Minnesota Timberwolves Rumors

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.

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.

Cavs To Acquire Kevin Love

August 22 at 10:28am CDT By Chuck Myron

10:28am: A source close to Stein says the teams will make it one three-way swap rather than two separate trades, as long as there aren’t any last-minute changes (Twitter link).

AUGUST 22ND, 8:48am: The latest dispatch from Marc Stein of ESPN.com indicates that the arrangement could turn out to be two separate deals after all, and Wojnarowski appears to suggest the same in his story. Sam Amick of USA Today casts it as one three-team swap, however, which puts him in accordance with Zgoda’s report from late Thursday. In any case, it appears clear that Love will end up in Cleveland, Wiggins, Bennett and Young will head to Minnesota, and Mbah a Moute, Shved and the Heat’s 2015 first-round pick are destined for Philadelphia.

11:08pm: The three-team deal will be finalized on Saturday, the day the 30-day restriction on trading Wiggins expires, Zgoda reports. Zgoda confirms the previously-reported specifics of the deal and adds that the Wolves will also receive a trade exception believed to be worth at least $4 million. The deal will be announced on Saturday after the completion of a call with the league office.

3:08pm: It’ll go down as a three-team deal, rather than one separate transaction involving Love and another involving Young, as Dan Barreiro of KFAN Sports Radio and Krawczynski both expect (Twitter link). Based on the most recent reports, that wound send Love to the Cavs, while the Wolves would get Young, Wiggins and Bennett, with the Sixers set to receive Mbah a Moute, Shved, and the 2015 first-round draft pick that Cleveland had acquired from the Heat.

2:40pm: The Wolves are in line to send Mbah a Moute and Shved to the Sixers, according to Zgoda (Twitter link). The Star Tribune scribe wrote a few weeks ago that the Wolves wanted to send Barea to Philadelphia, but Zgoda clarifies today that Barea isn’t part of the arrangement. Zgoda also speculated earlier this month that Shabazz Muhammad could be a part of the deal, but it’s “highly unlikely” that Muhammad will be involved, Wolfson tweets.

12:09pm: Three sources tell Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun that Young will go to the Wolves but Bennett won’t be heading to the Sixers, advancing the earlier reports (Twitter links).

12:00pm: The belief around the league is that Young will wind up with Minnesota, according to Wolfson (Twitter link).

AUGUST 21ST, 8:46am: Sixers GM Sam Hinkie wants to acquire the first-rounder that the Cavs are shipping out in the deal, Zgoda tweets. Zgoda wrote a few weeks ago that the Wolves hoped to send that pick, likely the Heat’s 2015 first-round selection as we noted below, to Philly as part of a package for Young, so it seems a fair bet that the pick winds up with the Sixers.

AUGUST 20TH: Zgoda casts doubt on the notion that Bennett will end up with the Sixers as part of the deal (Twitter link). That would suggest that Bennett isn’t heading to Philadelphia any time soon as part of a separate transaction, as I explained.

AUGUST 8TH: 2:22pm: Young says the Sixers haven’t given him or agent Jim Tanner any notification that he’ll be traded, as Lynam writes in her full piece.

10:54am: Young tells Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com that, “I have not been traded,” though that could be a matter of semantics, as no trade is yet official (Twitter link).

9:16am: Fellow Daily News scribe Bob Cooney seconds the news that Young is headed to Minnesota and Bennett will go to Philadelphia, but he suggests the move will take place as a separate transaction (Twitter link). Still, it would make more sense if it were part of the Love trade, since the salaries in a standalone Young-Bennett swap wouldn’t meet the NBA’s salary-matching requirements.

FRIDAY, 8:08am: The Sixers will indeed be a part of the deal, as they’ll acquire Bennett from the Cavs and send Young to the Wolves, a source tells Mark Perner of the Philadelphia Daily News. Bennett will give Philadelphia three of the top 11 picks from the 2013 draft, joining Nerlens Noel and reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams. Young figures to slide in as Love’s replacement at power forward in Minnesota, though he has the chance to opt out and hit free agency in 2015, just like Love.

THURSDAY, 2:58pm: John Lucas III, whom the Cavs acquired from the Jazz last month, isn’t a part of the Love trade as it stands, but there’s a decent chance Cleveland will send him out in the deal with the Wolves, tweets USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt.

12:51pm: The potential that a third team becomes involved still exists, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press (Twitter link). Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune suggested earlier today that the possibility remained in play. The Wolves continue to work with the Sixers, Krawczynski also tweets, and Zgoda outlined what Minnesota would want to accomplish in a arrangement that would net them Thaddeus Young, as we passed along.

