LAS VEGAS — Kevin Durant knows you’re talking about him. Specifically, where he might play starting in the fall of 2016 after he becomes a free agent and signs a new contract.
“It’s been talked about. Everybody’s asked me about it every time I go on Instagram or Twitter. All my friends ask me about it,” Durant said at Team USA Camp in Las Vegas. “So I’m not going to sit here and act like I’m naive to the fact that people think about that stuff. But I just tell everybody, ‘Look, I’m here in Oklahoma City. I love it here. Who knows what’ll happen?'”
That’s not exactly going to quiet the chatter. Nor is it going to tamp down the hopes of Wizards fans (Durant is a Washington D.C. native) or other fan bases from New York to Los Angeles that believe they have a shot at Durant in 2016.
Durant was pressed by reporters to talk about his future Tuesday after another day of Team USA practice in Las Vegas. To his credit, he didn’t dodge the questions, he answered them seemingly honestly.
Durant genuinely doesn’t seem to know what he’s going to do in two summers — nor should he. That’s a long time away. He very well may decide to stay with the Thunder (especially if they win a ring). But two years is a couple lifetimes in the NBA and, as Durant said, who knows what will happen.
If you’re looking for clues to how Durant is thinking, you can try to parse out what he said when asked what he thought of LeBron James’ decision to return to his home and play for the Cavaliers again.
“It was class act,” Durant said of LeBron’s letter. “Great move to do a letter, that was pretty cool. It’s fun to see a guy think about more than just basketball for once, or themselves. I’m not saying LeBron always thinks about himself. But he thought about ‘where do we come from?’ Northeast Ohio. How he can affect some little kids and be an advisor for them. I love that. I love that. So many guys get criticized for making their decision on what’s best for them instead of what’s best for everybody else. We got to respect him. I applauded him. I texted him to tell him congratulations on his decision. I was happy for him.”
Expect Durant to take a big picture view like that when it’s his turn. What does that mean? It’s impossible to say two years out.
Which means the speculation and chatter are just going to grow. For a long time.
Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan declared for the 2016 NBA draft, struggled at the combine, withdrew, got into great shape, had an All-American sophomore season, declared for the 2017 draft.
This time, he’s not turning back.
Swanigan is a borderline first-round pick. He has a couple NBA-ready skills the good teams that typically pick late in the first round might covet, but thanks to trades, teams that didn’t win a playoff game this year hold most late first-round picks. They might pick someone with more upside than Swanigan.
Swanigan is a tenacious rebounder, particularly defensively. He has excellent fundamentals, size (6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan) and ability to read the ball, and he crashes through contact to hunt boards.
He’s also a quality post-up player who can finish with either hand and has the passing ability to make that play work.
But Swanigan is slow. NBA teams have become increasingly adept at running plodders like him off the court by dragging them into pick-and-rolls. Even when on the court, he hasn’t protected the rim at satisfactory levels.
Swanigan has overcome his athletic limitations as a rebounder. He hasn’t done so in other facets of defense.
He’s hardly a dinosaur offensively. He made 45% of his 3-pointers last season, and though I’m not confident that will translate to NBA 3-point range (give the small sample and his form), he should be at least a midrange threat.
Swanigan is also just 20, young for a sophomore. He can improve.
But it’s just hard to look past his defensive limitations.
The Hawks picked Warriors assistant general manager Travis Schlenk as their next general manager. All that was left was negotiating terms.
The Atlanta Hawks today announced the hiring of Travis Schlenk as General Manager and Head of Basketball Operations. He will start leading Hawks basketball operations on June 1.
Schlenk worked his way up the latter and helped the Warriors become the envy of every other NBA team. He deserves this opportunity.
But the job won’t be easy.
The Hawks are stuck between two directions. On one side, they have veterans Paul Millsap (a 32-year-old pending unrestricted free agent whom the owner has basically promised a huge contract) and Dwight Howard (who sounds unhappy). On the other side, they have a youth movement featuring Dennis Schroder and Taurean Prince. Tim Hardaway Jr., who bridges the age groups, is about to enter a potentially tricky restricted free agency.
Keeping the core together offers the upside of a playoff-series victory or two annually, modest outcomes for the cost. But a fragile Atlanta fan base might not tolerate a rebuild.
Schlenk works for owner Tony Ressler, and Ressler sounds committed to maintaining the status quo by keeping Millsap. It’s now Schlenk’s job to execute that vision or convince his boss to approve a different direction.
The more I’ve looked into the 2017 NBA draft, the less impressed I’ve become. There are a few bright spots in the first round relative to an average draft – No. 2, 5ish-10ish, 17ish-22ish – but I’m not convinced this is the generationally strong draft it has been touted as.
In the absence of prospects who offer secure promise, why not turn to upside? Hamidou Diallo offered plenty and was increasingly viewed as a first-rounder.
Yet, he’ll return to Kentucky for his freshman season.
A highly ranked recruit, Diallo began last school year at a prep school then enrolled at Kentucky for the spring semester. He practiced with the Wildcats, but never played.
Then, he went to the combine and posted excellent measurables: 6-foot-5, 6-foot-11 wingspan, 44.5-inch vertical and strong agility and sprint scores. Just 18, Diallo might have been the second-youngest player drafted this year (behind only Ike Anigbogu).
It wouldn’t have taken long – likely somewhere in the middle of the first round – for a team to bite on all that potential.
Instead, Diallo returns to Kentucky and must now show his ability to actually produce in basketball games. If he does, there’s no limit on how high he goes in the 2018 NBA draft. If he doesn’t, he’ll regret missing the opportunity to get drafted before his game got picked apart.
Dwyane Wade said he wants to see the Bulls’ plan for Jimmy Butler and the rest of the roster before deciding on a $23.8 million player option for next season.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
I can tell you is most everyone associated with the Bulls believes Wade will pick up the option and remain in Chicago for a second season. More surprising things have happened in league history, though. So stay tuned.
This could be a tell that Wade will opt in. The Bulls could obviously be positioned to base their prediction on inside information into Wade’s thinking.
This could a tell the Bulls won’t trade Butler. If they know they’ll keep Butler, they can extrapolate what that’d mean for Wade.
Or the Bulls, like so many of us, just assume a 35-year-old Wade won’t turn down so much guaranteed money at this stage of his career.