East Draft Notes: Wizards, Raptors, Bulls, Magic, Nets

UCLA point guard Aaron Holiday heads the list of six players the Wizards will work out on Wednesday, according to the team’s website. Holiday is ranked No. 17 by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. He will be joined by two Kansas guards, Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, along with forwards Johnathan Williams (Gonzaga), Moritz Wagner (Michigan) and Zach Thomas (Bucknell).

In other draft news regarding Eastern Conference teams:

Raptors Notes: Casey, Powell, VanVleet, DeRozan

Multiple reports on Tuesday indicated that the Raptors are believed to be leaning toward making a coaching change and replacing Dwane Casey. If that’s the case though, team president Masai Ujiri didn’t tip his hand when he spoke to the media today, telling reporters that Toronto’s evaluation process is ongoing — not just for Casey, but for all aspects of the organization.

As for Casey himself, he still spoke of the Raptors as “we” during the press conference, and sounded like someone ready to move forward with the club, joking that the team hadn’t changed the locks on him within the last couple days.

While we wait to see whether the Raptors decide to move on from Casey, let’s round up a few more notes out of Toronto, including more items from today’s presser:

  • Asked about the possibility of blowing up the roster and tanking, Ujiri dismissed that idea, per Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun (Twitter link). “We’re not doing that (tanking) here,” Ujiri said, adding that the plan is to continue trying to contend while simultaneously identifying and developing young talent.
  • Ujiri also said that it’s his job to find ways to improve the Raptors’ roster despite the club’s cap limitations, tweets Wolstat. “Put it on me. We’ll get better here,” Ujiri said.
  • The Raptors’ decision to sign Norman Powell to a four-year, $41MM+ extension last offseason looks questionable, given that Powell wasn’t a real part of the team’s rotation down the stretch. However, Ujiri remains optimistic, pointing out that every NBA team is looking for wings, and the Raps still believe Powell can be that sort of two-way player (Twitter link via Eric Koreen of The Athletic).
  • Fred VanVleet, a restricted free agent this summer, says winning will be his top priority as he considers his next deal, but he sounds interested in staying in Toronto (Twitter link via Wolstat). “I love it here,” VanVleet said. “This is the place that gave me a chance, gave me the opportunity. I’m a loyal guy.” As Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic tweets, VanVleet will see a specialist and spend time this summer reworking his shooting form after suffering a shoulder injury last month.
  • A panel of ESPN writers offer up four potential trade ideas involving DeMar DeRozan in the event that the Raptors look to drastically reshape their roster.

Texas Notes: Mbah a Moute, Tucker, Mavericks, Spurs

After missing the Rockets‘ first playoff series with a dislocated right shoulder, Luc Mbah a Moute hopes to be ready today when his team opens the Western Conference semifinals against the Jazz, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. On Saturday, Mbah a Moute went through his first full practice since the injury and believes he will be able to play.

“I’m ready in my mind,” said Mbah a Moute, who also suffered a dislocated shoulder in December. “I’ve done this already, so I’m not used to it, but I pretty much know what to expect.”

Officially listed as questionable, Mbah a Moute has been an impact player since coming to Houston in free agency last summer. He averaged 7.5 points and 3.0 rebounds per game and has the best defensive numbers among the Rockets’ rotation players.

There’s more news today out of Texas:

  • P.J. Tucker, Houston’s other key free agent addition, has a lot of similarities with former Rocket Mario Elie, notes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. A member of the city’s two championship teams of the 1990s, Elie was known for his toughness and versatility, two qualities that define Tucker. “I just love his demeanor,” Elie said. “He’s like me. He’s angry on the court and that’s how he should be. He has no friends out there. He just competes. And what I like about him, is he guards multiple positions. That what he does that I really like, just like I did.”
  • The Mavericks could be indirect beneficiaries of LeBron James‘ free agency, suggests Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. No matter where James ends up, a team will likely have to unload a significant salary, which Dallas is in position to absorb. The Mavericks could wind up with Clint Capela from the Rockets, Robert Covington from the Sixers or Julius Randle from the Lakers, or if James stays in Cleveland, Dallas could pursue Pelicans free agent DeMarcus Cousins.
  • The focus in San Antonio will be on Kawhi Leonard this summer, but the Spurs have plenty of free agent concerns, states Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. If Danny Green opts out, Deveney expects him to get offers of $12MM to $14MM per year for three to four seasons, which may be higher than the Spurs are willing to go. It’s also doubtful that they would commit to an expensive long-term deal for Rudy Gay if he opts out.

