Russell Westbrook

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Jazz, Karnišovas

While Kevin Durant left the Thunder to join the Warriors in pursuit of a championship, Enes Kanter does not believe Russell Westbrook will do the same, the Turkish big man said to Sports Illustrated. Durant’s move proved wise as he captured his first NBA championship this season, leaving behind a legacy in Oklahoma City.

Westbrook enjoyed a historic season in 2016/17, averaging a triple-double (the first since Oscar Robertson in 1962) and is possibly the Most Valuable Player Award winner. Statistics and accomplishments aside, Kanter feels Westbrook best quality is loyalty.

“One thing I saw about him is he’s a loyal guy,” Kanter said. “I understand he’s from L.A., he loves L.A., he goes to L.A. every summer, but he’s a loyal player. I think he’s gonna finish his career in Oklahoma City.”

Westbrook signed an extension with OKC for three-years, $85.7MM last August, so his immediate future remains with the Thunder. However, the Los Angeles native still has strong ties to his hometown and that could be a factor in his NBA future.

Below are additional notes around the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz were swept by the Warriors in the postseason and none of the games were particularly close. However, Durant joined The Bill Simmons’ Podcast and talked about the series being a difficult because of the team’s interior defense and athleticism. “They are going to be really good,” Durant said of the Jazz. “I like them if they keep everything, that’s the thing.”
  • Artūras Karnišovas remained with the Nuggets and was promoted to general manager and he’s happy to stay, per Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports (links via Twitter). Karnišovas shared an amusing story of not being allowed in the Nuggets draft room while the Bucks were courting him for their GM opening.
  • Former Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns spoke to USA Today’s Alysha Tsuji and discussed his prior comments of the Timberwolves “coming soon.” Towns feels his young team is on the verge of breaking out as a viable contender in the NBA that can compete for success.
  • Speaking of Minnesota, Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen has visited with the T’Wolves for a pre-draft workout, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (via Twitter).

Northwest Notes: Kanter, Chandler, Hayward, NBA Draft

Enes Kanter‘s current situation with Turkey makes the Thunder center a problematic asset to trade, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes. Kanter returned to the United States earlier this week after he was detained in Romania following the revocation of his passport by his native country.

Kanter has been outspoken against Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and earlier today, it was announced that a warrant for his arrest was issued in his homeland. Kanter was accused of belonging to a “terror group” which could be related to his past support of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

This is all part of Tramel’s point: Kanter — while not ideal for today’s style of play — is still a capable player who can help a team but his political issues make him a potential liability. The 6’11”, 245-pound Kanter posted serviceable totals of 14.3 PPG and 6.7 RPG in 72 games on a Thunder team that was led by possible 2016/17 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook.

Yet, an arrest warrant in a country considered a U.S. ally off the court and an unconventional skill set on the court could make Kanter a tough sell this offseason.

Here are additional notes around the Northwest Division:

  • Also from The Oklahoman, Brett Dawson examines the Thunder’s options as the NBA Draft approaches next month. Oklahoma City owns the No.21 overall pick in a deep draft class but will have several options; with Westbrook on board, Dawson says one direction team could go in is acquiring a talented veteran to pair with the Thunder superstar.
  • Jazz forward Gordon Hayward will have a big choice this offseason: re-sign with the Jazz or pursue his self-admitted goal of winning a championship elsewhere. As Kincade Upstill of Deseret News writes, Hayward has been a fixture of Utah’s success and a huge reason why the team reached the second round of the playoffs this season. His teammates, the team, and the fans want him to return — and the Jazz can offer him the most significant dollars. However, it will ultimately be up to Hayward where he wants to be next season.
  • Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler has parted ways with the Jay-Z-led Roc Nation and will be represented by Excel Sports moving forward, according to ESPN’s Chris Haynes (link via Twitter).
  • Trail Blazers reserve Pat Connaughton may be hanging up sneakers for cleats as the former fourth round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft could pursue a professional baseball career, Molly Blue of The Oregonian writes. Connaughton averaged 2.5 PPG as a backup point guard last season and if his NBA dream doesn’t show promise, he could change professions. The 24-year-old has been clocked at 90 mph on the diamond and the Orioles, the team that drafted him, would be happy to help him with the transition.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Westbrook, Collison

The biggest priority for the Jazz this summer will be retaining their players, an Associated Press report says. General manager Dennis Lindsey is aware of the challenge and accepts it head on.

Player retention would be the next step,” Lindsey said, before expanding with ways that the Jazz can improve upon this year’s success. “Player development. A strategic add that can complement the group where there’s just a really good fit. Whether that fit is mentality, experience or skill-set.

