Phoenix Suns Rumors

Pacific Rumors: Lakers, Bledsoe, Warriors, Kings

April 15 at 4:30pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Mike D’Antoni didn’t exactly endear himself to Lakers fans when he revealed that he was unaware of the draft lottery implications of the team’s game against the Jazz on Monday night, as Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding chronicles. The Lakers are the sixth-worst team in the league, as our Reverse Standings show, but they could have moved into a three-way tie for fourth with a loss. Here’s more on the Lakers and their Pacific Division rivals:

Lakers, Suns Interested In Luol Deng

April 14 at 3:00pm CDT By Chuck Myron

The Lakers and Suns are among the teams interested in soon-to-be free agent Luol Deng, sources tell Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio. There were conflicting reports in February about Deng as an offseason target of the Lakers, but the Suns appear to be a newcomer to his list of suitors. Both teams will have plenty of cap flexibility this summer for the Herb Rudoy client, who’s rumored to be eyeing salaries of more than $13.5MM.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports wrote shortly before the trade deadline that there was increasing doubt the Lakers would make a run at Deng in the summer. Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times countered soon afterward with a report that the Lakers are high on Deng, but that they don’t want to overpay him, with the franchise’s focus primarily on 2015′s free agent class. Around the same time, Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News put the Lakers on a list of teams likely to pursue Deng in free agency that also identified the Mavs, Celtics, Magic and Bobcats.

Deng has appeared unlikely to re-sign with the Cavs almost since he arrived from the Bulls in a January trade. The Cavs explored flipping him at the trade deadline, but other teams were wary of taking him on without an assurance he would re-sign. Deng, who turns 29 on Wednesday, is No. 8 on the Hoops Rumors 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.

Western Notes: Lakers, Suns, Barton

April 12 at 12:40pm CDT By Cray Allred

The Lakers are limping their way toward the offseason. Both Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman are likely done for the year, per a pair of tweets from Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. Kobe Bryant will not take part in the team’s scheduled exit meetings, opting to meet with GM Mitch Kupchak at a later date, per Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report (via Twitter). Kobe has expressed his frustration with the front office this year, but Kupchak recently said that Lakers brass won’t be making roster or coaching moves at Bryant’s behest. Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Dan Bickley of USA Today wonders whether contract concerns for Eric Bledsoe and Gerald Green could disrupt the Suns‘ chemistry next year. President Lon Babby tells Bickley that Phoenix can’t count on a repeat of this year’s dynamic. “I think chemistry is very, very important,” Babby said. “But I also know from experience that if we brought back the entire group with no changes in personnel, it would be very difficult to re-create the same chemistry…The analogy I use is that it’s like a new year of school. You come back, and everything is a little different. Your friends are a little different.” 
  • Will Barton is enjoying his role with the Blazers, but is uncertain about his future with the team, he tells Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com“I try not to think about it as much but I do sometimes,” said Barton, whose contract is non-guaranteed for next year. “You just never know what people are thinking. Hopefully I make it past the deadline…Portland took a chance on me. It would be huge if I can stay in Portland. But like I said, it’s a business and I’m aware of that. You just never know.”
  • In an on-air interview with the Spurs broadcast team, Adam Silver commended San Antonio as a model franchise (transcription via Mike Monroe of San Antonio Express-News). “This is a model franchise, not only for NBA teams but teams in any sport,” said Silver. “This is the prototype of a small market team that is competing in a first-class manner and a well-run business on top of that.”
  • Jesse Blancarte of Basketball Insiders takes a look at what it will take for the Nuggets to make a turnaround next year. Blancarte doesn’t think a drastic roster overhaul is necessary.

Poll: Experienced Coach Or First-Timer?

April 11 at 8:01pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

As we approach the end of the NBA regular season, it’s the time of year when the annual coaching carousel begins to spin and a slew of faces will end up in brand new places. Heading into the 2013/14 season there were a total of 13 coaching changes, which if you’re keeping score at home, is the most ever in a single offseason.

