On the latest episode of the HoopsHype podcast, Michael Scotto discusses the top storylines for each NBA team in 2021 with Mark Medina of USA TODAY Sports. Topics included a potential contract extension for Lloyd Pierce, LaMelo Ball’s ceiling, the trade market for James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, the free agency of Jrue Holiday, Kawhi Leonard, Lauri Markkanen, and more. Listen to the podcast above or check out some snippets of the conversation in a transcribed version below.
1:20 Atlanta Hawks: Extending coach Lloyd Pierce’s contract
Scotto: I think one of the things they’re going to have to do eventually is extend Lloyd Pierce’s contract.
Medina: I think that he is going to be with the Hawks long-term. Now, the timing of his extension, I can see that playing out just to allow things to play out organically. I’ve heard nothing but good things with how the Hawks view Lloyd Pierce.
4:10 Boston Celtics: Why Kemba Walker’s health is their x-factor to win the East
7:45 Brooklyn Nets: How can they fix their rebounding woes?
11:20 Charlotte Hornets: Will LaMelo Ball start soon, and what’s his upside?
Scotto: Some scouts and executives I spoke to said he could be Shaun Livingston before he got injured. A couple of other ones were a taller version of Ricky Rubio and highlight sensation Jason Williams.
Medina: It seems inevitable that he will be (a starter). It’s just a matter of time. I know Hornets coach James Borrego was asked about this, and he was saying it’s something he has to think about. I think that’s telling only a few games into the season this is already a thing he’s considering.
15:05 Chicago Bulls: Lauri Markkanen’s future
Scotto: To my understanding, in speaking with people close to the situation on this, they never got close when it came to a contract extension. They were far apart.
18:25 Cleveland Cavaliers: Will Andre Drummond re-sign this summer?
Medina: I think in Andre’s case there’s a little bit of a grey area because, as you noted, the value of having a traditional big man isn’t what it was because of the modern NBA, but I think because of what we saw in last year’s playoffs where you have guys like Nikola Jokic with the Nuggets, the Lakers with Anthony Davis, there still is a need to have someone that can slow those go-to guys down and make things difficult. I can see a team in the hunt thinking if I want to compete against those teams in the playoffs, I can’t go size for size, but I’ve got to have something, so they’re not having a layup line every play. I think if they can get a deal out of that, that’s priority number one just to help accelerate this rebuild and collect assets. But if they’re not able to do that, and teams are just dangling second-round picks, I think that Andre can be a serviceable anchor for the Cavs long-term.
22:51 Dallas Mavericks: Can Kristaps Porzingis play at an All-Star level when he returns?
Medina: I think if and when he gets substantial time to play, he and Doncic, I think arguably, could be the best one-two duo for this next generation. It’s really going to hinge on how well Porzingis can stay healthy.
27:33 Denver Nuggets: Do they need to acquire a third star, or is it Michael Porter Jr.?
Scotto: I remember before he went to Missouri before the draft and got injured with his back, Michael Porter Jr. was a guy that a lot of people thought could be the No. 1 pick and the top overall player just on his talent alone, size and dribbling ability. Some people compared this guy to a taller Tracy McGrady.
Medina: I don’t think the Nuggets are looking to change their roster per se. I think they’re carving this season out to see if Michael Porter Jr. can prove he’s capable of doing that?
31:45 Detroit Pistons: Will Blake Griffin be traded?
Scotto: Derrick Rose has the most trade value for them, but I know they love him with Killian Hayes and developing him. I’ve heard ownership loves Rose. For me, can Blake Griffin be traded, given he has one more year after this with a player option?
Medina: I can’t see it. He has a big number. He’s been injury-riddled these last four years. I know he had a good 2018-19 season.
35:10 Golden State Warriors: What are Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre long-term?
Medina: I think both players are just short-term stop gap players. With Oubre, they got him because they’re a team that’s still willing to spend. They had that trade exception from the Andre Iguodala trade. They needed wings, but his shooting is very inconsistent. I think the realistic expectation for him is not to hit shots consistently. It’s how much effort can he bring and offer defensively? Wiggins is not ever going to be an All-Star. I think he’s always going to underachieve. I think, just realistically, the expectation should be how do we develop him into a consistent rotation guy?
When they made the deal to get Wiggins from Minnesota, I don’t think they had any allusions that they can be the team that turns his career around completely. I think they looked at it pragmatically that they needed more wings. They felt the D’Angelo Russell experiment didn’t really work. They came in getting D’Angelo with the idea to flip him anyway and to give them some backcourt depth because Klay Thompson wasn’t going to be there that season.