At the top of Lindsey’s list of players to retain will be All-Star forward Gordon Hayward. Though the Butler alum just missed out on an All-NBA selection – and the resulting financial reward – the Jazz can still make a solid case to convince the forward to return to the team that drafted and developed him.

Point guard George Hill is another body that Lindsey will look to keep in town over the offseason. Hill will be an unrestricted free agent after his one season with the Jazz and will likely generate considerable interest coming off a career year.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Thunder will look to extend point guard Russell Westbrook‘s contract this summer and can do so with the Designated Veteran Player Extension. Per Bobby Marks of the Vertical, even though Westbrook renegotiated his existing contract prior to the new CBA, he’s been deemed eligible by the league to ink a five-year deal worth as much as $207MM this summer.
  • Veteran Nick Collison isn’t finished playing in the NBA and will look to come to terms with the Thunder for 2017/18, Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript writes. Despite the big man’s loyalty to the franchise that drafted him 2003, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be back with Oklahoma City if another organization offers a more appealing role.
  • If the Jazz are able to bring Gordon Hayward and George Hill back this summer, two players that may be sacrificed for financial reasons are Derrick Favors and Alec Burks, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post suggests.

NBA Reveals Award Finalists

The NBA is in the process of revealing its finalists for each of the major year-end awards on TNT, the winners of which will be announced at the official award show on June 26.

Below is an ongoing list that we’ll update as the NBA on TNT crew reveals more.

Most Improved Player of the Year
Giannis Antetokounmpo
Rudy Gobert
Nikola Jokic

Hoops Rumors Analysis: MIP


Sixth Man of the Year
Eric Gordon
Andre Iguodala
Lou Williams

Hoops Rumors Analysis: Sixth Man


Rookie of the Year
Malcolm Brogdon
Joel Embiid
Dario Saric

Hoops Rumors Analysis: ROY


Coach of the Year
Mike D’Antoni
Gregg Popovich
Erik Spoelstra

Hoops Rumors Analysis: COTY


Defensive Player of the Year
Rudy Gobert
Draymond Green
Kawhi Leonard

Hoops Rumors Analysis: DPOY


Most Valuable Player of the Year
James Harden
Kawhi Leonard
Russell Westbrook

Hoops Rumors Analysis: MVP

No Paul George, Gordon Hayward On All-NBA Teams

The NBA has officially announced its All-NBA teams for the 2016/17 season, and neither Paul George nor Gordon Hayward is among the 15 players honored. That’s big news for both players and their teams, since they’ll be ineligible for the Designated Veteran Extension, reducing the amount of money the Pacers and Jazz – respectively – could offer their star forwards in contract extensions this offseason.

Here are this year’s All-NBA teams:

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

Based on this year’s All-NBA voting results, Wall is now eligible to sign a Designated Veteran Extension this summer, while Leonard is eligible to sign one next summer. Harden, Westbrook, and Curry are also eligible to sign DVEs this summer, as Bobby Marks of The Vertical notes (via Twitter).

Those Designated Veteran Extensions – which are dependent on a player making an All-NBA team in the year before he signs an extension, or in two of the previous three years – apply to players finishing up their rookie scale extensions. They allow a player re-signing with his own team to earn up to 35% of the salary cap, rather than just 30%. So, if we assume a $101MM salary cap for 2017/18, a player like Curry could sign a new Warriors contract with a starting salary of $35.35MM, instead of $30.3MM.

The Pacers and Jazz will still be able to offer George and Hayward larger and longer contracts than any other team, but the advantage won’t be as significant as it would have been if those players had earned All-NBA spots. Teams can offer their own Bird-rights free agents up to five years (instead of four) and 8% raises (instead of 5%).

Hayward figures to opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer, while George is expected to reach free agency in 2018. George could still become eligible for the DVE in ’18 if the Pacers hang onto him through next season and he earns All-NBA honors a year from now. However, there’s no guarantee that Indiana will be willing to take that risk.

As for the rest of the All-NBA votes, there weren’t any major surprises, particularly on the first two teams. Perhaps the biggest surprise, in a year which was dominated by four clear-cut MVP candidates, is that Harden was the only player who received 100 out of 100 possible First Team votes. Westbrook and James received 99 apiece, while Leonard received 96.

Note: Hoops Rumors readers voted last month on All-NBA teams, and our squads looked awfully close to the official ones, with a couple notable exceptions. You can check out the results of our voting right here.

