Mike Conley

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Kemba Walker gets super-max eligibility with All-NBA voting; Bradley Beal, Klay Thompson miss out

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Super-max contracts have made All-NBA teams incredibly important.

This year’s selections (first-team votes, second-team votes, third-team votes and voting points in parentheses):

First team

G: James Harden, HOU (100-0-0-500)

G: Stephen Curry, GSW (91-9-0-482)

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL (100-0-0-500)

F: Paul George, OKC (71-25-3-433)

C: Nikola Jokic, DEN (59-38-2-411)

Second team

G: Damian Lillard, POR (8-87-5-306)

G: Kyrie Irving, BOS (0-52-39-195)

F: Kevin Durant, GSW (29-71-0-358)

F: Kawhi Leonard, TOR (0-73-23-242)

C: Joel Embiid, PHI (40-57-4-375)

Third team

G: Russell Westbrook, OKC (1-43-44-178)

G: Kemba Walker, CHA (0-4-39-51)

F: Blake Griffin, DET (0-13-76-115)

F: LeBron James, LAL (0-13-72-111)

C: Rudy Gobert, UTA (1-5-69-89)

Also receiving votes: Bradley Beal, WAS (0-1-31-34); Klay Thompson, GSW (0-3-18-27); Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN (0-0-20-20); LaMarcus Aldridge, SAS (0-2-11-17); Danilo Gallinari, LAC (0-1-4-7); Ben Simmons, PHI (0-0-7-7); Mike Conley, MEM (0-0-4-4); Donovan Mitchell, UTA (0-0-4-4); Pascal Siakam, TOR (0-0-4-4); Nikola Vucevic, ORL (0-0-4-4); Dwyane Wade, MIA (0-1-0-3); Luka Doncic, DAL (0-1-0-3); Andre Drummond, DET (0-1-0-3); DeMar DeRozan, SAS (0-0-3-3); D’Angelo Russell, BRK (0-0-3-3); Tobias Harris, PHI (0-0-2-2); Devin Booker, PHO (0-0-1-1); Eric Gordon, HOU (0-0-1-1); Jrue Holiday, NOP (0-0-1-1); Kyle Lowry, TOR (0-0-1-1); Lou Williams, LAC (0-0-1-1); Marvin Bagley III, SAC (0-0-1-1); Domantas Sabonis, IND (0-0-1-1); Anthony Davis, NOP (0-0-1-1); Myles Turner, IND (0-0-1-1)

The fallout:

  • Kemba Walker is now eligible for a five-year super-max contract projected to be worth $221 million over five years. Will the Hornets offer it? Would he accept it? Difficult decisions for both sides as he enters free agency this summer.
  • The Wizards dodged a bullet with Bradley Beal placing a fairly distant seventh among guards for three All-NBA spots. A super-max extension for him would have been too large a commitment right now, and not offering it threatened to alienate him. Forces would have been pushing toward a trade. Now, Washington’s options with Beal – who has two years left on his contract – are wide open. If he continues to play well and earns All-NBA in a future season, the Wizards could justify giving him the super-max then.
  • Likewise, the Warriors avoid their payroll skyrocketing as far into the stratosphere. Klay Thompson didn’t make All-NBA and therefore his max contract is capped at five years, projected $190 million. Considering he seems so happy in Golden State, the extra spending power of the super-max likely would have only cost the Warriors money without actually making Thompson more likely to stay.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns missed his last chance to trigger the super-max in his rookie scale extension, which will pay him a projected $158 million over the next five seasons. He would have earned about $32 million more with an All-NBA selection. The Timberwolves now have Towns secured at the lower amount. They surely hope the sense of urgency he showed late this season persists.
  • Damian Lillard has clinched eligibility to sign a super-max extension this offseason (four years, projected $193 million) or the 2020 offseason (five years, projected $250 million). He’ll reportedly ink the deal this summer with the Trail Blazers.
  • Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo will be eligible in the 2020 offseason for a super-max extension projected to be worth $250 million over five years. He’ll probably sign it. But until he does, all eyes will be on him.
  • Anthony Davis can this offseason sign a five-year, super-max extension projected to be worth $235 million with the Pelicans. He doesn’t want to. David Griffin has made noise about keeping Davis into 2020 free agency. But because he missed All-NBA this season, Davis isn’t guaranteed to be super-max-eligible then. He’d have to make All-NBA next season. So, New Orleans would have less of an upper hand in re-signing him – which makes a risky strategy even riskier.
  • The actual All-NBA teams look good to me. I would have picked Bradley Beal and Jrue Holiday over Russell Westbrook and Kemba Walker, but it was close. I have no significant complaints about the players chosen.
  • On the other hand, some of the stray votes: Dwyane Wade (second team!),  Eric Gordon, Domantas Sabonis, Marvin Bagley III. Wow.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Marcus Smart headline All-Defensive teams