12:35pm: The protected 2015 first-rounder going to Minnesota will likely be the Heat’s pick, Wojnarowski tweets. Miami owes that selection to the Cavs from the LeBron James sign-and-trade in 2010, according to RealGM.

11:56am: There’s no agreement regarding a new max deal for Love, reports Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. Berger hears from two sources who suggest that Love will wait to see what James does with his ability to hit free agency next summer.

8:26am: The Wolves and Cavs have reached an agreement in principle on a deal that will send Kevin Love to the Cavs for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a protected 2015 first-round pick, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Cleveland is doing the deal with a firm commitment from Love that he will opt out of his contract next summer and re-sign with the team for the max, Wojnarowski adds. Surprisingly, there’s no third team involved, in spite of a string of rumors indicating that the Wolves were high on acquiring Thaddeus Young from the Sixers. The swap can’t become official until August 23rd, the first day following the 30-day period in which the Cavs are barred from trading Wiggins after signing him to his rookie scale contract.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Minnesota TimberwolvesThe teams had agreed to the precise terms weeks ago, but the Cavs and Wolves are staying silent until they can formalize the trade, sources tell Wojnarowski. The Cavs feared the Bulls would instead trade for Love and block the path to the Eastern Conference title, and that helped prompt Cleveland to close on the deal, Wojnarowski hears. That’s in spite of Chicago’s last formal offer having come before the draft in June, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). That conflicts with a report from late July that indicated that the Bulls had offered Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott. Chicago stayed in contact with the Wolves, but the Bulls understood that when the Cavs made Wiggins available, it would have required them to make too strong an offer to compete, Johnson adds (on Twitter).

Cavs officials were also cognizant that it would be difficult for them to clear the cap space necessary to sign Love as a free agent next summer without his Bird rights, according to Wojnarowski. The trade will allow Cleveland to have those Bird rights, which will let the team exceed the cap to re-sign him.

The Wolves had sought to unload some of their player-friendly contracts in a Love trade, and they still hold out hope of parting with J.J. Barea, Luc Mbah a Moute and Alexey Shved in subsequent moves, according to Wojnarowski. Minnesota is also still trying to acquire Young from the Sixers, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities, but it’s unclear if the efforts are related at this point.

The agreement ends more than two months of intense Love-related rumors after Love made it clear to the Wolves that he would hit free agency next summer and Minnesota began to seriously consider trades. The Bulls and Warriors appeared at the top of Love’s list of preferred destinations at that point. Golden State remained a prime contender for weeks, but their decision against including Klay Thompson in a deal appears to have scuttled any chance Love would end up in the Bay Area. Love made a high-profile visit to Boston around the first of June, but Minnesota wasn’t interested in any assets the Celtics had to offer.

Love reportedly made Cleveland his top choice following the return of LeBron James to the Cavs, and even before the four-time MVP left Miami, Love indicated that he would be 100% on board with joining the Cavs if James were also on the team. James reportedly reached out to Love to tell him he’d like for them to play together in Cleveland and appeared to signal to Cavs management that he wanted them to trade for the All-Star power forward. James conspicuously left Wiggins’ name out of the essay he co-authored with Lee Jenkins of SI.com when he announced his decision to return to Cleveland.

The addition of Love, a 25-year-old three-time All-Star, puts the Cavs squarely in the title race this season. Just as the trade can’t be finalized until August 23rd, Love’s commitment to sign a five-year max contract with the team next summer can’t be official until next July, so much of the arrangement relies on everyone involved keeping their word. James can opt out of his deal with the Cavs and hit free agency next summer, too, so there are few concrete certainties. Still, it appears the Cavs are well-positioned for the future even as they relinquish consecutive No. 1 overall draft selections in Wiggins and Bennett. Wiggins, in particular, makes parting with Love easier to swallow for Minnesota, and his vast potential means there’s a decent chance the Wolves will ultimately emerge with a better return for having traded a superstar than any other team to have done so.

The Nuggets, Suns, Lakers, Rockets, Kings, Knicks, and Wizards were among the other teams connected to Love throughout the process, but the Cavs had emerged as clear front-runners in recent weeks. Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com suggested in a radio appearance a few days ago that Cleveland and Minnesota had a handshake agreement in place. The vast majority of Hoops Rumors readers who voted in our poll even before Windhorst’s comments believed Love would be with the Cavaliers by the start of the season.

Photo courtesy USA Today Sports Images.

