Luol Deng

Lowe’s Latest: Butler, Nuggets, Wolves, Ibaka

Before they accepted the Timberwolves‘ offer for Jimmy Butler, the Bulls canvassed the league in search of a more appealing offer, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.com.

Lowe writes in his latest piece for ESPN that the Bulls spoke to the Suns about a package centered around Eric Bledsoe and the No. 4 overall pick, but the two sides never really got close. Chicago also had discussions with the Nuggets and Celtics, but Denver drew the line at including Jamal Murray in any potential deal, and Boston wouldn’t include the No. 3 pick, according to Lowe.

As Lowe notes, teams like the Suns and Nuggets had to consider the fact that Butler may not have re-signed with them in free agency in 2019 if they acquired him. Although Butler’s contract would give teams an extra year of control over someone like Paul George, the star forward might still have ultimately been a rental if he didn’t love where he ended up. That cooled the market somewhat, as the Bulls explored potential trade scenarios.

Here’s more from Lowe’s latest piece:

  • The Bulls were never entirely comfortable with the idea of Butler as their foundational player, says Lowe. A source tells ESPN that Butler’s bristling at Fred Hoiberg‘s instructions made some people on the team uncomfortable. Lowe suggests that Hoiberg’s calm personality wasn’t a good match for Butler, who requires a coach more like Tom Thibodeau.
  • At one point, the Timberwolves were intrigued by the possibility of pursuing Serge Ibaka in free agency, but their interest “has faded a bit,” according to Lowe, who adds that most teams expect Ibaka to re-sign with the Raptors.
  • The Lakers were dangling a future unprotected first-round pick to teams with cap room recently in an effort to move the Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng contracts, per Lowe. The earliest first-round pick the Lakers could trade at this point is 2020’s selection, so it’s understandable that D’Angelo Russell appealed more to the Nets than a pick that far down the road.

Lakers, Pacers Engage On Paul George Talks

8:40pm: The Lakers engaged the Kings on a potential trade that would have involved the No. 2 pick going to Sacramento in exchange for Nos. 5 and 10, reports TNT’s David Aldridge (Twitter links). According to Aldridge, the Lakers’ goal was to package one of those Kings’ picks with one of the Lakers’ late first-rounders and a player in an effort to get George. However, the Kings turned them down.

Meanwhile, Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News (Twitter links) hears that the Lakers and Pacers are currently at a “standstill” in their talks, though it remains “highly likely” that Indiana will move George this week.

6:11pm: In the wake of their trade agreement with the Nets, the Lakers have offered the Pacers either Jordan Clarkson or Julius Randle along with the No. 27 and No. 28 picks in exchange for George, according to Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times (via Twitter). ESPN’s Marc Stein also reported the details of that package (via Twitter).

1:56pm: The Lakers and Pacers have engaged on trade talks for Paul George, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne. No deal is imminent at this point.

Los Angeles is considered George’s likely destination in 2018, raising questions about how aggressive the Lakers would be on the trade market for him. If the Lakers expect George to sign with them as a free agent a year from now, there would be little reason for the club to pursue him now and give up key assets to land him. However, it appears the Lakers are at least kicking the tires on what it would take to acquire George and get him in the fold sooner rather than later.

As for what the Lakers may be willing to offer, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical suggested earlier this week that the club isn’t expected to put the No. 2 overall pick or Brandon Ingram on the table. Wojnarowski said that a combination of Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and the No. 28 pick might be the most the Lakers are open to giving up, though there’s no indication yet that those are the players being discussed by the two teams.

D’Angelo Russell is another player the Lakers could make available in George talks — ESPN’s Chad Ford reported (via Twitter) that the team may be dangling Russell in an effort to pick up another lottery pick. However, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders suggests (via Twitter) that’s not accurate, noting that Russell and George share an agent, who would likely prefer to see his two clients together in L.A. (Twitter link) — Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter link) confirms as much. For what it’s worth, Randle is an Aaron Mintz client as well.

If the Lakers and Pacers make a serious effort to work out a deal, don’t expect Luol Deng or Timofey Mozgov to be involved. The Lakers are resisting that sort of salary dump at this point, since it would cost them draft picks or a young player, tweets Wojnarowski. Pincus adds (via Twitter) that removing Deng and/or Mozgov from the Lakers’ cap likely won’t become a priority until 2018, when the team goes after free agents.

