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NBA AM: No Brad Beal Deals Being Considered

The Wizards not interested in deals involving Brad Beal… Is LeBron James gearing up for change?… The Mavericks are looking, but not shopping for a trade.

Steve Kyler

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No Beal, No Way:  The unfortunate part of talking about trade rumors is that inevitably someone gets mentioned in passing that creates a stir that was not intended.

Yesterday in this space, we talked about the Washington Wizards having interest in making a trade, but that they have been unable to find a trade they would do. We classified them as “on the fence” regarding a deal at the trade deadline.

In describing the situation, the names of Wizards players mentioned by league sources included Wizards guard Brad Beal, and while the point of the piece was that Washington was unwilling to break up their core to make a significant trade, it seems a lot of people hung on to the idea that Beal was mentioned.

Wizards’ sources were fairly adamant yesterday that Beal is a non-starter for them in trade talks, which lines up exactly with what teams talking with Washington have said. As we covered yesterday, the Wizards are unwilling to break up their core to make a deal and while other teams may covet Beal as part of a deal, the Wizards simply are not going to entertain that. They view him as a key and core part of what they are building and anything involving him is being turned away.

How the trade world works is often one team will call and ask about a specific player’s availability and a counter offer is made. That’s usually where trades die.

The reason the Wizards have not made a trade or are not significantly involved in a trade proposal is that what teams are asking for is more than Washington will do.

»In Related: The Washington Wizards Team Salary Page.

Trades and trade scenarios are always a fluid situation, but one thing that was made abundantly clear is that Beal is not someone the Wizards would entertain talks around, which lines up completely with the points made yesterday.

The Wizards like where they find themselves and are not overly interested in making change. They are not sitting out the trade deadline, but equally they are not one of the teams trying to make something happen in the next 14 days.

If the right kind of transaction surfaces they are open to looking at it, but what they have found is that there is not anything out there they would do, mainly because of their belief in their core..

» Are You Ready For The 2014 NBA Trade Deadline? Basketball Insiders has you covered. Later this week our first Digital Magazine issue will drop, featuring the most comprehensive look at the NBA Trade Deadline you will find anywhere. The magazine will be available on your smartphone, tablet or desktop. If you are an Apple user, you can grab the Digital Magazine app here. For our Android users you can grab the Digital Magazine app here. When the issue is ready it will automatically appear in your App for purchase. If you do not want to download the App, we will have a web-based solution for you that works great on smartphones and tablets as well as other computing devices. The links for that will drop when the issue is available. We have made the pledge to keep our content free from annoying auto-play ads and content lockers, so buying the magazine is how we’ll keep up our end of the deal. Download the app today and get ready for 110 pages of trade deadline knowledge, exclusively from Basketball Inisders.

LeBron On The Move?:  Before we dig too far into this, let’s be really clear on something; ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is as good as they come when it comes to LeBron James. He’s literally written the book on Miami’s uber star.

So when a report penned by Windhorst suggests that LeBron James is already considering his options for free agency, there is substance and truth to the idea.

What is likely to happen in Miami this summer is that the vaunted “Big Three” of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all opt-in to their contracts for one more year. That’s been the word around the team for most of the last 12 months.

There has been talk that maybe all three opt-out and sign new long-term deals. There has been speculation that all three could opt-out and try and recruit a fourth star to Miami – which could happen if all three agreed to take something in the neighborhood of $14 million a year like they did in 2010 when they assembled together in South Beach.

»In Related: The Possible NBA Free Agents For 2014-2015.

There are variables that open the door for a James exit, and until those variables are closed the idea of James leaving, as absurd as it may seem at times, is very real.

Wade is hobbled and no one knows how much more basketball he has left or how much of an impact he can really provide. At some point his ailing knees are going to be a real problem.

It’s unlikely that Wade is going to retire or opt-out of his contract unless it’s to get more guaranteed money down the road and that becomes risky business for the HEAT to continue to lock in major contract dollars into Wade’s knees.