Atlantic Notes: Bennett, Leiweke, J.R. Smith

August 22 at 9:51am CDT By Chuck Myron

The Celtics are the only Atlantic Division team to make it to the NBA Finals in the past decade, and that will probably continue to be the case for at least another year. All five of the clubs in the division are taking divergent approaches to changing that, from New York’s commitment to building around superstar Carmelo Anthony to Philadelphia’s scorched-earth rebuilding plan. Here’s more on a few of the Atlantic teams trying to climb the ladder:

  • The Sixers attempted to find a way to end up with Anthony Bennett, but the Wolves were set on keeping him as part of the Kevin Love deal, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com writes. There was never any agreement that would have sent Bennett to Philadelphia, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, in spite of reports from a few weeks ago that indicated the 2013 No. 1 overall pick was on his way to the Sixers.
  • Raptors GM Masai Ujiri was effusive Thursday in his praise of Tim Leiweke, the departing CEO of the company that controls the team, as the GM spoke to Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. Leiweke is set to leave his post no later than June 30th, 2015, though Smith presumes the CEO’s exit will happen long before that date.
  • J.R. Smith‘s disappointing 2013/14 season led to trade rumors that persisted into this summer, but Smith is confident that his improved health will lead to a bounceback performance this year, as he tells Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com. Smith spoke of a desire to take on more of a leadership role and seems to fully expect that he’ll continue to be a part of the Knicks roster.

And-Ones: Raptors, Sixers, Wolves, Marion

August 21 at 9:18pm CDT By Alex Lee

Based upon the initial reaction in the Toronto media, it seems like Raptors CEO Tim Leiweke will be missed after news broke this week that he will eventually leave the organization. Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun partially credits Leiweke with landing current GM Masai Ujiri, who last season built the first Raptors team to make the playoffs in six years. Wolstat also points to the 2016 All Star Game, which Toronto will host, and the team’s new practice facility as coups that have Leiweke’s fingerprints all over them. Meanwhile, Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post lauds the CEO for cultivating the organization’s relationship with hip hop star Drake and also writes that Leiweke played a role in retaining star guard Kyle Lowry.

Let’s see what else is going on around the NBA on Thursday evening:

  • As Tom Moore of Calkins Media points out (via Twitter), Luc Mbah a Moute is slated to make about $4.4MM for the Sixers in 2014/15 while Alexey Shved will make about $3.2MM. Meanwhile, Thaddeus Young will earn around $9.2MM this season for the Timberwolves and has a $9.7MM player option for 2015/16.
  • Assuming the trade is finalized as reported, Moore reminds us that Jason Richardson, still recovering from a knee injury, and Arnett Moultrie are now the longest tenured Sixers, appearing in 92 games combined. Hollis Thompson, who has played 77 games in Philly, will have the most time on the court (Twitter link).
  • Appearing on ESPN 103.3 in Dallas on Thursday, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban discussed Shawn Marion‘s decision to sign with the Cavaliers. “He wanted to go to somebody that he thought, and this was all prior to signing Chandler Parsons and everything, that he thought was closer to a ring particularly in the Eastern Conference. He decided to go that route and we wish him nothing but the best,” Cuban said. (quote via The Dallas Morning News)

Poll: Grade Wolves’ Haul For Love

August 21 at 8:18pm CDT By Alex Lee

With the pieces of the Kevin Love trade on the verge of becoming official, we can finally begin to think about what this deal means for some of the less-publicized parties involved. We know what it signifies for the Cavaliers, who will acquire their second superstar of the offseason to go with a promising young point guard in Kyrie Irving. I think we can all agree that morphing from the team drafting first in June into the NBA favorite by August is an A-plus offseason any way you slice it.

But how did Minnesota make out in this deal? When all the dust settles on this three-way trade — assuming it’s finalized as is currently being reported — the Timberwolves will have ultimately moved Love, Luc Mbah a Moute and Alexey Shved for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young. According to Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press (via Twitter), it’s hard to imagine team president Flip Saunders could have acquired a better package for a star player he was probably a year away from losing for nothing. Do you agree?

History has shown us that trading superstars in their prime is risky business in the NBA. Sometimes the package is led by one prized asset and ancillary pieces with upside, as was the case in the deals for Charles Barkley (Jeff Hornacek), Ray Allen (Jeff Green), Kevin Garnett (Al Jefferson) and Chris Paul (Eric Gordon). Other times we see star-for-star swaps, like Tracy McGrady for Steve Francis or Jason Kidd for Stephon Marbury. And occasionally teams are forced to trade their studs for pennies on the dollar, as we saw with Shaquille O’Neal (traded to the Heat) and Vince Carter (traded to the Nets).

