Kurt Helin

Indiana Pacers v Philadelphia 76ers

Report: Mavericks interested in JaVale McGee. How interested is up for debate.

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Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks are singing the praises of Zaza Pachulia in a “check out my new girlfriend, I am totally over the girl that dumped me” kind of way.

But while Pachulia has some skills, he is not a rim protector. Dallas doesn’t have any impact rim protectors on the roster, and there are not many good ones left on the market.

Which is why the Mavericks seem to be kicking the tires on JaVale McGee. From Marc Stein at ESPN.

Former Nets exec (and everyone’s new Twitter favorite) Bobby Marks lays out the concerns here.

Dallas has those concerns as well and are talking to a lot of teams.

Basically, JaVale is going to have to sign for the minimum (or close to it) and prove not only that he can stay on the court, but that he can stay healthy enough to provide an impact.

If he’s willing to play for the veteran minimum, a few teams will give him a shot. Dallas could be at the front of the list.

Most impressive rookie so far in Las Vegas Summer League? Emmanuel Mudiay.

Sacramento Kings v Denver Nuggets
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LAS VEGAS — Point guards at Summer League have the power of the ball in their hands. Combine that with them trying to impress someone to give them a job (ideally with an NBA team, for most it will be overseas) and you get one thing: Shots. Good shots, bad shots, but lots of shots. Guards are trying to impress scouts/GMs with their scoring. They want an eye-catching stat line.

Emmanuel Mudiay has stood out against that backdrop.

“The first thing you see is he is a true point guard…” Denver Nuggets Summer League coach Micah Nori said. “Guys are going to love to play with him, they are going to continue to run for him because he is a pass-first point guard….

“And I see him being able to lead. With his ability to pass and his unselfishness, guys are going to want to follow him.”

The Nuggets have followed Mudiay to a 2-0 start at Summer League, and he’s been the most impressive rookie so far in getting there.

The 19-year-old from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who slid down the draft board to No. 7 has looked like an impressive NBA talent so far under the bright lights of Las Vegas.

“We’ve put the ball in his hands and given him a lot of freedom, and there’s good reason for that,” Nori said.

Mudiay has a flair to his game — he pushes the pace, and he’s fond of behind-the-back and jump passes (a little too fond of the latter). He’s got a great change of pace dribble and has shown some real explosion to the rim. More importantly, he recognizes the defense and attacks its weaknesses. Through two games, he has averaged 15 points and eight assists a game. He’s shooting just 40 percent overall (and 11 percent from three) but knows when to attack and get buckets.

“I haven’t been happy with the way I’ve been shooting, and I’ve been putting in the work and I’m going to keep shooting, but at the same time I am comfortable,” Mudiay said of his play so far at Summer League. “I like getting my teammates involved.”

What has most impressed with Mudiay is the maturity of his game. He has a controlled aggression.

He’s looks like a guy who played against men in China, not college boys. There is no panic under pressure; the game is not moving too fast for him. At one point late in the first half Sunday the Kings threw a hard double-team at him, and he calmly controlled his dribble, pulled the defenders out on the floor, and then hit the open man for a clean look at the rim.

“I feel like playing overseas professionally, that really helped me,” Mudiay said of the patience in his game. “Coming from high school to pro ball, in high school I was rushing everything. Straight out to China I was rushing everything. But I’ve got to let the game come to me.”

“When things are chaotic he remains calm, he’s very comfortable with his abilities, and he’s able to make pretty much any pass at any time, which is big time,” Nori said. “And I think the one thing about Emmanuel that allows him to do that is his skill level with his ball handling. And the other thing is he’s a big kid, a big strong kid. Some guys, when they get pressure, turn their back to the floor, the one thing he’s able to do is be facing forward, facing that rim, and that’s why he can make any pass at any time. He finds guys that are open and hits them on time and on target.”

Mudiay already knows how to use his NBA-ready physique to create space — he drives into defenders, puts them back on their heals, then pulls up looking for the pass or shot. He hits first, he doesn’t wait for the defense to hit him. Is that something else he learned in China?

“I got that from my brothers,” Mudiay said with a laugh. “Just playing with them all the time they used to try to bully me, and I’d try to bully them back. I was so little that just stuck with me. So when I play older, more physical guys, taller guys, even stronger guys, I try to hit them first so they know the next play I’m coming in.”

Nobody should read too much into two NBA Summer League games — two Vegas games matter about as much as presidential race polling right now, we’re nowhere near when it gets real. The list of NBA Summer League MVPs is littered with “who’s that?” This is not the NBA. How all of this translates to games in November or even February is a question still to be answered. And how he will ultimately compare to D’Angelo Russell (who has shown strong moments but is more shoot first) or Kristaps Porzingis will not be answered for years.

But quality NBA players tend to stand out in the chaos of Summer League — and Mudiay stands out.

He’s not your typical Summer League point guard. And that could be excellent news for the Denver Nuggets.

Report: Kings near deal for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

Philadelphia 76ers v Cleveland Cavaliers
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Luc Mbah a Moute spent an entire nine games with the Sacramento Kings before he was traded to Minnesota two seasons ago. Then last summer the Timberwolves used him as a salary balancing bit part of the three-team Kevin Love trade, and Mbah a Moute ended up in Philadelphia. There he played relatively well for a season — relative to the rest of the Sixers roster, we mean. At least he was a professional that hustled every time he was on the court and understood how to play the game.

Now the Cameroonian forward is looking for a new landing spot, and it may be Sacramento, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

This is likely a league minimum deal or something close to it.

The Kings have the athletic but raw and inexperienced Willie Cauley-Stein at the four, they could use a professional, veteran, mentor for him and Mbah a Moute can provide that. That said, Mbah a Moute may have averaged 9.9 points a game last season in Philly, but he isn’t going to get the touches to do that in Sacramento. He’d have to take a smaller role.

Apparently he’s ready to do that.

Report: Wizards to get serious about Bradley Beal contract extension

Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards
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The first couple weeks of NBA free agency are a frenzy — meetings, phone calls, texts and the occasional agreement or trade has NBA GMs a big overwhelmed at times.

But now that the pace of things is slowing down, the Washington Wizards can focus on one of their top priorities — keeping Bradley Beal.

Washington and Beal are going to start talking about an extension to his rookie deal, reports J. Michael of CSNWashington.com.

Contacted early Sunday, agent Mark Bartelstein said actual negotiations with Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld will go forward as early as this upcoming week. “We had to get past that first nine or 10 days of free agency. With that chaotic period over, Ernie and I will talk and see where we are,” Bartelstein told CSN.

Beal is going into the final year of his rookie scale contract that pays him $4.7 million for 2015-16. The sides have until the start of the season to work out a deal and if they don’t talks will be tabled until next summer when Beal becomes a restricted free agent.

Beal had an inconsistent season where averaged 15.3 points a game shooting 40.9 percent from three, plus he head injuries including a stress reaction in his right leg for the third year in a row. All that might have the Wizards hesitant to hand over a lot of cash to Beal. On the flip side, he led the team with 23.4 points a game in the playoffs.

The Wizards would like to get Beal locked up now on this year’s salary cap, even if they overpay a little the deal will not look bad when the cap spikes by $40 million over the next two years. The only reason not to is to keep flexibility to chase hometown guy Kevin Durant a year from now (something considered a bit of a longshot around the league).

If Beal is a restricted free agent next year when every team has cap space to burn, he could get a larger offer. For Beal, he probably would like the financial security considering his injury history.

The question is can they agree upon a number. We shall see.

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)