Pacific Notes: Bagley, Hield, Kaminsky, Suns

Trading Marvin Bagley III might be a prudent move for the Kings, Richard Ivanowski of the Sacramento Bee contends in a piece that looks at a hypothetical trade for each player on the team. While he acknowledges that Sacramento is unlikely to consider such a move, Ivanowski pitches the idea of sending Bagley to the Wizards for their 2020 first-rounder (Washington is currently ninth in our Reverse Standings) and Thomas Bryant.

Bagley, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, hasn’t been able to stay healthy since coming into the league. That, coupled with the presence of Richaun Holmes, could make Sacramento more comfortable with moving on from the 21-year-old, Ivanowski writes.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Buddy Hield has been the subject of some trade speculation, and Ivanowski believes that dealing him to the Magic for Aaron Gordon would be a solid move for the Kings (same piece). Sacramento could pair the 24-year-old with Harrison Barnes as the team’s starting forwards.
  • Suns big man Frank Kaminsky isn’t too concerned with the logistics of the NBA’s return; he just hopes to be able to participate now that he’s healthy, as Gina Mizell of The Athletic passes along. “I’ll go to Saturn to play basketball at this point,” Kaminsky said. “I’ll go pretty much anywhere. You tell me where to be and I’ll be there, ready to play.”
  • The Suns hold a $5MM team option on Kaminsky for 2020/21 and the former No. 9 overall pick said the team hasn’t really discussed it with him, as Mizell adds in the same piece. “Obviously, I really like it here,” Kaminsky said. “I really like this staff. … I’d really like to be back, but that’s something that’s gonna have to be talked about once everything (with the rest of this season is) figured out.”

Hawks GM Talks Draft Prep, Finishing The Season

The NBA handed out revised guidelines for teams during the pre-draft process last month, as they are unable to meet with prospects in person. Clubs are allowed to meet with potential draftees for up to two hours in any meeting and a maximum of four hours per week with any one player. GM Travis Schlenk explains to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic how the Hawks have navigated those waters.

“I feel like we’ve talked to every player in college basketball,” Schlenk said. “Our (meetings) usually last between 30 to 45 minutes. We haven’t interviewed any player twice up until this point. We have set up as many interviews as we can. We probably do 12 a week or so. Usually, we do four days a week. So about 16 guys, but we probably average around 12 or 13.”

Atlanta has averaged 18 executives on each of the Zoom calls, according to Schlenk. While it may seem like a lot of people for a video conference, it allows the Hawks to get various opinions on each prospect as they determine rankings.

Schlenk also touched on the NBA returning this year. He said the Hawks are preparing as if the 2019/20 season will resume at some point — and as if they’ll be part of it.

“My message has been that it feels like we’re gaining positive momentum,” Schlenk said. “So it’s time to start changing our mental mindset from hiatus status to we’re coming back and to also start ramping up our workouts because we don’t want to be in a situation where we come back and we have a bunch of soft-tissue injuries because guys are out of shape.

“… We would play our guys,” Schlenk added when asked how the Hawks would handle a return. “The more time we can play our guys together, the better it is for us. To be able to see guys we made trades for play with our guys — those would be valuable minutes for us.”

John Wall Declares Himself “110” Percent Healthy

Wizards guard John Wall hasn’t played in a game since December of 2018, but the former No. 1 overall pick has declared himself “110 percent” healthy, as he told local media, including Hoops Rumors, via a Zoom conference call today.

“I’m itching to get back out there,” said Wall (as I relayed on Twitter). The 29-year-old added that he’s still taking his time with rehab and getting himself into the “best possible shape.”

Wall, who launched a rent-assistance foundation which will help those impacted by COVID-19 in Southeast D.C., won’t return to the court this year regardless of how the league returns from hiatus. It’s not certain that he would even travel with the Wizards to Orlando if the team is invited to join a campus-like bubble at Walt Disney World. The five-time All-Star believes that the league will return in a safe-manner and if that can’t be assured, they will “stop the season and prepare for next year.”

