John Collins

Mock NBA expansion draft
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Mock NBA expansion draft: Hawks, Hornets, Heat, Magic, Wizards

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The NBA season is on hiatus. NBC Sports is not – even if we have to venture into fantasy.

We’re holding a mock NBA expansion draft. Keith Smith is setting protected lists for existing teams. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman will run two new teams as this project culminates in an expansion draft.

Current teams can protect up to eight players. Each team must make at least one player available. If selected, restricted free agents become unrestricted free agents. Pending options can be decided before or after the expansion draft at the discretion of the option-holder. Anyone selected in the expansion draft can’t return to his prior team for one year. Players entering unrestricted free agency and players on two-way contracts are essentially ignored.

We’re unveiling protected/unprotected lists by division (here is the Atlantic Division, Central Division, Pacific Division and Northwest Division). Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Southeast:

Atlanta Hawks

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: The Hawks protections are very straightforward. Every player they are protecting is either a rotation player, under team control for a while or both. No hard decisions here.

That means that Atlanta is leaving their restricted free agents and Brandon Goodwin unprotected. No major concerns over losing any of the four.

Charlotte Hornets

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 3

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: Charlotte’s decisions were fairly easy. Terry Rozier, Devonte’ Graham, Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington are all core pieces. Despite his suspension, Malik Monk still has upside. And the three young forwards (Cody Martin, Caleb Martin and Jalen McDaniels) are locked in on low salaries for a while.

Keeping the three minimum salary forwards meant leaving Dwayne Bacon unprotected. Bacon had been out of the rotation and sent to the G-League, so he’s out of the plans for now. As for Nic Batum or Cody Zeller, the Hornets would welcome getting either big salary off the books.

Miami Heat

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 1

Ineligible – 6

Analysis: Miami was really helped by having six players ineligible because they are unrestricted free agents this summer. That left just this decision point: Andre Iguodala vs KZ Okpala vs Kelly Olynyk.

Okpala is a minimum salary player, so that means he stays. Iguodala was just added and given an extension. He stays. That means Olynyk and his $13 million salary are left exposed.

Orlando Magic

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: Orlando had seven fairly easy protections. Their five starters, sixth man, and their promising young big man in Mo Bamba.

That left Khem Birch vs Al-Farouq Aminu vs Wesley Iwundu. Aminu was left unprotected due to salary and coming off a knee injury. It’s unlikely he’ll be selected and the Magic will be happy to have him back. That means it came down to Birch vs Iwundu. It’s more likely Birch will be selected, given his low salary and skill as a big man, so Iwundu was left unprotected.

Washington Wizards

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 3

  • John Wall – $41,254,920
  • Isaac Bonga – $1,663,861 (Non-Guaranteed)
  • Anzejs Pasecnicks – $1,517,981 ($250,000 Guaranteed)

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: The Wizards are taking a gamble. Most of the protections were pretty easy. Bradley Beal and Thomas Bryant are key players. Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown, Mo Wagner and Jerome Robinson are all on their rookie scale deals.

Then things get interesting. Leaving John Wall unprotected may seem crazy, given he’s a former All-Star. But Wall is coming off two lost seasons due to injury and will be 30 years old at the start of next season. He’s also owed $133 million over the next three seasons. Ish Smith and Admiral Schofield stay and the Wizards throw caution to the wind. It’s unlikely Wall will be selected, but just the chance of clearing that salary off the books is a gamble worth taking for Washington.

Three Things to Know: The strangest day in NBA history

No fans NBA games
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) The strangest day in NBA history ends with NBA suspending play indefinitely. For much of Wednesday, NBA owners and the league office were debating how to keep the games on track as the spread of the novel coronavirus grew in the United States. There were discussions of playing in mostly empty arenas without fans — that’s the way most owners seemed to lean, except James Dolan and a couple of others who reportedly wanted business as usual — while discussions of moving games to new locations and even hitting the pause button on the season were thrown out there.

Then Utah’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.

A player testing positive was always the league’s worst-case scenario. It changed everything.

At that point the league did the only thing it could: It suspended play.

“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,” the league said in a statement. “The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”

“This isn’t about basketball…” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said later in a press conference. “This is a pandemic, a global pandemic, where people’s lives are at stake, and I’m a lot more worried about my kids, and my mom who’s 82 years old, and talking to her and telling her to stay in the house, than I am about when we play our next game.”

Now we all wait. There are a lot of questions currently without answers. We now know Donovan Mitchell tested positive, but does any other player in the league have the virus? Will play restart this season? If so, when? Will the season be pushed back into the summer? Will the season be shortened? Could the league just go straight to the playoffs in mid-April? Will fans be allowed to gather in large numbers when the league does return, or will the league play in empty arenas just to get games back up on television? How will this impact team revenues, and by extension the salary cap for next season?

