May 19, 2019, 11:15 pm
Welcome, Hoop Ball readers, to another edition of The Week Ahead!
The Conference Finals have not been nearly as entertaining as the Semifinals, but the NBA Finals should be fun to watch. Although it is easy to jump the gun and say that the Warriors will easily win the NBA Finals, there is a real chance that the Bucks or Raptors could push them as far or farther than the Rockets did.
The Warriors currently have a 3-0 lead over the Blazers in the Western Conference Finals, so it is basically a sure thing that we will see the Warriors playing for the title for a 5th straight season. The Bucks currently lead the Raptors 2-1, so Game 4 will be a huge turning point in the series. Although both the Bucks or Raptors against the Warriors would be a solid matchup to watch, there is a great chance that the Warriors bring home their 4th championship in five seasons. Despite the fact that we will likely see another Warriors ring, hopefully we are going to see a competitive series in the NBA Finals.
Stephen Curry has returned to domination with Kevin Durant out, so many have speculated that this is the “nail in the coffin” for Durant in terms of leaving the Warriors in free agency. The Warriors will remain a great team without Durant, but the dynasty as we know it will end and they will have to be on top of their game at all times to remain in championship contention — if KD leaves, of course.
Durant’s looming free agency decision is the top of the list of league-changing moves that could potentially occur this offseason.
The NBA Draft Lottery occurred on Tuesday, and the Knicks were unfortunate to land the #3 pick in the draft. The Pelicans won the lottery, the Grizzlies got the #2 pick, and the Lakers are slotted at #4. This was the craziest draft lottery that we have seen in quite some time, so the new “no advantage for tanking” rules for the lottery worked out well.
Between the NBA Draft and free agency, the 2019 offseason will be one of the most thrilling that we have experienced in many years. However, we still have two rounds of basketball to watch before we start thinking about what will happen in the offseason.
Now here is an overview of the week ahead:
Weekly Schedule Breakdown
Monday, May 20th- Warriors at Blazers 9 PM ET (GAME 4)
Tuesday, May 21st- Bucks at Raptors 8:30 PM ET (GAME 4)
Wednesday, May 22nd- Blazers at Warriors at 9 PM ET (GAME 5)*
Thursday, May 23rd- Raptors at Bucks at 8:30 PM ET (GAME 5)
Friday, May 24th- Warriors at Blazers at 9 PM ET (GAME 6)*
Saturday, May 25th- Bucks at Raptors at 8:30 PM ET (GAME 6)*
Sunday, May 26th- Blazers at Warriors at 9 PM ET (GAME 7)*
* = if necessary
Andre Iguodala (calf) is questionable for Monday’s Game 4 against the Blazers with a left calf injury. He is a huge piece of their team, but it is possible he rests Game 4 since the Warriors are up 3-0 in the series. The Warriors need him to be healthy for the NBA Finals, so he will likely not suit up unless he is close to 100 percent. Check for updates prior to Game 4.
Kevin Durant (calf) did not travel to Portland for Game 3 or 4, so his next chance to return will be Game 5 if necessary. However, with the Warriors having a commanding 3-0 series lead it is very possible that we do not see Durant until the NBA Finals.
DeMarcus Cousins (quad) has returned to on-court workouts, but will likely not return in the Western Conference Finals. It is remarkable that Iguodala, Durant, and Cousins are all injured and the Warriors are potentially going to complete a sweep of the Blazers on Monday. Cousins could return for the NBA Finals, which would mean that the Warriors are fully healthy for the first time since the first round of the playoffs. Check for updates on Cousins as he is set to be re-evaluated in five days or so.
Thanks Hoopballers for reading another edition of The Week Ahead!
June 26, 2019, 7:55 amKevin Durant - SF - Golden State Warriors
Appearing on ESPN last night, Adrian Wojnarowski said that the Nets plan to offer Kevin Durant, a four-year max contract.
Brooklyn is in a great position to offer Kyrie Irving a max contract and then use that to pursue KD or perhaps another free agent. Zach Lowe added that the idea of Kyrie as a solo doesn’t appear to be the plan but the Nets would ultimately take on Irving as a solo act, although there would probably be a divide within the organization. KD is expected to miss the majority of the next season but it looks like teams won’t have any second thoughts offering him the max.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski
June 25, 2019, 8:11 pmBobby Portis - PF - Washington Wizards
Tony Jones and Fred Katz of The Athletic are reporting Bobby Portis is looking for as much as $16 million in free agency and has interest from multiple teams.
According to Jones and Katz, the Wizards aren't expected to match a huge offer sheet on Portis. As a restricted free agent, the Wiz declining to match would allow him to go elsewhere. The Utah Jazz have been a team at the top of the list on the rumor mill. Portis averaged 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds in 28 games for the Wiz last season.
