Serge Ibaka

Northwest Notes: Gibson, Roberson, Favors

Taj Gibson helped the Thunder with both his offense and defense since arriving in Oklahoma City and he’s already earned the respect of his teammates, Cliff Brunt of USA Today writes.

“They see I’m in here late nights, early mornings, just constantly working with my teammates, constantly putting work in,” Gibson said. “The confidence is going to be there because they understand you do the work, but I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help my team.”

Gibson will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He’s making $8.95MM this season in the last year of a four year deal.

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Andre Roberson has done a great job on the defensive end in the Thunder’s first three playoff games, as Erik Horne of The Oklahoman details. Roberson will be a restricted free agent this summer.
  • Derrick Favors, who has one season and $12MM left on his contract after this season, is seeing extended playing time for the Jazz while Rudy Gobert recovers from a knee injury. Favors didn’t play particularly well on the defensive end, but coach Quin Synder understands that the struggles are a result of playing too many minutes, as Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News relays. “You don’t have to look any further than the guy played 38 minutes and he hasn’t played that many minutes all year,” Snyder said. “He’s battling. He’s competing, playing hard, and we’re asking a lot of him right now. We’re going to keep doing that, and he’s going to give us everything he has.”
  • Improving on the defensive end will be a top priority for the Nuggets and the team may look to the free agent market this summer to find upgrades, Nick Kosmider of The Denver Post speculates in his latest mailbag. The scribe names Gibson, Blake Griffin, and Serge Ibaka among the players who could help the team improve on that end of the floor.

Mavs Notes: Curry, Noel, Hammons, Harris, Cuban

On the heels of a 33-49 season, the Mavericks will focus on improving their roster via free agency and the draft. Eddie Sefko of Dallas Morning News suggested two veteran FAs to provide an immediate boost: Serge Ibaka and J.J. Redick. Sefko explains that Ibaka is a “big-time rebounder” who is still relatively young, while Redick would help shore up the team’s mediocre shooting.

Sefko cautions against hoping for a point guard improvement through the draft. Unless the Mavs “get lucky” and secure one of the top two picks, they’re unlikely to obtain a top-shelf guard. In the event Dallas winds up with the 8, 9, or 10 pick, Sefko cites Jonathan Isaac, Miles Bridges, and Lauri Markkanen as potential fits.

More from Dallas…

  • Seth Curry, who missed the season’s final seven games due to a left shoulder injury, hopes to avoid undergoing surgery over the offseason. “It’s still a possibility, but I don’t think it’s necessary at this point,” Curry told Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
  • Former Purdue Boilermaker A.J. Hammons got his feet wet in the NBA this past season, scoring 43 points with 36 rebounds over 22 games. While Hammons’ contract is guaranteed over the next two seasons, Eddie Sefko of Dallas Morning News is skeptical of his role on the team in 2017/18. “I like the big guy, but I haven’t seen a passion for wanting to improve,” Sefko writes. “He loves to sit out there and launch jump shots. But I think his calling in this league has to be as a strong rebounder and rim protector. My bottom line: doubtful that he is here next season.”
  • While he appears set to enter the market as a restricted free agent, Nerlens Noel‘s recent remarks to Brad Townsend of Dallas Morning News imply he’d like another season in Dallas. “I love Dallas,” Noel said. “In my short time here, I’ve really enjoyed it. With the pieces that we have, and the opportunities we’ll be seeing in the near-future, I think there’s a lot to be excited for.” 
  • While Devin Harris isn’t a lock to start next season with Dallas, one thing is certain: the 34-year-old isn’t retiring. “Definitely not retiring,” Harris told Adam Grosbard of Dallas Morning News. The Mavs are unsure whether they will exercise Harris’ $4.4MM option for 2017/18. Harris averaged 16/7 minutes in 2016/17; the lowest total since his rookie season. “Ball’s in their court. I just let the chips fall where they may and try to make the best decision possible with the information that I have.”
  • In a 109-91 loss to the Nuggets- the Mavs’ penultimate game of the season- coach Rick Carlisle gave six players 25-years-old or younger significant playing time. Mark Cuban spoke to Adam Grosbard of Dallas Morning News, explaining the strategy of giving younger players minutes down the stretch. “When we were playing for it, we obviously had some bad games but it’s obvious our young guys are getting better. And that’s all you can ask for,” Cuban said. Dirk Nowtizki seconded Cuban’s remarks, adding “It’s been fun to watch these kids.”

