Portland Trail Blazers

Kyler’s Latest: Durant, Conley, Whiteside, Rondo

The prevailing wisdom heading into free agency has suggested that Kevin Durant is likely to sign a two-year contract with a second-year player option this summer. After all, opting out a year from now and signing a long-term deal at that point figures to be the best way for the star forward to maximize his earnings.

Still, we’ve heard whispers that Durant may prefer to simply sign a long-term pact now to avoid having free agency looming over him for another year, and Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders cites sources close to the former MVP who echo that sentiment. According to Kyler, Oklahoma City remains the frontrunner for Durant, but the free-agent-to-be will hear out and consider all his suitors, and could make a long-term commitment to the team he signs with, whether that’s the Thunder or another club.

Here’s more from Kyler on a few of this summer’s top free agents:

  • Mike Conley is expected to listen to some free agent pitches, but will likely give the Grizzlies the last word, writes Kyler. Conley would like to see Memphis be aggressive about adding talent to fortify the roster if he’s going to return. If the veteran point guard decides to go elsewhere, the Mavericks, Rockets, Spurs, and even the Nets are among his potential landing spots, per Kyler.
  • The Lakers, Mavericks, Celtics, and Hornets are some of the teams expected to make a push for Hassan Whiteside if the Heat waver on offering him a max contract, says Kyler.
  • Kyler identifies the Heat as a potential dark horse in the Al Horford sweepstakes, if Whiteside does leave Miami. Horford is believed to be the next target on the team’s wish list, and that interest may be mutual, Kyler writes.
  • There’s mutual interest between Rajon Rondo and the Nets, who could be the favorites to land the point guard. However, according to Kyler, Rondo wouldn’t want to be Brooklyn’s only high-profile addition this summer, so the Nets might have to make a commitment to another notable free agent if they hope to lure Rondo.
  • Dwight Howard could end up being a primary target this offseason for teams like the Bucks, Trail Blazers, and Hornets, who aren’t necessarily expected to get involved with many top-tier free agents, per Kyler. Sources close to Howard and the Magic indicate to Kyler that the odds of D12 returning to Orlando are slim, despite the fact that the team expects to be active on the open market.
  • Kyler adds the Lakers and Grizzlies to the list of teams with interest in Ryan Anderson, and notes that there’s mutual interest between Anderson and the Wizards. Sources also tell Kyler that Anderson would prefer to land with a playoff team.

Unsigned Draft Picks: Northwest Division

With the 2016 NBA draft now in the books, the term draft-and-stash will be mentioned quite often in regard to international players and late second-rounders. While some of these athletes will eventually sign with an NBA team,  it seems like the majority of them stay overseas and never make it to the league. Those players in the latter category aren’t without value as they become trade assets for the teams holding their rights.

While many players fail to work out the way teams expect them to, they can at least become tradeable assets for teams that don’t want to part with a future second-round pick in a deal.  Each team must give up something in a trade, which is why many swaps include top-55 protected second-round picks.  Older draft rights held players who clearly will never come over to the NBA are essentially the same as flipping those heavily protected second-rounders, for all intents and purposes.

Listed below are the current unsigned draftees for the teams of the Northwest Division. These listings don’t include players selected in this year’s draft:

Denver Nuggets

Minnesota Timberwolves

Oklahoma City Thunder

Portland Trail Blazers

  • Daniel Diez — Selected No. 54 overall in 2015.
  • Nedzad Sinanovic — Selected No. 54 overall in 2003.
  • Federico Kammerichs — Selected No. 51 overall in 2002.
  • Doron Sheffer — Selected No. 36 overall in 1996.
  • Marcelo Nicola — Selected No. 50 overall in 1993.

Utah Jazz

  • Olivier Hanlan — Selected No. 41 overall in 2015.
  • Ante Tomic — Selected No. 44 overall in 2008.
  • Shan Foster — Selected No. 51 overall in 2008.
  • Mario Austin — Selected No. 36 overall in 2003.
  • Peter Fehse — Selected No. 49 overall in 2002.

Blazers Acquire 47th Pick, Select Jake Layman

The Trail Blazers acquired pick No. 47 from the Magic and drafted Maryland’s Jake Layman, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. In return, Orlando will receive $1.2MM and a second-rounder in 2019 (Twitter link).

The 6’9 senior projects as an NBA small forward. He shot 60% from the field, 40% from 3-point range and 85% from the line this season while averaging 11.7 points per game.

Layman ranked 49th in the list of top 100 prospects compiled by Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress and was 48th on ESPN’s Chad Ford’s top 100.

Mavs Prioritizing Whiteside, Conley In Free Agency

The Mavericks are eyeing Heat center Hassan Whiteside and Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, making those two players their top targets as free agency approaches, according to Tim MacMahon and Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Both players are expected to command maximum-salary contracts, and Dallas is willing to pay that price for either player, sources tell the ESPN duo.

