Kyle Korver

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Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to work on his jump shot with Kyle Korver

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When the Bucks first signed veteran sharpshooter Kyle Korver this summer, Giannis Antetokounmpo wasted no time in working out with him and getting some shooting tips. It was a summer workout, so by NBA edict there had to be video that was posted to social media.

The Bucks have opened training camp and Antetokounmpo is still working with Korver, with the Greek Freak trying to improve his jumper (he shot just 30.2 percent overall on jump shots last season). Here is what Antetokounmpo said to Eric Woodyard of ESPN.

“It’s really important [that] I always try to talk to him a little bit,” Antetokounmpo said of Korver after the Bucks’ first day of training camp at the University of Wisconsin on Tuesday. “And he’s a great guy. He’s not trying to get in your head or overstep and talk too much to you. Whenever he gives me tips, I always try to listen … one of the best shooters to ever play the game.

“He’s definitely going to help this team, but he’s definitely going to help a lot of players develop their shooting ability.”

Antetokounmpo’s jump shot — particularly from three — was already improving. Last season, after the All-Star break, he shot 31.5 percent from three (up from 22.3 before the ASG) and in the playoffs he knocked down a respectable 32.7 percent. Most of his makes were off the dribble, he shot 33.8 percent on those after the All-Star Game, but struggled on catch-and-shoot threes in those final 19 games shooting just 16.7 percent. Last season Antetokounmpo didn’t take many long twos, but when he did he shot 41 percent on them.

If those numbers go up, the Bucks become that much more dangerous. Milwaukee will need more out of Antetokounmpo this season, as well as point guard Eric Bledsoe, now that Malcolm Brogdon is gone as a secondary shot creator. The Bucks believe they are contenders, but they have questions to answer to get there.

Antetokounmpo making jumpers would answer a few of them.

With Bucks hoping to take off, leaving behind Malcolm Brogdon a risky choice

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Next season is the Bucks’ time.

They shouldn’t wait.

They can’t wait.

Milwaukee is very good. Good enough to win a championship. There are no overwhelmingly dominant-looking teams this year. Most of the top contenders will beat up on each other out West. In the Eastern Conference, the 76ers must develop chemistry after a major roster makeover, and Kevin Durant‘s injury puts the Nets another year away from title contention. The Bucks got a necessary and hard-learned lesson in how to compete deep in the playoffs last season. They look primed now.

Giannis Antetokounmpo will also be eligible for a super-max contract extension next offseason. His willingness to re-up might depend on Milwaukee’s success this season. The Bucks remaining elite is totally predicated on keeping the 24-year-old MVP. His satisfaction with the team must be the priority.

With all that swirling, Milwaukee parted with restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon.

A young talented guard the Bucks held matching rights on – gone. In return, they got absolutely nothing that will directly help them in the ultra-important upcoming season.

Maybe that was the right call. By signing-and-trading Brogdon to the Pacers, Milwaukee got a first-rounder and two second-rounders and avoided paying a red-flagged player $85 million over four years. There’s a case the Bucks got enough value and preserved enough flexibility to justify the move, even considering next season’s high stakes.

But this was also an essential decision for avoiding the luxury tax. That can’t be dismissed. If Milwaukee weakened its roster due to a refusal to pay the luxury tax this season of all seasons, that’d be incredibly disappointing.

This could be a choice that significantly shapes the Bucks for the next decade. I wish I had a better sense of their motivations.

At least Milwaukee got done the rest of its heavy lifting this summer and even rebounded nicely from the loss of Brogdon.

The Bucks re-signed Khris Middleton for less than the max (five years, $177.5 million). It was essential to keep Antetokounmpo’s lone supporting star.

Brook Lopez – with his 3-point shooting and interior defense – is even more important to Milwaukee’s identity. In a tricky situation due to holding only his Non-Bird Rights, the Bucks cleared enough cap space to re-sign him for four years, $52 million.

Milwaukee also had enough cap space to re-sign George Hill (three years, $28,771,806 with $20 million guaranteed). Hill played well in the playoffs. He’s also 33. It’s worth signing Hill to this deal. He can back up Eric Bledsoe, who struggled the last two postseasons, and help at shooting guard with Brogdon gone. But it’s far from certain Hill will live up to this contract.

The Bucks found surprising reinforcements at shooting guard with Wesley Matthews (1+1 minimum) and Kyle Korver (one-year minimum). Both are past their primes, but that’s tremendous value for those two. The big question: Would they have come to Milwaukee if Brogdon hadn’t left open so much playing time? That must be considered in the Brogdon evaluation, but again, it’s difficult to discern.

Robin Lopez signed for the room exception on 1+1. He’ll back up his twin brother. The Bucks could use Robin’s size at the position, especially with Joel Embiid and Philadelphia looking like the top threat in the East.

These are all good deals for Milwaukee. This offseason could have gone far worse for the Bucks given the steps they had to take to open cap space for Brook Lopez and Hill.

Milwaukee traded the overpaid but still helpful Tony Snell and No. 30 pick to the Pistons for Jon Leuer then waived Leuer, accepting a $3,169,348 over the next three years. That was a nasty set of transactions, but it was necessary. The Bucks also lost Nikola Mirotic, who returned to Europe.

After that, it was standard low-end roster moves. Adding Dragan Bender is intriguing. Adding Thanasis Antetokounmpo is the cost of doing business.

It just keeps coming back to Brogdon. How much will the Bucks miss him? How much did his departure improve their ability to lure Matthews and Korver? What will Milwaukee do with the draft picks acquired from Indiana?

That last one is a biggie. Trade those picks in the right deal, and the roster next could be even than it would have been with Brogdon – especially if ownership is willing to enter the luxury tax.

