Western Notes: Grizzlies, Thompson, Suns

August 23 at 8:59am CDT By Eddie Scarito

The Grizzlies allowed a trade exception worth $1,160,040 to expire when they failed to use it by the end of Friday. Memphis had created the exception in the deal that sent Tony Wroten to the Sixers a year ago. It’s the second trade exception that the Grizzlies have let lapse in the past week or so, after their $1,027,424 Donte Greene trade exception expired on the 15th.

Here’s more from out west:

  •  Mychal Thompson discussed the trade rumors this summer regarding his son, Klay Thompson. Thompson was rumored to be a key piece for the Wolves in any deal involving Kevin Love heading the Warriors. The elder Thompson said, “He was put on the table by the owner and the general manager. Jerry West and Steve Kerr pulled him off the deal,” tweets Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group.
  • The elder Thompson also told Leung (Twitter link), that he thought the Warriors would land Love. “I really thought [Joe] Lacob the owner was just going to veto everybody’s opinion,” Thompson said.
  • After their surprise success last season, very little has gone right for the Suns this offseason, writes Bob Young of the Arizona Republic. Young chronicles the franchise’s difficulties this summer, including the contract impasse with Eric Bledsoe; the failure to land Love; losing Channing Frye in free agency; and P.J. Tucker‘s arrest.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Trade Retrospective: Shaq To The Heat

August 22 at 10:19pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

With the impending blockbuster deal that will send Kevin Love to the Cavaliers less than a day away, I’ve been taking a look back at past trades involving superstar players. It’s always interesting to see how these deals have worked out over the years for all of the franchises that were involved.

So far I’ve examined the trades that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers; Deron Williams to the Nets; Kevin Garnett to the Celtics; and Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks. Next up on the agenda is a look back at the July 14, 2004 trade that saw Shaquille O’Neal head from the Lakers to the Heat.

Let’s first recap the players and assets involved:

  1. The Heat received O’Neal.
  2. The Lakers received Caron Butler; Lamar Odom; Brian Grant; and a 2006 first-rounder (Jordan Farmar).

Shaq’s last few seasons in purple-and-gold were tumultuous to say the least. His relationship with the franchise became contentious over his perception that the front office was catering to the whims of Kobe Bryant; his displeasure at being called out publicly over his lack of conditioning by the front office and coaching staff; and his contract squabbles, which Bryant slammed O’Neal over, implying that Shaq was putting himself before the good of the team.

2004 was an offseason of big changes for the Lakers franchise as a whole. Phil Jackson had stepped down as coach of the team, Bryant was a free agent, and was courted heavily by the Clippers, and the roster was in a state of flux. This was after the franchise had gone 56-26, and lost to the Pistons in the NBA Finals.

O’Neal wanted a contract extension, despite having a year left on his current deal, being scheduled to make $29.5MM in 2004/05, a raise from his 2003/04 salary of $26.57MM. O’Neal was the highest paid player in the league at the time, and for comparison, the second highest paid player was Dikembe Mutombo, who earned $19.68MM in 2004/05.

The day after the season ended, O’Neal demanded a trade. “The team wasn’t going in the right direction, and it wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of, so I asked to be traded,” O’Neal said at the time. After the trade, Shaq would end up signing a five-year, $100MM extension with the Heat in 2005. O’Neal was still the highest paid player that year, with Chris Webber coming in a close second, earning $19.12MM in 2005/06. Shaq would later be overtaken for the top spot in 2006/07 by Kevin Garnett, who was paid $21MM that season, compared to Shaq’s $20MM.

The Heat had a record of 42-40 the season prior to O’Neal’s arrival, and reached the second round of the playoffs where they lost to the Pacers in six games. They improved to 59-23 in Shaq’s first season, losing to the Pistons in the Conference Finals. In his second season, they went 52-30, capturing the franchise’s first NBA title by defeating Dallas in six games.

