Who are the faces of the NBA? LeBron James for sure. Stephen Curry. James Harden. Kevin Durant. Zion Williamson is fast moving up that list even after missing much of his rookie season.
Is Giannis Antetokounmpo on that list? He was second in jersey sales the last year, he’s unquestionably popular, but he’s not front-and-center in marketing campaigns like Chris Paul or LeBron. Antetokounmpo doesn’t push himself that way, he’s not the same social media presence as LeBron or other stars.
Antetokounmpo is a private person with a tight inner circle, and that privacy has been seen as a reason he does not push himself to be the face of the NBA. However, it may be that Antetokounmpo doesn’t feel he’s earned that spotlight yet, ESPN’s well connected Kevin Arnovitz said on the Lowe Post Podcast with Zach Lowe (hat tip Real GM).
“Someone close to him told me… I’m like ‘Yeah, Giannis, it’s his nature to be private. He’s a little more Duncan-y in his approach to superstardom.”
“And they’re like ‘Yeah, that’s not really it.’
“And I said ‘What is it?’
“They’re like ‘He finds it unseemly to preen as the face of the league before you win a championship. Like it would be unconscionable for him to do that because it just is so not in his nature the idea that anybody would preen before they won a title.’
Does that mean if/when Antetokounmpo won a title he would take steps to increase his marketability? I tend to think Arnovitz is right, that the Greek Freak just has a little more Duncan/Kawhi in him.
Antetokounmpo’s privacy is one of the reasons the growing speculation around the league about what is next for him is just that — speculation. There is a sense that if the Bucks got bounced by the Heat in the second round — or do not reach the NBA Finals — it would open the door to him possibly leaving Milwaukee in 2021 as a free agent (maybe heading to Toronto or Miami). Nobody knows for sure. Milwaukee is his home, the only place he and his family have every lived safely, where Antetokounmpo’s partner and son live. But if he feels he can’t win there, all bets are off.
If Antetokounmpo wants to be the face of the NBA, it’s not completely about titles. But that certainly would help.
There’s a sense in league circles that this is the final season Houston will be okay with having one of the worst — as of today, the worst — record in the NBA. The Rockets hope to grab one of the big names at the top of the draft board this season, but they already have drafted Jalen Green at No. 2 (2021) and Jabari Smith Jr. at No. 3 (2022), plus made a draft night trade for Alperen Şengün (who is playing well). With cap space to spend and extensions coming up, the tanking days will be over.
How will that impact the Rockets at this trade deadline? Here are a few names to watch.
• Kelly Iko at The Athletic reports the Rockets have interest in the Hawks’ John Collins and the sides have talked, but there is no real traction yet.
There has been nothing concrete from the Rockets — merely ideas floated by the Hawks to Houston among other teams — but the interest is real.
The Rockets could also be part of a larger, three-team trade to move Collins.
• Eric Gordon remains on the trade block, as he has been for more than a year. Gordon has been frustrated waiting, but the Rockets have held out for what they thought was fair — a first-round pick — to no avail. That price likely comes down, and according to Iko at The Athletic, the front office is “more inclined to trade him now” than in the past, but the proof will be in a deal.
• Teams also are calling about K.J. Martin, according to Iko.
K.J. Martin, there continues to be interest in the 22-year-old combo forward who has been quite productive as a starter — averaging 14 points and seven rebounds on 35 percent shooting from 3 — but nothing concrete at this juncture in terms of offers on the table.
The Rockets like Martin, it’s going to take a serious offer to get them to consider it.
What are the Toronto Raptors going to do at the trade deadline?
It’s less than two weeks before the trade deadline and the entire NBA is still asking that question, the Raptors are the one team that could turn this trade deadline from a dud to epic if they decide to pivot toward a rebuild. Are they willing to trade players like OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam, or will they look to add a more traditional big man such as the Spurs’ Jakob Poeltl, who has been linked to the Raptors in rumors? Everything seems to be on the table.
