Bucks Rumors

Bucks Have Interest In J.R. Smith; Buyout Unlikely

The Bucks are among the teams that have some level of interest in J.R. Smith, sources tell Joe Vardon of The Athletic. However, Smith remains under contract with the Cavaliers and an in-season buyout appears unlikely, Vardon adds.

Smith played in just 11 games for the Cavs in 2018/19 before informally parting ways with the team. The 33-year-old said early in the season that he felt as if Cleveland wasn’t trying to win games and expressed a desire to play elsewhere. As a result, he hasn’t appeared in a game since November 19 and has been away from the club, but is still technically under team control after the Cavs failed to find a taker for him at the trade deadline.

While Smith struggled in his limited playing time this season, he’s a career 37.3% three-point shooter and would intrigue some contending teams if he were available at the minimum salary. His current contract situation complicates matters though.

Unlike most players who are bought out by their teams at this time of year, Smith has some guaranteed money on his deal for next season. Only $3.87MM of his $15.68MM salary for 2019/20 is guaranteed, but he probably wouldn’t consider giving up more than about $1MM of the money left on his contract, says Vardon. That doesn’t give the Cavaliers much incentive to make a move, since Smith could still serve as a trade chip this summer.

[RELATED: Why J.R. Smith’s contract could still be a trade asset]

It’s possible that Smith and the Cavs could reach a compromise and agree to a buyout during the season, but time is running out. In order to retain his playoff eligibility for a new team, Smith would have to be waived by Cleveland on or before March 1. That gives the two sides a little over a week to find common ground.

If Smith and the Cavs don’t agree an in-season buyout, he’ll almost certainly be either traded or waived in the offseason, since it’s hard to imagine any scenario in which Cleveland would guarantee his $15MM+ salary for ’19/20.

Central Notes: Mirotic, Bulls, Lopez, Draft Prospects

Nikola Mirotic appears ready to make his Bucks debut when the season resumes tomorrow, writes Matt Valazquez of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Acquired from the Pelicans in a deal at the trade deadline, Mirotic has been sidelined since January 23 by a strain in his right calf.

Mirotic spent the All-Star break in Milwaukee, getting treatments from the Bucks’ training staff and doing strength and conditioning exercises. The coaches were busy in Charlotte, but they left plenty of material for Mirotic to study. He was able to participate in five-on-five activities at today’s practice and will likely be listed as probable for Thursday’s game against the Celtics.

“It was great; I feel way, way better,” Mirotic said. “Today was huge for me to practice with the team. It was great being back with the team and doing some work, some scrimmage.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls will prioritize winning over draft position for the rest of the season, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago entered the All-Star break at 14-44, fourth in our latest Reverse Standings and just two games away from a chance to share the best odds for the No. 1 pick. However, building for the future is more important to the organization than tanking for a shot at Zion Williamson“I don’t make all those big picture decisions,” coach Jim Boylen said. “Again, I’m doing what I’ve been asked to do, which is coach the team as hard as I can in the best way possible. I’m just trying to do that, and our guys have been great and they’ve improved. We’ve got to get more out of them and they’ve got to improve more, and we’re going to coach them that way.’’
  • The Bulls‘ stance seems to include a commitment to center Robin Lopez, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Lopez saw his minutes cut back late last season and previously appeared to be a buyout candidate with a $14.4MM expiring contract. “We have not discussed a diminished role for him at all.” Boylen said.
  • With Duke and North Carolina dominating the basketball spotlight tonight, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com talked to Cavaliers officials to get their view of NBA prospects from both schools. One member of the Cavs’ coaching staff compares Williamson to Charles Barkley, while Channing Frye believes Cameron Reddish is the best of the group.

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Mudiay, Middleton, Kanter

The Knicks are about to have an overcrowded situation at point guard, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Frank Ntilikina is close to returning from a groin strain and Emmanuel Mudiay has nearly recovered from a strained left shoulder. Mudiay practiced today, tweets ESPN’s Ian Begley, while Ntilikina was held out of practice and will be re-evaluated Friday.

When they’re cleared to play, both guards will be sharing time with Dennis Smith Jr., who took over the starting role after being acquired from the Mavericks in late January, and possibly Kadeem Allen, who has impressed coaches since being signed to a two-way contract last month.

