Draft Updates: Diakite, N’doye, Flagg, Gudmundsson

With just a few more days left for early entrants to declare for the 2019 NBA draft, we continue to add new names to our running list of early entrants. Here are a few of the latest:

  • Yet another member of Virginia’s title-winning team has decided to test the draft waters, with junior forward Mamadi Diakite set to enter the draft and hire an agent, per a press release. De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome, and Kyle Guy have also declared for the Cavaliers.
  • French guard Abdoulaye N’doye, a starter for Cholet and a member of France’s national team, has declared for the draft, his agent tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com (Twitter link). As Givony notes, N’doye is shooting an impressive 41% on three-point attempts this season.
  • Texas A&M sophomore guard Savion Flagg announced on Twitter that he’ll declare for the draft, leaving himself the option of withdrawing later in the process. Flagg averaged 13.9 PPG and 7.7 RPG for the Aggies during the season and had an impressive SEC tournament, scoring 50 of his club’s 123 points over the course of two games.
  • Davidson junior guard Jon Axel Gudmundsson is joining teammate Kellan Grady in testing the 2019 NBA draft waters, writes David Scott of The Charlotte Observer. Gudmundsson is coming off a 2018/19 season in which he filled the stat sheet with 16.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and 4.8 APG.
  • For more details on dates and deadlines to watch during the pre-draft process, be sure to check out our list.

Poll: 2019 All-NBA First Team

NBA teams in 2018/19 played at the fastest league-wide pace in three decades, and scoring totals increased in turn. According to Basketball-Reference, clubs scored an averaged of 111.2 points per game this season, the highest mark the league has seen since the NBA-ABA merger.

As a result, some historic individual numbers were recorded in 2018/19, making the All-NBA races particularly compelling. For a handful of players, the All-NBA selections will also have major financial consequences, impacting their potential maximum salaries this offseason.

The league isn’t expected to announce its All-NBA teams for about another month, but we want to give you an opportunity to make your own picks before then. We’re starting today with the First Team, before moving onto the Second Team on Monday, and the Third Team later next week.

Polls for the guards, forwards, and center are below — you’ll have the opportunity to pick two players apiece in the guard and forward polls. We’ll leave today’s polls open through the weekend before naming the players with the most votes to our All-NBA First Team and moving on to voting for the Second Team.

Vote for your All-NBA picks below, and then take to the comment section to explain your reasoning. And if there’s a player not listed below that you believe deserves All-NBA consideration, be sure to mention him in the comment section too — if I agree, I’ll make sure he’s included in our Second and Third Team polls.

Guards:

(Choose two)

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote on the All-NBA First Team guards.

Forwards:

(Choose two)

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote on the All-NBA First Team forwards.

Center:

(Choose one)

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote on the All-NBA First Team center.

Recent History Of NBA Taxpaying Teams

As we detailed last week, five NBA teams finished the 2018/19 season in luxury tax territory, with the Thunder, Warriors, Raptors, Trail Blazers, and Celtics on the hook for an estimated total of $153.5MM in tax payments.

It was the first time since 2016’s salary cap spike that as many as five teams were taxpayers, and the projected league-wide tax payments of $153.5MM appears to be a new high. While two teams – Oklahoma City and Golden State – contributed significantly to that figure, the rising number of clubs in the tax reflects that teams are once again going well over the salary cap, as annual cap increases have slowed in recent years.

Listed below are the NBA’s taxpayers for the last five seasons, based on data from ESPN, Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ, and our own records.

As this list shows, the Thunder, Warriors, and Cavaliers were each taxpayers in three of the last four seasons, making those teams eligible for repeater-tax penalties if they finish in tax territory again in 2019/20. Repeater penalties are more punitive — the tax for every dollar spent above the tax line starts at $2.50 rather than $1.50. As such, those teams figure to do their best to avoid excessive spending next season.

