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NBA PM: Coaching Search Update

The Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers are several weeks into their coaching search and finalists are starting to emerge…

Yannis Koutroupis

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There are only two head coaching vacancies remaining in the NBA: the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Cavaliers’ search has been going on for nearly a month now, while the Lakers are six weeks into their search. A hiring does not appear to be imminent in either situation, but here’s what we know about where they are in the process:

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers swung for the fences by trying to pry John Calipari away from Kentucky, but even an offer worth up to $80 million and the chance for him to have some say in personnel moves wasn’t enough for them to get their guy. They have also been mentioned in association with some of the other top college coaches, like Kevin Ollie, Tom Izzo and Billy Donovan, but only the latter seems to be a possibility still.

The names being mentioned the most right now are two Clippers assistants, Tyronn Lue and Alvin Gentry, along with former Maccabi Tel Aviv head coach David Blatt. The Warriors are also going after Blatt to be one of Steve Kerr’s top assistants. Lue and Gentry are already set to have their second interview, while Blatt has yet to officially interview with the team.

Two other names to keep in mind are Nate McMillan, the former Trail Blazers coach who is now an assistant in Indiana, and former Warriors head coach Mark Jackson. With the draft two weeks away and the No. 1 overall pick belonging to the Cavaliers, Cleveland is likely feeling a little pressure to wrap the search up and find their guy.

Cavaliers GM David Griffin, the man heading the search, is said to want a coach who will institute an up-tempo system and utilize the Cavaliers guard play more effectively than Mike Brown was able to.

Los Angeles Lakers

Unlike the Cavaliers, the Lakers seem content to go into July without a head coach. A recent report from USA TODAY’s Sam Amick revealed that they are going into free agency with aspirations of landing the likes of Carmelo Anthony and/or LeBron James. Not having a head coach in place and allowing the free agents to have some input on their selection could be a determining factor in landing them, plus it’s not like they’re in danger of their targets bowing out of the race.

According to Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck, Byron Scott, Alvin Gentry and Kurt Rambis are basically the three finalists for the position. Rambis and Scott seem to have an edge on Gentry, who shares too many similarities with Mike D’Antoni, who he also replaced in Phoenix. While Rambis has a spot waiting for him on Derek Fisher’s staff in New York, the Lakers are the only team that will give him the opportunity to be a head coach right now. The same goes for Scott, so they’re really just forced to wait without much leverage to negotiate with. There’s no reason for the Lakers to rush, especially considering the competition they’re going to be facing for those All-Stars in free agency.

Given their targets and their relationship with Calipari, he may be the dark horse for the position. There was a rumor just before the start of the national championship game that Calipari was heading to the Lakers regardless of the outcome. Obviously, that was put out in haste, but if that’s who James or Anthony say they want to play for, the Lakers won’t have a choice but to aggressively pursue him. There’s been rumblings of such a pairing for years now, and this summer we could find out just how legitimate they are.

The most likely hire, though, appears to be either Scott or Rambis, given their familiarity with the franchise and their desire to go in a different direction than the one they were on the last two seasons with D’Antoni at the helm.

GET READY FOR THE 2014 NBA DRAFT WITH OUR DRAFT MAGAZINE, 100 PAGES OF ORIGINAL CONTENT TO GIVE YOU ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED ON ONE OF THE BEST DRAFT CLASSES TO COME ALONG IN RECENT MEMORY!

Lionel Hollins Exclusive Part 2

Earlier this week, we ran Part 1 of our exclusive with Lionel Hollins, where he talked about how surprised he is that he’s not coaching right now, how he adjusted with the Memphis Grizzlies and his coaching philosophies. Here’s the rest of our conversation with Hollins in which he goes more in depth on his time in Memphis and what he’s learned about himself as a coach:

On adapting to his personnel:

Hollins: “When you go in, I think in order to be a success as a coach you have to look at what you have and try to build a system around them instead of trying to make them fit your system because your system may not be the best system for that group of people. I thought that Mike D’Antoni had that same situation in LA; he has Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and he wants to play four out and one in, the pick-and-roll game and shoot threes. It really didn’t fit the group and Dwight Howard leaves and he has a little more success this year playing that way because the personnel fit his system, but the year before the personnel didn’t fit his system. I don’t think that he tried to fit the system to the personnel. Jerry Colangelo told me a long time ago the coach has be to a motivator, a communicator and he has to be flexible; I stick by that. I try to come out and be flexible in what we’re going to do and in fact when Zach Randolph went down in the strike-shortened season and I think he missed 30-something games, we changed how we played. We were still able to be successful playing that way, and that to me is how you win in this league and when you ask what was the key to my success, I think being flexible and recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of my players. I think that being a guy that’s honest, a guy trying to help them develop as people as well as players and letting them know that I care about them and it’s not about me it’s about them having success. I don’t need to be Coach of the Year, I don’t need any accolades. I want you guys to be successful and I want you guys to have the same success that I had as a player and experience what I experienced when being a part of winning. Selling them that the more we win, the more everybody gets the accolades. Zach Randolph was a 20 and 10 guy before he came to Memphis but because he was a part of winning he made two All-Star teams and he made third team All-NBA. He had a different label put on him because of that; that’s what basketball is about. It’s about five players playing together and working together for the good of a common goal. Our motto was. ‘One team, one goal’ and that’s what we stood by and that’s what we preached. I don’t think winning is a complicated thing, it’s a simple thing but as Hubie Brown used to say: ‘To be successful in basketball you have to know when to pass, know when to shoot and know when to dribble.’ It sounds simple, but it’s difficult for a lot of people and I think the same thing holds true for winning basketball; playing defense, rebounding the ball, getting easy buckets, getting to the free throw line, executing on offense, hitting the open man and never quitting on a game. All of those things sound so simple but to get 12 players to do it can be difficult. Getting players to understand it’s every night, doing the same thing and being who you are. Identify who you are and be who you are and once you do that you can have success in the league. I don’t think we were the most talented team in Memphis, we certainly didn’t shoot the ball great but we played to our strengths, we led in points in the paint and second chance points with the offensive rebounding. Defensively we got a lot of turnovers and we scored points off of those turnovers and we made the other team shoot a low percentage. We played to our strengths and we were successful. Hopefully when I get another team as I said after coaching the All-Star team yesterday against the USA, the Euros I said I pray to God that I have as many shooters on the team. When I was in Memphis we didn’t have a huge collection of shooters but we made enough shots and we did enough to keep the floor spaced and we played and did things that took advantage of teams where they couldn’t just load up on our post guys consistently. When you get to the playoffs, teams take away what you’re trying to do and make you play to your weaknesses.”

Being an “old school” coach:

Hollins: “No, I don’t know what that means. You have to be everything; I don’t think you can be one thing. I don’t want to be known as a defensive coach, I don’t want to be an offensive coach. I think you have to know offense, you have to know defense you have to know how to put a team together chemistry wise, developing relationships, how to be tough and when to back off. I think coaching is all of that and I’m just about winning. I don’t know if it’s about being winning is old school then I’m old school but I don’t think that’s true. Is Pop old school? Is Thibodeau old school? They just go out and coach to win and get the personnel to understand who they are and what their roles are and to do them daily at a high level and that’s what it’s about. I hope that these young coaches are telling the players what they need to hear even though it’s not what they want to hear. I hope the young coaches are demanding and have expectations because that’s the only way you can be successful. I don’t think it has anything to do with old or new, young or old either. I cringe every time I hear that and it’s the same thing, ‘He’s a player’s coach.’ I’m a teacher, I’m a motivator, I’m a communicator and I try to make players understand that they have to be accountable for their actions. There are certain rules that everybody has to live with and there are certainly things that players of higher caliber get to do more of. They get to take more bad shots because they’re going to make more shots and do more good things. If you’re playing big minutes you can make more mistakes than a guy who goes in and is only playing six or seven minutes a half. He can’t go in and have three or four turnovers like a guy who’s playing 30 to 40 minutes. There is a balance in all of this and I just try to win. I try to figure out what we need to do to win and put it into a plan and just work it until the guys have it and they believe in it and they understand in it. That’s what it’s all about – getting your team to understand how to play to win and once you do you can release the reins and let them go be who they want to be. Until they get to that point, you have to keep on them. It’s like raising a kid. Until the kid gets it, you can’t let up. You got to stay after him and once he has it and he starts doing the right thing on a consistent basis, you back off and you give him more responsibility and let him have more freedom.”

