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NBA AM: Chandler Parsons Talks Free Agency, Memphis, Acting

Chandler Parsons on free agency, early impression of Memphis, recruiting for the Grizzlies, acting and more.

Alex Kennedy

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One of the moves that turned heads over the offseason was the Memphis Grizzlies’ addition of unrestricted free agent Chandler Parsons. Memphis signed the 28-year-old forward to a four-year, $94.8 million maximum deal in an effort to find another offensive weapon and someone who can stretch the floor since he shot 41.1 percent from three-point range last season.

Entering this season, Parsons had career averages of 14.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3 assists from his stints with the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks. With Memphis’ core returning and Parsons joining the mix, the Grizzlies hoped to once again make noise in the Western Conference. They have made the playoffs in six straight seasons, advancing as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2012-13.

However, injuries have limited the team a bit so far this season. Parsons has played in just six games thus far. Initially, he started the season on the sideline because was recovering from offseason surgery to correct a torn meniscus in his right knee. Then, once he made his return, he suffered a bone bruise in his left knee and has been out since (but he will be re-evaluated this week). In addition to Parsons’ injury, Mike Conley is out indefinitely as he recovers from a fracture in his vertebrae. Despite these setbacks, the resilient Grizzlies are still in the West’s sixth seed with an 11-8 record.

Basketball Insiders recently caught up with Parsons to discuss his decision to join the Grizzlies, what it’s like getting acclimated to a new NBA team, his first impression of Memphis and how good this team can be when they’re at full strength.

We also talked to Parsons about his involvement in a new television show called “The 5th Quarter” on go90. The show is a comedy – think of a spoof of the 30 for 30 documentaries – and it features many different professional athletes.

“We were excited to work with Chandler because off the court, he is seen as a pretty boy in the league – always doing the modeling shoots, at fashion week and so on,” Michael D. Ratner, who co-created the show while also directing eight episodes and serving as showrunner, told Basketball Insiders. “No one knows he’s actually got some comedy chops. But they will now. While basketball fans will recognize many familiar faces throughout the season of The 5th Quarter, this is a show that offers something to a much bigger audience. This will be a way sports can finally be enjoyed by everyone, as you don’t need to know what happens on the field or the court to appreciate Blake Griffin blocking a 7-year-old’s shot or Chandler Parsons giving commentary on Metta World Peace changing his name.”

Here is our one-on-one Q&A with Parsons:

Basketball Insiders: First of all, let’s talk about “The 5th Quarter” since that your episode with Metta World Peace just premiered. What drew you to this project and how did this all come together?

Chandler Parsons: “Basically my relationship with Michael [D. Ratner] is kind of how it all transpired. I’m very outgoing, very personable, and getting to know Michael and all the guys, I knew that it was going to be hilarious. I knew that it was going to be awesome. It’s got some really cool, interesting and funny people in on it. It was just right up my alley to do something like this and kind of show a side of my personality that you can’t exactly show in other things I’ve done. Michael does a great job giving me the platform to showcase that and do other things that I’m interested in off the court, which is stuff like this that’s going to be extremely funny.”

BI: You’re in a few different episodes; can you kind of give me a summary of what you do on the show?

Parsons: “Yeah, there’s a couple really funny ones. I did one with Metta World Peace, and obviously Metta World Peace is known as a tough guy in the NBA. In that one, I’m being told by this little kid [who is tormenting Metta] that I need to basically have an altercation with Metta World Peace. And there’s a hilarious one about ugly players in the NBA and I’m basically putting off this persona that I’m so handsome and better looking than everyone else that this really hideous [former] player really did nothing for me ‘cause I don’t know how to relate to how ugly this guy was or what it’s like being ugly. That was part of my favorite clip that we did. I have a little cameo in the Mark Cuban one too, and obviously my relationship with him makes that even funnier. It’s just a lot of cool ideas we were able put together and do with some cool people.”

BI: Is acting in general something you could see yourself doing more of down the road?

