Phoenix Suns Rumors

Lowe’s Latest: Aldridge, Spurs, Sanders

January 21 at 9:28am CST By Chuck Myron

Grantland’s Zach Lowe spoke with a half-dozen executives from four different teams who brought up the possibility that LaMarcus Aldridge would sign with the Spurs this summer. It’s still unlikely that the All-Star power forward winds up with San Antonio, Lowe asserts, noting that Aldridge pledged this past summer to re-sign with the Blazers when he hits free agency after this season. The Spurs declined to give Kawhi Leonard a max extension this past fall, reportedly in part to preserve flexibility to sign a max-level free agent this summer in case Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili retire. The Blazers have nonetheless always been leery of teams from Aldridge’s native Texas above all other potential suitors for the 29-year-old who hits free agency this coming summer, according to Lowe. A November report indicated that the Mavs planned a run at him, though that was before Dallas acquired Rajon Rondo, and the Mavs would have to renounce their rights to some desirable free agents to chase Aldridge, as Lowe points out.

The Grantland scribe has more tidbits picked up from this past weekend’s D-League showcase in his must-read column, and we’ll focus on the news related to player movement here:

  • Larry Sanders will likely miss many more than 10 games on his latest drug-related suspension, according to Lowe, who hears from league sources who expect the Bucks and Sanders to eventually strike up buyout talks. Sanders is in the first year of a four-year, $44MM extension.
  • The Celtics have been calling teams in the past week and letting them know that they’re willing to take on cap-eating contracts, Lowe writes. Boston is over the cap but about $11.8MM shy of the luxury tax line this season, and the Celtics have only about $33.5MM in commitments for next season.
  • There’s “major skepticism” that the Suns will be able to acquire a first-round draft pick in exchange for Miles Plumlee, Lowe hears. That’s certainly no surprise, though Phoenix is looking for a first-rounder as they shop the big man, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported Sunday.
  • Executives from teams around the NBA have tried to sell league brass on an earlier trade deadline, Lowe reports, suggesting that the teams are aiming to move the deadline up by at least a week or two. This year’s deadline is February 19th.

Western Notes: Thomas, Spurs, Hood

January 20 at 7:30pm CST By Eddie Scarito

The Suns‘ three point guard system was one of the factors that led Isaiah Thomas to agree to a sign-and-trade deal this past summer, the guard said during an interview with Arizona Sports 98.7 FM (hat tip to Matt Petersen of NBA.com). “That’s what I signed here for, was to play with those other two guards and to cause havoc on both ends of the floor playing with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe,” Thomas said. “Everybody’s getting a consistent rotation. Guys know when they’re really going to come in and play, and who they’re going to play with. I think everybody’s just getting comfortable with everybody.”

Here’s more from the West:

  • The Spurs are finding their quest to repeat as NBA champions a rather difficult road to travel, Michael Lee of The Washington Post writes. Because of injuries and the age of his roster, coach Gregg Popovich has already had to use 23 starting lineups through 42 games so far this season, which is tied with Knicks for the most in the NBA, Lee notes. “You just deal with whatever you have and move on,” Popovich said. “I don’t think there are too many coaches who aren’t concerned about something.”
  • Rajon Rondo‘s true value to the Mavericks isn’t necessarily reflected in his stat line, but rather in his excellent play during clutch situations, Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com writes. “He’s a big-time player, and big-time players make big plays down the stretch,” Dallas big man Tyson Chandler said. “He’s not going to always put up the huge numbers that are going to wow you, but he’s one of those guys that you want with you in the trenches when you know the game is on the line. He’s just going to do something – something – to make an impact on the game.”
  • Jazz rookie Rodney Hood, who injured his left foot during Sunday’s contest against the Spurs, will be out of action through the All-Star break, at which point his status will be reevaluated, the team has announced. The 22-year-old has appeared in 24 games for Utah this season, averaging 5.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 18.3 minutes per contest.