Allen could be sent to the G League once everyone is healthy, Berman notes, or the Knicks may want to see more of what he can do at the NBA level. Mudiay could be the odd man out as he’s headed toward free agency and seemingly has little prospect of re-signing in New York now that the organization has committed to Smith.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • If Kyrie Irving is unavailable, New York might target Bucks swingman Khris Middleton in hopes of pairing him with Kevin Durant, Berman speculates in a separate story. Middleton had a 20-point performance in his first All-Star game, then sidestepped questions about free agency. “I’m having a great career so far — that’s all I’m worrying about,” Middleton said. “I’ll think about the summertime in the summertime. We have a lot more work to do, hopefully. We’re playing great basketball. That’s all I’m worrying about.” Because Middleton doesn’t necessarily project as a full max player, Berman suggests the Knicks could sign him and have money left over to keep DeAndre Jordan, who is a friend of Durant’s.
  • The Knicks might find it more difficult to lure Durant as long as James Dolan remains the team’s owner, states Frank Isola of The Athletic. A rumor that Dolan might have interest in selling the team was dismissed as “100% false” by MSG Co. on Monday. Isola notes that the organization’s long history of failure under Dolan could make Durant think twice about coming to New York.
  • Although his time with the Knicks didn’t end well, Enes Kanter would still endorse the franchise to any free agents who ask him, tweets New York sportswriter Brian Heyman. “It’s a very good organization. Good people. … Amazing city,” Kanter said. “So I think that they have a really good chance to get good superstars.”

Stein’s Latest: Antetokounmpo, Vucevic, Lakers

Plenty of teams are hoping for the chance to sign Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Warriors, in particular, have thought about pairing him and Stephen Curry should Kevin Durant leave in free agency, Marc Stein of the New York Times writes in his latest newsletter.

Antetokounmpo would have his pick of suitors on an open market, but as Stein notes, the Greek Freak may never make it to free agency. Antetokounmpo loves Milwaukee and the Bucks have to feel they have a chance at getting him to sign a super-max extension with the team during the summer of 2020—a year prior to him hitting the open market.

Yet, the Warriors will always swing big if given just the tiniest of chances. Antetokounmpo and Curry have selected one another first overall in back-to-back All-Star drafts and the two share a mutual admiration for each other, Stein notes.

Stein, who was honored over the weekend by the Basketball Hall of Fame as a Curt Gowdy Media award recipient, has more in his latest newsletter. Here are some highlights:

  • The Mavericks‘ interest in Nikola Vucevic may be overstated, Stein hears, adding that he doesn’t get the sense that Dallas will pursue the big man. The Mavs were rumored to have interest in Vucevic as a free agent target this summer.
  • The Lakers have the ninth-hardest remaining schedule and a playoff birth is no guarantee. “It’s going to be tough, but we shouldn’t want it any other way,”  LeBron James said. “I look forward to the challenge — and I’m getting healthy, too.”
  • Charles Barkley wonders if the advent of super teams will prompt small market owners to try to take back control in future CBA talks. “I hear all these clowns on TV talking about, ‘It’s great that all these players are exuding these powers,’” Barkley told a small group of reporters prior to All-Star weekend. “Let me tell you guys something: Workers ain’t never going to have power over their ownership. Ever. Now it might work for a couple guys here or there, but in the history of the world, no workers have ever overtaken the people who own a business. And when these guys are sitting at home locked out in a couple years, I want y’all to remember I told y’all that.”

Central Notes: Middleton, Bulls, Boylen, Cavs

Asked after the All-Star Game about his upcoming free agency, Bucks swingman Khris Middleton deflected the question, as Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel relays (via Twitter).

“I’ll think about the summertime in the summertime,” Middleton said. “We have a lot more work to do, hopefully. The second half of the season is going to be tough. We’ve been playing great basketball, so that’s the only thing I’m worried about.”