Being in his prime as a coach:

Hollins: “I feel like I’ve gotten to where I understand players. I understand the game and I have the energy and it’s a lot when you’re young, there’s a lot that you don’t understand and there’s a lot of emotion that you had that takes away from you being as good as you want to be. It’s like players – they have the physical ability but they don’t have the mental ability. Then all of a sudden it comes together and they have five, six, seven and eight years where they’re like that and then the physical ability starts going down and as the physical ability gets to a certain level, no matter how much mind they had there are players out there like when I look at KG – he’s had an unbelievable career. I look at Tim Duncan who’s had an unbelievable career. They say Father Time hasn’t lost yet and when you’re an athlete there’s a window that you have. I sell that to the players. Your window is going to be anywhere from four years to 15 or 16 years if you’re fortunate and have good health. No matter what it is, it’s going to be over. You’re going to be 35, 36, or 37 and you have the rest of your life to live. This game is just that — a game. You can’t do it your whole life and there are a lot of other things that you have to do. You have to understand that everything that you do to be successful in this game you can take and be successful outside of the game. I know when I got done playing I went back to school to get my degree. I found out I was a straight A student when I went back to school but when I was in college I was not a straight A student. I had so much more understanding about life and my experiences taking me places so a lot of stuff that was coming at me in college I had already experienced in some kind of cultural setting and that made me a better student. I tell the players whatever you want to do if you put the same energy and focus in it, you can be as successful off of the court. I look at Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and even now Shaq and Michael Jordan. These guys were great players but they’ve also had great careers outside of playing because they’ve transferred that energy and they transferred that passion into what they wanted to do off of it and it just translates across the board. I believe if you can create a better person that talent is going to be able to show. If they have so many issues off of the court they can never reach their maximum on the court, you try to teach them about responsibility, maturity, professionalism and you want people to be reliable but you have to be responsible and reliable yourself back to the people that you want to be. I want you to respect me but you have to in turn respect that person as well. It’s the same thing in all of those areas as they become more mature as men then their focus and their vision more than their focus broadens and they can see the big picture and they get outside of being them. I’m a big believer that players are takers until they’re taught how to be givers and when you become a giver and you care about your teammates as much as you care about you and you’re willing to give you get so much more in return. When you have that attitude and you’re one of the best players everybody else starts picking up that attitude. They say what he’s doing and he’s the best player and this is how he’s playing. I think Magic Johnson and the Lakers, I think of John Stockton, I think of Larry Bird and I think of LeBron James now. I think of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. All of these guys are great players but they’re also givers and their teammates become better because they’re all givers; their talent transcends the game. They’re smart enough to know that they can’t do anything by themselves. It’s still a five-man team game. All of the times that Michael made big shots, he also gave the ball off to other people who made big shots to win games for them and they wouldn’t have won them without those shots.”

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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NBA

2020 NBA Draft and Free Agency Roundable

Drew Maresca, Matt John and Steve Kyler discuss winners and losers of the NBA Draft and free agency.

Drew Maresca

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ALERT. ALERT. ALERT. The NBA’s 2020-21 season is scheduled to begin in less than a month.

If it feels like we just crowned the 2020 NBA Champions, that’s because we did. The Los Angeles Lakers secured their 17th championship on October 11, just over a month ago. Still, the new season kicks off in less than a month, on December 22; and the preseason could start almost two weeks earlier (December 11). And while there is much to look forward to pertaining to the new season, there is also much to assess.

November brought us trade season, the 2020 NBA Draft and a flurry of free-agent moves – all of which kicked off within days of one another, beginning on November 16. Basketball Insiders begins its 2020-21 coverage with Drew Maresca, Matt John and Steve Kyler assessing the abbreviated 2020 offseason:

NBA Draft Winners:

The draft had its share of surprises, but nothing outdid Tyrese Haliburton slipping to 12th. Haliburton shot up draft boards since the NCAA season came to an abrupt stop in March. His size and versatility were highlighted over and over again, and he was billed as an ideal running mate to pair with a score-first point guard. It seemed all but certain that he’d be a top-6 pick, with the Pistons at 7 being his assumed floor.

Well, this one was a mind-bender. Not only did he fall past the Atlanta Hawks — who he was linked within the lead up to the draft surprisingly — he was passed up by Detroit (who took another point guard in Killian Hayes) AND New York (who selected the 2019-20 Naismith Player of the Year, Obi Toppin) — both of whom were in the market for a point guard of the future.

