Happy Thursday, everyone.
Let’s get right to it.
Good morning to everyone but especially to…
THE ATLANTA HAWKS…
- Dejounte Murray
- Danilo Gallinari
- 2023 first-round pick via Charlotte
- 2025 first-round pick via Atlanta
- 2026 first-round pick swap with Atlanta
- 2027 first-round pick via Atlanta
Murray, 25, should be a strong fit alongside Trae Young. He adds much-needed defensive toughness to a team that finished 26th in defensive rating. He’s on an affordable deal ($16.5 million this season, $17.7 million the next) and joins a core that includes Young, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, Kevin Huerter and Onyeka Okongwu (all 25 or younger), as well as vets Clint Capela and Bogdan Bogdanovic.
- Last season, Murray became the only player in NBA history to average 20-plus points, eight-plus rebounds, nine-plus assists and two-plus steals.
- He also had 13 triple-doubles — second to only MVP Nikola Jokic.
- Standing 6’5″ with a 6’10” wingspan, Murray is a nightmare for smaller guards and can hold his own against wings.
Atlanta earned an “A” in our NBA expert Jack Maloney’s trade grades. According to SportsLine’s calculations, with Murray in the mix, Atlanta’s projected win total jumped from 41.2 to 44, and its chance to make the playoffs jumped from 54.6% to 71.6%.
… AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO THE PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
James Harden‘s first season in Philadelphia didn’t go as planned. He’s trying to make sure Year 2 is different. The 76ers star declined his $47.3-million player option and is expected to re-sign with Philadelphia with a significant per-year pay cut.
- While the 76ers and Harden still have to come to an agreement, his cap number will reportedly drop to the high $30 millions.
- This will open up space for Philadelphia to add pieces to its roster — likely P.J. Tucker, according to rumors.
Harden said following the 76ers’ playoff exit that he’d do “whatever it takes to help this team continue to grow.” For now, he’s backing that up.
- Trade alert! The Nuggets got Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith from the Wizards for Monte Morris and Will Barton.
- Sandy Alcantara threw a complete game.
- Five-star 2023 wide receiver Johntay Cook II is heading to Texas.
- Four-star 2024 wide receiver Cam Williams is heading to Notre Dame.
And not such a good morning for…
THE SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Sometimes in sports, the end comes slowly and then all at once. The Spurs — known for building a winner that lasts from the ground up — are experiencing just that. With yesterday’s trade of Murray, they chose a full rebuild as their next step. It was the right choice, writes NBA expert Sam Quinn:
- Quinn: “They won their five championships because the draft gave them Tim Duncan. That’s the sort of franchise-altering talent needed to win titles, and it’s the kind of player Murray’s presence never would have allowed them to pursue in earnest. … Even if their chance of landing Wembanyama can’t exceed 14 percent, those odds are a heck of a lot higher than those of finding another mega star where they had been picking before.”
The “Wembanyama” Sam refers to is 7’2″ French super prospect Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 pick in every 2023 mock draft (including our very own Gary Parrish’s). The fact that the Spurs are firmly depending on the lottery shows nothing lasts forever:
- San Antonio won its first title in 1999 — Gregg Popovich‘s second full season — behind Duncan and David Robinson.
- Thanks to Popovich, Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs won it all in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
- In 2011, San Antonio struck gold with a draft-night trade for Kawhi Leonard, and the Spurs won another title in 2014.
But since Leonard left on unhappy terms in 2018 (a huge mistake by the Spurs, Sam notes), they’ve been stuck in an awkward phase — not good enough to make the playoffs, not bad enough to tank. Still, with Popovich, the winningest coach in NBA history, nearing retirement, it’s sad to see the team he turned into a great winner for decades be reduced to a complete rebuild,
The Spurs earned an “incomplete” in Jack Maloney’s trade grades. That’s how Spurs fans must feel right now: a little disappointed, a little frustrated and a little incomplete without the winning product they’ve known for so long.
Not so honorable mention
- Jazz Chisholm is on the 10-day IL.
- The Nationals allowed one of the strangest runs you’ll ever see… and ended up losing to the Pirates by one run.
NBA free agency starts tonight. Here’s what you need to know 🏀
At 6 p.m., NBA free agency begins — and it’s sure to be a wild ride once it gets underway. Our NBA team has you covered every step of the way, and that starts with James Herbert’s list of 45 top free agents. While most of the biggest names have already been heavily linked to teams, there are a few whose next home is very much up in the air, including…
- Herbert: “Deandre Ayton turns 24 in July… and it’s no secret that he wanted a max extension last offseason. … He has come a long way as a defender and as a short-roll threat in the past couple of seasons, but his development has taken place in an environment tailor-made for his particular skills. Neither a go-to guy nor a dominant rim protector, Ayton is an interesting free agent because it’s difficult to disentangle how much he means to Phoenix and how much Phoenix means to him.
As for everything else you need to know:
- Latest rumors, including a potential Damian Lillard extension
- This is an exciting restricted free agent class.
- Here’s who can be extended this offseason.
Breaking down MLB Rookie of the Year races ⚾
We’re roughly halfway through the MLB season, and that means it’s time to visit some award races. This week, MLB expert Matt Snyder is taking a look at Rookie of the Year, and when it comes to the NL, there’s no clear frontrunner. Six different players have +1000 odds or shorter at Caesars Sportsbook.
- Pirates SS O’Neil Cruz (+350)
- Braves OF Michael Harris II (+375)
- Padres SP MacKenzie Gore (+550)
- Braves SP Spencer Strider (+550)
- Cardinals 2B Nolan Gorman (+750)
- Cardinals UTIL Brendan Donovan (+900)
But Snyder actually has a different pick.
- Snyder: “Cardinals utility man/DH Juan Yepez has hit .284/.328/.512… with 10 doubles, nine homers, 24 RBI and 21 runs in 49 games. … And he has staying power. He’ll be on prominent display for a contender, too.
You can check out Matt’s AL Rookie of the Year pick and value plays here.
Former top recruit Emoni Bates heading to Eastern Michigan 🏀
Emoni Bates, a top 2022 recruit who reclassified to 2021 and played last season with Memphis, is transferring to Eastern Michigan.
- Bates originally committed to Michigan State in June 2020 but decommitted in April 2021 before reclassifying and joining Memphis.
- He averaged just 9.7 points on under 40% shooting in 18 games and struggled with injuries.
It may seem like a surprising landing spot, but Eastern Michigan is located in Bates’s hometown of Ypsilanti. They went 10-21 last season and haven’t made an NCAA Tournament since 1998… so Bates has some work to do if he wants the program to get turned around.
What we’re watching Thursday 📺
🎾 Wimbledon, How to watch
🏀 Dream at Liberty, 7 p.m. on Twitter
⚾ Padres at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. on FS1