Injury Updates: Curry, Porter, VanVleet, Mbah a Moute

Stephen Curry is officially listed as questionable for the start of the Warriors‘ series with the Pelicans tomorrow night, relays Mark Medina of The San Jose Mercury News.

The star guard, who is recovering from a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee, was able to go through a full-court scrimmage today for the first time since suffering the injury March 23. However, the team isn’t ready to commit to playing him in Game 1, and Curry calls his chances “50-50.”

“Still to be determined. They come up with those snazzy words for a reason – doubtful, questionable, probable,” he said. “Just trying to work my way up whatever I need to do with whatever [trainer] Chelsea [Lane], the rest of the athletic training staff and coaching staff need to see before I can get back out there.”

Curry and Lane spent about 20 minutes after practice talking to coach Steve Kerr, who said Curry will be re-examined tonight and after Saturday’s morning shootaround before making a decision.

“It’s not as simple as, ‘Does he feel good? Then throw him out there,’” Kerr said. “It’s more about, ‘Let’s give him a few days and see how he responds from it.’”

There’s more playoff-related injury news to pass along:

  • Wizards forward Otto Porter, who is out indefinitely following a surgical procedure today on his left leg, has been experiencing pain since Game 4 of the series with Toronto, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. The decision to perform a lower leg fasciotomy to address a build-up of blood flow in the contusion area was made after reviewing the results of an MRI conducted today. Kelly Oubre will take Porter’s spot in the starting lineup, with Tomas Satoransky and Ty Lawson both expected to get more playing time, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk (Twitter link). “We need Kelly on the floor,” coach Scott Brooks said to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. “Now that Otto is out, we need Kelly to give us great minutes. … It’s a great opportunity for him.” (Twitter link).
  • The Raptors will have guard Fred VanVleet available for tonight’s Game 6 with the Wizards, Lewenberg tweets. VanVleet has been limited to three minutes in the series because of soreness in his shoulder stemming from a collision on the final night of the season. “I don’t know what to expect,” said coach Dwane Casey, “but we’ll get him in.”
  • The Rockets had hoped to get Luc Mbah a Moute back for the start of their second-round series, but it appears that won’t happen, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Sidelined by a dislocated shoulder, Mbah a Moute won’t be re-evaluated until next week, although he was able to participate in the non-contact part of today’s practice, said coach Mike D’Antoni.
  • Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue still wasn’t sure of George Hill‘s  status when he met with reporters before tonight’s game, relays Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. Hill, who has been experiencing back spasms, warmed up before the game with a heat wrap on his back, notes ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (Twitter link).

Southwest Notes: Parsons, Holiday, Mbah a Moute, Ginobili

Chandler Parsons has given the Grizzlies a few reasons for optimism, writes Michael Wallace of NBA.com. Parsons continued to battle knee problems in the second season of a four-year, $94MM contract, but he appeared in 36 games, two more than a year ago, and may have reached 50 if the team hadn’t fallen out of contention so quickly, Wallace adds.

Former coach David Fizdale switched Parsons to power forward and reduced his playing time early in the season, but that changed when J.B. Bickerstaff took over, and Parsons was able to spread the floor and use his playmaking skills. He also shot a career-best .421 from 3-point range.

