The playoffs are getting closer and closer with each passing game, but what if you have no skin in this postseason? For those of you that are already looking forward to the typically wild free agency period in July, Basketball Insiders has been taking a look at the players that could potentially move this summer. Now more than halfway through the series, up next are the pending power forwards — a group of talented players that could shape the NBA landscape with a single signing.
First off, should the Los Angeles Clippers be worried about Blake Griffin? Will the Atlanta Hawks fork over the cash to keep Paul Millsap? If a team is strapped for cap space, what low-cost, high-impact free agents exist at this position? Separated into ranked tiers, here’s how the power forward dominos could fall in free agency.
Tier 1: Top Shelf Starters
1. Blake Griffin — Early Termination
For a player that once looked well on his way to becoming the next darling of the league, there’s been little hubbub about his potential unrestricted free agency this summer. Griffin (along with point guard Chris Paul) has the ability to terminate the final year of his contract, and the former All-Star would have plenty of suitors. While the last few seasons haven’t gone swimmingly for the high-flyer, Griffin is still just 28 years old and sports a nice average of 21.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
Griffin is a five-time All-Star and a great fit next to DeAndre Jordan, the rebounding machine he helped re-sign to a hefty deal back in 2015, but the Clippers have never made it past the second round with this core. In recent years, Griffin has attempted to expand his range and has made a career-high in three-pointers with 26 in 2016-17, making them at a 32.9 percent clip.
Ultimately, if Griffin ends his deal early, he’ll likely just re-sign with the Clippers again. Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler was told as much around the trade deadline. But with Paul potentially hitting UFA with sharpshooter J.J. Redick as well, there are plenty of decisions to be made this summer in Los Angeles.
2. Paul Millsap — Player Option
If Griffin truly is off the market, that would make Paul Millsap the crown jewel of potential power forward free agents. Millsap has a Player Option worth $21.4 million heading into the final year of his contract, but with the Atlanta Hawks trending backward without Al Horford, could he look to greener pastures? Reports have indicated he might. Of course, Millsap was a hot topic around trade deadline season following Kyle Korver’s move to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the Hawks stood firm on their power forward.
If he opts out, the Hawks will certainly look to retain the talents of Millsap alongside the lengthy deals of Dennis Schröder, Kent Bazemore and Dwight Howard. Millsap is a defensively stout power forward that contributes in all major statistical categories, averaging 3.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 1 block and 1 three-pointer per game this season. At 32, this may be Millsap’s final opportunity to lock down a major deal with a contender, so if he reaches unrestricted free agency, the do-it-all big man will be a much-desired commodity in July.
Tier 2: Serviceable Starters
3. Serge Ibaka — Unrestricted Free Agent
Now, here’s where things get interesting.
Serge Ibaka was set to become one of the trade deadline’s most sought-after players, but after the shot-blocking power forward wouldn’t commit long term to any of his suitors, the market cooled considerably. At 27, Ibaka would still be a major addition to any franchise this summer as the first truly unattached player on this list.
Although his blocks per game averages have been trending down since his unreal mark of 3.7 in 2011-12, Ibaka is still one of the league’s premier rim protectors. He’s still trying to find his way in a post-Thunder world without Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to set him up with easy looks, but his numbers over the past year with Oklahoma City, Orlando and Toronto look nearly identical.
Ibaka relies on his athleticism to impact basketball games, but you can likely count on him to contribute about 14 points, 6 rebounds and a block per game for the next couple seasons. For teams out there looking to capitalize on a shrinking window like the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls, adding a defensive game-changer like Ibaka could be interesting.
4. Taj Gibson — Unrestricted Free Agent
By all accounts, Taj Gibson has been a consistent contributor since the Bulls drafted him in 2009. He doesn’t fit the prototypical mold of the new age deep-shooting big man, but Gibson’s skill set would be a helpful addition to most teams. Before he was traded to the Thunder at the deadline, he was averaging 11.6 points, 7 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game, a line more or less near his averages since 2013-14.
As a post player, he’s about as old-school as they come: hard-nosed and gritty with a soft touch around the hoop, but he was never more than a supporting piece in Chicago. After Carlos Boozer moved on from the franchise in 2014, Gibson was the natural replacement but the Bulls opted to bring in Pau Gasol for a one-year trial. Alongside Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler, Gibson was always a contributor, but he never quite made the next big jump. Ironically, he may be the perfect lower-cost answer to losing Ibaka for the Thunder. For contending teams in need of some steady defense and scoring — Gibson was the runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year in 2013-14 — the former Trojan makes sense.