The 2019/20 tax line is expected to be around $132MM, based on the NBA’s latest cap projections, and the Thunder already have nearly $138MM in guaranteed salaries on their books, per Basketball Insiders. The Cavaliers are at about $123MM, but may increase that figure substantially if they trade J.R. Smith‘s non-guaranteed contract for guaranteed salary. As for the Warriors, they’re only at $82MM in guaranteed money, but would be at risk of going well into the tax if they re-sign Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

As we prepare to keep an eye on those teams’ spending this offseason, here are the reported luxury tax figures from the last five NBA seasons:

2018/19

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder: $61.6MM
  2. Golden State Warriors: $51.5MM
  3. Toronto Raptors: $21.4MM
  4. Portland Trail Blazers: $15.1MM
  5. Boston Celtics: $3.9MM
    Total: $153.5MM
    Note: This season’s figures are still subject to change, based on postseason-related contract incentives.

2017/18

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers ($50.7MM)
  2. Golden State Warriors ($32.3MM)
  3. Oklahoma City Thunder ($25.4MM)
  4. Washington Wizards ($7MM)
    Total: $115.4MM

2016/17

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers ($24.8MM)
  2. Los Angeles Clippers ($3.6MM)
    Total: $28.4MM

2015/16

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers ($54MM)
  2. Los Angeles Clippers ($19.9MM)
  3. Golden State Warriors ($14.8MM)
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder ($14.5MM)
  5. Houston Rockets ($4.9MM)
  6. San Antonio Spurs ($4.9MM)
  7. Chicago Bulls ($4.2MM)
    Total: $117.2MM

2014/15

  1. Brooklyn Nets ($20MM)
  2. Cleveland Cavaliers ($7MM)
  3. New York Knicks ($6.9MM)
  4. Los Angeles Clippers ($4.8MM)
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder ($2.8MM)
    Total: $41.5MM

Information from Basketball Insiders, Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ, and ESPN’s Bobby Marks was used in the creation of this post.

Steve Mills, Scott Perry Discuss Knicks’ Offseason

The Knicks are entering their most crucial offseason in years, but president of basketball operations Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry told reporters on Wednesday that they’re not necessarily feeling pressure to turn the team into an instant contender overnight with a series of major additions.

As Marc Berman of The New York Post relays, Perry said that the Knicks don’t view this summer as the “end-all or be-all,” noting that it will be more about taking steps in the right direction and avoiding major mistakes.

“What I look at is this summer presents an opportunity for us to get better,” Perry said, per Steve Popper of Newsday. “And so whether we get better through whatever the free-agent signings may or may not be, whatever the drafting process yields us, whatever potential trade may come our way, our goal is to get this team better over the offseason so there’s a better product on the floor next season. And that’s what we’re committed to.”

Here are a few of the most noteworthy comments from Mills and Perry, as detailed by Berman and Popper:

Mills on his expectations for the summer:

“We feel good about the summer. We feel we’re in a position that it gives us an opportunity. We hope we get lucky and we land free agents. And if not, we’ll keep building the way we’re building. The space gives us an opportunity to be flexible in terms of how we deal with trades. We can take guys into our [cap] room in the trade process, it gives us the flexibility to continue to build the team the way we’ve been building it. But it gives us an opportunity to make it better in a way with free-agent or trade prospects.”

Mills on what happens if the Knicks can’t use their cap room to land two star free agents:

“I don’t feel pressure to deviate from our plan if we don’t get two big free agents. I don’t feel that kind of pressure. The pressure is for us to continue with the process and build this team the way we’re saying we’re going to build it.

“… The worst thing we can do is react to doing the wrong thing because we’re disappointed something didn’t happen exactly the way we want it to happen this summer. That could be thing that could derail us from doing what we committed to our fans, what I committed to Jim (owner James Dolan) in how I would build this team.”

On why the Knicks are confident in their appeal after a 17-65 season:

Perry:
“This is New York City. It’s the greatest city in the world. There’s a lot of appeal here. Even though the team has struggled, it’s a definite attraction to becoming a player in this city who can help turn this organization around. I think that’s something that gives us excitement that it’s out there — the storied nature of this franchise and what the franchise meant to the NBA that still resonates.”

