Around the NBA: Kawhi meets with Spurs, Hawks eyeing Doncic
It's the day before the 2018 NBA Draft and there's a lot going on around the league leading into one of it's biggest events of the offseason. There have been rumors and reports about many teams in the lottery looking to move up, add more picks and even trade assets to move down and it will all converge in Brooklyn, New York on Thursday night.
Let's take a look at some of the top stories in the NBA leading into Thursday's draft:
Hornets deal Dwight Howard to Nets for Mozgov, two second-round picks
Although it cannot be official until July 6, the Nets and Hornets are finalizing a trade that will send Dwight Howard to Brooklyn in exchange for Timofey Mozgov and a pair of second-rounders, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The Nets will save $17 million in 2019-20 with this deal while the Hornets took on Mozgov's salary in order to acquire more picks. Howard's contract is set to expire after the upcoming season, putting Brooklyn in a position to create two max contract slots during the 2019 offseason. Both Jeremy Lin and DeMarre Carroll will be off the books at that point as well.
Charlotte saves a little bit of money in the deal this season, ridding themselves of Howard's $23.8 million contract and taking on Mozgov's $16 million for 2018-19. Although they are taking on more money over the next two years with Mozgov, the move gives their organization more room below the 2018-19 tax line.
The Nets will be Dwight Howard's fourth team in the last four years and sixth in his 14 NBA seasons. Last season for Charlotte, the eight-time All-Star averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds. Meanwhile, Mozgov rode the bench for the majority of last season with Brooklyn running Quincy Acy and Jarrett Allen at center for a majority of the year in addition to Jahlil Okafor. Mozgov averaged 4.2 points in 31 games last season.
Kawhi sits down with Poppovich
Last week, we learned that Kawhi Leonard wanted out of San Antonio. On Wednesday, Shams Charania of Yahoo! Sports reported that Leonard and Spurs head coach Gregg Poppovich on Tuesday. League sources told Charania that the meeting was "done professionally and confidentially".
The whole situation between Leonard and the Spurs has been building throughout the season with both sides poorly communicating and and the confusion about his injury. Kawhi played just nine games last season due to a mysterious quadriceps injury that many people believed was healed in time for him to play again this past season. Leonard rehabbed his injury in New York and he has returned close to full health, Charania notes.
While a good number of Sixers fans have been intrigued at the prospect of adding Leonard, the two-time All-Star has reportedly told the Spurs he'd prefer to be traded to the Lakers. Even if he's dealt to a non-L.A. team, reports have surfaced saying that Leonard would not re-sign with another team.
Hawks eye Doncic, shopping key players
The Atlanta Hawks hold the No. 3, 19 and 30 picks in the first-round of Thursday's draft. Although their selection at No. 3 will depend on what Phoenix and Sacramento do first, the organization now has Luka Doncic at the forefront of their internal conversations leading into the draft, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. If Doncic gets picked prior to No. 3 the Hawks are also considering Jaren Jackson from Michigan State and Marvin Bagley III from Duke.
Beyond the No. 3 pick, the Hawks are looking to package the No. 19 & 30 selections in hopes of moving up according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic. The Clippers (12 & 13) and Nuggets (14) are just two of the targets for the Hawks, reports Scotto.
In addition to the draft talk around Atlanta, they are also exploring trades for both Dennis Schroder and Kent bazemore. Jeremy Woo of SI.com reports that Schroder has been a subject of trade talks since mentioning that he'd like to play for a contender and his displeasure with the Hawks play this past season. The roadblock with Schroder is the $46.5 million remaining on his contract. Meanwhile, Kent Bazemore is also on Atlanta's trade block, according to Sports Illustrated's Jake Fischer. Fischer notes that the Hawks have been shopping Bazemore dating back to last summer.
Walking in Memphis? No thanks, says Mo Bamba
One of the most intriguing prospects in this year's NBA Draft is Texas big man Mo Bamba. The Harlem, NY native averaged 12.9 points and 10.5 rebounds during his freshman year for the Longhorns. As you can see in the video below, Bamba has been working with NBA shooting coach Drew Hanlen and a lot of what he's doing looks similar to one Joel Embiid during his rehab last summer. Bamba's ceiling is extremely high and could very well go in the top-5 on Thursday.
If Bamba does go in the top-5 though, it looks unlikely that he'd get picked fourth by Memphis. This week on 92.9 ESPN, Jonathan Givony of Draft Express told the show that Bamba has refused to work out for the Grizzlies, he won't share his medical records with them and told them he'd prefer not to play there. Memphis finished 22-60 this season and still has Marc Gasol as their primary center, so perhaps Bamba wants an opportunity with a team where he'll get a better chance at more minutes.
Knicks, Wizards will square off in London Game next season
The NBA announced that on January 17, 2019, the New York Knicks and Washington Wizards will square-off at the o2 Arena for NBA's London Game. It'll be the first time playing in the game for Washington and the third time for the Knicks.
Brandon Apter is a contributor to 97.3 ESPN and managing editor at SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @bapter23