5. Dirk Nowitzki — Team Option
After reaching the 30,000 point plateau with the Dallas Mavericks, the chances of these two sides splitting at this point are next to nothing. Much like Tim Duncan’s tenure with the San Antonio Spurs, Nowitzki has little reason to ring chase and leave the organization after 19 years. It’s possible that Nowitzki could provide the Mavericks with a more team-friendly deal should the franchise find a max-worthy player to chase, although he’d been giving Dallas a hometown discount for many years before this last $25 million contract.
Injuries have slowed down the smooth shooting German as of late and, as a result, Nowitzki is averaging just 14.5 points per game this season, his lowest mark since his rookie year in 1998-99. Either way, an NBA landscape without Nowitzki on the Mavericks is nearly implausible, so don’t expect the best European player of all-time to swap jerseys at this point in his first ballot Hall of Fame career.
Tier 3: Quality Reserves
6. Zach Randolph — Unrestricted Free Agent
It’s hard to believe that Zach Randolph has already been with Memphis Grizzlies for eight seasons, cast away by both the Knicks and Clippers way back in 2008-09. Since then, he’s helped lead the Grizzlies to their best finishes in franchise history alongside Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. However, now that he’s made the ever-graceful transition to sixth man, could Randolph explore new possibilities this summer?
He’ll be 36 years old by the time the next NBA season rolls around, so this veteran won’t likely require a large chunk of a team’s cap space. Unfortunately, this Grizzlies team has only reached the Conference Finals once and that was back in 2012-13. With an excellent career beginning to wind down, Randolph could prefer to join a team that’s better suited for a deep playoff run.
This season, Randolph has averaged 14 points and 8.2 rebounds off the bench and is well in the running for Sixth Man of the Year.
7. Ersan Ilyasova — Unrestricted Free Agent
Ersan Ilyasova’s surprisingly strong season with the Philadelphia 76ers may just parlay itself into a pretty good payday this summer. The Turkish 29-year-old has never lit the NBA on fire, but over his nine-year career, Ilyasova has carved out quite the niche for himself. He’ll never anchor a defense and he’s as streaky a shooter as they come, but as a consistent scorer, Ilyasova gets it done.
This season alone, Ilyasova is averaging 13.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game and has scored 20 points or more on 13 different occasions— topped off by a spectacular 31-point, 11-rebound effort against the Bulls in late January. Ilyasova is in the final year of an $8.4 million deal that he signed back in 2012. Since then, he’s played for the Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers and now the Atlanta Hawks — so wherever he lands this summer, he’ll hope to stick around a bit longer this time.
8. Amir Johnson — Unrestricted Free Agent
Amir Johnson has never been the type of player to stuff the stat sheet and, in fact, he’s only ever averaged more than 10 points per game twice in his long career dating back to 2005. As one of the few remaining players that made the jump right from high school to the NBA, Johnson has been a consistently healthy, productive member of playoff-bound basketball teams. You’ll hardly hear his name in a conversation about this great Boston Celtics team, but Johnson has started for them in 67 games next to Al Horford, two steady defensive forces on a roster full of them.
He’s a career 57.3 percent shooter from the floor and has blocked 0.95 shots per game over his two years with Boston. Even better, his injury history is stellar and, by season’s end, Johnson will have started in 70 or more games for the fourth straight year. Johnson won’t revolutionize a franchise this summer, but he’ll be a cheap, flexible and healthy piece that many championship-ready teams will look to recruit.
9. Patrick Patterson — Unrestricted Free Agent
Patrick Patterson’s name doesn’t pop out on the box score very often, but he’s become a fan-favorite in Toronto thanks to his timely three-point shooting. After bouncing around with the Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings, Patterson has found a home with the Raptors and is now a key cog in head coach Dwane Casey’s rotation.
Patterson nearly has more games with two or more three-pointers (25) than not (29) this season and is the perfect second unit big man for the Raptors. Although his minutes have dropped since the arrival of Tucker and Ibaka, Patterson helps complete one of the league’s deepest rosters.
The Raptors will have bigger fish to fry with Kyle Lowry’s early termination clause and Ibaka’s impending free agency in play, but they’d be remiss to forget about the team’s third-best three-point shooter.