Mills:
“There’s a lot of noise and a lot of guys are interested in New York. They like Fiz (head coach David Fizdale). They like some of the changes we made in the organization. We hear that from agents. We read it from guys getting interviewed about what guys feel about the Knicks. We hear that from other players. At least we’re in the game, and hopeful something really good happens. But we won’t know until it happens.”

Here are a few more Knicks-related items stemming from Mills’ and Perry’s comments:

  • According to Berman, Mills said that in this year’s exit interviews, every player on the Knicks’ roster expressed a desire to return to the team — one even said he’d come back for less money.
  • Perry didn’t rule out the possibility of shopping a top-three draft pick if the Knicks luck out in the lottery, per Berman. “Once the draft process plays out, your phone rings a lot of times,” Perry said. “I can’t sit here and tell you exactly what would happen in that scenario.”
  • As Berman writes in a separate story, the Knicks sound more bullish on Kevin Knox‘s future than Frank Ntilikina‘s. However, they’re not ready yet to pass judgment on either player, noting that Ntilikina is still 20 years old and Knox is 19.
  • In an appearance on ESPN Radio, Mills insisted that the Knicks weren’t tanking or trying to lose games on purpose in 2018/19, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. While that may technically be true, it’d be hard to argue that the front office was trying to put the roster in position to win as many games as possible this season, which is entirely understandable during a rebuild.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Valanciunas, Grizzlies, Spurs

A report earlier this week indicated that the Pelicans had David Griffin the go-ahead to hire a general manager underneath him, and that he was likely to choose former Cavaliers executive Trent Redden. However, speaking to reporters, including Scott Kushner of The Advocate, at his introductory press conference on Wednesday, Griffin insisted that he’s more concerned with attracting the right kind of people to New Orleans than with specific titles.

“We need to get all the right people on the bus and we can figure out what we call each other once we are rolling to the right place, and I think that’s a really meaningful thing,” Griffin said, per Kushner. “I think the areas you have the biggest ability to build competitive advantage in infrastructure is very much in performance and player care. It’s an area I put a lot of weight on and area I’m very familiar with re-working and believing in.”

As we detailed on Wednesday, Griffin also talked about Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, the perception of New Orleans as a “small” market, and several other topics during his first meeting with the media. However, according to Kushner, the Pelicans’ new top basketball executive made it clear that his top priority is building a solid, sustainable infrastructure within the organization.

“My biggest goal in all of this is, when I get run out of town on a rail, and we all do eventually, this can sustain itself for [team owner] Mrs. [Gayle] Benson,” Griffin said. “So, the next person she puts in charge will know they’re starting on really solid footing.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Despite rumors that Jonas Valanciunas had to make a decision on player option yesterday, his decision isn’t actually due until June 13, Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian confirms (via Twitter). The Grizzlies‘ center is unlikely to match his $17.62MM salary for 2019/20 if he opts out, but he could easily exceed that total number on a longer-term deal, so it’s not clear yet which direction he’ll go.
  • A team source tells Herrington that the Grizzlies are expected to make more front offices hires even after adding Rich Cho and Glen Grunwald on Wednesday.
  • Veteran point guard Mike Conley wants to play for a championship contender, and it’s not clear whether that can happen in Memphis anytime soon. Still, the Grizzlies have to do what’s best for the franchise, not necessarily what’s best for Conley, as they weigh major roster decisions this offseason, writes Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.
  • In an entertaining piece for ESPN.com, Baxter Holmes takes a deep dive into the secret team dinners that have been a fixture for Spurs coaches, executives, and players throughout Gregg Popovich‘s tenure with the organization, exploring how those dinners influence the club’s culture and success.
  • On Wednesday, we examined the Maverickssalary cap outlook for the coming offseason.

And-Ones: NBA Awards, G League, Smith, York

For an entertaining piece about the process of NBA award voting, Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype interviewed voters, players and PR staffers about some behind-the-scenes aspects of how awards are handed out at the conclusion of an NBA season.

