The Lakers should forget about free agent Rajon Rondo and stick with Jordan Clarkson as their point guard, contends Howard Ruben of Bleacher Report. The rookie out of Missouri showed poise from the time he took over the position, Ruben writes, making Rondo unnecessary. Clarkson is a much more affordable alternative, with a non-guaranteed salary of $845K for next season. Ruben also notes that Los Angeles has a shot to draft D’Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay, either of whom could be a long-term answer at point guard.
There’s more from the Pacific Division:
- Whether they’re able to keep him this summer or not, the Warriors understand the value of Draymond Green, according to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Green has been a force for Golden State both offensively and defensively this season, as he showed by frustrating the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis in a first-round sweep. “He does everything; he’s a jack of all trades,” coach Steve Kerr said of Green. “On top of that, he’s one of our leaders and the guy who talks the most trash to the other team, to the refs, to his teammates, to me. He’s kind of our life line.” Green is almost certain to command a max deal this summer, but he can cement that by continuing to shine in the playoffs.
- Jerel McNeal hopes to continue his NBA career after earning a late-season spot on the Suns‘ roster, writes Matt Petersen of NBA.com. After an outstanding season with Bakersfield in the D-League, Phoenix signed McNeal to a 10-day contract April 1st, then rewarded him with a two-year deal April 11th, although no money is guaranteed beyond this season. “I’ll probably end up doing Summer League with Phoenix and just use that as another opportunity to show what I can do and go do what the coaching staff asks,” McNeal said. “I’ll do whatever I need to do to stick around.”
- Chris Paul gave the Clippers the kind of moment they were hoping for when they traded for him in 2011, according to Ben Golliver of SI.com. Playing with an injured hamstring, Paul scored with 1 second left to defeat the Spurs in Game 7 of their playoff series. It was a breakthrough moment for Paul, who has often been the target of criticism for his playoff performances. The hamstring problem may force Paul to miss Monday’s opener of the Rockets series, reports Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Bucks‘ swingman Khris Middleton wishes to return to Milwaukee next season, Charles F. Gardner of The Journal Sentinel relays (Twitter links). “I hope to be back here,” Middleton said. “I feel we have a great young team, going in the right direction.” The 23-year-old can become a restricted free agent this offseason provided the Bucks tender him a qualifying offer worth $2,725,003. Middleton also noted that he wouldn’t want negotiations between he and Milwaukee to become drawn out, and referenced Eric Bledsoe and the Suns’ dealings from last summer, Gardner adds. “That’s a terrible situation,” said Middleton. “It worked out for him but it’s something I’d rather not be in.”
Here’s more out of the Central Division:
- The dislocated shoulder that knocked Kevin Love out of action for four to six months also ruined his chance at redeeming what the forward termed a “so-so” first season with the Cavs, Chris Haynes of The Northeast Ohio Media Group writes.
- Bulls‘ swingman Jimmy Butler‘s uncanny ability to accept criticism from his coaches without reacting emotionally is a major reason that the 25-year-old has matured into a star player in the NBA, Eric Weiss and Kevin O’Connor of DraftExpress write in their profile of player. Butler will become a restricted free agent this summer if Chicago tenders him a qualifying offer of $4,433,683.
- The Cavs have already begun recruiting Love to remain in Cleveland with their statements about how much the big man will be missed now that he is out for the remainder of the playoffs, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today writes. The scribe cites comments like ones made by guard Kyrie Irving, who said, “When one of your brothers goes down, there’s a piece of us that went with him.”
The Lakers are reportedly the favorites to land unrestricted free agent Rajon Rondo this summer, but the franchise isn’t as enamored with the mercurial point guard as it once was, Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report writes. According to team sources, co-owner Jim Buss is not the believer he was earlier in the season when it comes to Rondo, and GM Mitch Kupchak now sees the player as a worthwhile value only at a lower salary, Ding adds. Despite Kobe Bryant‘s apparent desire to play alongside Rondo, the team has no intention to sign the guard just because the Mamba wants the team to, Ding notes.
Here’s more out of the Western Conference:
- The Suns haven’t been successful drafting near the middle of the first round the last few seasons, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic notes. Only two players out of the six taken by the team in the first round since 2008 are still with the franchise, which is not a great track record, Coro adds. Phoenix is projected to have the No. 13 pick in June’s draft according to our reverse standings.
