Doug McDermott

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Oladipo, Gobert, Burks

ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy believes the Thunder should seriously consider playing Russell Westbrook the entire game during the postseason, as he told Mel Bracht of The Oklahoman. The Thunder outscored the Rockets in Game 2 by 11 points in the 41 minutes that Westbrook played. Westbrook’s 51-point, 10-rebound, 13-assist effort was wasted in a 115-111 loss that gave Houston a 2-0 series lead. Oklahoma City is better off with Westbrook staying on the court even if he wears down as the game goes on, Van Gundy told Bracht. “I think he gives them a better chance even if he is diminished somewhat due to fatigue by playing the whole game,” Van Gundy said. “Maybe it will be different at home, but the dropoff is huge.”

In other playoff developments around the Northwest Division:

  • Thunder coach Billy Donovan doesn’t want Victor Oladipo‘s shooting woes to affect his overall game, the Associated Press reports. The shooting guard is averaging 8.5 PPG and shooting 19% from the field through the first two playoff games. Donovan wants Oladipo to realize his defense and rebounding are also important. “Victor’s not a one-dimensional player — he can do a lot of different things,” Donovan said. “Taking his mindset off the ball going in the basket, and him realizing, ‘I’m not going to allow myself to be defined by that because there’s too many other things I can do out there to help this team.'”
  • Forward Doug McDermott was a bright spot for the Thunder in Game 2, as he scored 11 points in 14 minutes. “I knew I could have an impact on this series,” McDermott told Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. “I know my shot’s always gonna be there, and they have to respect that.”
  • Jazz center Rudy Gobert will remain sidelined for Game 3 of the series against the Clippers, according to another AP story. He hyperextended his left knee and suffered a bone contusion in the opening minute of the series. The Jazz were outscored 60-38 in the paint in Game 2 while going with a smaller lineup most of the way.
  • The Jazz will also be without shooting guard Alec Burks for Game 3, the team’s PR department tweets. Burks received a platelet-rich plasma injection into his left knee on Thursday. Burks, who averaged 6.7 PPG in 15.5 MPG over 42 games during the regular season, has not appeared in the series.

Northwest Notes: Rubio, Jazz, Exum, Blazers

Although there was plenty of speculation that Ricky Rubio could be on the move, the Timberwolves didn’t end up parting ways with the sixth-year veteran. According to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, the 26-year-old hasn’t let the rumors impact his game.

Nothing happened, rightLife goes on,” the point guard told Zgoda. In the Timberwolves’ first game since the Thursday deadline, Rubio has dropped consecutive double-doubles.

Teammate Karl-Anthony Towns cites Rubio’s presence in the locker room as an asset for the young Timberwolves. “Ricky is a big part of our team,” Towns said. “Not even from just a skill and leader standpoint. But just morale. Just seeing him in the locker room lifts us up.

The Timberwolves currently sit three games back of the Western Conference’s eight-seed and have publicly said as recently as this month that they’re committed to making the playoffs. Holding on to Rubio, as opposed to turning over the offense to rookie Kris Dunn or reserve Tyus Jones, may help them get there.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets should target Jazz forward Gordon Hayward and be happy that they didn’t land Paul George or DeMarcus Cousins, writes Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post. Kiszla suggests that the club could pursue Hayward as a replacement for pending free agent Danilo Gallinari.
  • Despite having to master a new playbook in the middle of a season and pack enough items to live off of in a new city, the newly acquired Thunder players brought over in Oklahoma City’s Thursday deal are adjusting just fine. “They have a great culture here that they’ve built, starting at the top,” Doug McDermott told Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman. “It makes it really easy for guys like me and Taj Gibson to fit in.
  • The Jazz held off on tweaking their roster at the trade deadline for fear of messing with their team chemistry. The front office wants to see what the roster is capable of when fully healthy, tweets Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune.
  • Count Jazz guard Dante Exum as one Landmark Sports Agency client that will stay with the firm despite Rob Pelinka‘s decision to accept a position as general manager of the Lakers. The guard trusts Pelinka’s people, tweets Andy Larsen of KSL.
  • The Trail Blazers weren’t very active on Thursday, tweets Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. “The phones went pretty dead,” general manager Neil Oshey told him. The forward-thinking Blazers did, of course, add Jusuf Nurkic in the days leading up to the deadline, the general manager explained to Cody Sharrett of the team’s official website.

Thunder Acquire Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson

6:44pm: The deal is official, according to press releases issued by both teams.

1:44 PM: The two teams are nearing a deal that will send Payne to Chicago and both McDermott and Gibson to OKC, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link). The Bulls will receive Anthony Morrow and Lauvergne in addition to Payne, while the Thunder will receive a 2018 second-round pick. Roberson is not involved in the deal.