Lets look at O’Neal’s numbers during his time with the Heat:

  1. 2004/05: 22.9 PPG, 10.4 RPG, and 2.3 BPG. His slash line was .601/.000/.461.
  2. 2005/06: 20.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG, and 1.8 BPG. His slash line was .600/.000/.469.
  3. 2006/07: 17.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 1.4 BPG. His slash line was .591/.000/.422.
  4. 2007/08: 14.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 1.6 BPG. His slash line was .581/.000/.494.

From Miami’s perspective the trade paid off handsomely the first two seasons, as O’Neal performed rather well, despite not being the same dominant player that he was during his time in Los Angeles. But injuries and conditioning problems eventually took their toll. In 2006/07, O’Neal missed 35 games with a knee injury, and wasn’t quite the same when he returned, and the team only won 44 games, losing to the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs.

The next season saw career lows from O’Neal in virtually every statistical category, and he missed time with various injuries. His coach at the time, Pat Riley, even went as far as to accuse O’Neal of faking some of the injuries to take time off. This was one factor that contributed to his relationship with Riley fracturing, and was the main reason the team decided to trade O’Neal midway through the 2007/08 season.

In February of 2008, O’Neal was dealt to the Suns for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks. Shaq would see an upswing in his performance during his first full season in Phoenix, averaging 17.8 PPG and 8.4 RPG, while appearing in 75 contests, his most since the 1999/00 campaign. This was Shaq’s last productive season in the league, and his one-year stints in Cleveland and Boston after that were unremarkable.

During Shaq’s eight seasons in Los Angeles, the franchise averaged 54 wins and captured three championships. O’Neal averaged 24.3 PPG and 11.8 RPG during this stretch. The Lakers took an immediate hit after Shaq’s departure, going 34-48 and missing the playoffs during the 2004/05 season.

Caron Butler only spent one season in purple-and-gold, averaging 15.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and 1.9 APG. He would then be dealt along with Chucky Atkins to the Wizards for Kwame Brown and Laron Profit.

Brown spent three seasons with the Lakers, and his numbers were:

  1. 2005/06: 7.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 1.0 APG. His slash line was .526/.000/.545.
  2. 2006/07: 8.4 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 1.8 APG. His slash line was .591/.000/.440.
  3. 2007/08: 5.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 0.8 APG. His slash line was .515/.000/.406.

The Lakers would trade Brown, along with Javaris Crittenton; Aaron McKie; the rights to Marc Gasol, and the Lakers’ 2008 (Donte Greene) and 2010 (Greivis Vasquez) first-rounders, for Pau Gasol and the Grizzlies’ 2010 second round pick (Devin Ebanks).

Brian Grant spent one season with the Lakers, appearing in 69 games, and averaging 3.8 PPG and 3.7 RPG. He was released after the season, then signed as a free agent with the Suns, but he only appeared in 21 games during the 2005/06 campaign, averaging a career low 2.9 PPG. This was Grant’s last year in the NBA.

Jordan Farmar was selected with the No. 26 pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, and spent four seasons with the Lakers. His numbers during that stretch were:

  1. 2006/07: 4.4 PPG, 1.7 RPG, and 1.9 APG. His slash line was .422/.328/.711.
  2. 2007/08: 9.1 PPG, 2.2 RPG, and 2.7 APG. His slash line was .461/.371/.679.
  3. 2008/09: 6.4 PPG, 1.8 RPG, and 2.4 APG. His slash line was .391/.336/.584.
  4. 2009/10: 7.2 PPG, 1.6 RPG, and 1.7 APG. His slash line was .435/.376/.671.

Farmar left after the 2009/10 season to sign a three-year, $12MM contract with the Nets. His numbers improved in New Jersey, where he averaged 10.0 PPG in his two seasons there, before being included in the deal with the Hawks that sent Joe Johnson to the Nets in 2012.