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Lowry, Hornacek

The Sixers are near the top of our Reverse Standings, owning a record of 28-52. The team is optimistic that it can climb the real NBA standings next season and Joel Embiid is a major reason why there’s hope, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.

“The thing I get most excited about with Joel is he has such a long ways to go,” coach Brett Brown said. “He is just scratching the surface of what ultimately he’s going to be.”

Embiid remains out as he recovers from knee surgery, but the organization expects him to resume basketball activities this summer.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors are still working to incorporate all their new players, Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun details. The scribe notes that Kyle Lowry, who recently returned to the lineup following a wrist injury, hasn’t yet found a comfort level with new addition Serge Ibaka.
  • Coach Jeff Hornacek admits that the all-in switch to the triangle mid-season may not have been the best move for the Knicks, Al Iannazzone of Newsday relays. “It shouldn’t have been that big of a deal,” Hornacek said. “But from the players’ side they probably thought it was too big a change. We’ll figure what’s best for us, what everybody wants to do and try to go from day one and leave it like that.”
  • If the Celtics are going to make a deep postseason run, they must rediscover their 3-point shot, A. Sherrod Blakely of Comcast Sportsnet argues. Marcus Smart, who will be eligible for a rookie extension this offseason, is among the team’s bench players who have struggled from behind the arc since the All-Star break.

Eastern Notes: Pistons, Raptors, Rondo

The Pistons are all but eliminated from playoff contention and coach/executive Stan Van Gundy plans on using the last few games to evaluate the team, Keith Langlois of NBA.com writes. “We’ll try to get to 10 guys a night,” Van Gundy said.

He added that  he’s seen enough out of Aron Baynes, who’s been playing well lately. “We may occasionally give one of our guys who’ve been in the rotation a rest, but not all of ’em at the same time. The guy who will be affected the most – doesn’t mean he won’t play – is a guy who’s been playing really well, Baynes,” SVG said.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Raptors believes Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker have helped to alter the identity of the team, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays. “They gave us physical toughness,” coach Dwane Casey said, “that we haven’t had.”
  • Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo is day-to-day with a sprained wrist, Sam Smith of NBA.com relays. Rondo won’t play tonight against the Sixers.
  • John Henson is expected to return to the lineup over the last two games of the regular season, Sirius XM Radio passes along via Twitter. The big man has missed the last eight games for the Bucks with a thumb injury.

Southeast Notes: Mahinmi, Ibaka, Ross, Ilyasova

Ian Mahinmi‘s return from injury has brought a defensive presence to the Wizards‘ bench, writes J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic. He controlled the lane in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s comeback win over the Lakers, as L.A. shot just 5-of-21 in the final 12 minutes. Problems with both knees limited Mahinmi to just five games before the All-Star break, but he has played 19 since then and has shown why Washington was willing to give him a four-year, $64MM contract last summer. “He’s a great defender,” said teammate Kelly Oubre. “He’s what we’ve been missing in the paint. I can’t wait until he’s dunking on people like he used to.” 

There’s more news from the Southeast Division:

  • Serge Ibaka wanted to be used more often at center during his time with the Magic, relays Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Ibaka, who was acquired from Oklahoma City last summer and dealt to Toronto after 57 games, said he approached coach Frank Vogel about using him at the five spot in a small-ball lineup. The problem was that the Magic already had centers Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo in their rotation. Even though he’s with a playoff team now, Ibaka is disappointed that things didn’t work out better in Orlando. “I remember in the beginning, I was so excited,” he said. “Even mentally I was so fresh and excited about the season. But in life sometimes the way we try to do things, or the way we think things can go, may not happen. That’s the case out there in Orlando. But I had good moments there.”
  • Terrence Ross, who was sent to the Magic in that deal, got a friendly reception from the fans Monday in his return to Toronto, according to Mike Ganter of The Toronto Sun. The 26-year-old swingman spent four and a half seasons with the Raptors.
  • Ersan Ilyasova was both surprised and not surprised to be traded from the Sixers to the Hawks at the deadline, tweets Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly. He thought he fit well in Philadelphia, but adds that he understands the business side of basketball. Ilyasova has been with six teams since the 2014/15 season and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Front Office Shakeups Ahead?

