- Injured center Ian Mahinmi said today that he still hopes to return to the Wizards before the end of the first round series vs. Atlanta, but he has yet to practice with the team, tweets Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. While Mahinmi says he’s ahead of schedule in his recovery from a strained left calf, head coach Scott Brooks suggests the big man has been ruled out for Game 5, and he’s skeptical about Mahinmi’s availability for Game 6 (Twitter links via Buckner).
Last year’s NBA Finals combatants, the Cavaliers and Warriors, made quick work of their first round playoff opponents, dispatching the Pacers and Trail Blazers respectively in four games apiece. However, many of the other first round series around the NBA remain very much up in the air.
Currently, four series are tied at 2-2, with two of those Game Fives scheduled for tonight, and two more on tap for Wednesday. The Clippers and Jazz have each split their home games, resulting in a 2-2 tie, while the No. 7 seeded Grizzlies won two home games over the Spurs following David Fizdale‘s post-Game 2 “take that for data” rant, pulling even in that series. Those four teams will be in action tonight.
Over in the Eastern Conference, the No. 1 seeded Celtics find themselves tied with the No. 8 Bulls in an unusual series in which road teams are 4-0 so far. Meanwhile, the Hawks ripped through the Wizards‘ defense in two games in Atlanta, evening that series at 2-2. Both of those series will resume on Wednesday.
In each of those four series, the higher seed maintains the advantage, with two of the final three games on their home court. But most of those higher seeds don’t look as formidable as they did entering the postseason.
What do you think? Will any of these series result in upsets? If the Jazz are able to knock off the Clippers, should that series even be viewed as a legit upset, given the absence of Blake Griffin and the teams’ identical regular season records?
Vote below on which lower seeds will make it through the first round — you can pick as many as you want. After placing your vote, share your thoughts in the comments section!
The first round of the 2017 postseason has thus far served as an opportunity for John Wall to showcase his progress as an NBA superstar, Jonathan Tjarks of the Ringer writes in a new feature. These playoffs, he says, belong to the 26-year-old guard.
Up an early two games on the Hawks, Wall and the Wizards have been particularly tough on Atlanta. The relatively unheralded point guard has simply outmatched Dennis Schroder throughout their time on the court together.
Considering that Wall still doesn’t even have a signature shoe deal, as Tjarks points out, he’s flown under the radar compared to his superstar NBA counterparts. That would change if Wall is able to carry the Wizards into an Eastern Conference Finals showdown with the Cavaliers.
There’s more from Washington:
- Center Ian Mahinmi didn’t play for the Wizards in either Games 1 or 2 of their first-round series and isn’t expected to be available in the next two either, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post tweets.
- The NBA has come down on Kelly Oubre Jr. with a $25K fine for kicking a ball into the stands and striking a spectator, the league announced in a press release. The second-year guard kicked the ball into the air during Washington’s post-game celebration.
- Acquired to provide a spark off the bench for the Wizards, Brandon Jennings did exactly that in Washington’s Game 2 over the Hawks. The eight-year veteran has been a valuable source of experience, too, writes Ava Wallace for the Washington Post.
Knicks president Phil Jackson didn’t mince words when addressing his long-simmering dispute with Carmelo Anthony in a press conference Friday. Making his intentions clear to end their relationship, Jackson said, “I think the direction with our team, he’ll be better off somewhere else.”
The problem is that there’s no easy way for a break-up to occur. Anthony is under contract for $26,243,760 next season and $27,928,140 in 2018/19 with an early termination option. There is also a 15% trade kicker that must be paid by whatever team acquires him, along with a no-trade clause that Anthony can use to block any deal he doesn’t like.
With that in mind, several NBA writers have taken a look at where Anthony might wind up:
- Anthony has three options for the offseason, writes Tom Ziller of SBNation. He can waive the no-trade clause and accept a deal, although Ziller says he shouldn’t feel obligated to do so just because Jackson wants him gone. He can submit a list of teams that he would agree to be traded to, which would presumably include joining friends LeBron James with the Cavaliers, Chris Paul with the Clippers or Dwyane Wade with the Bulls. Or he can make a stand and tell the Knicks that he won’t leave until his contract expires. Ziller favors the last option, noting that Anthony likes being in New York and has earned the power he obtained through the no-trade clause.
