects Alex Sarr and Ben Henshall. The teams will meet again on Friday.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

Team USA Notes: Edwards, Hart, Banchero, Young

After completing its five-day training camp in Las Vegas, Team USA played its first official exhibition game ahead of this year’s World Cup on Monday and defeated Puerto Rico by a score of 117-74. The U.S. squad was up by just seven points at the half, but outscored the Puerto Ricans by 36 in a dominant second half.

As Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes, Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards earned a spot in the starting five for Team USA alongside Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Brandon Ingram, and Jaren Jackson Jr., and showed why he belonged in that group. Edwards scored a team-high 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting while also adding four assists and four steals.

“Anthony was great,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “He fits the FIBA game really well because of his physicality at both ends. He can get through contact. They allow a lot of contact on drives, so he can get through that contact with his strength and then using that same strength defensively, body people up and keep them from penetrating. So I thought he was great, but I thought the whole team really played well.”

The U.S. roster lacks an established scorer with FIBA experience whom the team could turn to for an important late-game basket, leading to speculation that Edwards could emerge as that player. Monday’s performance was a promising start.

Here’s more on Team USA as it prepares for upcoming tune-ups against Slovenia and Spain this weekend:

  • As Bontemps notes, Knicks forward Josh Hart was the only player who didn’t see any action on Monday vs. Puerto Rico. Team USA said he was out for “rest” purposes, but it’s probably no coincidence that Hart will become extension-eligible later this week — it will be interesting to see if he has an agreement on a new deal in place with New York by the time the U.S. faces Slovenia on Saturday.
  • Magic forward Paolo Banchero spent some time at center during Monday’s exhibition, and it sounds like Kerr plans to continue using him in that role going forward, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic. “He’s going to play some five,” Kerr said. “One of the things we really found in ’21 in the Tokyo Olympics was having a 5 that can push the ball in transition (as Bam Adebayo did) and create plays is very difficult for FIBA teams to handle. He can play some four, as he showed, but he’ll play plenty of five as well.”
  • In a separate story, Bontemps shares some early observations about Team USA’s starting five, its plan to lean on smaller lineups, and how using Banchero at the five could help create a “devastatingly effective” second unit offensively.
  • Within a larger discussion about Team USA during the latest episode of The Hoop Collective podcast (YouTube link), Bontemps, Tim MacMahon, and Brian Windhorst of ESPN express some skepticism that Trae Young will be part of the 12-man roster that represents the U.S. at the Paris Olympics next year, despite his desire to do so. “I heard Trae Young did not make a great case for himself during his previous time in the Team USA program,” MacMahon said.

Stein’s Latest: USA Basketball, Wood, B. Griffin

Multiple reporters have confirmed the news — originally reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski — that Pistons guard Cade Cunningham was offered a spot on Team USA’s World Cup roster. Cunningham said last week that he declined the invitation to manage his workload for the upcoming 2023/24 season after being to 12 games in ’22/23 following shin surgery.

According to Marc Stein at Substack, USA Basketball had a longstanding interest in Cunningham joining the senior men’s team, but the organization also recognized that it was an “extreme long shot” to land him.

As Stein explains, Cunningham would have needed to commit to the full six-week time frame, which includes several exhibition games and lengthy international travel. Given how long he was sidelined, it makes sense that the 2021 No. 1 overall pick decided to be cautious; Detroit wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about the idea either, according to Stein.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Why was USA Basketball so interested in Cunningham? As Stein observes, he fits the mold of a physical guard that was a priority for the roster, which includes Jalen Brunson, Anthony Edwards, Austin Reaves and Josh Hart (though Hart is more of a wing than a traditional ball-handling guard).
  • The lack of physicality may explain why Hawks guard Trae Young isn’t on the World Cup roster, despite USAB managing director Grant Hill being a part owner of Atlanta, Stein writes. Young was disappointed to not make the team and recently said he’d welcome the opportunity to represent Team USA at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, Stein adds.
  • Former ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy will serve as Team USA’s scouting director for the World Cup, Stein reports. Van Gundy has been associated with USAB for several years, including serving as head coach from 2017-19 when the team was comprised of non-NBA players during qualifying rounds, Stein notes.
  • The Lakers remain interested in free agent big man Christian Wood, sources tell Stein. However, they used most of their non-taxpayer mid-level exception on Gabe Vincent and their bi-annual exception on Taurean Prince, so they can basically only offer Wood the veteran’s minimum. While the Mavericks are open to a Wood sign-and-trade, neither the Lakers nor the Heat are believed to be viable partners in that scenario, according to Stein.
  • The Celtics are interested in re-signing free agent big man Blake Griffin, league sources tell Stein, but it’s unclear if that interest is mutual. Griffin appeared in 41 regular season games with Boston in ’22/23, averaging career lows of 4.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 13.9 MPG. He also only played one game for six total minutes in the playoffs, despite the Celtics having 20 postseason contests.