“I had moments this year where I felt good and felt like myself, and I had moments where the soreness and stiffness were just too much,” Parsons said. “I want to play. I want to be healthy. And I’m doing everything in my power to get there.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • In taking a 2-0 series lead over Portland, the Pelicans are getting the production they were counting on from Jrue Holiday when they re-signed him to a five-year, $126MM deal last summer, notes Mark Schwarz of ESPN. Holiday had 33 points and nine assists Tuesday as New Orleans won its second straight road game. “I may be a bit biased, but if you can tell me a better two-way player in the league right now, I’m willing to listen,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “But what we ask him to do and the things we ask him to do offensively, he was just great tonight.”
  • Rockets forward Luc Mbah a Moute is healing quickly after dislocating his shoulder late in the season, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Mbah a Moute hinted that he might be able to play against Minnesota if the first-round series lasts long enough. “I wouldn’t say ‘no.’ But I also want to be smart and do the right thing,” he said. “It’s feeling better. Continue to do the rehab, get the strength back and see what happens.”
  • LeBron James isn’t the only NBA player being targeted by billboards, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. An “Uno Mas Manu” billboard has been posted near downtown San Antonio, urging Manu Ginobili to return for another season. “I don’t know why, ‘One more?’” he joked. “What’s up? I was thinking about signing a five-year deal, and now they are throwing me down. Very disappointing.” Ginobili, 41, recently said he will take some time this offseason before deciding whether to play a 17th season.

Injury Updates: Mitchell, Embiid, Turner, Lauvergne

Donovan Mitchell will be a game-time decision for the Jazz tonight, according to Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune. Mitchell, who stubbed a toe during the second half of the series opener with Oklahoma City, plans to go through warm-ups before deciding if he can play.

“If I’m limping or whatever, if I’m out there kinda trying to adjust and not playing right like my normal self, that will dictate it,” he said. “That was really my first time going at it since the game. … I’m waiting to see what I feel right before the game, so we’ll go from there.”

Mitchell, who is listed as questionable for tonight’s contest, was able to return to Sunday’s game after the injury, but has been limited at practice this week. He is Utah’s leading scorer at 20.5 points per game and posted 27 in the series opener.

There’s more injury-related news to pass along:

  • The Sixers are listing Joel Embiid as doubtful for Game 3, the team announced on Twitter. Coach Brett Brown said Embiid, who is recovering from March 31 facial surgery, was able to handle contact “quite well” in Tuesday’s practice, relays Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia (Twitter link). “He did a little bit of contact,” Brown said. “Not much, but a little. Got up and down and scripted some plays. But really not much more than that.” Embiid will be evaluated again at tomorrow’s shootaround (Twitter link).
  • Trail Blazers guard Evan Turner is questionable for Game 3 after suffering a bruised toe last night against the Pelicans, reports Jason Quick of NBC Sports Northwest. Turner was kicked in his big toe during a scramble for a loose ball and was limping after the game. Jusuf Nurkic, who left Tuesday’s game with a leg bruise, is expected to be OK.
  • The Spurs are listing Joffrey Lauvergne as out for Game 3 because of “personal business,” with no explanation of what that involves, relays Cody McCrary of The San Antonio Express-News.
  • The Timberwolves will be without rookie center Justin Patton tonight because of a sore left foot, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

Community Shootaround: Time To Rebuild The Clippers?

The scramble for Western Conference playoff spots got a little smaller today as the Clippers were officially eliminated with a 19-point loss to the Nuggets. It marks the end of a six-year playoff run for the franchise and may signal the start of a rebuilding project in L.A.

There’s an argument to be made that the process is already under way. It may have begun when Chris Paul demanded a trade to Houston last June, then was accelerated when Blake Griffin was shipped to Detroit. Paul and Griffin were the foundation for the greatest years the formerly downtrodden Clippers have ever experienced, and it feels like the team has already entered a new era.

The most consequential decision facing the Clippers this summer is out of their hands. DeAndre Jordan can opt out of a $24.12MM salary for next season and become an unrestricted free agent. Jordan, who has been with the franchise throughout his 10-year career, remains the cornerstone of the defense and one of the league’s best rebounders. Taking his salary off the books would open a ton of cap room, but there’s not an obvious replacement on the roster.