But while it’s surprising that he fell to Sacramento, it’s far from a bad thing for Haliburton. He’ll line up next to point guard phenom De’Aaron Fox, who just inked a 5-year max extension. The Sacramento backcourt will look to move the ball up the court (FAST), and Sacramento could have found its backcourt of the future.

And it looks like Sacramento will give Haliburton more responsibility than originally assumed as they opted to pass on matching an offer sheet for shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanović (who will head to Atlanta). Further, guard Buddy Hield has a notoriously tumultuous relationship with head coach Luke Walton, making it look as though Haliburton can begin leaving his mark on the NBA immediately. Keep an eye on the rookie from Iowa State as a dark horse in the rookie of the year race.

  • Drew Maresca, Staff Writer

If we’re being completely honest, the fact that this draft wasn’t renowned for its upfront talent and more renowned for its deep pool of solid players makes it difficult to determine who really are the big-time winners of this go-round. So for this year, I think I’ll label the teams that usually get maligned for their draft decisions that definitely made the right choice.

Let’s start with the Charlotte Hornets. Michael Jordan has been routinely made a laughingstock for the moves he’s made for the Hornets, but instead of playing it safe, he went with the high upside pick. Out of all the prospects in this draft, LaMelo Ball arguably has the highest ceiling. There are definitely red flags to his game but the Hornets swung for the fences here because Ball may very well have the best chance at becoming a star. If he flops, he flops but that’s not relevant here. For the Hornets, drafting him at the very least signifies that they really do want to change their fortunes.

Then there’s the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland has made some… interesting draft choices with their lottery picks over the past decade, most recently with their 2019 pick, Darius Garland. This time, however, they actually picked the guy who actually fit with what they needed. Cleveland’s been sporting a piss poor defense over the last few years, so they brought in one of the draft’s most talented defenders. Isaac Okoro’s probably not going to be a star, but he definitely aids a big weakness of Cleveland’s. There just might be a light at the end of the post-LeBron tunnel.

Finally, as Drew pointed out, the Sacramento Kings made the perfect selection with Tyrese Haliburton. The do-it-all guard should be an excellent backcourt partner with De’Aron Fox, and his selection eases the pain of the recently departed Bogdan Bogdanovic. No one exactly knows what to make of the Kings’ current roster makeup with all the personnel and roster shakeups, but Haliburton should be another step in the right direction for them.

  • Matt John, Staff Writer

They say the true test of an NBA Draft is not known for two maybe three years, and that likely will be true of the 2020 NBA Draft class. To that end, there were a couple of picks that jumped off the page, so let’s start with LaMelo Ball to Charlotte.

From a talent perspective, Charlotte may have gotten one of the best players in the draft. When you combine Melo’s natural ability with having Michael Jordan in his ear, the Hornets could end up with the top player in the class when it is said and done. The risk on Melo is two-part – first, durability, which we have seen with his brother Lonzo’s NBA career. Melo has played a lot of high-level basketball and his body does not reflect high-level physical development, and that could catch up to him as it did with Lonzo.

There is also a side-show factor.  There are enough things going on in an NBA season, but to have the sideshow that comes with the Ball family in Charlotte is a risk. James Borrego has built a strong foundation for Charlotte’s youth — will the spotlight and the bully pulpit Melo’s father Lavar Ball receives be a distraction? Time will tell, but the pick was an excellent one.

With the 15th pick, the Orlando Magic selected Cole Anthony, and while on the surface Anthony had an underwhelming season at North Carolina, its easy to forget he was one of the top scorers coming out of high school and was, by his own account, playing at 70 percent at UNC. If that’s true and Anthony can rebound to his stature coming out of high school, Orlando may have nabbed exactly what they were looking for — namely, an impact scorer. Time will tell if Anthony can be that guy at the NBA level, but getting Anthony’s offensive punch with the 15th represents incredible value.

With the 20th pick, the Miami HEAT selected Precious Achiuwa out of Memphis. Talk about the prototypical HEAT player. Achiuwa checks so many boxes for the HEAT; they now have interchangeability with Bam Adebayo, as they have similar physical styles of play. Achiuwa is a quality defensive presence that can guard four positions. To get such a perfect fit at 20 is uncommon and for Miami, it could be a nice selection.

