Dario Saric

Suns Acquire Saric, Johnson From Wolves For Culver

JULY 6: The Timberwolves have officially acquired the draft rights to No. 6 pick Jarrett Culver in exchange for Saric and the rights to No. 11 pick Cameron Johnson, the team announced today in a press release.

JUNE 20: The Timberwolves and Suns have reached an agreement on a trade, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that Minnesota is moving up to No. 6. In exchange for the sixth overall pick, Phoenix is receiving Dario Saric and the No. 11 overall pick, says Woj.

It’s the second trade agreement of the day for the Suns, who also reached a deal to send T.J. Warren and the No. 32 pick to the Pacers. Saric will help fill in the gap in the frontcourt created by Warren’s departure, slotting in as a stretch four alongside franchise center Deandre Ayton.

Saric, 25, averaged 10.6 PPG and 5.6 RPG with a .437/.365/.880 shooting line last season in 81 games for the Sixers and Timberwolves. He was part of the package Philadelphia sent to Minnesota in exchange for Jimmy Butler, and has now been dealt twice in the last year.

Meanwhile, new Timberwolves head of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, who wasn’t part of the front office when the team acquired Saric last fall, is showing right away that he’s not afraid to be aggressive. Minnesota is now in position to potentially draft one of the top point guards of the 2019 class — with the Hawks expected to draft De’Andre Hunter at No. 4, at least one of Darius Garland or Coby White should still be on the board at No. 6.

There have been rumors in recent weeks linking the Timberwolves to point guards, since Tyus Jones and Derrick Rose are headed for free agency and Jeff Teague is entering the final year of his contract. We’ll have to wait to see what Rosas has in mind for the No. 6 pick though.

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Rosas had been trying to move up to No. 4 or No. 5 before ultimately reaching a deal with the Suns for No. 6.

Draft-Night Rumors: Cavs, Suns, Wolves, Nets, Knicks

The Cavaliers remain active in trade discussions, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that Cleveland is exploring deals involving J.R. Smith‘s expiring contract in addition to possible trades of the No. 5 pick. Barring a trade, Cleveland remains focused on Darius Garland at No. 5, Woj adds (via Twitter).

Here a few more draft-night rumors worth rounding up:

  • According to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link), the Suns felt that the ability to land a starting power forward trumped the opportunity to draft a developmental point guard at No. 6, which is why they made their trade with the Timberwolves for Dario Saric. Phoenix plans on rolling with Tyler Johnson and a free agent signing at the point guard spot, Gambadoro adds.
  • The Timberwolves have engaged in multiple conversations about that No. 6 pick since agreeing to acquire it from the Suns, league sources tell Wojnarowski (Twitter link).
  • Two high-ranking sources have told Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link) that the Nets remain “very interested” in signing Kyrie Irving with or without Kevin Durant. Lewis had previously reported that Brooklyn was weighing whether to sign Irving if the team couldn’t get Durant too.
  • Things could change, but for now it looks like Frank Ntilikina may not be traded tonight by the Knicks, tweets Steve Popper of Newsday.

Pelicans Receiving Offers For No. 4 Pick

Several teams are attempting to swing a deal with New Orleans for the fourth pick in tonight’s draft, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said today on the network’s “Get Up!” program (YouTube link). He speculates that Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin could wait until he’s on the clock before deciding whether or not to keep the selection.

Wojnarowski singles out the Hawks as a team to watch in the negotiations. They hold picks No. 8, 10 and 17 in the first round, along with No. 35 in the second round. Atlanta also has enough cap space to take on an unwanted contract such as Solomon Hill‘s, which has one more year at $12.76MM.

The Pelicans hope to be playoff contenders next season and are more interested in obtaining players than draft picks, Brian Windhorst said on the same show. He cites talks with the Timberwolves, who hold the No. 11 selection, with Robert Covington or Dario Saric as part of the package.

Windhorst confirms that Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland is the target for most of those teams. The top point guards in the draft are expected to be taken early, so the No. 4 pick is the surest way to get one.