Parsons: “Yeah, for sure. Definitely if it’s something like this where I’m able to be myself and be funny and be comfortable with people like Michael. I think that’s definitely something I would pursue after [my basketball career] and even now while I’m still playing to kind of set that foundation to be able to get involved in things like this. The more stuff I do like this, the more comfortable I’ll be and, I think, the better it will go.”

BI: How cool is it to have basketball open all these doors for you? You have this, you’ve had modeling gigs – so many different avenues that have kind of been opened because of basketball. How exciting is that?

Parsons: “It’s awesome. Obviously, I understand that basketball comes first and without me being successful on the court, all these opportunities wouldn’t be coming and I wouldn’t have nearly the success that I do off the court [or] the opportunity to do all this cool stuff. So it’s crazy what the game can bring you and what it’s brought me and the relationships that I’ve made throughout the years, all the cool people I’ve gotten to meet and work with. Obviously that wouldn’t have happened without basketball, so I’m very grateful and just continue to work extremely hard and just keep trying to take advantage of every little opportunity.”

BI: Focusing on on-court stuff, what’s been your early impression of Memphis and the organization?

Parsons: “It’s been very fun. It’s definitely a culture shock to me, moving to Memphis, Tennessee. I live in L.A. in the offseason and I’m from Orlando, but as far as the city, I’m loving it. I love the culture there, I love the people there and the fans are unbelievable. The real reason why I went there was the current players that they have on their team, guys like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, Z-Bo, Tony Allen. See, they’re all guys that have had so much success, and I felt like plugging me into that lineup, being able to play with those guys as kind of the piece they’ve been missing [would be great]. And with the new coaching staff with [David] Fizdale and J.B. Bickerstaff, those are two guys I’ve had previous relationships with and I just hit it off with them. Those are guys that I’ve trusted, and I think we’re going to have special seasons as soon as we get fully healthy. We’ve got a lot of guys banged up right now, but I think we’re going to be a tough team to beat come playoff time.”

BI: Memphis is always one of those teams that no one wants to face, but do you guys feel you’re being underrated a bit? It seems like when people talk about contenders in the West, everyone just talks about the Warriors, Spurs and Clippers. Do you guys feel like maybe you’re being underrated a bit just because you haven’t gotten to full strength yet?

Parsons: “Maybe a little bit, but there are just so many good teams in the West. You got to look at the Warriors, who obviously got better adding KD. The Spurs are very good. A team like Portland with a guy like Damian Lillard, who is playing out of his mind. Russ [Westbrook] is playing out of his mind in OKC. There are such good teams that, yeah, maybe teams aren’t talking about us as much right now and we didn’t get off to the hottest start. The Clippers [started] 10-1. There’s just so many good teams out there right now that are playing well. I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface. Like I said, health is our biggest issue. We have an unbelievable team and an unbelievably experienced coaching staff and, if we’re healthy, it’s going to be hard for a team to beat us four times in a playoff series.”

BI: You’ve gotten acclimated to a few different cities now: Houston, Dallas and Memphis. What’s the key to getting acclimated to a team and a city? What’s that process like?

Parsons: “It’s different; it’s kind of like moving schools when you’re a kid. You’re the new kid in school, you’ve got to adjust. First off, you have to find a place to live. You have to move all your stuff to the new city. You have to develop all these new relationships with people that you’re going to work with that you really don’t know. You’ve got to start developing that chemistry on the court with your teammates and your coaching staff. It’s different, it’s a huge challenge. I’ve obviously gone through it once before with the move from Houston to Dallas, and it’s always exciting – change is always a good thing. But the guys here in Memphis have made the adjustment much easier. These are great guys, unselfish guys, who truly just care about winning. They understand that when I’m healthy, I’m going to help them win a lot of games. So I think it’s just a mutual respect, the relationship that we have. It’s a great working relationship.”

BI: You’ve gained the reputation as one of the best recruiters in the NBA. You’re very good at connecting with guys and pitching them. I think your charisma and ability to be friends with guys obviously helps a lot. Do you want to continue to be a free-agent recruiter in Memphis?