  • Steve Kyler, Editor and Publisher

NBA Draft Losers:

Most teams drafted pretty well this year, or they strategically swapped their pick(s). But the Hawks’ selection of Onyeka Okongwu was curious for a few reasons. Before I get into the downside of the pick, let’s make one thing clear — this is no way means I think Okongwu wasn’t deserving of the 6th pick. On the contrary, Okongwu is a long and athletic big man who will probably affect the NBA game beginning on Day 1. But the Hawks didn’t need him. They just completed a trade for an athletic, shot-blocker in Clint Capela in February. Regardless of Okongwu’s upside, the Hawks simply don’t need another starting-caliber center. But they could have used a big, versatile forward like Deni Avdija.

The NBA is moving toward a positionless game. Avdija fits that mold to a T. He is a 6’9″ point forward who can score and create for others. Further, he’s a high IQ player who competes hard, plays on and off the ball and possesses strong defensive fundamentals.

Ultimately, the Hawks set themselves up for the future in free agency, so a wonky – but still productive – draft pick won’t set them back too much. But Avdinja’s upside is substantial. And he could have been inserted into the rotation immediately without stealing too many minutes from major players  (whereas Capela will obviously lose minutes to Okongwu).

  • Drew Maresca, Staff Writer

As I said earlier, a draft like this makes it hard to decide who are the winners, and the same goes for the losers. For example, the Bulls definitely reached when they picked Patrick Williams, but a draft like this was the perfect time to reach for a prospect if you really liked him. In a case like this, if the other prospects aren’t good enough to make you think they’ll come back to haunt you, then go for the guy you like the most no matter what anyone else thinks.

In an offseason where pretty much everything uncharacteristically went their way, the Suns made an odd choice when they selected big Jalen Smith seeing how they already have a talented frontcourt and were perhaps better off with a guard like Kira Lewis or a swingman like Haliburton. However, if they think that developing DeAndre Ayton’s backup is the way to go, then go right ahead! We also have to remember that everyone thought that the Cam Johnson pick was terrible last year, and he made the whole NBA world eat their words.

There are definitely guys picked later in this draft who might wind up being better overall than Aaron Nesmith, but the Boston Celtics needed someone who can help them now. The Celtics’ second unit was desperate for a shooter and that’s exactly what Nesmith brings to them. The guys who could wind up being better than Nesmith will need time to develop, and Boston’s not waiting anymore. Maybe in previous years, but not now.

  • Matt John, Staff Writer

There were not a lot of crazy questionable picks in the 2020 NBA Draft. Maybe we had too much time to micro analyze the class, or maybe teams just went more with popular opinion  That said there was one pick that sort of stood out as something of a reach – Patrick Williams at four to the Chicago Bulls.

To be fair, Williams is a quality NBA prospect and he could go on to have a fruitful NBA career; but at four with Killian Hayes and Tyrese Haliburton still on the board (and able to solve more pressing needs), Williams seems to be a stretch.

Every year there is a pre-defined order that most believe the draft will go in, so Williams going several spots higher isn’t out of the ordinary. The question is will Williams be a game-changer for a Bulls team desperate for a player in the draft that really moves the needle?

They say the draft should never be about solving positional needs, rather grabbing the best player available. I’m not sold on the idea that Williams was the best talent available at the four spot, so time will tell.

  • Steve Kyler, Editor and Publisher

Free Agency Winners:

The rich seemed to get richer in the NBA this offseason. Very few elite teams lost marquee players, and many actually added one or more. But one outlier is the Atlanta Hawks.

Atlanta had an impressive offseason, first adding elite prospect Onyeka Okongwu in the draft, and then adding Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanović, Kris Dunn and Rajon Rondon in free agency. That’s an impressive haul for any team, but the Hawks just sped up their rebuild considerably, placing themselves squarely in the playoff discussion. Their new additions join an incredibly young core of Trae Young, Cam Reddish, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins and Clint Capela. Rondo will be especially important for Young’s development, as Rondo is known to be an incredibly high-IQ player and cut-throat competitor. Gallinari and Bogdanović add versatility and shooting to a team in need of it. The Hawks were probably going to take a step forward and fight for one of the final playoff spots in the East prior to these signings. They’ll be even better now.

  • Drew Maresca, Staff Writer

It’s tough to decide who really are among the biggest winners in free agency because it depends on what the team sought out to do and also because this free agency class was so weak that it was seen as basically the calm before the storm that will be next year’s class. If even. It honestly wasn’t too impressive.