38:45 Houston Rockets: Will the Rockets trade James Harden?
Medina: If I had to guess, I think that Harden is with the Rockets the rest of the season, and his departure happens when the season is over. Harden can have a wish list all he wants and contenders he wants to play for. If you’re any team, you always do your due diligence to check into things, but I think, philosophically, any contending team is better staying put. To get him, you’re going to have to give up a substantial part of your core, you’re going to have to worry about how you’re going to integrate James with any other star players and the pecking order with that.
This is also Houston’s decision. They want to get something in return number one. Number two, the way ownership has responded to things with Tilman Fertitta is they’re a very financially driven franchise in the way they try to avoid the luxury tax. When you’re looking at Harden specifically, even if they might just be going in circles and not really accomplishing much, the best-case scenario is because they have John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Harden is great, they can still be a playoff team. He’s their best financial play. He’s marketable. The Rockets are having limited fans in the arena. Having Harden there helps fill those seats.
42:25 Indiana Pacers and LA Clippers: What are the futures of Victor Oladipo and Kawhi Leonard?
Scotto: With Paul George extending, I do see Kawhi staying there long-term as of now out in LA. With Oladipo, I’m not as sure. With the way the free-agent market (talent) has shrunk with some of these extensions that got done, he’s going to be a bigger name out there, Jrue Holiday is going to be a big name out there. I think teams are going to be willing to spend a significant amount of money to get those guys because they’re going to be the best upgrades they can get.
Medina: The Clippers, when I’ve asked them after the George extension how they’re feeling, they were optimistic. Look, they’re also not naive that NBA developments can always change. He’s used player movement to his advantage, but unlike the time in Toronto, he always had a hope to come back to his hometown.
45:32 Milwaukee Bucks: Re-sign Jrue Holiday
Medina: They’re definitely going to re-sign him. I think part of the reason why they made that trade was because they wanted to show they could upgrade the roster and convince Giannis to stay there long-term. They accomplished that. Also, I think how he views things beyond that also hinges on their ability to keep that (core). They will do everything they can to do that. I think he’ll be inclined to stay because they’ve got a good thing going there. So far, the fit has been really good.
Scotto: Executives think this guy can even get a max contract this summer. That’s only been enhanced given the extensions that happened and Spencer Dinwiddie getting hurt. When you look at the point guard position, Chris Paul could hit the market depending on what he does with his player option, but for Holiday, he has so much leverage given the trade assets they gave up to get him.
47:37 LA Lakers: Will Dennis Schroder sign an extension by end of the season?
Medina: I think he will. The earliest it can happen is February 16th.
49:50 Miami Heat: Who is their next star target with Giannis Antetokounmpo staying in Milwaukee?
Medina: This is my opinion, I’d put Oladipo and DeMar DeRozan as the targets.
53:00 Memphis Grizzlies: Will they finish in the lottery with Ja Morant sidelined early this season?
55:25 Minnesota Timberwolves: Will Anthony Edwards compete for Rookie of the Year?
57:50 New Orleans Pelicans: Is Lonzo Ball the long-term point guard answer?
1:00:40 New York Knicks: Will Immanuel Quickley become the starting point guard?
1:03:51 OKC Thunder: How many more draft picks can Sam Presti acquire?
Medina: I know people in the Thunder organization have definitely joked that it’s their goal they have picks 1-30 at some point between the 2021 and 2027 draft.
1:06:03 Orlando Magic: What is Evan Fournier’s long-term future?
1:07:45 Philadelphia 76ers: Is this the year they take the next step?
1:10:00 Phoenix Suns: Chris Paul’s future. Is he the next Gordon Hayward? A player who will opt out of a big contract and get a sizable new one?
1:13:55 Portland Trail Blazers: Is CJ McCollum going to be an All-Star?
1:16:10 Sacramento Kings: Tweeting parents of Marvin Bagley III, De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Richaun Holmes
1:19:30 San Antonio Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan’s future?
Scotto: I think, if anything, you’re trying to move Aldridge more than DeRozan because DeRozan is still young enough where he can give you another good two or three years if you get him on a short-term deal.
1:21:01 For the Toronto Raptors, what’s Kyle Lowry’s future, and how can they improve? For the Utah Jazz, can they take the next step? For the Washington Wizards, what’s Bradley Beal’s long-term future?