Sun Jun 23 10:26am ET
By KEITH JENKINS
AP Sports Writer
MILWAUKEE (AP) Christian Yelich first met Giannis Antetokounmpo last month in downtown Milwaukee.
The encounter happened inside a hallway at Fiserv Forum after Antetokounmpo and the Bucks eliminated the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The meeting of the Milwaukee stars occurred about six months after Yelich won the 2018 NL MVP award.
Now, Antetokounmpo could bring another MVP trophy to the city situated on Lake Michigan's western shore.
The Bucks forward is a finalist for NBA MVP along with Oklahoma City swingman Paul George and Houston guard James Harden, who won the award last season.
The winner will be announced Monday night.
''Obviously I'm happy to be one of the three finalists,'' Antetokounmpo said two days after losing to the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals. ''Hopefully I get it. If not, I have many more years to be able to help my teammates be successful and put me in a situation that we can get it.''
Antetokounmpo set career highs by averaging 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists while leading the Bucks to a league-best 60-22 record in the regular season. The 6-foot-11 first-team All-NBA performer is just the second player in league history to average at least 27 points, 12 rebounds and 5.5 assists, joining Oscar Robertson during the 1961-62 campaign.
The 24-year-old Athens, Greece, native would be only the fifth international NBA MVP, joining Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Yelich won the NL MVP award in near-unanimous fashion in November after becoming the first Brewers player to win a batting title. He finished two home runs and an RBI shy of the NL's first Triple Crown since the St. Louis Cardinals' Joe Medwick in 1937.
The Thousand Oaks, California, native garnered 29 of 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America to win in a landslide over Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs and third-place finisher Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies. The other first-place vote went to New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom, who finished fifth in the MVP balloting a day after winning the NL Cy Young Award.
Yelich, 27, called his MVP victory ''mind-boggling'' and told The Associated Press he's rooting for Antetokounmpo to bring the NBA's top individual honor back to Milwaukee.
''It'll be cool,'' said Yelich, who is in the midst of yet another MVP-caliber season. ''It's definitely unique. It doesn't happen all the time when you have two guys that have won an MVP in the same city in different sports. It's definitely exciting times for Milwaukee and sports fans here.''
Having the NBA and NL or AL MVP award winners in the same city at the same time isn't the rarest of occurrences.
Harden and Jose Altuve accomplished the feat in Houston in 2018 after the Astros second baseman won the 2017 American League MVP. It also happened for Houston in 1994 with Olajuwon and Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell.
Chicago also has seen it happen a couple times: Michael Jordan and Sammy Sosa in 1998, and Andre Dawson won the NL MVP in 1987 followed by Jordan taking the 1988 NBA MVP honor.
Roger Clemens and Larry Bird did it in Boston in 1986, and Mike Schmidt and Julius Erving were the toast of Philadelphia in 1981.
The script also worked out perfectly for Los Angeles when Kirk Gibson won the 1988 NL MVP and Magic Johnson captured the 1989 NBA MVP.
But all of those most valuable overlaps occurred in major media markets, and Milwaukee is one of the smallest markets in major North American professional sports.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell, who grew up in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, said having both the NL MVP and NBA MVP in Milwaukee would be a huge victory for a city and a pair of fan bases that saw both the Brewers and Bucks fall just short of winning world championships in the last few months.
''We're all hoping for it,'' he said. ''I think everybody in the state's hoping for it. I know Milwaukee's hoping for it. It would be really cool. As a sports fan, we're lucky to be able to see two of the best doing their jobs in their profession in our city. It makes both teams exciting.''
Antetokounmpo would be only the second Bucks player to win the honor, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won three of his record six MVP awards while playing for Milwaukee in the early 1970s.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, who is a finalist for NBA Coach of the Year, said Milwaukee is fortunate to have a player like Antetokounmpo, who is also a candidate for NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
''For our fan base and for our organization to have an MVP, it's very rare, and hopefully we all appreciate it and enjoy having a great, great player like Giannis,'' he said. ''It's just incredible what we have in Giannis.''
As for any advice Yelich may have for Antetokounmpo if he wins: ''I don't think he needs any advice from me,'' he said. ''He's a great kid. He carries himself really well. Just from the times I've gotten to interact with him, he seems great. He seems like he's going to handle it very well.''
Washington Wizards guard John Wall tore his Achilles in February and is expected to miss the entire 2019-2020 season. While the timetable for Achilles rehab could theoretically put Wall on track to return near the end of next season, the Wizards plan to be cautious with their point guard. Wall should be off the fantasy re-draft radar at this point. Expect to see Bradley Beal and Ish Smith play most of Washington's guard minutes, with Smith in particular in line for an increase in production as the team's starting point guard.