Parsons: “Yeah, for sure. I think how we play on the court speaks volumes, and I think that shows players and future free agents what it would be like to play here. Obviously me having a relationship with guys that are going be up, being able to talk to them and kind of convincing them to come to play with me is something that I’m very good at, something I’m comfortable doing. But I think the more success that we have on the court, the more guys will watch us and see how much fun we have. The deeper the run we make, [the better]. That’s where you really start getting respect and players considering coming.”

BI: The continuity in Memphis is pretty amazing. You don’t usually see a team’s core stay together for this long. When you see the continuity and the chemistry, how huge is that for a team to have so many guys that have been together so many years?

Parsons: “Yeah, it’s awesome. Like I said, these guys have been together for a long time, so it’s different in the beginning kind of being the odd man out and getting used to it. But they’ve made me feel extremely comfortable from day one. Even coming off of injury, coming off of surgery, I’ve played against these guys now for five years and they know what I can do and they’re telling me not to rush back, that they need me for the long run. So they’ve been very welcoming, and the culture that they’ve developed here is something that I’ve always really, really respected. When I got a chance to possibly join that, I wasn’t going to turn that opportunity down.”

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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Payton Blocking Out Trade Talk, Believes Magic Will Turn It Around

Spencer Davies sits down with Elfrid Payton to discuss his fourth year, trade rumors and a trying season for Orlando in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.

Spencer Davies

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It’s hard for a team to look for positives when it’s living in the basement.

The Orlando Magic have had a rough go of it this year. They’re 13-32 at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, they’ve have had a ton of setbacks, and they currently rank 29th in the NBA in defensive rating.

There is a bright spot hidden in there, though, and head coach Frank Vogel sees it growing as the season progresses.

“We’re frustrated with our record, but we’re encouraged with the development we’ve had with our young players,” Vogel said before Thursday’s game in Cleveland. “Aaron Gordon, Mario [Hezonja], and [Elfrid Payton] have all had strong individual seasons and continue to get better. All those guys are improving individually and at some point, it’s gonna lead to more Ws.”

While Gordon stands out more to some than the others because of his star appeal, Payton is right up there with him as far as making the next step goes.

“Elfrid’s shooting the ball better from the perimeter and at the rim,” Vogel said. “He’s worked on his left hand. He’s worked on his floaters. Shooting 52 percent from the field and that’s pretty darn good for a point guard, and the 39 percent from the three as well.”

Those are your more traditional statistics that don’t address the leap he’s taken in efficiency. Sure, Payton’s scoring the same amount of points per game, but it’s the way he’s been getting that’s been most noticeable.

According to Basketball-Reference and NBA.com, he’s making nearly 70 percent of his tries between 0-3 feet and ranks third among point guards in restricted field goal percentage (min. four attempts).

But Payton doesn’t like to evaluate himself using numbers, so he doesn’t know how to feel about how he’s played for Orlando this year.

“It’s tough to say because I like to measure my success by winning and we haven’t been doing that,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “So tough to say.”

He’s not kidding. Since starting out the season 8-4, the Magic have taken a hard fall, only winning five games since November 10. In this stretch, there have been three hefty losing streaks—two 9-game slides and most recently a 7-game skid.

“Not to make excuses—we had a lot of injuries,” Payton told Basketball Insiders of what happened. “Haven’t really been playing with the group of guys that we started the season with, so kinda derailed us a little bit.”

As the losses pile up, so does the chatter. Indicated by multiple recent reports, Orlando has made it clear that many players on the roster are available on the trade block. Evan Fournier, Mario Hezonja, and Payton were recently brought up as names who could possibly on the move if the right deal presents itself.

When asked about the rumblings, Vogel claimed he doesn’t have a message for his guys.

“They understand it’s part of the business,” he said. “Just focus on playing the game.”

Like his coach, Payton doesn’t have a reaction to the noise.

“I don’t get caught up into the things like that,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “Today I’m an Orlando Magic. I play for the Orlando Magic and I’m gonna give them 100 percent of me. I’m somebody that likes to finish what I started, so I definitely would like to see this through and try to turn this organization around.”