- The Cavaliers, Clippers and Celtics, whom the Knicks reportedly contacted about moving Anthony before the February deadline, are listed as possible destinations by The New York Post, along with the Heat and Wizards.
- Miami may have interest in Anthony, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel, who notes that team president Pat Riley pursued the Knicks star in free agency three years ago. With more than $25MM expected to be freed in cap space once the Chris Bosh situation is resolved, Miami could add Anthony with a simple trade, and Winderman suggests Justise Winslow as a possibility. However, that would leave the team unable to re-sign James Johnson and Dion Waiters.
- The Bulls “will steer completely clear of whatever Carmelo does,” predicts Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. In a video posted on CSNChicago.com, Friedell suggests that if Anthony had come to Chicago three seasons ago, Tom Thibideau probably would have been kept as coach and current Knicks Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah would still be with the Bulls.
Here are Wednesday’s D-League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:
- The Wizards have recalled Sheldon Mac from the Rio Grand Valley Vipers, according to Chase Hughes of Comcast Sportsnet. Washington does not have its own D-League affiliate, so Mac played for Houston’s via the flex assignment rule.
- The Raptors have recalled Bruno Caboclo and Pascal Siakam from the Raptors 905, according to their Twitter feed. Both players have seen action in Toronto’s game against the Cavs tonight.
The Wizards will be without a key bench piece when their first-round series against the Hawks gets underway this weekend, reports Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. According to Buckner, veteran center Ian Mahinmi is dealing with a strained left calf, and will miss the team’s regular season finale, in addition to the start of the postseason.
Mahinmi, who sustained the injury on Monday, underwent an MRI that revealed some swelling. While Washington’s playoff schedule hasn’t yet been announced, the team intends to re-evaluate Mahinmi in seven to 10 days, so even if he’s ready to get back on the court at that point, he’d likely miss the first two or three games of the first round.
It’s a disappointing setback for Mahinmi, whose first season with the Wizards after signing a four-year, $64MM deal last summer has been marred by injuries. Although knee problems kept the 30-year-old out of action for most of the first half of the season, he had played well off the bench for Washington over the last couple months, averaging 5.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 1.1 SPG in 31 regular season contests (17.9 MPG).
“We’ll definitely miss Ian because he was actually playing his best basketball, defensively he was giving us a very good rim protector and pick-and-roll player,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said. “I’m still confident in the group. We’ll still play hard and play well.”
Thabo Sefolosha settled his civil lawsuit with five members of the New York City Police Department, Thabo and his attorney announced Wednesday. Sefolosha’s attorney – Alex Spiro – told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he is “glad this matter is resolved.”
While financial terms of the settlement were said to be confidential, James C. McKinley Jr. of the New York Times reported a $4MM settlement from New York City, resulting from false arrest and using excessive force. Sefolosha released a statement through the Hawks‘ official website, announcing his intent to make a donation to a nonprofit organization.
“While I alone can’t bring the type of change needed to eliminate these issues, I want to help make a difference,” Sefolosha stated. “A substantial portion of my settlement will be donated to Gideon’s Promise, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that helps support and train public defenders across the country…It is an extremely gratifying feeling to know that justice has been served and that now, finally, I can truly put this behind me.”
More from around the Southeast…
- Willie Reed won’t comment on his impending opt out clause decision this offseason, claiming he’ll make that decision once the season’s over. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Reed’s excellent play may have placed him out of the Heat‘s price range. While Reed could stay in Miami for $1.5MM in 2017/18, he may command twice that amount on the open market, or more. “I think I’ve proved that I belong, that I can be a factor in this league for time to come. All I wanted to do was play in the NBA since I was a kid. I want to continuously show everyone I belong and I can be a factor in this league,” Reed said.
- Otto Porter‘s “unassuming” game has lifted the Wizards to postseason contention, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports writes. Porter, who ranks 19th in the NBA in Win Shares, will be “coveted” as a restricted free agent this summer. Still just 23 years old, Porter may command a max contract- projected to be worth more than $146MM over five seasons.
