Hawks may have steal of draft with Dennis Schroder at No. 17

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It is dangerous to read too much into an NBA Summer League performance — remember a year ago the co-MVPs were Damian Lillard and Josh Selby. They went on to have radically different NBA seasons.

But the one guy in Las Vegas who leapt out to me as a potential steal of a pick was 19-year-old German point guard Dennis Schroder of the Hawks, who was drafted at No. 17.

In the helter-skelter, pick-up style of the NBA Summer League Schroder showed a mature game, a patient and unhurried style that stood out — especially since he was one of the youngest players there.

“I think part of that is having experience playing in Europe,” Hawks Summer League coach Quin Snyder said of Schroder, who played two seasons professionally in Germany before entering the draft. “He was living the professional life in a lot of ways… the competition he’s playing with — he’s playing against men, players that have played professionally for eight, nine, 10 years some of them. When you see him play his game reflects that at some level.”

The thing that grabbed you first about Schroder was his defense — he got down in a low crouch and pressured the ball. Again he was mature, he wasn’t gambling he was counting on his quick feet and ridiculous wingspan to take away what the ball handler wanted to do. At 19 he was the best defensive point guard in Las Vegas.

“He’s got the quickness and the length to be very good on the ball,” Snyder told ProBasketballTalk. “I think the thing that stood out for us is that it’s very difficult to screen him. He gambles a little bit, but for the most part he’s just impacting the game by consistently applying pressure.

“Maybe the biggest is his ability to not be screened in the pick-and-roll. Pick-and-roll defense is an important thing.”

There were ups and downs over the course of Schroder’s play in Vegas — he shot just 34 percent overall and 29 percent from three, and while he dished out 5.6 assists a game he also had 3.4 turnovers. He showed a great feel for the game, but everything was not smooth. He was adjusting to the NBA game.

“I think everybody’s athletic here in America, in Germany it was a little bit different,” Schroder said.

“I know some of the things coach (Mike Budenholzer) has challenged him on, he can continue to shoot the ball, his focus on the court and really maintaining it, having an even keel mentally and really keeping his poise. Some of those things you just don’t work on on your own, you need to play, and I think the more he plays that will be good for him.

“He was in the gym while we were in Vegas working on his shot, so some of those things he needs to do to evolve as a player we’re going to see more as his competition increases.”

Schroder lands in a good spot in Atlanta — Jeff Teague is back as the starter and will get the bulk of the minutes, with Lou Williams coming off the bench and wanting the ball in his hands also. Shelvin Mack is also on the roster.

But what Schroder showed in Vegas was a guy ready to get some NBA minutes — he can come in off the bench, play good defense, set up some teammates and start to get a feel for the NBA game.

Watching him, I saw what could well be a quality NBA point guard down the line, a guy who can start and lead a team on both ends if he develops.

And that would be a real steal at No. 17.

LeBron James, do you owe Cleveland anything? “I don’t owe anybody anything”

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It will be the biggest off-court topic of the NBA season: Will LeBron James stay with the Cavaliers after this season?

Right now, LeBron doesn’t know the answer to that question for sure. I’m sure he has ideas, but he wisely leaves all his options open, then can make a call next summer when the time comes.

When that time does come, does he owe his hometown Cleveland anything? LeBron answered that question in the latest issue of GQ, and he answered with an emphatic no.

“LeBron James owes nobody anything. Nobody,” he said. “When my mother told me I don’t owe her anything, from that point in time, I don’t owe anybody anything. But what I will give to the city of Cleveland is passion, commitment, and inspiration. As long as I put that jersey on, that’s what I represent. That’s why I’m there — to inspire that city. But I don’t owe anybody anything.”

That’s not what Cavs fans may want to hear, but it’s also spot on. LeBron has given this franchise everything he has, he has brought them the first title the team has had in 50 years, and nobody sane can question his passion or how hard he plays.

LeBron could well get to his eighth straight NBA Finals, feel he’s on a team that can push the Warriors, then look at his options — the Lakers and a young core that doesn’t defend well, for example — and think maybe he’s best where he’s at. Perhaps he teams up with another star in Los Angeles or somewhere else. If LeBron called up 28 teams and said “I want to come there” those teams would make whatever moves they needed to for the deal to happen. (I say 28 because the Warriors wouldn’t, and even they’d think about it.)