So who does he see on this team that can help jump-start the process in flipping the script?

“Everybody,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “I like Vuc. I like AG. Evan [Fournier] is somebody who can fill it up. T Ross is somebody who can fill it up when healthy. I think we have a lot of talent on this team. Even the rookies—Wes [Iwundu] plays well for us in stretches. Jon [Isaac] when he was playing he’d do well.

“You could see the potential there. So I think we have a lot of weapons on this team. I’m very confident in the group we have here. I think we have a lot of talent, we just have to do it.”

Saying you’re going to right the ship is one thing. Actually doing it is a whole other challenge. With where the Magic sit in the standings currently, their work is cut out for them. That being said, Payton isn’t giving up.

In fact, he’s still got his eyes on making it to the postseason, and it starts with him.

“Definitely trying to get a run going,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “Make a playoff push. It’s definitely not out of sight right now, especially with the way the East is. We win a few games and we right back in the thick of things.

“Do whatever I can to help us to get more wins, man. I think that’s what it all boils down to. I figure if I’m playing well, that means we’re winning for the most part.”

Defense matters the most, and it’s something Payton and his group know they need to get better at if they have a chance to play past mid-April.

“Just be tied in together a little bit more,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “I think sometimes we have too many breakdowns on the backside. So just being more in-tune with each other.”

One thing is for sure—Orlando is going through this difficult time as a team, but refuses to fold. Payton says Vogel has constantly stayed in their ears with uplifting advice.

“Keep fighting,” Payton told Basketball Insiders of his words. “Don’t feel sorry for yourself. No one’s gonna feel sorry for you, so just keep fighting.”

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NBA Daily: Three Teams Treading Water In The West

While the Clippers have surged into the playoff picture, the Blazers, Nuggets and Pelicans are barely staying afloat out West.

Buddy Grizzard

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While the L.A. Clippers have surged into the Western Conference playoff picture on the crest of a six-game win streak, the Trail Blazers, Nuggets and Pelicans are stumbling toward the All-Star break with records around .500 over their last 10 games.

All four teams are within a game of each other and hovering around the playoff cut line. For teams that are treading water, the second half of the season will be a struggle for consistency in a brutal playoff race that promises to leave a good team on the outside looking in.

Although Richard Jefferson is winding down a storied career and barely playing for the Nuggets, he often takes the role of elder statesman in media scrums. After the Nuggets became the latest victim of the red-hot Clippers Wednesday, Jefferson said they should not be underestimated.

“They’ve been a playoff team for many, many years,” said Jefferson. “They’ve dealt with some injuries but, for the most part, I think they’re going to be in the hunt for the playoffs just like we are.”

Jefferson was also asked about the Nuggets’ late-game execution and pointed to the team’s overall youth with major addition Paul Millsap missing extended time due to injury.

“We’re getting to a spot of being a little bit more consistent in those moments,” said Jefferson. “But ultimately, I think guys are still learning. Most of the guys that are in these positions are in these positions for the first time. I think we’ll continue getting better as the season goes on.”

Meanwhile, the Pelicans experienced its own setback Wednesday in a loss to an Atlanta Hawks team that’s tied for the second-worst record in the league. For now, the Pelicans hold the seventh seed. It will be up to the continuing evolution of the Anthony Davis-DeMarcus Cousins pairing to keep New Orleans trending in the right direction.

“For us, we’re two guys who can shoot the ball, handle it, pass,” said Davis after the loss in Atlanta. “We’ve got a lot of guys around us who are capable of making plays. I think we compliment each other. There’s still some stuff we still want to get better at as a unit.”

Davis went into further detail about what makes the rare pairing of two elite big men work.

“Cuz is always spacing the floor,” said Davis. “One guy’s inside, the other one’s outside. We set screens for each other, throw lobs for each other. So it’s tough for bigs to try to play that. When we set a pin-down for myself or DeMarcus, most four or fives are not used to that.”

