With the deadline for international prospects to withdraw from the draft coming up in a matter of hours, Mouhammadou Jaiteh remains undecided on whether or not he'll keep his name in, tweets Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld. As fellow HoopsWorld scribe Steve Kyler writes, Jaiteh is seeking a first-round guarantee, so if he exits the draft, he was probably unable to secure that promise. You can check out today's full list of draft decisions by international prospects right here.
Here are a few more odds and ends from around the NBA:
The Magic appear to have heavy interest in acquiring Eric Bledsoe in return for Arron Afflalo, according to Joe Kotoch of SheridanHoops.com, who delivers his latest mock draft. That jibes with the notion that the Clippers are holding out for an additional asset in the rumored trade proposal, which would also send Caron Butler to Orlando. Kotoch adds that Cavs executive Zydrunas Ilgauskas is pushing Cleveland to take Alex Len first overall. Here's more from around the NBA:
The "overriding expectation persists" that the Lakers won't faciliate a sign-and-trade of Dwight Howard this summer, but the team hasn't completely dismissed the idea, according to Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com. The Lakers are willing to listen to just about any idea, and there are indications the Lakers wouldn't dismiss a formal offer from the Clippers of Eric Bledsoe and Blake Griffin for Howard, the ESPN scribes report.
Stein and Shelburne hear the Rockets are likely to offer Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin for Howard in an attempt to open enough cap space for both Howard and Chris Paul. Though Asik, a cheaper basket protector than Howard, and Lin, who thrived with the Knicks under current Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, may be enticing figures for the Lakers, L.A.'s brass would ultimately prefer not to take on any salary if Howard walks.
The Lakers have maintained a dialogue with Howard's representatives throughout the spring and are still confident they can re-sign the Dan Fegan client, even though Howard is intent on listening to pitches from other teams. The team's main priority, beyond re-signing Howard, is reducing its luxury tax bill and positioning itself for the summer of 2014. As it stands, no Laker aside from Steve Nash is signed beyond next season.
The Rockets have told the agents for Carlos Delfino and Aaron Brooks that the team will not pick up the options on their contracts for next season, reports Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. The same is true for Francisco Garcia, as Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston reported last month that the team will decline his option as well. The result is a savings of $11.908MM that the Rockets plan to put toward their pursuit of a marquee free agent.
Technically, Delfino and Brooks have non-guaranteed contracts for next season that would become fully guaranteed if they're not waived by June 30th, according to ShamSports.com. Essentially, that amounts to a team option on both. Delfino was set to make $3MM and Brooks $2.508MM, while Garcia's team option is worth $6.4MM next season.
The moves could be some of the last under the current phase of the team's roster construction, as Feigen details. If the team signs a big-time free agent this summer, with Dwight Howard as its primary target, it will shift toward an emphasis on veterans. The Rockets would prefer to avoid the luxury tax in coming seasons, but they're willing to go deep into the tax to keep many of their own players who are set to hit free agency in 2015, including Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and Patrick Beverley.
GM Daryl Morey and company will emphasize to free agents that the team has all of its future first-round picks, after having given up this year's first-rounder, and note that those draft choices can be traded for veterans. They'll also point to the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions the team will have once it goes over the cap as a means to acquire additional veterans.
In the past few seasons, Houston has turned over its roster in pursuit of superstars, but the team appears confident it will soon have a core it can build around for the long haul. The team pursued a similar veterans-first strategy in the early days of Morey's leadership, when Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming were star players.
The Celtics-Clippers saga continues with Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski saying that Eric Bledsoe had been a part of discussions between the two teams until Saturday morning (Twitter). The Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett mentioned earlier that Doc Rivers might feel uncomfortable returning to the Celtics after this flirtation with the Clippers, but Wojnarowski said within the Celtics it hasn't been acrimonious between team and Doc (Twitter).
ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne thinks the Clippers should dare the Celtics to cut Paul Pierce (he's owed $15.3MM if he's not waived before June 30th), and see if Kevin Garnett and Rivers will really hold to their promise to only be moved from the Celtics as a tandem (Twitter). Shelburne goes on to cite an objective league source who proposed the Clippers keep DeAndre Jordan and Bledsoe, sign Pierce after he's waived, and trade Caron Butler and a pick for Garnett (Twitter).
Shelburne also says that the Clippers have been "shaking every tree" looking for a third star to complement Blake Griffin and Chris Paul if he re-signs this summer (Twitter). According to Shelburne, the Clippers have expressed interest in Danny Granger and Arron Afflalo already as a possible third threat on their roster.
Here are some more tidbits about the Clippers and Celtics as well as other teams around the league on this rumor-filled Saturday night with a huge game 5 in the NBA Finals tomorrow.
Andre Iguodala has decided to opt out of the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. According to Wojnarowski, agent Rob Pelinka informed Nuggets CEO Josh Kroenke of the decision on Thursday.
"We are fully aware of Andre's intentions and he's well aware of how much we want him back," Kroenke said. "Andre us a huge priority for our organization."
While there appears to be mutual interest between Nuggets and Iguodala in a new deal, Denver is currently without a GM or coach, which makes the situation a little murkier. There will also be plenty of clubs vying for the 29-year-old's services. Wojnarowski names the Hawks, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Rockets, Pistons, and Pelicans as likely suitors.
