Devin Booker

Western Notes: Jackson, Harden, Muhammad, Wolves, Clippers Arena

Rumors of the Suns trading promising rookie Josh Jackson for Kyrie Irving should be put to rest, writes Greg Moore of AZCentral.com. Moore writes that Jackson and Devin Booker each create a sense of “awe and wonder,” making anyone who watches them dream of the future.

The Arizona-based scribe argues that the manner in which coach Earl Watson talks about Jackson comes off much more as genuine optimism for the future than big talk to boost trade value.

“I love Josh Jackson,” Watson said Monday. “Something about him is just uncommon.” Devin Booker, meanwhile, “always had that edge.” “(Those) two together are going to be great young guys who can push other guys to become better because they’re so inner competitive,” Watson said.

Watson joked in response to being asked about a rumor that Jackson had grown two inches since being drafted:  But “if he did, we love it, and even if he didn’t … let’s build the legend. Yeah, he grew. Absolutely. He’s like 7 feet now … anyone coming up against him should be intimidated by his constant growth vertically, in height, and ability to play above the rim.”

In a recent interview, Jackson addressed the trade talk, saying, “I think if that was going to happen, it would have happened by now.” However, he also said: “I’m going to make the best of whatever situation that I’m presented with. If I’m traded to China, whatever, I’m going to come out, and I’m going to be happy and just try to make the best of it.”

Here are more notes from the Western Conference:

  • James Harden is more fit and fired up than ever, writes Sam Amick of USA Today.  “I know how exciting this season is (going to be, and) I know how important it is, so I’m going to take full advantage of it. I have a lot of charity (events), a lot of things going on, but when I’m in that gym that’s kind of my getaway. That’s kind of when I’m locked in,” Harden said. The Rockets‘ 2017 postseason ended with concerns over Harden’s fatigue and stamina.
  • Shabazz Muhammad may have to settle for a short-term “prove-it” deal for next season, writes Michael Rand of The Star Tribune. Heading into the offseason, coach Tom Thibodeau used the word “optimistic” when discussing re-signing Muhammad. However, in July, the wing’s rights were renounced. On Wednesday, Timberwolves signee Jamal Crawford tweeted Muhammad, “c’mon back home.”
  • The mayor of Inglewood and the four other council members unanimously approved a revised agreement with a Clippers-controlled company to shrink the four-block area where an arena could be built so homes and a church aren’t displaced, reports Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times. More than a dozen citizens had raised concerns about the potential arena before the vote took place.

Kyler’s Latest: Irving, Suns, Wolves, Melo, Rockets

As we enter the dog days of the NBA offseason, two All-Star trade candidates remain on the block — the Cavaliers and Knicks continue to explore trades involving Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony, respectively. Nothing appears imminent on either front, but Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders checks in on both situations to see where they stand, so let’s dive in and round up the highlights from Kyler…

  • The Cavaliers aren’t operating with a sense of urgency to find an Irving deal. One source from a team interested in Irving tells Kyler that Cleveland doesn’t seem to be operating with a deadline when it comes to getting something done. The source described the Cavs as still being in “fact-finding mode” at this point.
  • The Suns and Timberwolves are viewed as two strong candidates for Irving, but they’ve been reluctant to include Josh Jackson and Andrew Wiggins, respectively, and are unlikely to win out unless they relent on that stance. While Phoenix doesn’t want to move Jackson or Devin Booker, there’s a sense that anyone else on the roster could be had, says Kyler. That may not be enough for the Cavaliers, however.
  • The “prevailing thought in NBA circles” is that the long-rumored Anthony deal between the Knicks and Rockets isn’t going to happen unless Houston finds a way to improve its offer. As Kyler details, the idea of the Knicks accepting a package made up entirely of players they don’t view as long-term pieces isn’t “appealing or agreeable” to the team’s front office.
  • The Knicks seem as if they’re willing to bring Anthony to training camp if he doesn’t expand his list of preferred landing spots or if the Rockets don’t improve their offer, according to Kyler, who describes the Carmelo situation as “more like a standoff” than the Cavaliers‘ situation with Irving.