Davis came into the game with 30 or more points in three straight games and seven of the previous 10—he’s been on a massive roll. However, that streak came to an end as Davis hit only two of eight shots for eight points. Hawks rookie John Collins scored 18 while dealing with the issues Davis described.

“You’ve got A.D. on the one hand and then you’ve got Boogie on the other hand,” said Collins. “[They’re] some of the best bigs in the league, very skilled guys, obviously a handful to deal with.”

Hawks shooting guard Kent Bazemore led Atlanta with 20 points and hit the final shot in the waning moments to secure the victory. Bazemore is a player the Pelicans could conceivably pursue at the trade deadline to address wing issues.

Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers are dealing with questions of whether a team built around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum can become competitive with the West’s upper echelon. Marc Stein of the New York Times went so far as to predict that Portland’s backcourt could be broken up this year.

“No one’s suggesting it’ll happen before the Feb. 8 trade deadline,” Stein wrote. “But Portland’s latest so-so season threatens to be the impetus that finally pushes the longtime Blazers owner Paul Allen in a new direction.”

This is the time of year when NBA teams take stock and have to decide if they are properly constructed or need to look at changes. With the Pelicans, Trail Blazers and Nuggets barely keeping pace in the playoff race, few other teams will be more heavily scrutinized — internally as well as externally — as the trade deadline approaches.

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NBA Daily: Things To Watch Heading Into Trade Season

Two of our experts identify four teams and four players to keep an eye on during trade season.

Basketball Insiders

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With memories of DeMarcus Cousins being told that he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans during his postgame availability at last season’s All-Star game, the NBA moved the trade deadline up.

This season, the deadline falls on February 8, and all there has been a lot of discussion leading into next month’s deadline.

We asked Moke Hamilton and Lang Greene to weigh in on some items to keep an eye on over the next three weeks.

Nikola Mirotic and Derrick Favors

This year’s trade deadline will probably lack big names getting moved, but teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets are within sniffing distance of a playoff berth for the first time in years. It will be interesting to see if their respective front offices swing for the fences to achieve the goal.

There are three ways to improve a roster or prepare for the future in the NBA. The methods are free agency, trade and the annual draft. Trade deadline deals are risky. There are a lot of deals each season which involve players on the verge of hitting the free agent market. Teams acquiring these take the risk that they’re only “renting” those guys until the season concludes.

At the end of the day, though, the two biggest names we may see moved are Nikola Mirotic and Derrick Favors.

Mirotic has been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career, but the fourth-year forward is by far having his best season as a professional despite his minutes remaining flat. On a per 36 minute basis, Mirotic is averaging 25.1 points and 9.9 rebounds.

Mirotic and teammate Bobby Portis made headlines before the season for their fight, which led plenty of missed time for the forward. Mirotic’s name has been mentioned on the block ever since this incident, but it’s clear the Bulls have integrated him back into their rotation fully. Still, the team is believed to simply be waiting for the right time and trade partner and that Mirotic’s days in Chicago are numbered.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls plan to be patient in fielding calls for Mirotic, while the player has deflected all talks to his representatives.

“I didn’t talk to [the Bulls’ front office recently],” he said. “Probably my agents are talking, so I don’t know so far what’s going on, but I know my name is going to be out there. I’m doing my job, and I’m sure they’re doing their job, and we’re both going to do what’s best for the team.”

Mirotic has a no-trade clause built into his contract and would have to waive it prior to completing any deal, unless the Bulls were to guarantee the team option on the final year of his contract for 2018-19. Don’t count on that, though.

With respect to Favors, he battled injuries the past two seasons but has remained relatively healthy to begin this campaign. The forward is shooting a career high from the field, but according to the Salt Lake Tribune, the Utah Jazz have dangled him in trade talks since the beginning of the season.

Favors was one of the central parts of the Deron Williams trade years ago, but could be expendable because of the emergence of center Rudy Gobert in the Jazz’s frontcourt. The forward is on the books for $12.5 million this season and was most recently linked to the aforementioned Mirotic in trade talks between Utah and Chicago.