Wall underwent surgery on his heel back in the 2018/19 season. He was expected to come back at some point during that campaign. However, he slipped and fell in February of 2019 while recovering and he ruptured his Achilles, which forced him to go under the knife yet again.

Things will be different from an on-court perspective once the nine-year veteran returns next season. The Wizards have gotten younger and running mate Bradley Beal has turned into a more complete star after being given the opportunity to run the show.

“I’m just focused on getting back out there and watching how Brad has developed, how our team has developed,” Wall said. “We have made changes in the organization to prepare ourselves for next season and see what we can do.”

Wall has three years left on his contract after this season, including a $47.37MM player option for the 2022/23 campaign. Beal’s deal runs concurrently with Wall’s and includes a player option for that same season. Washington remains committed to the Wall-Beal combo as the future of the franchise.

And-Ones: Cotton, A. Williams, Super-Maxes

Reigning NBL MVP Bryce Cotton is sticking with the Perth Wildcats in Australia after opting out of his contract last month. The Wildcats issued a press release announcing that Cotton has signed a new three-year deal with the team. Emiliano Carchia of Sportando first reported that the 27-year-old had decided to remain in Perth.

Cotton was one of five NBL players to opt out of their contracts following the league’s salary-cutting measures. He generated international interest and considered a pair of “serious offers” before deciding to re-sign with the Wildcats, per Olgun Uluc of ESPN Australia.

Cotton has won three NBL titles since joining the Wildcats and was named the league’s MVP in 2018 as well. In 27 games in 2019/20, he averaged 22.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 3.7 APG with a .426/.385/.830 shooting line, en route to his second MVP trophy.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA big man Alan Williams, who spent time with the Suns and Nets from 2015-19, is in advanced talks with Russia’s Lokomotiv Kuban about a contract extension, a source tells Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. In his first season with the squad, Williams averaged 11.2 PPG and 10.1 RPG in 19 VTB United League games, with 9.4 PPG and 9.4 RPG in 10 EuroCup contests.
  • The super-max contract – introduced in the NBA’s most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement – has had some unintended side-effects and consequences. Danny Leroux of The Athletic examines those issues and digs into how to fix them.
  • Bleacher Report’s NBA writers recently took a look back at some of the biggest “what-if” trades in NBA history — deals that were discussed and/or came close to happening, but ultimately didn’t.

Sixers To Reopen Practice Facility On Wednesday

The Sixers will begin a “phased reopening” of their practice facility on Wednesday, the team announced today in a press release. Players will be permitted to conduct voluntary individual workouts at the facility, in accordance with the strict guidelines implemented by the NBA.

The 76ers’ practice facility is located in Camden, New Jersey, rather than in Pennsylvania, so the team was waiting on the go-ahead from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

Murphy announced this morning that professional sports teams would be permitted to return “to training and even competition” in New Jersey (Twitter link). According to the Governor, the state has been engaged in “constant discussions” with teams about the necessary safety protocols.

With Brooklyn and Charlotte reopening their practice facilities today, 21 NBA teams have done so — Philadelphia will be No. 22. That leaves the Bulls, Celtics, Knicks, Mavericks, Pistons, Spurs, Warriors, and Wizards.

Mark Cuban Shares Proposal For Return To Play

As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski detailed earlier today, the format for the NBA’s potential return to play this summer is a topic of much debate within the league right now. Teams at the top of the standings will have different motivations than bottom-feeding clubs or those on the fringes of playoff contention, leading to disagreement over which format would make the most sense for the league as a whole.