Lamar Odom was the most important and productive piece the Lakers received in the trade, and he was a valuable part of their Championship teams in 2009 and 2010. His numbers with the Lakers were:

  1. 2004/05: 15.2 PPG, 10.2 RPG, and 3.7 APG. His slash line was .473/.308/.695.
  2. 2005/06: 14.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG, and 5.5 APG. His slash line was .481/.372/.690.
  3. 2006/07: 15.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG, and 4.8 APG. His slash line was .468/.297/.700.
  4. 2007/08: 14.2 PPG, 10.6 RPG, and 3.5 APG. His slash line was .525/.274/.698.
  5. 2008/09: 11.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 2.6 APG. His slash line was .492/.320/.623.
  6. 2009/10: 10.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG, and 3.3 APG. His slash line was .463/.319/.693.
  7. 2010/11: 14.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, and 3.0 APG. His slash line was .530/.382/.675.

While Odom didn’t measure up to O’Neal’s production during his prime, he was certainly an effective player for the Lakers, and his versatility was a big part of Los Angeles’ success during his years with the team. It’s sometimes easy to forget just how talented a player he was in light of how far he’s fallen in the past few years, mainly due to his off the court issues and reported drug problems.

Odom’s time with the Lakers came to an end in 2011. He was originally a part of the trade with the Pelicans that would have sent Chris Paul to Los Angeles, but the league vetoed the trade. This was when the New Orleans ownership situation was in a state of flux, and the NBA was in charge of the franchise. Many team owners spoke up against the deal, but the league office said the trade was turned down for purely basketball reasons.

After the details of the proposed trade were made public, Odom stated that he felt disrespected, and demanded a trade to a contending team. One week later his wish was granted, and he was shipped to the Mavericks along with a 2012 second-rounder (Darius Johnson-Odom), which was later sold back to the Lakers, for an $8.9MM trade exception, along with a 2012 (top-20 protected) first-rounder. The first round pick was later sent to the Rockets in the deal that netted the Lakers Jordan Hill. The pick was then sent to the Thunder in the James Harden trade, who in turn used it to select Mitch McGary with the No. 21 selection in the 2014 NBA Draft.

The O’Neal trade was one that worked out in the end for both sides. The Heat reaped the immediate benefits, winning the title in his second season with the team. Most franchises would gladly make a deal that netted them a banner to hang in their arena’s rafters. But Shaq’s tenure didn’t end well in Miami, due to injuries and clashes with the coaching staff, which somewhat lessens the Heat’s end of the trade despite their having obtained the best player in the deal.

The Lakers’ situation was different than the one that the Wolves now find themselves in with Love. Shaq was openly disruptive his last season and a half in Los Angeles, and he publicly demanded a trade. Retaining him could have caused Bryant to sign elsewhere as a free agent, which would have been disastrous, especially if he went to the Clippers.

Love has been a good soldier throughout all of the losing seasons in Minnesota, but the franchise still has no choice but to deal their star, lest they lose him for nothing next summer. It’s not an ideal situation, but the Timberwolves’ return for Love could turn out to be rather decent if Andrew Wiggins develops into the superstar many scouts project him to be.

Los Angeles didn’t net a player of Wiggins’ potential in their trade with Miami, but Odom was a vital piece of the puzzle during his time with the Lakers. It’s doubtful that the Wolves will contend for a championship in the next few seasons, though the Cavs hope to repeat what the Heat did after the Shaq trade and vie for the title in the coming years. It’s never an easy decision to trade away a star player, but some franchises have no other choice. Time will tell who wins the Love-Wiggins swap.

Eastern Notes: Knicks, Miles, Antetokounmpo

August 22 at 8:39pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

The United States defeated Puerto Rico by a score of 112-86 in their final home exhibition game prior to the FIBA World Cup. Stephen Curry was the high scorer with 20 points, and James Harden added 13 for Team USA.

