Author: Kurt Helin

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News, Notes from a Summer League Sunday: Kings fans are going to love Willie Cauley-Stein

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LAS VEGAS — The PBT team is in Sin City for NBA Summer League and it is an ever-growing event — two games going on at a time, coaches and GMs chatting, guys nobody really knows making a name for themselves, and plenty of just random sightings and happenings.

Here’s some of what you missed by not being in Las Vegas before the thermometer hit 100. (Notes come from Kurt Helin and Sean Highkin.)

• Kings fans, you should be happy, there’s a lot to like with Willie Cauley-Stein. He’s a bit raw, but you can see real potential. With his length, he’s disruptive in the paint. But he not just long and athletic, he anticipates well on defense, he plays a pretty smart game on that end. Plus he just hustles. On one play he had a block on one end, then sprinted to the other end and kept Nikola Jokic off his spot in the post. He doesn’t have much range on offense (and his post ups are not things of beauty), but he uses that athleticism to finish fairly well at the rim and had 15 points on 13 shots. (KH)

• When DeMarcus Cousins walked in the arena (with GM Vlade Divac) to watch the Kings play, the healthy number of Kings fans in attendance gave him a standing ovation. George Karl should note where the fan allegiances lie. (KH)

• Former No. 2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet is playing for the D-League Select squad in this year’s Summer League, and he unlocked the ultra-rare “get ejected from a Summer League game” achievement. (SH)

• After his outstanding Bulls Summer League debut on Saturday, Bobby Portis had a letdown in Sunday’s loss to the Raptors. He shot 1-for-10 from the field and generally looked overmatched. “I’m not worried about Bobby,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said afterwards. “He’s 6-foot-10 and has an outstanding motor.” With a loaded frontcourt, the Bulls can afford to bring Portis along slowly, but there have been flashes of his versatility at times in Summer League. (SH)

• Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay skipped college to play a year in China professionally. Would he recommend that for other players?

“That’s on your parents, man,” Mudiay said. He added it really depends on the guy and what they want to accomplish, where they are as a person and with their family. “It helped me, it benefitted me as a player, but for a big man it’s probably different,” adding that Europe may be better for bigs than China.

Be sure to check out PBT tomorrow for more from Mudiay. (KH)

• Check out the Spurs’ Jonathan Simmons putting on a show.

• Among those looking impressive for Denver was second-round pick Nikola Jokic, who had 10 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, three steals, two blocks in 23 minutes. He showed some shooting range out to the three-point line and he moved well for a big man. He’s someone to keep an eye on, he needs to develop, but he is interesting. (KH)

• Celtics first-round pick and point guard Terry Rozier knows how to attack and he put up an impressive line — 22 points on 9 shots. He got to the line 13 times and knocked down 12. He also dished out five assists. (KH)

 

Quote of the Day: Steve Kerr jokes Popovich should quit coaching if he can’t win title with new roster

San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors
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“You look at what San Antonio did getting Aldridge, I mean if they don’t win the whole thing next year it’s clearly the coach’s fault. I mean if Pop can’t win the whole thing with that roster then he has no business coaching in this league.”

—Golden State coach Steve Kerr, on NBA TV during the Warriors’ Summer League game, talking about the Western Conference.

You have to love the relationship between Gregg Popovich and Kerr (remember Kerr played for Popovich and picked up a couple rings in San Antonio, 1999 and 2003). They love to take little, friendly, locker-room style shots at each other.

A lot of people want to know who is better now, the Spurs after adding LaMarcus Aldridge or the reigning champion Warriors. My first thought is, it’s best not to leave the Clippers and Thunder out of the discussion of who can win the West. I will say with this likely being Tim Duncan’s last year I think the Spurs will be very hungry.

(Hat tip NBA Reddit)

 

It’s official: Thunder match offer sheet, keep Enes Kanter

Portland Trail Blazers v Oklahoma City Thunder
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In the end, Oklahoma City didn’t have a choice.

If they didn’t match Portland’s four-year, $70 million offer sheet for Enes Kanter they would essentially be telling Kevin Durant “we aren’t willing to go into the luxury tax to get you closer to a title,” which would be a foolish with KD becoming a free agent next summer.

No team may have ever been in a more win-now place than OKC this year.

So the Thunder have matched the offer sheet and will keep Kanter, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports.

Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti informed Portland of his decision to retain Kanter on Sunday night, league sources told Yahoo. Enes’ deal includes a player option on the fourth year and a 15 percent trade kicker bonus….

Oklahoma City feels immense pressure to show star Kevin Durant a strong commitment to winning in the final year of his contract, and Kanter is an important part of the Thunder’s nucleus. The possibility of losing a young player of Kanter’s talent for no assets was extremely remote for the Thunder. Presti had planned his payroll and roster for the possibility of a maximum offer sheet, sources said.

