With the NBA trade deadline three weeks away, the Toronto Raptors are the most intriguing team in the league. Rival executives are clamoring for the opportunity to trade for All-Star-caliber players Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. Rising young talents OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. also could become available.
If you’re looking for a point guard, D’Angelo Russell, Mike Conley, and Kyle Lowry are among the names floating in the rumor mill.
With that in mind, this week’s NBA notebook includes the latest intel on the potential futures of Kyrie Irving and Nate McMillan, and more from our Michael Scotto. Plus, the latest trade rumors commentary on the Raptors, Clippers, and Hornets from our capologist Yossi Gozlan, a free agency stock watch from our Frank Urbina, and a look at the most valuable players overseas right now by Alberto De Roa.
Kyrie Irving’s future with the Nets
After a tumultuous start to the season, Kyrie Irving has returned to his All-Star-caliber form and helped the Brooklyn Nets turn their season around. With Irving in the lineup, Brooklyn has a 20-12 record this season, including going 16-4 in his last 20 games played.
In the process, several NBA executives who spoke with HoopsHype believe Irving and the Nets will continue their partnership together beyond this season – a notion that seemed improbable to many around the league amid Irving’s suspension and Brooklyn’s listless start to the season.
“I think Kyrie ends up with a short extension with the Nets,” one NBA executive predicted while speaking with HoopsHype. “A sign-and-trade for Kyrie this summer would be tough given the length needed and assets to make it happen from another team. I think there’s an incentive for an extension on a one-plus-one or two-year deal. If I’m Brooklyn, I’m not going past two years. I don’t know if Kyrie would accept that. The Lakers will go into the summer with cap space and can offer two years, $60 million, where he could rejoin LeBron James and play with Anthony Davis.”
James, who teamed with Irving in Cleveland to win a title in 2016, publicly vouched for Irving on social media earlier this season. The Lakers also recently worked out Meyers Leonard, who was suspended in March 2021 after using an antisemitic slur on a Twitch live stream while playing the video game Call of Duty. Leonard later apologized and has since spent time with Jewish leaders.
The Houston Rockets, who are headed for their third straight lottery finish, will also have a boatload of cap space in the summer of 2023 and are expected to go star hunting this offseason to improve the team and compete next season, league sources told HoopsHype.
– Michael Scotto
Nate McMillan’s future with the Hawks
In talking with several NBA executives about the Atlanta Hawks, there’s a prevailing prediction from outside the organization – coach Nate McMillan won’t be with the team beyond this season.
Despite a three-game winning streak heading into Wednesday’s road matchup against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, the Hawks are not meeting expectations at 22-22 following the blockbuster acquisition of All-Star Dejounte Murray.
A myriad of factors, including injuries throughout the roster, constant John Collins trade rumors, Trae Young and McMillan having to answer questions about their relationship, Travis Schlenk’s transition into a senior advisory role, etc., have led to the rollercoaster season.
McMillan, 58, and Hawks CEO Steve Koonin have publicly denied a report from The Athletic that he considered resigning from his head coaching position. McMillan also said he would address his future after the season.
Following the season, former Jazz coach Quin Snyder, Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, and Bucks associate head coach Charles Lee – all former members of Mike Budenholzer’s Hawks staff in Atlanta – expect to draw interest from teams with available head coaching openings after this season.
– Michael Scotto
Keep an eye on Wizards guard Jordan Goodwin
If the Washington Wizards can create an open roster spot by the end of the trade deadline, two-way player Jordan Goodwin is a strong candidate to have his contract converted to a standard NBA contract, league sources told HoopsHype.
Following a rash of injuries to their backcourt, Goodwin has made the most of his opportunity since being called up and signing a two-way contract in October, averaging 6.7 points on 46.2 percent shooting overall and 39.7 percent from downtown in 19 minutes per game.
– Michael Scotto
What’s next for the Raptors?
The Raptors could be heading toward a crossroads with the core of their roster. If they continue to underperform, significant changes could be coming, which could include moving veterans like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and Gary Trent Jr. The Raptors still have some time to continue rolling with this group and try to improve the roster around them. But with all four of those players due for raises within the next two years, it would be untenable to keep all four long term. It won’t make sense to eliminate future flexibility for this group with the way they’re currently playing.
