There will be a Play-In Tournament in the 2021-22 NBA season

The NBA Board of Governors today approved a proposal to continue the Play-In Tournament for the 2021-22 NBA season.

The Play-In Tournament for the 2021-22 season, which was also agreed to by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), will follow the same format as the Play-In Tournament for the 2020-21 season. The teams that finish the regular season with the seventh-highest through the 10th-highest winning percentages in each conference will compete to fill the seventh and eighth playoff seeds in each conference.

Like all new ideas, the tournament has its critics. But it was definitely a fun event that brought something extra to the table. The play-in tournament games this past season felt as intense as any playoff game. It’s a cool setup. We approve.

For the 2021-22 season, the Play-In Tournament will take place April 12-15, 2022, between the last day of the regular season on April 10 and the start of the playoffs on April 16.

Phoenix Suns GM James Jones wins 2020-21 NBA Basketball Executive of the Year Award

NBA team basketball executives have selected Phoenix Suns General Manager James Jones as the winner of the 2020-21 NBA Basketball Executive of the Year Award, the NBA announced today. This is the first NBA Basketball Executive of the Year Award for Jones, who has served two seasons as the Suns’ general manager and four seasons overall in the team’s front office.

Jones received nine of the 30 first-place votes and earned 65 total points from the voting panel, which comprised one basketball executive from each team. Utah Jazz Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Dennis Lindsey finished in second place with 61 points (nine first-place votes). Brooklyn Nets General Manager Sean Marks finished in third place with 51 points (five first-place votes). Executives were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.

With Jones leading the Basketball Operations department, Phoenix assembled a roster that posted the second-best record in the NBA (51-21) and the fifth-highest single-season winning percentage in franchise history (.708). The Suns made the NBA Playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 season. Head coach Monty Williams, whose hiring in May 2019 was overseen by Jones, finished in second place for the 2020-21 NBA Coach of the Year Award.

Last November, Jones reshaped the Suns’ roster by acquiring guard Chris Paul in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder and signing forward Jae Crowder as a free agent. Paul averaged 16.4 points and 8.9 assists in his first season with Phoenix and joined Suns guard Devin Booker as a 2021 NBA All-Star selection. Crowder made a team-high 148 three-pointers this season.

Jones also re-signed forward Dario Šarić, who averaged 8.7 points and 3.8 rebounds this season as a valuable reserve. Key contributors also included Cameron Payne, who averaged 8.4 points and 3.6 assists in his first full season as a Sun after signing with Phoenix in June 2020 in advance of the 2019-20 season restart. Jones further bolstered the roster during the season as the Suns acquired forward Torrey Craig in a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks on March 18. Craig averaged 7.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 32 games with Phoenix.

Phoenix hired Jones as vice president of basketball operations in July 2017. He handled general manager duties on an interim basis for the 2018-19 season and was named the team’s GM in April 2019. Jones joined the Suns after playing 14 seasons and winning three championships in the NBA.

Some thoughts on the upcoming Denver Nuggets offseason

Here’s the Denver Post with some key points on what this Denver Nuggets offseason may look like:

To begin, the Nuggets aren’t going to have much cap room, if any at all. That depends on what JaMychal Green ($7.5 million) and Will Barton ($14.6 million) decide to do with their player options. They should have access to their midlevel exception, which is worth $9.5 million annually. If I’m Nuggets executive Tim Connelly and I decide to spend that money in my backcourt, the free-agent names I’d consider are Derrick Rose ($7.6 million last season), Patty Mills ($12 million), Ish Smith ($6 million) and Wayne Ellington ($2.5 million). The reason the Nuggets may look to spend in the frontcourt, however, is because of P.J. Dozier, who missed the whole postseason with an adductor injury. If Dozier’s healthy, he might be in the starting lineup next season as the team waits out Jamal Murray’s return.

Free agents Paul Millsap, JaVale McGee and the aforementioned Green could leave the Nuggets extremely thin in the frontcourt. In that event, the Nuggets might bolster their bench with a guy like Reggie Bullock ($4.2 million last season), who can hit from outside, or a veteran like Jeff Green ($2.5 million). The problem with any potential forward options, though, is they’d inhibit the growth of Zeke Nnaji. Ultimately, if the Nuggets decide they don’t want to play small in their second unit, Denver’s biggest need might come at center. If McGee walks, there’s one name I’d keep an eye on: Boban Marjanovic, close friend of Nikola Jokic.

Tyrese Maxey gave Sixers a big boost in Game 6 against Hawks

The Sixers won Game 6 on the road against the Hawks Friday, 104-99. The squad received a nice boost off the bench from Tyrese Maxey, who in 29 minutes put up 16 points and seven rebounds. Via the Philly Voice:

Picture this: you’re a 20-year-old rookie, you played just 1:20 in your team’s heartbreaking Game 5 loss, and your head coach comes to you and says you need to be ready to play real minutes in a do-or-die elimination game. How exactly do you handle the news and get ready for the biggest game of your life?