Eastern Notes: Tolliver, Dawkins, Butler

January 20 at 2:07pm CST By Chuck Myron

The release of Josh Smith is easily identifiable as the turning point for the Pistons, but the acquisition of Anthony Tolliver, which took place two days later, has benefited the team, too, as Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic examines. The deal appears to have helped all three sides, with the Suns on a roll just as the Pistons are and Tolliver having seen an uptick in playing time since his arrival in Detroit. Tony Mitchell, the player the Pistons gave up in the deal, has found a new home after the Suns let him go, as we passed along earlier today. There’s more on the Pistons amid the latest from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Celtics are reportedly meeting with Andre Dawkins this week as they mull signing him to a 10-day contract, but if they do, he’ll spend most if not all of his time with the C’s on D-League assignment, a league source tells A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com (Twitter link).
  • Retirement is far from the mind of 35-year-old Rasual Butler, who credits his time with the Thunder’s D-League affiliate in 2012/13 for his keeping his career aflame and helping spark his sudden resurgence with the Wizards this season, as he tells Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Celtics coach Brad Stevens admires the Hawks, as Julian Edlow of WEEI.com observes while wondering whether the best path the Celtics can take back to contention involves following Atlanta’s egalitarian approach instead of chasing stars.
  • The Pistons are recalling Gigi Datome and Spencer Dinwiddie from the D-League, tweets Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Datome averaged 13.3 points in 25.3 minutes per game and made 6 of 13 three-point shots in his first-ever D-League action, while Dinwiddie has put up 13.0 PPG and 5.4 assists per game in 29.8 MPG across seven D-League games this season.
  • Heat camp invitee Chris Johnson has signed with Turk Telekom Ankara of Turkey, the team announced (translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). The former LSU center, who’s not to be confused with the swingman by the same name from the University of Dayton, played in China earlier this season following his release from the Heat prior to opening night.

Pacific Notes: Goodwin, Green, Jordan

January 20 at 10:04am CST By Chuck Myron

Suns reserve shooting guard Archie Goodwin is frustrated with his lack of playing time amid Phoenix’s continued addition of guards, as he tells Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. Goodwin cautioned that he understands all the guys ahead of him on the team are talented players and that he wants to maintain a professional attitude. Still, the 20-year-old is putting up a strong performance while on D-League assignment, and he tells Deveney that he won’t tolerate a limited NBA role next season.

“I don’t know what they’re doing,” Goodwin said. “Honestly, I really don’t. I guess they know what they’re doing — I can just play ball and let them make the decisions. I don’t know what the purpose is for it, but there is nothing I can do about it.”

Indeed, there isn’t much recourse for Goodwin, since his rookie scale contract runs through 2016/17, but he’s not the only one dissatisfied in Phoenix, even as the Suns have won 13 out of their last 17. Here’s more from Phoenix and elsewhere in the Pacific Division:

Suns Actively Shopping Miles Plumlee

January 18 at 6:32pm CST By Charlie Adams

6:32pm: Phoenix is believed to be looking for at least one first-round pick for Plumlee, and agent Mark Bartelstein is working together with the team to find a trade partner, Stein writes in a full story. That’d be quite a high return for a player who’s slipping out of his team’s rotation, but the two first-round draft picks that the Nuggets acquired for Timofey Mozgov appears to have inflated the market for big men.

6:24pm: The Suns are actively shopping Miles Plumlee, a league source tells Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Stein doesn’t provide any indication that Phoenix has found a team interested in acquiring Plumlee, but it’s fair to infer there would be a club who wouldn’t mind acquiring the third-year big man out of Duke who’s making just $3,279,174 combined over this season and the next one.

Plumlee has appeared in each of the Suns’ games this year after playing in all but two last season. He’s put in an impressive 56.2% of the shots he’s taken this year, but his 13.2 PER ranks below the league average. Already 26 years old, Plumlee is not brimming with superstar upside, but he’s definitely capable of providing solid minutes off the bench for a contender in need of a backup big man.

The former 26th overall pick has seen his playing time cut in his last three games, averaging just 7.4 minutes per night over that trio of contests. His seemingly decreased role in Phoenix’s rotation appears to be an ominous sign when juxtaposed with Stein’s report, as the club has given the recently acquired Brandan Wright a greater amount of burn just as Plumlee’s minutes have dipped.