1:28 PM: The Thunder and Bulls continue to have trade discussions regarding Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson, Marc Stein of ESPN.com relays (Twitter links). Frank Isola of the New York Daily News (Twitter links) hears that the two teams are closing in on a deal that will send McDermott to OKC in exchange for Andre Roberson and Cameron Payne.

Oklahoma City has been trying to figure out what a new deal for Roberson would look like in the offseason, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports (Twitter link). Roberson will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season and a trade could signal that OKC feels the price tag will be too high. A Roberson trade is not imminent, as Vincent Goodwill of Comcast Sportsnet (Twitter link) hears that the deal could simply be Payne for McDermott.

The Thunder are exploring a trade that would bring both McDermott and Gibson to the team, according to Stein. Earlier today, we learned that the Bulls have been seeking a first-round pick in exchange for Gibson for quite some time. Oklahoma City has already shipped out a pair of future first-round picks in previous deals, so the first selection the franchise can trade is its 2022 pick. If OKC is to acquire both players, Stein (Twitter link) hears that it would take Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne, and draft compensation for the Bulls to oblige.

Gibson will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. The Bulls lost Pau Gasol to free agency last season and the experience has “motivated” to get something for Gibson rather than going through the same scenario once again this summer, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune notes on Twitter.

Trade Rumors: KCP, OKC, Afflalo, Knight, Ezeli

While the Pistons have been open to listening to inquiries on anyone, few – if any – players on their roster have received as much interest as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Speaking to reporters, including Rod Beard of The Detroit News, Stan Van Gundy confirmed that KCP’s future has been one of the main topics discussed as of late by the Pistons, who will have to make a big long-term commitment to the shooting guard this summer if they keep him.

“That’s something you have to make decisions about and deal with. I’m not getting into specifics at this point, but that has been a significant part of what we’ve talked about,” Van Gundy said of the RFA-to-be. “He was probably the most urgent decision because of that and the money coming and what it means in terms of the cap and the (luxury) tax. We’ve talked about it internally and we’ve talked about it with (team owner) Tom (Gores). We know exactly what’s coming and we’re making informed decisions.”

Here are several more trade rumors and notes from around the NBA:

  • The Thunder are being aggressive as the trade deadline nears, according to Royce Young of ESPN.com (Twitter links), who adds Doug McDermott to the list of players on Oklahoma City’s radar. OKC was linked to another Bulls forward – Taj Gibson – earlier today.
  • League executives believe the Kings will move Arron Afflalo today, says Chris Haynes of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee adds (via Twitter) that Afflalo is more likely to be dealt than Ben McLemore, who has impressed some people within the organization lately. Afflalo has been linked to Indiana and Oklahoma City this week.
  • Brandon Knight wouldn’t mind a change of scenery, but the Suns have set their asking price too high in the past in talks with the Magic, Kings, Sixers, and Bulls, tweets Sam Amick of USA Today. As Amick observes, it remains to be seen whether that will change today.
  • The Trail Blazers continue to try to find a taker for Festus Ezeli‘s contract, per ESPN’s Marc Stein (Twitter link).
  • Although Bucks general manager John Hammond likes to make trades, league executives say Milwaukee has been “low key” in trade talks this week, according to Jeff Zilgitt of USA Today (Twitter link).
  • The Cavaliers continue to work on deals that could fortify their roster, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team ultimately rely on the buyout market instead, tweets Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com.

Thunder Eyeing Taj Gibson

9:14am: The Bulls have been seeking a first-round pick for Gibson “from the get-go,” tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. As I noted below, Oklahoma City has traded two future first-round picks already, so the team would be limited to dealing its 2022 selection.

8:23am: As the Thunder explore ways to supplement their roster, Bulls forward Taj Gibson has emerged as a potential target, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein (via Twitter). Gibson, Doug McDermott, and Nikola Mirotic are all “in play” today for the Bulls as the afternoon deadline approaches, Stein adds (via Twitter).

Gibson, 31, has been as effective as ever for Chicago this season, averaging 11.6 PPG and 7.0 RPG as the team’s starting power forward. However, the veteran big man, who is earning just shy of $9MM this season, is on track for unrestricted free agency in the summer, creating some uncertainty about his status going forward.

A report earlier this week suggested that the Thunder would like to add a wing scorer to their roster. Gibson doesn’t fit that bill, but he would add some additional toughness to a frontcourt that already features Steven Adams. Oklahoma City has also been linked to Wilson Chandler this week, though as of last night the Nuggets forward wasn’t believed to be a top priority for the Thunder.