Then there is Bosh. There is no doubting that Bosh’s brand has taken the biggest hit since joining the HEAT. Prior to arriving in South Beach, Bosh was one of the elite big men in the game and a cornerstone player in his own right. In Miami he has been something of a role player, although his contributions especially in the postseason have been massively understated and underrated. There has been speculation that Bosh might look at his own situation again next summer especially if the “Big Three” fail to win another championship.

Bosh could find himself as one of the top free agents in July if he opts out and looks for his own team again.

If the HEAT buckle under their own weight or they fail to win another championship, there is a belief that a breakup of the “Heatles” could get serious consideration not by the front office, but by the players themselves.

Windhorst’s report basically paints James as doing his due diligence in case things have to change at some point in the future, suggesting that James won’t just be talking to teams with cap space, understanding that he has the power and the leverage to force a move anywhere if he wanted to.

What still remains the most likely scenario is that they give this one more year beyond this season. Staying together through July of 2015 has been their personal plan from the beginning. The HEAT have made three straight NBA Finals appearances and believe they will make it four this season; unless that goes tragically wrong the odds of a break up this summer are fairly small.

That does not mean all parties involved haven’t pondered what that means for the future, especially because of the personal variables that are out of the their control.

James has been pretty clear that’s he’s really happy in Miami and that he can’t envision himself anywhere else, but if you recall he said the same thing about Cleveland because that’s what you do when you are under contract and competing during the season.

When things turn to the offseason, how the HEAT finish and what his teammates decide to do with their contracts will weigh heavy in what LeBron’s ultimate decision will be.

The one thing that’s being made clear and public is James won’t be surprised by anything, he’ll be ready to make decisions and those decisions won’t be limited just to who has cap space.

» ICYMI: Lang Greene touches on the situation with the Phoenix Suns, and what they are trying to do at the trade deadline… Alex Kennedy hits on the Charlotte Bobcats who look like buyers at the deadline… Jabari Davis takes a look at the NBA Coach of the Year race, and who is leading the pack.

Mavs Like Who They Have:  The Dallas Mavericks are not exactly taking the Western Conference by storm, but they are continuing to find ways to stay in the mix in the playoff picture. Last night’s win puts them at 29-21 on the season which is good enough for the eighth seed in the West if the playoffs started today. It’s also almost two full games ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies.

As we covered in the space yesterday, the Mavericks, who have historically been one of the more active teams at the trade deadline, seem to be sitting this trade deadline out despite some ending contracts that could return value.

One source close to the Mavericks admitted that adding a big man or another player with scoring punch would be attractive, but that the Mavericks really liked the construction of this team as it stands now, pointing to the fact that the team added nine new players this season and that’s a key reason to be somewhat patient.

The Mavericks are not out of the market completely; virtually no team in the NBA is as the trade deadline approaches in just 14 days.

»In Related: Who Owes A Draft Pick? The Complete NBA Draft Pick Debt.

The Mavs, however, are not nearly as aggressive in trying to shake loose a major deal as maybe a minor one. With the Mavericks apparently looking for a value-type deal for a big man names like 76ers big man Spencer Hawes or Lakers big man Jordan Hill. They could have, but passed on signing Andrew Bynum, who they had preliminary interest in this offseason, after he was waived by the Chicago Bulls.

The Mavs don’t seem like they are eager to do anything, but they are surveying the landscape, which is pretty common at this time of year.

The Mavericks do have some young guys on the roster that might return some value and they do have some ending contracts.

The posture from the Mavericks isn’t overly aggressive, as we covered yesterday, they might sit this one out, but the Mavericks are looking and that’s the first step towards making a deal.

The Mavericks know they need help up front if they want to really challenge in the West, but they do not seem willing to do anything that’s going to massively shake up the chemistry of the team or part with assets that are currently playing a significant role.

More Twitter:  Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @TheRocketGuy, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @JabariDavisNBA , @NateDuncanNBA , @MokeHamilton , @JCameratoNBA and @YannisNBA.

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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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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