Pacific Notes: Kings, Suns, Clippers, Lakers

January 17 at 10:52pm CST By Chris Crouse

A month after the Kings shocked the league by firing coach Mike Malone, the move remains puzzling, writes Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. Interim coach Ty Corbin has been tasked with changing the team’s style of play midseason and players feel the strategy is unusual. “With Avery, P.J. pretty much stuck to the script, stuck to what we had been doing—nothing really changed a lot,”  said veteran Reggie Evans, who experienced a midseason coaching change earlier in his career while playing for the Nets. “This year is different. We are changing some things and that’s the different part. We have to make it work to the best of our ability. I was surprised when Avery got fired, and I was surprised with this situation, too.” Sacramento is 16-23, which puts the team in danger of missing the postseason for the ninth straight season.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • New addition Reggie Bullock should find himself in a good situation on the Suns, writes Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. The team certainly believes he can become a contributor. “He’s a young player who has shooting ability, who has good size and length,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “It’s going to be hard in the middle of the season to get him acclimated to everything, but he seems like a smart kid, and I think he’ll pick up things fast just like Brandan (Wright) did.” Bullock was acquired from the Clippers in a three team trade earlier this week.
  • The Clippers waived Jordan Farmar with the future in mind, writes Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. “We think this will be another buyout season for a lot of guys,” coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers said. “You want to have flexibility and it gives us that.” After its recent moves, the team is left with a 13-man roster.
  • The Lakers might be in better position to land Kevin Love in free agency than originally anticipated when the forward was dealt to the Cavs in August, speculates Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times. Pincus cites the Cavs struggles this season as a reason that Love could move on from the team when given the opportunity either this summer or next. Love reportedly plans to opt in and remain in Cleveland through the 2015/16 season. That will be the same offseason that Kobe Bryant‘s extension, worth $25MM in the final year of the deal, comes off the books for Los Angeles, which could allow the Lakers to have cap space for two maximum-salaried players.

Hoops Rumors Weekly Mailbag: 1/11/15-1/17/15

January 17 at 10:44am CST By Eddie Scarito

It’s been a busy week in the NBA with numerous deals being completed or discussed, with teams either loading up for a playoff run, or clearing cap space and stockpiling future assets. In addition to our weekly chat, which Chuck Myron facilitates every Wednesday, we now have a second opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our brand new weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap, or the NBA draft? Drop me a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com or @EddieScarito on Twitter. Now for this week’s inquiries:

I haven’t looked up the salaries or anything before asking this question, but this is the main framework of the possible deal that I’m asking about. The Cavs trade Kyrie Irving to the Suns for Eric Bledsoe and Brandan Wright. Who says no?— Z…

Well, as you said, you didn’t do the math on the salaries before asking the question — and for the record it wouldn’t work. The Cavs would be taking back approximately $9MM too much in the deal. But to stick to the purely theoretical aspects, and assuming that more inconsequential players were added to the deal, or a third team was involved for salary matching purposes, it’s the Cavs who say no to this one.

Irving is three years younger than Bledsoe, and he has produced superior numbers to Bledsoe every year that they have been in the league together. Irving is still improving as a player, and has a much higher ceiling than Bledsoe does. With the acquisition of Timofey Mozgov, Cleveland should be relatively set in the middle. Neither player is worth parting with Irving over, though adding Wright for depth would certainly be appealing to the Cavs.

One trade that I would consider if I were these teams would be dealing Tristan Thompson for Wright and a second-rounder. The money works, and Thompson would do very well in Phoenix’s system. But he’s going to be rather difficult for the Cavs to re-sign given Cleveland’s cap situation. The Suns could certainly afford to part with the pick, and Cleveland is hurting for draft picks in the wake of its dealings this season. If I could add Wright and a draft pick (or two) for Thompson, that’s a yes both ways in my book.

“If the Sixers finally land the No.1 overall pick in the draft lottery, who will they take?” — Doug R.

That’s a difficult call, Doug. Jahlil Okafor is the consensus No. 1 pick, but Philly already has Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel on its roster. If GM Sam Hinkie wants to build a cohesive team, rather than just stockpile assets, he’d likely select Emmanuel Mudiay, who is the top backcourt prospect in the draft. Although, with Hinkie, you never can tell what will happen. He could select Okafor, and then try and deal Noel or Embiid for another draft pick or two. With Michael Carter-Williams reportedly on the trading block, selecting Mudiay would make the most long term sense given the current Sixers roster.

“I am wondering what the Sacramento Kings are doing to improve their team. Ever since Michael Malone was fired, it seems like they’ve been “active” in the market to create a smokescreen over the poor decision to fire Malone. Are the Kings actually being “active”? Are they actually going to make a push to make the playoffs?? It’s very aggravating having a lot of back and forth actions occur and I don’t know what to expect from the Front Office or the team on a daily basis.” — David

Hey David. I feel your pain, and yes, the Kings seem like a bit of a mess right now as an organization. Sacramento is indeed being active, though making deals with the playoffs in mind would be ill-advised. The team is six games back (as of this writing) from the final playoff spot, and the West is truly a brutal conference. Sacramento is reportedly seeking to add a stretch four or an athletic rim protector to pair alongside DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings just made rookie Nik Stauskas available, and they would likely be willing to part with the expiring deals of Derrick Williams and Reggie Evans as well. Stauskas hasn’t worked out so far, but he’s still young and has upside, though I don’t think he’ll ever be more than an off-the-bench role player in the league. If I were GM Pete D’Alessandro, my first call would be to the Bulls to see if Taj Gibson could be had. It’s doubtful that Chicago would bite, and Sacramento would almost assuredly need to include some draft picks to make any deal, but Gibson would be a perfect fit for what the Kings need.