10. James Johnson — Unrestricted Free Agent
James Johnson has been hanging around since 2009, but it seems like this year has finally brought his permanent arrival. From being the HEAT’s do-it-all glue guy to getting named on Zach Lowe of ESPN’s 2017 Luke Walton All-Stars, this has truly been his moment of glory. With Justise Winslow shelved since January, Johnson has helped fill the void on one of the NBA’s hottest teams. There’s no telling what kind of market will be out there for a 30-year-old journeyman finally making his big jump in the NBA, but he’ll have plenty of options soon enough.
11. JaMychal Green — Restricted Free Agent
JaMychal Green is the man that unseated the aforementioned Randolph as the Grizzlies’ starting power forward and there’s a good reason for that. Surrounded by plenty of firepower, Green often sticks with what he knows best, averaging 9.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, both career-highs, and shooting 54.6 percent from the floor.
The Grizzlies’ Grind-and-Grind mantra makes them a must-watch during the postseason and this year it’s in part thanks to Green. Even head coach David Fizdale has bought into the hype, suggesting that Green has what it takes to be a future first team all-defender.
Green is one of the few restricted free agents on the list, but one must wonder what Memphis will be willing to match after giving out huge contracts to Conley and Gasol in back-to-back summers.
12. Nikola Mirotic — Restricted Free Agent
Nikola Mirotic is another interesting power forward set to hit the restricted free agent market, but a split between the sharpshooter and the Bulls could reasonably come to fruition here. After a solid 2015-16 campaign saw Mirotic improve nominally on his numbers — 11.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2 three-pointers per game — he’s bounced around head coach Fred Hoiberg’s rotation all season.
The former Spanish League MVP is one of best shooters on one of the NBA’s worst shooting franchises — Chicago ranks dead last in three-pointers made per game at 7.2 — so the Bulls could do much worse by looking for a replacement. This one may boil down to whether or not Hoiberg survives the hot seat again in the Windy City.
13. Terrence Jones — Unrestricted Free Agent
Terrence Jones might rank higher on this list if it were not for the strange inaction by many franchises when he hit the waiver wire last month. Jones was averaging 11.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game with the New Orleans Pelicans, and, at the age of 25, has loads of basketball ahead of him.
And yet, nobody touched Jones, not even the talent-hungry Brooklyn Nets or Philadelphia 76ers. After he cleared waivers, the Bucks eventually signed him for the remainder of the season on March 2, but he’s played just two minutes in one game. If he doesn’t end up cracking the Bucks’ playoff rotation, he’ll hope that his solid work in New Orleans will net him a fresh start and a new contract.
14. Richaun Holmes — Non-Guaranteed
Richaun Holmes was an infrequently used forward toiling away behind the 76ers’ massive frontcourt logjam for much of the season. But with Nerlens Noel in Dallas, Joel Embiid in the trainer’s room and head coach Brett Brown in full-on evaluation mode, Holmes’ minutes have greatly increased following the All-Star Break.
The early returns have been fantastic as the hard-working Holmes will have likely saved himself and his non-guaranteed contract for another season. He won’t beat out Embiid as the future starter, no, but after watching him drop 24 points and 14 rebounds on the Orlando Magic this week, the rest of the league should take notice.
Tier 4: The rest
The power forward scraps range from journeyman to old-school veterans looking for one more playoff run. Some notable names include David West (UFA) and David Lee (PO), two former San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors rotation pieces near the end of their careers. Nick Collison, who has only played in 15 games with the Thunder this season, will also be an unrestricted free agent — but he’s been with Seattle/Oklahoma City since 2004.
Elsewhere, there should be interest in Jared Sullinger after he was waived following the Raptors’ deadline deals for Tucker and Ibaka — but, surprisingly, he hasn’t drawn much attention thus far. Josh McRoberts’ stint as a Miami HEAT player has been underwhelming thanks to injury, but he’s a great passer for his size and could latch onto a playoff bound roster if he waives his option.
And, last but not least, Derrick Williams, the former No. 2 overall pick will rejoin the free market after a couple of solid seasons with the Knicks, HEAT and now the Cavaliers. After bouncing around the league since he was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2011, he’ll hope to parlay a strong run with the defending champs into another guaranteed contract.