We won’t know for sure just how many teams will be making a change on their bench until the playoffs are over. Normally you would think a playoff spot would ensure job security, but Lionel Hollins, Vinny Del Negro, and Larry Drew all weren’t retained after reaching the playoffs last year. So the exact number of vacancies are up in the air, but we know there will be some.

If your team is making a head coaching change, which would you prefer in your new hire? Do you want a veteran coach with years of experience to lead your team? One who has a proven track record, but also could be carrying baggage and bad habits picked up throughout the years. Or, would you prefer the energy and new ideas a first-time coach can provide? A new coach has more to prove, and might be more in touch with the pulse and culture of his players, but has no experience to rely on, and no track record to predict future performance.

Let’s look at how this year’s crop of new coaches fared as an example. First up, the ones with prior experience:

  1. Doc Rivers (Clippers): The team is 55-24, first in the Pacific Division, and the third seed in the playoffs. Last year’s team went 56-26 under Vinny Del Negro, before Del Negro wasn’t retained and the team traded for Rivers.
  2. Maurice Cheeks (Pistons): He was fired 50 games into the year with a record of 20-29. Detroit was 29-53 in 2012/13 under Lawrence Frank. After the team signed Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings in the off season, owner Tom Gores expected a much better record and for the team to make the playoffs.
  3. Mike Brown (Cavaliers): The team sits at 32-47, which is good for tenth in the eastern conference. Last year under Byron Scott the team had a record of 24-58 and ended up with the first overall selection in the draft.
  4. Larry Drew (Bucks): The Bucks sit at 14-64. which is good for the worst record in the league. In 2012/13 under Scott Skiles and Jim Boylan the team went 38-44.

Now for how the first-time coaches performed:

  1. Jason Kidd (Nets): The Nets are at 43-35, which is good for the fifth overall playoff seed. Kidd replaced interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, whose team finished 2012/13 with a record of 49-33.
  2. Brad Stevens (Celtics): Stevens, taking over for Doc Rivers, has gone 23-55, but has the re-building team heading in a positive direction. Last year’s team went 41-40.
  3. Mike Budenholzer (Hawks): The Hawks have gone 35-43 and currently hold the final playoff spot in the east. Last year’s Larry Drew led squad went 44-38.
  4. Steve Clifford (Bobcats): Clifford has led the Bobcats to a 40-38 record and the sixth seed in the east. Under Mike Dunlap the team went 21-61 during last year’s campaign.
  5. Brian Shaw (Nuggets): The Nuggets have been hampered by injuries all season, and sit at 35-44. Shaw replaced coach of the year winner George Karl, who led the team to a record of 57-25.
  6. David Joerger (Grizzlies): Joerger replaced Lionel Hollins and has guided the team to a record of 46-32, and has the team is one game out of the final playoff spot. Last year the team went 56-26.
  7. Brett Brown (Sixers): Under Brown the Sixers have the second worst record in the league at 17-61, including a record-tying 26 game losing streak. Last season under Doug Collins, the team went 34-48.
  8. Jeff Hornacek (Suns): The Suns are one of the most improved teams in the league with a record of 47-31, and hold the seventh seed in the western conference. Last year under Lindsey Hunter and Alvin Gentry the team went 25-57.
  9. Mike Malone (Kings): Under Malone the Kings have gone 27-52. During the 2012/13 season under Keith Smart the team ended up 28-54.

This means that in their first seasons with their new teams, experienced coaches went 121-164 (.424), and the first-timers went 313-391 (.444). There are many different factors outside a coach’s control that contribute to the team’s final record, but the nature of the NBA is that the coach is the first one to take the heat.

Now it’s time to vote. If your team makes a coaching change this off season, do you want an experienced person hired, or would you prefer the team brings in a brand new face? Cast your vote below and feel free to give your thoughts in the comments section below.

