Trae Young

Harden, Giannis, George Named MVP Finalists

Defending champion James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George are the finalists for this season’s Most Valuable Player award, the league announced in a press release.

The voting is expected to be close between Harden, who averaged 36.1 PPG and 7.5 APG during the regular season, and Antetokounmpo, who carried the Bucks to the best record in the league while averaging 27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG and 5.9 APG. George averaged 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 4.1 APG.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors’ 2019 NBA Award Picks: Most Valuable Player]

The league also released the finalists for its other awards. The winners will be revealed during a TNT broadcast on Monday, June 24.

Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic and Trae Young are the finalists for the Rookie of the Year award, while Lou Williams heads the field for the Sixth Man award. His Clippers teammate, Montrezl Harrell, and Domantas Sabonis are the other finalists.

Antetokounmpo and George are also finalists for the Defensive Player of the Year award along with Rudy GobertDe’Aaron Fox, D’Angelo Russell and Pascal Siakam will vie for the Most Improved Player honor, while Mike Budenholzer, Michael Malone and Doc Rivers received the most votes for the Coach of the Year award.

Draft Notes: Hawks, Culver, Morant, Knicks

The Pelicans and Grizzlies made meteoric rises in tonight’s draft lottery, landing the first and second picks respectively. It’s widely assumed that Zion Williamson and Ja Morant will be the selections, however, much can happen before the draft next month.

Let’s take a look at some notes from teams that didn’t move up in the lottery:

  • The Hawks are fond of Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver, Sean Deveney of Sporting News writes. The franchise believes Culver’s “blend of athleticism and defensive prowess” will allow him to make the leap from the college ranks to the professional level.  Atlanta owns the Nos. 8 and 10 picks in the draft.
  • Had the Hawks landed the No. 2 pick, they likely would have drafted Culver or made a trade, according to Deveney, who suggests Atlanta was never going to draft Morant. Atlanta is fully committed to Trae Young as its point guard of the future and Young’s game next to Morant would be an awkward fit, writes Deveney.
  • The Cavaliers and the Mavericks are other teams that would have explored options outside of Morant had they landed No. 2, Deveney adds. Cleveland drafted Collin Sexton last June while Dallas invested in Luka Doncic.
  • The Knicks would not have traded Williamson if they landed the No. 1 pick, Adrian Wojnarowski said during ESPN’s Draft Lottery coverage. New York will have no such opportunity, as the team ended up with the No. 3 selection.
  • New York didn’t land the No. 1 pick as the franchise had hoped, but the Suns should be more disappointed than the Knicks in their result, Katherine Fitzgerald of the Arizona Republic writes. Phoenix landed the No. 6 overall pick in the draft.

Hawks Rumors: Draft, Free Agency, Carter, Prince

If the Mavericks don’t luck out and nab a top-four draft pick via the lottery, the Hawks will own five of the top 44 selections in next month’s NBA draft. Currently, those picks project to land at Nos. 5, 9, 35, 41, and 44.

Speaking today to reporters, including Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, general manager Travis Schlenk acknowledged that the team is unlikely to bring five rookies to camp in the fall. In other words, the Hawks probably won’t use all five of those draft picks.

As Vivlamore notes, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Hawks will trade one or more picks, though that’s certainly an option — the club could package two or three picks to move up, or could surrender one of its 2019 selections for a future pick or two. Another potential scenario for Atlanta would be going the draft-and-stash route, whereby the team drafts an international prospect who won’t be ready to immediately come stateside.

As we wait to see what the Hawks do with all those draft picks, here’s more from Schlenk:

  • The Hawks may have two top-10 picks in the draft, and they sound prepared to simply draft the best player available with those selections, regardless of positional overlap. “We are still in a development stage,” Schlenk said, per Vivlamore. “We feel good about the development we made this year but I think it’s important not to jump steps. We are still going to take the best players we can. You look at the playoffs now, position-less basketball is what is out there. We are going to keep getting the best talent we can, keep adding them to the mix and we’ll figure out how to blend them on the back end.”
  • Although Schlenk says there’s a “buzz” around the NBA about the Hawks’ young core, he doesn’t expect the team to be overly active in free agency this summer. As Vivlamore relays, Atlanta is more likely to wait to see what sort of players slip through the cracks after the initial wave of signings is over. “Once we show we are in contention, playoff contending, that’s when free agents are going to look at this group and say ‘I want to go there because we can take it to the next level,'” Schlenk said.
  • If and when the Hawks do pursue bigger-name free agents, the opportunity to play alongside Trae Young figures to be a selling point, according to Schlenk, who praised Young’s ability to set up his teammates and get them open shots.
  • Vince Carter said this week that he intends to return for his 22nd NBA season, and Schlenk “certainly wouldn’t have a problem” if Carter ends up re-signing with the Hawks, he said today, praising the veteran’s leadership in the locker room (link via Vivlamore).
  • Taurean Prince, considered one of the Hawks’ core players, will be eligible for a rookie scale extension starting in July. According to Vivlamore, Schlenk spoke to Prince’s agent on Thursday and said he expects to resume those discussions later in the offseason once Prince officially becomes extension-eligible.