Non-Guaranteed: Anthony Tolliver, Sacramento Kings; Quincy Acy, Brooklyn Nets; Kevin Seraphin, Indiana Pacers; Tarik Black, Los Angeles Lakers; Ryan Kelly, Atlanta Hawks; Johnny O’Bryant, Charlotte Hornets; Jordan Mickey, Boston Celtics; Maurice Ndour, New York Knicks
Unrestricted Free Agents: Brandon Bass, Los Angeles Clippers; Mike Muscala, Atlanta Hawks; Kris Humphries, Atlanta Hawks; Thomas Robinson, Los Angeles Lakers; Udonis Haslem, Miami HEAT
Restricted Free Agents: Joffrey Lauvergne, Chicago Bulls; James McAdoo, Golden State Warriors
Team Option: Lavoy Allen, Indiana Pacers
NBA Daily: The HEAT Are Building Character By Necessity
With so many player games lost to injury, the Miami HEAT have had to look within themselves to keep a good season going.
The injury situation for the Miami HEAT has gone from bad to worse with point guard Goran Dragic missing the last two games after suffering a bruised knee against the Milwaukee Bucks. The HEAT were able to gut out a 106-105 win in Charlotte Saturday before falling 99-90 to the Rockets in Houston Monday.
HEAT coach Erik Spoelstra said after the win over the Hornets that the test of going deep into the roster to find contributors with so many players out has forced his team to grow.
“We’ve had so many guys in an out, [a] revolving door of injuries,” said Spoelstra. “We’ve been through a tough stretch. But you use these opportunities to test yourself, measure yourself and see if you can develop some competitive character collectively when the chips are down.”
In addition to missing Dragic, the HEAT lost Dion Waiters for the season, likely won’t have Rodney McGruder back until February and are awaiting the return of starting shooting guard Tyler Johnson, who suffered an ankle injury that thankfully wasn’t as bad as it looked initially. Miami is on pace to lose the most games to injury in the NBA for the second season in a row. Spoelstra talked about the role of luck in Charlotte.
“You have to make shots and you have to be lucky,” said Spoelstra. “This league is tough. You need all of it sometimes. You need a great connection, you need good karma, you need to play to your identity and then you need the right breaks.”
One thing that has broken in the HEAT’s favor is the play of shooting guard Wayne Ellington, whom the team has needed more than ever with Waiters and Johnson out. Spoelstra preferred to use Ellington off the bench, but moved him into the starting lineup against the Hornets by necessity. Fortunately, Spoelstra said he never had to worry about Ellington handling whatever is asked.
“Wayne is the true embodiment of pro,” said Spoelstra. “He’s reliable, always early, he’s got a great work ethic, he exudes an incredible positive energy always, whether the game is going well for him or not, whether he’s playing or not.
“I just love the guy. If I would have told him hey, we’re not going to start you and I’m not going to put you in until the middle of the second quarter, he would have looked at me and said, okay, whatever it takes to win.”
While Ellington has slid seemlessly into the starting shooting guard role, covering for Dragic hasn’t been as easy. Against the Hornets, power forward James Johnson and small forward Josh Richardson alternated bringing the ball up and initiating the offense.
Further down the roster, Kelly Olynyk has provided some much-needed offense, but Justise Winslow, whom Johnson singled out as a player that could step up in the absense of others, has continued to struggle. Winslow, who missed 15 games earlier in the season due to a strained knee, shot just 1-for-4 against the Hornets and was frequently matched up against Nicolas Batum, who had a game-high 26 points.
Told that Winslow threw his shooting shirt and towel into the air in frustration after exiting the game late in the fourth quarter, Spoelstra was coy.
“He was probably throwing his jersey to a fan,” said Spoelstra. “He’s just getting back into the mix. He’s fine. He’s a competitor and he wants to be out there and fill in the gaps.”
Despite finishing a five-game road trip, including a stretch of five games in six nights, with a 2-3 record, the HEAT survived to remain the fourth seed in the East with the eighth-best record in the NBA. Only the Cavaliers, Celtics and Raptors in the East and Warriors, Rockets, Timberwolves and Spurs in the West currently have a better record than Miami. As such, Spoelstra was able to look at the positives after the team finished the road trip with a loss in Houston.
“There’s a lot of good things going on,” said Spoelstra. “Our locker room knows that. We’ve got to get back, get some rest and maybe we’ll get some guys back. If not, get ready for another battle on Thursday night.”
