Phoenix Suns Rumors

Zoran Dragic Nearing NBA Move

September 21 at 1:30pm CDT By Cray Allred

SUNDAY, 1:30pm: The Suns have emerged as the frontrunners to sign Dragic, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports (Twitter links). The guard is likely to land a two year deal, notes Stein.

SATURDAY, 9:21 pm: Zoran Dragic is in advanced discussions with Unicaja Malaga to leave the team and come to the NBA, tweets Shams Charania of RealGM. The Slovenian point guard has a buyout clause of $1.1MM to leave the Euroleague team, so presumably he has an agreement in place with an NBA squad. It’s possible that the team could have relinquished its buyout requirement, or that Dragic is paying for it himself, but it is much more likely that an NBA team is set to foot the bill.

The Suns, Pacers, and Kings have been named as the most aggressive suitors for the younger brother of Goran Dragic, although the Cavs, Heat, Magic, Spurs, Mavs, and Rockets have also registered interest. If Phoenix has struck a deal with the 25-year-old, it could have massive ripple effects around the league. The Suns are at a negotiating standoff with restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe, and adding another Dragic to the already-stacked Phoenix backcourt could signal their willingness to move on from Bledsoe, who Minnesota would bring on with a max contract if they had the room to do so.

Momentum has been building all summer for the younger Dragic, who has until October 5th to exercise the escape clause before becoming locked into another season overseas. At one point, it seemed like a long shot that the point guard would be coming stateside before next season, but he repeatedly stated his desire to find his way to the NBA amid a strong performance in the FIBA tournament spotlight. The hefty buyout payment, which exceeds the $600K max to not count against the cap, could mean that at least one team believes in him as a player who can contribute immediately. If Dragic fetches more than the minimum from a team willing to invest in his services, the Cavs, Heat, and Mavs are unlikely candidates to have snagged him.

Western Notes: McCalebb, Ayon, Bledsoe, Mavs

September 20 at 8:22pm CDT By Cray Allred

Kobe Bryant may not retire following the last two years on his contract with the Lakers, but he is eyeing an ownership stake in the Italian soccer team Bologna FC 1909, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport (translation via Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times). Here’s more from around the West:

  • Bo McCalebb is in discussions with two teams in the Western Conference, a source tells David Pick of Eurobasket.com (Twitter link). This isn’t the first we’ve heard of interest in the 29-year-old Euroleague star point guard. McCalebb is a free agent and wouldn’t require a buyout to join an NBA team for training camp or beyond.
  • The Spurs had offered Gustavo Ayon the veteran’s minimum of $981,084 before the big man chose to sign overseas, Pick tells Hoops Rumors.
  • In a reader chat response, Jabari Davis of Basketball Insiders wonders whether the Wolves will seek a third team to facilitate a sign-and-trade for Eric Bledsoe. Minnesota offered a max deal to the Suns restricted free agent, but Phoenix is reportedly uninterested in shipping him out for anyone on Minnesota’s roster.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News takes a look at the Mavericks‘ suddenly crowded backcourt, with incoming veterans in Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton joining a roster already featuring Monta Ellis and Devin Harris. The team believes the players can coexist without any drama in coach Rick Carlisle‘s system. “A team can never have too many playmakers,” Carlisle said. “They can all play with or without the ball, so in my mind, they aren’t just point guards, they’re basketball players.” 

Western Notes: Bledsoe, Wolves, Warriors

September 19 at 8:35pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

If Eric Bledsoe doesn’t end up with a different team and he ends up signing a qualifying offer from the Suns, then Phoenix is the best possible place to play out the season, Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders writes. Brigham notes that the Suns have the best training staff in the league, which significantly reduces the risk of Bledsoe incurring an injury that would impact his earning potential next Summer.