Thunder Notes: Durant, Kanter, Alkins

The Thunder are unlikely to add another star via free agency, Jon Hamm of Daily Thunder explains. High-priced extensions for Victor Oladipo and Steven Adams will kick in this summer and the duo will go from making a combined $9,693,477 this year to earning a combined $43,471,911 next season.

The team will have approximately $110MM in guaranteed salary on the book next season, as our Cap Digest page indicates. With the salary cap expected to come in around $101MM, it appears Oklahoma City will have to use the trade market if it intends to add a major piece.

Here’s more from Oklahoma City:

  • Kendrick Perkins, who played with both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant for four-plus seasons, said the two All-Stars are “back on talking terms.”  He believes there’s a chance that Durant will head back to OKC at some point in the future, as ESPN.com relays. “I wouldn’t be surprised — if KD makes a little run, I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes back to Oklahoma,” Perkins said. “Because in my opinion, I don’t think Russ is going anywhere. He’s that type of guy. He just wants to stick it out, and he just wants you to give him those pieces and he just wants to roll with it. He’s not going and trying to run and chase [titles]. And one thing about it, he’s not begging nobody to come play with him.”
  • Erik Horne of The Oklahoman wonders if the Thunder will trade Enes Kanter this summer. The center didn’t have a strong defensive performance in the postseason and Horne notes that during the team’s playoff series against the Rockets, coach Billy Donovan appeared to say “Can’t play Kanter” to assistant coach Maurice Cheeks. Kanter only played a total of 45 minutes during OKC’s five playoff games.
  • Arizona’s Rawle Alkins worked out for the Thunder last weekend, Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog tweets. Jonathan Givony of Draft Express has Alkins as the 78th-best prospect in the upcoming draft.

Northwest Notes: Johnson, Lillard, Westbrook

Now 16 years into an admirable NBA career, Joe Johnson is happy to still be contributing significantly to a winning team. Marc Spears of ESPN recently wrote about the veteran’s career and the role he currently serves with the Jazz.

It’s been 16 seasons. I’m still able to play at a high level. It says a lot because a lot of the guys in my draft class have come and gone. To be one of the dinosaurs still around, I’m happy for that,” Johnson said.

In a transcribed interview with Johnson, Spears asks the swingman about his life as a veteran in the locker room and how he came to sign with the Jazz last summer.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • If Damian Lillard can’t win a title with the Trail Blazers, he’s okay not winning one. The guard tweeted that staying in Portland is more of a priority.
  • One of the looming questions the Trail Blazers will get an answer to eventually is whether or not Jusuf Nurkic can be their anchor in the middle for a full season, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post writes. If he can, that’s one less building block they’ll need to add in the future.
  • If Russell Westbrook doesn’t sign a five-year extension when it’s offered to him this summer, he’ll almost inevitably leave the Thunder in the summer of 2018, says Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post. If that is the case, expect Oklahoma City to trade him rather than watch him leave for nothing.

Thunder Hope To Extend Russell Westbrook This Offseason

GM Sam Presti is “hopeful” that the Thunder can sign Russell Westbrook to a long-term extension this summer, Royce Young of ESPN.com reports.

“The rules are that you can’t have that conversation until July 1, and you know, when that time comes, we’ll sit down, we’ll have conversations with him about what that opportunity presents,” Presti said. “And you know, we’re obviously hopeful that he remains really excited about being a part of this organization for the remainder of his career.”

Westbrook will be eligible for a Designated Player Extension this summer. An agreement could yield him upwards of $217MM over five years, though those figures are not exact since it’s a product of next year’s salary cap which won’t be determined until July.

The point guard has a player option on the end of his current deal, meaning he could become a free agent during the 2018 offseason. Royce notes that should Westbrook not sign an extension this offseason, it may raise concerns that he is looking to leave OKC. If the Thunder enter next season without a long-term deal, they would justifiably have to at least listen to trade offers for the MVP Candidate. However, the front office isn’t playing out the doomsday scenario.

“Let’s not think so far ahead,” Presti said. “Let’s just see where the information takes us. I understand the question. I think the biggest thing is, we had that conversation with Russell last year, and you know, he was really clear, and it worked itself out. So before we get all the way down the road on what if, what if this happens, what if that happens: Again, that’s one of those things where we’re talking about a very complex question, a very complex situation with a lot of moving parts, and looking for, like, a simple answer to that.”

“So let’s just have the conversation, see where it goes,” Presti added. “I think everybody knows how we feel about him. He’s a transcendent player. I think he’s a futuristic player. I think he’s a tremendous competitor, and we’re fortunate to have him. We’ll have a conversation, and hopefully, it goes our way.”