While Middleton may not want to talk about it yet, he figures to draw a ton of interest in the offseason — he’d be an ideal complementary piece for a handful of teams with cap room, and may be a fall-back option for other clubs that miss out on stars like Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard. If they want to retain Middleton going forward, the Bucks will likely have to double his $13MM salary.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer lauds the Bulls for their traded-deadline acquisition of Otto Porter, arguing that the veteran forward is exactly the sort of piece the team needed, since he has the ability to make players around him better.
  • The Bulls haven’t had a ton of on-court success since Jim Boylen took over as the team’s head coach, but he has done what the team’s management group asked of him, instilling a “blue-collar identity,” writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. According to Cowley, Boylen, who could earn up to $1.6MM next season, with $1MM guaranteed, currently looks very likely to return to Chicago’s bench for 2019/20.
  • Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com takes an early look at potential candidates for the Cavaliers‘ permanent head coaching job. According to Fedor, Larry Drew should receive consideration if he wants it, but Cleveland figures to cast a wide net and may target an up-and-coming coach that can grow with the team’s players during the rebuild.

Western Notes: Giannis, Conley, Durant, LeBron

Giannis Antetokounmpo could be the next superstar prize on the Warriors’ radar screen. In a speculative piece, Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic dives into the possibility of Antetokounmpo joining Golden State when he becomes a free agent in 2021.

As Thompson outlines, pursuing Antetokounmpo would hinge on Kevin Durant departing and would also necessitate cutting ties with Draymond Green. That would give the Warriors enough cap room to sign Giannis and keep the backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson together. The possibility of Antetokounmpo wanting to leave Milwaukee could increase if the Bucks experience postseason disappointment, Thompson adds.

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • Mike Conley admits the trade rumors took a toll on him until the deadline passed, James Herbert of CBS Sports reports. The Grizzlies held on to Conley but longtime teammate Marc Gasol was dealt to Toronto.  “It was emotional, man,” he said. “It was hard, ’cause part of me, obviously, is trying to lock in on my job and just worry about Oklahoma (City) and really, like, watch film and prepare. But I can’t help but, like, the other 90 percent of me is like I’m about to get traded or Marc’s about to get traded.”
  • Kevin Durant claimed his relationship with ex-Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook was never as strained as it was portrayed in the media, Eric Horne of The Oklahoman relays. “I don’t think it was ever in a bad place,” Durant said. “I think a lot of you guys just got in the way and tried to make it something bigger than it was because you needed a story. I understand because that’s your job, but that’s not really your job. I understood what that was like now thinking back on it, because I never had a problem with nobody in this league, or to a point where I didn’t like anyone or hated someone. It wasn’t even that deep.”
  • The Lakers are privately a little concerned about LeBron James‘ health, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. They’re not quite sure he’s fully healed from the groin injury that cost him 18 games, as he’s not moving at the same speed, nor engaging at the point of attack, Vardon continues. However, James denies he’s aching. “I feel great,” he said. “Looking forward to the second half of the season. Looking forward to seeing what we can do to get back in this playoff race. That’s my only mindset.”

Anthony Davis Plans To Play Rest Of Season, Confirms Trade List

Anthony Davis confirmed today that he intends to play in Sunday’s All-Star game and the remainder of the season, and also confirmed the list of his preferred trade destinations during media availability with reporters Saturday in Charlotte.

The Pelicans’ All-Star suffered a left shoulder muscle contusion on Thursday in a collision with Thunder center Nerlens Noel. After he requested a trade from New Orleans but was not dealt ahead of the February 7 deadline, Davis’ future for the rest of the season became unclear.

Not only does Davis intend to play in the All-Star game, but the six-time All-Star confirmed he plans to suit up the remainder of the season. The Pelicans face potential fines from the league if they elect to sit a healthy Davis for the rest of the season.

In 45 games this season, Davis has averaged 28.1 PPG, 12.9 RPG and 4.2 APG for the Pelicans. Before Thursday’s injury, New Orleans reportedly planned to play Davis but reduce his workload and sit him in the back end of back-to-back games.

The 25-year-old also spoke candidly on his trade request and his possible destination. Davis confirmed his reported list of four preferred teams in a trade ahead of the deadline, which includes the Lakers, Clippers, Bucks and Knicks.

“Whatever list that came out that’s between the Pelicans and my agent,” Davis said, per Sean Deveney of Sporting News. “But it’s true.”

The Lakers were the most aggressive team pursuing the big man but failed to agree on a trade. Davis also called the Knicks a “great franchise” during his media session, before mentioning a possible fifth destination: the Celtics.