Missing so many bodies, the HEAT have had to rely on the team’s depth and character to excel despite adversity. If Miami can have a little bit of the luck and good karma Spoelstra spoke of, the team will be well-positioned for the stretch run of what has already been a suprisingly-good season.
NBA Trade Watch: Point Guards
David Yapkowitz looks at five point guards who could be involved in trade deadline activity.
We’ve got a new series dropping this week here at Basketball Insiders. With the trade deadline about two weeks away on Feb. 8, we’re taking a look at some of the players, position by position, most likely to be traded. For our first installment of this series, we’ll identify the point guards who might find themselves moved as the deadline draws near. There are a few point guards that could definitely help some playoff teams in the stretch run that could be dealt. Here’s a look at them.
1. Kemba Walker – $12,000,000
Kemba Walker has played his whole career in Charlotte. For the past few years, he’s been one of the point guards in the league. He’s got career averages of 18.7 points per game and 5.4 assists. This season he’s putting up 21.7 points and 5.8 assists. In many ways, he’s the engine that makes the Hornets go. He’s been their franchise player since arriving in Charlotte.
The Hornets just haven’t been that good of a team. Since their inception as the expansion Bobcats in 2004, they’ve made the playoffs three times in the 14 years they’ve been around. Last week, reports surfaced that the Hornets were open to trading Walker. Compared to the contracts given out since the increase in the NBA’s salary cap, Walker’s contract is a steal. He’s an All-Star level player who can certainly push a team that much closer to the promised land. For any team on the verge of playoff success, it’s a good idea to kick the tires on what it would take to land Walker.
2. George Hill – $20,000,000
When the Sacramento Kings landed George Hill in the offseason, it was considered quite a success. He was one of the most coveted free agent point guards on the market. It was assumed that he’d come in and start right away while being a mentor to De’Aaron Fox. However, the futility of Sacramento’s season seems to have got to him a bit as he voiced his frustrations earlier this month.
Despite that, he’s still having a relatively productive season. His scoring is down a bit from recent seasons at 10.5 points per game, but he’s shooting well. He’s at 46.1 percent from the field, and 45.2 percent from three-point range. His contract is rather large, perhaps making him a little more difficult to move, but for one of the better two-way point guards in the league, he’ll probably have a few suitors. Recent reports have mentioned the Cleveland Cavaliers as being interested, where he could either come off the bench or slide over into the starting shooting guard spot. In any case, he’d bring them a much-needed defensive presence.
3. Emmanuel Mudiay – $3,381,480
When he first came into the league in 2015, Mudiay looked like one of the Denver Nugget’s brightest young stars. He played in 68 games, starting 66 of them, and 12.8 points per game, 5.5 assists, 3.4 rebounds. Since then, however, he’s struggled a bit and at this point, he’s lost his spot in the rotation to Jamal Murray.
This month alone, he’s played in only four of the Nuggets ten games. His name’s been mentioned often in trade rumors, and perhaps this is deadline where he finally gets moved. It’s still only his third year in the league and he’s only 21 years old. It’s not farfetched at all to think that he’s got his best years ahead of him. Like many players before him, all he may need is a fresh start and someone to give him a chance. For any team looking to take a flyer on a player that is a high-reward, low-risk kind of guy, Mudiay is a name worth inquiring about.
4. Devin Harris – $4,402,546
Devin Harris isn’t a name that’s appeared in trade chatter such as the other guys on this list, but he’s a guy that’s worth inquiring about. With the situation in Dallas very apparent in regards to the direction of the team, Harris is kind of an odd man out. Dennis Smith Jr. is clearly the future at point guard for the Mavericks. They also have a younger, cheaper option as a backup with Yogi Ferrell. He’s actually been a part of the rotation, but if the Mavericks get decent offers for him, they should strongly consider moving him.
For a guy who’s been around the league for 14 years now, he’s having a pretty decent season; 8.4 points per game off the bench is solid. He’s also shooting 35.1 percent from the three-point line. He’s not going to be the double-digit scorer he once was, but he can still help a team. He’s on the last year of his contract, too, so if a team trades for him and it doesn’t work out, they can cut their losses at the end of the season. For any team looking for a veteran backup to help them in the playoffs, Harris is a player they should give the Mavericks a call about.