Also facing opt-out decisions are Austin Rivers ($12.65MM), Milos Teodosic ($6.3MM) and Wesley Johnson ($6.13MM). Rivers seems likely to stay as long as his father is the head coach, but that’s another area where change could be coming.

Doc Rivers has one year left on his contract, and a mutual parting could be in the works. Rivers lost influence in the organization when he was squeezed out of a front office job last offseason and may prefer to go someplace where he’ll have a say about personnel matters. Rivers once said he didn’t want to stay in Boston for a rebuilding project, and he probably has the same attitude toward Los Angeles.

Barring trades, the only sure things for the Clippers’ roster next season are Danilo Gallinari, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell. Patrick Beverley, who missed almost the entire season with a knee injury, has a nonguaranteed $5MM salary.

The news isn’t all bad for the Clippers, who will have their own lottery pick, along with the Pistons’ if it falls outside the top four. Detroit is 12th in our latest Reverse Standings and would need a lot of luck to hold onto the pick.

What would you do if you were running the Clippers? Would you re-sign Jordan if he opts out and try to start a new playoff streak, or is it time to start selling off the veterans and start over? Jump into the comments section below and give us your thoughts.

New York Notes: Kanter, Lee, Russell, Allen

Despite starting the season with four centers, that could become a position of need for the Knicks this summer, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Enes Kanter has signed with Mark Bartelstein, one of the NBA’s most powerful agents, as he ponders whether to opt out of an $18.6MM salary for next season, adds Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News.

Backup center Kyle O’Quinn has a $4.3MM opt out that he is expected to exercise, as he recently expressed a desire to join a playoff contender. Joakim Noah is on an extended leave of absence from the team, and Willy Hernangomez has already been traded to the Hornets. Berman expects the Knicks to use the stretch provision on Noah once September 1 arrives to open up future cap space.

There’s more today out of New York:

  • Trade rumors have surrounded veteran Courtney Lee, but he hopes to remain with the Knicks, relays Chris Iseman of NorthJersey.com. Lee doesn’t fit in with the youth movement in New York and may not have a future spot in a crowded backcourt. “All I can control is what I can control,” Lee said. “And that’s showing up here and being a professional and continuing to do the things I’ve been doing, encouraging and helping the young guys. And then when Coach calls my name, going out there and playing hard.”
  • Lee also came to the defense of embattled coach Jeff Hornacek, Iseman adds, blaming injuries for a disappointing season. The Knicks were 11-10 when Tim Hardaway Jr. suffered a stress injury to his left leg in late November, and Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL shortly after Hardaway returned. “For what, injuries?” Lee responded when asked about Hornacek. “For Tim having a stress fracture? For KP going down? How do you blame coach for that?”
  • D’Angelo Russell understands the need to improve after mixed results in his first season with the Nets, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Russell averaged 15.4 points and 5.1 assists, but missed 32 games after knee surgery and did little to calm fears about his defense. “Yeah, it could be better. I think it’s just learning. I’m feeling it out,” said Russell, who will be eligible for an extension this summer. “Everything I’m doing is new, playing with new coaches, new teammates. Everything is new. So I think it’s a feeling-it-out type deal with me, so it could always be better.”
  • Rookie center Jarrett Allen has been a pleasant surprise for the Nets, but coach Kenny Atkinson wants him to improve as a rebounder, Lewis notes in a separate story. Allen averages 5.3 boards per night, which ranks 46th among centers.

Weekly Mailbag: 3/26/18 – 4/1/18

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

What kind of return could the Knicks get for Trey Burke?  With a glut of younger point guards who need developing (Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay), the ability to draft another one (Trae Young? Collin Sexton?), the likelihood that they’ll go after Kyrie Irving in 2019, and Burke’s age (25 turning 26), Burke seems like he won’t be in their future plans despite his success with the team this year. — Alek Miletic

Sorting out the point guard situation will be among the Knicks’ many priorities this offseason. Burke has a nonguaranteed minimum deal for next season that could make him an attractive piece in any trade. However, counting on signing Irving a year from now is a risky strategy, so New York needs to determine which of its current guards has the brightest future or if they need to address the position in the draft. With Burke having a small contract, Ntilikina on a rookie deal and Mudiay (nearly $4.3MM next season) unlikely to be in demand, expect all three of them to be back for another season of sorting things out.