“If my team misses out on Emmanuel Mudiay in the draft, but needs a point guard, who should it take?” — Rob G.

It’s not a particularly strong draft for guards this year, and Mudiay is likely the only potential superstar of the lot. But there are a couple of very intriguing second-tier prospects available. The next two playmakers in my Draft Rankings are D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State) and R.J. Hunter (Georgia State). Russell is rocketing up draft boards, and though he plays shooting guard in college, scouts are projecting him as an NBA point guard. I really like Russell, though he’ll take a season or two to flourish. Hunter is another fast-riser, though in the long term I peg him as more of a sixth man than a starting-caliber player. If your team is selecting in the 20s, I’d take a flyer on Tyus Jones (Duke). Jones is a project, but this kid has all the intangibles you want from a floor general.

That’s all the space I have for this week, so thanks to everyone who submitted their inquiries. Keep on sending in your questions, and I’ll see you back here next Saturday.

How Three Celtics Trades Worked Financially

January 16 at 1:35pm CST By Chuck Myron

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge knows how to maximize trade exceptions. I examined that last month in the wake of the Rajon Rondo trade, in which Ainge and the Celtics used existing trade exceptions to facilitate the creation of a new one worth more than $12.9MM that’s the league’s largest. A couple of the three trades the Celtics swung this week presented opportunities to use that exception, but there were alternatives.

The Celtics had six trade exceptions at their disposal before Monday’s Jeff Green trade, including a new $5MM exception the team picked up when it shipped Brandan Wright to Phoenix on Friday. However, only two of those exceptions were large enough to absorb either of the players Boston took back in exchange for Green. The Rondo exception would have accommodated both Tayshaun Prince‘s salary of almost $7.708MM and Austin Rivers‘ pay of nearly $2.44MM, allowing the Celtics to create an exception equivalent to Green’s $9.2MM salary. That route had some intrigue. It would take up much of the Rondo exception, reducing it to $2,761,385. That amount, while not the powerful eight-figure exception that the Celtics originally created in the Rondo trade, would still be useful. The Green exception would be lucrative, if not quite as valuable as the Rondo exception would be if kept intact, and it would expire January 12th, whereas the Rondo exception runs out December 18th. Making an exception equivalent to Green’s salary would give the Celtics more time to work the phones after December 15th, 2015, the date when most players who’ll be signed this coming offseason will become eligible for inclusion in trades. It would also allow the C’s to wait until players hit waivers in advance of the leaguewide guarantee date next January.

However, it appears as though the Celtics have left the Rondo exception alone. Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reported the $625,280 exception the C’s created in the Jameer Nelson-Nate Robinson trade, which took place the day after the Green deal, but there’s been no word of a Green exception. That signals that the Celtics simply used salary matching to make the trade work. They were allowed to take in up to 150% of Green’s salary plus $100K, which would come to $13.9MM, and the total of Prince’s and Rivers’ salaries comes to less than $10.148MM, well within those bounds. The C’s wouldn’t end up with an exception, since they gave up less salary than they received in the exchange, but they wouldn’t use an exception, either.

The choices were simpler for the other teams in that deal, neither of which had an existing trade exception. The Grizzlies created a trade exception worth $3,146,068, the equivalent of Quincy Pondexter‘s salary, as Pincus reported. That’s because Prince’s salary was large enough by itself to accommodate the absorption of both Green and Russ Smith, since Green’s salary on top of the $507,336 that Smith makes comes to less than 150% of Prince’s salary plus $100K. That means Memphis and GM Chris Wallace could unload Pondexter to New Orleans by himself without having to match any salaries, and that gave rise to the trade exception.

The Pelicans had a similar scenario at play when they created their $507,336 trade exception, an asset that Pincus also reported. Pondexter’s salary was less than 150% of Rivers’ salary plus $100K, so that could stand as its own swap, leaving GM Dell Demps to send Smith’s salary to Memphis by itself.

The Celtics had another chance to use the Rondo and Wright exceptions in the swap that sent Nelson to the Nuggets for Robinson, but that wouldn’t have done much for them. Taking Robinson’s $2,106,720 salary into one of those exceptions would have reduced its value. The creation of a $2.732MM exception equivalent to the full value of Prince’s salary would essentially mean the Celtics had broken one larger exception into two smaller ones, both of which would add up to nearly the same amount as the lucrative one they had in the first place. Teams can’t combine trade exceptions when they pull off deals, so it would result in a net loss of flexibility. So, Ainge and the Celtics chose instead to match salaries, which resulted in a $625,280 trade exception worth the difference between Nelson’s salary and Robinson’s, as Pincus reported, since Boston gave up more salary than it received in the one-for-one exchange. Denver took back more than it relinquished, so the Nuggets couldn’t have created an exception unless they raided the $4.65MM exception they had just created in the Timofey Mozgov trade. GM Tim Connelly and company apparently passed on doing so, likely for the same reasons that the Celtics decided against using the Rondo or Wright exceptions to take in Robinson’s salary.