Per ESPN’s report, the Mavericks expect to have the opportunity to meet with Whiteside during the opening hours of free agency in July. The Heat have been considered the frontrunner to re-sign their pending free agent, but Dallas will be among the teams given the chance to make a pitch to him once the recruiting period begins. MacMahon and Stein identify the Trail Blazers as another club expected to make a push for Whiteside.

As for Conley, he may be open to leaving Memphis if the Grizzlies are unwilling to offer him a fifth year. Because the Grizzlies hold the point guard’s Bird Rights, they’re the only club that can offer five years instead of four, and Conley wants them to do so if he ends up re-signing, according to MacMahon and Stein. A source tells the ESPN duo that San Antonio and Dallas are among the teams that would appeal to the 28-year-old if he leaves Memphis — his interest in the Mavericks is in large part due to his respect for head coach Rick Carlisle.

As the Mavs pursue Conley and Whiteside, it’s worth considering that Conley’s maximum salary over a four-year deal figures to be about $20MM more than Whiteside’s, since he has a few more years of NBA experience.

MacMahon also notes (on Twitter) that technically Kevin Durant remains the Mavericks’ top target in free agency, but suggests that the team is being realistic about its chances of luring KD to Dallas.

Blazers Trying To Acquire First Round Pick

  • The Blazers, Rockets and Nets are without first-rounders this year and all three teams are trying to acquire one via trade, Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical relayed during his podcast earlier today.

Blazers Intend To Be Aggressive On Draft Night

  • The Trail Blazers intend to be aggressive on draft night even though they don’t currently hold any picks, writes Mike Richman of The Oregonian.

Northwest Notes: Durant, Westbrook, Dixon

Free agency won’t be the only item on Kevin Durant‘s summer schedule, writes Marc Stein of ESPN.com. The former MVP plans to be part of the U.S. Olympic team and may be the biggest name on a roster that has already lost Stephen Curry, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Stein reports that Durant is considered a sure thing for the team, along with Klay Thompson and Paul George. They will join DeMarcus Cousins, whose participation was first reported by Marc Spears of The Undefeated. Kyrie Irving is considered almost certain to join the team, while officials are waiting to hear from LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. The full 12-man roster is expected to be announced soon.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Westbrook is making a smart decision to skip the Summer Games, contends Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. With Rio de Janeiro beset by a financial crisis, reports of drug-resistant super bacteria on the beaches and possibly the Zika virus present, Tramel believes that presents too many risks for NBA players.
  • At age 38, Nazr Mohammed has probably played his last NBA game, according to Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman. Mohammed signed with the Thunder in March, but appeared in just five games and served mostly as a mentor to younger players, in particular giving defensive tips to Enes Kanter. Mohammed said he won’t try to play again next season and would like to someday become a GM. “That’s my five-year, 10-year plan,” he said. “To one day run my own organization.”
  • Mike Dixon Jr. has received a passport from the nation of Georgia and will participate in the Blazers‘ free agent camp Monday, reports Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Dixon was a senior at Memphis in 2014 and played in the Czech Republic this season.
  • The Nuggets are facing an unpredictable draft with three picks in the first round, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Dempsey lists shooting, shot blocking and toughness as Denver’s top needs and speculates that a significant roster shakeup could happen by draft night.

Blazers Work Out Russ Smith

  • Russ Smith, who averaged 27.8 point per game in the D-League this past season, has worked out for the Nuggets, Blazers and Clippers, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders passes along (Twitter link).

Gerald Henderson Talks Free Agency

  • The Trail Blazers are hosting multiple free agent mini-camps and are saying they may end up signing multiple participants from those camps, tweets Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Russ Smith and Erick Green were among the free agents in attendance at Portland’s first veteran mini-camp.

Earlier in his career, Gerald Henderson‘s top priority as a free agent might have been to find a team that would give him the opportunity to start. However, with his Trail Blazers contract set to expire, Henderson will prioritize contending teams this offseason, recognizing that being a starter isn’t as important to him as it once was.

“It’s great to start; starting the game is a special thing,” Henderson said, according to Cody Sharrett of Blazers.com. “To be a starter in the NBA is a cool thing, I’ve done it for a long time, but what’s really more important to me is playing significant minutes in times where a team needs you and more of your impact while you’re out on the floor – just being a part of what’s going on. You look at different teams, sometimes the best player comes off the bench, it all depends on what kind of team you have. I’d probably say three or four years ago, [starting] was much more important to me.”

Pierre Jackson Working Out For Blazers

  • Former Sixers guard Pierre Jackson will work out this week at the Knicks‘ free agent mini-camp, and is lined up to work out for the Trail Blazers and Mavericks later this month, sources tell Ian Begley of ESPN.com.

Get the hottest NBA news and rumors before anyone else! Follow us on Twitter to stay updated: