Mikal Bridges

Suns Notes: Bridges, C. Johnson, Landale, Okogie, Shaq

Mikal Bridges will be running the Suns‘ offense more often and Cameron Johnson will see time in that role as well, writes Dana Scott of The Arizona Republic. Coach Monty Williams believes Chris Paul was worn down by the end of last season and sees this as a way to save wear and tear on his 37-year-old point guard.

“Those guys have the ability to facilitate, and I just haven’t given them the chance,” Williams said. “We’ve talked about being comfortable with uncomfortable change. There’s gonna be times where it doesn’t look great, but I think that’s where they’re gonna grow. … They both have the capability to expand the offense that way and that part is exciting when you think about those opportunities.”

Bridges, who finished second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting last season, welcomes the opportunity to add another dimension to his game. He hasn’t missed a single contest in his first four NBA seasons, and Johnson said they worked out together every day during the summer at the Suns’ practice facility.

“I think he’s just improved all around,” Johnson said. “I mean ball-handling, shooting, being able to create, getting stronger in the weight room. It wasn’t that we’re going to get better at one specific thing. I thought we got better as basketball players, and he’s playing really well right now.”

There’s more from Phoenix:

  • After being traded twice this offseason, Jock Landale is confident that he’s found a home with the Suns, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Phoenix acquired the 26-year-old center from the Hawks in July for cash considerations. “It’s a hell of an organization,” Landale said. “The people in here are high character people and as far as finding enjoyment, I always go home and talk with my fiancée and my parents and mates about the level of passion and commitment and joy I’m getting out of the game right now is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before.”
  • Josh Okogie will likely miss the entire preseason with a strained left hamstring, Rankin adds. Okogie, who signed as a free agent after spending the past four years in Minnesota, will be reevaluated in two weeks.
  • Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal tells TMZ Sports that he would be interested in partnering with Jeff Bezos if the Amazon founder decides to make a bid for the Suns.

Suns GM: “Brooklyn Wanted To Keep Kevin Durant in Brooklyn”

Suns general manager James Jones doesn’t believe the Nets were ever serious about moving Kevin Durant after his trade request in late June. In an interview with Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic, Jones said Brooklyn set its asking price on Durant so high that no team would be willing to meet it.

Durant reportedly named Phoenix and Miami as his preferred destinations when he first asked to be traded, and there was massive speculation that the Suns were the favorites to land him because they had what the Nets reportedly wanted: young talent and multiple first-round picks. However, Jones doubts that Brooklyn’s front office made a legitimate effort to part with its star.

“Cause Brooklyn wanted to keep Kevin Durant in Brooklyn,” Jones responded when asked why a trade didn’t happen. “And that’s why he’s in Brooklyn and not on some other team, but as far as with us, I get it. It’s always a great topic of discussion, but the one thing people forget is that when you’re talking about trades, or any player acquisition, the team that has the player has to be willing to move the player. And so if they’re not moving the player, which they didn’t, it’s just conversation and it’s great discussion. Great interest for the NBA fan base and the team fan base.”

Jones added that trade talks with the Nets never progressed past the initial stage. He said every team in the league probably made a call to Brooklyn to see what it would take to get Durant, but there was no “in-depth discussion” between the Suns and Nets.

Jones addressed a few other topics in the interview:

Dealing with Mikal Bridges after he was prominently mentioned in Durant trade rumors:

“Mikal’s watching and he’s watching reports and third parties report about him. I get it. Being a player on both sides of it, I truly understand it, but it’s a testament to Mikal’s ability. He’s a really good player. So I would assume any time someone is linked to us, a good player is linked to us, that our good players will be brought up by someone. It’s the nature of it, but I think speaking to Mikal, he understands the business. He understands he’s put himself in a position to be regarded as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Any discussion around great players, I would assume he’d be one of the first guy’s names that’s going to be thrown out there.”

The status of extension talks with Cameron Johnson:

“We’re having discussions. Cam is a big part of what we do. Really excited for the progress he’s shown over the last few years, especially last year. I think he’s primed to take some steps forward. We’re excited about this team, and we’re excited about the guys on this team one through 16. He’s definitely someone we’re going to need to take another step if we want to continue to progress and grow as a group.”