– Lang Greene

DeAndre Jordan and Paul George

Heading into deadline season, there’s not much out there to suggest that we’ll see any superstar-caliber players moved. With the likes of Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving among the players that switched teams over the summer, it seems that most NBA teams that have difference-makers on their rosters are in construction mode—they’re trying to compete with the Cavs or the Warriors.

The two superstar players who merit some discussion, though, are DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan.

With respect to Jordan, the Clippers find themselves in a very peculiar situation. With Chris Paul having defected to the Houston Rockets, it’s easy to conclude that the Clippers are no longer a true contender. Still, they’ve played so well over the past few weeks (including scoring a victory over Paul and his Rockets) that it seems a difficult proposition to proactively pull the plug.

Still, though, as written in this past Sunday’s column, it’s time for the Clippers to trade Jordan, mainly because a team that is heading toward a rebuild can’t afford to lose a player of his caliber for nothing, and that’s quite possible unless the Clippers fork over a max contract to Jordan this summer. The proposition wouldn’t be wise, particularly because it could cost the Clippers a first round pick in one of the upcoming drafts.

He’s definitely a player that should be watched.

Paul George, on the other hand, doesn’t appear likely to be headed out of Oklahoma City. The team is reportedly committed to keeping him for the duration of the season, with the hope being that the Thunder will get their act together and win a round or two in the playoffs. With the team still hovering around .500, it seems a long shot.

There are some, however, that believe that the Thunder should at least see what might be available to them in exchange for George, especially with the team trading Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for him. That’s especially true with Oladipo closing in on what certainly appears to be his first All-Star selection.

– Moke Hamilton

Dallas Mavericks Are Open For Business

The Dallas Mavericks are in a clear rebuild and the prospect of making the playoffs is more dream than reality this season, but the team does have some things going for it.

The Mavs have roughly $13 million in cap space, which puts them in a prime spot to acquire talent at the deadline without giving up any of their players in return. In fact, Mark Cuban went on the record and said exactly that.

“I would say we are looking to use our cap space actively,” Cuban told the Dallas Morning News earlier this week. “We will take back salary to get picks or guys we think can play.”

The Mavericks have the second-lowest payroll in the league, but Cuban has been known to spend money to acquire relevant talent. The team hasn’t had much success in in attracting free agents in recent years, and with the Hall of Fame career of Dirk Nowitzki coming to an end, the team is undoubtedly looking to retool.

– Lang Greene

Cavs and Lakers Each Likely To Do Something

It’s a poorly kept secret that the Los Angeles Lakers have had their sights set on acquiring a superstar or two this coming summer. With Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins and LeBron James among those who could hit the market in July, the Lakers have quite a bit of incentive to try to rid themselves of the contracts of Luol Deng and Jordan Clarkson.

Where things get interesting for the Lakers is with the emergence of several of their young players this season. Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma and to a lesser extent Josh Hart have each given the team impressive minutes this season. If the Lakers feel they have a real shot at signing James and, say, DeMarcus Cousins, it may be enough for them to package Deng and/or Clarkson with one of their promising young players and perhaps a future draft pick.

It’s certainly something I’d keep my eyes on.

And speaking of future draft picks, with the Cavs not taking their standing in the Eastern Conference for granted, one can only wonder the extent to which the Nets’ first round pick this coming season is burning a hole in their pockets. Aside from the Nets pick, though, the Cavs do own their own first round pick, which could be enough for them to pry the likes of a player like Mirotic or Favors from their current team.

There has also been some conjecture revolving around the availability of Tristan Thompson, with one interesting scenario having the Cavs and Clippers at least contemplating a trade involving Thompson and Jordan.

The Cavs and Lakers each have too much at stake to not do something.

– Moke Hamilton

Only 21 Days To Go…

With the trade deadline exactly three weeks from today, talks will certainly heat up.

For now, though, the Mavs, Cavs and Lakers appear to be the teams most involved in conversations, with Nikola Mirotic, Derrick Favors and DeAndre Jordan among those most likely to be dealt.

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