Here’s more from out west:

  • Brigham also notes that Bledsoe might not have the same opportunity this year as he did  last season to showcase his talents since the Suns are so deep at the point guard position with Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, and Tyler Ennis all potentially cutting into Bledsoe’s minutes.
  • The Timberwolves have a tough decision on their hands when it comes to Ricky Rubio, writes Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders. Minnesota is a team in transition and Rubio has proven to be an effective, but not spectacular, floor general. The T’Wolves could either invest in Rubio’s upside or wait for next summer where another franchise could choose to overpay and put pressure on Minnesota to match a max deal.
  • With versatile guard Shaun Livingston in the fold, the Warriors may be closer to title contention than anyone thinks, writes Moke Hamilton in Basketball Insiders‘ season preview of the Warriors. Golden State has one of the league’s very best starting fives (if healthy) and the bench is strong too, but Hamilton’s chief concern is first-year coach Steve Kerr. In his estimation, the effectiveness of Kerr will be one of the most compelling storylines of the year.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Wolves Offer Eric Bledsoe Max Deal

September 19 at 4:53pm CDT By Zach Links

4:53pm: The Suns have no interest in a sign-and-trade deal with Minnesota, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports. According to Wojnarowski’s sources the Suns are only interested in trading Bledsoe for an All-Star, or a potential All-Star player, and had only considered Kevin Love in a possible sign-and-trade scenario with the Wolves.

3:53pm: The Suns own the Wolves’ 2015 first-round pick but it’s top-12 protected.  Removing or reducing the protection could be a part of the Bledsoe talks, tweets Windhorst.

3:25pm: The Wolves are offering Eric Bledsoe a four-year, $63MM maximum level contract, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.  The offer turns up the heat on the Suns, who have offered the restricted free agent a four-year, $48MM deal.  The Wolves don’t have the necessary cap room to sign the guard outright, so they’d have to swing a sign-and-trade deal with Phoenix.

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Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reported yesterday that the Wolves were still in talks with the Suns on a sign-and-trade deal even after the completion of the Kevin Love deal.  The possibility of the Wolves making a play for the 24-year-old seemed somewhat remote after Love was shipped to the Cavs, but it’s now very much a reality.

While the Suns and the Rich Paul client have been in a stalemate this summer, Phoenix was reportedly willing to dial up their offer if necessary.  An increase of roughly $15MM probably wasn’t what they had in mind, however.  Bledsoe’s camp made it known to Phoenix and every other team that he was only interested in signing a max contract.  Otherwise, he said he was prepared to sign a one-year, $3.7MM qualifying offer with the Suns that would enable him to become an unencumbered free agent next summer.  Fellow restricted free agent Greg Monroe made the same threat to the Pistons and made good on his promise earlier this summer.

In a sign-and-trade deal, the Suns would want Andrew Wiggins, according to Wolfson (on Twitter).  That’s less-than-preferable for the Wolves, however, and that wouldn’t be a match, according to Wolfson.  This is purely speculative, but since the Wolves were entertaining a Love-for-Bledsoe swap and Wiggins was the primary haul of the Love deal with Cleveland, it’s seems possible that the Wolves would consider including the No. 1 overall pick.

The Suns obviously want to keep Bledsoe (at the right price) but they would still have a very strong backcourt without the Kentucky product.  The Suns have a highly-talented guard in Goran Dragic and the addition of free agent guard Isaiah Thomas on a four-year, $27MM deal would also lessen the sting.  Phoenix also has first-round guard Tyler Ennis in reserve.

Bledsoe averaged 17.7 points and 5.5 assists across 43 games for the Suns last season after being traded from the Clippers.  Unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury which cost him a good chunk of his 2013/14 campaign.

Jude LaCava of FOX 10 in Phoenix (on Twitter) first reported that the Wolves were prepared to offer Bledsoe a max deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Bledsoe, Barea

September 18 at 12:40pm CDT By Zach Links

Yesterday, University of Texas quarterback David Ash announced that he will give up football after dealing with concussion symptoms throughout his time in Austin. Thunder star Kevin Durant, who spent a season at UT, took to Twitter to send Ash a supportive message. “Thank you David Ash, you gave your all to the University of Texas. I respect your decision and good luck in the future my brother,” Durant wrote.  Here’s today’s look at Durant’s rivals in the Northwest Division..

  • Even after the completion of the Kevin Love trade, the Wolves have talked with the Suns about a deal for Eric Bledsoe, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter).  However, there’s no real match there between the two teams.  Bledsoe has been offered a four-year, $48MM deal from the Suns and while there’s currently a stalemate, the Suns may be willing to sweeten that proposal if talks open up again.
  • More from Wolfson (link) who is asked by a reader if the Wolves are getting interest in J.J. Barea.  No bites yet, he says, as other teams would want another piece in a trade.  There’s nothing imminent on that front and the Wolves will wait to see if another team loses a guard to injury in preseason.
  • Wolves GM Milt Newton says that he’s hopeful that he can hammer out a new deal with Ricky Rubio, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press.  “I feel optimistic. Knowing Ricky the person, he wants to be here. Now we just have to deal with his agent,” Milton said.
  • In their preview of the Trail Blazers, HoopsHype expresses concern over the state of Portland’s bench.  With sixth man Mo Williams gone, few of the remaining reserves can be trusted to give the team much, in their view.  They have the Blazers finishing second in the Northwest Division and fifth in the Western Conference.