Possible roster moves before the start of training camp:

 “Always in evaluation mode. Always looking. Right now, we’re at 16 guys (14 standard, two two-way). There’s a chance I may add a couple more guys for training camp, but I think we’re close to the end of where we’ll be as far as our training camp roster goes.”

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Westbrook, Randle, Suns, Curry

Now that Kyrie Irving is reportedly off the table for the Lakers, Jovan Buha of The Athletic breaks down the team’s other potential options for dealing Russell Westbrook.

As Buha writes, a trade with the Pacers for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield makes sense for the Lakers, but they’d likely have to include both their 2027 and 2029 first-rounders to make that happen, which hasn’t transpired to this point. Buha wonders if Indiana would be interested in the move if the Lakers put protections on the ’29 pick or perhaps include a pick swap instead.

Turner and Hield would instantly become the Lakers’ “third- and fourth-best players on the roster, upgrading the starting lineup, depth and collective shooting,” Buha states, adding that Turner would complement Anthony Davis in the frontcourt due to his defensive versatility and ability to space the floor (.349 career 3PT%).

The Lakers could also get involved as a third team in a potential Donovan Mitchell trade, or target Jazz veterans like Bojan Bogdanovic, Patrick Beverley, Jordan Clarkson and Jarred Vanderbilt, Buha notes.

Here’s more from the Pacific:

  • Within the same piece, Buha says the Lakers aren’t interested in a potential reunion with Knicks forward Julius Randle, whom L.A. drafted No. 7 overall in 2014, due to his long-term contract and “less-than-ideal fit” with Davis and LeBron James. According to Buha, New York, Charlotte and San Antonio are all unlikely trade partners for Westbrook for various reasons, even though the three teams theoretically make some sense.
  • With Kevin Durant said to be sticking with the Nets, at least for now, a trio of Suns players whose names were floated in trade talks for the star have a big opportunity entering 2022/23, per Greg Moore of The Arizona Republic. Moore thinks Mikal Bridges likely won’t be affected by the rumors, but wonders if Cameron Johnson and Deandre Ayton should have bigger offensive roles next season to improve the team’s versatility as Phoenix looks to win its first championship.
  • Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area details why Warriors star Stephen Curry, the reigning Finals MVP, is underpaid despite having the largest salary in the league in ’22/23 ($48.1MM). Golden State’s franchise valuation has increased a little more than 12-fold over the past 12 years ($450MM to $5.6 billion), the team is immensely popular both locally and nationally, and the Warriors have won the championship four times in the past eight years largely due to Curry’s impact, making him worth more than double his current contract, according to Poole.

Western Notes: Suns, Durant, Bridges, Bogdanovic, Beasley, Garza

The Suns were never truly in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes, according to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7. While the Suns had multiple conversations with the Nets this offseason, none of them occurred in recent weeks.

The Nets wanted a better haul than the Jazz received from the Timberwolves for Rudy Gobert.

Forward Mikal Bridges was never offered because neither side made a formal proposal, Gambadoro adds (Twitter links). The Suns simply didn’t have the assets Brooklyn insisted upon and they would not give up franchise player Devin Booker.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • With Durant pulling back on his trade request, the Suns will look to obtain a post-up power forward, perhaps via free agency, Gambadoro tweets. They have an open roster spot and the taxpayer mid-level exception still available to them. Our updated list of unsigned free agents can be found here.
  • If the Jazz go into fire sale mode, there are several rotation players on their roster that could help the Grizzlies, Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. That list includes wing Bojan Bogdanovic — who could slide in nicely alongside Ja Morant and Desmond Bane — as well shooting guard Malik Beasley and veteran power forward Rudy Gay.
  • Luka Garza‘s contract with the Timberwolves is an Exhibit 10 deal, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. Minnesota officially signed the second-year big man on Tuesday. He’ll compete for a roster spot but could become an affiliate player for the Iowa Wolves, Minnesota’s G League team. He’ll be eligible for a bonus worth up to $50K if he is waived and then spends at least 60 days with Iowa.

Grizzlies Among Teams Inquiring On Kevin Durant

The Grizzlies are showing interest in Kevin Durant and have made “new inquiries” on the Nets‘ star forward, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

As Charania writes within his round-up of the latest Durant-related rumors from around the NBA, the Grizzlies could include up to five first-round picks in a package for the two-time Finals MVP (their own 2023, 2025, 2027, and 2029 selections, plus Golden State’s top-four protected 2024 pick). The team also has a bevy of young talent on its roster beyond star guard Ja Morant, including Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, Ziaire Williams, Brandon Clarke, Kennedy Chandler, and David Roddy.

