Mike Budenholzer To Part Ways With Hawks

Mike Budenholzer and the Hawks have mutually agreed to part ways, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (story). As Luke Adams opined last week, it was thought that it may be difficult for Budenholzer to return to Atlanta after interviewing for jobs with the Knicks and Suns, and it appears that both the Hawks and Budenholzer have come to the same conclusion.

Hawks GM Travis Schlenk confirmed to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the two parties have moved on, saying he “feels like it’s in the best interest of both parties.” The Hawks have also officially announced the move.

It is still unknown whether Budenholzer will retain any of the $13-14MM remaining on his contract with Atlanta, but it may not matter, as Stefan Bondy of the Daily News tweets that it’s possible Budenholzer may already have his next job lined up, perhaps with the Knicks.

If so, it would be a win-win for both Budenholzer and the Knicks, as Budenholzer has already been reported as saying New York is his top destination, while the Knicks would be gaining a well-respected leader in NBA circles.

Speaking to ESPN, Budenholzer said “I am grateful for the five years that I spent as coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and will always cherish the incredible contributions, commitment and accomplishments of the players that I was fortunate enough to work with here. From ownership to management, support staff to the community, I’ll look back with great pride on what we were able to achieve together with the Hawks.”

Budenholzer was awarded the NBA’s Coach of the Year award in 2015 after a 60-win season and a trip to the Eastern Conference finals. He also won four NBA titles as a member of Gregg Popovich’s staff in San Antonio.

And-Ones: Rice Commission, Ball Brothers, Chang

Earlier today, we relayed that the the Commission on College Basketball, headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, released a detailed 60-page report in response to a request by the NCAA for sweeping reforms of college basketball.

In an in-depth article for ESPN, college basketball reporters Jeff Borzello and Myron Metcalf, along with NBA draft analyst Jonathan Givony, gave their two cents on what the report means for the future of college basketball and, for our purposes, the NBA.

As part of what is most likely the most relevant portion of the article for our readers, Givony blasts the commission for “washing its hands” of any real responsibility and repeatedly blaming the NBA’s one-and-done rule for the problems in college basketball.

“Abolishing the NBA age limit, also known as the one-and-done rule, is the commission’s first recommendation… The insistence on prioritizing this topic over a myriad of others is an indication of how much the commission is washing its hands of any real responsibility for the issues facing college basketball.”

“It’s preposterous to think that abolishing the one-and-done rule will fix all of college basketball’s problems. The much bigger issue is not allowing players to profit from their likeness, receive endorsement deals or be properly compensated by schools for the huge amount of money they generate — one the commission conveniently deflected, citing ongoing litigation and other issues.”

One potential consequence of the NBA not eliminating the one-and-done rule is for the NCAA to revisit “freshman ineligibility”, which Metcalf wholeheartedly disagreed with.

“This doesn’t make sense. So you want players who aren’t drafted to retain their collegiate eligibility and scholarships, but you’re also willing to put talented high school kids in a situation where they might not be allowed to enter the NBA draft or play for a college team as freshmen?”

“This is worst stickup in sports history. The NBA doesn’t have to listen to the NCAA. That’s why they’ve had the age limit for more than a decade, despite complaints from many collegiate power brokers.”

Other topics broached include allowing undrafted players to return to school, harsher punishment for rule breakers, and the influence of AAU and other recruiting enterprises. The entire article is well-done and worth a read.

Below are more odds and ends from around the world of basketball:

  • Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball‘s younger brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will leave their team in Lithuania before season’s end, reports Lithuanian basketball reporter Donatas Urbonas. BC Vytautas still has two regular seasons games left to play and they are fighting to avoid relegation.
  • The NBA has appointed Derek Chang as CEO of NBA China reports Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Chang will oversee the NBA’s basketball and business development in China.
  • With the NBA Draft early entry deadline now behind us, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders gives us a look at his mock draft. Like many others, he has Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton going No. 1 overall.

Poll: Should The Heat Trade Hassan Whiteside?

One season after going 41-41 and missing the playoffs by virtue of a tiebreaker with the Bulls, the Heat improved by three games in 2017/18 and made the playoffs as the No. 6 seed with a record of 44-38.

However, the Heat were faced with a difficult first-round matchup against the red-hot Sixers, who finished the season 16-0 and, just last night, eliminated the Heat from the playoffs in five games. Earlier today, we asked for your thoughts on Miami’s offseason outlook with a Community Shootaround post. Now, we want to know specifically whether you believe the Heat should trade Hassan Whiteside.