On Monday, we discussed the possibility of the NBA re-seeding playoff teams, regardless of conference, for its 2020 playoffs. Earlier today, we explored the idea of what a World Cup-style play-in pool would look like in place of the usual first round. Now, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has shared his own proposal with ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

Cuban would like to see all 30 teams return to action and play approximately five to seven regular season games, as MacMahon relays. Once those games were completed, these steps would follow:

  • The top 10 teams from each conference would make the playoffs.
  • Those teams would be re-seeded from 1 through 20 based on regular season record.
  • The Nos. 17 and 20 teams and the Nos. 18 and 19 teams would face one another in a pair of single-elimination or best-of-three matchups.
  • The winners of those matchups would advance to face the Nos. 15 and 16 teams for the final two spots in the playoff bracket.
  • The postseason would proceed with its usual best-of-seven format from there, using 1-16 seeding rather than an East/West divide.

Cuban pointed out that such a format would give every team except the Warriors and Timberwolves a chance to qualify for at least the play-in tournament. Assuming safety and scheduling concerns didn’t get in the way, bringing every team back and playing several regular season games would also help out the league financially, allowing a number of clubs to fulfill their local TV deals, tweets MacMahon.

Cuban, who referred to his proposal as “fair” and “entertaining,” expressed concern about the play-in pool format that has been discussed by the NBA, according to MacMahon. The Mavericks owner argued that the group-stage concept “throws away the value of the whole season.”

Of course, it’s worth noting that Cuban’s proposal would benefit the Mavs. They currently hold the NBA’s 13th-best record and – given their current cushion – would have no chance of slipping to 15th and being part of his proposed play-in tournament. If the NBA used another form of play-in tournament, putting the seventh and eighth seeds in each conference up for grabs without playing any regular season games first, Dallas would be at risk of losing the No. 7 spot in the West.

Terry Taylor, Jomaru Brown Withdraw From Draft

A pair of early entrants in this year’s draft have decided not to go pro in 2020 after all. Jeff Goodman of Stadium reports (via Twitter) that Austin Peay guard Terry Taylor has withdrawn from the draft, while Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports tweets that Eastern Kentucky guard Jomaru Brown has done the same.

Taylor, who averaged 21.8 PPG and 11.0 RPG in 33 games (36.6 MPG) in 2019/20, is the second Austin Peay underclassman to withdraw from the draft after testing the waters, joining teammate Jordyn Adams. Coming off his junior year, Taylor has one more year of college eligibility and will automatically be entered into the 2021 NBA draft.

Brown, meanwhile, was Eastern Kentucky’s leading scorer in his sophomore season, putting up 18.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 1.9 SPG in 32 games (29.5 MPG) for the Colonels. However, he struggled with his efficiency, recording a .386/.315/.751 shooting line, and didn’t take great care of the ball, averaging 4.7 turnovers per contest, compared to just 2.7 APG. He’ll be a junior in 2020/21.

The pre-draft calendar initially called for NCAA early entrants to make their decisions on whether or not to remain in the draft by June 3 in order to maintain their college eligibility. That deadline has been indefinitely postponed, but a number of early entrants are still pulling out of the draft class now, as our tracker shows.

Community Shootaround: Play-In Pool Format

As the NBA considers how to resume its 2019/20 season, one of the many scenarios the league has discussed is a play-in pool format similar to one used by soccer’s World Cup and other international competitions. This concept was first reported over the weekend by Shams Charania of The Athletic, but Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer took a deeper dive on the idea today, observing that it has some support within the league office.

As O’Connor explains, the idea would be to bring back 20 of the league’s 30 teams — the 16 current playoff clubs and the four with the next-best records (the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, and Spurs).

Those teams would then be split into four groups of five teams each, based on regular season records, and would play each other two times apiece. The two teams in each group with the best records after those eight games would then advance to an eight-team playoff that would look more like the NBA’s traditional second round.

According to O’Connor, a survey sent to NBA general managers about the idea noted that groups would be determined by splitting teams into five tiers based on their records, then forming groups consisting of one team from each tier. For instance, the tiers would look something like this:

  • Tier 1: Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, Clippers
  • Tier 2: Celtics, Nuggets, Jazz, Heat
  • Tier 3: Thunder, Rockets, Pacers, Sixers
  • Tier 4: Mavericks, Grizzlies, Nets, Magic
  • Tier 5: Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs

From there, groups could be determined in a couple different ways, per O’Connor. One option would be to conduct a random drawing, perhaps with measures in place to avoid having any one group of five teams become a “group of death.” Such a drawing could be televised. The other option, as O’Connor details, would be to have the four teams in the top tier draft their own groups based on preferred opponents.