5. J.J. Barea – $3,903,900
Harris’ teammate in Dallas, J.J. Barea is only a year younger and shouldn’t figure into the Mavericks’ future plans either. As an undrafted player out of Northeastern in 2006, Barea has enjoyed a successful NBA career, one that saw him win a ring with the Mavericks in 2011. At age 33, he remains a solid veteran backup, one that could play a big role on a playoff contender.
For someone on the backend of his NBA career, Barea has actually turned in career seasons the past few years including this one. He’s putting up 11.8 points per game this year, the most since leaving initially leaving Dallas for Minnesota in 2011. He’s dishing out 6.0 assists and pulling down 3.1 rebounds, both career-highs, while shooting 37.5 percent from the three-point line. He’s played in all but one of Dallas’ 45 games at 23.0 minutes per. He’s got one more year on his contract after this one, and even then it’s a relative bargain. His name hasn’t come up either in trade rumors, but like his teammate Harris, he’s definitely worth calling about for a playoff team needed veteran point guard help.
Sometimes trade rumors are just that — rumors. It’s common for many of the deals rumored and leaked to fall through and never materialize once the deadline hits. But every so often, some big deals do happen. Most of the guys on this list are not “big names” so to speak, but they are certainly capable of contributing to a playoff team for the stretch run. Be sure to check us out tomorrow as our series continues with the shooting guards most likely to be traded. And make sure to follow us at Basketball Insiders for all your latest trade news and rumors as we get closer to the deadline.
NBA Daily: Things Are Getting Interesting On The NBA Trade Front
Some big names have hit the rumor mill, that’s typically the fuel that starts the Trade Deadline fire.
Things Are Getting Interesting
With the February 8 NBA Trade Deadline getting closer, some bigger name NBA players have started to surface, which tends to fuel the fire of trade rumors. While league sources think its unlikely any of the named guys get moved, there are some things to know about each situation.
Jordan Talks Kemba Walker
In an exclusive interview with the Charlotte Observers’ Rick Bonnell, Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan tried to set the record straight on where his club was with star guard Kemba Walker.
“I’m not looking to trade Kemba, but I would listen to opportunities,” Jordan told Bonnell.
“There have been teams asking about players. Also, we’ve been asking about players. We ask teams who they like on our roster, and they always say Kemba.”
Jordan tried his best to defuse the notion that the Hornets were actively considering trade for Walker. The jist of his stance is that anything sort of a proven All-Star wouldn’t get much attention. However, there is a growing sense that if the Hornets could find a way to pry Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard out of San Antonio, they pull the trigger.
League sources that have engaged the Hornets on Walker scenarios said they believed the Hornets’ stance was more fact-finding and option gathering than anything serious; they also doubted that Charlotte would do anything with Walker based on their conversations.
The running narrative in NBA circles is that any deal involving Walker would also have to clear out a bloated contract while returning a fairly high-level draft pick.
The likely outcome of the Walker situation in Charlotte is the team will try to engage Walker on a contract extension this offseason, and if they can not reach a long-term deal, they would look to move him around the 2018 NBA Draft.
Walker becomes extension-eligible after this season. Involving him and his agent in the trade process could yield a lot more value to Charlotte if Walker ends up being traded somewhere he’d agree to an extension or a new deal. That is a factor in what teams are said to be willing to offer for him at the deadline.
Damian Lillard Wants Answers
According to Chris Haynes of ESPN, Portland star Damian Lillard requested to meet privately with Blazers owner Paul Allen, seeking some answers from ownership on the direction of the team.
In a meeting that took place without anyone in the organization’s knowledge, Lillard is said to have re-committed to remaining in Portland but wanted answers and assurances from ownership that becoming a title contender was the goal in the near term.
There had been growing concerns in Portland that Lillard, who has pledged loyalty to Portland at every turn, might be souring on the situation.
League sources said recently that Allen had taken a much more hands-on approach to many things around the Blazers, including having his top-level staffers gauge the league’s opinion on not only the job team president Neil Olshey was doing, but that of head coach Terry Stotts.
Olshey received a multi-year contract extension in late August of 2017 that is to carry him through the 2020-21 season. Stotts is also signed through the 2020 season.
The Blazers have run off a nice stretch of games, winning six of their last ten, but continue to linger in the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture.
With Lillard facing what could be another All-Star snub, there is a growing sense that Lillard and his camp are pushing for some aggressive changes to try and jump start what’s become a ho-hum team.