“Got done with shootaround, got me some pasta, called my mom, and then I went to sleep,” Maxey said after Philly’s Game 6 win. “Woke up, and then came to the gym. Was ready to go.”

If the pressure impacted him in any way, Maxey never showed it on Friday night, pouring in 16 points off of the bench and leading the entire team in plus/minus with a +12 for the evening. That was representative of how the game changed with Maxey on the floor, who provided the spark his teammates needed with a belly full of pasta and a mother’s wisdom as the fuel.

Hawks at Sixers Game 7 is Sunday at 8PM ET.

Jazz and Mike Conley face big free agency decision this offseason

The Jazz were the league’s most winning team this regular season, but were sent home earlier than hoped in the playoffs, falling to the Clippers in six second round games. Will veteran point guard Mike Conley’s time on the team be extended? Via the Deseret News:

Following the Utah Jazz’s postseason exit on Friday night at the hands of the LA Clippers, a huge question facing the team in the offseason is the future of point guard Mike Conley.

The 33-year-old is a free agent who had an excellent 2020-21 season for the Jazz, and the team doesn’t have the financial ability to go out and sign another floor general of his caliber.

On the other hand, the Jazz could bring Conley back (teams can go over the salary cap to re-sign their own free agents), but it would put the team deep into the luxury tax, meaning owner Ryan Smith would be on the hook for a big bill to the NBA aside from the team’s total salary.

The rest of the Jazz core, including Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, Rudy Gobert, Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles and Derrick Favors, are all signed at least through next season.

Hawks preparing for Game 7 on road vs. Sixers

Winning an NBA playoffs Game 7 on the road, and as an underdog, is a tough task, but that’s the Atlanta Hawks’ intended agenda Sunday night. Via the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

It comes down to one game, with the teams on even footing, aside from the No. 1-seed 76ers having home-court advantage over the No. 5-seed Hawks.

“To be honest, I don’t think any of it matters,” Hawks guard Trae Young said about the previous games in the Eastern Conference semifinal series, after the Hawks’ 104-99 loss Friday at State Farm Arena. “It’s one game. They came in and took care of business to try to force a Game 7, and all the other games don’t mean anything. This is one game. Both teams are in a win-or-go-home situation.” …

Several key players on the team, including Young, [Kevin] Huerter, John Collins, and Bogdan Bogdanovic (who exited Game 6 with right knee soreness) hadn’t been in the NBA playoffs, so this obviously will be their first time in a high-intensity elimination game on the road. On Saturday, McMillan said Bogdanovic’s knee was sore and he was receiving treatment, but it was too soon to know his status for Game 7.

On Stan Van Gundy’s short-lived Pelicans coaching run

Stan Van Gundy’s run as the head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans didn’t last long. On what went wrong, here’s the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Scott Kushner: The circumstances were bad. The fit was bad. The personnel was bad. All in all, it was a situation that demanded a refresh. The Pelicans underwent a makeover in the 2020 offseason to become a more defensive-minded unit and emerged as one that was actually worse on defense.

Van Gundy was only part of that downfall, but it was evident his message never connected, and there was no sign it would get any better entering a critical 2021-22 season. Brandon Ingram never committed to the defensive end. Eric Bledsoe never came out of the lineup despite sleepwalking through large parts of the season. And the trio of first-rounders not named Zion were alienated early on when Van Gundy had them rotting on the bench rather than taking their lumps on the court. Combine those things with limited practices and meeting time due to COVID protocols, and it was simply a combination that required terminating.

Official 2020-21 NBA All-Rookie teams announced

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards have been unanimously selected to the 2020-21 NBA All-Rookie First Team, the NBA announced today. Ball, the 2020-21 Kia NBA Rookie of the Year, and Edwards received NBA All-Rookie First Team votes on all 99 ballots from a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.

Joining Ball and Edwards (198 total points each) on the 2020-21 NBA All-Rookie First Team are Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton (197 points; 98 First Team votes), Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey (162 points; 63 First Team votes) and Houston Rockets forward Jae’Sean Tate (154 points; 57 First Team votes).

Ball led first-year NBA players in assists (6.1 apg) and steals (1.59 spg) and ranked second in scoring (15.7 ppg) and rebounding (5.9 rpg). He won the first three Kia NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month awards. Edwards, the first overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, averaged a rookie-high 19.3 points per game. He was named the Kia NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month in each of the final three months of the season.