With over 20% of the team’s guaranteed salary for next season owed to Whiteside, the Heat dangerously close to the luxury tax in 2018/19, Whiteside’s playing time dwindling dramatically in the later part of the regular season and into the postseason, and Whiteside’s publicly voiced displeasure with his new role, President Pat Riley may need to decide this summer whether Whiteside is worth the headache and, if not, whether he can find a suitable trade partner for the big man.

Unfortunately for the Heat, they do not have a first-round pick this summer to attach to Whiteside’s contract which may make it difficult to entice a team to take on his contract. However, the Heat do have their 2019 first-round selection to deal if they so choose. Regardless, assuming a deal is tenable, what do you think?

If you were Pat Riley, would you trade Hassan Whiteside or would you keep him with the hopes that he can return to his 2016/17 form? Vote below in our poll, then jump into the comment section to share your thoughts.

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Southeast Notes: Batum, Fournier, Heat, Wade

In a mailbag piece for The Charlotte Observer, Rick Bonnell argues that despite the frustration voiced by fans over the contract of Nicolas Batum, who’s still owed $76.7MM in guaranteed money over the next three seasons, the Hornets should not even consider waiving the swingman.

That’s because under the new CBA rules, Batum’s salary would continue counting against the Hornets’ cap even after his release, as there is no longer an Amnesty provision (link) incorporated into the new CBA. Moreover, the Hornets had more issues this season than Batum.

Instead, Bonnell suggests that Batum’s contract, although troublesome, is not “untradeable”, and that the Hornets should be able to trade Batum away if they are willing to take on some other bad contracts in return.

And in another article for the Observer, Bonnell opines that Batum doesn’t necessarily need to be traded. Rather, the Hornets’ next head coach should look to resurrect Batum’s game, which may mean letting him handle the ball more as arguably the team’s top ball-mover and facilitator.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • After a tough season in which his team finished 25-57 and missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, Magic guard Evan Fournier plans on joining his countrymen on the French National Team for the third window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers, he tells FIBA.
  • In a season-ending piece for the Sun-Sentinel, Ira Winderman gives his thoughts and other information on the 17 players who finished the 2017/18 NBA season as members of the Heat – including two-way players Derrick Walton Jr. and Derrick Jones Jr.
  • In another article for the Sun-Sentinel, Winderman compares this upcoming offseason to the summer of 2016, when Dwyane Wade left the Heat for Chicago. Ultimately, Winderman believes that unlike two years ago, it’ll be wholly up to Wade as to whether he wants to play in Miami next season, as long as he’s willing to accept a reasonable contract.

Pelicans Notes: Holiday, Davis, Cousins, Gentry

A primary factor in the Pelicans’ success so far this season – which now includes a sweep of the higher-seeded Trail Blazers in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs – has been the stellar play of combo guard Jrue Holiday, writes Matt John of Basketball Insiders.

Having been somewhat hampered by injuries and personal matters since the Pelicans traded for him in the summer of 2013, Holiday has been a revelation so far this postseason, having increased his scoring output from 19.0 PPG in the regular season – a career-high – to 27.8 PPG in the playoffs, while also playing stifling defense on Portland’s All-Star point guard Damian Lillard.

Yet, the advanced statistics demonstrate that Holiday has actually been playing at an All-Star level all season long, regardless of whether the casual basketball fan realized it or not. For example, the Pelicans had an offensive rating of 108.9 points per 100 possessions when he was the on the court – would have ranked 7th – compared to 104.4 points per 100 possessions when he was off – would have ranked 21st.

Holiday was even more important to the Pelicans on the defensive end of the floor, where the team had a defensive rating of 103.3 per 100 possessions when Holiday was on the court – would have ranked 5th – compared to 112.3 off the court – would have ranked dead last, 30th overall.

Holiday’s net rating was also higher than that of Pelicans MVP-candidate teammate Anthony Davis, and his 3.81 Real Plus-Minus ranked ninth among point guards, which put him ahead of Kyrie Irving, John Wall, and Goran Dragic, all of whom made the All-Star team this year, albeit in the Eastern Conference.

Holiday will look to continue his stellar play on Saturday when the Pelicans head to Oakland to take on the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

There’s more out of New Orleans this evening:

  • With Davis under contract through the 2020/21 season and not eager to leave town, the Pelicans are on track to becoming the next small-market success, writes Brett Martel of The Associated Press.
  • In a piece from Christian Boutwell of The Advocate, injured Pelicans’ big man DeMarcus Cousins says he “couldn’t be happier for this team” after a sweep of the Trail Blazers. Cousins also touched on his rehab for a torn left Achilles, saying “I’m improving each and every day and I’m improving a pretty rapid pace as well. That keeps my energy high, my positive vibes going.”
  • As we relayed Monday night, the Pelicans have informed head coach Alvin Gentry that his team option for next season will be picked up, thereby all but guaranteeing that Gentry will coach the Pelicans during the 2018/19 season.