Keeping what goals they had in mind, more teams won than lost. Atlanta got the best pool of players in free agency by a landslide. Houston got the best economic value for the players they added in the offseason. Utah and Miami for the most part ran it back while adding some new faces that should serve to make them better. Those guys were among the biggest winners, but not the winner of free agency. That belongs to the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Not a lot of NBA champions can brag that they got better after winning a title, but the Lakers have definitely been the exception. While it was not perfect, the free agency period went as fantastically as they could have hoped. Signing Wes Matthews was their most key signing of the summer because a. the Dennis Schroder trade makes even more sense now and b. Matthews will do everything Danny Green did for the Lakers at basically 1/5th of the price. Coming in at a close second was re-signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was brought back at a reasonable deal after an awesome playoff performance.

Honestly, they didn’t have to bring in Marc Gasol, but getting him for chump change, even on the back end of his career, was a steal. They were better off keeping Markieff Morris than letting him walk so they did just that. The one head-scratcher was giving Montrezl Harell the full mid-level exception. On the one hand, Harell’s better than the no-show he put up for the Clippers when they got spanked by the Nuggets, so that might be a good value for the Sixth Man of the Year. On the other, it’s hard to see Harell play in their closing lineups alongside LeBron and Anthony Davis. They learned that the more spacing they had during their title run, the better.

At best, Harell adds second unit scoring to a team that didn’t exactly have a whole lot of that last season, and at worst, he’s an expendable asset to dangle at the deadline. No matter what happens, the Lakers have had one of the best offseasons a reigning champion can have to the point where it’s really not a hot take to say that they are a considerably better team now than they were back in October.

  • Matt John, Staff Writer

Free agency winners? The Lakers.

Seriously, to see the 2020 NBA Champions deepen their roster with Dennis Schröder, Montrezl Harrell, and Marc Gasol without giving up anything that truly mattered to their core? That is incredible front office work.

Here are a couple of other situations worth mentioning:

The Atlanta Hawks have completely remade their team and did so without doing anything break the bank silly. The veteran additions of Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, Solomon Hill and Tony Snell are solid pick-ups and nabbing Bogdan Bogdanović will be a great get, maybe on the high side money-wise, but given his talent so far, it was a solid signing and what you have to do to steal another team’s player.

The Miami HEAT running it back with functionally the same core is smart, too. The HEAT are just scratching the surface of their potential given how young so many of their core guys are. They wisely structured their deals to remain flexible, although the Bam Adebayo extension takes them out of the direct free agent market next summer, they won’t be tied to long-term boat anchor type deals and could always trade into a free agent they covet because of how many great assets the HEAT have.

Overall, all three teams did a really good job in such a compressed chaotic timeframe.

  • Steve Kyler, Editor and Publisher

Free Agency Losers:

To Matt’s point above, winners are tough to crown without seeing a finished product on the hardwood. Losers are a little easier. And there are a few clear losers. But the team that hurt itself the most is the Charlotte Hornets. It’s a weird pick because I do actually like their roster, and I think it’s significantly improved from last year’s team. And the guy that’s most to blame for the Hornets’ hate will probably be their best player in 2020-21, but the Hornets also grossly overpaid to get him.

The announcement that Gordon Hayward was signing with the Hornets took most of the NBA universe by surprise. Hayward waited until (essentially) the last minute to announce he would opt out of the final year of his contract, which would have paid him $34.2 million. It was widely assumed he did so to secure more long-term money, not to essentially duplicate his salary AND stretch it. But that’s exactly what he did.

Hayward ultimately announced his intention to sign with the Hornets for 4 years/$120 million. Now, signing a 30-year-old, former all-star is usually celebrated, but Hayward hasn’t been able to re-establish himself after suffering a brutal foot injury in the first game of the 2018-19 season. He did manage to 17.5 points per game last season, and he averaged a career-high in rebounds (6.7), but he averaged only 2.8 free throw attempts per game (down considerably from what he tallied in Utah). He also suffered more injuries last season, breaking a bone in his hand in November and suffering nerve pain in his foot during the playoffs. So exactly what player are the Hornets getting? And worse still, what will he be in 2023-24?

Numerous reports state that the Hornets and Boston Celtics are still working on a sign-and-trade deal, which could improve the Hornets’ future cap situation. But either way, they’re still on the hook to pay Hayward the entirety of this massive contract — and that’s not ideal.