“They are on my list,” Davis said of the Celtics (via Sporting News’ Sean Deveney). “….I never said they weren’t on my list.”

Boston was unable to acquire Davis this season without including Kyrie Irving in a proposed deal due to Rose Rule restrictions. However, with Irving hitting unrestricted free agency this summer, Boston would no longer be hindered by that rule and could potentially pair him along with Davis.

As we relayed, the Celtics are reportedly prepared to offer an “explosive” package for Davis. A potential Boston trade could include any combination of Jayson TatumJaylen BrownMarcus Smart, and a slew of future first-round picks, including selections from the Kings, Clippers, and Grizzlies.

In a later interview with NBA TV, Davis claimed he never gave a preferred destination and is merely seeking an opportunity to win.

“All 29 other teams are on my list,” Davis said. “I don’t have a preferred destination, I just want to win. Big market, small market [teams] — I don’t care, I want to win. Obviously, whatever team I get traded to, play for it that year or whatever…Then, when free agency comes, we’ll see what happens.”

Bucks Co-Owner Fined For Anthony Davis Comments

Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry has been fined $25K by the NBA for recent comments about Anthony Davis, league sources tell Malika Andrews of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

After Milwaukee showed up on Davis’ alleged four-team list of preferred destinations, Lasry spoke to Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News about it, mentioning the Pelicans‘ All-Star big man by name.

“I saw that report, and I think it’s great,” Lasry said at the time, referring to Davis’ wish list. “It’s a little bit of what we want. We want players to come and play in Milwaukee. And part of it is, when you’re winning and you’re setting a standard for excellence, people see that. People want to win. It doesn’t make a difference if you’re in Milwaukee, New York or L.A. The whole goal is winning. So we hope it would be players like Anthony Davis and others who want to come to Milwaukee.”

Lasry also acknowledged to Lawrence that it would have been difficult for the Bucks to put together a trade package for a player like Davis at the deadline, since most of their best players are on expiring contracts and they’ve traded away multiple first-round picks.

While Lasry’s comments were fairly innocuous, I noted last week that he might have crossed over into tampering territory by mentioning Davis by name, which is frowned upon by the league. While the NBA apparently agreed, a $25K fine isn’t a massive anti-tampering penalty. By comparison, the Lakers were fined $500K in 2017 for tampering related to Paul George and were hit with a $50K fine last year when Magic Johnson raved about Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Pacers Eyeing Khris Middleton?

The Deadline Deals That Didn’t Happen

The Raptors were close to acquiring Nikola Mirotic, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports on his podcast. The power forward would have been part of a three-team trade with the Pelicans and Magic in the proposed framework. Toronto didn’t have the expiring contracts that New Orleans was seeking and Mirotic was instead sent to the Bucks.

Toronto shifted its focus back to Marc Gasol and acquired the big man from Memphis in exchange for Jonas ValanciunasDelon WrightC.J. Miles, and a 2024 second-round pick.

The Hornets came close to acquiring Gasol before some “last-minute haggling,”  ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes. Charlotte had a lottery-protected first-round pick on the table for most of the week leading up to the deadline. Lowe passes along more deals that were discussed behind the scenes. Here are the highlights from his latest piece:

  • The Sixers offered two second-rounders to the Pelicans for Mirotic and prior to trading for Tobias Harris, Philadelphia and New Orleans discussed a Markelle Fultz-Mirotic swap. Fultz was dealt to the Magic for Jonathon Simmons and a pair of picks.
  • The Hornets pursued a deal for Harrison Barnes, dangling a first-round pick to the Mavericks, Lowe adds in the same piece. Dallas would have had to take back long-term money in the potential deal, something that it wasn’t willing to do.
  • The Nets and Grizzlies briefly discussed sending Allen Crabbe to Memphis along with a first-round pick (Denver’s 2019 selection) in exchange for Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green, sources tell Lowe. Tax concerns led Memphis to shy away from acquiring Crabbe, who will take home approximately $19MM next season.
  • Several teams attempted to pry Andrew Wiggins from the Wolves without giving up much in return. Minnesota was uninterested in giving Wiggins away.
  • Kris Dunn was available at the deadline but the Bulls weren’t looking to deal Zach LaVine. Lowe writes that Chicago may have only considered trading LaVine if it received an overwhelming offer, something that was unlikely to occur.