Either way, the end result would be four groups of five teams, one from each tier. One group could include the Bucks, Jazz, Rockets, Nets, and Pelicans, for instance — or the Clippers, Nuggets, Sixers, Grizzlies, and Kings. Those groups would play eight round-robin games – two against each opponent – and, as noted above, the top two teams in each group would advance to a more traditional postseason. In the event of a tie in a group’s standings, the clubs’ regular-season records could potentially be used a tiebreaker, says O’Connor.

As O’Connor outlines, there are reasons why this concept would appeal to the NBA over a typical best-of-seven first round, with commissioner Adam Silver exploring experimental formats in the hopes of increasing interest in the league’s return.

A play-in pool would help generate constantly-changing, entertaining “first-round” matchups over the span of two or three weeks and would help keep casual fans entertained, avoiding locking in four or more games of a potentially one-sided first round series such as Bucks vs. Magic. And the outcome of each game would be of the utmost importance as teams jockeyed for position within their groups.

A play-in pool would also guarantee the NBA more games — eight first-round series would result in no more than 56 total games, and likely closer to 40 or 45. Having 20 teams play eight games apiece would mean 80 total contests, O’Connor notes. He acknowledges it’s not clear how those games might count toward existing agreements with the NBA’s regional or national broadcast television partners, but suggests a tweaked deal with those networks could probably be reached fairly painlessly.

Finally, a play-in pool would give fringe contenders like Portland and New Orleans the chance to extend their seasons while not requiring lottery-bound clubs like Golden State to resume play. Additionally, this format wouldn’t require those fringe teams like the Blazers and Pelicans to conduct a multi-week training camp and report to a “bubble” location (likely Orlando), only to be eliminated after a single game or two in a play-in tournament.

Still, that’s not to say that the play-in pool idea is the frontrunner at this point. O’Connor acknowledges that some Eastern Conference teams have pushed back against the idea, and ESPN’s Zach Lowe hears from sources that a number of current playoff teams weren’t “initially enthusiastic” about the idea.

The play-in pool format would also mean jumping directly to the postseason, creating financial complications. Players hoping to earn as much of their full 2019/20 salaries as possible may push back against the idea of essentially canceling the rest of the regular season. On top of that, the league’s annual playoff pool ($24MM) would have to be increased to account for additional teams and games, so the NBA and NBPA would need to figure out where that money comes from.

What do you think? Are you intrigued by the idea of a play-in pool replacing the first round for 2020, or does it sound a little too off-the-wall to seriously consider?

Head to the comment section below to share your two cents!

Latest On Potential Resumption Of NBA Season

The NBA has a number of important conference calls scheduled for this week as it continues to discuss the possible resumption of the 2019/20 season.

According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, the league’s advisory/finance committee will have a call on Wednesday to talk about potential plans. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski says a call with the league’s general managers will take place on Thursday. A Board of Governors call is scheduled for Friday, as previously reported.

According to Wojnarowski, the NBA may present a recommendation to its team owners on Friday, but that’s not guaranteed, since the league believes it still has some time to further deliberate. Sources tell ESPN that the possibility of games resuming in August – rather than July – remains a possibility for the NBA.

As the NBA continues to preach patience, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts has started to push for a resolution to the league’s deliberations. Roberts, who plans to speak with players from all 30 teams over the next week to determine how they feel about the NBA’s reopening plans, tells ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that players overwhelmingly want to play, but need details on what it will look like.

“It’s time. It’s time,” Roberts said. “It’s been two and a half months of, ‘What if?’ My players need some level of certainty. I think everybody does.”