  • Drew Maresca, Staff Writer

If they manage to win the championship anyway, then the following won’t matter, but man oh man, the Bucks really missed out on such a golden opportunity when their sign-and-trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic fell through.

For a couple of days there, it really felt like Milwaukee had added the last piece of the puzzle. Bogdanovic’s abilities as a combo guard felt like such a perfect fit for what the Bucks are all about. His abilities as a scorer would have taken more pressure off of Khris Middleton, and his abilities as a shooter should have complemented Giannis’ game like a glove. As an added bonus, his 6’6” frame and his playmaking abilities would have further strengthened the Bucks’ motion offense and positionless basketball. This was it. The Bucks were going to be better than ever.

Until the rug got pulled right out from underneath them. The tampering debacle canceled everything, and the Bucks at this point can only wonder what could have been. Failing to acquire a superstar is one thing. Having a superstar then failing to get the guy that definitely would have made your championship aspirations the strongest they’ve been in years is another. That’s why they are my pick for the biggest loser in free agency.

In all fairness, their offseason wasn’t a total failure for them. In fact, props to them for not stubbornly trying to run it back when it was clear that something had to be done. Jrue Holiday is definitely an upgrade over the likes of Eric Bledsoe and George Hill. Getting a haul of buy-low additions like DJ Augustin, Bobby Portis, Torrey Craig, and Bryn Forbes will help fill out the bench, but none of those guys compare to what Bogdanovic could have done for them. With what’s at stake, it could very well haunt Milwaukee knowing that Bogdan Bogdanović slipped through their fingers.

  • Matt John, Staff Writer

There were a few head-scratchers in free agency…

Not sure what the Detroit Pistons were thinking. They let their best free agent walk in Christian Woods, then turned around and gave a big deal to a slightly-average guy. Jerami Grant is a quality player, but three years and $60 million is a ton.

If the motivation was to go all in for one more run with Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, mission accomplished; but I’m not sure that means anything, even in the East.

The Orlando Magic stayed largely quiet in free agency, which was surprising given that it seems the current squad has run its course. The Magic have long valued the idea of growing youth in an environment built around trying to win, but it’s clear that Evan Fournier who opted in to a massive final contract year worth $17 million, is primed to be moved and looks to be in camp next week.

The Magic do have some injury concerns specifically Jonathan Isaac who is recovering from an ACL tear and the questionable outlook of Mo Bamba, who had to leave the Orlando bubble unexpectedly back in August, due to physical struggles related to the Coronavirus.

With so much uncertainty around the Magic’s youth, their lack of movement in free agency was a surprise.

  • Steve Kyler, Editor and Publisher

One Move We’d Like To See:

Kevin Love to the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland enters 2020-21 with a bit to be excited about. They’re looking forward to a full season with Jusuf Nurkic in the middle, they re-signed Rodney Hood and they added a high-ceiling youngster in Harry Giles (as well as Derrick Jones Jr.). But even if they also bring back Carmelo Anthony, they’ll still need help at the forward spot. Enter Kevin Love.

Love is badly mismatched with the rest of Cleveland’s roster. He is 32, whereas nine of their players are 25 or younger. Further, Love is a five-time all-star and NBA champion, whereas the Cavaliers are in a full-on rebuild. It’s not an ideal match, and the Cavs should cash Love in before it’s too late.

Love to Portland makes perfect sense. He hasn’t been seen as a primary option in a number of years, but he still adds incredible value as a scorer, rebounder and passer. And that works perfectly considering Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum appears poised to stick in Portland for at least the next few seasons. Portland could sit tight, but adding Love would put them in the conversation with teams like the Nuggets and Clippers who hope to knock off the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Even if Portland can’t make a deal for Love, they should look to add a versatile power forward like Julius Randle. They can’t rely on Anthony and Giles to hold down the four spot and expect to compete for a championship. But if they maneuver correctly, Dame-time could translate to championship time in the Rose City.

  • Drew Maresca, Staff Writer

DeMar DeRozan/LaMarcus Aldridge to the Charlotte Hornets. By drafting LaMelo Ball and maxing out Gordon Hayward, the Charlotte Hornets are out to prove that they really want to be… not subpar! There will be no argument here that Charlotte paid above and beyond for Hayward’s services, but his contract is in the same ballpark as Tim Hardaway Jr’s- As overpaid as he is, he’s not going to take the money and run. He’ll do his best to live up to the deal Charlotte gave him even if it’s not very likely.