– Yossi Gozlan
Clippers searching for point guard upgrade?
The Clippers continue to tread mediocrity this season. Los Angeles recently benched Reggie Jackson in favor of Terance Mann in the starting lineup, with John Wall acting as their only true point guard in the rotation (Jackson is now back in the rotation with Wall injured). Changes could be coming not just to their shorthanded point guard rotation but also their undersized big man rotation.
According to Marc Stein, the Clippers are interested in trading for Mike Conley. Their interest dates back to the offseason, and discussions may have gotten serious to the point that Conley himself thought he was heading to the Clippers. As noted in HoopsHype’s 30-team trade guide, the Clippers could probably get in the mix for a new lead guard like Conley or Kyle Lowry. The main hurdle could be what the trade looks like since they’ll likely need to give up a key player in their rotation to match salaries for Conley.
The Clippers would need to send out $18.1 million in outgoing salaries to match Conley in a trade. Jackson’s $11.2 million could be a start, but they’ll still need to send back $6.8 million. That could be filled with a combination of Wall and one of their young players like Amir Coffey, Brandon Boston, or Jason Preston. They may prefer a structure like this in order to keep their other players earning 10 figures since they all project to have a role in the playoffs. The next hurdle could be meeting Utah’s asking price, which could involve draft compensation.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Clippers are also looking for a backup big man and have discussed Wall in such scenarios. Wall alone can bring back a center earning up to $8.2 million, but they also have a $9.7 million trade exception they could use to acquire one. This could become useful if they want to keep Wall or use his salary in a different deal, such as one for Conley. They could use the trade exception to absorb a veteran center like Jakob Poeltl, Mason Plumlee, and Nerlens Noel, though doing so could raise their luxury tax bill by close to $60 million.
– Yossi Gozlan
Time for the Hornets to sell?
The Hornets are considered sellers ahead of the trade deadline, with players like Terry Rozier, Mason Plumlee, Kelly Oubre, and Jalen McDaniels expected to receive interest. Plumlee and Oubre’s inclusion in trade discussion makes sense considering they’re veterans on expiring contracts. Both players would be better suited playing for playoff teams but may not go for more than several second-round picks each.
McDaniels’ inclusion could suggest that the Hornets are hesitant about meeting his price tag in free agency. However, the Hornets project to be well below the luxury tax next season and should have enough space to re-sign him, PJ Washington, and Nick Richards. They could probably also fit Miles Bridges in, should they decide to bring him back. McDaniels can be extended now for up to a maximum of four years, $58 million.
Rozier’s inclusion as a potential trade candidate is also notable, considering the Hornets can bring back most of the team next year comfortably. They could hold onto him, but with the second-worst record in the league, it would make sense for them to trade him while his value is relatively high and is under team control. They could potentially get a solid first-round pick for him and generate significant cap space this offseason if they only take back expiring contracts. As mentioned in the trade guide, teams like the Suns, Wizards, and Mavericks could be good fits for Rozier.
– Yossi Gozlan
Free agent stock watch: Up
We’re starting to see some glimpses of what a now-healthy Victor Oladipo might look like going forward, and it’s looking promising for the former All-Star 2-guard. Over his last nine games, Oladipo is averaging 16 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.8 steals on a decent 37 percent shooting rate from three. Miami has a 6-3 record in that stretch, even with Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro missing time, with Oladipo stepping up off the bench and playing a huge role. Oladipo has played elite defense recently, often turning steals into dunks while hitting timely shots late in games and showing the quick burst he was once revered for. If Oladipo can maintain at least this level through the rest of the season, it’ll be interesting to see what he does with his $9.5 million player option for 2023-24 season.
Currently one of the best bargain signings on a minimum salary paying him $1.97 million, Nets forward Yuta Watanabe is playing himself into a solid next contract. The Japanese forward is enjoying a career year, averaging 7.2 points and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 50.6 percent from beyond the arc, one of the best success rates in the league, albeit on a small sample size of 79 attempts. Regardless, teams will notice how Watanabe’s shooting has helped raise his impact, as his newly improved offensive game, along with his high-effort style of play and defensive versatility, makes him a solid role-playing weapon for contending teams.
