Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy talks with CineSport’s Noah Coslov about the latest NBA rumors, including the future of Mark Jackson, Kyle Lowry and Lance Stephenson.
What’s Next for the Grizzlies?
The Memphis Grizzlies had a relatively disappointing season, losing in the first round of the playoffs after advancing to the Western Conference Finals in their 2012-13 campaign.
Memphis played very well in the second half of this year, which allowed them to make the playoffs as the West’s seventh seed despite getting off to a slow start this season. However, the Oklahoma City Thunder eliminated the Grizzlies over the weekend, after a hard fought seven-game series.
Now that Memphis’ offseason is here, what’s next for the team?
Next year’s Grizzlies team could look different, with a number of key players hitting free agency this summer. Zach Randolph has an early termination option in his contract that will allow him to become an unrestricted free agent. Ed Davis will be a restricted free agent once Memphis extends a $4,361,788 qualifying offer. Role players such as Mike Miller, Beno Udrih and James Johnson will be unrestricted free agents as well.
Randolph, who will be 33 years old in July, will likely want to sign a new long-term deal. That means he’ll opt out of the final year of his contract, turning down $16,973,333 in the 2014-15 season for a chance to lock in what is likely the last big payday of his career.
Randolph has played extremely well during his five-year stint in Memphis, making the All-Star team twice and helping the Grizzlies become a competitive team in the West. Randolph and Marc Gasol formed one of the best frontcourts in the NBA, which is a big reason why no team wanted to run into Memphis in the postseason. Randolph averaged 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds this season, while shooting 46.7 percent from the field, but his season came to a frustrating end as he was suspended for Game 7 against the Thunder after punching Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams in Game 6.
The veteran power forward will likely attract interest from a number of teams this summer, but he has made it clear that he wants to re-sign with the Grizzlies and finish his career in Memphis. Throughout the season, he said on a number of occasions that he wants to retire with the organization and he reiterated that once the Grizzlies were eliminated from the playoffs.
”This is where I want to be at,” Randolph told Yahoo! Sports. ”This is home for me. My kids go to school here. I bought a house, so Memphis is home. I’m not 21. I’m 32. But I’m still in my prime the way I play.”
”He knows he’s loved,” Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger said. ”He knows he’s wanted here. We have a good relationship. A really, really good relationship. He was not difficult for me to coach at all. I really enjoyed coaching him. We’re really on the same page, so I hope we can continue that.”
Randolph’s teammates are hopeful that the big man will be back in Memphis next season. This is a close-knit group that feels like they can compete with any team in the league when they’re at full strength.
“He knows how I feel about him,” Marc Gasol told Fox Sports. “He knows how many battles we’ve been through. But at the end of the day, it’s his life. He has to do what he has to do. I haven’t talked to him about it. I just assume he’s going to be here.”
“He’s part of the reason why I came here,” Tony Allen said. “I don’t want him to go nowhere, but I’m pretty sure he left his mark. I’m pretty sure things will get done. Great brother to have in the locker room. He’s our leader and I wouldn’t want him to go anywhere.”
Joeger, Allen and Gasol all said that they would help recruit Randolph, but that may not be necessary since he seems happy in Memphis. At the end of the day, this will come down to money, but Randolph even admitted that it’s “possible” he’d take a Tim Duncan-type pay cut to re-sign with the team.
While it seems likely that Randolph will stay in Memphis, Davis’ future with the Grizzlies is up in the air. If Memphis brings Randolph back, they may be priced out of keeping Davis. As ESPN’s Marc Stein recently wrote, Davis and his agent Rob Pelinka should “be able to generate an offer sheet in free agency that comes in higher than Memphis was hoping to spend on the 24-year-old.” The Grizzlies can’t afford to spend a ton of money on a backup big man, so while they would love to keep Davis and do have the option to match any contract he receives, his offer sheet may be too big for Memphis to keep him. This isn’t an organization that can afford to spend a ton of money and be in the luxury tax.