Western Notes: Lee, Gordon, Ledo

April 9 at 10:16pm CDT By Cray Allred

The Suns are locked into an exciting battle for one of the West’s final two playoff spots, something virtually no one anticipated before the season. Bob Young of azcentral.com details all of the moves that have panned out for Phoenix this year, leading to their surprising success. Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • David Lee tells Antonio Gonzalez of The Associated Press that there is no timetable for his return, but he does hope to play for the Warriors in the playoffs. After missing postseason action last year due to a torn hip flexor, the power forward is sidelined late in the year again, this time due to nerve damage that has a less straightforward recovery process. “That’s the only thing that has really worried me,” Lee said. “Just the fact that they say sometimes these heal in two days, sometimes it takes two months. We don’t know. But the good thing is, from what they’ve told me, as long as it continues to progress they think it’s going to be weeks still. So I have a good chance of being there when I need to be there.”
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News writes that rookie guard Ricky Ledo has had moderate success in the D-League this year, and needs a productive summer with the Mavs to earn a spot on the NBA roster next season.
  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune writes that hindsight has proven matching Eric Gordon‘s four-year, $58MM offer sheet from the Suns was the wrong decision. Smith doesn’t believe the Pelicans can get anything close to equal value for the oft-injured Gordon, but says it’s time to move him out regardless of how little they get in return.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Eric Bledsoe

April 2 at 1:50pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Suns owner Robert Sarver and president of basketball operations Lon Babby both said even before Eric Bledsoe returned from a torn meniscus in his right knee that they intend to match any offer for the restricted free agent this summer. That doesn’t preclude teams from challenging them to honor their word and making the Suns pay dearly to keep a 24-year-old who’s only started 69 games in his NBA career. Indeed, it appears the Lakers have considered overpaying for Bledsoe this summer to see if they can bring him back to L.A., where he spent his first two NBA seasons with the Clippers.

Overpaying for Bledsoe would almost certainly entail a maximum-salary offer, and even that sort of money might not be too much for a player with his upside. The Rich Paul client is only eligible for a starting salary worth approximately 25% of the salary cap. The precise figure won’t be known until after the July Moratorium, but it’ll likely be close to $14MM, based on last year’s numbers. That would give him more money than fellow point guards Stephen Curry and Ty Lawson but less than elites like Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose. He’d have the same salary as John Wall, who shared a backcourt with Bledsoe in their lone season at the University of Kentucky.

Wall received his max via an extension with the Wizards this past summer. The Suns were wary of handing out a lucrative extension to Bledsoe, whom they’d just acquired via trade with the Clippers. The former 18th overall pick had never been a full-time starter, and so GM Ryan McDonough and company took a cautious approach, even though it seems likely they could have extended Bledsoe for significantly less than the max. The Suns gave him a chance to prove his worth this season, and when healthy, he’s done just that, averaging 17.3 points, 5.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. The Suns give up 3.1 fewer points per 100 possessions with Bledsoe on the floor, thanks in part to his team-leading 1.5 steals per game. In hindsight, the decision not to extend Bledsoe looks like a mistake.

There’s still plenty of room for him to improve, as his 3.1 turnovers per contest demonstrate. Still, it’s about the same rate of turnovers per minute as he’s committed throughout his career, so it’s no sign of regression. He shot nearly 40% from behind the arc last season and is making just 34.2% on such attempts this year, but apart from last season’s small sample size of 78 attempts, he’s never been a top-flight shooter from long distance. His assist numbers aren’t eye-popping because he shares ball-distributing duties with Goran Dragic.

The presence of Dragic complicates matters to some degree. The pairing of two point guards has certainly worked so far this season, but Bledsoe and Dragic have only shared the floor for a total of 716 minutes, or the equivalent of about 15 full games, a sample size that might be too small for the team to draw definitive conclusions. Dragic, not Bledsoe, has been the team’s most productive player this season, and if Dragic turns down his $7.5MM player option after next season, he can become a sought-after free agent in the summer of 2015. Dragic is also three and a half years older than Bledsoe, and the Slovenian has never played nearly as well as he has this season, so a regression could be in order for next year. If Dragic continues his sterling play, the Suns face the prospect of paying nearly $30MM a year to retain both of them.

The Suns have the benefit of cap flexibility if that scenario emerges. They’re tied only to about $23.6MM for next season and less than $1MM in the two seasons that follow. That doesn’t include rookie salaries for the slew of first-round picks coming Phoenix’s way in the new few years, but those are fungible assets that the Suns would have little trouble sending away if they want to pursue a marquee to add to Bledsoe and Dragic.