However, according to Charania, Memphis hasn’t appeared inclined to offer Jackson or Bane (or, of course, Morant) in a deal for Durant, preferring to build an offer around their draft picks. Given that the Nets are reportedly seeking a win-now return for Durant, that sort of offer is unlikely to pique their interest, even if the picks are unprotected — those first-rounders may have to be rerouted to a third team that could send Brooklyn the kind of impact players the team is seeking.

While the Grizzlies are an intriguing new suitor for Durant, there are still a number of other teams in the mix. The Celtics, Raptors, and Heat remain among the most significant threats to land the 33-year-old, Charania says, though Toronto has continued to resist including Scottie Barnes and Miami has “yet to seriously engage” in any discussions involving Bam Adebayo. Boston, meanwhile, has been unwilling to include Marcus Smart or Robert Williams in addition to Jaylen Brown, Charania says.

The Suns also remain involved, offering up Mikal Bridges and a series of draft picks, according to Charania, but they appear to be behind those Eastern teams among Durant’s most serious suitors.

Charania identifies the Sixers, Bucks, Nuggets, and Pelicans as some of the other teams that have expressed interest in Durant, though he confirms that New Orleans deemed Brandon Ingram untouchable.

According to Charania, the Hawks also made an offer for Durant, putting John Collins, De’Andre Hunter, and a draft pick on the table. The details of that pick are unclear, but Atlanta could trade its own 2023 and 2029 first-rounders or Sacramento’s lottery-protected 2024 pick.

Although Charania doesn’t specify exactly how the Nets felt about the Hawks’ offer, he says none of Brooklyn’s discussions have gained any serious traction. There are still five weeks before training camps get underway, which could be a fraught week for the Nets, assuming Durant remains on the roster — it’s unclear whether or not he’ll show up to camp if his trade request hasn’t been granted.

Suns ‘Not Counting On’ Kevin Durant?

The Sunsdecision to match Indiana’s offer sheet for Deandre Ayton may take them out of the bidding for Kevin Durant, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst suggests on his latest Hoop Collective podcast (hat tip to Real GM).

Ayton can’t be traded until January 15 and will have veto power over any deal for the next year. He was believed to be an important part of any package that Phoenix might offer the Nets for Durant.

“I think they have, and by the way they’re not alone… How do I want to put this? I think the position they’re taking is that they’ve made their offer for Kevin Durant. And their offer is their offer. And it’s not an offer that the Nets are interested in,” Windhorst said. “I’m not even sure the Suns can put together an offer that the Nets would be interested in by themselves. I think this is where the other teams are as well.”

Windhorst added that the Durant trade market is stagnant right now because all the interested teams are unwilling to come anywhere near Brooklyn’s asking price. He adds that the Pacers were trying to take advantage of the situation, gambling that Phoenix would either let Ayton go or agree to a sign-and-trade.

Although the Suns declined to offer Ayton a max extension when he was eligible, they were willing to bring him back under the terms of Indiana’s offer, possibly with an eye toward trading him later on.

“This is them partially saying ‘We’re not counting on Kevin Durant. We have a 64-win team. This is going to take us into the tax,'” Windhorst added.

Windhorst stated that the Suns should now be considered a longer shot to acquire Durant, although he doesn’t eliminate them entirely. He reported that the latest offer from Phoenix doesn’t include Mikal Bridges or the team’s full complement of future first-rounders and pick swaps.

The developments in Phoenix could affect Durant’s desire to join the Suns, ESPN’s Nick Friedell said in an appearance on “Get Up” this morning (video link). He adds that the Nets are hoping Durant might become more willing to start the season in Brooklyn and see how things work out.

Kevin Durant Rumors: Leverage, Raptors, Bridges, Suns

Appearing on NBA Today on Wednesday (video link), ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said the Nets have been been “really turned off” by the offers they’ve received for Kevin Durant thus far.

If some of the trade packages that have been floated to me are true, I agree with them, I think that they should expect more for Kevin Durant with four years left on his contract,” Windhorst said. “But the other teams in the league just don’t believe that the Nets have a lot of leverage here… and the offers they are making are reflective of that belief.”