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NBA teams scored more points per possession this season than ever.

But a few players stood out for slowing the offensive onslaught.

The All-Defensive teams (first-team votes, second-team votes, voting points in parentheses):

First team

Guard: Marcus Smart, BOS (63-19-145)

Guard: Eric Bledsoe, MIL (36-28-100)

Forward: Paul George, OKC (96-3-195)

Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL (94-5-193)

Center: Rudy Gobert, UTA (97-2-196)

Second team

Guard: Jrue Holiday, MIN (31-28-90)

Guard: Klay Thompson, GSW (23-36-82)

Forward: Draymond Green, GSW (2-57-61)

Forward: Kawhi Leonard, TOR (5-29-39)

Center: Joel Embiid, PHI (4-72-80)

Also receiving votes: Danny Green, TOR (19-28-66); Patrick Beverley, LAC (14-20-48); Myles Turner, IND (1-37-39); P.J. Tucker, HOU (1-36-38); Pascal Siakam, TOR (0-24-24); Derrick White, SAS (4-7-15); Russell Westbrook, OKC (2-5-9); Jimmy Butler, PHI (2-5-9); Chris Paul, HOU (1-5-7); Robert Covington, MIN (1-3-5); Paul Millsap, DEN (0-5-5); James Harden, HOU (2-0-4); Al Horford, BOS (0-4-4); Kevin Durant, GSW (0-4-4); Malcolm Brogdon, MIL (1-1-3); Josh Richardson, MIA (0-3-3); Kyle Lowry, TOR (0-3-3)
Stephen Curry, GSW (1-0-2); Thaddeus Young, IND (0-2-2); Anthony Davis, NOP (0-2-2); Ben Simmons, PHI (0-2-2); Donovan Mitchell, UTA (0-2-2); Derrick Favors, UTA (0-2-2); Joe Ingles, UTA (0-2-2); Jaylen Brown, BOS (0-1-1); Kyrie Irving, BOS (0-1-1); Ed Davis, BRK (0-1-1); Gary Harris, DEN (0-1-1); Nikola Jokic, DEN (0-1-1); Andre Drummond, DET (0-1-1); Andre Iguodala, GSW (0-1-1); Jordan Bell, GSW (0-1-1); Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LAC (0-1-1); Mike Conley, MEM (0-1-1); Kyle Anderson, MEM (0-1-1); Bam Adebayo, MIA (0-1-1); Khris Middleton, MIL (0-1-1); Brook Lopez, MIL (0-1-1); Terrance Ferguson, OKC (0-1-1); Damian Lillard, POR (0-1-1); De’Aaron Fox, SAC (0-1-1); Ricky Rubio, UTA (0-1-1); Bradley Beal, WAS (0-1-1)

Observations:

  • This voting could foreshadow a tight Defensive Player of the Year race. The three finalists for that award – Rudy Gobert, Paul George and Giannis Antetokounmpo – each received a high majority of votes, but not unanimity, at their positions. Or Gobert could just cruise to another victory.
  • I have no major complaints about the selections. I would have put Danny Green (who finished fifth among guards) on the first team, bumped down Eric Bledsoe and excluded Klay Thompson. I also would have give second-team forward to P.J. Tucker (who finished fifth among forwards) over Kawhi Leonard. Here are our picks for reference.
  • P.J. Tucker came only one voting point from the second team. If he tied Kawhi Leonard, both players would have made it on an expanded six-player second team.
  • Leonard hasn’t defended with the same verve this season. He remains awesome in stretches, particular in the playoffs. But his effort in the regular season didn’t match his previous level. Defensive reputations die hard.
  • It’s a shame Thaddeus Young received only two second-team votes. My general rule is you can complain about a lack of votes for only players you picked, and I didn’t pick Young. But he came very close to P.J. Tucker for my final forward spot, Young had a stronger case than several forwards ahead of him.
  • James Harden got two first-team votes. Did someone think they were voting for All-NBA? Stephen Curry also got a first-team vote. Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard got second-team votes. Nikola Jokic got a second-team vote. Kevin Durant got a few second-team votes. There’s plenty of All-NBA/All-Defensive overlap with other frontcourt players. There could easily be an incorrectly submitted ballot.
  • But that still leaves a second Harden first-team vote with no other plausible explanation. Someone must really love steals, guaring in the post and absolutely no other aspects of defense.
  • Jordan Bell got a second-team vote at forward. He’s a decent defender, but someone who played fewer minutes than Dirk Nowitzki, Bruno Caboclo and Omari Spellman this season. Bell also primarily played center. Weird.

Report: Grizzlies intend to draft Ja Morant No. 2

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Of course, Zion Williamson will be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Nearly as likely, the Pelicans – who won last night’s lottery – will keep the top pick and take him themselves.

What will the Grizzlies do at No. 2?

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

If Ja Morant isn’t the consensus second-best prospect in this draft, he’s darn close. He was the most likely No. 2 pick no matter how the lottery unfolded.

This just creates complications for Memphis.

Morant is a point guard – like the Grizzlies’ best player, Mike Conley. Memphis shopped Conley before the trade deadline. Expect more Conley trade discussions this summer.

Don’t assume the Grizzlies will deal Conley, though. They could keep Conley to mentor Morant. They could keep Conley because they believe the point guards could play together. They could keep Conley because this franchise has shown no vision in years.

But Memphis should explore the market. Conley is 31 and will become a free agent in 2020 or 2021. He’s unlikely to help the Grizzlies win significantly before his contract expires. He could provide more value to another team.

The Grizzlies’ rebuild is in nice shape with Jaren Jackson Jr. and Morant, a talented playmaker. Getting another long-term asset for Conley makes a lot of sense.

Attention now turns to the No. 3 pick. R.J. Barrett is the most likely selection, regardless of whether the Knicks trade the pick. He appears to be in his own tier, below Morant and above everyone else. But it’s still possible New York views Barrett or another less-touted player differently than the consensus does.

No, the Pelicans winning the lottery was not the end of tanking

Associated Press
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The New Orleans Pelicans went into last season intending to make the playoffs, go on a postseason run to the second round and beyond as they had the season before, and showing Anthony Davis they were a serious organization that he would want to re-sign with.

It didn’t work out anywhere close to that. The Pelicans hung around .500 until mid-December, yet despite strong seasons out of Jrue Holiday and Julius Randle, the team’s defense was a disaster, and they stagnated in the standings. The Pelicans could not string together enough wins. Then came the Davis trade request and from there things spiraled downward.

Eventually, the Pelicans reached a decision: Play Davis as little as we can and tank. Go into the lottery and get the best odds we can, then see where the chips fall.

Tuesday night, with a six percent chance, the New Orleans Pelicans won the NBA Draft Lottery, which means they won the rights to Zion Williamson. A guy with the potential to be the next Anthony Davis and lift up a franchise.

That the Pelicans won the lottery while the teams with the three worst records fell down the board — the Knicks will draft third, Cleveland fifth, and Phoenix sixth — led to multiple reactions like this one from Utah’s Rudy Gobert.

Not exactly.

It depends on how one chooses to define tanking. If tanking means only a hard and fast race to the bottom to ensure the worst record and rebuild just through the draft — or to do that for multiple years in a row, like “the process” Sixers — then yes, we will see less of it. The NBA’s flattened out lottery odds were aimed at exactly that. There is no advantage to making sure a team has the worst record by far.

However, what those flattened out lottery odds really did was just change the inflection point.

Because a team can have the eighth worst record (like the Pelicans) yet have an improved chance of winning the lottery, some teams will do what New Orleans did — reach a mid-season point where they will decide getting improved lottery odds is a better call than making a push for the eight seed. Not all teams will do that, the lure of playoff money for franchises and experience for players will have plenty of teams making a push for the postseason. But not every one. Some will choose to tank.