Southeast Notes: Green, Wade, Young, Heat

Jeff Green has played for six teams since the 2014/15 season and he’d like to stay put for a change. The veteran forward said he “would love to come back” to the Wizards, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets. Green is averaging 12.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 1.8 APG for Washington. Green, 32, signed a one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Wizards last summer and will be an unrestricted free agent once again.

We have more from around the Southeast Division:

  • Heat guard Dwyane Wade said he’ll probably need a therapist after he retires at the end of the season, as he told Rachel Nichols of ESPN“It is going to be a big change. This is what I know, like, my life has been this,” he said. “I told my wife I need to do therapy and we need to do a little bit. I was always against someone that don’t know me telling me how to live my life or giving me instructions. But I need someone to talk to about it. Because it is a big change.”
  • Hawks point guard Trae Young hopes that voters look at the body of work when deciding the Rookie of the Year award, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today reports. Luka Doncic looked like the runaway victor but Young’s strong second half has made it a much closer race. “This is a season-long award,” Young said. “Early on, everybody was saying (Doncic) was Rookie of the Year and deservedly so. He was playing really well, and I wasn’t playing the best. I was still playing well. In the second half, it’s flipped. … If you do a full-season look, it’s definitely closer than some people think.”
  • The Heat need to add another player to the roster by Sunday to get back to 14 on the 15-player roster, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel points out. They might even add two players and could convert the two-way contracts of Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten to standard contracts to make them playoff eligible. However, that would also boost their qualifying offers from $50K to $1.4MM apiece, Winderman notes.

Southeast Notes: Beal, Carter-Williams, Haslem, Young

The next general manager of the Wizards will be tasked with making a major decision on star guard Bradley Beal, David Aldridge of The Athletic writes.

Beal, named to his second All-Star team this season, has transformed into Washington’s clear leader in the absence of John Wall. He’s averaging a career-high 25.9 points per game on 48% shooting from the field, due to make $27MM next season and $28.7MM the following season.

“I’m not saying you have to trade him,” one NBA executive told Aldridge of Beal. “But you do have to think about it.”

Between Beal and Wall, the next Wizards GM will find more interest around the league in Beal’s services. Wall is under contract for another four seasons ($37.8MM in 2019/20, $40.8MM in 2020/21, $43.8MM in 2021/22 and a $46.9MM player option in 2022/23). That, combined with Wall’s surgeries on his heel and ruptured Achilles this year, make trading him virtually impossible in the present day.

For the Wizards, deciding whether to keep or trade Beal in the coming months will determine their future course. The general manager position — which was vacated when the team dismissed Ernie Grunfeld this week — is said to appeal to current GMs under contract elsewhere largely due to the resources and geography that comes with the job, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links).

There’s more from the Southeast Division today:

  • Magic guard Michael Carter-Williams is proving to be a difference maker as the team looks to make a final push for the playoffs, John Denton of NBA.com writes. Orlando signed Carter-Williams to a rest-of-season contract on Thursday, waiving guard Isaiah Briscoe. Carter-Williams provided a much-needed boost of energy off the bench during his first two 10-day contracts, scoring 5.4 points and dishing out 3.7 assists in 18.7 minutes per outing.
  • Heat veteran Udonis Haslem reflected on his storied 16-year career in an exclusive article relayed by Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated, looking back on his competitors, teammates, early upbringing and love for the game of basketball. Haslem has spent the past few seasons in a very limited on-court role, doing most of his work on the Heat with the younger players in practice and in the locker room. Haslem’s veteran presence is greatly valued by Miami’s coaching staff and players, many of whom have publicly stated their hopes of him returning for another season.
  • ESPN’s Brian Windhorst chronicles the slow build to success for Hawks guard Trae Young, who continues to improve as the 2018/19 season nears the finish line. Young, a dominant shooter and passer in contention for the Rookie of the Year award, must continue to improve on defense in order to take his game to the next level. The Hawks hold major selling points of Young, John Collins, a new head coach in Lloyd Pierce, cap flexibility and future draft picks for star players entering free agency this summer.