Here’s the latest from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Knicks already have the D-League rights to Thanasis Antetokounmpo, as Gino Pilato of D-League Digest clarifies in an update to an earlier report. Pilato had originally indicated that the Sixers retained his D-League rights because he played for their affiliate last season, but this year’s D-League rule changes give the Knicks his D-League rights because they selected him in the NBA draft this summer, as Pilato explains. Antetokounmpo, the 51st overall selection, has reportedly agreed to sign with the D-League and play for New York’s affiliate.
  • C.J. Miles will be asked to do a lot more than the Pacers anticipated when they signed him as a free agent back in July, writes Mark Montieth of NBA.com. In the wake of the potential season-ending injury to Paul George, and the departure of Lance Stephenson to the Hornets, Miles will need to pick up a sizable portion of the scoring load, opines Montieth.
  • The Knicks have a logjam at the shooting guard position with J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr, and Iman Shumpert, writes Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com. In the article, Begley examines the pros and cons of each player starting versus coming off of the bench. Smith weighed in on the situation, saying, “That’s for the coach to decide. All we’ve got to do is play. Whatever they decide, we’ve got to just live with it. Hopefully everybody could put their egos aside and come together for one common goal.”

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Western Notes: Heslip, Marion, Spurs

August 22 at 6:34pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

The NBA season won’t officially start until Tuesday, October 28th, when the Spurs begin their season against the Mavericks. An expert poll over at ESPN.com has picked San Antonio to repeat as NBA champs, with the Cavs coming in second, and the Thunder rounding out the top-three. The Heat were the last franchise to go back-to-back, winning titles in 2012 and 2013, while the Spurs have never accomplished that feat.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The Wolves were impressed with undrafted point guard Brady Heslip‘s performance for their summer league team, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link). Heslip recently changed agents, hiring Bernie Lee, and is attempting to land an NBA training camp invitation, Wolfson adds.
  • The Thunder have named Mark Daigneault as the new head coach of their D-League team, reports Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders. Daigneault spent the last four seasons as an assistant on Billy Donovan‘s staff at Florida, and replaces Darko Rajakivic who accepted a position on Scott Brooks‘ staff with the Thunder. Speaking about the hire, GM Sam Presti said, “Mark has placed a high value on development throughout his career and we feel that he is well aligned with the goals of our organization. His experience at Florida under Coach Donovan has provided him the platform to apply his intelligence and relationship skills to help strengthen the program. We are excited about Mark joining the organization and continuing his professional growth.
  • When Shawn Marion left the Mavericks as a free agent this summer to sign with the Cavaliers, he did so knowing that he would come off the bench and play fewer minutes than he had in Dallas, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com. In regards to Marion leaving, Mavs owner Mark Cuban said, “It’s different when you’re going back to your same team as supposed to going to a new team. I think there’s a different dynamic and different expectation.”  Marion placed the opportunity to contend for a championship above monetary and playing time concerns in making his team selection, notes MacMahon.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Spurs To Audition Hakim Warrick

August 22 at 4:30pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Hakim Warrick will work out for the Spurs on September 1st, reports Mike Waters of The Post-Standard. The eight-year NBA veteran tells Waters that he expects other free agents to take part in the workout, too, as they all attempt to secure spots on San Antonio’s roster in advance of training camp.

This past season was the first Warrick spent outside the NBA after the Grizzlies drafted him 19th overall out of Syracuse in 2005. Warrick signed last December with the Liaoning Jiebao Hunters in China and put up 21.3 points and 9.1 rebounds in 33.8 minutes per game across 22 appearances. NBA interest has nonetheless seemingly been scarce ever since the Magic waived him shortly after acquiring him at the deadline in 2013.

The Spurs have 14 guaranteed deals to go along with their partially guaranteed arrangements with Bryce Cotton and JaMychal Green. The lack of full guarantees for Cotton and Green helped prompt Warrick to accept San Antonio’s invitation to work out, as Warrick tells Waters, since that would ostensibly give Warrick a better chance of making the opening-night roster were the Spurs to bring him to training camp.