Plenty of teams would love to forestall the rise of the Suns, who play in an attractive, warm-weather city, as a title contender, and Bledsoe will draw plenty of attention this summer, as he did last year when he was on the trade block. The Raptors, Pelicans, Pistons, Magic, Mavericks and Celtics all expressed interest in trading for Bledsoe this past summer, with the majority of the talk surrounding Orlando. The Magic’s interest might have been overstated, and while the team seems committed to a slow rebuild, I wouldn’t be surprised to see GM Rob Hennigan float an offer to the point guard. The Magic would have little to lose in doing so, since even if Bledsoe signs an offer sheet and the Clippers take the maximum three days to match, Orlando probably wouldn’t miss out on any of its primary targets during the 72-hour holding period.

Sacrificing $14MM worth of cap maneuverability for three days is probably a worthwhile endeavor for other teams, too, but it’s certainly no given that Bledsoe would entertain signing an offer sheet. His contract could run for five years, with 7.5% raises, if he signs with the Suns outright, but he’d only get four seasons and 4.5% raises on an offer sheet with another team. Given the team’s stated intention to match any offer, Bledsoe and his agent have reason to negotiate with Phoenix first. That might be why Sarver and Babby have both said publicly that they’re willing to match offers, though I’d expect Paul to shop his client elsewhere if the Suns don’t at least come in with an offer equivalent to what other teams can make.

Ultimately, I don’t expect Bledsoe to change teams for a second consecutive summer. He’s only appeared in 35 games for the Suns, but his success, and the success of the team, is enough to justify the Suns keeping the No. 4 free agent in our 2014 power rankings around at any price.

Pacific Rumors: Warriors, Hill, Tucker, Nash

April 2 at 10:57am CDT By Chuck Myron

Jermaine O’Neal has hinted that he’ll retire after the season, but the 35-year-old scored 20 points Tuesday in an overtime win, and he says the rumors surrounding coach Mark Jackson and the team have been a galvanizing force in the Warriors locker room. Jeff Caplan of NBA.com has more from the 18th-year veteran, and we have the latest from around the Pacific Division:

  • Jordan Hill won’t rule out a return to the Lakers in free agency this summer, but not if it means playing the same limited role he’s seen this season, notes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. Hill would reportedly like the team to replace Mike D’Antoni, but Tuesday the power forward offered praise and respect for the Lakers coach. Still, if D’Antoni is back with the team next year, Hill certainly won’t be, Medina writes.
  • P.J. Tucker, a restricted free agent this summer, calls the months ahead “the most important time in my career,” but he feels indebted to the Suns, and the Arete Sports Agency client fully intends on re-signing with them, observes Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic“Of course, why would I not?” Tucker said. “They brought me here. I think I exceeded their expectations and mine with what has transpired. Of course, I want to retire a Sun.”
  • The Lakers plan to keep Steve Nash and his full $9.701MM salary for next season, and his 10-assist effort Tuesday against the Blazers shows that he’s still capable of being more than just a sunk cost for the team, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Contract Details: Butler, World Peace, Suns

March 31 at 9:38am CDT By Chuck Myron

Mark Deeks has updated his salary databases at ShamSports, and, as usual, he’s revealed several nuances about the latest contracts signed around the NBA. We’ll pass along the details we hadn’t previously heard about here:

  • Caron Butler gave up $1MM in his buyout deal with the Bucks. He signed for that same amount for the remainder of this season with the Thunder, who dipped into their mid-level exception to accommodate Butler’s $1MM salary.
  • Metta World Peace gave up $305,166 of this season’s $1.59MM salary in his buyout deal with the Knicks. All contracts with player options include a clause indicating whether or not the player receives the money for his option year in the event that he’s waived before deciding on the option. It looks as if the clause in World Peace’s deal stated that he would not receive the option-year pay, since Deeks doesn’t list any of World Peace’s $1,931,550 salary for 2014/15 on New York’s books.
  • Shavlik Randolph‘s contract with the Suns includes a non-guaranteed year for 2014/15, rather than a team option, as we suspected.
  • If the Hawks exercise their team option on the fourth season of Mike Muscala‘s deal, the contract will nonetheless remain non-guaranteed until the leaguewide guarantee date. It’s similar to the structure of the contracts a handful of Sixers have, including recent signee Jarvis Varnado.
  • Chris Johnson also has such a deal with the Celtics, although there are a pair of guarantee dates attached to the third and fourth seasons. The third year becomes fully guaranteed providing he’s not waived on or before September 1st, 2015, and the fourth year becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived on or before September 1st, 2016.
  • The Celtics also arranged for a couple of guarantee dates on Phil Pressey‘s three-year contract. Next season is non-guaranteed if he’s waived on or before July 15th, but if the Celtics keep him beyond that date, it’s fully guaranteed. The same happens for the third year of the deal on July 15, 2015.
  • The Rockets have a team option on Troy Daniels worth the minimum salary for next season.
  • Luke Babbitt‘s two-year deal with the Pelicans is for the minimum salary. Next season isn’t guaranteed, but it becomes partially guaranteed for $100K if he isn’t waived on or before July 22nd.
  • The Magic used cap room to sign Dewayne Dedmon to a three-year contract that gives him $300K for the rest of this season, slightly more than what he would have made on a prorated minimum-salary deal. Dedmon is set to make the minimum salary in the other two seasons covered in the pact. Next season is non-guaranteed if he’s waived on or before opening night, when it becomes partially guaranteed for $250K. The final season is non-guaranteed if he’s waived on or before August 1st, 2015, when it becomes fully guaranteed.

Western Notes: Tucker, Aldridge, Carter

March 29 at 6:50pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

P.J. Tucker has made it known that he wants to re-sign with the Suns this summer, albeit at a higher salary than the veteran’s minimum he has been playing for the last two seasons, writes Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. Tucker said, “The love I have for this organization will always be. They gave me a chance to prove myself and actually to prove that I’m a player in this league. It’s almost emotional for me to think about everything I’ve been through and for them to give me an opportunity to do it. Not just to be on the team, but in two seasons, I’ve started a whole year and a half for the team on a minimum contract. That doesn’t happen. When I sit back and think about it, which I never do, it’s too much. So I’ll always be indebted.” The article notes that Tucker was named by Forbes magazine as the most underpaid player in the league with his $884,000 salary. In 72 games, Tucker has averaged 9.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 1.8 APG in 30.9 minutes per game.

More from out west:

Pacific Notes: Jackson, Kings, Cap Space

March 29 at 12:54pm CDT By Cray Allred

Both Tim Kawakami of Bay Area News Group and Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report believe the Warriors players and coaches made a statement of support for coach Mark Jackson with their effort and emotion in a win against the Grizzlies last night, with both Andrew Bogut and David Lee injured (Twitter links). Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • After the game, Warriors forward Draymond Green told Kawakami that the team is in fact unified behind Jackson. “Coach is a guy we fight for and we’re going to continue to fight for,” said Green. “He’s given his all to us and we’re going to continue to give our all to him.”
  • Marcus Thompson of Bay Area News Group thinks that the Warriors would be more at risk by parting ways with Jackson than the coach would be (Twitter link). Thompson says that Jackson would land another job, but the team might not find a suitable replacement as easily.
  • The Kings don’t plan to use their open roster spot on a guard yet as they monitor the health of injured Isaiah Thomas, tweets Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. The roster spot remains vacant after the team opted not to sign Royce White for the rest of the year following his second 10-day contract with Sacramento.
  • The Kings struggled in a loss to the Thunder while Thomas sat another game, but Jones finds a bright side to the situation: opportunity and development for Sacramento’s rookie backcourt pairing of Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum. Both players said they were excited to see more minutes. “I’ll take all the minutes I can get,” McCallum said. “I’ve been waiting for the opportunity all year and getting a good opportunity to go out here and get some good experience and go out there and play.”
  • Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders takes a look at the projected cap space for teams in the Pacific, and how each team might use its cap space this summer.
  • We looked at the latest with the Lakers in an earlier roundup.