The Hawks have talked to numerous teams, including the Knicks and Cavaliers, in an effort to move up, Windhorst adds. However, Atlanta’s offers to those teams have focused more on picks than players.

Wolves Notes: Offseason, Saric, Experimentation

It’s been a busy year for the Timberwolves, who find themselves in a very different position now than they did this time last year. Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider) recently broke down the offseason priorities for a front office still reeling from a whirlwind few months.

Among the first tasks will be figuring out what to do with interim head coach Ryan Saunders, who took the reins after Tom Thibodeau‘s firing with predictably modest results given the circumstances. Minnesota will need to hire a general manager following Thibodeau’s departure and that individual would likely want a say in who is coaching the team.

Marks also flags Derrick Rose and Andrew Wiggins as players that Minnesota’s brass will need to mull over. Just how much of a priority should Rose be, he asks, and is it finally time to consider dramatically downgrading Wiggins’ role?

There’s more out of Minnesota today:

  • There’s a strong possibility that veteran point guard Jeff Teague opts into the final year of his contract, Michael Rand of the Star Tribune writes. Although the $19MM he’ll earn through 2019-20 may sound steep to Wolves fans eager to rebuild, Rand notes that the team was distinctly better with the 30-year-old on the court in 2018/19.
  • After an underwhelming season, Dario Saric and the Timberwolves can take solace in the fact that they’ll have another full season in which to gauge how well they fit together before a free agency decision needs to be made, Britt Robson of The Athletic writes.
  • The Timberwolves won’t be sneaking into the postseason this spring so head coach Ryan Saunders will use the final games of the campaign to tinker with different strategies. Per Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune, Sanders is particularly interested in seeing how Andrew Wiggins and rookie Keita Bates-Diop fare in unusual situations.

Northwest Notes: Morris, Saric, Saunders

While the Thunder entered the All-Stat break with a loss to the Pelicans, the team will start the second half with an added boost. Oklahoma City agreed to terms with veteran big man Markieff Morris, which should fortify the team’s frontcourt.

Morris, who spent most of the season with the Wizards, has not played since December, when a neck injury forced him to the sidelines. While his role and performance were inconsistent in Washington, Morris averaged 11.5 PPG and 5.1 RPG in 34 games. Morris figures to serve as a primary backup at the four in Oklahoma City.

Brett Dawson and Fred Katz of The Athletic examined how Morris will fit in with the Thunder’s current roster. Katz compared Morris’ potential fit to that of Enes Kanter with a more capable perimeter game. While it remains to be seen how Morris settles in, at least one new teammate is excited by his arrival.

“We’re good,Paul George said. “We’re a good group. We added a big piece in Markieff that we’re excited for, and we’re gonna be ready for the second half after this break.”

Check out more Northwest Division notes:

  • The Timberwolves‘ decision to start Dario Saric in place of Taj Gibson led the team to score 74 points in the paint on Thursday. Interim head coach Ryan Saunders complimented Saric on creating space with his presence, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “That’s one thing we like with Dario spacing the floor and having Taj in there at times, too,” Saunders said. “Karl(-Anthony Towns) has a little more opportunity to work. Playing through Karl is definitely a focus of ours.”
  • Speaking of Saunders, he’s only a few weeks into the job after the firing of Tom Thibodeau. Saunders praised the Timberwolves‘ players for easing his transition into head coaching duties, Feigen writes“Anything that’s new and sudden, it takes time to get more comfortable just in your regimen, your daily routine in things. But I felt comfortable out there,” he said. “The credit goes to the players in terms of how they make me feel, too.”
  • At 27-30, the Timberwolves are four games back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference. While their postseason odds are not great, the team insists there is reason for optimism entering the second half, Chris Hine of the Star Tribune writes.

Deveney’s Latest: Blazers, Harkless, Saric, Matthews

After officially acquiring Rodney Hood in a trade with Cleveland earlier today, the Trail Blazers may not be done dealing, writes Sean Deveney of Sporting News. According to Deveney, some executives around the NBA have suggested that Portland regretted its relative inactivity at last season’s deadline and is more willing to make moves this time around.