Latest On Kyrie Irving, Suns

The Cavaliers are working to honor Kyrie Irving‘s trade request and they’ve been in contact with his camp as they parse offers from interested teams, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com reports.

The Suns are among the teams to make Cavs an offer and a source tells Vardon that if Phoenix was willing to part with Eric Bledsoe, Josh Jackson, and a future first-round pick (Miami’s partially protected 2018 selection) that a deal would be “done by now.” While the two teams could certainly agree to that trade, league rules would prevent such an arrangement from occurring since Jackson cannot be dealt until 30 days after he signed his rookie contract. The Kansas product put pen to paper on July 3.

Phoenix is reportedly unwilling to surrender Jackson in a deal for Irving and it’s unknown what the franchise is actually offering for the point guard. Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link) speculates Cleveland does send Irving to the Suns that a package of Bledsoe, T.J. Warren and potentially Marquese Chriss would be the likeliest haul. Kyler believes Phoenix would have to take back Iman Shumpert in that scenario.

The Cavs and Suns could certainly work out a deal involving different parameters, but it’s clear that any variation of an Irving trade will not include Devin Booker. A source tells Vardon that the shooting guard was told by the team that he won’t be dealt.

Trade Rumors: Jackson, George, Porzingis, Kanter

Numerous teams are trying to obtain a top-4 pick in order to select Kansas swingman Josh Jackson, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical tweets. With the Sixers having obtained the top overall pick to select Markelle Fultz, that means a blockbuster deal involving the Lakers, Celtics or Suns could be on the horizon. It also strongly suggests that the Celtics have settled on Duke forward Jayson Tatum as their preferred choice, since Jackson wouldn’t be available at No. 4 if Boston wants him.

Here are some of other trade rumors floating around as the draft approaches:

  • There is a growing sense that unless the Pacers get a suitable offer for Paul George today, President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard will wait until next month to re-engage talks regarding the 2018 free agent, according to Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler. However, the latest projected salary cap of $99MM could motivate Indiana and the Lakers to get a deal done today, as Kyler details. The Spurs and Blazers are also making a run at George, Kyler adds in another tweet.
  • The Knicks believe Kristaps Porzingis would have been the top selection in today’s draft and next year’s draft and desire a package of picks that reflect his value, David Aldridge of NBA.com tweets. Team President Phil Jackson confirmed Wednesday he is listening to offers for the disgruntled big man. Talks between the Knicks and Suns have not gained any traction because Phoenix is unwilling to part with shooting guard Devin Booker, Wojnarowski tweets.
  • The Thunder could deal center Enes Kanter as early as today, Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman speculates. The team has enough big men to take over his minutes, though Kanter is the most offensively-gifted frontcourt player they have, Carlson continues. It makes sense to obtain more shooters and veterans to help out Russell Westbrook, which makes Kanter expendable, Carlson adds. Kanter will make approximately $17.9MM next season and holds an $18.6MM player option on the final year of his contract next summer.

Latest On Kristaps Porzingis

It has been another eventful day in the NBA, as a new name has entered the rumor mill as a possible trade candidate: Kristaps Porzingis. Reports have suggested there is a “frenzy of interest” in Porzingis, and the Knicks haven’t shot down potential suitors, though their asking price is said to be very high. The Celtics are reportedly among the teams with interest.

As we wait to see how serious the Knicks are about moving Porzingis, here are a few more noteworthy updates on his possible availability:

4:48pm:

  • A plugged-in source who spoke to Howard Beck of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) says to “disregard” the Porzingis buzz, telling Beck that the Knicks are taking calls but aren’t shopping the Latvian.

3:42pm:

2:38pm:

  • According to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 in Phoenix (Twitter link), the Knicks asked the Suns for the No. 4 pick and Devin Booker in exchange for Porzingis. Gambadoro is as plugged in as anyone on Suns news, and asking for Booker makes sense for a team seeking a “front-line guard,” which we heard earlier. So this is perhaps an indication of New York’s asking price for Porzingis.
  • One general manager tells Sean Deveney of The Sporting News (Twitter link) that the Porzingis rumor feels more like a “message” than something the Knicks are seriously considering. Deveney doesn’t speculate about the specifics of that message, but presumably it’s one aimed at Porzingis’ camp.
  • League sources tell Jordan Schultz of The Huffington Post (Twitter link) that Phil Jackson would like to dump Joakim Noah‘s contract in a Porzingis deal, though it’s not clear if that’s a deal-breaker. While getting Noah off the cap would certainly be huge for the Knicks, attaching him to Porzingis would risk significantly reducing the latter’s trade value.