While the Lakers are George’s preferred destination, a number of teams are reportedly exploring the possibility of landing the star forward, even as a one-year rental. The Clippers, Cavaliers, and Rockets have been cited as possible trade partners for Indiana, and according to Amico Hoops, the Wizards are also investigating the possibility of a deal.

Lakers Notes: George, Ball, Russell, Workout

The Lakers will have to unload some salary before next summer to offer Paul George a maximum contract, tweets Bobby Marks of The Vertical. George has informed the Pacers that he plans to opt out after next season and hopes to sign with L.A. The franchise would need roughly $30.6MM in cap room to fit in a full max deal for 2018/19, and right now there’s only about $15.6MM available (Twitter link). That number assumes they make both of their first-round picks this year and renounce all their free agents this summer and next summer except for Julius Randle.

To create more space, the Lakers would have to either renounce Randle, a valuable young talent, or trade one of their big-money contracts in Luol Deng ($18MM for 2018/19) Timofey Mozgov ($16MM) or Jordan Clarkson ($12.5MM), according to Marks (Twitter link). Another option is to use the stretch provision, which would amount to paying Deng $7.2MM and Mozgov $6.4MM over the next five years (Twitter link)

There’s more today out of Los Angeles:

  • The news about George makes the Lakers more likely to draft Lonzo Ball, tweets Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated. The team is reportedly deciding between Ball and Kansas forward Josh Jackson, but the expected addition of George reduces the need for Jackson.
  • Immaturity remains a concern with incumbent point guard D’Angelo Russell, according to Mark Heisler of The Los Angeles Daily News. Russell, who might be moved to shooting guard if Ball is selected, doesn’t have point guard instincts after switching to the position during his single season at Ohio State. Heisler also shares concerns that Russell is partying too much and that coach Luke Walton has grown tired of the “post-adolescent” nature of the team.
  • Johnny Buss tells Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times that he lost his passion for owning the Lakers when his father Jerry died in 2013. Johnny Buss resigned as members of the board of directors during the season after a failed attempt to take over control of the team. “If anybody thought that Johnny or Jeanie or Jimmy or any of his kids could fill his shoes, they’re grandly mistaken,” Buss said. “He’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of person. So all we could do was try to stay together and do what he asked us to do and that was to make as much money as possible. Create a franchise that was worth billions.”
  • The Lakers will bring in six players Monday for a pre-draft workout, the team announced via Twitter. They are Gonzaga’s Zach Collins, Clemson’s Avry Holmes, Creighton’s Cole Huff, Cal-Irvine’s Luke Nelson, Columbia’s Luke Petrasek and Alabama-Huntsville’s Seab Webster.

Luol Deng Has Surgery On Pectoral Muscle

Lakers forward Luol Deng underwent successful surgery today on his right pectoral muscle, the team announced via Twitter. The 32-year-old is expected to be fully recovered in time for training camp.

Deng appeared in just 56 games this season after signing a four-year, $72MM deal last summer. He started 49 times, but averaged just 26.5 minutes per night as his scoring average dropped to a career-low 7.6 points per game.

The Lakers shut down Deng in mid-March, presumably to give more time to their younger players, but the pectoral problem may have played a role in that decision. Deng still has three seasons and $54MM left on his contract.

Lakers Shutting Down Luol Deng For Season

The youth movement continues in Los Angeles. After a Tuesday report indicated that the Lakers have shut down Timofey Mozgov for the remainder of the season, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com writes that the team has taken the same approach with veteran forward Luol Deng. Over the final 15 games, the Lakers will give the majority of the playing time to their younger players, per Shelburne.

Neither Deng nor Mozgov had seen the court much lately for the Lakers, and both players were comfortable with the idea of being shut down for the season, rather than waiting for sporadic opportunities to play for a few minutes at a time, says Shelburne. According to the ESPN scribe, the Lakers’ could revisit Deng’s and Mozgov’s roles at some point down the stretch, but the plan is for both players to be inactive the rest of the way.

The move to shut down Deng doesn’t come as a real surprise, particularly after word broke that Mozgov would be shut down. The postseason is well out of reach for the Lakers, and with less than a month left in the season, it makes sense for the new management group – including president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka – to take a longer look at the team’s young talent.