Ainge didn’t have to pour too much energy into coming up with a solution for the exceptions in his next trade, which was Thursday’s three-team deal that sent Rivers to the Clippers. Shavlik Randolph and Chris Douglas-Roberts are both on contracts their original teams signed using the minimum-salary exception, and the Celtics, too, get to use the minimum-salary exception to take them in. That leaves Boston’s existing trade exceptions untouched and allows them to make a new trade exception worth $2,439,840, the equivalent of Rivers’ salary. The Celtics are the only team coming away with a trade exception in this three-team affair with the Clippers and Suns. Phoenix is under the salary cap, so exceptions aren’t a factor. The Clippers didn’t have a trade exception large enough to absorb Rivers, the only player they acquired in the deal, so they had to match salaries to bring him in. The Clips are a taxpaying team, so they couldn’t take on more than 125% plus 100K of what they gave up. Rivers’ salary is greater than the cap hits for Bullock and Douglas-Roberts, but the difference is within those bounds, so the trade is kosher.

Western Notes: Bullock, Rivers, Lopez

January 15 at 10:14pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Suns GM Ryan McDonough is excited about adding Reggie Bullock to the team’s roster because of the player’s high basketball IQ, ability to play either wing spot, and for his defensive abilities, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic writes. “We’ve really liked his ability to shoot the ball with his size on the perimeter and his ability to defend NBA athletes on the wing with size,” McDonough said. “We’re confident that, with more time and repetitions, that he has the potential to be an elite shooter at the NBA level.” Phoenix had its eye on Bullock heading into the 2013 NBA draft, but the Clippers snagged him four picks ahead of the Suns wound up with Archie Goodwin as a result, Coro notes.

Here’s the latest out of the West:

  •  With Austin Rivers now a member of the Clippers, Rowan Kavner of NBA.com takes a look at what the player brings to Los Angeles. Kavner opines that Rivers will add youth, as well as some needed scoring and playmaking ability off of the bench for the Clippers.
  • The Suns have a glut of point guards on the roster, as well as a number of players with maturity issues, a combination that may lead to the team being active on the trade market prior to February’s deadline, Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic writes.
  • With the rumors of Brook Lopez potentially coming to the Thunder heating up, Jon Hamm of The Oklahoman looks at how the deal could benefit Oklahoma City, as well as the risks involved. Hamm notes that Kendrick Perkins would likely have to be included in any deal for salary matching purposes. Plus, the team could end up missing Perkins’ defense, and making the trade brings team chemistry risks with it as well.

Pacific Notes: Suns, Kuzmic, Barbosa

January 15 at 7:06pm CST By Eddie Scarito

The Suns‘ three point guard attack has resulted in the team playing at an increased pace on offense, which was one of the team’s goals heading into this season, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic writes. “They’re so unique,” Clippers president of basketball operations Doc Rivers said. “They do have three point guards or, I don’t know, three two-guards. They want to score. It’s not like they’re running a point guard-oriented offense where the one guy is coming down, setting everyone up and directing everybody. They’re playing at a pace and spreading the floor so I think that’s a little bit easier. It’s still hard, my guess, for all of them because they’re all used to having the ball. They seem to have figured it out. They sure don’t have a problem scoring.

Here’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • The Warriors have assigned Ognjen Kuzmic to the Santa Cruz Warriors, their D-League affiliate, the team has announced. This will be Kuzmic’s fifth trip to the D-League of the season.
  • Leandro Barbosa‘s impact for the Warriors has been about more than his on court production, as the veteran has been an invaluable source of leadership for the team, Carl Steward of The Bay Area News Group writes. “He’s been a solid voice in this locker room,” Stephen Curry said. “I know he has been good for me. Sometimes he’ll call a play in my ear when he’s on the sideline, and when he comes in, he always has some idea about how we can keep the flow going. But even with the experience he brings, all that would kind of be for nothing if he didn’t have the attitude that he has, being a positive guy regardless of the situation.
  • Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders looks at the journey of Kings forward Eric Moreland, and how he made it into the NBA after being passed over in the 2014 NBA draft. Moreland will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a labral tear in his left shoulder.