Pacific Notes: Boozer, Kings, Dragic

September 18 at 10:35am CDT By Zach Links

Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News continued his look at the Lakers‘ depth chart today with a breakdown of offseason acquisition Carlos Boozer. The Lakers have Boozer for a bargain – just $3.25MM – but there are looming questions about his intensity on defense and whether he can handle a possibly fluctuating role. Here’s more out of the Pacific Division..

  • Even after an offseason of tinkering, the Kings probably aren’t done making moves, writes Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee.  Between Reggie Evans, Jason Thompson, and Carl Landry, the Kings are paying nearly $14MM for players who don’t fit in their long-range plans.  Instead, the Kings would like to find a player who can come in, hold down the power forward position, and allow the team to cut salary.
  • If the Suns give a max contract to anyone, it should be to Goran Dragic, not Eric Bledsoe, opines Bob Young of The Arizona Republic.  In Young’s view, the Suns’ four-year, $48MM offer to Bledsoe is reasonable and that kind of contract would give them enough breathing room to retain Dragic long-term.  If Bledsoe opts to instead sign the qualifying offer, Young wouldn’t mind seeing a future with Dragic as the team leader alongside Isaiah Thomas with Archie Goodwin and draft pick Tyler Ennis in reserve.
  • Guard Zoran Dragic likes his current situation overseas but still pines to play in the NBA, where he is being targeted by the Suns and other clubs.  “I am here preparing the season with Malaga.  But if I have the chance to go the NBA my desire is to go,” said Dragic to La Opinion de Malaga (translation courtesy of Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). “I think that the best option for me is to go the NBA now because I don’t want to lose one year.  I think I am ready to play in the NBA but the truth is that I don’t know anything about the NBA at the moment.  My heart is with Unicaja.

Lowe’s Latest: Salary Cap, TV Deal, Burks, Morris

September 16 at 10:45am CDT By Chuck Myron

Teams around the league are projecting that the salary cap will leap to as high as $80MM for 2016/17, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe writes, but next season’s salary cap is shrouded in uncertainty. Executives from around the league believed earlier this summer that the NBA would gradually phase in the increase in the salary cap with a larger than usual uptick next summer, but the league has told teams within the last two weeks to hold steady on their projections for 2015/16, according to Lowe. The uncertainty makes it more difficult for teams to make long-term commitments at this point as the October 31st deadline for rookie scale extensions looms. The focus of the Grantland scribe’s piece is on that rookie scale extension market, and his entire piece is worth a read to juxtapose his insight with our in-depth pieces on some of the same up-and-comers featured in our Extension Candidate Series. Lowe also has a few more newsy tidbits, as we’ll pass along here:

  • There’s chatter around the league suggesting that the NBA will backload its new television deal, which is expected to be more than twice as lucrative as the current arrangement that runs out after the 2015/16 season, Lowe reports. The aim would be for the league to negotiate the ability to keep a larger percentage of that media rights revenue for itself in the next collective bargaining agreement with the players union.
  • Executive around the league see Alec Burks as a sixth man rather than a starter, according to Lowe, who argues that there’s a case to be made to the contrary. Still, it bodes well for the Jazz‘s leverage in extension talks.
  • Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris told teams before the 2011 draft that they would take less money to play together, sources tell Lowe. That didn’t end up happening right away, since Houston drafted Marcus and Phoenix took Markieff, but the Suns reunited the twins at the 2013 trade deadline, and if their desire to stick together still holds true, that gives the Suns the ability to exert some pressure, Lowe surmises. Both are extension-eligible.