All of those questions are tied to things bigger than the league, they are intertwined with the spread of the virus through the United States, which is expected to get worse before it gets better. The lack of testing from the outset — combined with bury your head in the sand leadership from some in power — has given us all an incomplete picture of how widespread the disease is in our nation. Nobody knows exactly what we are dealing with, which makes it even harder to predict what is next.

What matters most is the health of the players, fans, and everyone around the NBA. Gobert is said to be doing well, and that is to be expected — the young and healthy largely fall in the 80 percent of people who get a mild form of the disease. The goal is to stop community spread, to flatten the curve with the disease. The goal is to keep Gobert or another player from passing the virus on to a kid they took a picture with at a game, and that young boy or girl goes and sees his grandmother two days later, and suddenly the virus finds its way to someone far more vulnerable to it.

It will be, at the least, weeks before the NBA resumes play. Right now, teams that played against Gobert and the Jazz are in self-quarantine for that long.

The NBA got it right in shutting everything down.

Now comes the hard part of waiting while team owners, the league, the players union and everyone else gets involved in figuring out what happens next. This is uncharted territory.

2) Rick Carlisle reacted to the suspension news like a competitor. Dallas headed into the final few weeks of the season looking to improve their playoff positioning. As the standings look at the time of the suspension of play, Dallas would get the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. Understandably, they would like to move up a spot or two and get Denver or Houston or anyone else instead.

So what was Carlise’s reaction when he heard play would be suspended after Wednesday night?

They did — knocking off Denver behind an improbable career night from Boban Marjanovic, who had 31 points and 17 rebounds. For once, Carlisle didn’t have to worry about keeping him fresh for the next game, so he just unleashed Boban in all his glory.

As a Boban stan, I am saddened more people will not notice his big night.

3) Wednesday night may have been the end of Vince Carter‘s career, and he understands that. Vince Carter played his 22nd NBA season in Atlanta this year, mentoring young stars such as Trae Young and John Collins, and knocking down some shots.

With full knowledge that the season was going to be suspended and this could be the final game of his career, Carter entered Wednesday night’s game against the Knicks in overtime and promptly knocked down a three.

Postgame Carter spoke to the media for nearly 20 minutes, with everyone understanding this could be his farewell to the sport (if the league goes straight to the playoffs when it returns he will not play again).

Thank you, Vince Carter, for 22 seasons of bringing us the joy of the game.

Rumor: Hawks hesitant to give big contract extension to John Collins

Hawks big John Collins
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John Collins was the first key piece of the Hawks’ rebuild.

Since…

The power-forward-center got suspended 25 games for a performance-enhancing drug. Trae Young became the face of the franchise. Atlanta traded for center Clint Capela, whose rim-rolling overlaps with Collins’. The Hawks drafted combo forward De'Andre Hunter, whose time at small forward will be limited with Cam Reddish and Kevin Huerter on the wing.

Where does that leave Collins, who will be eligible for a contract extension this summer?

Chris Kirschner of The Athletic:

Sources around the league suggest there’s hesitation on the Hawks’ part when it comes to giving Collins significant money, which is why teams inquired about his availability.

“I definitely feel like I am in max contract contention. If I finish this season averaging 20 and 10, the other guys who are averaging 20 and 10 are max-caliber guys. I’m in that conversation and feel like I am worthy of being extended as such. That’s for the Hawks to decide and figure it out. If you want to look at numbers and flat-out play, I definitely feel like I’ve earned it. But the team situation, future cap and all that, now you have a contract negotiation.”

I don’t begrudge Collins for wanting the max (which projects to be worth $181 million over five years).

Atlanta also shouldn’t offer him anywhere near that much on an extension.

Collins is still under contract for next season. If they don’t extend him, the Hawks can make Collins a restricted free agent in 2021. If he continues to progress, Atlanta can pay him then. His flight risk is minimal.

On the flip side, this only adds to the noise about the Hawks considering trading Collins.

Collins is quietly having a strong season. Overshadowed by his suspension, Atlanta’s losing and Young’s breakout year, Collins is averaging 22 points and 10 rebounds per game. He’s an excellent finisher (75% in the restricted area) and emerging 3-point shooter (41% on 3.5 attempts per game). His defense must tighten, and he brings little creation ability. Overall, the 22-year-old would interest many teams.

Collins is clearly willing to negotiate. Perhaps, he and Atlanta will agree to an extension this offseason.

