Victor Oladipo

Finalists For NBA Awards Announced

The top three finalists for each of this year’s NBA awards are being released on tonight’s TNT pre-game show. The trophies will be presented June 25 at the league’s official awards show.

Here’s an ongoing list that we will update as the candidates are announced, along with links to our staff’s picks for each honor:

Rookie of the Year

Hoops Rumors Analysis: ROY


Most Improved Player

Hoops Rumors Analysis: MIP


Sixth Man of the Year

Hoops Rumors Analysis: Sixth Man


Coach of the Year

  • Dwane Casey (Raptors)
  • Quin Snyder (Jazz)
  • Brad Stevens (Celtics)

Hoops Rumors Analysis: COY


Defensive Player of the Year

Hoops Rumors Analysis: DPOY


Most Valuable Player

Hoops Rumors Analysis: MVP

Pacers’ Pritchard: We Hit Jackpot With Oladipo

Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard lavished praise on Victor Oladipo and revealed he consulted the team’s current star on potential moves, Dakota Crawford of the Indianapolis Star relays. Pritchard’s comments were made during radio interviews with ESPN’s Dan Dakich and CBS Sports Radio’s Kent Sterling. Pritchard said Oladipo changed the organization after being acquired from the Thunder in the Paul George deal last summer, not only with his breakout season but with his personality.

We feel like we hit the jackpot,” Pritchard said. “No offense to Paul George, he’s having success and he’s going to go wherever he wants this offseason …”

Pritchard texts regularly with Oladipo and indicated he’d ask for the guard’s input on future decisions. Pritchard began doing that at the trade deadline.

“We looked at two or three deals. Two of them were just OK. But one of them, we really looked at. We went to Victor … he said some things, and we (kind of decided to leave it on the table).”

In other nuggets from the interviews:

  • Pritchard said he’d like to retain forward Thaddeus Young, who has a player option on his contract. “He didn’t talk a lot in the locker room, but when he did it was powerful. Thad was amazing. We hope he comes back.”
  • Pritchard hinted he wasn’t interested in pursuing George in free agency. Front office executives aren’t allowed to speak specifically about opposing players. “One of the things we’re about, we don’t care about big names, we don’t care about big personalities we don’t care about big brands. What we care about is being humble … Anybody that fits in, yeah, we’re interested … But if they don’t fit that, I’m not interested. It’s that simple.”
  • Pritchard liked the way the contracts of Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic worked out and indicated he might take the same approach this offseason. Both were signed to two-year deals with a team option. “We think big, but the challenge is, if we lose a lot of our pieces to go big … are you better off with a couple major players, or are you better off with a really good group of players that don’t make the $30 million? That (instead) make the $10 or $12 million.”

Pacers Notes: Young, Offseason Outlook, Barton

As we relayed earlier today, Cory Joseph will opt in to his contract for next year, leaving Thaddeus Young as the only Pacers player with a decision to make on a player option for next season. J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star reports that GM Kevin Pritchard indicated in exit meetings that both Joseph and Young would like to return. As it turns out, he was correct on his assessment of Joseph, and we’ll soon find out whether Young will join Joseph in exercising his player option for 2018/19 worth about $13.8MM.

Michael opines that Young will likely opt out of his salary for the opportunity to sign a long-term contract, while Bobby Marks of ESPN estimates that a starting salary for Young on the open market would likely fall short of his salary for next season should he choose to opt in. Per Marks, Young will need to determine whether the future financial security of a long-term contract with a lower annual salary outweighs earning a higher salary for one season. Ultimately, Marks thinks Young will opt in, leaving the Pacers right at the salary cap come this summer.

There’s more out of Indianapolis:

  • Pritchard and the Pacers face an important offseason this summer, writes Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star. Gone are the days when the Pacers can sneak up on opponents with their new-found success, with head coach Nate McMillan saying, “We won’t go under the radar, so to speak, next season.”
  • Mark Montieth of Pacers.com takes a look at the options facing Pritchard and the Pacers’ front office this offseason. The overarching question that must be answered is whether Indiana will risk their new-found positive locker room culture by bringing significant new players or leave the status quo and rely on improvement from young players such as Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis.
  • As we touched upon a couple of weeks ago, one potential free agent target for the Pacers could be Nuggets swingman Will Barton, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Cavaliers Notes: Thompson, LeBron, Leonard, Oladipo

Most of Tristan Thompson‘s recent headlines have been for his off-court behavior, but that isn’t why he has fallen out of the Cavaliers’ playoff rotation, writes Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report. Thompson, who played just two minutes at the end of the Game 1 loss to Indiana, is coming off his worst statistical season since he was a rookie and may still be hampered by a torn calf muscle he suffered in November.