And-Ones: Deng, Knicks, Dragic, West

September 12 at 6:02pm CDT By Chuck Myron

The Luol Deng report from the RealGM scouting service that was the source of the racially charged statements that Hawks GM Danny Ferry said aloud in a June conference call contains several tidbits of collateral information on storylines surrounding Deng the past couple of years. One of the anonymous sources quoted in the report points to hard feelings Deng had toward the Bulls as they allegedly pushed him to play through injury and played hardball with an extension offer. The same source cites “major locker room issues” that existed between two Cavaliers during Deng’s tenure there, and while the names are redacted, many accounts have pointed to tension between Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. The report also pointed to interest in Deng from the Hornets, Suns, Mavs and Lakers around last year’s trade deadline. Aside from the most explosive racial comments, the report contains a few mild criticisms of Deng’s ability on the court and his persona off of it, but mostly serves to paint Deng as a valuable player and an upstanding character. While the fallout from the Hawks saga continues, here’s more from other corners of the league:

  • Knicks president Phil Jackson tells Scott Cacciola of The New York Times that he and owner James Dolan didn’t speak in August and have otherwise been having only a couple conversations a month as Dolan keeps his promise not to interfere. An agent said to Cacciola that when he appealed to Dolan when Jackson wouldn’t budge in negotiations, he found the owner unwilling to provide recourse behind Jackson’s back, and Dolan insists to the Times scribe that he won’t change his ways if the team starts losing this season.
  • Zoran Dragic acknowledged that playing in the NBA appeals to him but said he’s on his way to training camp with Spain’s Unicaja Malaga, as he told Gal Zbačnik of Kosarka.si (translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). Dragic’s contract with the team reportedly gives him until October 5th to find an NBA deal, and several teams appear to be in pursuit.
  • Delonte West has agreed to return to China on a one-year deal with the Shanghai Sharks, reports Chris Haynes of the Plain Dealer (on Twitter). West, who hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2012/13 preseason, spent last year with China’s Fujian Sturgeons.

Goran Dragic Plans To Opt Out Next Summer

September 9 at 2:48pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Goran Dragic made comments indicating that he plans to decline his player option for 2015/16 as he spoke to Jaka Lopatič of the Slovenian website Planet Siol.net (translation via Dave King of Bright Side of the Sun). Dragic can turn down the $7.5MM he’s set to make that season and hit free agency next summer.

King interprets Dragic’s comments to indicate that he intends to re-sign with the Suns, but that doesn’t seem entirely clear, and as with any foreign-language report, there’s a chance some of the meaning is lost in translation. Either way, rival teams are already lining up to target the 28-year-old guard in the wake of his best season, with last week’s report indicating that the Rockets are considering a run at him and that the Lakers among those likely to enter the fray.

The Suns made Dragic a full-time starter for the first time in his career after he inked with the team in 2012, and he set career highs in scoring and assists. His points per game leaped again this past season, to 20.3 from 14.7 in 2013/14. That was in part because coach Jeff Hornacek moved him to shooting guard so he could pair with Eric Bledsoe. With fewer ball-distributing responsibilities, Dragic not only set a career high in field goal attempts but also in field goal percentage, connecting on 50.5% of his shots from the floor. His 40.8% three-point accuracy was also his best mark to date.

It remains to be seen whether the BDA Sports Management client can duplicate that production, particularly with Bledsoe still unsigned, but Dragic will be near the top of the 2015 free agent class if he can. The Suns are in prime position to shell out whatever it takes to keep Dragic, since they have his Bird rights and only about $17MM in commitments for 2015/16. The Suns are also reportedly among a trio of teams with especially keen interest in signing Spanish-league shooting guard Zoran Dragic, Goran’s brother.

Suns To Sign Joe Jackson

September 8 at 4:55pm CDT By Zach Links

Joe Jackson, an undrafted point guard out of Memphis, is finalizing a free agent deal with the Suns, a league source tells Shams Charania of RealGM (via Twitter).  Terms of the deal are not yet known.

Jackson worked out for the Wolves, Kings, Suns, Knicks, Rockets, Mavs, Grizzlies, and Jazz, but didn’t hear his name called in the 2014 Draft.  Apparently, Jackson was able to step out in his June 3rd audition in front of Phoenix brass where he worked out alongside Jerami Grant, Ronald Roberts Jr. and Cam Bairstow.

The 6’0″ guard was ranked as the 49th best senior in his NCAA class by DraftExpreess.  In 2013/14, Jackson averaged 14.4 PPG, 4.5 APG, and 3.6 RPG in 33.6 minutes per contest.