Chicago Bulls

Celtics, Clippers Discussed Blake Griffin Trade

The Celtics have had discussions with the Clippers regarding Blake Griffin, though a deal remains extremely unlikely, sources tell Zach Lowe of ESPN.com. If Los Angeles were to send Griffin to Boston, it would require the Celtics to give up Jae Crowder and either Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart in addition to future picks, sources tell Lowe.

Griffin will be a free agent after the season and Boston would likely need official permission to speak with the power forward before making an official offer to Los Angeles. The team would want to gauge Griffin’s interest in re-signing in Boston and Lowe notes that Minnesota allowed Cleveland to have similar conversations with Kevin Love before he was acquired by the Cavs.

Griffin isn’t the only star that the Celtics have interest in bringing aboard. Lowe adds that the team has “zeroed in” on Jimmy Butler and Paul George, though both appear unlikely to be traded. Lowe hears that the Pacers are turning away trade inquiries on George and it was reported earlier today that the Bulls are leaning toward keeping the 3-time All-Star. Lowe writes that the Celtics would need to include Brooklyn’s 2017 pick in an offer to entice the Bulls and Chicago could even demand both of the Nets’ picks in exchange for Butler.

Bulls Leaning Toward Keeping Jimmy Butler

According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, there is a growing feeling around Jimmy Butler‘s camp that the three-time All-Star won’t be moved at this year’s deadline. Sources told Cowley that while the Bulls have taken multiple inquiries on Butler, they haven’t been pursuing trade talks.

Cowley observed that Butler trusts GM Gar Forman enough to believe he won’t be traded. The Celtics have consistently been connected with Butler in trade rumors- Isaiah Thomas cooed over Butler’s skill-set during the All-Star break- but the Bulls’ front office is hesitant to forfeit their chances at a playoff run.

The Bulls currently occupy the seven seed in the Eastern Conference with a 28-29 record. As Cowley points out, entering sell-mode this season would eliminate any chance of retaining Dwyane Wade over the offseason.

While the Bulls are unlikely to deal their most prized asset, other rotation pieces- Rajon Rondo, Nikola Mirotic, Taj Gibson– could still be on the move. Earlier this month, Doug McDermott and Robin Lopez were mentioned in trade talks as well.

Kings Trade DeMarcus Cousins To Pelicans

FEBRUARY 20: The trade is official, according to press release issued by the Kings and Pelicans. Sacramento has waived Matt Barnes to clear room for the extra incoming player.DeMarcusCousins vertical

“It was time for a change and I decided this was the best direction for the organization,” Kings GM Vlade Divac said in a statement. “Winning begins with culture and character matters. With the upcoming draft class set to be one of the strongest in a decade, this trade will allow us to build the depth needed for a talented and developing roster moving forward. We thank DeMarcus for his contributions and wish him all the best in New Orleans. The fans in Sacramento are the best in the world and we are all committed to building a team that will continue to make Sacramento proud.”

For more notes, reactions, and details on the deal, check out our posts from earlier today, plus our initial Sunday report below.

FEBRUARY 19: After publicly vowing earlier this season that he wouldn’t be moved, the Kings have agreed to trade DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.

Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders tweets that the deal consists of Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, New Orleans’ 2017 first-round pick (top-three protected), and Philadelphia’s 2017 second-round pick going to Sacramento, with Cousins and Omri Casspi heading to New Orleans. David Aldridge of TNT (Twitter link) initially reported that the Kings would also get a 2019 first-rounder, but he has since issued a correction, tweeting that New Orleans balked at the Kings’ request to include that pick.

Earlier this evening, news broke that the Kings and Pelicans had engaged in discussions about a possible Cousins deal. At the time, it was reported by Scotto that the standout center could potentially be shipped to New Orleans in exchange for a package involving Hield, a 2017 first-round pick and an additional first-round pick. Later, in an article published at The Vertical, Wojnarowski suggested that expiring contracts could also be involved.

Following the first report, Wojnarowski tweeted that Kings general manager Vlade Divac had formally presented what the front office believed to be the two best trade proposals to team owner Vivek Ranadive. Previously, despite concerns throughout the organization about Cousins’ temperament, Ranadive was intent on holding onto the franchise pillar, and Divac had publicly reiterated that stance.

For the Kings, it’s an abrupt about-face, and it’s fair to wonder if Divac’s public and private declarations that Cousins wouldn’t be moved will hurt his credibility with agents and players in the future, as Wojnarowski tweets.

Over the last several hours, other teams, including the Suns and Lakers, were linked to the Kings’ Cousins talks, though the discussions with New Orleans were viewed as the most serious. According to Wojnarowski (Twitter links), the Lakers balked at Sacramento’s asking price and opted against including Brandon Ingram in a package.

Ultimately, the Kings aren’t getting a massive haul in return for their All-NBA big man, though it’s worth noting that several pre-draft reports back in June indicated that the team was very high on Hield. Still, it’s surprising that the former Oklahoma sharpshooter and a draft pick that may not even end up in the lottery are the centerpieces of a Cousins deal. Howard Beck of Bleacher Report tweets there wasn’t much of a market for the All-Star big man, according to several executives.

The deal also isn’t necessarily great news for Cousins, who will now be ineligible to receive a Designated Veteran Extension this summer. The 26-year-old would have met the criteria for a new deal worth 35% of the cap if he remained in Sacramento, and there were indications in recent weeks that both sides were on board with the idea of getting something done. Now that he’s changing teams, Cousins will be eligible for a far more modest extension.

Cousins’ agent Jarinn Akana suggested earlier today that his client wasn’t likely to sign an extension this summer with any team that traded for him, as ESPN’s Marc Stein reported (Twitter links). However, that could have been a negotiating tactic — if teams were worried about their ability to re-sign Cousins, they may have been reluctant to trade for him, in which case he would’ve remained with the Kings and been eligible for a super-max deal. For what it’s worth, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN tweets that the Pelicans are confident that they can ultimately lock up Cousins to a new contract. If New Orleans can’t extend Cousins prior to free agency, he’ll hit the open market in 2018.

In recent weeks, the Pelicans had been linked to centers such as Jahlil Okafor and Brook Lopez as they dangled a first-round pick in an effort to find a frontcourt partner for Anthony Davis. The team had reportedly been offering its 2018 pick, having been reluctant to move its first-rounder in 2017, given this year’s strong draft class. However, it makes sense that New Orleans was willing to change course for a player of Cousins’ caliber.

With Cousins and Davis in the frontcourt, the Pelicans will feature two of the league’s very best big men. Cousins, who was named to the All-NBA second team last year, has arguably been even better in 2016/17, averaging a career-high 27.8 PPG to go along with 10.7 RPG and 4.9 APG. His presence on the Pelicans’ roster may have an impact on Jrue Holiday‘s decision in free agency this summer. Holiday is on an expiring deal, but Davis has been lobbying the veteran point guard to re-sign with New Orleans.

This move will also have draft-related ramifications for the Sixers and Bulls. Chicago had been in line to receive Sacramento’s first-round pick in 2017 if it fell outside of the top 10. With Cousins no longer on their roster though, the Kings seem likely to slip in the standings, which is bad news for the Bulls. Chicago will receive a 2017 second-rounder from the Kings if Sacramento’s first-rounder falls in the top 10.

As for the Sixers, they’ll have the option to swap first-round picks with Sacramento if the Kings retain their selection. As our 2016/17 Reverse Standings show, Philadelphia currently has the league’s fifth-worst record, while the Kings rank 11th, but things are tight enough that those spots could flip quickly.

For the deal to become official, the Kings will have to remove at least one more player from their roster, via release or trade. The team is also considered likely to waive Galloway after acquiring him, per Wojnarowski (via Twitter). The third-year guard needed to be included in the swap for salary-matching purposes.

In other cap-related housekeeping notes, Evans’ deal includes a 15% trade kicker, which will add an extra $458K to his salary. The Pelicans will pay that trade bonus, though it will be charged to Sacramento’s cap. Each team will create a modest trade exception in the deal as well — the Kings’ TPE should be worth Casspi’s salary ($2.963MM), while the Pelicans’ TPE should be worth Hield’s salary ($3.517MM)

Luke Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trade Deadline Outlook: Central Division

In the days leading up to the February 23 trade deadline, Hoops Rumors will be taking a closer look at each of the NBA’s 30 teams, by division. We’ll be identifying each team as a buyer, seller, or something in between, and discussing which teams and players are most likely to be involved in deals this month. We’ve already covered the Atlantic, Northwest, Southeast, and Pacific. Today, we’re examining the Central.

Buyers:

The Cavaliers (39-16) started buying last month when they sent a first-round pick to Atlanta in a deal for Kyle Korver. Since then, however, Cleveland’s on-court performance has been up and down, and LeBron James has called for the team to add a “playmaker.” Derrick Williams‘ play has been encouraging so far, but the Cavs could still use a ball-handler and a big man, particularly with J.R. Smith and Kevin Love on the shelf. The club’s luxury tax bill will continue to rise exponentially if team salary goes up though, so GM David Griffin likely won’t be taking on any big contracts.

No other team in the Central division is within 10 games of the Cavs, but the Pacers (29-28) are in playoff position and are interested in adding to their roster. Although there is reportedly some reluctance within the organization to part with the team’s 2017 first-round pick, that selection appears to be available in the right deal as Indiana seeks an established wing or big man. Paul George will have the opportunity to opt out of his contract in 2018, so the Pacers are running out of time to prove to him that their roster is capable of seriously contending — adding an impact player this week could help.

Read more

Northwest Notes: Mudiay, Thibodeau, Stephenson

The performance of Nuggets rookie guard Jamal Murray has made Emmanuel Mudiay expendable, writes Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. Veteran Jameer Nelson has become the starting point guard as Denver pushes for a playoff spot, and Kiszla sees Murray as a better backup to both Nelson and Gary Harris than Mudiay is. That leaves little playing time for last year’s first-round pick, who may now be more valuable to the Nuggets as a trade chip. Kiszla would like to see the Nuggets pursue Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, but admits that Denver doesn’t have the pieces to make that happen. He also mentions Atlanta’s Thabo Sefolosha as a target, but not in a one-for-one deal for Mudiay.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Tom Thibodeau’s new dual role as Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations leaves no time for a vacation during the All-Star break, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Zgoda lists seven possible targets for Minnesota before Thursday’s trade deadline: Chicago’s Taj Gibson, Orlando’s Bismack Biyombo, Denver’s Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler, Cleveland’s Iman Shumpert, Phoenix’s P.J. Tucker and Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel.
  • Lance Stephenson is looking at a two-week recovery from his Grade 2 ankle sprain, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News in Minneapolis. Stephenson’s 10-day contract expired this weekend, and it’s uncertain whether the Timberwolves will be interested in signing him again once he has recovered.
  • The Jazz may add short-term salary to help them get above the cap floor, but they will be reluctant to take on long-term salary in any deal, writes Ryan McDonald of The Deseret News. Utah’s top priority this summer will be to re-sign Gordon Hayward, who will want a max contract with an annual salary in the $25MM to $30MM range. The Jazz also want to keep free agent point guard George Hill, who will demand about $20MM per season, and Rudy Gobert‘s extension will kick in next season, starting at more than $21.2MM next year. That ties up three players making more than $70MM, which limits Utah’s roster flexibility.

Woj: Butler Trade To The Celtics Still Possible

A potential trade sending Jimmy Butler from the Bulls to the Celtics will loom over deadline week, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (Twitter link).

In a video interview, Wojnarowski says the teams have discussed a deal involving Butler, but talks haven’t progressed very far. He adds that Chicago officials have to to fully commit to the rebuilding process before they would be willing to give up Butler.

Wojnarowski says the trade would involve one of the Nets’ first-rounders — but probably not both — that Boston owns in the next two drafts. If the Bulls get this year’s pick, Wojnarowski states they can find a replacement for Derrick Rose, who was traded to the Knicks last summer. Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball are point guards mentioned as likely choices at the top of the draft.

Teaming Butler with Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford would give the Celtics enough firepower to challenge Cleveland for supremacy in the East, Wojnarowski states, not just this season but for years to come.

Other highlights from the interview:

  • The Clippers and Thunder are both potential landing spots for Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler. However, both teams are low on draft picks and may not have the assets that Denver would want in return.
  • The Thunder were trying to acquire Kings forward Rudy Gay before a season-ending Achilles injury.
  • The Wizards would like to add another wing player to their bench, with the LakersLou Williams and the NetsBojan Bogdanovic as possibilities. Wojnarowski says Washington is willing to part with a draft pick to get veteran help.
  • The Suns have been shopping P.J. Tucker, Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight, hoping to get picks or young players in return.
  • Chandler is one of several centers on the market, along with the SixersJahlil Okafor, the MavericksAndrew Bogut, the BucksGreg Monroe and the NetsBrook Lopez. However, there is limited interest in back-to-the basket centers. Wojnarowski speculates that one or two of them may be traded this week, but cautions that there aren’t enough buyers for all of them to be moved.
  • Unless something changes, Carmelo Anthony will remain with the Knicks. New York management hasn’t presented him with any deals that would tempt him to waive his no-trade clause. Most of the teams that were interested in dealing for Anthony are now “looking in other directions,” but Wojnarowski thinks the Clippers might revisit their attempt to land Anthony this summer.

Celtics May Pursue Danilo Gallinari

The Celtics may try to pick up Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari before Thursday’s trade deadline, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald.

Boston GM Danny Ainge has long been a fan of Gallinari, according to Bulpett, and has tried to deal for him before. There haven’t been any trade rumors linking the Celtics and Gallinari this year, but the author notes that was also true with Isaiah Thomas before Ainge dealt for him two years ago.

Gallinari has been slowed by a groin injury and hasn’t played since February 1st. He has a player option worth $16.1MM next season.

Boston is hoping to add another scorer through trade, and Ainge has been active in talks during All-Star Weekend, both as a main participant and a facilitator, according to Bulpett. So far, Ainge hasn’t found a deal worth giving up his most valuable assets, which include the Nets’ first-rounders this season and in 2018.

“Danny’s let it be known that he’s willing to talk about the Nets’ picks,” said an unidentified executive. “But you want one of those guys, you have to be willing to give up a star.”

Ainge would also prefer to stay away from players whose contracts expire this year or next year. The Celtics had some interest in Serge Ibaka before Orlando traded him to Toronto, but they weren’t willing to part with much because they weren’t sure they could re-sign him in free agency.

Bulpett adds that the Celtics are very protective of their cap space and are reluctant to make a move that would hurt them on the free agent market. He speculates that it would take someone like Jimmy Butler or Paul George to tempt Boston to add significant salary in a pre-deadline trade.

The Celtics are also significantly less interested in trading for Jahlil Okafor than they were a year ago, Bulpett notes. They had talked to the Sixers about an Okafor deal at last year’s deadline, but after signing Al Horford the Celtics only want front-line players who they believe are compatible with him. Boston might have more interest in Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel, but the team won’t offer as much as it would have in 2016.

The author believes the Celtics would love to pick up Andrew Bogut from Dallas if the Mavericks decide to be sellers, but again wouldn’t pay a high price in a deal.

Central Notes: Deadline Previews, Butler, Williams, Rubio, Caldwell-Pope

The Bulls are at a “real crossroads” at this year’s trade deadline, Mark Strotman of CSN Chicago writes. With a 28-29 record, Chicago enters the All-Star break as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. Given the top-heavy conference, Strotman notes, even the most optimistic fan wouldn’t have the Bulls projected to advance past the first round of the playoffs. Taj Gibson will be mentioned in trade rumors, as will Robin Lopez and Doug McDermott. While Jimmy Butler has “peak trade value,” the Bulls have incentives to keep the 27-year-old; particularly on his team-friendly contract.

For what it’s worth, Butler reportedly isn’t interested in being traded. Sources told Seerat Sohi of ESPN that Butler is “grounded in Chicago,” and feels loyalty to the franchise that took a chance on him in the 2011 draft.