- Marcus Georges-Hunt has settled in with the Magic in his first NBA season, rewarding Frank Vogel for giving him a late-season look. An undrafted rookie, Georges-Hunt earned his NBA promotion by averaging 15.8 points over 45 games with the Maine Red Claws. “Marcus is a big-time scorer,” Vogel told Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders. “[He] really has the ability to score, especially in a game like this where you have so many exceptional drivers and the ability to move his feet and have some toughness to him and contain the basketball. That is a skillset our team has lacked this year.”
The NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which will go into effect on July 1, 2017, includes a number of changes to the free agent process, including some that apply specifically to restricted free agents. However, one aspect of restricted free agency unaffected by the new CBA is what’s referred to as the “starter criteria,” which can affect how much an RFA’s qualifying offer will be worth.
Here’s how the starter criteria works: A player who is eligible for restricted free agency is considered to have met the starter criteria if he plays at least 2,000 minutes or starts 41 games in the season before he reaches free agency. A player can also meet the criteria if he averages either of those marks in the two seasons prior to his restricted free agency. For instance, if a player started 50 games in 2015/16 and 35 in 2016/17, he’d meet the starter criteria, since his average number of starts over the last two seasons exceeds 41.
A player’s ability or inability to meet the starter criteria can affect the value of the qualifying offer he receives as a restricted free agent, as follows:
- A top-14 pick who does not meet the starter criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 15th overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
- A player picked between 10th and 30th who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the ninth overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
- A second-round pick or undrafted player who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 21st overall pick would receive if he signed for 100% of the rookie scale.
- For all other RFAs, the standard criteria determine the amounts of their qualifying offers.
Extending a qualifying offer to a player ensures that a team has the right of first refusal if he signs an offer sheet, and gives the player the option of signing that one-year QO. Generally, the value of a restricted free agent’s qualifying offer isn’t hugely important, since very few RFAs accept those offers outright. Still, those QOs can have an impact on a team’s salary cap outlook during July’s free agent period, so it’s worth checking in to see which potential RFAs will be eligible for higher or lower qualifying offers this summer.
Listed below are the top-14 picks on track for restricted free agency who have not met the starter criteria. These players will be eligible for qualifying offers worth $4,187,598.
- Alex Len (Suns)
- Nerlens Noel (Mavericks)
- Trey Burke (Wizards)
- Michael Carter-Williams (Bulls)
- Kelly Olynyk (Celtics)
- Shabazz Muhammad (Timberwolves)
Len and Noel had the worst QO luck this season. As the fifth and sixth overall picks in 2013, they would have been in line for qualifying offers worth about $6.4MM and $5.85MM, respectively. Instead, their QOs will be worth less than $4.2MM. Both players were very close to meeting the starter criteria too — they’ve started 77 games apiece in the past two years, so they’ll fall just short of the 82 required.
The players listed below are non-lottery first-round picks who will meet the starter criteria. That will make each of them eligible for a qualifying offer worth $4,588,840.
All four of these players were selected in the 20-26 range in the 2013 draft, and their QOs would’ve ranged from about $3.39MM to $3.22MM if they hadn’t met the starter criteria.
Here are the rest of the RFAs whose qualifying offers won’t necessarily be determined by the standard criteria:
- Undrafted power forward JaMychal Green (Grizzlies) has met the starter criteria, putting him in line for a QO worth $2,820,497 instead of the more modest amount he would’ve received as a minimum-salary player.
- Two players – Joe Ingles (Jazz) and Ben McLemore (Kings) – still have a chance to meet the starter criteria depending on how the season’s last four days play out. Ingles has played 1,848 minutes this season, meaning he would have to average about 38 MPG in Utah’s last four contests to reach 2,000, which is a tall order. McLemore may fall just short as well, as he currently sits at 79 starts over the last two seasons. He’ll need to start three of the Kings’ last four games in order to average 41 starts per year, but he has only been in Sacramento’s starting lineup twice since the start of March. (End-of-season update: Neither Ingles nor McLemore met the starter criteria.)
- Power forward Jason Smith has proven to be a bargain pickup for the Wizards, according to J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com. Smith, who played for the Magic last season, signed a three-year, $15MM deal as a free agent last summer. He’s averaging 5.6 PPG but is shooting 49.2% from 3-point range and 53.1% overall despite getting dropped from the rotation on occasion, Michael continues. His screening has also been a valuable asset, Michael adds.