An official decision from Iguodala is due by June 25th, but assuming he opts out, he'll be eligible for a new five-year contract from the Nuggets or a four-year deal from another team. He'll pass up a 2013/14 salary that Wojnarowski cites as $15.9MM, though various salary databases have it at $16.15MM -- that salary included $250K in likely incentives, so perhaps those incentives are now listed as unlikely.
In any case, although I'm skeptical that Iguodala will land an annual salary that exceeds the approximate $16MM he would have earned on his current contract, he'll certainly be able to secure a significantly larger guarantee in a new long-term deal.
Earlier this afternoon, I asked for your thoughts on which prospect would be drafted first overall two weeks from tonight. While I provided five names in the poll, it appears I omitted one more viable option, as Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio reports that Anthony Bennett is also under consideration for the Cavaliers at No. 1 overall. While several opposing GMs tell Amico that they don't believe Cleveland would draft Bennett (or Alex Len) first overall, the Cavs aren't tipping their hand, so plenty of options still remain in play. Here's more from Amico's latest collection of NBA news and notes:
The field of potential suitors for Dwight Howard has "widened considerably," sources tell Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld (Twitter link). According to Kyler, the Lakers, Hawks, Rockets, Mavericks, Spurs, and Nets are all expected to pursue the All-Star center this offseason.
We've heard plenty about the interest that a handful of those teams have in Howard -- the Lakers remain optimistic about re-signing him, while the Hawks, Rockets, and Mavs are all seeking an impact player and have a good chance to create room for a maximum contract offer. The Spurs and Nets, on the other hand, haven't been mentioned in the Howard discussion with the same amount of frequency, though I think there are reasons for that.
In the Nets' case, while we've heard they still maintain interest in Howard, they also have $86MM+ in salary commitments for next season. Without the cap space to sign D12 outright, they'd need to complete a sign-and-trade, and ultimately end up below the tax apron, which figures to be in the neighborhood of $75.6MM. Given the amount of undesirable contracts on the roster, it's hard to envision a scenario in which the team is able to make something work, even if Kyler tweets that they're "willing to do whatever it takes."
As for the Spurs, they've been linked to Howard multiple times by Kyler's fellow writers at HoopsWorld. Their path to cap room is easier, but they still likely won't have quite enough space for a max offer. Clearing the necessary cap room would also figure to mean parting ways with Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter, unless those players were inclined to agree to significant home discounts. On top of that, I'm skeptical that a team whose chemistry is arguably unmatched around the league would risk making such a big commitment to Howard, considering the circus that's followed him around the last two seasons.
Even if the Nets and Spurs are long shots for Howard, we've heard that he'll be willing to listen to pitches from just about any interested team, so plenty of clubs will have the chance to at least kick the tires this summer.
TUESDAY, 4:01pm: The third team fined for tampering was the Kings, according to Amick. Sacramento confirmed as much, telling USA Today that the team "accepts the league's decision regarding this matter, and regrets any infraction of the policy."
Stein tweets that the violation occurred when head coach Michael Malone mentioned Paul during his introductory press conference.
MONDAY, 5:29pm: The NBA has sent out a leaguewide memo notifying teams that three clubs have been fined for violating the Association's anti-tampering policy, according to Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Amick and Zillgitt report that the Hawks were one of the three teams penalized, while ESPN.com's Marc Stein says the Rockets were another.
According to the USA Today report, the NBA memo read in part: "The conduct at issue involved statements by a team employee to the media, a team email to prospective season ticket purchasers, and articles posted online on a team website, each related to players who are currently under contract to other teams but who will become free agents this summer."
The email sent to prospective season ticket purchases is a reference to a letter sent out by the Hawks, in which Chris Paul and Dwight Howard were specifically named as potential free agent targets for the team. According to Stein, the articles posted on a team website refers to material on the Rockets' official site. Houston was fined a "small" amount for the infraction, says Stein.
The identity of the third team fined isn't known.
While the Rockets have been heavily tied to Dwight Howard for several months, he's not their only free agent target this summer. The team is also planning a similar and simultaneous pursuit of Clippers guard Chris Paul, a person with knowledge of the club’s thinking told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
Another individual familiar with the team’s plans termed the two stars as “targets No. 1 and 1A.” The difference, of course, is there have been far more indications that Howard will be receptive to the Rockets’ recruiting efforts. Meanwhile, it's too early to know if Paul is disinterested or just keeping his thoughts on Houston private.
James Harden has spoken with Howard about the Rockets and playing in Houston, but he is even closer to Paul thanks to their time together with USA Basketball. It still seems as though Howard is a more likely get for Houston than CP3 given the big man's fondness for coach Kevin McHale.
An individual with knowledge of Howard's thinking also says that he would be open to signing a four-year deal as he would be able to re-up as the NBA gets more TV money and, potentially, a fresh Collective Bargaining Agreement. They'll have to free up cap room to land D12 as well and a Thomas Robinson deal has been pointed to by many as the easiest way to make space. However, a person with knowledge of GM Daryl Morey's plans says there are about "20 other ways" that the finances can be worked out.