Suns Plan To Keep GM Ryan McDonough Through 2017/18 Season

The Suns will keep Ryan McDonough on as GM through the 2017/18 season, sources tell Marc Stein and Chris Haynes of ESPN.com. McDonough’s contract is set to expire next offseason.

Drafting Devin Booker is widely regarded as McDonough’s best move, Stein notes. The scribe adds that Phoenix may be in for a busy offseason, citing the team’s surplus of backcourt talent and the draft, which is heavy on point guards. The Suns have a 19.9% chance at landing the No. 1 overall pick, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors recently detailed.

Phoenix had the second-worst record in the league this season, as our Reverse Standings show. The team has gone 134-160 since McDonough took over GM duties.

Suns Notes: Chandler, Knight, McDonough

The Suns gave Tyson Chandler the option of being dealt prior to the trade deadline, but the center chose to stay in Phoenix and take on a role as a mentor. Chandler is a huge fan of the team’s young prospects and he expects to return to to the franchise next season, though nothing is set in stone, Doug Haller of The Arizona Republic relays.

“I think it all depends, honestly, on what direction the team is going in,” Chandler said. “Honestly, I don’t think it’s possible for any team just to go young because then you have a roster full of guys just competing with each other. I’ve had a good relationship with the owners here and management and even the coaching staff. There’s no doubt in my mind that whatever happens it will be a common agreement, whatever’s the best for myself and the organization.”

“So for me, I want what’s best for [the young guys on the team]. I’ve accomplished a lot throughout my career. At the end of the day, I want to see those young players grow.”

Here’s more from Phoenix:

  • Brandon Knight, who hasn’t played since the All-Star break, may be tough to trade because of his contract, Haller notes in the same piece. Knight has three years and slightly under $43.9MM left on his contract after this season.
  • The Suns must figure out what to do with their veterans, Keith P. Smith of RealGM contends. Smith believes GM Ryan McDonough is in a tough spot because a youth movement is a practical route for the team to go, but McDonough may not have the ownership support necessary to progress through that kind of rebuild.
  • Year three is when many NBA players go from being good, up-and-coming prospects to great, All-Star caliber players and Devin Booker is on the path to make that transition, Haller opines in a separate piece. Haller believes Booker will become Phoenix’s next big star for years to come.

Pacific Notes: Booker, Watson, Russell

An impressive sophomore season has Devin Booker conjuring up images of another gifted scorer: James Harden. Head coach Earl Watson recently spoke about how he envisions Booker facilitating the Suns’ offense similar to how Harden does in Houston.

He reminds me of a young James Harden because he plays at his own speed,” Watson told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle of the Suns guard. “He plays not fast, but it’s quick, not blazing, but [he is] somebody that dunks on you. He can shoot. He can handle. He can pass. He can post. And he has a very old game for his age. It’s exactly how James was.”

In 74 games for the Suns this season, Watson has averaged 21.9 points per game but it’s his ability to control the ball down the stretch that reminds Watson of Harden.

I think James opens the door for him to [be a full-time point guard for the Suns],” Watson said. “You definitely see the ball in his hands down the stretch.

  • Second-year Suns coach Earl Watson is still learning the ins and outs of the job, specifically how decisions can sometimes come down from management that he doesn’t exactly agree with, Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic writes. “I was like, ‘I want to play this way. I want to win. I want to get in the playoffs.’ I never thought about players sitting or the other side of the game,” Watson said of the front office’s decision to rest certain veterans. “That was like a right hook I didn’t see coming. But I got back up. And I think our young guys have responded well.
  • Of all the things that D’Angelo Russell has improved upon in his second season, one of note is his ability to make in-game adjustments. “He’s done a good job, whether he’s making bad plays with that or missing shots, with still helping our team,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton told Mark Medina of the Orange County Register. “That is a huge step forward. It’s important you can bounce back within the game.”
  • The Clippers are well aware of the fact that the pressure is on them to win in the playoffs, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register writes. “Until we do anything, that’s what it is,” Chris Paul said. “We haven’t won. It depends on what day of the week it is and who did we just beat? It’s always changing but until we do something it’s going to be the same thing.