The team has since confirmed it.

“We traded for Enes last season with the intention of keeping him as a member of the Thunder for several years to come, and we are excited that he will continue with us,” said Thunder GM Sam Presti in a statement. “He adds valuable depth to our roster, diversity to our frontcourt and the dimension that he brings offensively will positively impact our team.”

Marc Stein of ESPN breaks down the numbers.

Even if Durant re-signs for the max, the Thunder will be under the tax line in 2016-17.

The Thunder need Kanter to bring them some offense in the paint and a five who can help space the floor and create driving lanes for Russell Westbrook and Durant (Oklahoma City’s offense was 3.5 points per 100 better when he was on the court for them last season). The Thunder have Serge Ibaka as their starting four with Nick Collison behind him. At the five there would be Kanter and Steven Adams in rotation — they can play for offense or defense — plus they have Mitch McGary behind them. That’s a quality rotation.

We need to note Kanter is a defensive liability — OKC’s defense was 6.5 points per 100 possessions worse when he was on the floor than when he was sitting. And they still had a terrible defensive rating of 107.5 per 100 when Kanter and Ibaka were paired.

But this was the only move the Thunder could make.

Stan Van Gundy says Pistons will now talk contract extension with Andre Drummond

Andre Drummond
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The Detroit Pistons had some success near the end of the season with the Reggie Jackson/Andre Drummond pick and roll. This summer they locked up half that duo, paying Jackson more money than anyone else was going to.

Now they will turn their attention to Drummond.

Drummond is eligible for a contract extension this summer (it has to be signed by Oct. 31), and he’s a clear max player, he should get in the five-year, $90 million range of Damian Lillard and others. The Pistons are going to start talking to him about it, GM and coach Stan Van Gundy told Terry Foster of the Detroit News.

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said the team will begin contract extension talks with center Andre Drummond in the next couple of weeks, with hopes of locking him up to a long-term contract — likely a maximum contract extension.

Here’s the rub: Van Gundy and the Pistons don’t want Drummond to sign that deal. At least not right now.

They want him to do what Kawhi Leonard did for the Spurs — wait a year, giving the Pistons more cap flexibility next summer. He’d still get the same max money, and the Pistons aren’t about to let him go, it’s simply about team building.

If Drummond signs this summer, he will count about $21 million against the cap in 2016-17. If he doesn’t sign then he becomes a restricted free agent and he’d count $8.1 million against the cap. That is a savings of nearly $13 million and the Pistons could use that to upgrade the talent around Drummond.

Here is the potential downside for Drummond. He will be a max player if he stays healthy. If he injures himself, the Pistons are under no obligation to give him a max deal. He could lose millions.

As we have seen this summer, NBA players like security. With good reason. This is Drummond’s chance to go from wealthy to “my family is set up for generations” money and why would you risk not locking that in right now?

Only because the other things you want in your NBA career — the chance to win and compete for rings — is more likely if he waits a year.

It’s not an easy choice. Drummond is a franchise cornerstone player, and if he wants a max deal right now he will get it. The Pistons will pay that man his money. They’d just like him to wait a little before signing on the dotted line.

Report: Kevin Seraphin drawing interest from Wizards, Lakers, Mavericks

Washington Wizards v Charlotte Hornets
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Kevin Seraphin is a solid NBA backup center who wanted to find a starting job somewhere this summer. I’m sorry Kevin, but it’s not going to work out that way.

He’s solid, but not really starter quality. Last season in Washington he played 15 minutes a night, scored 6.6 points on 51.3 percent shooting, grabbed 3.3 boards and was reliable nightly. He doesn’t have much shooting range, and in the past there have been issues with fouling and turnovers. That was enough to keep teams with starting spots looking elsewhere.

Washington would love to bring him back and have him behind Marcin Gortat in the rotation again. But they are not alone in the mix, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

The Suns and Spurs also have some interest.

Dallas makes sense, they will start Zaza Pachulia at the five and try to have shooters everywhere, Seraphin would get some good run behind him and be a quality change of pace. It has long been known that once DeAndre Jordan flipped on the Mavericks Seraphin became a big target of theirs.

The Lakers make less sense, they have Roy Hibbert and Robert Sacre under contract, plus they are bringing in rookie Robert Upshaw and giving him a chance to make the roster. Seraphin only makes sense if they don’t think Upshaw makes the team and they plan to move Sacre.

We know the Wizards want him back, we know that. The Suns already have Tyson Chandler and Alex Len at the five. The Spurs don’t have a more traditional big-body center with Tiago Splitter gone, but their roster seems fairly set.

Of course, the decision will come down to one thing: Money. Playing time too, but money wins out almost every time.