Roberts added that she doesn’t think the players’ union would necessarily need to conduct a formal vote on an NBA proposal when it arrives, since the NBPA has stayed in constant communication with the league, which has a pretty good sense of how its players are feeling.

“If we thought we needed a vote, we would. If we’re ratifying a CBA, we need a vote,” Roberts told Shelburne. “But our preferred method is talking to people or just having them talk to us. Then if we get a sense of what the sentiment is then we can move forward. We talk to our players and figure it out.”

Here’s more on the NBA’s plans:

  • There’s no strong consensus among NBA teams and executives about what the league’s return to play should look like, according to Wojnarowski. For instance, the idea of all 30 teams participating has “lost momentum,” but “still has a significant lobby.” Teams like the Hawks, Cavaliers, and Pistons are interested in resuming play, per Woj, who notes that some young, rebuilding squads are wary of taking the summer off and having a nine-month layoff before the start of next season.
  • On the other hand, there’s some ambivalence among lottery-bound teams about returning, particularly if they have no path to the postseason, Woj writes. Damian Lillard has publicly expressed this sentiment, as we relayed this morning. Commissioner Adam Silver is also prioritizing player safety and is wary of the possibility of subpar basketball if all 30 teams are brought back — the combination of the long layoff and stars on lottery teams sitting out could create a “bad television spectacle,” notes Woj.
  • Some agents are also hinting to GMs that their free-agent-to-be clients may not want to jeopardize their stock by playing poorly in a brief return this summer if there’s no path to the playoffs for their teams, according to ESPN’s report.
  • One starting player on a lottery team offered the following assessment, according to Woj: “If we don’t show up, we lose more money. We are already in the hole. And what message does it send to the public, the teams, the players that we are OK with 10-to-14 teams not playing. We already have a competition problem in the league. … My thing is: Play 30 teams for as many games as possible for the money, or go straight to the playoffs.”
  • According to O’Connor, Silver is interested in trying something different with this year’s playoffs because he wants to boost interest and appeal to casual fans at a time when all eyes will be on the NBA’s return. O’Connor lays out, in detail, the possibility of turning the first round of the postseason into a World Cup-esque “group stage,” which is something the NBA has discussed — we’ll have much more on that concept in a story coming later this afternoon.

Draft Notes: Combine, Haliburton, Francis, Figueroa

If not for the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA’s draft combine would have taken place last week in Chicago, with dozens of this year’s top prospects congregating for workouts, scrimmages, interviews, and medical tests. Instead, that event has been indefinitely postponed, and it’s unclear what form it will eventually take — if it happens at all.

According to Marc Berman of The New York Post, league sources still believe there’s a good chance that a “downsized” combine that includes live interviews could take place in August or September. One report earlier in May suggested that such an event might be held within the NBA’s “bubble” location – possibly Walt Disney World – rather than Chicago, though that’s still speculative at this point.

Of course, before the NBA can even line up tentative plans for a combine, it will need to formally postpone the draft, which is still scheduled for June 25. According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link), some teams expect the draft to be delayed until September, with free agency potentially starting around October 1.

Here’s more on the 2020 NBA draft:

  • Within his above-linked piece, Berman notes that Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm believes potential top-10 pick Tyrese Haliburton would benefit from being able to interview in person with NBA teams. “On Zoom, you can only impress so much,” Prohm said. “If he was in person, over dinner, or in the facility or ballroom at the combine, he’d knock it out of the park. His spirit and personality will wow people. He’ll move up on the charts on that alone. … His character and maturity is very high.”
  • Richmond guard Blake Francis, who tested the draft waters following his junior year, has decided to withdraw and return to school for one more season, he tells Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Francis is the third Richmond early entrant to withdraw from the draft pool, joining teammates Jacob Gilyard and Grant Golden.
  • St. John’s guard LJ Figueroa has entered the NCAA’s transfer portal, a source tells Evan Daniels of 247Sports (Twitter link). Figueroa, who declared for the draft in the spring, will continue testing the waters as he explores his transfer options, tweets Rothstein.