What we don’t usually see is a fair return for a superstar player — if it even exists — which leads us back to Minnesota’s haul for Love. In Wiggins, the Wolves will land the first overall pick in a loaded draft before he plays a minute in a regular season NBA game. In Bennett, they’ll land a guy who is a year removed from also being selected at the top of the draft. And finally, in Young, they’ll land a veteran who seems destined to be a tremendous role player on a contender.

With all of that in consideration, what grade would you assign Saunders and the Timberwolves for the Love deal? Feel free to justify your grade in the comments section.

And-Ones: Bledsoe, Monroe, Raptors, Gray

August 21 at 4:14pm CDT By Chuck Myron

An NBA GM who spoke with Sean Deveney of The Sporting News said he’d be reluctant to sign-and-trade for either Eric Bledsoe or Greg Monroe in part because of the chance they’ll become available again next summer. The GM also suggested that the Suns and Pistons are overvaluing them, further diminishing the odds of a trade this offseason. While we continue to wait to see what happens to the two top restricted free agents, here’s more from around the league:

  • When Tim Leiweke spoke about two months ago to the board of the company that controls the Raptors, he declined to promise that he would stay on as CEO past next spring, as Elliotte Friedman writes for CBC.ca. That helped lead to today’s announcement of his planned departure, Friedman explains. The Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment board wanted to take control of the process and end speculation about Leiweke’s future, as Friedman details, adding that Leiweke’s contract carried an escape clause that gave him a way out.
  • Aaron Gray‘s contract with the Pistons is for two years, with a player option for the final season, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reveals (Twitter link).
  • Joel Embiid is tight with Luc Mbah a Moute, notes Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun, and that helps explain why the Sixers appear poised to acquire Mbah a Moute as part of the Kevin Love trade (Twitter link). Mbah a Moute has served as a mentor for Embiid, a fellow native of Cameroon, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune points out (on Twitter).

And-Ones: Hawks, Young, International Play

August 20 at 10:28pm CDT By Cray Allred

The Hawks have added Charles Lee and Ben Sullivan to Mike Budenholzer‘s staff as assistants, the team announced. The Hawks also announced that Jim Thomas will leave his assistant coaching role to become a scout in Atlanta’s front office. Here’s more from around the league:

  • Tom Moore of Calkins Media suggests that the Sixers could still swap Thaddeus Young for other Wolves players and/or a first-round pick if they are unable to land Anthony Bennett as the third team in a Kevin Love deal, although it’s unclear if Moore is reporting on the team’s plans or is merely hypothesizing.
  • Commisioner Adam Silver acknowledged to reporters including Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com that international play is “a big risk without enormous financial reward” for NBA players, but still views it as a legitimate endeavor for willing stars. “Ultimately they have to make that very personal decision as to whether they want to play in the summer: whether it makes sense for their bodies, whether it makes sense for their families,” said Silver.
  • Silver does expect the issue of international play to be debated by the league soon. “I do anticipate it will be a hot topic at the competition meeting and the Board of Governors meeting just because it always has been,” Silver said. “We are always evaluating and re-evaluating everything we do; it is a part of running any business.”
  • Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post spoke with Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr., who are both vying to become the Wizards primary small forward off the bench, about their development heading into next season.

Wolves, Dante Cunningham In Talks

August 20 at 2:30pm CDT By Chuck Myron

The odd that the Wolves will re-sign Dante Cunningham remain long, but the team and Cunningham’s camp have spoken with in the last two days, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link). Domestic violence charges against Cunningham were dropped Monday, seemingly sparking the renewed dialogue.

The team and agent Joel Bell reportedly spoke at the beginning of free agency in July, but Wolfson characterized the prospect of Cunningham’s return to the Wolves as a long shot when he reported in mid-July that the Rockets had reached out to the power forward. Houston was apparently one of several NBA teams with which Cunningham had talks, but all of them wanted to wait to see how his legal situation played out in the wake of his April arrest, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press.

Now that Cunningham’s name has been cleared, the market figures to open for him, as Charlie Adams of Hoops Rumors wrote Thursday when he examined the 27-year-old’s free agent stock. Still, the Wolves have 15 guaranteed deals, and the Rockets are well-stocked at the power forward position. Minnesota’s roster is in flux, as precise details of the impending Kevin Love trade remain elusive, so it’s conceivable that a spot on the Wolves roster will open for Cunningham once that deal takes place.