But I’d at least keep an eye on him on the trade block.

Trae Young scores 31, John Collins 28, Hawks beat Hornets in controversial 2OT thriller

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ATLANTA — De'Andre Hunter broke a tie by sinking three free throws with 13.3 seconds remaining in the second overtime, and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Charlotte Hornets 143-138 on Monday night following a controversial finish to the first extra period.

Trae Young had 31 points and 16 assists for Atlanta, and Hunter finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

“I wanted to give the fans a little extra,” Young said, adding he felt he owed the fans more in the extra periods after making only one of two free throws at the end of regulation.

Terry Rozier led the Hornets with a career-high 40 points.

After Hunter’s clutch trip to the line, Rozier missed a 3-pointer. Two free throws by Cam Reddish, who had 22 points, iced the win.

Young’s pass set up a jam by Reddish for a 138-135 lead. Rozier answered with a tying 3-pointer.

Two reviews by the officials at the end of the first overtime produced different results. Following the first review, officials said Rozier was fouled by Atlanta’s Treveon Graham with 0.8 seconds remaining.

Before Rozier had a chance to attempt two free throws with the score tied, Atlanta’s Lloyd Pierce registered a coach’s challenge. This time, the officials ruled Rozier was not fouled.

“Very unfortunate. I’m very disappointed with the way the game ended,” Hornets coach James Borrego said.

“Every big call went in their direction. Every big call.”

Added Rozier: “It doesn’t really matter what I think. I’ve got to watch what I say a little bit. Obviously I don’t agree with it. I thought I was going to shoot two free throws.”

Young missed a last-gasp jumper for Atlanta to force the second overtime.

John Collins had 28 points and 11 rebounds for the Hawks. He made 12 of 13 shots from the field.

“I just feel like experience is coming in a little extra for me,” Collins said. “It’s my third year.”

Young made only one of two free throws with 1.8 seconds remaining in regulation to force the overtime.

Devonte' Graham scored 27 points and made two free throws that gave Charlotte a 122-121 lead with 5.5 seconds remaining in regulation.

Rozier’s 3-pointer with 1:13 remaining in regulation gave Charlotte its first lead of the second half.

Caleb Martin scored a career-high 23 points for Charlotte before fouling out in the second overtime.

Atlanta led 66-63 at halftime despite Martin’s 11 second-period points.

Devonte’ Graham limped off the court with soreness in his left ankle with 4:52 remaining in the third quarter. He returned early in the final period.

NBA sends teams memo stressing rules of conduct by staff at games

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The NBA sent a memo to teams reminding them of rules that govern conduct of owners, coaches and other team personnel during games.

The memo, obtained by The Associated Press, laid out parameters for proper conduct by team personnel toward game officials, how team personnel other than coaches are not allowed on the court during games and how they cannot use “profane or objectionable language that might be heard by spectators” during the game.

Further, it said the league’s “enforcement of these rules with enhanced penalties will be a point of emphasis for the league office” during the rest of the season and beyond.

The memo about the rules of conduct for team personnel does not mention Cuban specifically, though he typically sits near the Mavericks’ bench during games.

“Team personnel who watch games from seats, especially seats near the court, should set a positive example for fans by ensuring that any isolated comments directed at the game officials or the officiating are respectful and appropriate,” the league said in its memo. “Of course, brief social interactions resulting from courtesy between team personnel and game officials are always permitted.”

The first order of business Friday was NBA Commissioner Adam Silver denying the Mavericks’ protest of the outcome of a Feb. 22 game against Atlanta. Dallas contended that goaltending rules were misapplied when a late basket by Atlanta’s John Collins was counted. Collins scored as a whistle was blown and goaltending of a layup attempt by the Hawks’ Trae Young was called on Dallas’ Dorian Finney-Smith. Collins grabbed Young’s miss and scored, as confusion reigned.

“What I’ll say on the record is hopefully they’ll let us release our actual filing of the protest,” Cuban said Friday before the Mavericks’ home game against Memphis. “I’m waiting to hear back from them. Then everybody gets to see why we thought it needed to be protested.”

Cuban also said he would match the fine with a donation that would include funding the heart transplant of a local man.

Cuban was also fined $500,000 for his Twitter rant about that call in Atlanta. The fine raised the total that NBA has fined Cuban over the years to at least $3.1 million, and the Mavericks’ owner has said in the past that he always donates the equivalent of the fine amount to charity simultaneously. This was the third time a fine of at least $500,000 against Cuban was announced by the league; he was fined $500,000 for comments about officiating in 2002 and $600,000 in 2018 for public comments on tanking.