LeBron has the leverage, and he is always a guy who keeps his options open. He will be asked about his future in every road stop, he will dodge the questions, and we’ll try to read the tea leaves, but as of right now LeBron doesn’t know for sure what LeBron will do next summer. Neither do we.

Report: Final season of LaMarcus Aldridge’s contract extension just $7 million guaranteed

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Spurs big LaMarcus Aldridge, who will earn $21,461,010 this season, agreed to exercise his $22,347,015 player option for 2018-19 in conjunction with signing a two-year, $50 million contract extension.

As usual, the devil is in the details.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Guaranteeing Aldridge just $7 million in 2020-21, when he’ll be 35, is obviously to San Antonio’s advantage relative to fully guaranteeing his extension. But it sets up an uneasy choice for the Spurs. Their three options for Aldridge will be:

  • Pay him $24 million in 2020-21 to play for them
  • Pay him $7 million in 2020-21 not to play for them
  • Pay him $2,333,333 in each 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 not to play for them

There’s a solid chance that none of those are appealing.

Some speculated San Antonio extended Aldridge to facilitate a trade, removing uncertainty stemming from Aldridge’s player option. Though the Spurs now can’t trade him before the deadline, they could move him in the offseason.

But that 15% trade kicker is a significant inhibitor. His salary is already lofty for his age. An increase would only dissuade teams.

The simplest explanation is probably correct: The Spurs value the stability of their core, no matter how old it is, over flexibility.

Thunder give P.J. Dozier No. 35, Kevin Durant’s old number

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The Thunder signed P.J. Dozier, who went undrafted out of South Carolina, to a seemingly innocuous two-way contract.

Then, they let him pick No. 35 – previously worn by Kevin Durant.

Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:

Honoring Reggie Lewis seems like a valid reason for Dozier, who probably didn’t want to get swept into what has become a minor controversy.

Personally, I don’t mind a player wearing any unretired number. Even numbers that will clearly be retired can be fair game until the jersey goes into the rafters. This is a non-issue to me.

But people care about this stuff. Many see it as a sign of disrespect to Durant, who left Oklahoma City on bad terms when signing with the Warriors. The Thunder lose deniability about not caring, considering they told Dion Waiters he couldn’t wear No. 13, which was previously worn by James Harden.

Will Oklahoma City eventually retire Durant’s No. 35? He spent a fantastic eight years there (and another season with the Seattle SuperSonics before they moved). Time will ease the bitterness of his exit. It’s certainly possible he’s honored that way.

In the meantime, let Dozier wear No. 35 in peace. It should have nothing to do with Durant.

Cornrowed Joel Embiid calls minute limit f—ing BS

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76ers center Joel Embiid made clear yesterday he disliked the minute restriction placed on him, which Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said would keep Embiid below 20 minutes per game.

Today, sporting a new hairstyle, Embiid upped the rhetoric.

Embiid, via Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“That’s f—ing BS,” he said after practice Tuesday. “I wish I was playing more minutes. I think I’m ready for more than I don’t know whatever number they have.”

“I think the concept of minute restrictions is kind of complicated,” Embiid said. “I don’t think there should ever be minute restrictions. I think it should always be about how my body feels and how it’s reacting.”

“They know that I’m frustrated, but once again you’ve got to trust the doctors,” Embiid said. “They care about me. It’s all about the long-term view.”

“Like I always say,” he said, “you’ve got to trust the process.”

We’ve been here before – an injury-prone Philadelphia center rocking cornrows (at least Embiid went all the way with them) and Embiid lashing out at his minute limit.

Embiid is incredibly competitive, and he can’t just turn it off. It’s an attribute that contributes to his on-court excellence.

Embiid appears to have just enough trust-the-process perspective here, but Brown will also likely have his hands full keeping Embiid from getting too frustrated throughout the season.

At least Embiid has his contract extension and isn’t restless to get on the court and earn his big payday.