- Pelicans coach Monty Williams values center Omer Asik, and considers him a player that the franchise intends to make a strong push to re-sign this summer despite his inconsistent play, John Reid of The Times Picayune relays. ”As far as Omer, he’s a huge part of what we do,” Williams said. ”If you look at our defensive numbers from last year to this year, we improved in a number of categories and Omer was a huge part of that. So he’s highly valued by this organization and that he’s an asset to this city.” Asik, 28, is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. In addition to Asik, Williams indicated that he wanted all of his core players to return next season, Reid tweets.
- If the Trail Blazers were to lose unrestricted free agent LaMarcus Aldridge to another team this summer, the franchise would be just fine from a leadership standpoint thanks to the continued presence of Damian Lillard, Jason Quick of The Oregonian opines.
The Warriors beat the Pelicans by a score of 109-98 on Saturday to sweep their first round series. Golden State is hitting on all cylinders and I chronicled the moves that GM Bob Myers made to put a championship contender on the floor in his Executive of the Year Candidate piece.
Here’s more from the Pacific Division:
- The Lakers might be the only team to offer Rajon Rondo a sizable contract, Tim Bontemps of the New York Post opines. Bomtemps speculates that the point guard will struggle to get a contract that exceeds $10MM to $12MM per year.
- The Suns are optimistic that Eric Bledsoe can be a cornerstone for the team, Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic writes. “The exciting thing for us about Eric is he’s still just starting to scratch the surface of his potential,” GM Ryan McDonough said. “Last year [2013/14], he started for half a season and you saw glimpses of it. I think there some questions externally, certainly not from us, but could he do it as a starter, could he do it over the course of an 82-game season? I think he certainly proved he could with the numbers he averaged.” The point guard averaged 17.0 points, 6.1 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game.
- Golden State has assigned James Michael McAdoo to its D-League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors, according to the team’s twitter feed. This will be the forward’s fourth stint in the D-League this season.
The Suns could face a situation with Brandon Knight that is similar to the one the team endured with Eric Bledsoe last summer in regards to re-signing the player, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes. The Suns and Bledsoe remained at an impasse for the bulk of last summer while the two sides haggled over the amount of the contract, and Bledsoe didn’t put pen to paper on his deal until the end of September. When Knight was in discussions with the Bucks regarding an extension last offseason, the player was requesting a deal in the range of $12MM per season, while Milwaukee held fast at $9MM per year, Deveney notes.
Knight only made 11 appearances for the Suns after being acquired at the trade deadline from Milwaukee thanks to a foot injury he suffered. The guard is set to become a restricted free agent this summer, provided Phoenix tenders him a qualifying offer of $4,790,680. If the two sides are unable to reach an agreement on a new deal this summer, Knight could simply ink the qualifying offer and play out the 2015/16 season. He would then hit free agency in the summer of 2016 when the salary cap is expected to increase significantly, Deveney adds.
Here’s more out of the Pacific Division:
- Lester Hudson‘s $1,015,421 salary for 2015/16 with the Clippers is non-guaranteed, but if the guard is still on the roster on July 15th his salary becomes fully guaranteed, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders relays (Twitter link).
- The Lakers paid Vander Blue a total of $14,408 for the three days he spent with the team after being inked to a pact that covered the remainder of the 2014/15 campaign, Pincus tweets. Blue can become a restricted free agent this summer if Los Angeles tenders him a qualifying offer worth $1,147,276.
- Jerel McNeal‘s minimum salary arrangement with the Suns for 2015/16 will become fully guaranteed if he is still on Phoenix’s roster past July 21st, Pincus adds (Twitter link).
Kawhi Leonard could sign an offer sheet that allows him to become an unrestricted free agent in three years or a qualifying offer that takes him to unrestricted free agency in 2016, but the Spurs are confident he’ll remain in San Antonio for the long term, Grantland’s Zach Lowe writes. “I don’t know that I’m worried about [the cap],” GM R.C. Buford said. “It is what it is. We’ll deal with the guidelines. I hope that Kawhi is with us for a long time, and I know that’s no secret to Kawhi or his family.”