Suns Make Last-Minute Bledsoe-For-Love Offer

August 22 at 3:40pm CDT By Chuck Myron

3:40pm: The Wolves like Bledsoe, but they’re not nearly high enough on him to drop out of their deal to send Love to the Cavs, Krawczynski tweets.

3:20pm: The Suns reached out to the Wolves today to ask about the possibility that they could sign-and-trade Eric Bledsoe for Kevin Love, but Minnesota’s agreement to deal Love to the Cavs remains in place, report Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com. The trade that would send Love to Cleveland can become official as early as Saturday. The Suns have been feeling out their options for a Bledsoe sign-and-trade as negotiations with the point guard’s camp have ground to a standstill, and they’ve spoken with teams other than the Wolves, too, according to Windhorst and Shelburne.

Bledsoe has reportedly been holding out for a max deal from the Suns, and he wouldn’t accept any less in a sign-and-trade, sources tell the ESPN.com scribes. The point guard is insisting that either he receives a max deal or he’ll sign his qualifying offer and hit unrestricted free agency next summer, Windhorst and Shelburne write. Signing the qualifying offer would mean Bledsoe would be playing this coming season on a salary worth slightly more than $3.7MM, a drastic discount from the max or even the terms of the four-year, $48MM offer the Suns reportedly put on the table last month.

The Suns were one of the early teams in the mix for Love, and as recently as July 1st, Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press reported that Phoenix was expected to make a play for the power forward in case No. 1 target LeBron James went elsewhere. James agreed on July 11th to join the Cavs, but there’s been no further connection between the Suns and Love until today.

A dispatch from late last month indicated that the Suns had little interest in signing-and-trading Bledsoe, but that appears to have changed. Owner Robert Sarver said more recently that the team hadn’t heard directly from Bledsoe, a client of agent Rich Paul, in four months.

Western Notes: Love, Pelicans, Marc Gasol

August 22 at 3:03pm CDT By Chuck Myron

The Timberwolves are making out remarkably well in their agreement to trade Kevin Love, as Hoops Rumors readers see it. The majority who voted in Thursday’s poll gave an A to Minnesota president of basketball operations Flip Saunders and his staff for their haul in the trade that can become official Saturday. It’s almost always preferable to retain a superstar, but considering Love’s apparent desire to move on from the Wolves, the team seems to have made the best of its circumstances. Here’s more on Love and the rest of the Western Conference:

  • Love viewed Minnesota favorably as a potential destination heading into the night he was drafted, and he’s privately maintained throughout his tenure there that he’d rather stay with a contending Wolves team than leave, as Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck details. Still, chronic losing and the club’s decision to grant Nikola Pekovic a five-year contract after refusing to give Love an extension longer than four years helped convince the star forward to push for his pending trade to the Cavs, according to Beck.
  • Pelicans GM Dell Demps remarked this week that his team is largely done with its moves for the summer and expressed confidence that Anthony Davis can be the cornerstone of a winning roster, as Demps said to Pelicans radio announcer Sean Kelley (transcription via Pelicans.com).
  • Marc Gasol isn’t necessarily in line to ink a max contract next summer in free agency, but even the sort of sub-max deals he’d probably command make it unlikely he’d sign an extension, as Chris Herrington of the Commercial Appeal explains in a subscription-only piece. Gasol becomes extension-eligible on December 12th, but there are severe financial constraints on veteran extensions under the collective bargaining agreement.

Hawks Re-Sign Shelvin Mack

August 22 at 2:47pm CDT By Chuck Myron

AUGUST 22ND: The Hawks have finally formalized the deal, making an official announcement via press release.

JULY 25TH: The Hawks and Shelvin Mack have struck agreement on a three-year, $7.3MM deal, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The contract will include a team option on the final season, Wojnarowski adds.

Mack had been one of five remaining unrestricted free agents across the league, but as I noted earlier this week, the market for the 24-year-old combo guard appeared quiet. He’d said in May that he would like to return to Atlanta, but hadn’t been heard from since.