If the Bulls do decide to move Gibson, the team would likely be seeking a solid return, in spite of his contract situation — Chicago was recently said to be looking for a first-round pick for McDermott or Robin Lopez, and Gibson is arguably a more valuable part of the club’s rotation. The earliest first-rounder the Thunder could trade is their 2022 pick, but a young player like point guard Cameron Payne could also interest the Bulls.

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.

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.

Bulls Seeking First-Rounder For Lopez, McDermott?

The Bulls are exploring the trade market in the hopes of landing a first-round pick in exchange for either center Robin Lopez or sharpshooter Doug McDermott, league sources tell Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders.

As Scotto observes, the Bulls currently hold their own 2017 first-round pick and will also land the Kings’ selection if it falls outside the top 10. That Sacramento pick is very much up in the air at this point, with the Kings currently placing 10th in our 2016/17 NBA Reverse Standings. The Chicago front office has expressed a desire to make the roster younger and more athletic, and securing an extra draft pick for 2017 would help the team work toward that goal.

It remains to be seen if any club will be willing to part with a first-round pick for Lopez or McDermott. While that price may seem steep on the surface, it’s worth noting that players like Kyle Korver and Mason Plumlee have been the centerpieces of deals that saw first-round picks change hands in recent weeks.

Lopez, who will turn 29 in April, remains under contract through the 2018/19 season, and has long been a reliable and underrated presence in the middle. However, his production has dipped a little for the Bulls this season — his .495 FG% is his worst mark since 2011/12, and NBA.com’s advanced stats suggest Chicago has been a little better with Lopez off the court. As for McDermott, his development hasn’t taken a significant step forward this season, but he remains a threat from beyond the arc, with a career three-point percentage above 40.0%. He’ll be eligible for restricted free agency in 2018.

The Bulls have recently been linked to Jahlil Okafor, and while Scotto notes that it’s not clear whether the team’s hunt for a first-round pick is related to those talks, moving Lopez would create an opening in the frontcourt for a player like Okafor. Philadelphia is also believed to be seeking at least one future first-rounder for Okafor.

Sixers Notes: Valentine, Okafor, Brown

The Sixers should try to acquire Denzel Valentine from the Bulls if they are going to send Jahlil Okafor to Chicago, Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer opines. The Bulls reached out to the Sixers regarding an Okafor trade last week.

The details of their talks have not been made clear, though it presumably involves at least one prospect heading to Philadelphia. Valentine or Doug McDermott are potential trade pieces and Brookover believes the former is the better option should the Sixers have to decide between the two. The scribe envisions Valentine developing into a playmaker whom can stretch the floor, while he views McDermott as a career bench player.

[RELATED: TRADE CANDIDATE: JAHLIL OKAFOR]

Here’s more from Philadelphia:

  • David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer wonders why Okafor hasn’t improved all that much since coming to the Sixers. Murphy points out that Nerlens Noel and T.J. McConnell have improved considerably, while Okafor has plateaued.
  • Brett Brown is impressed with the way Okafor has handled hearing his name in trade rumors, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. The coach said that Okafor should be proud of his work both on and off the court. “We remind him, ‘Go read your resumé,’ “ Brown said. ” ‘You go have a look at who you are.’ And he’s got a lot to be proud of on the court.”

Bulls Notes: Felicio, Lopez, Hoiberg, Valentine

Cristiano Felicio has taken over as Chicago’s center at the end of games, writes K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Felicio played the entire fourth quarter in Saturday’s win over New Orleans and has established chemistry with the Bulls’ guards on pick-and-roll and lob plays. “The other thing he gives us is a big-time defensive presence,” said coach Fred Hoiberg. “We can get out and trap ball screens with him because of his ability to move. There are not a lot of big bodies that move as well as he does.” The Brazilian big man is putting up slightly better numbers during his second season in the NBA, averaging 4.4 points and 5.0 rebounds through 33 games.

There’s more news out of Chicago:

  • Starting center Robin Lopez has accepted the change without complaining, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “I’m just trying to play my part a little bit,” Lopez said. “I think that’s kind of the good thing about our team. When we’re playing really well, we’ve got a lot of different options.’’ Lopez, who was acquired from the Knicks in an offseason deal, is under contract through 2018/19.
  • The Bulls have been disappointingly average through the first half of the season, Johnson writes in a separate piece. Young players like Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic haven’t become the building blocks that management expected, and the team’s last two first-rounders, Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine, aren’t part of the rotation. Johnson expects Hoiberg to be brought back next season, but his future after that could be uncertain.
  • It’s too early for the Bulls to write off  Valentine as a failure, argues Cole Zwicker of Fan Sided. Injuries and illnesses have helped to derail his rookie season, but Zwicker contends that Valentine still has the skills to develop into a productive NBA player.
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