Devin Booker

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.

Pistons Rumors: Drummond, Jackson, Johnson

The Pistons have “quietly explored” the trade market for Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, two of their roster’s centerpieces, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com reports in his latest piece, which is a deep dive into the situation in Detroit. According to Lowe, the Pistons came away disappointed with what teams might be willing to offer for Drummond or Jackson, reducing the likelihood of either player being moved in the next eight days.

Still, while a Drummond trade remains an “extreme long shot,” a deal involving Jackson isn’t entirely off the table. Lowe suggests the Timberwolves, Magic, and Pelicans are among the potential suitors for the veteran point guard, if Detroit is willing to settle for a modest return. Per Lowe, Jackson’s value has “cratered,” and a player like Ricky Rubio is one of the few solid starters the Pistons could get in any trade package. Lottery teams seeking a long-term solution at point guard are unwilling to move their first-round picks for Jackson, and Detroit isn’t ready to simply dump him for a collection of expiring contracts.

In his attempt to find a potential trade partner for a Jackson deal, Lowe identifies the Magic and Nuggets, pointing to players like Elfrid Payton and Emmanuel Mudiay as possible trade pieces. However, while Mudiay is believed to be available, Denver doesn’t appear to have interest in Jackson. Lowe notes that Orlando is an “intriguing” possibility, since GM Rob Hennigan was in Oklahoma City’s front office when the team drafted Jackson.

Here’s more from Lowe on Jackson, along with a few other intriguing Pistons-related tidbits:

  • The Pelicans have kicked the tires on Jackson, but never engaged in serious talks, league sources tell Lowe.
  • According to Lowe, several Pistons players criticized Jackson during a December players-only meeting for his apparent lack of effort on defense. Drummond tells Lowe that the criticism “wasn’t cool,” since Jackson was coming off an injury and wasn’t yet 100%. However, both Drummond and Stan Van Gundy acknowledge that the team has struggled to adjust to Jackson’s presence on the court this year after finding a groove early in the season with Ish Smith handling the point.
  • According to Lowe, a fear that top free agents won’t come to Detroit has pushed the Pistons to acquire solid players on good contracts when they become available. Those players aren’t always a fit with Drummond and Van Gundy, which has contributed to some of the team’s roster issues.
  • Multiple teams, including the Spurs, made an effort to nab Stanley Johnson in a trade after Van Gundy publicly called out the second-year forward earlier in the season. Although the Pistons rebuffed those efforts, the team has been frustrated by Devin Booker‘s development in comparison to Johnson’s, since the draft room was “almost deadlocked” between those two players in 2015, says Lowe.
  • The Pistons are unlikely to make a major move until closer to the draft, since they want to make the playoffs and are reluctant to do anything that will adversely impact their odds of earning a postseason spot, says Lowe. The ESPN analyst notes that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s pending restricted free agency will be an interesting case to follow this offseason, since the Pistons may have to shed a salary – perhaps Tobias Harris‘ or Boban Marjanovic‘s – if they need to match a max offer sheet for Caldwell-Pope.

Pacific Notes: Green, West, Randle

Warriors teammates Kevin Durant and Draymond Green were once again seen in a verbal altercation Saturday night. According to Chris Haynes of ESPN, it was all part of a master plan by Green.

Nothing in general” led to the altercation, the Warriors forward said Tuesday. “It was actually a tactic. But that’s for us to know and for everyone else to figure out.

Green, Hayes writes, was trying to use reverse psychology to motivate his struggling teammate and supposedly followed it up by winking and smiling at some of the Warriors coaching staff.

Earlier this month Green and Durant were seen arguing with one another on the court when the Warriors lost to the Grizzlies.

Despite their interesting relationship, Green and Durant are said to have watched the Super Bowl together the day after the incident, suggesting that the altercation caused no hard feelings. With a 43-8 record, the Warriors have earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to locker room chemistry.

There are more headlines out of the Pacific Division today:

  • The Warriors may need to compete with the Lakers if they want to convince 78-year-old executive Jerry West to stay with the team after his contract expires in July, writes Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News.
  • Veteran forward P.J. Tucker knows how to get the most out of his younger teammates and his tough-love approach has been put in effect with current Suns rookies Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, writes Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic.
  • The Lakers handed out significant contracts to veterans Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng over the offseason but lately the tandem has been coming off the bench, notes Baxter Holmes of ESPN. “I’m not going to say it’s permanent, but we’re going to see how it goes,” head coach Luke Walton said, citing the need to develop young players as the reason for the decision.
  • Limited to just five minutes over the previous four games, Julius Randle has recovered from pneumonia and and returned to the lineup for the Lakers on Monday. The power forward is expected to be at full strength heading forward, writes Bill Oram of the Orange County Register.
  • There are plenty of assets on the Suns roster, writes Kevin O’Conner of the Ringer. The scribe breaks down what could be next for Phoenix, including franchise cornerstone Devin Booker and “good-but-not-great” point guard Eric Bledsoe.

Lowe’s Latest: Bledsoe, Knight, Nuggets, Mudiay

Eric Bledsoe is enjoying the best season of his NBA career so far in 2016/17, putting up career-best marks in PPG (21.6), APG (6.2), and several other categories. As Zach Lowe of ESPN.com writes, Bledsoe’s impressive season raises the question of whether the Suns should sell high on the veteran point guard or commit to him a part of the team’s long-term future.

Phoenix projects to have a top pick in a 2017 draft that will be loaded with point guards, and Bledsoe has undergone three knee surgeries already, so there’s a case to be made that the Suns would be wise to sell high on him. However, don’t count head coach Earl Watson among those who feels that way. “I can almost guarantee Devin [Booker] and Eric will be on the same team next year,” Watson said, per Lowe.

Here’s more from Lowe’s latest piece:

  • As a parenthetical aside in his discussion of Bledsoe, Lowe writes that “nobody wants” Suns guard Brandon Knight. Knight has been mentioned more frequently than Bledsoe as a trade candidate, but if Phoenix hopes to secure a substantial return, it doesn’t sound like moving Knight will accomplish that.
  • The Nuggets are “quietly exploring” what sort of return they could get for a package of Emmanuel Mudiay and multiple picks, sources tell Lowe. The ESPN analyst isn’t sure the Suns would be a logical trade partner for Denver though, since Phoenix will have the opportunity to draft a point guard in the summer. Lowe adds that Denver is in no rush to move Mudiay.
  • The Suns would have to consider moving Bledsoe if the right team were to offer a “good wing or center, plus a high first-round pick,” according to Lowe. However, he adds that most teams are reluctant to move probable lottery picks at this time of year, when it’s still not clear where they’ll land in the draft.
  • Although there’s no indication that the two teams are discussing such a deal, and he acknowledges that there would be roadblocks, Lowe offers his favorite hypothetical Bledsoe deal, involving the Magic: Lowe’s proposal would see Nikola Vucevic, Mario Hezonja, and Orlando’s 2017 pick go to the Suns in exchange for Bledsoe and Alex Len. Per Lowe, the Magic front office remains “divided” on whether or not Elfrid Payton is the club’s long-term solution at point guard.
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