Disappointing seasons could lead to front office changes for at least five teams this summer, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.

The most obvious team headed for a shakeup is Sacramento, which reportedly wants to position someone above GM Vlade Divac and may have interest in former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, despite an official statement denying it. There are also ongoing rumors of a rift between Vivek Ranadive and the minority ownership, which has grown frustrated with the way the team has been managed.

Kyler notes that Ken Catanella was hired as an assistant GM last summer, but wasn’t given the power that many expected him to have.

Change may also be coming to these organizations:

  • Orlando — The Magic seem ready to replace GM Rob Hennigan, with Pistons executive and former Orlando player Pat Garrity as the leading candidate to be offered the job. The Magic had hoped to be playoff contenders after signing Bismack Biyombo and trading for Serge Ibaka, but the new combination never worked out. Orlando is 14th in the East at 27-47, and Ibaka was shipped to Toronto last month. Kyler cites league sources who say several of the Magic’s lower level executives are expecting changes and have started contacting other organizations.
  • New Orleans — A recent report said coach Alvin Gentry and GM Dell Demps could both be fired without significant progress by the end of the season. Demps may have bought himself more timee with the DeMarcus Cousins trade, but the Pelicans have reached the playoffs just twice during his seven years at the helm. Louisiana native Joe Dumars is close to ownership and is reportedly being considered as a replacement.
  • Phoenix — The Suns will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year, and many believe that owner Robert Sarver wants to turn things around quickly. Ryan McDonough has amassed an impressive group of young talent in his four years as GM, but that may not be enough to convince Sarver to keep him.
  • Atlanta — It’s unlikely that coach/executive Mike Budenholzer or GM Wes Wilcox gets replaced, but several staff additions are expected. The Hawks have been shaken by the loss of free agent Al Horford last season and the possible exit of Paul Millsap this summer, along with a late-season losing streak that may knock them out of the playoffs. More voices may be brought on to help Budenholzer and Wilcox with the decision-making process.

Serge Ibaka, Robin Lopez Get One-Game Suspensions

The NBA has suspended Raptors forward Serge Ibaka and Bulls center Robin Lopez one game apiece for their roles in Tuesday night’s on-court incident in Toronto, per a press release. Lopez will miss Chicago’s game tonight against the Pistons, while Ibaka will sit out the Raptors’ game on Thursday night in Miami.

During the third quarter of Tuesday night’s game between the Raptors and Bulls, Lopez and Ibaka got into an altercation that escalated into a near-fistfight. Both players threw punches, though Lopez missed hitting Ibaka, and Ibaka’s blow just grazed Lopez.

Although the fight could have been worse, it’s still a bit of a surprise that both players received just one-game bans. There was speculation that Ibaka could get a two- or three-game suspension and that Lopez could get an extra game on top of taht for throwing the first punch. Instead, both players received relatively light punishments, though they’ll lose a game’s worth of pay as they serve their respective suspensions.

Raptors assistant Jamaal Magloire was also penalized as a result of the altercation, having been fined $15K for pushing Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic, the league announced.

Atlantic Notes: Nets, Ibaka, Bradley

Despite the fact that the Nets mortgaged their future for a shot at short-term success back in 2013, the franchise has shown flashes of promise throughout a long rebuild. Buddy Grizzard of Basketball Insiders recently wrote about the years-long process, pointing out that for all the up-hill challenges the club’s general managers have faced, they’ve done a decent job drafting young talent.

When the club first moved to from New Jersey to Brooklyn, first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018 were all sent to Boston in exchange for a package surrounding Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Suffice it to say, the bold gamble didn’t pay off for the franchise but the organization is making the most out of the scant cards they dealt themselves.