The Los Angeles Lakers have claimed forward Kostas Antetokounmpo off waivers from the Mavericks. Antetokounmpo is on a two-way contract, which will restrict how long he's able to be on the Lakers main roster this season, and it's highly unlikely that the team will give him minutes even when he's available, because the Lakers are in win-now mode with LeBron James and Anthony Davis and don't have time to develop Antetokounmpo. Many seem to think the claiming was done to show Antetokounmpo's brother, reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, that he should come to Los Angeles when he hits free agency in a couple of years. This move doesn't move the fantasy needle for the 2019-2020 season, though it definitely could have some long term implications.
Free agent guard Justin Holiday has signed a one-year deal with the Indiana Pacers, where he joins his brother Aaron. Last year, Holiday split time between Chicago and Memphis, playing in 82 games with 77 starts and putting up averages of 10.5 points and 3.9 rebounds on 38.6 percent shooting. Indiana's a better team and because of that won't afford Holiday with the same amount of minutes, but he gives the Pacers a bench option who can hit a ton of threes. There's late round fantasy value here, but not as much as there was for Holiday last season.
Another NBA player appears to be returning to international play, as power forward Dragan Bender has reportedly agreed to a multi-year deal with CSKA Moscow. Bender, whose team option was declined by the Suns and was a free agent, found the NBA free agency landscape to be a tough place for him and despite interest from the Cleveland Cavaliers, it appears Bender's NBA days are over for now. He averaged just five points and four rebounds in 46 games for the Suns last year, including 27 starts. There's enough promise to hold onto him in deeper dynasty leagues, but he's now a non-factor in redraft.
Last season, Detroit Pistons power forward Blake Griffin dealt with a knee injury that limited his availability at the end of the season and the beginning of the playoffs, which led Griffin to have knee surgery in the offseason. The surgery wasn't expected to keep Griffin out of any offseason activities, and Tuesday's announcement that he's resumed light basketball activities keeps Griffin on track to be a full go for the 2019-2020 season. Knee injuries are definitely something to be concerned over, but as long as Griffin is able to take the court when the season opens, his usage on this Pistons team will make him a strong fantasy basketball option next season. There's injury risk, but Griffin's upside is undeniable.
Memphis Grizzlies rookie forward Brandon Clarke was named the MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League. In six games, Clarke averaged 14.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest, showing that he can be a valuable piece of the Grizzlies' rotation this upcoming season. The Grizzlies are a young and rebuilding team, and Clarke is bound to get plenty of minutes in the team's front court this season. He's going to be a valuable fantasy contributor thanks to his ability to score efficiently and rebound well.
The Brooklyn Nets have signed power forward Henry Ellenson to a two-way contract. Ellenson's first three NBA seasons -- split between the Pistons and Knicks -- have largely been disappointments, and he finished last season with an average of six points and 3.5 rebounds per game in just 19 appearances. A two-way deal will limit how much time Ellenson is able to spend on an NBA roster, which means most of his season will be spent with Brooklyn's G-League affiliate in Long Island. Any value Ellenson may have had if he'd signed an actual NBA contract has evaporated with this move.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have waived veteran guard J.R. Smith, clearing the way for Smith to join a contending team. Smith averaged 6.7 points and shot just 30.8 percent from the field last season, but played in just 11 games for Cleveland. A healthy Smith could be a decent bench piece for a playoff team, but he's unlikely to find a role where he'll be more than a team's fourth or fifth guard. That means Smith's fantasy stock is likely to vary wildly on a game-to-game basis, making him someone not worth rostering in most league formats. The only exception would be if Smith doesn't sign with a contender and prioritizes signing somewhere where he'll receive minutes, though it's unclear if a team like that exists.
The Houston Rockets have signed veteran center Tyson Chandler, who played 55 games last season for the Suns and Lakers. Chandler averaged just 3.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, and he'll likely be mired in the back of the Houston rotation this year, seeing 10-15 minutes per game on what could be an irregular basis. This signing doesn't matter for fantasy purposes unless Houston's starting center Clint Capela misses time, in which case Chandler may have a little value in deep leagues.
The Houston Rockets have traded point guard Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Russell Westbrook. It's hard to know what to make of the deal for Paul, because so much remains up in the air. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Thunder are still looking to move Paul after the deal, so there's a very good chance he never plays a game in a Thunder uniform. If he does, he'll likely see a larger usage rate than he has in previous seasons and receive a boost in his statistical output, but the looming threat of another trade leads us to grade this move as an incomplete.