The Blazers have been one of the more aggressive suitors for Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan. However, the Clippers continue to say they haven’t been offered anything they’d consider doing.
Kawhi Leonard And The Spurs
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski’s dropped a doozy this week suggesting that the San Antonio Spurs and All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard are growing increasingly distant over his lingering hip injury.
The short version here is that the Spurs are growing frustrated with Leonard’s inability to get right, almost as much as Leonard is frustrated with not being able to get right.
League sources said their calls on Leonard were shut down before they started, so it’s not likely that San Antonio is ready to do anything drastic with Leonard.
Spurs GM RC Buford told ESPN that there was “no issue between the Spurs organization and Kawhi.” However, whenever there is talk of unrest in the NBA, it brings the sharks out.
The Charlotte Hornets are rumored to have tried to engage on a Leonard deal built around Kemba Walker, which is where many believe the Walker rumors started.
Evan Fournier Likely The Guy
The Orlando Magic have been around the proverbial block with most of their roster according to league sources. The story surrounding the Magic is that virtually anything on the roster could be had in trade and that the Magic really are not seeking a ton in return.
The overarching theme from other teams is that the Magic are looking to shed salary and get out of players that do not fit the direction team leadership wants to take the team. Equally, the Magic are not overly interested in additional draft picks, understanding too much youth can and likely would slow down progress.
The ideal package seems to be some combination of ending contracts and players on rookie scale deals that are a little further along.
No one in Orlando likes the term fire sale, mainly because the Magic don’t seem to have a ton of urgency in blowing the team up at the deadline.
The general belief from most is that if Orlando can’t find the kind of deals they are looking for, they’ll simply run out the clock on this season and seek a more aggressive rebuild around the draft and in July when teams can absorb contract money into cap space.
The name most teams seem to have eyes on is guard Evan Fournier. There is a belief that of all the players that could get moved Fournier is the most likely. The Magic have also seriously gauged the trade value of point guard Elfrid Payton in advance of his free agency in July.
The Cavs Got Issues
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cleveland Cavaliers had a contentious and brutally honest team meeting before Monday’s practice.
The jist of the report is that no one was spared in what was a brutal assessment of a team that lost seven of their last ten and now find themselves six games out of the top seed in the East.
A big source of frustration seems to be the perception from Cavs players that Kevin Love was not ill and they wanted answers on why he left the locker room early on Saturday. Guard Isaiah Thomas has been a huge source of frustration for a Cavs team that said all the right things about Thomas when he came back from injury but, are growing increasingly frustrated with his poor effort on defense.
The Cavaliers have been aggressive exploring trades trying to dump off veteran players they feel may have become too complacent in Cleveland.
Forward Tristan Thompson and guard Iman Shumpert have been regular names in NBA trade circles for most of the season, with some suggesting that guard J.R. Smith and Thomas could both be packed into a deal if it returned the right upgrade.
With Love in the crosshairs of his teammates, his name will likely start to come up as the Cavaliers try and find their way out of the mess they have become.
Bucks Ramping Up To Shake Things Up
The Milwaukee Bucks opted to shake things up yesterday firing head coach Jason Kidd. The news was somewhat surprising given Kidd’s relationship with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
According to Kidd, who spoke with ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Antetokounmpo was the one who told Kidd about the decision and offered to call ownership on his behalf. The Bucks have involved Antetokounmpo on almost everything, hoping to keep his buy-in on the team.
The Bucks are also ramping up efforts to trigger a significant trade, with eyes not only on Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan, but possibly Miami’s Hassan Whiteside.
The Bucks have been dangling big man John Henson and several of their rookie scale players under the guise of a willingness to take on unwanted salary.
League sources said the Bucks are weighing where they are with injured guard Jabari Parker, who continues to shuttle back and forth between the Bucks and their G-League team the Herd for practice time.
Parker is set to hit free agency in July, and there is a sense that he could get very expensive. It’s not out of the question that Parker becomes the jewel of a trade if it returns the right combination of proven players and future assets.
One thing is becoming very clear. The Bucks understand the urgency of proving they can compete and they want Antetokounmpo on board with the plan.
As the trade deadline approaches Basketball Insiders will start to drop position Trade Watch feature, starting with the point guard today and shooting guards tomorrow. If you want to know who could be had, make sure to swing by early and often all week as we map out who to watch at every position.
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