– Frank Urbina
Free agent stock: Down
It must be said that from our vantage point – and likely that of many NBA teams – Jae Crowder horribly misplayed his hand by sitting out half of the season (so far) when he could’ve been playing a lot of minutes for a title contender. Granted, who could have known Cam Johnson would get injured, but the UNC product going down probably would have made Crowder a starter again this season, giving him a huge role on one of the best teams in the West. Instead, Crowder hasn’t played since May last year as he approaches unrestricted free agency as a 32-year-old wing with dwindling athleticism.
Unfortunate as it is to say, Darius Bazley, once highly thought of as a prospect, looks expendable for Oklahoma City as his role has declined over the years. Even on a Thunder team lacking elite talent outside of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (though they are playing solid team basketball), Bazley is down to under 17 minutes nightly this season and averaging 5.9 points and 3.6 rebounds. Heading into free agency, it’ll be interesting to see what Oklahoma City does with Bazley’s $6.2 million qualifying offer. There’s a chance they let him hit unrestricted free agency and walk, given his usage with the team as he approaches his age-23 season.
– Frank Urbina
Edmond Sumner’s comeback
After tearing his ACL at Xavier in January 2017 and suffering a torn Achilles that forced him to miss all of last season, Brooklyn Nets guard Edmond Sumner has had a triumphant comeback campaign and recently had his contract fully guaranteed, as reported by HoopsHype.
“It was frustrating for me,” Sumner told HoopsHype when asked about his Achilles recovery process. “I felt like it was the worst timing for my career. I was trying to stay positive. I feel like that’s what got me through it. I did everything possible to make sure I was going to have all my athleticism and everything, from doing hyperbaric oxygen for 30 straight sessions and not knowing if it would help me or not. I stood patient with it. It takes a year to get back on the court, but I feel like it still takes longer to get back into the basketball groove. We’re competing at the highest level with the best players in the world, so there’s always going to be an adjustment. For me, it was sticking with the grind. I’m a grinder. I’ve had to grind all my life and prove myself always.”
Despite admitting to doubts about whether he could return to form and remain an NBA player following his Achilles injury, Sumner received interest from several teams, including the Nets, Pacers, Suns, and Pistons.
The Nets were the first team to call and express interest in Sumner and remained consistent throughout their recruitment of him, he told HoopsHype. Sumner also worked out for the Suns, missed a workout with the Pistons due to Covid, and couldn’t wait on the Pacers, who were juggling moving roster pieces over the summer.
In his first season with the Nets, Sumner has averaged 10.6 points on 46.1 percent shooting overall and 37.9 percent from downtown in 10 fill-in starts for Brooklyn.
“For me to stay mentally prepared through all these ups and downs throughout my whole career and come back and compete, it says a lot about who I am as a person,” Sumner told HoopsHype. “I feel like everyone in life is going to face some type of adversity. I’ve faced it on and off the court.”
– Michael Scotto
Who are the most valuable players overseas right now? To answer this tricky question, we’re introducing the All-World Ranking. As with its draft version, it’s a comprehensive metric that takes into account a player’s Global Rating, the strength of competition, and date of birth. The Top 30 players on this list all come from Europe, with many of them competing in the Euroleague, the top competition outside of the NBA. This ranking features a diverse mix of players, including established veterans at the peak of their careers and rising young talents who are showing great potential. With this in mind, who stands out on the current list as the top players outside the NBA orbit?
Sasha Vezenkov is arguably the non-NBA MVP so far in 2022-23. The Bulgarian power forward is comfortably leading the Euroleague and the Greek League in Global Rating, shooting an impressive 58.9 percent from the field and 48.7 percent from three-point range in both competitions combined. He’s also leading Olympiacos to an undefeated season (12-0) so far in Greece and to second place (12-7) in the Euroleague. He recently signed a three-year extension but, as Vezenkov himself said, without closing the door on the NBA. The Kings have his rights since trading for them in the 2022 draft.