Southeast Notes: Adebayo, Lillard, Young, Coulibaly, Magic

The Heat’s pursuit of Damian Lillard could give Bam Adebayo a chance to team up with a close friend, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. They formed a bond while winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, which is one of the reasons Miami stands alone on Lillard’s list of preferred destinations. Adebayo said that along with Lillard’s obvious talents, his “demeanor” could help the Heat make another run at a title.

“How he walks, how he talks, how he presents himself, we have a lot of those similar characteristics,” Adebayo said. “Dame isn’t the loudest person. I’m not the loudest person. We’re two down to earth people that gelled well in the Olympics.”

Adebayo was speaking from his youth basketball camp, where he got plenty of questions about Lillard from the participants. Miami hasn’t made much progress toward a deal because its offers haven’t appealed to Portland and it hasn’t been able to find another team to help facilitate a trade. Adebayo couldn’t offer any inside information, but he urged the campers to remain patient.

“The biggest thing is business,” he said. “Everybody wants it to make sense. Everybody on their side wants it to make sense. Obviously, other sides want it to make sense, too. So I feel like it’s just a waiting game until they reach an agreement, if or when it does happen.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks guard Trae Young is interested in joining Team USA for the 2024 Olympics (Twitter link from ClutchPoints). Young discussed the possibility in an interview with Gilbert Arenas, saying, “Obviously, I definitely want to … It’s up to them if they want me to … I respect the OGs and understand that you got to take your turn, but I believe that I should be on.”
  • Bilal Coulibaly tells Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington that the Wizards were the only team he met with before the draft. Coulibaly’s Metropolitans 92 team was in the French League finals, so he wasn’t able to participate in the normal pre-draft process, but he flew to Washington for a private meeting a few weeks before draft day. Coulibaly said he understands the responsibility of being the first pick of the new front office led by general manager Will Dawkins and Monumental Basketball president Michael Winger. “That’s just that they can trust me,” Coulibaly said. “They know I’m going to do the job for sure. They want me to play defense at first because that’s my biggest tool, so I’m going to do it. They don’t gotta worry about it.”
  • Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel examines how Magic lottery picks Anthony Black and Jett Howard are planning to spend the rest of the summer as they prepare for their first NBA training camp.

Trade Rumors: Harden, Lewis, Morris, Wright, Capela, Nowell

Although he’s said to be “very positive” about the Sixers‘ direction, James Harden‘s preference is that Philadelphia trade him, according to Mark Medina of Sportsnaut (Twitter links). For their part, the 76ers are listening to offers, but will only move forward on a trade if it’s “really good” and keeps them in title contention, Medina says, adding that the club is comfortable hanging onto Harden if such a deal doesn’t materialize.

[RELATED: James Harden picks up option, working with Sixers on trade]

The Clippers and Knicks were the first two potential trade partners reported to be eyeing Harden, but Ian Begley of (Twitter link) hears that New York’s interest is “far from uniform throughout the organization.”

Begley believes the Clippers’ interest is stronger than the Knicks’, and it sounds like Steve Popper of Newsday agrees — he suggests (via Twitter) that New York’s preference may be to get involved as a third team alongside L.A. in the hopes of landing Paul George. I’m skeptical the Clippers would be enthusiastic about moving PG13 as part of a deal for Harden, but George’s name has come up in a few trade rumors so far this offseason.