Whether the Trail Blazers do anything drastic may hinge on their willingness to move second-year big man Zach Collins, according to Deveney, who says that the team has “resisted inquiries” on Collins so far.

Maurice Harkless is among the Trail Blazers who could be had though, and the team is open to moving its first-round pick as well, per Deveney. Harkless has one more year on his contract after this season, which figures to limit his value — teams like the Knicks and Nets have had interest in him in the past, but won’t want to compromise their 2019 cap flexibility by acquiring him now, Deveney observes.

Here’s more on the Blazers, plus a couple other notes from Deveney on the trade market:

  • Nikola Mirotic (Pelicans), Jeremy Lin (Hawks), Evan Fournier (Magic), and JaMychal Green (Grizzlies) are among the players the Trail Blazers have expressed interest in, sources tell Deveney.
  • Dario Saric‘s production and playing time has dipped since Ryan Saunders took over as the Timberwolves‘ head coach, and Deveney suggests that it wouldn’t be a shock to see Saric back on the trade block in the offseason, or even this week. “He could be had for a decent offer, a first-rounder and a player,” one league executive told Deveney.
  • Deveney reiterates that the Raptors and Rockets are expected to be among the favorites for Wesley Matthews if he’s bought out, as we heard earlier today. The Bucks wouldn’t be among Matthews’ suitors, per Deveney, though Milwaukee hopes to add one more frontcourt piece via trade or free agency.

Timberwolves Waive James Nunnally

In the latest move in a busy day for the Timberwolves, the club is waiving guard James Nunnally, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The transaction will happen in advance of Nunnally’s contract guarantee deadline this week.

After playing in Europe for the past two seasons, Nunnally signed with the Timberwolves during free agency, as Minnesota was looking to add players that could space the floor and provide solid defense. However, Nunnally was not a regular part of the rotation and rarely saw the court during his time with the Wolves.

The 28-year-old wing only played 64 minutes this season, averaging 2.1 points per game while knocking down 38.5 percent of his 3-pointers. The emergence of Josh Okogie and the additions of Robert Covington and Dario Saric pushed Nunnally further out of the rotation.

If Nunnally doesn’t catch on with another NBA team right away, a return to the EuroLeague is a viable possibility, given his past success overseas.

Western Notes: Smith Jr., Parsons, Saric, Patterson

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is trying to put a damper on speculation that Dennis Smith Jr. will be dealt. Carlisle said that Smith and rookie sensation Luka Doncic form a ball-handling duo that can coexist and put steady pressure on opposing defenses, Dwain Price of Mavs.com tweets. “We have two point guards out there. Let’s quit looking at it as Dennis is getting relegated to playing off the ball,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got two point guards out there, which is a great advantage, and we’ve just got to take advantage of that and create a balance and cause problems for teams.” A report surfaced earlier this week that Dallas was gauging the market for the second-year guard.

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • Chandler Parsons has been medically cleared to play and has participated in four 5-on-5 scrimmages but it’s uncertain when the Grizzlies will begin using him again, according to David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Parsons, who has been battling knee soreness since being sidelined in late October, has yet to be activated. “He is dying to play,” Parsons’ agent, James Dunleavy, told Cobb. Parsons is making $24.1MM this season and another $25.1MM next season before his contract expires.
  • The duo of Taj Gibson and Dario Saric has provided a comfort level to Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. They have shared the spot since Saric was acquired from the Sixers in the Jimmy Butler deal. “Taj is playing unbelievable, and so is Dario,” Thibodeau told Hine. Gibson, who is making $14MM, will be an unrestricted free agent in July.
  • The backup power forward spot has been problematic for the Thunder, according to an Oklahoman report. Jerami Grant is averaging 12.4 PPG and 4.8 RPG as the starter but there’s a dropoff when he needs a rest. Patrick Patterson, the most likely candidate, has seen his minutes decline. He’s averaging just 3.9 PPG and 2.5 RPG in 15.9 MPG. Patterson holds a $5.7MM option on his contract for next season.