Some of the more interesting tidbits include:

  • Team PR representatives and agents will actually sometimes call a voter and argue for their respective player, coach, etc. by getting into details regarding stats, achievements, records, etc. They’ll also even point out flaws of other candidates.
  • Voters generally put a lot of work into their voting process, as social media reprisal is a scary thing (the NBA publicizes the voters’ choices each season). This can be a double-edged sword – you want to hold each voter accountable but you also want voters to have the confidence to stray from the pack if they have a reasonable basis for doing so.
  • Some more prominent writers choose not to vote for awards, as there is potential for blow-back from players, coaches, etc. they didn’t vote for, especially since the newest CBA essentially grants salary raises based on media votes.

The whole piece is worth a read. Below are some additional odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The NBA has released a statement regarding the success of the G League’s development of players, reporting that a total of 52% of players on 2018/18 NBA end-of-season rosters played in the G League at some point.
  • Per Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports, G League guard Scoochie Smith has signed a contract with Peristeri BC of The Greek Basket League. Smith, 24, averaged 12.2 points and 6.3 assists per game for the Canton Charge during the 2018/19 season.
  • Smith also passes along word of another overseas signing by a G League guard in Greece, with Gabe York of the Lakeland Magic joining AEK Basketball Club, also of The Greek Basket League. York averaged 16.4 PPG and 3.0 APG this past G League season.

Nets Upset By Joel Embiid’s Antics

Some bad blood may be brewing in the first-round division match-up between the Sixers and Nets, according to Stefan Bondy of the Daily News, who writes that several of the Nets’ players, including veteran forward Jared Dudley, swingman Caris LeVert, and guard Spencer Dinwiddie, are upset with perceived disrespect being displayed by Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid.

For Dudley, it was apparent that Embiid crossed a line in Game 2 when he elbowed Nets’ center Jarrett Allen and proceeded to show no remorse (i.e. he was laughing) when asked about the incident during his post-game press conference.

“I felt a certain type of way about it. Just because you’re laughing when somebody could’ve gotten really, really hurt,” Dudley said. “That’s been Embiid’s personality. But just because it’s your personality doesn’t mean it’s right.”

Embiid, who has created somewhat of a secondary story line in this series through the constant media attention on his availability while he plays through knee tendinitis and as a result of the cell phone incident, doesn’t appear to be impressing LeVert with his antics either.

“We didn’t really like (Embiid laughing),” LeVert said. “We thought that was kind of disrespectful especially after the elbow he threw. It is what it is. There’s no love lost.”

Further frustrating the Nets is a perceived favoritism, or star treatment by the referees for Embiid, which manifested itself when Embiid was not ejected from the game as a consequence of his elbow to Allen’s head/face. Embiid was only charged with a Flagrant 1, and Dinwiddie says that if the roles were reversed, Allen would’ve been assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected.

“If J.A. throws the same elbow and hits Joel, he’s getting ejected. That’s just kind of what it is,” Dinwiddie said. “But we can’t play that game. All we have to do is go out there and play our game and be who we are, and we’ll be fine, just like we were in Game 1.”

Game 3 between the two teams is scheduled for Thursday night at 8:00pm EST on TNT. Given the above, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see another flagrant or two during tomorrow’s contest.

Grizzlies Hire Rich Cho, Glen Grunwald

The Grizzlies are adding two former NBA general managers to their front office, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPNRich Cho, a former GM with both the Hornets and Trail Blazers, will now serve as the Grizzlies’ Vice President of Basketball Strategy, while former Knicks and Raptors’ executive Glen Grunwald has been hired as a Senior Advisor. The team officially announced the news earlier this evening.

Woj previously noted that the Grizzlies were still looking for some more experienced basketball executives to work alongside (or perhaps below) Jason Wexler and Zach Kleiman, who were promoted last week to head of basketball operations and VP of basketball operations, respectively.