Grizzard mentions former general manager Billy King‘s selection of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the 2015 draft as an intriguing aspect of the current roster, as well as current general manager Sean Marks‘ decision to nab Caris LeVert at No. 20 in 2016.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • After missing 18 games with an Achilles injury, Avery Bradley had been on a minute restriction for the Celtics. As of March 12th the limitations are no longer, says A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England.
  • Say what you will about Cory Joseph backing up the injured Kyle Lowry, but one thing the reserve hasn’t been able to replicate is Lowry’s three-point shooting. “We’re more of a spread-it team,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said Monday night, per Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. “Cory’s an attack guy, but he’s going into where everybody else is. It’s not that Cory’s doing something wrong; that’s just his game. When Kyle’s in there, he can space out and be one of the (pass) receivers out there.”
  • When the Raptors acquired Serge Ibaka, they added a rare force capable of impacting a basketball game without scoring a point, Ryan Wolstat of the National Post writes. Ibaka did just that on Monday night, finishing with a plus-18 rating despite not scoring a single basket.

 

Five Key 2017 Free Agents Impacted By Trades

Expiring contracts are a popular form of currency at the NBA trade deadline when teams are looking to get deals done and create future cap flexibility. In some cases, that means including a player like Andrew Bogut, who has an $11MM expiring contract, can be advantageous for both teams involved in a trade — by moving Bogut, the Mavericks avoided pushing up against the luxury tax, while the Sixers reached the salary floor.

Bogut was waived shortly after being traded to Philadelphia though, so his 2017 free agency wasn’t impacted in a real way by the deadline deal. However, there were several players moved in the hours, days, and weeks leading up to last month’s trade deadline who will be free agents in 2017 and whose change of scenery will significantly impact their situation this summer.

Here’s a closer look at five players eligible for free agency in 2017 who were affected by being traded in February, including one player who was involved in that Sixers/Mavs swap along with Bogut…

Nerlens Noel, Mavericks (RFA)Nerlens Noel vertical

For much of the 2016/17 season, Noel’s long-term outlook was cloudy. The Sixers certainly had no shortage of future cap room, which would have made it easy for them to match any offers Noel received in restricted free agency and retain him for several more years. It’s possible that – if they hadn’t found an acceptable trade offer at the deadline for Noel – they would have done just that this summer, rather than losing him for nothing.

But the Sixers never seemed like a logical long-term fit for Noel, with Joel Embiid in place as the team’s franchise center and Jahlil Okafor and Richaun Holmes also in the mix. While the club may have found a way to make an Embiid/Noel pairing work if the former sixth overall pick had remained on the roster, Noel reportedly preferred to be dealt to a team where he’d have the starting center job to himself.

In Dallas, he’ll have exactly that, and the Mavericks like Noel enough that they’re expected to match any offer sheet he signs this summer. Pursuing Noel in restricted free agency might have saved Dallas a couple second-round picks and the rights to Justin Anderson, but there was no guarantee the club could have pried him away from the Sixers or another team. Now, the Mavs will be the overwhelming favorites to retain Noel for the next few seasons.

Serge Ibaka, Raptors (UFA)

Ibaka is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, so where he finishes the season isn’t as significant as it would be for a restricted free agent like Noel. Still, for rival suitors hoping to land Ibaka, his move from Orlando to Toronto is a big deal.

When reports first began swirling about the Magic’s efforts to move Ibaka, several sources suggested that the odds of the big man re-signing in Orlando were slim. The Magic held Ibaka’s Bird rights at the time, giving them the opportunity to offer five years instead of four, with slightly larger raises, but with Orlando headed for the lottery, Ibaka seemed likely to seek out a team closer to contention.

Having been sent to the Raptors, Ibaka has found a team that fits that bill. GM Masai Ujiri has long coveted the former Thunder power forward, and all signs point to Toronto making a strong effort this summer to lock up Ibaka. Before (and after) the trade, the Raptors were in no position to open up a real chunk of cap room this summer, barring a major roster overhaul. So the fact that they now hold Ibaka’s Bird rights, giving them the ability to go over the cap to re-sign him, means they’ve gone from being a non-contender for his services to the new frontrunner.

Taj Gibson, Thunder (UFA)

Like Ibaka, Gibson is an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s also not a candidate for a maximum salary offer or a five-year contract, so the fact that the Thunder hold his Bird rights isn’t as important as it would be for some other free agents.Taj Gibson vertical

Still, when an NBA veteran has spent the better part of eight seasons with a single franchise and that team trades him a few months before he hits free agency, the odds of him returning to that team probably aren’t great. During the last couple weeks, we’ve seen Gibson wear a different NBA uniform for the first time in his NBA career, and it’s possible that he’ll put on a third uniform later this year.

