Devin Booker

Suns GM: Eric Bledsoe Unlikely To Be Traded

Suns GM Ryan McDonough told Doug Haller of 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 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 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.

Pacific Notes: Booker, Lakers, Durant

The Suns haven’t experienced much success this season, but Devin Booker believes the team’s future is bright, as he tells Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders.

“We have a really good young core,” Booker said. “Our young players are developing, including myself, very well. Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, Tyler Ulis have been getting some time now. And then we have a mix of really good veterans, Tyson Chandler, Jared Dudley, Leandro Barbosa, P.J. Tucker; they’re leading us on the right way. Each and every day, they push us every day in practice. They’re patient with us. We’re messing up a lot. That’s what you expect coming into this league, playing against grown men. We’re still learning, but at the same time, I think the future is really bright here.”

Phoenix has a record of 15-33 and currently sits in the second spot in our Reserve Standings. Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders examines the trade market for Lou Williams and Nick Young, and finds it difficult to envision the Lakers netting a first-round pick for either of the veterans. Pincus believes Los Angeles could flip one of them for a young player with untapped potential akin to the team’s 2014 Steve Blake trade. In that deal, the Lakers brought in Kent Bazemore, a player who flashed promise once he was given meaningful minutes.
  • The Lakers may need to move Williams and Young in order to open up the cap space necessary to sign a max-level player, such as Blake Griffin, Pincus writes in the same piece. Young holds a player option for next season worth slightly under $5.7MM and Williams will make $7MM next season in the final year of his deal.
  • Kevin Durant told Stephen Curry to stop trying so hard to incorporate him in the Warriors‘ offense, as Chris Haynes of relays. “I just said to [Curry], ‘Don’t worry about me,'” Durant told Haynes. “I’ll figure it out around you. You’re the engine of this team, and I know that. I’m not trying to come over and feel like everything just revolves around me. Just do you, man. I’m going to play around you. I’ve played this game long enough. I know how to score. I know how to find the ball. Just go out there and play your game.’ And that’s what he’s been doing.”

Southeast Notes: Howard, Beal, Booker, Biyombo

Hawks center Dwight Howard believes he can play for close to another decade, according to Michael Lee of The Vertical. Now in his 13th season, Howard seems to have overcome the back and knee problems that limited him in Houston. He played just 41 games two seasons ago, but has been healthy since arriving in Atlanta. “When I first came in the league, I thought I was going to play forever,” Howard said. “I still want to play until I’m 40, but I thought I was going to play basketball until I was 60. That’s what happens when you’re young. Once you get older, you realize there are lot of things that are important.” The contract Howard signed with the Hawks this summer runs through the 2018/19 season.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • The Wizards have adopted a “track everything” policy to protect the health of Bradley Beal, writes Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. The star shooting guard, who re-signed over the summer on a five-year max deal, has a history of injuries that limited him to 55 games last season and 63 the year before. He was placed on a minutes restriction last December after doctors discovered early signs of a stress reaction in his lower right fibula. “They have to literally drag me off the floor sometimes because I’ll continue to shoot, I’ll continue to work out in practice sometimes when I shouldn’t be,” Beal said. “They do a good job of watching me.”
  • Devin Booker, a breakout star with the Suns during his rookie season, lobbied the Magic to draft him in 2015, relays Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando, which held the fifth pick, opted for Mario Hezonja, who averaged 6.1 points and fewer than 18 minutes per game as a rookie. Booker cracked the starting lineup in Phoenix, averaged 13.8 points per night and was a First Team All-Rookie selection. “It was funny,” Booker said. “They had a top-five pick. Obviously, I wasn’t being rated that high. But I’m good friends with [team owners] the DeVoses because we’re both from Grand Rapids, Mich. I was telling them, ‘I need to come to Orlando.’ But I knew it wasn’t going to happen. It was a long shot. I’m happy where I’m at.”
  • Bismack Biyombo has brought the shot-blocking and energy that the Magic expected when they signed him this summer, Robbins writes in a separate piece. Biyombo is averaging 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes to go with 9.0 points and 13.3 rebounds. “To me, it’s about knowing your job and doing your job, really,” Biyombo said. “I don’t do anything out of what I know I can’t do, and I do what I think the team’s gonna need to win a game each and every night.”

Pacific Rumors: Thompson, Warriors, Cousins, Casspi

The anatomy of a bad trade rumor was on display earlier this week, as CSNNE analyst Brian Scalabrine suggested during a radio appearance that he’d heard a possible deal involving the Warriors, Klay Thompson, and the Celtics could be on the table. As it turns out, Scalabrine was simply passing along speculation he had read on a blog, rather than reporting anything substantial.

As Sam Amick of USA Today writes, a source quickly shot down the idea that the Warriors are entertaining any trade talks involving Thompson with the Celtics or anyone else. Meanwhile, one team executive told Sam Amico of (Twitter link) that his club had talked to Golden State about Thompson, but that exec didn’t get the impression that the Warriors had any interest in moving him. The Dubs could use some defensive help, particularly around the rim, but the idea of trading one half of the Splash Brothers to beef up that interior defense appears to be a non-starter — for now, at least.