Here’s more from the Western Conference:
- Lowe continues to hear talk among sources who say that the Spurs might get to have a meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge, as Lowe writes in the same piece. That echoes a report from January in which Lowe wrote that he’d spoken with a half-dozen executives from four different teams who raised the possibility that Aldridge would sign with San Antonio.
- Plenty of executives would point to the notion that Danny Green would be much more successful within the Spurs‘ system than out of it, and they’d be hesitant to shell out $10MM a year for him, Lowe surmises. The Grantland scribe nonetheless stumps for Green’s value based on “elite” defense and his status as a legitimate “3-and-D” player. An executive who spoke with Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops said that he wouldn’t mind paying a $6MM annual salary for the swingman.
- Matt Petersen of NBA.com looked back on Suns guard Eric Bledsoe‘s 2014/15 campaign, his first after inking a five-year, $70MM deal with the team. The 25-year-old appeared in all 81 games for Phoenix this past season, averaging 17.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 6.1 assists.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
The Kings have several decisions to make regarding their backcourt, Antonio Gonzalez of the Associated Press reports. Starting shooting guard Ben McLemore only showed slight improvement in his second season while backup Nik Stauskas struggled during his rookie campaign, in part because the team had two coaching changes during the season, Gonzalez continues. The club also has to decide whether to retain backup point guards Ray McCallum and David Stockton. McCallum’s approximate $947,000 contract for next season is not guaranteed, while Stockton has a non-guaranteed salary of $845,059 for next season.
In other news around the Pacific Division:
- Danny Granger has not decided whether to exercise the approximate $2.17MM player option on his contract for next season, according to Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. Granger, who was acquired by the Suns from the Heat during the trade deadline, has been working with the team’s athletic training staff to overcome health issues associated with his twice-surgically repaired left knee, Coro continues. Granger is building a house in the area, Coro adds, a potential sign that he’s planning to return to the team next season.
- Isaiah Thomas learned quickly that he made a mistake when he signed with the Suns as a free agent last summer, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe writes. Thomas, who was dealt to the Celtics at the trade deadline, was sold on the idea of joining Phoenix after getting advice from Jason Terry, Himmelsbach reports. Thomas realized once the season started that sharing playing time and the ball with fellow point guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe was not going to work out, Himmelsbach continues. “I was taking a step back,” Thomas said to Himmelsbach. “We all wanted the ball and are all talented, but somebody ended up upset every night. It’s something that everyone thought would work, but it just didn’t.”
- Jeremy Lin views a return to the Lakers as a possibility despite a tumultuous season, Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times reports. Lin, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, believes the prospects of remaining with the club improved after a productive exit meeting with coach Byron Scott and GM Mitch Kupchak, Pincus adds. “That would be great,” Lin said to Pincus about re-signing with the Lakers. “There’s so much that needs to happen, but that’s definitely an option for me.” Lin averaged 11.2 points on 42.4% shooting this season, his lowest output in both categories since his rookie season in 2010/11.
Brandon Knight would like to re-sign with the Suns, and he’d like that to happen in a swift process that would contrast sharply from last summer’s drawn-out negotiations with Eric Bledsoe, and Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic relays.
“If it can be quick and easy, that’s the best thing,” Knight said. “You don’t want to go through a fight or anything like that or you don’t want to drag it out as well. Definitely don’t want anything that leads up to training camp. For me, it’s just about doing what’s best for me and my family and the Suns will do the same. I’m optimistic about the situation. I like it here. I like the way I’ve been treated so far. Top-class organization. I’m looking forward to a future with the Suns.”
GM Ryan McDonough admits the team has learned from what happened with Bledsoe and expressed belief and hope that negotiations with Knight will go more smoothly, as Coro notes in separate piece. The Suns want to bring him back, and he told them that he has no issues pairing with Bledsoe in the backcourt, Coro writes. While we wait to see how it turns out for Knight and the Suns in restricted free agency this summer, here’s more from Coro on the Suns:
- McDonough said the team will go after a star this summer and pledged to be active on the trade market, and he expressed confidence that the team is in a strong position to land any marquee players who become available, according to Coro. “Short of that, we’ll try to do it with depth and do it as a team,” McDonough said. “We tried to do that last year. It’s just the roster wasn’t as balanced as it should’ve been and, frankly, the players didn’t handle it as well as we would’ve liked them to.”