It looks like Atlanta will use some of its ample cap space to complete the deal and bring back a significant contributor from last season’s playoff team. Mack averaged 7.5 points and 3.7 assists in 20.4 minutes per game during the regular season, and upped his scoring to 8.1 PPG in just 16.9 MPG during the postseason. It was the 2011 34th overall pick’s best season to date after he bounced around to three teams in his first two years in the league.

Mack played point guard behind Jeff Teague last season, and while he’s also seen time at two-guard in the NBA, the move to re-sign Mack poses questions about point guard Dennis Schröder, whom the Hawks drafted 17th overall in 2013.

Suns Explore Eric Bledsoe Sign-And-Trade

August 22 at 2:01pm CDT By Chuck Myron

The Suns have spoken with at least one team and fielded inquiries from others about the possibility of a sign-and-trade involving Eric Bledsoe, as Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic writes. That confirms a report from Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Phoenix, who spoke earlier this week on FoxSports 910 radio in Phoenix (transcription via Dave King of Bright Side of the Sun).

Phoenix brass never ruled out a sign-and-trade from the beginning of negotiations with Bledsoe last month, according to Coro, but the team remains adamant that it prefers to retain the point guard, Coro adds. The Bucks and Jazz were linked to pursuits of Bledsoe shortly after free agency began, though it’s not clear if the Suns have spoken with either of those clubs.

Progress toward a long-term deal that would keep Bledsoe in Phoenix has seemingly stalled since a report more than a month ago indicated the Suns were offering a four-year, $48MM arrangement while the Rich Paul client held out for the max. Still, the team has remained open to further negotiations on its offer to Bledsoe, Coro says.

At least one rival GM has expressed hesitance about the idea of signing-and-trading for Bledsoe, who’s reportedly giving strong consideration to signing his qualifying offer so he can become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Still, inking the qualifying offer would mean a drastically discounted salary of little more than $3.7MM for the coming season, and it’s a move no restricted free agent of his caliber has ever taken.

Bledsoe and the Suns nonetheless appear at loggerheads, with Bledsoe having accused the Suns of “using the rules against me,” while owner Robert Sarver said recently that the team hasn’t heard directly from the 24-year-old in four months. Multiple reports have indicated that there’s a worsening relationship between Bledsoe and the Suns, though Sarver indicated that there are no hard feelings from the team’s side.

Darius Morris To Join Blazers For Camp

August 22 at 1:13pm CDT By Chuck Myron

FRIDAY, 1:13pm: The team has yet to make an official announcement, but Morris has signed his contract, according to the RealGM transactions log.

THURSDAY, 2:29pm: The Blazers and point guard Darius Morris have reached agreement on a non-guaranteed deal that will bring the three-year veteran to training camp, reports Joe Freeman of The Oregonian (Twitter link). He’ll join Diante Garrett and James Southerland, who inked non-guaranteed contracts with Portland earlier this month. Morris is surely receiving a deal for the minimum salary, since the Blazers are limited to paying no more than that.

Morris reportedly turned down an offer from a Serbian team earlier this summer, and that seemed to suggest that NBA teams were interested. Still, there hasn’t been much chatter surrounding the 23-year-old, who had stints with the Sixers, Clippers and Grizzlies last season but didn’t sign another NBA contract after his 10-day deal with Memphis expired in February. He’s nonetheless been one of the top ball distributors remaining on the market, as I noted earlier today, and he also made his way onto our list of the top available free agent scorers.

Morris, like Garrett and Southerland, faces long odds of making the opening-night roster in Portland, since the Blazers have 15 players with guaranteed deals. The Blazers dropped their one-to-one D-League affiliation with the Idaho Stampede this offseason, so even if Portland cuts Morris after camp but elects to retain his D-League rights, the Blazers wouldn’t be able to exert much influence over his continued development.