Anunoby is a player a lot of teams covet, including New York. The Knicks reached out to the Raptors, reports Ian Begley of SNY.TV.
“And Anunoby with Toronto, I mean, that would cost you a lot. That would cost you significant draft compensation. Maybe the Knicks are there, maybe they’re feeling like they could make the playoffs and make a big push if you added in Anunoby. I know that we reported they contacted Toronto on Anunoby and I was told in that conversation they offered multiple firsts. But this was a while back… Toronto has done a lot since then. But I don’t think the league is crystal clear on what [the Raptors] want to do on Anunoby.”
Anunoby is an elite on-ball wing defender who can be a finisher, averaging 17.3 points and 5.6 rebounds a game at age 25 — the asking price will start at two unprotected first-round picks in this market. The Knicks may have thrown some of their protected picks in the conversation, but Toronto’s asking price is reportedly sky-high because they’re not eager to get rid of him.
Anunoby is making $17.4 million this season and is under contract for $18.2 million next season, a fair price for what he brings to the court (he has a player option at $19.9 million in 2024-25). What the Raptors do with him may signal their direction.
At the deadline, most people around the league expect Toronto to trade Gary Trent Jr., but that’s it. Any other big moves are likely this offseason. If ever.
While there are grades of ankle sprains, ask anyone trying to walk around on one if there is a “mild” version.
Yet that’s what Mavericks sources say about Luka Doncic’s ankle sprain suffered against the Suns on Thursday night. He is “day-to-day” with the injury, a story first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (and since confirmed by others).
Doncic has been playing through ankle soreness in recent weeks and it’s fair to expect the Mavericks to give him a few games off. However, it can’t be too many for a team fighting for a playoff spot, the Mavs are 0-5 in games Doncic has rested this season and have been outscored by 5.3 points per 100 possessions this season when he sits (although they did beat the Suns largely without him Thursday). Doncic is an All-Star starter averaging 33.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game.
Dallas plays next on Saturday against the Jazz. It would be a surprise to see Doncic suit up for that game.
Four NBA players — not one as a joke, but four… as a joke — voted for injured Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren to start the NBA All-Star Game.
The NBA All-Star Game starters were announced Thursday, chosen from a weighted vote of fans (50%), media (25%) and current players (25%).
While most NBA players may take their All-Star Game starter votes seriously, some do not — they vote for friends, college teammates, guys with the same agent, or just whoever they feel like.
Which is comedy gold once we comb through the public vote (Note: names are not attached to who cast a vote, but we do see who got votes). This season, that list of players getting at least one vote to be an All-Star starter include:
Bol Bol (Orlando Magic, he got six votes)
Willy Hernangomez (New Orleans Pelicans, he got five votes)
Juancho Hernangomez (Toronto Raptors, he got three votes)
Omer Yurtseven (Miami Heat, he got three votes)
Georges Niang (Philadelphia 76ers, he got five votes)
Ochai Agbaji (Utah Jazz, he got four votes)
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Oklahoma City Thunder, he got three votes)
Bismack Biyombo (Phoenix Suns, he got three votes)
Jae Crowder (Phoenix Suns, he got two votes)
Udonis Haslem (Miami Heat, he got two votes)
Blake Griffin (Boston Celtics)
Boban Marjanovic (Houston Rockets)
Kemba Walker (Dallas Mavericks)
Kendrick Nunn (Los Angeles Lakers)
Ish Smith (Denver Nuggets)
Torrey Craig (Phoenix Suns)
Luka Garza (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Chimezie Metu (Sacramento Kings)
Furkan Korkmaz (Philadelphia 76ers)
R.J. Hampton (Orlando Magic)
Johnny Davis (Washington Wizards)
Cedi Osman (Cleveland Cavaliers)
MarJon Beauchamp (Milwaukee Bucks)
Paul Reed (Philadelphia 76ers)
That is just a fraction of the entire list.