- Adding size, rebounding, shooting and veterans will be priorities, McDonough said, as Coro notes.
- The team would like to re-sign Brandan Wright, according to Coro, and that feeling is mutual, Coro writes via Twitter.
- Soon-to-be free agent Gerald Green struck a more optimistic tone about a future with the Suns than emanated recently from agent Kevin Bradbury, who alleged coach Jeff Hornacek of unwarranted criticism of his client. “I think they want me back as well … Actually, it was a good conversation [with president of basketball operations Lon Babby] so I’m a little positive about that,” Green said, as Coro tweets.
Pistons owner Tom Gores gave Andre Drummond a vote of confidence during tonight’s contest against the Knicks, calling the big man a “max player,” David Mayo of MLive.com relays (Twitter link). Drummond, who is set to earn $3,272,091 next season, is eligible to ink an extension this summer, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the Pistons will offer him one, since the team would have the right to match any offer sheet the big man were to sign as a restricted free agent in 2016. Detroit could be wary of taking that chance given how the team is likely to lose Greg Monroe, who reportedly declined to ink an extension of his own with the club, as a free agent this summer, though that is merely my speculation.
Here’s more from around the league:
- Arron Afflalo will let his playoff performance dictate whether he picks up his $7.75MM player option for next season with the Blazers, as a source close to the swingman tells Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops that he’ll opt out if he plays well.
- One executive who spoke with Scotto for the same piece pegged Danny Green‘s value at $6MM a year. The Spurs swingman is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
- Ronnie Price indicated that his desire is to remain with the Lakers, even if it is as a third-string guard, Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News writes. “I enjoyed being a voice in the locker room. I enjoyed being able to help younger guys. I helped great veterans that can help me. I’d be selfish not to extend that knowledge to players that are younger than me,” Price said. “Of course you want to play. That’s why we do what we do. You want to play. You never know what’s ahead. Whatever role is my role, I’ll embrace it whether it’s being here or the third guard.” Price will become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
- Suns forward Markieff Morris believes that the team needs to add players with more experience to its roster, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic tweets. “Veteran leadership for sure,” Morris responded when asked about Phoenix’s needs. “We have to have more older guys around so we can keep this thing intact.“
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
Suns GM Ryan McDonough admits the team had no intention of reshaping its roster as much as it did this season, but while he’s disappointed with the way this year has gone, he feels the Suns are still better off than they were two years ago, when he took over, as he tells Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic.
“We’ve tried to do something that’s not easy to do,” McDonough said. “We tried to turn over the roster with talented, young players who have some potential but probably aren’t ready to win yet at the highest levels. But we also tried to stay competitive in a brutal Western Conference. Usually, teams try to do one or the other. They load up on veteran guys and trade draft picks and go all in or they completely blow up and gut the team and try to acquire and play a bunch of young guys.”
Phoenix will look to achieve more roster balance, among other goals, this summer, McDonough added. Here’s more from the Pacific Division:
- The sense is that Wayne Ellington will largely favor the Lakers in free agency this year, but he’s mindful that the market is uncertain for both himself and the team, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News (Twitter links), who’s identified mutual interest between the sides. Ellington backed up his end of that, referencing coach Byron Scott and GM Mitch Kupchak during his exit interview with the media Tuesday when he said, “I flat out told coach and Mitch I want to be back,” Medina notes.
- Jeremy Lin seemed lukewarm to the idea of returning to the Lakers during his exit interview, saying that he has “definitely not ruled out” the possibility and that the Lakers wouldn’t be a “last resort.” He said that losing his starting job in December “hurt,” but that his respect for Scott has grown throughout the season. Medina (separate piece), Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles (Twitter link), Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding (Twitter link) and Bill Oram of the Orange County Register (Twitter link) have the details.
- Trade rumors are partly to blame for the sour mood DeMarcus Cousins has been in of late, but Kings executive Vlade Divac, who’s in charge of the front office, is in awe of Cousins’ talent, according to Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. Voisin advises Cousins to get away from the noise now that the season is ending.