The Lakers, who currently rank second in our 2016/17 Reverse Standings, also badly need to keep their 2017 first-round pick, which will be sent to Philadelphia if it doesn’t land within the top three. If the club loses its 2017 pick, it will also owe its 2019 first-rounder to Orlando — the Lakers will keep both picks if they land in the top three this year.

Deng, who hasn’t appeared in a single game for the Lakers this month, will finish the season with 7.6 PPG and a .386 FG% (both career lows) in 56 games if he doesn’t play again. Deng is unlikely to be traded or waived in the offseason, since he has three years and $54MM left on his contract, so Los Angeles will be hoping he can bounce back next season at age 32.

Timofey Mozgov ‘Shut Down’ By Lakers

Despite being healthy, Lakers center Timofey Mozgov may not play again this season, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. A source tells Spears that Mozgov has been “shut down” so the team can take a closer look at its younger players.

Signing the 30-year-old was the first major move of the offseason for the Lakers, who gave him a four-year, $64MM contract. It was considered a large amount for someone who had rarely been more than a part-time starter since entering the league in 2010.

If Mozgov’s first season is done in L.A., he finishes it with averages of 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds in 54 games. He has only played twice since February 6th, and rookie Ivica Zubac appears to have taken his place in the starting lineup.

Mozgov still has three seasons and $48MM left on his contract. The Lakers’ other significant free agent signing of last summer, Luol Deng, has three years and $54MM remaining. The 31-year-old small forward hasn’t played since February 28th as the Lakers’ new regime puts an emphasis on youth.

In addition to developing its young players, L.A. has an incentive to tank as its pick will go to the Sixers if it lands outside the top three. The Lakers are currently second in our Reverse Standings.

Pacific Notes: Suns, Deng, Mozgov, CP3, Kings

Veterans Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight were viewed as trade candidates for the Suns, but after both players stayed put at the deadline, it appears the team no longer feels the need to showcase them. As Doug Haller of The Arizona Republic outlines, Chandler and Knight have fallen out of the rotation since the All-Star break, giving way to younger players, and Earl Watson doesn’t intend to move away from that plan anytime soon.

“I’m not changing it unless management changes it,” the Suns head coach said. “I have a boss and my boss has a boss, so whatever comes from up top is what’s going to happen. And right now, that’s not even part of our equation.”

While Watson’s comments made it sounds as if the directive to focus on developing the young players down the stretch came from the Suns’ front office, he declined to confirm that: “I didn’t say that. I said if things change, it will be from management.” Either way, for now, it seems that players like Alan Williams, Tyler Ulis, and even Derrick Jones will receive more playing time at the expense of vets like Chandler and Knight.

Here’s more from around the Pacific division:

  • From the moment they were agreed upon, the Lakers‘ lucrative four-year deals for Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov were viewed as questionable investments. However, Deng and Mozgov have tuned out that criticism, writes Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News. “I know people are on me,” Deng said. “I know everybody is talking about it. I can’t control that. The only thing I can control is coming to the gym everyday and working.”
  • It has been an eventful season for Chris Paul, who played an instrumental role in helping the Players’ Association negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NBA. Michael Lee of The Vertical takes a closer look at how Paul has been able to balance his role in the NBPA with his day job as the Clippers‘ star point guard.
  • Following last month’s DeMarcus Cousins trade, the Kings were considered likely to slide down the standings, but no one in the locker room wants to hear the “T-word” (tanking), says Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. In fact, Sacramento is still committed to competing for that No. 8 seed in the West, Jones writes in a separate piece for The Bee. Despite those ambitions, the club is 1-5 since moving Cousins, and now ranks seventh in our 2016/17 Reverse Standings.

Luol Deng’s Role Declining In L.A.

Eight months after signing a huge contract with the Lakers, there appears to be no role in L.A. for Luol Deng, writes Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News.

Deng was on the inactive list Friday as the Lakers hosted the Celtics. Coach Luke Walton explained that he wants to get more court time for his younger players over the final month and a half of the season.

But part of the decision stems from Deng’s production. The 31-year-old small forward has averaged just 7.6 points per game and is shooting a career-worst 38.6% from the field. He was given a four-year, $72MM contract last July to be the team’s starting small forward. He held that role through his first 49 games, but his playing time for the rest of the season appears to be limited.

Deng, who still has three seasons and $54MM left on his deal, said he understands Walton’s decision to make him inactive.