As far as the future of Miller, Udrih and Johnson, it seems that re-signing Miller is the biggest priority of the three. The 34-year-old sharpshooter, who signed with the Grizzlies last offseason, gave Memphis a three-point threat who stretched the floor. He was a significant contributor this season, playing in every game and averaging 20+ minutes. He averaged 7.1 points, hitting 48.1 percent of his shots from the field and 45.9 percent of his three-pointers. There was the chance that Miller could retire after this season, but now it sounds like the 14-year veteran wants to continue his playing career.
”I do know after going through this year and the way I feel, I’ve got a lot of good basketball left,” Miller told Yahoo! Sports. ”So it’s going to be a decision I’m going to have to make to see how long I’m going to play.”
Miller signed for the veteran’s minimum last summer, but the Grizzlies had a lot of competition for his services. A lot of contenders reached out to Miller’s camp and tried to bring in the three-point specialist on a minimum deal, and the same thing will likely happen this summer. However, Miller did say that he believes Memphis could contend next season if the same nucleus is back, suggesting that he may remain with the Grizzlies for another year.
Udrih and Johnson could also be back with the Grizzlies, but those are two players who are easier to replace should they decide to leave. Both players signed with Memphis after the start of the season, with Udrih joining the team in February after being bought out by the New York Knicks and Johnson joining in December after being signed from the NBA Development League.
In addition to having some free agency options, the Grizzlies will have the 22nd pick in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft. This will be an important summer for Memphis and they’re certainly a team to keep an eye on over the next few months.
Free-Agent-To-Be Nowitzki “Not Going Anywhere”
This offseason, Dirk Nowitzki will become an unrestricted free agent, but it sounds like the 35-year-old will remain with the Dallas Mavericks – the only team he has played with throughout his 16-year career.
“Obviously, you know, Dirk’s not going anywhere,” Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson told Mavs.com. “He’s built this franchise and he’s been with us since Day 1. Certainly, there’s a negotiation that’s going to take place, but he loves this city and he wants to call it his home. We certainly reciprocate those feelings, and our hope is that we’ll get something done that’s not only in Dirk’s best interest but also affects the flexibility of the future of the Mavericks.”
Nowitzki has talked about how he doesn’t want to compete for the eighth seed at this point in his career, as Dallas did this season, and how he wants to be on a championship contender. However, when discussing his upcoming free agency several months ago, he made it clear that he wants to remain in Dallas.
“Well, I think the first time I was a free agent was in 2010,” Nowitzki told NBA.com earlier this season. “Other than that, I always extended early. I didn’t even like it. I hated the unknown. Even listening to other teams, I just wasn’t interested. I wanted to be here. My heart’s here. I’ve been here for 16 years now. My family’s here, friends. I’d love to retire here. I think everybody knows that. So hopefully we compete my last couple of years, make the playoffs every year. I think that’s important. And just compete at the highest level. And then, slowly, riding into the sunset. It’s been a great ride here. I can’t even imagine wearing a different uniform. I don’t want to live in a different city. I can’t even imagine it.”
This season, Nowitzki averaged 21.7 points and 6.2 rebounds, while recording a 23.68 efficiency rating (12th-best in the NBA). Despite his age, Nowitzki remains a top player in the league and he’s just the sixth player in NBA history to score 26,000 points with one franchise, joining Karl Malone (Utah Jazz), Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls), Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets) and John Havlicek (Boston Celtics).
The Mavericks added nine new players last offseason, including key pieces like Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon. Now, this will be another big offseason for Dallas. The team has just $28,267,575 in guaranteed commitments for next season, so they can definitely be players in free agency this summer, especially if Nowitzki decides to take a pay cut as he has suggested in the past. The Mavs have rarely been mentioned as a possible suitor for top free agents like Carmelo Anthony and Luol Deng, but don’t be surprised if they’re in the mix for those players as they try to build a contender before Nowitzki’s Hall of Fame career comes to an end.
Five Things to Read
Here are five articles from Basketball Insiders that you have to check out this afternoon:
NBA Daily: Marcus Morris Thriving Off Bench
Marcus Morris has been one of the Clippers’ most dependable reserves this season, David Yapkowitz breaks it down.
When Marcus Morris Sr. came over to the Los Angeles Clippers last season near the trade deadline, he stepped right into the starting lineup at power forward. He started all 19 regular season games – including the bubble – and when the team re-signed him this past offseason, he looked like a lock to remain in the starting lineup.
But he’s been one of the main anchors of the Clippers’ second unit this year and coming off the bench was something he requested of new head coach Tyronn Lue. Along with Lou Williams, the pair have spearheaded one of the most formidable bench units in the NBA. The pair has combined for 24.8 points per game on the season and they’re both shooting lights out from three-point range.
On a call last month with media, Morris admitted that this dynamic pairing with Williams was exactly what he was envisioning when he initially asked to be part of the second unit.
“Building that chemistry with me and him both coming off the bench, we’ve to be one of, if not the best bench in the league. Both of us are proven vets, proven scorers in this league,” Morris said. “I think our camaraderie, us being really good friends, I think that helps on the court. Not just scoring but just being vets, being able to talk and being able to lead our unit.”
As well as he’s played this season, it wasn’t always such a smooth transition to the Clippers. Morris’ numbers dropped last year from his career averages and he shot 31 percent from the three-point line; the lowest he’s shot since his second year in the NBA. Like most of the team, he faded a bit during the team’s second-round playoff debacle against the Denver Nuggets.
This season, although his scoring isn’t as high as it used to be at 12.4 points per game, Morris’ shooting has been much more efficient. His 46.3 percent from downtown is a career-high. He looks much more comfortable in the flow of the offense and he’s played his role to perfection. Naturally, Morris credits Lue with helping him establish his role.
“I think the biggest difference is just having that exact from [Tyronn Lue] just talking to me and telling me exactly what he’s wanting me to do. Last year, I thought I was a lot of times in no man’s land, I couldn’t really put my finger on my role,” Morris said.
This year, I’m coming off the bench to be aggressive, coming off to bring energy, shoot the ball, the guys I’m playing with just playing off them. Lou does a great job of drawing the defense and you have to have guys that can knock it down. I’m just here to do whatever it takes, whether it’s to bring energy or to score.”
Morris began the season missing the first eight games due to a knee injury. But he’s always been one of the more durable players in the league and since then, he only sat out one game. Thankfully for him, he didn’t end up needing surgery only rest.
Lue has been quite pleased with Morris’ contributions this season. He credited Morris’ conditioning while acknowledging the extra work he’s put in to be as effective as he has.
“Just putting in the work, just trying to get his body right, just trying to adjust to the speed of the game, when you’ve been out for so long it is kind of tough to just step back in and play well,” Lue said. “We’ve been needing and asking more from him in the post, rebounding the basketball and, of course, shooting the basketball. He’s been great and he’s been putting in the work. You see the results.”
Like the rest of the team, Morris has been able to shut out any lingering effects from the bubble. He knows the Clippers have championship aspirations this season and, because of the way they flamed out in the playoffs, there will doubt as to whether this team is capable of winning a title.
“Seeing how many people jumped ship last year, I think it definitely helped us. That’s how it works when you have a good team and doesn’t work, people tend to jump off the ship,” Morris said. “We get back to work and we get a championship, people will jump back on the ship. That’s just how it works. We are going to continue to find our camaraderie and we are going to continue to get better. Come playoff time, we’re going to be ready.”
And for the Clippers to win their first championship in franchise history, they’re going to need Morris to be at his best. His versatility is key to their attack, while that ability to stretch the floor with his three-point shooting –plus putting the ball on the floor or posting up – is a big part of what makes the Clippers so dangerous.
He’s willing to do whatever needs to be done.
“I’m a hooper. Whatever you need me to do. One thing I do, I don’t just talk,” Morris said. “I’m just playing. I’ve been in the league for a long time, going on my eleventh year. It doesn’t change for me. One thing you’ll find out about me is I’m never too high, never too low.”
NBA AM: Defensive Player of the Year Watch
Will we see Rudy Gobert win another Defensive Player of the Year Award? Or will we have a new winner this year?
In the fourth edition of the Defensive Player of the Year Rankings, Basketball Insiders continues to look at the players excelling on the defensive side of the ball. The Utah Jazz continues to be a powerhouse in the Western Conference amidst a surprising season, and they will still be well represented in these rankings. But there’s another newcomer to the list, an MVP-caliber player looking to lead his team to the NBA Finals. Ready to take look at the rankings? Let’s get into it.
1. Rudy Gobert (Previous: 2)
The 28-year-old center out of France is one of the best defensive big men the game has seen in recent years – and this year is another example of that as Gobert has been the anchor of the best team in the NBA. Better, he has been a vital piece to their unanticipated success by taking part in all 35 of the Jazz games thus far.
Looking at Gobert’s numbers, he is still second in the league in blocks with 2.8 blocks per game, trailing only Myles Turner in that category. Gobert has had three or more blocks in 18 games, even reaching four in 12 of them.
In the defensive rating category, Gobert ranks third in the league with a rating of 103.0, per NBA Advanced Stats. This number is just enough behind Lebron James at 102.6 and teammate Mike Conley, who leads the NBA with a rating of 100.8. These three players are also in the top three for defensive win shares, with Gobert sitting in third with a DWS of 0.154. Gobert should be the current frontrunner as he has led the best team in the NBA on defense through the first half of the season.
2. LeBron James (Previous: 4)
As a reminder, LeBron James has not made an All-Defensive Team since 2014. How about breaking that streak with a DPotY award as well? He very well could.
Without Anthony Davis, James is unarguably the tone-setter for the defense. The Los Angeles Lakers’ victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Feb. 26 is a prime example of this. During that contest, James had 3 blocks and 4 steals as the Lakers won by 9. Furthermore, James has managed to average 1 block and 1.3 steals per game since the injury to Davis.
Notably, James ranks in the top three in both defensive rating and defensive win shares. James is just behind Conley in defensive rating at 102.6 compared to Conley’s 100.8 rating. Keep an eye on James’s defensive impact for the defending champs as the season continues to unfold.
3. Joel Embiid (Previous: N/A)
Embiid has been very neglected on this list, but now is the time for him to make his appearance. Yes, it is very high for a player to debut on this list, but he’s been on a tear as of late.
In his career-high night on Feb. 19, Embiid went off for 50 points, 17 rebounds and 4 blocks in a matchup with the Chicago Bulls. This is the game that put the league on notice of Embiid’s brilliant season, both offensively and defensively, as he leads the first-place Philadelphia 76ers. As things stand right now, he’s averaging 1.3 blocks and 1.2 steals per game.
Taking a deeper dive into Embiid’s floor presence is what makes him stand out. He’s 13th in the NBA in defensive rating at 106.6. He also ranks 10th in defensive win shares with 0.131, per NBA Advanced Stats. The coaching change in Philadelphia has allowed Embiid to run the Sixers’ offense and, as things stand right now, he’s certainly in both the MVP and DPotY conversation.
4. Mike Conley (Previous: 1)
Since an extended absence, Conley returned to make an instant impact in the Jazz lineup, averaging 2.0 steals over his last five games. The unexpected success has been due in large part to Conley’s improved play. Of course, Conley is high up on this year’s All-Star snub list, but his significant individual improvements won’t go unnoticed here.
Conley is currently tied for third in the league in steals per game at 1.5. He is also first in defensive rating with a rating of 100.8. Beyond that, he then ranks second in defensive win shares with 0.168. Without Conley, it’s hard to see the Jazz having the success they’ve enjoyed this year. Watch out for him as the season approaches the midpoint as he tries to become the first guard to win the award since Gary Payton during the 1995-96 season.
5. Myles Turner (Previous: 3)
Despite a slip in the standings for the Indiana Pacers, Myles Turner has been a very bright spot for the team defensively. He leads the league in blocks with 3.4 per game and has a pretty sizeable lead over Gobert in that category. Add in the fact that he is averaging 1.1 steals per game, it’s easy to see why Turner is so high in these rankings.