According to Swartz, Thompson’s playing time has declined because of his inability to handle the two priorities of a modern center: protecting the rim and shooting from long distance. He averaged just 0.3 blocks per game this season and hasn’t made a 3-pointer in his seven-year NBA career.

Kevin Love has taken over as the starting center, with Jeff Green at power forward. The back-up minutes in Game 1 went to Larry Nance Jr., who was acquired from the Lakers in a February trade. Thompson is a huge expense to keep on the roster if he doesn’t play, with two seasons and more than $36MM left on his contract.

There’s more today out of Cleveland:

  • LeBron James believes the Cavaliers’ roster uncertainty throughout the season may have impacted them in the playoff opener, relays Dave McMenamin on ESPN Now. “I think we spent so much time trying to figure out who we were in the regular season and getting the right lineups and guys in and out and things of that nature, we could never build for the playoffs,” James said. “It was kind of like, build for the next game. So the postseason finally hit us and it hit us very well. And I think that can be the best teacher for us to know exactly what we should be ready for tonight.”
  • If the Spurs decide to trade Kawhi Leonard, that could affect James’ strategy in free agency, suggests Brian Windhorst of ESPN. In a video posted on Twitter, Windhorst says if the Cavaliers fail to reach the NBA Finals, James and Leonard will have about six weeks to discuss their future and plot a way to end up on the same team. Windhorst names the Sixers and Lakers as teams with the assets to acquire both.
  • With Victor Oladipo shredding the Cavs for 32 points in Game 1, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets that Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert wanted Oladipo instead of Anthony Bennett with the top pick in the 2013 draft, but decided to listen to the front office. Bennett, who is now out of the NBA, played just one season for the Cavaliers before being traded to Minnesota.

Central Notes: Oladipo, Parker, Korver, Bulls

Despite Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweeting that Pacers guard Victor Oladipo was not the primary object of Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert’s frustration over the failed trade that sent Paul George to Oklahoma City last summer, Oladipo implied that Gilbert’s comments add some extra motivation for Indiana in its first round series against Cleveland, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“You could say it added fuel to the fire, I guess you could say,” Oladipo said after the Pacers win in Game 1. “But that was so long ago. It came up recently, obviously, because we were playing the Cavs in the series, but I’m aware of what he said. Can’t control his opinion. All I’m focused on is myself and becoming the best Victor Oladipo possible.”

As for the series itself, many observers declared Oladipo to be the best player on the floor during Game 1, even with LeBron James on the other sideline. Oladipo credits his team’s effort – something seemingly often lacking for Cleveland – for his and the Pacers’ success this season.

“We’ve been playing like this all year,” he said of the Pacers. “Been playing hard on both ends all year. It just hasn’t been magnified. So it’s the playoffs now, we’ve been doing this all year. Now everybody sees, so it’s like, it’s kind of shocking to everybody, I guess you could say. But we’ve been playing hard. We’ve been playing our butts off on both ends of the floor all year.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks almost pulled out a victory against Boston in Game 1, but forward Jabari Parker wasn’t much of a factor in his first career playoff game, going 1-for-5 with two points in just 15 minutes of action. Per Nick Friedell of ESPN, Milwaukee is confident Parker will bounce back in Game 2.
  • It’s been a tough last couple of months for Cavaliers sharpshooter Kyle Korver, writes Joe Vardon of The Plain Dealer. Korver tragically lost his younger brother Kirk due to complications from a sudden illness in March, then missed additional games with a right foot injury upon his return to the team. The 37-year-old veteran is ready for Game 2 though, saying “I feel like it’s been a very complicated month in my mind, but I feel like I’m in a good spot right now and I’m ready to play.”
  • Vincent Goodwill and Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago take a stab at grading the 2017/18 Bulls backcourt and frontcourt in two separate articles. Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis, both frontcourt players, received the best grades on the team.

Contract Notes: Embiid, Davis, Lillard, Lowry

When All-NBA voters decide whether or not to classify Anthony Davis as a forward or center on their ballots this year, they may indirectly impact the value of Joel Embiid‘s new contract by approximately $30MM.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN details, the extension Embiid signed with the Sixers last offseason will be worth 25% of the cap starting in 2018/19. However, the contract includes a clause that states his starting salary would increase to 30% if he’s named to the All-NBA First Team. That salary bump would increase his overall earnings by about $30MM over the life of the five-year deal, but it can probably only happen if Davis receives most of his All-NBA votes at forward. Otherwise, he seems like a good bet to beat out Embiid for the center spot on the First Team.