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets have completed a deal that sends point guard Russell Westbrook to Houston, pairing him once again with former teammate James Harden. With Paul George no longer in Oklahoma City, Westbrook was set to have a huge season statistically, but he'll go back to playing a role similar to the one he played last year, when he saw a drop in shot attempts and averaged 22.9 points per game, down almost 10 points from his pre-George numbers. Westbrook will also see a reduction in assists playing beside another ball-dominant player, and it would be a surprise to see him lead the league in that category for the third straight year. Overall, Westbrook's value takes a slight hit, though he'll still probably go at the end of the first in fantasy drafts.
Chicago Bulls rookie point guard Coby White is expected to take a backseat to some of the team's other options this upcoming season. Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said that White's got a lot of learning to do and that the speed of the game could be an issue for White, while head coach Jim Boylen has already said Kris Dunn is the team's starting point guard. With Tomas Satoransky in the picture too, it doesn't look like White's going to be fantasy relevant in the early stages of his rookie campaign.
Restricted free agent forward Kelly Oubre Jr. has signed a two-year deal to remain with the Phoenix Suns. Oubre is a solid player who's likely to end up starting at the three for the Suns, and he has solid fantasy upside as a guy who can give Phoenix something close to 15 points and five rebounds per game. Last season was also Oubre's most efficient year as an NBA shooter, and he can be a good fantasy pick in the later rounds of fantasy drafts because of his ability to do a lot of things on the basketball court, even if he isn't going to excel at any one thing.
Shooting guard Avery Bradley is expected to sign a two-year, $9.7 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers upon his clearing of waivers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The Grizzlies waived Bradley earlier in the summer, paving the way for the former NBA All-Defensive First Team selection to join a revamped Lakers roster. The second year of Bradley's contract is reported to have a player option, as he'll join Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on the wing in 2019-20. After showcasing his offensive game (16.1 points per contest) over 14 games with Memphis to conclude last season, he may revert to his traditional role of defensive stopper with Los Angeles, which could stunt his upward fantasy trajectory.
The Lakers have signed free agent center DeMarcus Cousins to a one-year, $3.5 million deal. The 28-year-old, who played just 30 regular season games with the Warriors in 2019 after recovering from an Achilles injury the year prior, averaged only 16.3 points and 8.2 boards per contest while playing a career-low 25.7 minutes. He will be reunited with former Pelicans teammates Anthony Davis and Rajon Rondo in his new home in Los Angeles and will look to remain healthy in hopes of getting paid next Summer.
Free-agent shooting guard/small forward Danny Green (Raptors) plans to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, sources said late on Friday. He was also being pursued by the Dallas Mavericks. The deal is reportedly for two years and $30 million. It isn't quite the member of the Toronto Raptors championship squad that they were looking for, as Kawhi Leonard instead decided to join the Los Angeles Clippers. But Green isn't a bad addition, as he'll help the Lakers perimeter shooting. He might get a chance to join the starting five, and should be a decent middle- to late-round fantasy option in most leagues for his 3-pointers.
The Los Angeles Clippers have agreed to a four-year, $142 million deal with forward Kawhi Leonard on Saturday. Leonard, who averaged a career-high 26.6 points per game while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field while with the Raptors last season, will undoubtedly be a top-five selection in upcoming fantasy drafts, despite being paired with newly acquired forward Paul George and missing a few games due to load management purposes.
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (knee) suffered a knee-to-knee hit in the first half of Friday's Summer League debut against former college teammate R.J. Barrett and the New York Knicks. The injury was to his left knee and he was unable to return. The injury is not expected to be serious, the team is likely taking a cautious approach with the No. 1 overall pick. It was a crazy game at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, as the game was eventually suspended in the second half due to a 7.1 earthquake centered near Ridgecrest, Calif., causing the giant speakers and scoreboard to sway.
Forward Paul George is being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Clippers in exchange for forward Danilo Gallinari, guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and four unprotected first-round draft picks. George, who will now join forward Kawhi Leonard in Los Angeles, had the most productive season of his career in 2019, finishing the year by averaging 28 points and 8.2 rebounds while shooting nearly 39 percent from deep. He will likely see a slight reduction in production with Leonard in the mix, but he could easily find himself in the MVP conversation once again this season and should be considered a first-round pick in upcoming fantasy drafts.
The Phoenix Suns have just been swindled out of one of their better young assets in De'Anthony Melton for the sole reason of dumping Josh Jackson. Jackson, the former fourth overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft has had troubles, on and off the court, and now finds himself in a new home with an abundance of young talent and competence. This is an opportunity to rehab his game and image if legal troubles do not interfere. In this deal, the Grizzlies sent over veteran shooting guard Kyle Korver and defensive-minded point guard Jevon Carter and received two second-round picks (one conditional). Korver's partially guaranteed deal is reportedly getting bought out, and he will receive interest from the Lakers, Sixers, and Bucks.