Trae Young Confident Free Agents Will Consider Atlanta

A combination of promising young talent and lucrative cap space could persuade top-level players to consider the Hawks this summer in free agency, as star guard Trae Young explained in an interview with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype this week.

“Oh, I definitely think this is going to be a big spot that free agents look at,” Young said. “I mean, we’re a very young team, but we’ve been playing really well lately and this is an exciting team and an exciting city. I think we’re maybe one or two pieces away from really making that jump and taking off. I definitely think this is an attractive city [and situation]. And I’m not a tampering guy or anything like that, but I think I’m a good recruiter – for sure.”

Sam Amick of The Athletic reported two weeks ago that the Hawks plan to be aggressive in pursuing free agent meetings this offseason. Atlanta sports a talented young core of Young, John Collins and Kevin Huerter, with the team expected to have roughly $41MM of cap space to work with in July.

In addition to its young core, the club is armed with a new head coach in Lloyd Pierce, an upgraded arena and revamped practice facilities. Among the free agents set to be available: Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton and DeMarcus Cousins.

As for Young, he’s improved rapidly since his first month in the NBA, cementing himself as one of the top young players in the league at just 20 years of age. He held per-game averages of 23.3 points, 9.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds during the month of February.

“I think the game is starting to really slow down for me,” Young told Kennedy. “Now, I’ve kind of seen a little bit of everything in terms of what teams are throwing at me and how defenses are trying to guard me. Also, I’ve seen most teams multiple times; in some cases, it’s my second or third time playing against a certain team.

“I know more about who I’m playing against too. I feel like I’m getting more used to the NBA game, the style, as well. I think I’m starting to feel more comfortable. I’m much more comfortable than I was during that first month, when I was shooting 19 percent from three. That was just… terrible.”

Hawks Notes: Young, Future, Pierce

No matter how well Trae Young performs in his career, he will always be compared to Luka Doncic after the Hawks dealt the Slovenian wing to the Mavs in exchange for Young and a future first-rounder. Young embraces the comparisons, as he tells Marc Stein of The New York Times in the scribe’s latest newsletter.

“I know it’s a part of my life now,” Young said. “I tell everybody that hopefully we’re both 15-plus years down the line and we’re still playing and it’s a competition that’s been going since draft night…I think it’s going to go on forever, so might as well just accept it and take it on as a challenge.”

The Hawks are excited about the 20-year-old point guard in part because of his wise perspective at such a young age, Stein writes. Of course, Atlanta is also thrilled with Young’s game on the court. The University of Oklahoma product got off to a slow start to the season, but said the game “is really starting to slow down” for him. Young has averaged 21.5 points and 8.3 assists while making 39.2% of his looks from downtown since the start of the 2019 calendar year.

Here’s more from Atlanta:

  • The Hawks have the right pieces in place as they close out year-one of their rebuild, Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution contends.  In addition to their young core, which includes Young, John Collins, and Kevin Huerter, Atlanta will likely receive the Mavs’ 2019 first-rounder, which is top-5 protected. Dallas currently has the eighth-worst record, as our Reverse Standings show.
  • Young said Kevin Durant reached out to him, lending the rookie advice on how to deal with criticism, as Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports passes along. “[Durant] said remain [yourself], keep going, things are gonna turn and go the right way for you,” Young said. “Just to keep my head straight. I’ve known KD a long time, and he’s given me a lot of advice growing up.”
  • Young has the green light to shoot from anywhere on the court, though coach Lloyd Pierce emphasizes that the point guard isn’t the only player without restrictions, as Goodwill relays in the same piece. “The freedom is for everybody. There’s no restrictions on who’s taking the shots or who’s making the plays. It starts with Trae,” Pierce said. “There’s a time and place, what’s a good or bad shot, a quick shot. I probably yell at guys more for passing up shots than for taking shots. Brian Shaw said something years ago at a camp, ‘Don’t pass up good [expletive] for bulls–t.’ So I don’t care if it’s further back. If it’s an open shot and you’re in rhythm, take it.”

Schlenk: Hawks Would Have Drafted Luka At No. 3

The Hawks participated in the biggest draft-day trade of 2018, agreeing to move down two spots from No. 3 to No. 5 in a deal with the Mavericks. The trade will have a significant impact on both franchises going forward, with third overall pick Luka Doncic looking like a franchise player in Dallas while No. 5 pick Trae Young appears to be a foundational piece in Atlanta.