Accordingly, It’s likely that today’s moves will end the Grizzlies’ front office rebuild that began with the demotion of former head of basketball operations Chris Wallace, given both Cho’s and Grunwald’s basketball acumen.

As noted by Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian, Cho’s time in Charlotte coincided with Kleiman’s internship with the franchise while he was a law student at Duke University. Interestingly, Kleiman also did a summer internship with the Knicks in 2008 while Grunwald was in New York.

Those two connections, together with Kleiman being quoted in the official release from the team, make it seem likely that he, and not Wexler, may be the executive with whom Cho and Grunweld will primarily work, leaving Wexler to continue dealing with his responsibilities as president of business operations.

Herrington also adds that Grunwald will work remotely from Canada, where he currently (and still will) serves as the President and CEO of Canada Basketball.

Blake Griffin Inactive For Game 2

According to Malika Andrews of ESPNPistons forward Blake Griffin has been listed as inactive for tonight’s Game 2 in Milwaukee.

Griffin was originally reported as likely being out for the entire first-round series against the Bucks after missing Game 1, but head coach Dwane Casey told reporters after Monday’s practice that Griffin’s availability for Game 2 was still up in the air, which it was until roughly an hour before tonight’s tip-off.

Griffin, who evidently doesn’t have any structural damage in his left knee but is dealing with swelling and pain, may still need to have a procedure done this summer, but the team and Griffin will investigate that possibility once the Pistons’ season is over.

The 30-year-old All-Star, who aggravated the injury during warm-ups on April 8 before the team’s penultimate regular season game against the Grizzlies, will now look to be available for Game 3, which could potentially be a must-win game if the Bucks win tonight.

Warriors Notes: Durant, Cousins, Beverley

Despite perhaps surrendering a chance​ to​​ claim​ additional MVP awards and scoring titles, among other accolades and/or recognition, Warriors forward Kevin Durant does not appear to have any regret about joining Golden State in the summer of 2016, writes Michael Lee of The Athletic.

“I came here knowing for a fact, that every media member, every fan was going to call me every name in the book for however long I was here and I was going to take the brunt of everything. I knew coming here,” Durant said. “But I wanted to be a part of this so bad, I didn’t (care).”

According to Lee, Durant has actually had the chance to improve his game despite playing with a better supporting cast because he has learned to move more consistently and more urgently while off the ball and further developed his ball handling, helping him get to his spots where his high-released shot remains lethal.

In regard to the constant comparison to other greats, Durant says that comparison is simply a need for joy, and that when you focus on other player’s accomplishments instead of your own goals, you end up taking away from the focus of trying to make yourself the greatest that you can be. Accordingly, Durant appears to be singularly concerned with this season and winning a third-straight championship with the Warriors.

There are a few other notes out of Oakland this evening:

  • In an interesting piece worth a full read, Nick Friedell and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN reflect on the injury suffered by center DeMarcus Cousins in the Warriors’ Game 2 loss to the Clippers on Monday night. The team understandably still possesses a great amount of confidence in their ability to win a championship without Cousins’ help, but even if a third-straight banner is raised, the storybook ending for Cousins after returning from a torn Achilles is no longer on the table.
  • In another article surrounding the news of Cousins’ season-ending quad injury, Anthony Slater of The Athletic analyzes how life will change for Golden State without their big man now (more opportunity for Andrew Bogut and Kevon Looney), in the near future (perhaps not a big issue against the Rockets), and later on this summer (could the Warriors get Cousins back on the cheap for a second straight offseason?).
  • In a separate article from Friedell, it’s relayed that Durant is not worried about the Clips’ pesky point guard Patrick Beverley causing Durant to lose his rhythm. “(I could make some contested shots over Beverley), (b)ut that’s not really gonna do nothing for us with the outcome of the game, ’cause we got a nice flow, everybody’s touching the rock, everybody’s shooting and scoring.” In other words, Durant isn’t going to force anything in some kind of veiled effort to show-up Beverly or win a one-on-one contest.