I just have a hard time figuring out where the Bucks stand on that, and it makes me uneasy about their summer.

Offseason grade: C

Giannis Antetokounmpo works on jump shot with Kyle Korver (VIDEO)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s jumper is getting better. Last season after the All-Star break he shot 31.5 percent from three (up from 22.3 before the ASG) and in the playoffs that jumped to 32.7 percent. He struggled on catch-and-shoot threes in those final 19 games after the ASG, shooting just 16.7 percent, but off the bounce he shot 33.8 percent after the break. Also, all of last season he didn’t take many long twos, but when he did he shot 41 percent on them.

What would make his jumper better? Working on his shot with the newest Buck, Kyle Korver.

Which is happening.

Be afraid NBA. Be very afraid.

Antetokounmpo recently said he is only at about 60 percent of his potential. If he can start to consistently hit threes off the bounce when defenses sag back off the pick-and-roll (trying to take away his drives), he might become unstoppable. Or, more unstoppable. If that’s a thing.

Report: Cavaliers waiving J.R. Smith

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The Cavaliers really hyped J.R. Smith as a trade asset.

For most contracts, only the guaranteed portion of a player’s salary counts toward matching in a trade. But because Smith signed his deal under the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, his full $15,680,000 salary counts even though just a small portion of it is guaranteed.

That structure would’ve been helpful for another team looking to shed salary. That team could trade a similarly expensive player for Smith’s contract, waive Smith and pay only his small guarantee.

The Cavs were so confident they’d deal Smith, they even increased his guarantee from $3.9 million to $4.4 million in exchange for him pushing back his guarantee date from June 30 to July 15. That bought more time to find a trade.

But a trade like that has long seemed unlikely for Cleveland.

The Cavaliers are near the luxury-tax line, and using Smith’s contract as a trade chip that way would’ve increased their payroll. By enabling another team to unload salary, the Cavs would’ve taken on that money. They would’ve had until the final day of the regular season to escape the tax, but they’re reportedly not interested in trading their most expensive player, Kevin Love. They have other burdensome contracts that aren’t easy to move. There just isn’t appetite for even risking paying the tax on such a lousy team.

So, Smith’s time in Cleveland will reach its predictable end today.

Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:

The Cavaliers must stretch Smith’s guaranteed salary to get under the tax line now. That will lock in a $1,466,667 cap hit the next three seasons.

Smith will become an unrestricted free agent. There had been talk of him joining the Lakers, but they now have 14 players with standard contracts – only one short of the regular-season limit. I suspect Kyle Korver will be a bigger priority.

In Cleveland, Smith will always be remembered for helping the Cavs win the 2016 championship and his shirtless summer of celebration. It went south for him after that. He struggled on a long-term contract, threw soup and spent nearly all of last season exiled as the Cavs eyed trading him this offseason.

That idea fizzled, and Smith’s career could, too. He’ll turn 34 before the season and hasn’t played well in years. Maybe another team will take a flier on him. This also might be the end.

Lakers open up max cap space through trade with Wizards, Davis waiving trade kicker

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The Los Angeles Lakers will open free agency with more than $32 million in cap room — enough to sign Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, or other players to a max level contract — thanks to a couple of moves made Thursday.

Whether they should chase that max player or spread the money around to get two or three good role players — Danny Green, J.J. Redick, Bojan Bogdanovic, Trevor Ariza, others of that ilk — is another question entirely. What matters is the Lakers will have the money to spend.

It took two moves to get there (and technically it will not get there until July 6 when a series of moves can be made). First, the Lakers are trading the three smaller salaries on their books next season to the Washington Wizards, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Wizards were higher on Wagner than most at the draft, this lands them a guy the organization likes.

The other Laker move, getting Anthony Davis to agree to waive his $4 million trade kicker (something there was push back on when it was first mentioned).

That gives the Lakers the cap room they need to chase a max contract star. Give Laker GM Rob Pelinka credit for pulling this off, he has gotten his team into position.

Kawhi Leonard is on the top of their list, and the Lakers are expected to get a meeting with him at the start of free agency. They have their foot in the door, but I have heard from multiple sources going back to last summer he is not interested in joining a superteam or being part of the circus that can be the Lakers in a very bright spotlight.

Los Angeles has been linked to Kyrie Irving, although most reports now have him locked in on going to Brooklyn, likely with Kevin Durant. LeBron and Irving have patched up their differences, although league sources have told me that’s different from saying Irving wants to play with LeBron again. On the court, he would be the best fit in terms of style with LeBron and Davis.

Los Angeles also has the money to get Kemba Walker (who league buzz says is a lock for Boston unless Hornets’ owner Michael Jordan significantly ups his offer), Jimmy Butler (Philadelphia wants to max him out with five years, $191 million, but Houston is making a hard push for him via a sign-and-trade), or bringing back D'Angelo Russell, who will have a number of suitors and the Nets can match any offer (if they don’t get Irving Brooklyn likely keeps Russell).

If the Lakers land any of those stars, the rest of the roster will be filled out with players on minimum contracts such as J.R. Smith (once Cleveland waives him), Kyle Korver, Nerlens Noel, and others. Those players are taking minimum contracts for a reason, but with the stars that may be enough to make the Lakers a threat.

However, after watching a finals where role players were critical for Toronto to win it all — or thinking back to the Shaq/Kobe Lakers were players such as Robert Horry and Derek Fisher were essential to the team’s success — the Lakers may well be better off landing role players who can just defend and shoot. Los Angeles will need those guys to contend in a West where the Warriors may be slowed but teams such as Houston, Utah, and Denver will make it a tough road out of the conference no matter what.