No player has more at stake as a result of All-NBA voting or various other benchmarks than Embiid. But that contract is just one of many that could be affected by a variety of award results, postseason outcomes, or other criteria.

Marks’ piece is worth checking out in full for all the details, but here’s a quick look at a few noteworthy contract situations:

  • Pelicans star Anthony Davis will become eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension in 2019 if he earns an All-NBA spot this year. However, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is among the players who would need another All-NBA nod in 2019 to qualify for a supermax deal, even if he’s on this year’s All-NBA squad. Those Designated Veteran Extensions are known as supermax contracts because they start at 35% of the salary cap instead of 30%.
  • Kyle Lowry (Raptors) and Victor Oladipo (Pacers) would get sizable bonuses if their teams make deep playoff runs. Lowry would receive $500K for reaching the Eastern Finals, another $500K for winning the East, and another $500K for a title. Oladipo would earn $250K if Indiana reaches the NBA Finals.
  • All-Defense honors would pay off for Jazz center Rudy Gobert and Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday. Gobert will get a $500K bonus if he’s named to the All-Defense First Team, while Holiday would get $100K for a spot on the First Team or Second Team.
  • Among the players who have already earned bonuses: Hawks center Dewayne Dedmon ($900K for incentives related to points, rebounds, and games played), Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless ($500K for his three-point percentage), Bucks center John Henson ($500K for playing 75+ games), and Jazz guard Ricky Rubio ($175K for his field-goal and free-throw percentages).

Central Notes: Oladipo, Pistons Rotation, Griffin

Victor Oladipo knew a breakout season was possible after speaking with Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard on the team’s private plane prior to his introductory press conference last summer, as Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated divulges in a feature story. Pritchard assured Oladipo that the club truly coveted his services, rather than just matching up salaries to facilitate the Paul George blockbuster with the Thunder. Indiana wanted to play faster this season. “This wasn’t a dump. We targeted you,” Pritchard told Oladipo, according to Jenkins. The All-Star shooting guard is averaging a career-high 24.4 PPG for the surprising Pacers.  “It was the first time in my career I felt like a team really believed in me,” Oladipo told Jenkins. “I was just thinking, Don’t mess this up.”

In other nuggets involving the Central Division:

  • Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy will likely go with a 10-man rotation once Reggie Jackson returns from his Grade 3 ankle sprain, according to Ansar Khan of MLive.com.  Jackson would join a starting unit of Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, Stanley Johnson and Reggie Bullock. Ish Smith would return to his usual role as leader of the second unit with center Eric Moreland and forwards Anthony Tolliver and James Ennis getting steady minutes, Khan speculates. Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway would split time as the backup shooting guard, Khan adds.
  • Pistons owner Tom Gores invited Griffin and his business partners over to his California home immediately after the blockbuster deal with the Clippers, as Keith Langlois of Pistons.com details. Gores wanted to assure Griffin how badly the Pistons wanted him and address any concerns the five-time All-Star power forward might have, Langlois continues. The Pistons are 5-3 since Griffin joined their lineup. “We were very quickly on the same page with the same view of what we want to achieve and the approach to get there,” Gores told Langlois. “He’s definitely hit the ground running. It’s been great to see how his teammates, the whole organization and the fans have embraced him.”

Pacers Notes: Oladipo, Culture, Jefferson

The Pacers have been riding a wave of overachievement in the first half led by 2018 All-Star Victor Oladipo. With the departure of Paul George — who was dealt for Oladipo — the Pacers entered the season without a franchise star and dimmed playoff hopes. Thus far, the team is in playoff position and Oladipo is happy to be the leader, ESPN’s Mike Wells writes.

Ownership’s faith in the current roster was best demonstrated when the Pacers stood pat at the deadline. No moves were made the roster was given a vote of confidence to continue its mission. And, on this mission, the leader is a player who has developed into a possible franchise mainstay.

“After what we went through with somebody who didn’t want to be here, to have someone who really wants to be here is so rewarding and refreshing,” owner Herb Simon said to ESPN. “His whole spirit brought life into the whole team and the whole organization. So we love that.”

Check out other Pacers notes below:

  • General manager Kevin Pritchard was active on the phones during the deadline but a request from six Pacers players to not break up the roster swayed his opinion, NBA.com’s Mark Monteith writes. “Unless we knew we could really help the team I wanted to make sure there were no disruptions,” Pritchard said. “Our culture means everything.”
  • Al Jefferson is no longer the starting center who averages a near double-double, but he has an invaluable presence as a veteran on a young, overachieving team, Clifton Brown of the Indianapolis Star writes. Cory Joseph vouched for Jefferson’s ability and revealed a nickname he came up with for the veteran when he was in Utah. “Instant Buckets,” Joseph said. “That pump fake? When I was in San Antonio, we played Utah in the playoffs. I’d always be on the bench like, ‘Don’t jump.'”
  • In case you missed it yesterday, Hoops Rumors also caught up with Jefferson to discuss why he is happy to stay in Indiana and why the team “can do something special.”

Southeast Notes: Walker, Vucevic, Oladipo, Whiteside, Wizards

Kemba Walker is the Hornets‘ best and most popular player — which makes him the most desirable trade chip as the February 8 trade deadline approaches. There’s an anxiety over Walker’s future with Charlotte which will not subside until the deadline comes and goes, Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer writes.

At this juncture, a trade of Walker during the season seems unlikely. The Hornets sport a 20-27 record, good for 11th place in the Eastern Conference and five games back of the Pacers for the eighth seed. Team owner Michael Jordan recently downplayed the rumors of a Walker trade, instead suggesting the team’s disappointing season has led the team to discussions with multiple teams.

Walker has enjoyed another great season for Charlotte, averaging 21.9 PPG and 5.9 APG in 45 games. He would be an upgrade for several teams, including his hometown Knicks, who have been a rumored trade partner, but nothing is imminent.

Check out other Southeast Division news and notes:

  • Magic center Nikola Vucevic recently made significant progress as he recovers from a fractured left hand, John Denton of NBA.com writes. Doctors have encouraged Vucevic to play more video games so that he get strength in the injured left hand. “They said anything where I’m using the hand – even playing video games – will be good for it, so I’m doing it,’’ Vucevic said.
  • Victor Oladipo is a 2018 NBA All-Star, which will haunt the Magic, a team that has lacked a true superstar talent, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Oladipo enjoyed three solid seasons with Orlando before a 2016 deal sent him, along with the draft rights of Domantas Sabonis, to the Thunder for veteran Serge Ibaka.
  • After a disappointing performance where he committed seven turnovers, Heat big man Hassan Whiteside heard criticism from everyone, including head coach Erik Spoelstra. Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel writes that Spoelstra expects more from Whiteside.
  • The Wizards should be better than they have played with the trio of John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter leading the pack. Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer writes that the time is now for Washington to make a trade deadline deal and make a playoff push.

Central Notes: Walker, Van Gundy, LaVine, Cavs

The case for the Pacers pursuing a trade for Hornets point guard Kemba Walker comes down to whether he’d mesh with another ball-dominant guard in Victor Oladipo, Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star opines. Indiana hasn’t been linked to Walker but needs a long-term solution at point guard, Ayello continues.  The Pacers could dangle rookie forward T.J. Leaf, a 2018 first-round pick and a handful of expiring and short-term contracts to interest the Hornets, Ayello notes. They also have some team-friendly contracts to trade if Charlotte wants to package a bad contract with Walker. Indiana needs another playmaker but Walker may not fit its scheme and he’s a subpar 3-point shooter, Ayello adds.

Also of note regarding the Central Division:

  • The Pistons have lost five straight and coach Stan Van Gundy admits he’s at a loss why the team’s effort and energy has sunk over the past month, as he told Hoops Rumors and other media members. Detroit suffered a one-point home loss Sunday to the Nets, a team they blew out 11 days earlier. “I don’t know what’s with us. We’re not playing hard enough consistently enough,” he said. “We played hard at times. … But we’re not consistent enough at the defensive end and that, I don’t understand.”
  • Zach LaVine is still trying to get back into top basketball shape, as the Bulls shooting guard admitted to Vince Goodwill of NBCSports.com. LaVine is averaging 11.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG and 2.5 APG in 19.2 MPG in four games since returning from knee surgery. “It was feeling good in practice but in games it’s seventy [percent],” LaVine said of his conditioning. “Playing defense, getting back, running the break, just getting used to it.” LaVine will be reevaluated on Wednesday and could soon see an uptick in minutes, Goodwill adds.
  • Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue doesn’t plan on making a lineup change even though his team has lost 10 of its last 14, according to Associated Press report. Lue said that group has proven it can also turn things around. “We’ve got to play better, we’ve got to be sharper and that’s what we continue to keep working on,” he said. “It’s the same team that won 18 out of 19 and 13 in a row.”