Alas, adding Hayward and Ball only puts Charlotte in discussion for one of the lower playoff seeds, and in no way does it guarantee that they’ll get one of them. If MJ and co. truly are serious about getting the Hornets back to the playoffs, what harm could it do to go all in and pry DeRozan and Aldridge from San Antonio? They have the expiring and near-expiring deals to make it work, like Nicolas Batum, Cody Zeller, and Terry Rozier, as well as appealing enough young talent without sacrificing the most appealing assets like Miles Bridges Malik Monk to pull it off. Aldridge’s and DeRozan’s names aren’t as sexy as they were three years ago, and that, along with their contracts expiring, is what makes a possible trade for them feasible. All signs are pointing to San Antonio moving on from both of them, so Charlotte needs to strike while the iron is hot- er, lukewarm in their case if we’re being really honest here.

Those two don’t make Charlotte a contender in the east – again, if it was 2017, it would be a different story – but they do make the Hornets more formidable as a playoff team. If there aren’t many better options for Charlotte, and from the look of things, there really aren’t, acquiring those two at least puts Buzz City back in the postseason, and might just complete the most talented Hornets teams we’ve seen in ages.

  • Matt John, Staff Writer

Let’s go with Houston…

When Mike D’Antoni and Daryl Morey left the Rockets, you knew the clock was ticking. It really hasn’t stopped, the question is when is Houston going to pull the trigger on a Russell Westbrook trade, and how soon after will James Harden follow?

The talk in NBA circles is Westbrook could be headed to Washington in a package for John Wall. Wizards president Tommy Sheppard has said that deal is not happening – that does not mean it couldn’t resurface later.

There was talk of James Harden wanting to be in Brooklyn with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but Houston at this point seems set on waiting out the process and seeing if they can get both Harden and Westbrook back on board… How frequently has that worked out? Typically, when guys ask for the door, they usually get it, and the return usually goes down before it goes up.

Trying to move some $82 million in committed salary during the season is nearly impossible. This is why if Houston wants all the Nets’ and Wizards’ cookies, they need to make the move now or risk the offers or even the opportunity to dwindle away fast.

  • Steve Kyler, Editor and Publisher

The 2020-21 NBA season could end up just as chaotic as last season; but looking past the many challenges facing the league’s schedule, player movement has once again shifted the balance of power. There are new favorites this season, and more importantly, there will be surprise teams to look forward to, also. But regardless of which team you root for, NBA fans have much to be thankful for right this holiday season.

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Legacy

Looking For A Few Great Voices!

From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

Basketball Insiders

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From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

We are considering adding new voices for the 2020-21 NBA Season, and what we are looking for is very specific.

Here are the criteria:
– A body of professional work that reflects an understanding of the NBA and basketball.
– Must live within 30 minutes of an NBA team.
– Must be willing to write two to three times per week on various topics as assigned.
– Must write in AP style and meet assigned deadlines.
– Be willing to appear in Podcasts and Video projects as needed and scheduled.
– Have a strong understanding of social media and its role in audience development.
– Be willing to work in a demanding virtual team environment.

Some things to know and consider:
– We are not hiring full-time people. If you are seeking a full-time gig, this is not that.
– This will be a low or non-compensation role initially. We need to understand your value and fit.
– We have a long track record of creating opportunities for those that excel in our program.
– This will be a lengthy interview and evaluation process. We take this very seriously, so should you.
– If you are not committed to being great, this is not the right situation for you.

If you are interested, please follow these specific instructions, Drop us an e-mail with:

Your Name:

The NBA Market You Live Near:

And Why We Should Consider You:

We do not need your resume, but a few links to work you have done under the above information would be helpful.

Please send all of this to: openings2021@basketballinsiders.com

 

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#17 – Aleksej Pokusevski – Oklahoma City Thunder

David Yapkowitz

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With the 17th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select Aleksej Pokusevski from Serbia. The Thunder completed a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves to acquire the pick.

Pokusevski is a long term project, but one that has has an intriguing skillset. A 7-footer with good speed and quickness, Pokusevski plays like a wing and can pass like a guard. But, to truly thrive at the next level, Pokusevski will need to put on some serious weight.

Again, he’s a project. But Pokusevski’s ceiling is sky-high. And, with a rebuild ahead of them, the Thunder have more than enough time to work with him and ensure he reaches it.

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