Haliburton, who won the first two Kia NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards, ranked third among rookies in scoring (13.0 ppg) and second in assists (5.3 apg). Bey, the 19th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, made a rookie-leading 175 three-pointers and was named the NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week for Week 8. Tate, who was not selected in the 2018 NBA Draft, averaged 11.3 points and 5.3 rebounds with the Rockets after playing last season for the Sydney Kings in Australia’s National Basketball League.

The 2020-21 NBA All-Rookie Second Team consists of New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley (148 points), Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane (88), Pistons center Isaiah Stewart (71), Cleveland Cavaliers guard-forward Isaac Okoro (53) and Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams (50).

The media voting panel selected five players for the NBA All-Rookie First Team and five players for the NBA All-Rookie Second Team at any position. Players received two points for each First Team vote and one point for each Second Team vote.

Hornets guard LaMelo Ball wins 2020-21 NBA Rookie of Year award

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball is the recipient of the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy as the 2020-21 NBA Rookie of the Year, the NBA announced today.

He is the third player to win the annual award with Charlotte, joining Larry Johnson (1991-92) and Emeka Okafor (2004-05).

Ball received 84 first-place votes and earned 465 total points from a global panel of 99 sportswriters and broadcasters. Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards received the other 15 first-place votes and finished in second place with 309 points. Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton finished in third place with 114 points. Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.

Ball averaged 15.7 points, 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 1.59 steals in 28.8 minutes in 51 games (31 starts), leading all rookies in assists and steals and ranking second in points and rebounds. He is the seventh rookie to average at least 15.0 points, 6.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.50 steals in a season since steals became an official statistic in the 1973-74 season, joining Magic Johnson (1979-80), Penny Hardaway (1993-94), Steve Francis (1999-00), Chris Paul (2005-06), Michael Carter-Williams (2013-14) and Ben Simmons (2017-18). Ball was one of two NBA players to reach all four of those averages this season, along with Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler.

On Jan. 9, Ball recorded 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists against the Atlanta Hawks at 19 years, 140 days old, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to have a triple-double. In other standout performances, Ball posted a career-high 34 points, eight assists and zero turnovers against the Utah Jazz on Feb. 5 in his third career start, and he had 30 points, eight assists, six rebounds and four steals against the Portland Trail Blazers on March 1. Despite missing 21 games with a wrist injury, Ball finished with the second-most assists (313) and third-most three-pointers made (92) by a rookie in Hornets history.

Ball was selected as the NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month in each of the first three months of the season (December/January, February and March). He was also named to the U.S. Team for the 2021 NBA Rising Stars rosters.

Charlotte selected Ball with the third overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Ball played for the Illawara Hawks of Australia’s National Basketball League during the 2019-20 season, where he was named the NBL Rookie of the Year.

The NBA Rookie of the Year trophy is named in honor of Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Eddie Gottlieb, one of the NBA’s founders. Gottlieb coached the Philadelphia Warriors to the 1946-47 championship in the league’s first season.

Official 2020-21 All-NBA teams announced

Center Nikola Jokić of the Denver Nuggets, the 2020-21 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player, and two-time MVPs Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors lead the 2020-21 All-NBA First Team, the NBA announced today.

Antetokounmpo was the only player to receive All-NBA First Team votes on all 100 ballots, earning his third consecutive First Team selection and fifth All-NBA Team honor overall. Jokić, the first player to be named the Kia NBA MVP as a member of the Nuggets, received 99 First Team votes to make the First Team for the second time in the last three seasons. Curry, who averaged an NBA-leading 32.0 points this season, received 98 First Team votes in his fourth selection to the First Team and seventh All-NBA Team honor overall.

In addition to Antetokounmpo (500 total points), Jokić (498 points) and Curry (496 points), the All-NBA First Team features Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić (402 points; 55 First Team votes) and LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (323 points; 28 First Team votes).

Leonard has been voted to the All-NBA First Team for the third time and earned his fifth All-NBA Team selection overall. Dončić, 22, has been selected to the All-NBA First Team for the second season in a row. He is the first player to make the All-NBA First Team at least twice in his first three NBA seasons since Tim Duncan (three times from 1997-98 – 1999-2000) and becomes the fourth player to have multiple First Team selections before age 23, along with Rick Barry, Kevin Durant and Max Zaslofsky.

The 2020-21 All-NBA Second Team consists of Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (372 points), Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (352), Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (311), New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (253) and Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (174).

The 2020-21 All-NBA Third Team is composed of Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (148 points), Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (131), Clippers forward Paul George (89), Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (71) and Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (61).

James has extended his league record for most All-NBA Team selections to 17, which includes a record 13 selections to the First Team, three to the Second Team and one to the Third Team. Paul has been voted to the All-NBA Team for the 10th time, the second most among active players behind James.

This is the sixth All-NBA Team selection for Lillard and George, the fourth for Gobert and Butler and the third for Embiid and Irving. Randle and Beal have each been selected to the All-NBA Team for the first time.