Dan Feldman

Memphis Grizzlies' Mike Conley (11) puts up a shot in front of New York Knicks' Lou Amundson during the first half of the NBA basketball game, Monday, March 23, 2015 in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Report: Mike Conley expected to leave Grizzlies in free agency

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Dave Joerger was reportedly on the hot seat early this season.

But the Grizzlies played better, and then massive amounts of injuries lowered expectations far enough that Joerger drew Coach of the Year consideration just for doing slightly better than keeping Memphis afloat.

Could his job be back on the line?

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:

Dave Joerger is in a tough spot in Memphis with an aging roster that broke down this season and is on its way to being further depleted with the expected free-agent departure of point guard Mike Conley. There’s the potential for a breakup there, sources say.

Wait. What?

We’ll get back to Joerger, but what’s this about Conley? The point point guard – who’s out for the season – said “everything will be on the table” in free agency. So, he’ll look around. But the Grizzlies have seemed committed to keeping him, and Marc Gasol was already recruiting. Is Conley really expected to leave Memphis, his only NBA team? I still have trouble believing it, but Berger is well connected and reliable.

With Conley’s and all the other injuries, the Grizzlies lost a chance to send him into free agency on a positive note. They got routed by the Spurs in Game 1, and it’s hard to see this skeleton crew challenging San Antonio in the next three games.

The 28-year-old Conley is three years younger than Gasol and six years younger than Zach Randolph and Tony Allen. Conley might not see an ideal future with this aging squad, and he could bolt for a team with a window as open as his.

If Memphis still wants to keep him, it should prepare a max contract. I’d be shocked if Conley doesn’t receive max offers, and the extra year and higher raises could separate the Grizzlies. So could his experience with the team.

But, more than ever, that doesn’t seem like enough.

As far as Joerger, he did well with what he was dealt this season. It’d be a strange time to drop him – but that didn’t stop the Grizzlies from going down that path before.

Report: NBA projects salary cap to reach $92 million next season

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The NBA will have – by far – the highest salary cap in league history next season.

The only question: How high?

New national TV contracts provide a huge influx of money, and basketball’s popularity has grown steadily. The cap is based on revenue, so the income trickles down to players.

A year ago, the NBA projected an $89 million salary cap. That number keeps rising.

Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders:

Looking ahead to the 2016-17 season, the NBA now projects the salary cap will climb to $92 million, with a luxury tax threshold of $111 million.

The league also projects a $107 million salary cap for the 2017-18 season, with a $127 million luxury tax threshold, although both the owners and players can opt out of the current CBA after this coming season.

If neither party opts out, the salary cap could dip slightly to $105 million for 2018-19.

A higher-than-expected cap would mean more more flexibility for teams, though max salaries – also tied to revenue – would rise, too.

Though the players union rejected formal cap smoothing, the salary-cap outlook for the next three years looks flatter than it did last year:

  • Was: $89 million, $108 million, $100 million
  • Is: $92 million, $107 million, $105 million

Of course, that third mark for 2017-18 could change if either side opts out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement next year. The NBA could have a whole new system for determining the cap.

But for now, we have an idea about the next couple years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2016-17 cap lands even higher than $92 million. The league tends to be slightly conservative in its early estimates.

J.J. Barea out, Deron Williams doubtful for Mavericks in Game 2

Dallas Mavericks guard Deron Williams (8) congratulates J.J. Barea (5) after he scored a 3-pointer in the final second of the second overtime in an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, in Dallas. The Mavericks won 117-116. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT; MAGS OUT; TV OUT; INTERNET USE BY AP MEMBERS ONLY; NO SALES
Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News via AP
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As if the Mavericks didn’t already have enough problems  after their 38-point loss in Game 1, Dallas likely lose its starting backcourt – J.J. Barea and Deron Williams – for Game 2.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Barea will miss Game 2 because of a groin strain that sidelined him for two of the Mavs’ last three regular-season games. He aggravated the injury on a layup during the second quarter Saturday and did not return to the game after fouling on the next possession.

Williams is listed as doubtful because of a sports hernia that caused him to miss eight games late in the regular season.

Barea and Williams were abysmal in Game 1, combining to shoot 2-for-15 with six assists and four turnovers. Even if they don’t play, Dallas is likely to receive better output from its guards. But good enough to beat the Thunder?

Williams was solid throughout the season, and Barea surged down the stretch. The Mavericks’ ceiling is lower if relying more Raymond Felton and Devin Harris. Even good games by those two’s standards might not best Oklahoma City.

Justin Anderson could also see a bigger role due to these injuries, but he was probably in line for more minutes, anyway.

Vanderbilt center Damian Jones declares for NBA draft, hiring agent

FILE -- In this March 12, 2015 file photo, Vanderbilt center Damian Jones (30) pulls in a rebound over Tennessee guard Devon Baulkman (34) and forward Willie Carmichael III (24) in an NCAA college basketball game in  the Southeastern Conference tournament in Nashville, Tenn. Jones has decided earlier this year that he will enter the NBA draft after his junior season. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Damian Jones said before the season he’d declare for the 2016 NBA draft.

The Vanderbilt center is sticking to the plan.

Vanderbilt release:

Vanderbilt junior center Damian Jones, a three-time All-SEC selection, has informed the Vanderbilt Athletics Administration that he has opted to forego his final year of eligibility and enter the NBA Draft.

Jeff Goodman of ESPN:

Jones is probably a late first-rounder, though he could fall to the second.

The 7-foot Jones has nice size for a center, and his athleticism is outstanding. His positioning needs work, but he has the tools to thrive in the modern NBA defensively.

He’s more of a work in progress offensively, but he projects to fare better at the next level. Vanderbilt often posted him up, which was not his forte. NBA teams will more often use him as the screener in pick-and-rolls, a role that better suits him.

You have to do a little more projecting than ideal for someone who spent three years in college, but there is a clear path for Jones to NBA success. In this draft, that likely puts you in the first round.

Likely top-10 pick Jakob Poeltl entering, staying in, NBA draft

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2016, file photo, Utah forward Jakob Poeltl (42) goes to the basket for a dunk during the second half in an NCAA college basketball game against Washington State in Salt Lake City. Poeltl is leaving school to enter the NBA draft.  He made his plans known Wednesday, April 13, 2016, during a news conference at the Utah basketball practice facility.  (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File(
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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Jakob Poeltl opted for another season at Utah rather than the chance at going in the 2015 NBA draft lottery.

Now, he looks like a probable top-10 pick.

Utah release:

Utah sophomore forward Jakob Poeltl will enter the 2016 NBA Draft, Poeltl and Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak announced in a press conference on Wednesday. Poeltl plans to sign with an agent, concluding his career at Utah.

After showing his defensive and rebounding chops last year, the mobile 7-footer expanded his offensive game this season. Poeltl became a much more impactful inside scorer, and he even added a passing element to his game. His defense might have taken a small step back, but the overall package looks more intriguing.

Poeltl also got stronger, reducing – but not erasing – a major concern about his game.

This draft thins considerably after Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. Poeltl belongs in the deep discussion of potential No. 3 picks.