Source: Tony Jones on Twitter
June 25, 2019, 6:55 pmNikola Vucevic - C - Orlando Magic
Per Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News, the Mavs like how Nikola Vucevic fits alongside Kristaps Porzingis, but his expected salary would cost too much for the Mavs to sign.
The Mavs will enter free agency with a ton of cap space, but after the expected max contract that they'll extend to Porzingis, they may be more inclined to spread the wealth around or target Kemba Walker than committing a max contract to Vucevic. Vucevic had a career year as an All-Star for the Magic this past season, but his next destination remains a crapshoot.
Source: Dallas News
June 25, 2019, 6:38 pmJimmy Butler - SG - Philadelphia Sixers
Per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Rockets' ideal plan in free agency is to get Jimmy Butler by a sign-and-trade deal with the Sixers.
Butler is going to be a sought after commodity once free agency opens as the Sixers, Lakers, and others are also going to be looking to ink him to a long-term deal. Butler regained his level back to max contract level after his play during the playoffs this season. The Rockets don't have any cap space to sign Butler outright, so they'll have to get a commitment from him to take a pay cut, while also getting the Sixers to agree to help facilitate a deal. This is going to be interesting.
June 25, 2019, 5:08 pmKhem Birch - C - Orlando Magic
The Magic have extended qualifying offers to C Khem Birch and F Amile Jefferson, rendering both restricted free agents ahead of free agency which is set to begin on June 30th.
Birch, who averaged 4.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in just 12.9 minutes per game this past season, is seemingly a priority for the Magic to bring back, and now they'll get the opportunity to match any contracts he may fetch from other teams. Jefferson was in the G-League for the majority of the season, where he was very productive. Both may take on larger roles, should they stay with the Magic, as star C Nikola Vucevic is an unrestricted free agent.
Source: Magic PR on Twitter
June 25, 2019, 4:58 pmJR Smith - SG - Cleveland Cavaliers
According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, the Lakers could eventually take a look at signing J.R. Smith should he be released by the Cavs, or traded and bought out by another team.
Smith is likely to become a free agent one way or the other by the end of the month, and the Lakers will be looking at cheap floor-spacers to fill out their roster. Smith and LeBron James are familiar with one another after winning a championship together with the Cavs, and it looks like Smith to the Lakers is a real possibility.
Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter
June 25, 2019, 4:00 pmKristaps Porzingis - PF - Dallas Mavericks
Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting that the Mavs will meet with restricted free agent Kristaps Porzingis (torn ACL) once free agency opens on June 30th, and the team will offer him the full five-year, $158 million max contract.
This was expected ever since the Mavs traded for Porzingis mid-season while he recovered from his knee injury. Porzingis is fully expected to sign with the Mavs and become reigning ROY Luka Doncic's running mate for the foreseeable future.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
June 25, 2019, 3:54 pmJordan Clarkson - PG - Cleveland Cavaliers
Cavs combo guard Jordan Clarkson changed agents and signed with Klutch Sports and Rich Paul.
Clarkson is likely to be a trade target for competitive teams ahead of next year's trade deadline, as a quality player on an expiring contract. Clarkson will enter free agency next offseason looking for the best deal possible.
Source: Joe Vardon on Twitter
June 25, 2019, 3:46 pmJulius Randle - PF - New Orleans Pelicans
Per Marc Spears of The Undefeated, Pelicans forward Julius Randle and the Knicks have mutual interest as free agency approaches.
The Pelicans drafted their PF of the future in Zion Williamson last week, and will seemingly let Randle walk in free agency as they are unlikely to pay him what he deserves. After a productive finish with the Lakers in 2017-18, Randle had to settle for a one-year deal from the Pelicans last summer. After another productive season on an expiring contract, it looks like at least one franchise is ready to invest in Randle as their PF of the future. Randle averaged 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 0.9 threes to boot this past season and makes for a good mid-round selection in drafts next season if he finds himself in a similar role.
Source: The Undefeated
June 25, 2019, 3:32 pmAndre Iguodala - SF - Golden State Warriors
Speaking about Kevin Durant's injury situation during this year's playoffs, Andre Iguodala said that he fractured his left leg against the Rockets in the 2018-19 playoffs and the Warriors listed him out with a "left lateral leg contusion.”
There has been a lot of smoke in regards to how the Warriors dealt with Durant's injury, as it did not appear to be as minor as the team led the public to believe when he injured himself backpedaling after a made basket. A non-contact injury is always a major red flag, but the Warriors called Durant's initial injury a "first-grade calf strain," which is the lowest graded injury designation. Weeks later, when Durant rushed back to help his team out of a 3-1 Finals deficit, he fully ruptured his Achilles in only 12 minutes of action. This is all just speculation, but this revelation from the 2015 NBA Finals MVP is an alarming development for a franchise who could seemingly do no wrong the past half-decade. The league may take a deep-dive into these claims soon enough.
Source: NBC Sports