During a television appearance (Twitter video link via Evan Sidery), Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN referred to the Clippers as Harden’s “most prominent” suitor, though he stressed that Los Angeles won’t want to give up any of its “good young players” in a deal for the Sixers guard and would prefer to build a package out of expiring contracts and perhaps a draft pick.

Here are a few more trade-related rumors and notes from around the NBA:

  • The Pelicans are exploring the trade market for a potential deal involving Kira Lewis, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who tweets that a trade could provide the former 13th overall pick with an opportunity to play more for a new team. Lewis has appeared in just 103 games for the Pelicans across three seasons, including 25 in 2022/23. An ACL tear in December 2021 limited his availability over the last two seasons, but he hasn’t been a major part of New Orleans’ rotation even when healthy. The club also reportedly made him available in trade discussions at February’s deadline.
  • With the Wizards believed to be seeking draft assets for guards Monte Morris and Delon Wright, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype spoke to rival executives who believe Washington could get at least one second-round pick – and maybe two – for each player.
  • Although Hawks star Trae Young likes playing with big man Clint Capela, the team has been open to discussing Capela in trade talks this offseason in part because it wants to open up more playing time for Onyeka Okongwu, says Scotto.
  • The Timberwolves are open to sign-and-trade scenarios involving guard Jaylen Nowell, league sources tell HoopsHype. Scotto doesn’t say anything about the Wolves working to re-sign Nowell, so it sounds like he won’t be a top priority for the team.

Hawks “Open To Conversations” On Anyone But Trae Young

After a tumultuous 2022/23 season saw the Hawks fire their head coach for the second time in three seasons, there was a rumor they might consider trading Trae Young, who reportedly had issues with both Lloyd Pierce and Nate McMillan.

However, Young expressed confidence in new head coach Quin Snyder after the 2022/23 season ended, and league sources tell Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports the Hawks are “open to conversations” on anyone on their roster except for their point guard, implying they plan to continue building around the two-time All-Star.

That said, Fischer cautions Atlanta isn’t actively looking to move certain players, particularly Dejounte Murray. Sources tell Fischer the Hawks highly value Murray, whom the team acquired last offseason from San Antonio. Atlanta’s front office is apparently using some sort of tiered ranking system for the roster, and the 26-year-old stands on his own just below Young, according to Fischer.

Fischer previously reported that the Hawks discussed a framework of a trade that would have sent John Collins and the No. 15 pick in next week’s draft to the Mavericks in exchange for Davis Bertans and No. 10. It sounds as though Dallas balked at that proposal, so there wasn’t much progress in the talks, but Fischer hears from sources who say the Mavs might be open to a deal if Clint Capela was the incoming player instead of Collins.

Onyeka Okongwu is the Hawks player most rival teams have expressed interest in, according to Fischer, with Capela, Collins and De’Andre Hunter also viewed as trade candidates. However, Capela has good chemistry with Young, and the Hawks value Hunter, having signed him to a lucrative rookie scale extension before ’22/23 started, Fischer notes.

The Hawks are expected to keep Saddiq Bey, whom the team acquired for five second-round picks at the February trade deadline, Fischer adds. Like Okongwu, Bey will be eligible for a rookie scale extension extension this summer.

Sources tell Fischer that Atlanta is thought to be high on Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, who has one year left on his contract. Siakam will be extension-eligible this summer, but the two-time All-NBA member could choose to hold off on that decision, as he’ll be eligible for a super-max extension with Toronto in 2024 if he makes another All-NBA team in ’23/24 (he missed out on the honor this past season).

Southeast Notes: Vincent, Heat, T. Young, Beal

Heat guard Gabe Vincent has been a key member of the team’s surprising playoff run, boosting his regular season averages of 9.4 points and 2.5 assists on .402/.334/.872 shooting (25.9 minutes) up to 13.1 points and 4.1 assists on .417/.375/.893 shooting in 15 postseason games, all starts (30.8 minutes).