That’s not to say the Thunder should be ruled out as a candidate to sign Gibson though. Oklahoma City projects to remain over the cap this summer, so holding Gibson’s Bird rights could be important — if he proves to be a solid fit in OKC, the team would be able to go over the cap to re-sign him.

Bojan Bogdanovic, Wizards (RFA)

Despite playing in New York City, Bogdanovic was toiling in relative obscurity on the NBA-worst Nets this season. Now he’s a key contributor on the No. 3 seed in the East, and he has gotten off to a scorching start in Washington, making 3.3 three-pointers per game at a rate of 58.8% so far. He won’t stay that hot all season, but if he continues to make big shots and remains productive in the playoffs, he’ll improve his free agent stock much more than he could have in Brooklyn.

Bogdanovic’s move from Brooklyn to Washington also could create some interesting new scenarios when it comes to offer sheets. The Nets have plenty of long-term cap flexibility and could have matched any offer for Bogdanovic if they’d wanted to. The Wizards, on the other hand, have already committed major money to John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Ian Mahinmi, among others, and they’ll likely have to go up to the max – or close to it – to re-sign Otto Porter this summer. Will the team be willing to spend on Bogdanovic as well? That remains to be seen.

Mason Plumlee, Nuggets (RFA)

After re-signing three restricted free agents last offseason, the Trail Blazers apparently had no interest in going through the process again this year, and sent Plumlee to a team that has more flexibility to retain him this summer — Denver only has about $55MM in guaranteed salary on its 2017/18 books, as opposed to an incredible $132MM+ for Portland.

After starting every game he played in for the Blazers this season, Plumlee is coming off the bench in Denver, but that shouldn’t be interpreted as a sign that the Nuggets don’t like him. Having sent a first-round pick to Portland in the deal, the Nuggets presumably intend to match any offer sheet Plumlee gets as a restricted free agent, even though he’ll be a second-stringer behind Nikola Jokic. That’s discouraging news for any rival teams that had been hoping to swoop in and steal Plumlee away from the cap-strapped Blazers later this year.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Knicks, Horford

It doesn’t make sense for the Sixers to bring Joel Embiid back before the end of the season, writes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The big man has been sidelined for 17 of the past 18 games with a bone bruise and has also suffered a slightly torn meniscus.

At this point all the Sixers will say is that their rookie is out “indefinitely,” an escalation, we suppose, from the “day-to-day” label he’d been sitting under previously. For Embiid, however, the club should just come out and say that he’ll rest for the remainder of the season.

It would be great for us as a unit to have him out there as we continue to strive forward toward winning as the season concludes,” general manager Bryan Colangelo said. “But at the end of the day, the health and performance of our athletes is first and foremost, we don’t want to jeopardize the long-term health.”

In the games that he did see this season, Embiid impressed, averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per contest. He was named the Eastern Conference rookie of the month in the first three months of the season and even won Eastern Conference players of the week once in January.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks have elected to bring back the triangle offense, tweets Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. The club will use the remaining months of the season to determine which players best fit the system. Head coach Jeff Hornacek tells Ian Begley of ESPN that it will be a part of this summer’s player evaluations, too.
  • It’s clear that the Celtics believe they need two major pieces in order to compete for a title, writes Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. That explains, he says, why the team didn’t jump on opportunities to nab Paul George or Jimmy Butler at the trade deadline.
  • The Raptors‘ defense has been rebranded, writes Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun, and players have already taken notice. “I just know that the defence behind me is strong,” says guard Cory Joseph. “When the pick and roll comes I’m going to get the early calls and will understand exactly what to do. It just allows me to do what I need to do, executing the task at hand and play more aggressively.” The Raps, of course, added Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker prior to last week’s trade deadline.
  • Summer acquisition Al Horford hasn’t been utilized as well as he could be, writes Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. The big man is too often left on the perimeter while the Celtics shoot threes. Washburn writes that head coach Brad Stevens ought to devise better ways to get the center involved now that the trade deadline is in the rearview mirror.
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