In a sport and system where landing a Zion Williamson can set a team up for a decade, there will always be some level of tanking. That will never go away.

••••••••••

One other thought from Tuesday night’s lottery results: Look for a lot of trades around this draft. Or at least teams trying to make trades.

The Pelicans will still end up having to trade Anthony Davis, winning this lottery just softens the blow. It also informs the kinds of players they will want back in a trade because with Williamson the Pelicans will continue to play fast, like Alvin Gentry wants.

The Grizzlies at No. 2 almost certainly will draft Ja Morant out of Murray State, which makes it more likely they trade Mike Conley this summer.

The Knicks and Lakers at three and four both are big game hunting this summer and would throw their pick in a trade for Davis or another star player.

This is a down draft — there are quality future role players in it, but after Williamson (and maybe Morant, depending on who you ask) the talent level drops off. With that, a lot of GMs would be happy to trade their pick for a more reliable veteran role player. Thing is, there’s not a lot of value for the picks. A lot of teams will talk trade but find a soft market.

Pelicans win NBA Draft Lottery throwing twist into Anthony Davis sweepstakes

Associated Press
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Anthony Davis and Zion Williamson together in New Orleans?

That’s not likely to happen — Davis’ camp quickly sent out word their trade demand stood — but for a Pelicans’ fan base that felt betrayed and punched in the gut, this result makes the inevitable Davis trade easier to swallow.

The New Orleans Pelicans won the NBA Draft Lottery and will draft Zion Williamson No. 1 (that’s not official yet, but come on).

How did Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry and president David Griffin feel about it?

This result throws a wrench in the plans of teams that wanted to use the pick to jump into the Davis sweepstakes — we’re looking at you, New York Knicks — but gave other teams, such as the Lakers, another asset that could be part of a trade for Davis or another star player.

The Pelicans had a six percent chance of landing the top pick but leapfrogged up to the top spot, where they will undoubtedly take the Duke star. The NBA flattened out the lottery odds in hopes of reducing tanking by teams — the team with the worst record in the league went from having a 25 percent chance at the top spot to just 14 percent — and it worked, there was a lot of lottery movement.

Memphis and the L.A. Lakers all jumped also jumped up into the top four, joining the New York Knicks. That pushed Cleveland, Phoenix, and Chicago down the ladder.

Here is the NBA Draft order.

1. New Orleans
2. Memphis
3. New York
4. L.A. Lakers
5. Cleveland
6. Phoenix
7. Chicago
8. Atlanta
9. Washington
10. Atlanta (via Dallas)
11. Minnesota
12. Charlotte
13. Miami
14. Boston (via Sacramento)

Some other quick thoughts out of the lottery.

• Memphis will likely take consensus No. 2 pick Ja Morant with their selection, which makes it even more likely they trade Mike Conley this summer.

• The Celtics will take this result because Memphis still owes a pick to Boston. Said pick is top-6 protected in 2020. If it doesn’t convey to Boston in 2020, it becomes unprotected in 2021. That is more valuable in a trade package for someone such as Davis.

• The Lakers had a 78 percent chance of selecting 11th, by jumping up to No. 4 they have a more valuable trade asset — if they can get back in the Davis sweepstakes, or can target someone else — or at the very least a better young player to go with their young core.

Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers’ representative at the Draft Lottery, on the team jumping seven spots: “Must have been my purple jacket.” I thought it was the Hand of the King pin he wore on his lapel for the event.

• The Knicks had hoped to land the top spot to use that pick — read: Zion — to tempt the Pelicans in a potential Davis trade. Now it’s more difficult to construct a Knicks trade that would tempt the Pelicans, New York has other young players and future picks, but the Pels don’t want to totally bottom out. Never say never, but the odds got longer for New York.

• Atlanta has two picks at 8 and 11, but don’t expect them to package the picks to move up in the draft. First, that just doesn’t happen as often in the NBA as it does in the NFL or other sports. Second, there aren’t a lot of players worth moving up for in what is seen as a down draft after No. 1, and teams with the top picks will not give them up for later picks.