Northwest Notes: Roberson, Nuggets, Saric, Thunder

Thunder swingman Andre Roberson is on “a really good track” in his rehab from left knee surgery, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes. Roberson underwent the arthroscopic surgery in May to relieve inflammation.

“I’m sure for him there are some days he’s sorer than others,” coach Billy Donovan said on Roberson’s rehab. “But overall, he just continues to progress and get better.

“You guys have seen him out here. He’s cutting, he’s moving. He’s been on a really good track.”

Roberson participated in defensive drills on Thursday, according to Horne, and his conditioning drills have been ramped up in the past month. He’s expected to be re-evaluated in the coming weeks for a potential return.

When healthy, Roberson is a top-tier defensive wing with years of experience playing alongside All-Star Russell Westbrook. The Thunder hold a 13-7 record and the No. 4 seed in the West this season without Roberson, who’s expected to return to the starting lineup at some point this year.

There’s more from the Northwest Division tonight:

  • The Nuggets have a look of a dangerous team this season, Mike Singer of The Denver Post writes. Denver has a 14-7 record just six weeks into the 2017/18 season, playing solid basketball on both ends of the floor. The team has yet to play with Isaiah Thomas, who was signed to a free-agent contract last summer. “It’s one of the deepest and youngest teams that I’ve ever had, and that’s what I like about our team,” coach Mike Malone said.
  • New Timberwolves forward Dario Saric revealed what it’s like to be traded in the NBA with CBS Sports’ James Herbert, just weeks after he was moved from Philadelphia: “It’s just different,” Saric said. “You don’t have time to prepare, or somebody asks you, like, ‘What do you think?’ Normal people, somebody calls them and says, ‘Do you want to accept the job, yes or no?’ You have maybe two days or one day to decide. But here, they just trade you. You are like a bag, you know? Like some bucket, you know? And they just move you around. But that’s life. What can you do?”
  • The addition of Dennis Schroder and subtraction of Carmelo Anthony has played a role in the Thunder‘s early season success, Brett Dawson of The Athletic writes. Oklahoma City traded for Schroder this past offseason, with the 25-year-old averaging 16.8 points in 20 games so far.

Sixers Optimistic Butler Will Stay Put

Sixers managing partner and owner Josh Harris is both determined and optimistic that Jimmy Butler will remain with the team beyond this season, as he told USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt and The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

The Butler trade was made to give the franchise a third star alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and become a serious championship contender. It wouldn’t have happened unless the Sixers were convinced they could keep Butler, who can opt out of his contract this summer, in the long run.

“We’ve been saying since the summer we’ve been looking for another star and we felt we needed another shooter, a three-and-D wing, someone like Jimmy,” Harris told Zillgitt. “They’re hard to find at this elite level. We know who we have to get through to win the East. It’s obvious who it is. We think this is a piece we needed.”

While Butler became a major distraction around the Timberwolves, he’s been a model citizen since joining the Sixers. And Philadelphia anticipates that its gamble will pay off in the long run in the form of a multi-year contract.

“Our goal is to have elite talent under contract for a long time,” Harris told Charania. “That’s what we’re interested in.”

Both reporters offered insights into the trade discussions involving Butler. The Sixers eventually agreed to deal Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless and a future second-rounder for Butler and throw-in Justin Patton.

  • The Timberwolves initially asked for another starter in addition to the trio the Sixers dealt, according to Zillgitt.
  • Minnesota narrowed its offers to three teams, with the Pelicans and Rockets being the other finalists, according to Charania.  New Orleans dangled forward Nikola Mirotic and a first-round pick, while Houston was willing to part with guard Eric Gordon and two first-rounders.
  • The Sixers initially offered draft picks and other large contracts, Harris told Charania. Markelle Fultz was discussed in the Butler talks.
  • Other suitors, such as the Lakers, wanted to wait until the December 15th date when signed free agents could be included in a deal for Butler, Charania added.