Pacific Notes: Kings’ Rookies, Booker, Nwaba, Ulis

While the Kings have dropped out of playoff contention, Dave Joerger will still seek to build the talent and IQ of his younger players. As Joerger acknowledged in a recent post-game press conference, ensuring proper player development is a large part of his job.

“Having been there with those guys (in Memphis) I felt a great deal of responsibility to maximize every win that we could get,” Joerger told reporters, including Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee. “That’s where are these gray hairs popped out. Now the gray hairs are (from) are you playing the right guys with the right group, developing guys, giving them the right experiences?”

Joerger has given valuable playing opportunities to rookies down the stretch; providing Skal Labissiere, Buddy Hield, and Georgios Papagiannis with multiple 20+ minute games over the past week.

More from the Pacific…

  • The Suns are tanking “with spirit,” Dan Bickley of AZCentral.com writes. What’s more, Bickley points out Devin Booker‘s 70-point game as proof that he’s Phoenix’s next franchise player. “The Suns should feel blessed,” Bickley wrote. “They’ve lost 60 or more games only once in their storied history, and that was their expansion season in 1968-69. The organization’s commitment to losing is so sturdy and hardcore that they could conceivably end the current season with 60 losses and a 16-game losing streak, and somehow, the season will be perceived as a smashing success.”
  • Lakers rookie David Nwaba will be assigned to the L.A. D-Fenders to boost their D-League playoff run (source: Mark Medina, L.A. Daily News). Nwaba has been a pleasant surprise in Luke Walton‘s rotation, averaging 7.8 points with 5.5 rebounds over his last four games. Nwaba, who appeared in 40 games for the D-Fenders this season, figures to receive a considerable workload during the D-League postseason.
  • The Suns want Tyler Ulis to shoot more, Doug Haller of AZCentral.com writes. Haller relays an amusing anecdote, in which coach Earl Watson shouted “Shoot it!” at Ulis during Tuesday’s match-up with the Hawks. “He’s very talented,” veteran guard Ronnie Price said of Ulis. “He has a chance to have a long career in the league. He has a lot to his game that people are starting to see, so for him, it’s just getting comfortable and keeping him confident. As a team we all trust him. We all know what he’s capable of doing, but we can’t have him second-guessing himself with shots.”

Suns GM: Eric Bledsoe Unlikely To Be Traded

Suns GM Ryan McDonough told Doug Haller of AZCentral.com that Eric Bledsoe is unlikely to be traded at this year’s deadline, citing the 27-year-old’s team-friendly contract.

“We never say ‘never,’ but I think he’s one of the least likely guys on the roster to get traded,” McDonough said.  “He’s under contract for a couple more years after this year. More likely, we’d try to add guys in that 27-and-under age group to play with Eric and (guard) Devin (Booker) and our young core and build that way.”

Now in the third season of a five-year, $70MM contract, Bledsoe has averaged 21.6 points with 6.2 assists through 56 games in 2016/17. Bledsoe would surely gather interest on the trade market, but McDonough appears to be in no rush to deal one of his franchise’s prized assets.

“In terms of his work ethic and his buy-in to what we’re trying to do organizationally, he’s been off the charts,” McDonough said. “He’s made Phoenix his offseason home. It means a lot to him to be a Sun. I think it’s very unlikely to see anything with Eric.”

Earlier in the month, Zach Lowe of ESPN noted the Suns would have to consider moving Bledsoe if the return included a “good wing or center, plus a high first-round pick.” Bledsoe and Devin Booker have been stellar for the 18-39 Suns; in Lowe’s column, coach Earl Watson all but guaranteed Bledsoe and Booker would each be on Phoenix’s roster at the start of 2017/18.

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