Whom do you think will the Cavaliers will take in the draft using Brooklyn’s pick? — Greg Dizon

The Nets have moved into a tie for seventh in our latest Reverse Standings, which might cost Cleveland a shot at one of the sure-fire big men at the top of the draft. There are too many variables to pick out one player for the Cavs because the direction of the franchise is going to depend on what LeBron James decides to do in July. Point guard could be a position of need with George Hill only one season away from his option year, but Cleveland will probably disregard position concerns and take the highest player on their board, just in case he’s the first step in rebuilding.

It seems draft pick forfeiture is extreme to prevent tanking. What if a team’s record in the final standings directly affected its national television exposure for the following season? Best records in the league get the most games. Worst records get the least. And somehow alter revenue sharing to where the Grizzlies would not benefit from the TV games the Warriors are on, for example. Seems that the less exposure one gets … the less merchandise you will sell, the less tickets you will sell, and the less appealing it would be for a free agent to choose the team as a destination. — Beauen Bogner
Won-loss records already play a big part in determining who gets the network games, which is why you don’t see the Suns, Hawks or Magic play very often. Revenue sharing won’t change unless it’s negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement, and the small-market owners would never agree to such a system. The league’s problem with tanking comes from years of refusing to call out teams that are obviously losing on purpose. Is it tanking for a non-contender to give extra rest to a star player with a minor injury? Or to allocate more minutes to younger players when the postseason is already out of reach? There are probably eight teams this season with no incentive to win, but despite talking tough and handing out fines, the NBA has never provided a clear definition of what constitutes tanking.

Pacific Notes: Thomas, Ball, Giles, Looney

Lakers guard Isaiah Thomas was facing a tough free agent market even before Wednesday’s announcement that he will have season-ending surgery on his right hip, according to Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports.

Only a few teams have the cap room available to give Thomas the kind of contract he was expecting, and most of them aren’t good fits. The Sixers already have Markelle Fultz, the Mavericks are set with rookie Dennis Smith Jr. and the rebuilding Bulls and Hawks aren’t likely to invest heavily in a 29-year-old guard with serious injury concerns.

“No one is going long there [with a deal], in all likelihood,” former Cavaliers GM David Griffin said. “[The hip] is a very significant factor. His whole game is predicated upon quickness and creating shot separation. If he can’t do that, he is a small non-defender.”

The Lakers have expressed interest in re-signing Thomas, but that’s only if they strike out on their primary targets in free agency.

There’s more news from the Pacific Division:

  • Lonzo Ball will have an MRI on his left knee today, but the Lakers rookie isn’t overly concerned about the results, relays Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Ball had to leave last night’s game after being kneed in the back of the leg in the third quarter. “It wasn’t in the spot that I previously hurt that caused me to miss a lot of games, so I wasn’t too worried about it,” Ball said. “It’s just kind of like a bruise. It just hurts, but I should be back soon.”
  • The Kings believe injured rookie Harry Giles has a bright future, but that won’t stop them from drafting a big man if they get an early lottery pick, writes Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. Giles, who has sat out the entire season after undergoing three knee operations in four years, tells Alex Kramers of NBA.com he knows he will eventually get a chance to prove himself. “I know that my time is coming,” he said. “It’s not like I’m [thinking], ‘I might not play. I might not do this or do that.’ I know it’s about just me working and getting better. I have to look at it like it’s only getting me ready for when my time really comes.”
  • Kevon Looney is making the most of his playing time with the injury-ravaged Warriors, writes Monte Poole of NBC Bay Area. The third-year power forward/center has finally gotten past the hip problems that required surgery early in his career. “He’s always had that game,” said teammate Andre Iguodala. “But the NBA is all about that confidence and opportunity. He’s feeling better, too. But even when he was hurting with his hips, I could always see his game.”