More from around the Central…

  • Still on his first 10-day contract, Derrick Williams has made quite an impression on the Cavs. According to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, the team envisions Williams as their seventh or eighth man against the Warriors in the Finals. The Cavs are going to sign Williams to a minimum contract for the rest of the season, Vardon writes, but the 25-year-old is expected to pursue a bigger payday over the offseason. In order to maintain roster flexibility through the trade deadline, the Cavs will postpone signing Williams to a minimum deal until after his second 10-day contract expires.
  • ESPN’s NBA Insiders discussed the best deadline deals for teams around the Central. Three of ESPN’s four contributors advocated the Cavs stand pat (largely due to cap restrictions), while Jeremias Engelmann suggested the team shop Kyrie Irving. Such a trade would never materialize, Engelmann writes, but the four-time All-Star’s “market value is many times greater than the actual impact he has on the game.” Amin Elhassan cited Ricky Rubio as a natural fit for the Pistons, calling him a “true set-up man” to summon Andre Drummond‘s offensive potential.
  • Bobby Marks of The Vertical profiled the Pistons and Bucks in his deadline preview series; two teams “fighting for the East’s last playoff spot.” The Pistons have limited roster flexibility, and would likely be best off holding onto current and future draft assets, Marks writes. Detroit may shop Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a restricted free agent-to-be, particularly in light of an underwhelming shooting guard market. Marks cited the Bucks’ need to acquire a stopgap for the injured Jabari Parker without selling off assets. As evidenced by Milwaukee’s recent trade with the Hornets, GM John Hammond won’t be afraid to shake up the roster if need be.

Felicio's Development A Positive Sign For Bulls

Florida Notes: Ibaka, Ross, Wade, Riley

The Magic are viewing last summer’s trade for Serge Ibaka as a “calculated risk” that didn’t work out, relays Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. To obtain the veteran power forward, Orlando sent Victor Oladipo and Ersan Ilyasova to Oklahoma City, along with the 11th pick in the 2016 draft, which became Domantas Sabonis. Less than a year later, the Magic shipped Ibaka to the Raptors in exchange for Terrence Ross and a pick that will fall toward the end of the first round. Ibaka played 56 games for the Magic, averaging 15.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per night, but the team was just 21-36 with him on the roster.

“I think if you go back in time, you look at what was needed for us in the frontcourt and some of the voids we thought we had on the roster,” explained GM Rob Hennigan. “Then, you balance that with the logjam we had at the two guard at the time with Evan [Fournier] and Victor, we felt like it made sense. Sometimes you have to take a few shots down the field. Sometimes it pans out; sometimes it won’t. I applaud our aggressiveness. I think given the same situation, circumstantially, we would make the same trade. Sometimes, things don’t work out as you plan. I think it’s important to be proactive in trying to rectify that too.”

There’s more NBA news from the Sunshine State:

  • Ross was inactive for tonight’s game, according to a tweet from the Magic. The team wasn’t notified before game time that both players passed their physicals and the deal was finalized, according to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel (Twitter link).
  • The Heat had been tied to Ibaka in trade rumors, but weren’t interested in trying to top Toronto’s offer, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. They were reluctant to give up much for a player who will be a free agent after the season and who may be older than his listed age of 27. Also, Miami wasn’t able to offer a first-round pick this year because its 2018 first-rounder may be shipped to Phoenix. Winderman notes that Tyler Johnson can block any trade until July and that most of the roster wouldn’t have enticed the Magic. The writer believes Josh Richardson would have been Miami’s best offer.
  • A call from Heat president Pat Riley might have convinced Dwyane Wade to stay in Miami, the Bulls star says in a podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Wade opted to sign with Chicago last summer after negotiations with the Heat stalled. “I love Pat and I know he loves me,” Wade said. “The fact that we didn’t talk, that hurt. That was my deciding factor when it came down to the end of the day and he didn’t show he wanted me there. I know the Arison family loved me and wanted me there. I know Spo [coach Erik Spoelstra] wanted me there.”
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