If the Pacers can manage to get things back in order amidst a sub-.500 record thus far, Turner could rise into the upper part of these rankings again.
Honorable Mention: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Previous: N/A)
While voter fatigue may hinder the chance of Giannis earning his second consecutive DPotY award, he should be in the conversation again. The Milwaukee Bucks are amongst the top three in the Eastern Conference standings, thanks to the stellar defensive play from the two-time MVP.
It will be interesting to see where he finishes in the voting after the season’s end. Maybe he gets this award for a second-straight year, while the voter fatigue towards him takes place in the MVP ballots.
While these rankings have gotten competitive as of late, there’s still plenty of time for rising and falling in Basketball Insiders’ weekly Defensive Player of the Year rundown.
NBA PM: The Wizards Are Good Now?
The Washington Wizards went from 5-15 to 13-18 out of nowhere. Much improved from their early-season play they make a run? Dylan Thayer examines.
After the swap of John Wall and Russell Westbrook, the Washington Wizards did not look like they were going to be a playoff team. 20 games into the season, the team found themselves at 5-15 with trade rumors constantly buzzing. At one point, they even had the worst record in the NBA, while looked like a trade of Westbrook, Bradley Beal or even both was a certainty with the team was set to pivot into a true rebuild.
Now, all of a sudden, Washington has the look of a team that could make the postseason play-in game. 8-5 in their last 13 with wins over the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers, the Wizards have started to climb the conference, now just 2.5 games back on the Charlotte Hornets for the East’s eighth seed.
But what’s changed? Let’s take a step back and look at what exactly made them start the season out so slowly.
Early in the year, the former MVP Westbrook was playing through a left quad injury. He wasn’t nearly explosive with the ball as he’s always been, settling for low-percentage jumpers and outside shots, perhaps the biggest weakness in his game. Between the injury and COVID-19 postponements, Westbrook and many other Wizards were away from the court for a significant time — the whole team was in flux.
Then, on Valentine’s Day, the team took the floor in Boston and destroyed the Celtics; the 104-91 final doesn’t truly reflect that, but at one point the Wizards led by as many as 25. A national game beatdown, their play led into the best stretch the Wizards have seen this season.
Westbrook, over his injury, looked like his former explosive self. He’s posted six triple-doubles since, while he came within a point or assist of doing so in three other contests. And, back on the court, the entire team was also able to spend some time together, which allowed them to further jell as a unit and build some momentum toward future games.
It was a surprise when Beal came out and said he did not want to be traded from Washington, with more than a few curious as to how the NBA’s leading scorer could be satisfied with such subpar play from the rest of his roster. But he “shared a consistent viewpoint” with the team, according to Shams Charania, as to what they have done to build around him. The Wizards’ clear leader, Beal has signaled he’s in it for the long-haul, while additions like Westbrook should only serve to solidify that commitment.
Beyond their two stars, the Wizards roster has also stepped up in their most recent stretch. Sophomore Rui Hachimura has proven capable alongside the star-duo in the first unit, while Robin Lopez has stepped up in the absence of Thomas Bryant, who was lost for the season to a torn ACL. Deni Avdija and Garrison Matthews have both flashed as well, with Matthews shooting 41.3 percent from three and even earning a starting role.
If they can sustain their recent success, Washington could easily make the postseason in an underwhelming Eastern Conference. In fact, the tightly-packed nature of the East — while they’re 2.5 games behind Charlotte, just four games separate the Wizards and the fourth seed Celtics — should only serve to benefit Washington in their quest for their first postseason berth since the 2017-18 season. And, if the Wizards want to bolster their team for a playoff run and look to buy at the deadline, they certainly have the pieces to make some interesting moves. With most of their draft capital for the foreseeable future, along with some interesting contracts they could flip for more win-now type players, anything could happen.
The Beal-Westbrook, while it started rough, has not nearly been as bad as most people would think. For the team, the 2020-21 season has proven more promising than they may have thought and, if they can continue to elevate their game, don’t be shocked to see the Wizards on the big stage come May.