Here’s more from around the Pacific division:

  • Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders takes a closer look at the trade rumors surrounding Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins, concluding that neither the Warriors nor the Kings are likely to make a move with their stars anytime soon. Regarding the Warriors, Kyler says that the team’s plan for this season is to keep its core together, potentially adding a small complementary piece at some point.
  • Although he has denied a report suggesting he asked the Kings to trade him, Omri Casspi admits he’s somewhat frustrated by his new role – or lack thereof – under head coach Dave Joerger, per Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. “I didn’t think I’d go from playing 27 minutes to being out of the rotation,” Casspi said. “It is what it is. I’ve got to be a pro about it. … What goes through my mind is I can help this team win. I might be here today, and I’ve got to stay ready. I might be somewhere else. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.” Casspi was reportedly scheduled to meet with GM Vlade Divac on Monday to discuss his status.
  • The Suns didn’t have massive expectations for Devin Booker when they selected him 13th overall in the 2015 draft, but just a year and a half later, the future of the franchise is tied to the young guard’s development, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post.

Suns Exercise 2017/18 Options On Booker, Warren

The Suns have officially exercised their 2017/18 options for guard Devin Booker and forward T.J. Warren, the team announced. Booker will earn $2,319,36 in what will be the third year of his rookie scale contract, while Warren will make $3,152,931 in what will be the fourth year of his current deal.

Booker was an NBA All-Rookie First Team selection in 2015/16 after making 76 appearances, including 51 starts, averaging 13.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 27.7 minutes per outing. His shooting line was .423/.343/.840. The 19-year-old ranked fifth in the NBA in scoring this preseason, averaging 19.6 points in five appearances, including a 34-point performance at Portland on October 7th.

Warren, 23, made 47 appearances for Phoenix a season ago, averaging 11.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 0.9 assists on 22.8 minutes. His slash line on the campaign was .501/.400/.703. The third-year player started all six of the Suns’ preseason games, averaging 12.5 points on 46.6 percent shooting and 4.2 rebounds.

Western Rumors: Thunder, Young, Booker, Nuggets

Rookie Domantas Sabonis appears to be the early leader for the Thunder’s starting power forward position over veteran Ersan Ilyasova, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman reports. Sabonis passed and shot the ball well in the Thunder’s preseason games in Spain last week, Horne continues. He’s also shown unusual maturity for his age, Horne adds. “In terms of defensively where he’s supposed to be, remembering plays, doing his job, being in the right spots, the right positions, (being) a competitive guy, he’s reliable,” coach Billy Donovan told Horne. “Really reliable.”

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Lakers swingman Nick Young appreciates the way new coach Luke Walton has delivered his message of getting Young to improve defensively, Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News writes. Young often bristled at the way former coach Byron Scott criticized him publicly, Medina notes, but Walton has tried a more positive approach. “You have a coach that is telling you to shoot the ball and has confidence in you,” Young told Medina. “All he wants you to do is play defense and do whatever you want on offense. That gives yourself a lot of confidence.”
  • Suns coach Earl Watson believes shooting guard Devin Booker is a star in the making, Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic relays. Booker lit up the Trail Blazers for 34 points in three quarters this preseason and Watson marvels at his scoring ability, Coro continues. “He scored every way possible, so you like everything that he did,” Watson told Coro. “You can tell 19 years of age and his maturity and patience in the half-court and the way he can score is very unique. I’m not sure there’s a lot of people his age or a lot of people in the NBA who can do that.”
  • Jusuf Nurkic has been so impressive this preseason that he is practically forcing Nuggets coach Michael Malone to name him the opening-night starter at center, according to Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post. Nurkic has played with determination in the preseason, Dempsey notes, while averaging 18.0 points and 13.3 rebounds. If Nurkic continues to play this way, Malone’s biggest decision will be to choose between Nikola Jokic and Kenneth Faried as the starting power forward, Dempsey adds.

Western Notes: Knight, Diop, Douglas

Suns coach Earl Watson has already named his starting lineup for the regular season and second-year player Devin Booker received the nod at shooting guard, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic reports. This means that Brandon Knight will shift into the sixth man role, Coro adds. “That’s the starting lineup for the season,” Watson said. “We’re not wasting time. We’re not lingering with inner-competition. Brandon Knight is not a bench player. He’s a starter in this league. He’s sacrificed the most for our group. He took it like the pro he is because he understands the opportunity that we have to be special. Do players like coming off the bench? No, and we embrace that. That’s the inner-competitive nature that we need.”

I knew at one point in my career I’d be a starter,” Booker told Coro. “I didn’t know it’d be this soon but I have put in that work to be one.” Here’s more from out West:

  • The Pelicans waived Chris Copeland earlier today in an effort to free up more minutes for players who are on the bubble to make the team’s regular season roster, according to coach Alvin Gentry, Scott Kushner of The New Orleans Advocate relays. New Orleans had two healthy scratches, Robert Sacre and Alonzo Gee, in its preseason opening victory over the Mavericks on Saturday, the scribe notes.
  • The Jazz have hired former NBA player DeSagana Diop as a coaching associate, the team announced. As a coaching associate, Diop will assist the Jazz coaching staff in a variety of capacities including work on the court during practices and individual player workouts, video editing and analysis, and other team preparation, according to the press release.
  • Toney Douglas, who signed with the Cavaliers earlier today, also drew interest from the Nuggets and the Suns, Sam Amico of relays (via Twitter).
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