Despite making some improvements in the last couple of years, Vezenkov is unlikely to make a big impact on the defensive end or crashing the glass in the NBA. However, his offensive skillset could potentially lead to a similar role and career trajectory as Nemanja Bjelica. The Sacramento Kings currently have a Top-5 pick, Keegan Murray, at the stretch-four spot. That’s where Vezenkov excels. The question is whether Vezenkov would be willing to leave European stardom behind for a non-contending team where he would not be the top option at his position. It’s likely going to be a challenging decision for Vezenkov to make.
Here's the the proof of Sasha Vezenkov scoring 2⃣4⃣ PTS without dribbling the ball once 🔥
(6 PTS came from the FT line) pic.twitter.com/qBMvRAV0Q6
— BasketNews (@BasketNews_com) November 26, 2022
In recent seasons, few players have been more deserving of a second chance in the NBA than Dzanan Musa, currently second in our All-World Ranking. At just 23, the young forward has a legitimate chance to become the first player to win back-to-back MVP awards in the Spanish ACB league since the great Arvydas Sabonis in the 90s. Combining national competition and Euroleague, where his team, Real Madrid is currently on top, he’s shooting 45.7 percent from deep on 4.6 attempts per game, all while being the top scorer of the team. He’d be by far the most valued NBA free agent in the international market if not for his two rough years in Brooklyn.
EuroLeague MVP of Round 6: Dzanan Musa of Real Madrid.
25 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Musa hit 4 of 4 two-pointers, 5-of-8 3 pointers against Olimpia Milano.#Basketball #Baloncesto #EuroLeague #EuroLiga #EA7 #RealMadrid #Real #Madrid #HalaMadridpic.twitter.com/Vjpg5Hj3iB
— Matteo Andreani (@matty_vanpersie) November 5, 2022
Vasilije Micic, another player who was in the rumor mill last summer and is likely to be again in the upcoming one, rounds out the Top 3. The two-time MVP and Euroleague champ continues to be the best playmaker outside of the NBA. His Global Rating numbers are taking a bit of a dip due to the lukewarm year of powerhouse Anadolu Efes, currently eighth in the Euroleague with a 10-9 record. But Micic is again its shining star. He ranks fourth in scoring with 17.5 points per game and second in assists with 6.4 per game. At 29 years old, with the Oklahoma City Thunder still holding his draft rights, it may be now or never for Micic to take his chances in the NBA.
The biggest surprise in the Top 10, and the only player not currently playing in the Euroleague, is Khalifa Diop. The Senegalese center is having another strong year in the EuroCup, the second-strongest continental competition, after winning the Best Young Player award in 2022. Diop, a 7-footer, possesses exceptional agility for his size and is the primary scoring option in the paint for Gran Canaria, the team with the best record in the EuroCup (8-2). The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him with the 39th pick last year and should be excited about a young big man who just turned 21 a few days ago.
Khalifa Diop had one of his best games of the season:
5/6 from the field and 6/7 from the line
Shows his ability to guard in space and operate as that drop-coverage big man. Overall, still a little bit too careless; a risk because NBA refs call fouls easier. pic.twitter.com/FdtgUOKjUW
— Ersin Demir (@EDemirNBA) December 23, 2022
Diop is not the only recently drafted player in the Top 30. Other young players like Filip Petrusev (Philadelphia 76ers, 2021) and Ismael Kamagate (Denver Nuggets, 2022) are also near the top of the ranking due to their strong performances in European competitions. Among the surprises in the ranking is the fittingly-named TJ Shorts. Despite his small stature at 5-foot-9, he is one of the top scorers in Europe, averaging 24.2 points in the Champions League (the third-best continental competition) and 18.3 in the German League. At 25 years old, he has a solid future, at least as one of the most exciting players to watch in international basketball.
— Basketball Champions League (@BasketballCL) October 25, 2022
Some notable absences from the Top 30 include Euro superstars such as Nikola Mirotic and Shane Larkin, both of whom have been impacted by injuries this season. Another top player who recently returned to Europe, Facundo Campazzo, has not been able to play in the Euroleague yet due to a competition ban to register new players on his team, Crvena Zvezda, for unpaid salaries. This serves as a reminder of the complexities and unpredictability of the international basketball business.
The complete updated ranking after every game can be found here.
– Alberto De Roa