Community Shootaround: Heat’s Offseason Outlook

The Heat‘s season came to an end on Tuesday night, with a 104-91 loss in Philadelphia resulting in a 4-1 series win for the Sixers. Now that the 2017/18 campaign is officially in the books, Miami faces an important offseason ahead as the front office looks to find a way to turn the Heat from a solid playoff team into a legit contender.

The big summer decisions figure to start with Hassan Whiteside, Miami’s highest-paid player, who is owed a guaranteed $25MM+ salary in 2018/19 and has a $27MM+ player option for 2019/20. After averaging a career-high 32.6 minutes per game for the Heat in 2016/17, Whiteside saw just 25.3 MPG this season, and that number dipped further in the playoffs — he played only 15.4 MPG against the Sixers. As we relayed earlier today, Whiteside wasn’t thrilled with his declining playing time in the postseason.

“At least give me a chance to fight,” Whiteside said. “I can understand if I was playing 30 minutes and I played bad. At least give me a chance. … We played a style of play Coach (Erik Spoelstra) wanted. He wanted to utilize more spacing I guess in the playoffs, so that’s why he did it.”

Whiteside’s discontent with his role and the Heat’s success with Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo at center will create an interesting offseason predicament. Can Miami find a worthwhile trade involving Whiteside, or will the team have to find a way to keep him happy next season? For what it’s worth, at least one report suggests the Heat are expected to explore trade scenarios.

With Whiteside’s contract on the books, the Heat are currently carrying more than $116MM in guaranteed salary for 2018/19, making it virtually impossible to land an impact free agent. Considering Pat Riley has repeatedly made an effort to pursue star players in the past, the team’s inflexibility in terms of cap room presents another fascinating hurdle. To truly transform the roster or land an All-Star caliber player, Miami would almost certainly need to do so via trades, likely moving more than just Whiteside.

Tyler Johnson, whose salary jumps to $19MM+ in 2018/19, and Dion Waiters, who is coming off a season-ending ankle injury, would be trade candidates, though neither player will have significant value. In order to maximize their potential return, the Heat will have to be willing to discuss one or more their more valuable pieces, such as Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Olynyk, and Adebayo.

It also doesn’t help matters that Miami’s best shooter, Wayne Ellington, is an unrestricted free agent. He’s one of a small handful of Heat players eligible for free agency — another is Dwyane Wade, who would probably have to accept another minimum salary deal if he decides he wants to return for another season.

In a piece calling for major offseason roster changes, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald suggests that no Heat player should be untouchable this summer, and notes that Riley is “less likely than ever” to embark on an all-out rebuild. But we want to know what you think.

What’s the best path to contention for the Heat? Is there a realistic trade out there that could raise the club’s ceiling? What should Miami do with Whiteside? Which players on the roster are keepers?

Jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts on the offseason outlook for the Heat!

Steve Clifford Hoping To Coach In 2018/19

Steve Clifford still had a year left on his contract when he was fired by the Hornets earlier this month, so he doesn’t have to worry about finding another job right away. However, speaking to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, Clifford confirmed that he’d like to land one of the NBA’s open head coaching jobs this offseason.

“My hope is to be a head coach again (in the NBA) next year,” Clifford said. “There is a lot of movement in the league. There are certainly jobs I’m interested in. I’m looking into it. I want to be involved in the NBA. I enjoy coaching a great deal (in general), but I also (particularly) enjoy the competition in this league.”

While his time in Charlotte ended with back-to-back years in the lottery, Clifford led the Hornets to a pair of playoff berths in his first three years with the franchise. He remains well regarded in coaching circles, and has been mentioned as a potential candidate for the Suns. It’s not clear if Clifford has spoken to any of the other teams seeking a new head coach.

If Clifford doesn’t end up filling one of the head coaching vacancies around the league, he could draw interest from a number of NBA teams as an assistant. In his conversation with Bonnell, Clifford confirms that’s “definitely” a possibility he’d consider, but suggests he wants to exhaust his head coaching opportunities first before seriously weighing joining another coach’s staff.