Westbrook recently declared that Oklahoma City is where he wants to be. Young adds that the franchise feels like the extension Westbrook signed last offseason was just as much about committing to the organization as it was to financial security. The new Designated Player Exception will allow Westbrook to achieve both of those objectives in his next deal and Presti is thankful for the CBA’s new resource.

“I think it is a good thing for the league, right,” Presti said of the new extension. “I think it’s important for franchises, especially outside of a handful, to be able to have the opportunity to keep their best players.That’s probably healthy. If you’re serious about having like a competitive balance and serious about lauding sustainability and things of that nature, like then the rules need to kind of align with that. Unfortunately the last CBA, they didn’t, and this CBA, they did. You know, I think it’s positive that those things are in place for a lot of cities.”

The GM was asked about whether or not the team planned to add another star to pair with Westbrook and the league will certainly hear about his response. “The first thing I’m going to do is go back to the office and call Adam Silver and see if he can arrange one of those cap spikes,” Presti said. “I’m learning those things tend to come in handy.”

The salary cap increased so drastically over the last two seasons because of the league’s historic television deal.It resulted in teams gaining exorbitant amounts of cap space. That’s how the Warriors were able to sign Kevin Durant away from the Thunder, though it may have never occurred had the “smoothing” proposal gained enough support. The proposal, which had support from the Thunder organization, would have increased the cap at a much slower rate from year-to-year. It was shot down back in 2015.

Westbrook: ‘Oklahoma City Is A Place That I Want To Be’

Thunder fans who were looking for some good news following their playoff ouster got it today from Russell Westbrook, writes Royce Young of ESPN.com.

After conducting his exit interview, the MVP candidate expressed a desire to remain in Oklahoma City, even though he didn’t specifically address a new extension.

“That’s something, like I said, I haven’t thought about anything, obviously,” Westbrook said. “Everybody knows that I like Oklahoma City and I love being here and I love everybody here. But I haven’t even thought about that. Obviously, Oklahoma City is a place that I want to be.”

Westbrook signed a three-year extension last summer, but it includes a player option that could put him back on the free agent market by July of 2018. The new collective bargaining agreement gives him a chance to sign another extension that would make him the league’s highest-paid player and could total as much as $220MM over five seasons.

The Thunder are expected to make the extension offer, Young notes, adding that it would cause panic in the organization if Westbrook doesn’t accept it. However, given the loyalty he displayed last summer in the wake of Kevin Durant‘s departure, there is confidence that he will remain in OKC.

Westbrook said his primary concern is fatherhood, with his first child due in May, and he is in no rush to address his contract.

Thunder Rumors: Roberson, Westbrook, Gibson

The Thunder’s offseason is now officially underway after the team was eliminated from the playoffs on Tuesday night by the Rockets. While the summer of 2017 won’t feature any contract situations as game-changing – and uncertain – as Kevin Durant‘s was a year ago for the franchise, Oklahoma City will have plenty of crucial decisions to make in the coming months. With that in mind, let’s round up a few of the offseason’s first Thunder-related notes and rumors…

  • Andre Roberson is eligible for restricted free agency this July, and the Thunder are “intent on keeping him,” says Royce Young of ESPN.com. Although Roberson isn’t a dynamic offensive player, he’s one of the league’s best perimeter defenders, and the Thunder believe he showed some positive development and a better understanding of his role as the season went on, per Young.
  • The Thunder will explore many avenues for potential upgrades, but there’s optimism within the organization that many of the team’s young players will continue to improve. Young points to Alex Abrines and Domantas Sabonis as rookies who will have the opportunity to develop into “high-level role players” for the Thunder.
  • While other stars around the NBA may push their teams to acquire certain players, Russell Westbrook prefers to stay out of front office business, with a source telling Young that the point guard has never complained about the Thunder’s roster.
  • Speaking of Westbrook, he’ll be eligible for the NBA’s new Designated Veteran Extension this offseason. According to Young, there’s an expectation that the Thunder will offer such an extension, which would exceed $200MM over five years. This will be an interesting situation to watch, since Westbrook’s contract is only guaranteed for one more season — if he were to turn down a lucrative long-term contract, trade speculation would likely begin in earnest.
  • Following the Thunder’s Game 5 loss, free-agent-to-be Taj Gibson said that he’d like to stay with the Thunder, as Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders tweets. However, while Gibson’s love for OKC is genuine, this summer could represent his last chance at a big payday, Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News observes (via Twitter). Young suggests in his ESPN story that Gibson will likely end up signing with another team.
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