In an appearance on Adrian Wojnarowski’s Woj Pod, Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk revisited that blockbuster deal, explaining the thinking behind the move (hat tip to RealGM). According to Schlenk, Atlanta had been preparing to select Doncic at No. 3 – even tentatively letting agent Bill Duffy know when Doncic’s introductory press conference would take place – before the Mavs improved their trade offer on draft day.

“Not a lot of people know this,” Schlenk said. “If we would have stayed at three, we would have taken Luka. We had worked with his agent, he did a physical for us that morning in New York. … But then Dallas came in an hour or so before the draft. I told them all along that it would take another lottery pick for us to slide back, and that’s when the conversations got started.”

The price to move up two spots in 2018 was the Mavericks’ top-five protected 2019 first-rounder. While that pick wasn’t necessarily assured of becoming a lottery pick – and still isn’t – Schlenk told Wojnarowski that the work done by the Hawks’ analytics staff made him and the front office feel good about that selection.

“For us, what made (the trade) make sense is our analytics staff was projecting Dallas to finish eighth (in the reverse standings) this year,” Schlenk said.

As the Hawks’ GM observes, that projection looks pretty accurate so far — Dallas currently has the NBA’s ninth-worst record. Still, with draft experts somewhat bearish on the 2019 class as a whole, the Mavs will likely be fine with handing over a top-10 pick. Surrendering that selection gave them the opportunity to secure their first bona fide star since Dirk Nowitzki‘s decline began.

Southeast Notes: Huerter, Beal, Prince, Isaac

The Hawks are in the early stages of a rebuild. Having brought in a new coaching staff and with a new focus on player development, it has been very encouraging for the team to see Kevin Huerter break out in recent weeks. After slowly adjusting to the NBA, Huerter has received more playing time as of late and has been productive in his role. Chris Kirschner of The Athletic details Huerter’s recent stretch of play and what it means for the Hawks’ future.

For the season, Huerter is averaging 8.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while knocking down 38% of his 3-pointers. However, in January the 20-year-old guard is averaging 15 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game while playing 38 minutes per contest.

As Huerter continues to develop alongside Trae Young and John Collins, it’s clear that the Hawks have quality young talent to grow and develop for years to come.

There’s more from the Southeast division:

Bulls Notes: Record Loss, Hoiberg, Dunn, Arcidiacono

New Bulls coach Jim Boylen didn’t hold back his criticism after Saturday’s 56-point loss to the Celtics, the worst defeat in franchise history, relays Malika Andrews of ESPN.

“I think your play is embarrassing,” said Boylen, who pulled his five starters for the night three minutes into the third quarter. “… I worked for [Spurs head coach] Gregg Popovich. He subbed five guys a ton of times. Nobody says a word to him about it. He felt that was best for the team. I felt that was best for the team where we were at. I wanted to give the other guys a chance to see if they could right the ship a little bit. If I don’t like the five guys out there, if I don’t like the combination, I’m going to look at a new combination. Take them all out, let them sit there and think about it.”

There was plenty to think about, and none of it was good. Chicago fell behind 17-0 and went more than six minutes of the first quarter without scoring. The deficit was 32 points when Boylen decided to pull Ryan Arcidiacono, Zach LaVine, Justin Holiday, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter, who combined for 27 points on the night, the lowest total for a Bulls starting lineup in 11 years. Fans booed loudly throughout the game as the team fell to 6-21.

“We don’t have that internal toughness yet to play at this level consistently,” Boylen said afterward.

There’s more this morning from Chicago:

  • Bulls management claims that former coach Fred Hoiberg was dismissed because he lost his influence with his players, but the real reason was a deteriorating relationship with GM Gar Forman, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Bobby Portis was the latest player to come to Hoiberg’s defense Saturday. “He’s a players’ coach, lets guys go out there and do what they do, get better,” Portis said. “Me, personally, he helped me develop my game a lot, so I credit a lot of things toward him. To say that he lost the respect of the locker room, I don’t think that’s a good way to put it.’’
  • Portis and Kris Dunn are both close to returning from knee injuries, although neither played Saturday. Dunn’s return will mark a critical time in his career, as he becomes eligible for a rookie contract extension at the end of the season, Cowley notes in a separate story. Dunn has been effective since coming to Chicago last year, but it’s not clear if the front office is fully invested in him as the point guard of the future. Cowley states that the team had a private workout with Trae Young before the draft and considered taking Collin Sexton with the seventh pick before opting for Carter.
  • Arcidiacono’s high-energy game has made him an effective fill-in during Dunn’s absence, writes Sam Smith of NBA.com.