“He wants the guys to be in situations where they learn and play minutes,” Deng said. “It’s always about what we’re trying to do. Why am I going to be on the bench if I’m not playing?”

Deng lost his starting spot to rookie Brandon Ingram about a month ago. His production plummeted in a reserve role, down to just 4.1 points and 21.3 minutes over seven games while shooting 27.8% from the field. Walton kept him on the bench for all of Tuesday’s game with Charlotte before deactivating him on Friday.

In addition to giving more playing time to the Lakers’ young core, Walton needs to evaluate Tyler Ennis, who was acquired from the Rockets last week, and David Nwaba, who is with the team on a 10-day contact. There has been no announcement on whether Deng will be in uniform for tonight’s game with the Pelicans.

“He wants to play the young guys, so I’m not going to play,” Deng said. “So there’s no point of being on the active roster and sit on the bench. He’s got to keep all the guys he’s going to play and evaluate.”

Lakers Notes: Deadline, Magic Johnson, Ingram

Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times is convinced Magic Johnson – recently hired as the Lakers‘ basketball and business advisor – will be calling the shots in the team’s front office. Johnson’s “advisor” title was merely an interim tag, Plaschke speculates, until this coming spring, when Jeanie Buss will rebuild the team’s front office around him.

“Johnson would call the shots that are now called by Jim Buss,” Plaschke writes. “He would be the voice that is currently Mitch Kupchak’s. He would essentially fill the role, both spiritually and practically, that Jerry Buss once entrusted to Jerry West.”

More from the Lakers…

  • Amongst four other questions leading up to the trade deadline, Dan Woike of the L.A. Times wondered “who is doing what?” in the Lakers’ front office. Woike notes that Johnson’s role as team advisor has only made the team’s front office situation murkier. While the team previously voiced a desire to build through the draft and attract a big name free agent over the offseason, Woike asks whether Johnson will persuade the team to trade for a star player. The Lakers could build assets by trading Lou Williams or Nick Young, Woike observes, while preserving their top-three pick in the upcoming draft.
  • Mark Heisler of the L.A. Daily News notes that the Nets, Suns, and Magic are all capable of finishing with worse records than the Lakers, putting their top-three draft pick in jeopardy. While the focus will be on trading Williams or Young, the team will also look to off-load Timofey Mozgov or Luol Deng, if possible.
  • Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead complimented the Lakers’ decision to avoid trading Brandon Ingram in a package for DeMarcus Cousins. Ingram has shown as a 19-year-old prospect, McIntyre argues, while Cousins wouldn’t have made the Lakers a contender this year or next. “Not to mention if the Lakers finish outside the Top 3, they’ll lose their 1st round pick. It would have been a disastrous move that would have set the franchise back even further.”
  • Mark Medina of the O.C. Register emphasized the importance of Luke Walton “playing the kids” in the second half. Medina recommended the team keep Deng and Mozgov on the bench as much as possible, and (assuming they aren’t traded) do the same with Young and Williams. While keeping their draft pick should be L.A.’s top concern, Medina mentioned the importance of improving defensively.

And-Ones: Lakers, Mozgov, Okafor, Wojnarowski

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak didn’t want Timofey Mozgov to be tempted by other offers and that contributed to the team handing him a four-year, $64MM deal, a source tells Ramona Shelbourne of ESPN.com. Shelbourne adds that Luol Deng, who signed a four-year, $72MM deal with Los Angeles this past offseason, had other offers for his services, but no team gave him more than a three-year deal. Both Mozgov and Deng were recently relegated to the bench.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Lakers would need to attach a young prospect, such as Ivica Zubac or Larry Nance Jr., to Deng or Mozgov if they want to move one of their free agent additions, Shelbourne writes in the same piece. She adds that the contracts of Deng and Mozgov are not problematic for Los Angeles right now, but they will be soon, as Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell will be eligible for extensions over the next couple offseasons.
  • Jahlil Okafor, who we profiled as a trade candidate, is making the most of his increased minutes, John Reid of The Time-Picayune writes. Okafor was the subject of trade rumors earlier in the week with the Pelicans being the latest team to show interest in him.
  • The Long Island Nets, Brooklyn’s D-League affiliate, have acquired center Prince Ibeh and waived forward Lazar Hayward, according to a team press release.
  • Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical is close to joining ESPN, multiple sources tell Kevin Draper of Deadspin.
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