Unfortunately, the impending free agent suffered a left ankle sprain in Tuesday’s Game 4 loss to Boston and is officially listed as questionable for Game 5, per Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter link).

Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald hears (via Twitter) that Vincent is “doing all he can” to try and play Thursday night. The Heat lead the series 3-1 and are only one win from the Finals.

Here’s more from the Southeast:

  • The Heat were unfazed by their lone loss in the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. “If anything, it will build momentum for us knowing that we have to play with a lot more energy,” star Jimmy Butler said. “We’ve got to play like our backs are against the wall. But I think all year long, we’ve been better when we’ve had to do things the hard way.”
  • Although the Lakers have reportedly had internal dialogue about trying to trade for Trae Young, Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report said on the #thisleague UNCUT podcast that Young and the Hawks seem to be in a good spot right now, with no talks of a possible trade (hat tip to HoopsHype). Jeff Schultz of the Athletic contends that trading Young this summer – especially to Los Angeles – doesn’t make sense, as the Lakers don’t have much to offer and the Hawks want to see what he can do with a full season playing under Quin Snyder. Schultz notes that Young praised Snyder at the end of the season, saying the coach could bring Atlanta a championship.
  • Wizards guard Bradley Beal was surprised former president Tommy Sheppard was dismissed after the season, league sources tell Fred Katz of The Athletic. The Wizards are set to hire a new president, former Clippers GM Michael Winger, who will reportedly have full discretionary power over the team’s roster.

Lakers Notes: LeBron, T. Young, Offseason

Would LeBron James, owed $46.7MM in 2023/24, really decide to retire before the start of next season? James said on Monday that he’ll have to consider the possibility, but sources close to the Lakers star have downplayed the idea that it will actually happen, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic.

As Amick writes, James’ state of mind when he made his postgame comments to the media on Monday may have been influenced by the retirement of his close friend and fellow 2003 draftee Carmelo Anthony, who made his announcement earlier in the day. Just a few questions before he hinted at his own retirement, James was asked about Anthony’s decision.

As Helene Elliott of The Los Angeles Times notes, the disappointment of being eliminated from the postseason was still raw when LeBron spoke to reporters, which may have factored into his comments. Elliott also suggests that James’ remarks could been the beginning of an effort to encourage an aggressive offseason for the Lakers, who will be looking to contend for a title again in 2024.

In his own look at possible explanations for James’ retirement talk, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer wonders if there’s a chance the four-time MVP will pursue a change of scenery, assuming he decides to continue his career. While it’s hard to imagine it happening, O’Connor specifically discusses the possibility of a trade to the Warriors, pointing out that James is good friends with Draymond Green and has said in the past that he’d love to play with Stephen Curry.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • As the Lakers consider ways to upgrade their roster this offseason, Jovan Buha of The Athletic says the team has had internal discussions about what a hypothetical trade offer for Hawks star Trae Young might look like. Even if Atlanta were willing to trade Young, it’s hard to see how the Lakers could put together a viable package, given their lack of draft assets and players under contract.
  • The best approach the Lakers could take this summer would be running it back by retaining and re-signing the players that got them to the Western Conference Finals, contends Mirjam Swanson of The Southern California News Group. As Swanson observes, a team like the Nuggets benefited from continuity, and the Lakers could follow that blueprint by giving this group a full offseason together rather than continuing to make major roster changes.
  • While losing in four games to the Nuggets wasn’t an ideal end to the season, Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times argues that the Lakers should feel no shame about the outcome, given that all the games were competitive and the team had already defied the odds by rebounding from a 2-10 start to make the playoffs and win two series.
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype takes a closer look at the myriad offseason decisions facing the Lakers and how they may tackle those decisions.
  • In case you missed it, a report on Monday stated that the Lakers are “determined” to bring back restricted free agents Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura. A source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to Amick that the club intends to bring back Reaves and Hachimura.