2018 NBA Offseason Salary Cap Digest: Memphis Grizzlies

After heading into the fall with playoff aspirations, the Grizzlies had a disastrous 2017/18 season. Standout point guard Mike Conley only played in 12 games, while fellow max-salary veteran Chandler Parsons appeared in 36. The team’s other highest-paid player, Marc Gasol, remained healthy, but clashed with head coach David Fizdale, ultimately resulting in Fizdale’s ouster. All three of Memphis’ max players are still under contract next season, so there’s some optimism that the club could return to playoff contention with better health, but it will be an uphill climb following a 22-win season.

Here’s where things currently stand for the Grizzlies financially, as we continue our Offseason Salary Cap Digest series for 2018:

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • Andrew Harrison ($1,544,951)
  • Omari Johnson ($1,378,242)2
  • Wayne Selden ($772,475) — Partial guarantee. Guaranteed portion noted above.1
  • Total: $3,695,668

Restricted Free Agents

  • None

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Projected Salary Cap: $101,000,000

Projected Cap Room: None

  • Even before taking into account a cap hold for their lottery pick, the Grizzlies are over the projected cap with nearly $103MM in guaranteed contracts. Any path to cap room would involve major trades and/or cuts, so we can expect Memphis to be an over-the-cap club this summer, with the full mid-level exception available. The Grizzlies won’t have their bi-annual exception available this offseason after using it in 2017/18 to sign Evans.

Footnotes:

  1. Selden’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 10.
  2. Johnson’s exact contract details, including guarantee info, aren’t yet known.
  3. The Grizzlies are second in the draft lottery standings. They also could end up at No. 1 ($8,095,680), No. 3 ($6,504,600), No. 4 ($5,864,640), or No. 5 ($5,310,720).

Note: Rookie scale cap holds are estimates based on salary cap projections and could increase or decrease depending on where the cap lands.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders and RealGM was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bogdan Bogdanovic Undergoes Knee Procedure

APRIL 25: The Kings have confirmed that Bogdanovic underwent his meniscus debridement procedure, announcing that he’ll resume full basketball activities in about eight to 10 weeks.

APRIL 24: Kings shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic has been diagnosed with a slight tear of the medial meniscus in his left knee, the team announced today in a press release. According to the Kings, Bogdanovic is undergoing a “minimally invasive” debridement procedure on his knee on Tuesday to address the issue.

Sacramento’s season is over, so Bogdanovic will have several months to recover and rehab following the surgery. The Kings expect him to make a full recovery, indicating they’ll provide an update on his timeline when it becomes available.

Bogdanovic, not to be confused with Pacers wing Bojan Bogdanovic, had a successful rookie season in Sacramento in 2017/18, appearing in 78 games (53 starts) for the team and averaging 11.8 PPG on .446/.392/.840 shooting.

Because Bogdanovic was a draft-and-stash prospect, he isn’t on a standard four-year rookie contract, but he remains under Sacramento’s control for the next two years. He’ll be eligible for restricted free agency in 2020 and remains a key part of the Kings’ core going forward, so the club will closely monitor his recovery process this offseason.

Bogdanovic has been a member of the Serbian national team for the last several years, representing his country in 2017’s EuroBasket tournament. Today’s procedure figures to compromise his availability for Serbia this summer.

Jay Wright Won’t Meet With NBA Teams

NBA teams with head coaching openings and aspirations of luring Jay Wright away from Villanova this offseason can probably give up that dream, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. According to Berman, Wright’s longtime agent Carl Hirsch has confirmed that the Wildcats coach won’t speak to NBA teams at this time, and will return to Villanova to defend the team’s championship.

“He’s under contract with Villanova and he’s very, very happy there,” Hirsch told Berman. “There’s no plans to leave.”

The stance doesn’t come as a surprise, since Wright made similar comments about a week after Villanova won this year’s championship game. Speaking to Dana O’Neil of The Athletic at the time, the veteran head coach admitted that he was “intrigued” by the NBA, but said he couldn’t see himself leaving his current position. While Wright’s comments left the door to the NBA slightly ajar, Hirsch essentially closed that door for now, per Berman.

[RELATED: 2018 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

A source tells Berman that at least two teams reached out to Wright’s representatives this month. One of those teams is believed to be the Knicks, whose desire to inquire on Wright was reported earlier in April. The identity of the second club isn’t known, but the Suns were believed to have Wright on their radar too. Neither team will get a chance to interview him.

With Wright set to return to Villanova, he’ll have a challenge ahead of him as he looks to lead the Wildcats to their third title in four years. Standout contributors Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson are going pro, and Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman – who have each entered the draft without hiring an agent – may join them.