Hawks Notes: Fields, Collins, Snyder, Offseason

In his end-of-season media availability following the Hawks‘ first-round loss to Boston, general manager Landry Fields acknowledged that the fit between Trae Young and Dejounte Murray wasn’t always smooth in 2022/23. However, he said he was pleased with their progress under Quin Snyder, who replaced Nate McMillan as head coach in late February.

I was on record by saying at first, it’s to be expected that it might look a little clunky,” Fields said, per Lauren Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “You’re asking two primary ball-handlers to now share a backcourt with each other, but two very talented play-making ball-handlers. And it’s had its ups. It’s had its downs, to be honest.

“I think that we’ve all seen that where it looks a little clunky. But there’s also times where it’s been beautiful to watch. They play for each other. … And so, it’s still working in a complementary sense. But I think we got a great taste of it in the last month here. I think Quin has been able to figure out a great way for those two to coexist in a way that is going to enhance our group, but Trae Young and Dejounte Murray is your backcourt. That’s a fun backcourt.”

Here’s more on the Hawks:

  • Within the same piece from Williams, Fields was noncommittal about John Collins‘ future with the team, but that doesn’t mean Atlanta doesn’t value him. Collins has been featured in trade rumors for multiple seasons. “I think it’s the same that I’ve spoken about in the past – John’s name, it comes up a lot. He’s a good player. It should. A lot of teams value him, and we have a lot of value in him,” Fields said.
  • At his own press conference, Snyder said he was “grateful” that the players have embraced his coaching philosophies, Williams writes in a subscriber-only story for The Atlanta Journal-Consitutuion. When asked if he was proud of how the team competed in its six-game series against the Celtics, Snyder said it’s going to take time for the group to “learn how to win together,” especially at the highest level. “You can’t skip steps,” Snyder said as part of a larger quote. “You just can’t. And you may have success in a certain context at a certain time. But that may not always reflect where you are. So I would say it’s great that we competed. That’s a good step, feeling like you belong. But we’ve got a lot of work to do. There’s no question about that.
  • In another story (subscriber link), Williams writes that multiple players praised Snyder’s individualized approach to coaching at their own media exit interviews. “The focus that they have on the development, especially for the young guys, like, every team doesn’t have what we call, like, the ‘breakfast club,’” said guard Donovan Williams, who is on a two-way contract. “So the guys that really don’t do a lot of minutes in the game, we come in before everybody we worked out before games. We play five-on-five with the coaches, like every team doesn’t do that.”
  • Addressing the defense and payroll will likely be the top offseason priorities for the Hawks, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, who provides his offseason guide for Atlanta (Insider link). The Hawks are projected to be a taxpaying team for the first time under owner Tony Ressler, and trading Collins to shed salary would take them out of the tax, Marks notes.

Trae Young Eager To Continue Working With Quin Snyder

Trae Young has faith in head coach Quin Snyder and that makes it very unlikely the Hawks would be willing to deal their star guard, as Jeff Schultz of The Athletic details.

Young praised Snyder after Atlanta was eliminated from the postseason by the Celtics on Thursday night.

“I mean, Quin is the future,” Young said. “I believe with him here this city is going to win a championship.”

Snyder took the Hawks job in late February after the organization parting ways with Nate McMillan. Young’s clashes with his previous head coach were part of the reason for the in-season change.

Atlanta finished the regular season with a .500 record under the former Jazz coach. The Hawks defeated Miami in the play-in tournament, then took the Celtics to six games, including a Game 5 win in Boston. Young hit the decisive 3-pointer in that contest.

Young, who has four years remaining on his max extension, averaged 29.2 points and 10.2 assists in the series.

“We could’ve not even have made the playoffs,” Young said. “It could’ve been worse. We have to focus on the future now. We can’t worry about the past and all that went on throughout the season, all the nonsense and stuff. In moments we showed what we can do with Quin as our coach.”

Snyder plans to spent time during the offseason with Young in preparation for his first full season as the franchise’s head coach.

“He and I have talked about this summer and connecting and getting better,” Snyder said. “Trae’s gifted and he can get better, he wants to get better and I’m going to try to help him get better.”