As Windhorst details, the Nets are acting as though they’re fine with holding onto Durant into the season if acceptable offers aren’t presented. As of yesterday, Windhorst said that he wasn’t “sensing any traction” on a potential trade.

A source tells Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca that Brooklyn has an “unreasonably high” asking price for the star forward, and the Raptors have been unwilling to include Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes or the maximum amount of first-round picks in any Durant offer to this point. The two sides have had preliminary discussions regarding Durant, but nothing serious.

Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic reports that there has been talk during Summer League indicating that the Suns have been reluctant to include Mikal Bridges in a package for Durant, which is part of the reason why there has been no headway on a deal. Those around the league refer to Bridges as the “key piece” in any offer.

Frankly, if those rumors are true, it sounds like Windhorst might be right about the lack of suitable offers for Durant.

If Bridges hasn’t been included, then the Suns aren’t serious about acquiring Durant at this stage. Bridges is a high-quality role player and a very good defender, but Durant is an all-time great.

The Raptors have other possible pieces to dangle, like Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr. and Precious Achiuwa — so their reluctance to include Barnes or the full complement of future first-rounders is more understandable. I don’t include Fred VanVleet in that group because I don’t think Toronto would consider moving him — he’s too important to the team’s culture, plus his on-court production improves nearly every season.

Even if he’s entering his age-34 season, Durant performed at an MVP-caliber level when he was healthy last season, averaging 29.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 6.4 APG on .518/.383/.910 shooting in 55 games (37.2 MPG). He’s a 12-time All-Star, a four-time scoring champion, has been named to 10 All-NBA teams, is a former MVP and a two-time Finals MVP — a résumé doesn’t get much more stacked than that.

Fischer’s Latest: Ayton, Durant, S. Barnes, Kyrie

Deandre Ayton appears to have been the free agent most directly affected by the ongoing Kevin Durant sweepstakes, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

As Fischer outlines, Ayton’s restricted free agency has been stalled in part because he could theoretically be an outgoing piece in a Suns deal for Durant and also because teams with interest in both players – including Toronto – won’t want to give up assets in a sign-and-trade for Ayton before seeing what happens with Durant.

According to Fischer, the Pacers and Raptors have been the teams most frequently linked to Ayton, with the Jazz described as a less likely destination for the young center. The Pacers and Spurs are the only teams that have the cap flexibility necessary to realistically extend an offer sheet to Ayton. It’s unclear whether he’d rather try to pursue a deal with one of them or wait for a possible sign-and-trade opportunity to a team closer to contention, Fischer says.

One hypothetical scenario is a multi-team trade that sends Durant to Phoenix; Ayton to Indiana in a sign-and-trade; and Myles Turner, multiple Suns wings, and draft capital to Brooklyn. However, Fischer hears from sources that such a package is unlikely to meet the Nets’ high asking price for Durant.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • League personnel have begun to discuss the possibility of the Nets simply hanging onto Durant and Kyrie Irving into the regular season, according to Fischer. Rudy Gobert getting traded for an arm, a leg and two mountains is helping their cause. There’s no way the Nets will ever trade Kevin Durant for anything less than what Rudy Gobert got Utah,” a Western Conference executive told Fischer. “If nothing comes, I can see them saying (to the players), ‘We just all have to come back.’ If I’m them, I just try to string this out as long as possible.”
  • As has been previously reported, there’s skepticism that the Suns will be able to build a package that appeals to the Nets without getting at least one more team involved. “Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and five picks still isn’t enough to me for KD,” one GM said to Bleacher Report.
  • Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation tell Fischer that the Raptors remain unwilling to part with Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes.
  • Fischer’s league sources “strongly discounted” the idea that either the Mavericks or Sixers is a serious suitor for Irving. The Lakers remain Brooklyn’s most obvious trade partner for Kyrie, but there’s a sense that they may need to involve a third team to meet the Nets‘ asking price — a package of Russell Westbrook and draft assets wouldn’t maximize Brooklyn’s chances of contending in the short term, Fischer explains.

Kevin Durant Rumors: Raptors, Pelicans, Suns, Heat

After ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski suggested on Friday that Toronto is “lurking” as a team to watch in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca writes today that the Raptors believe they can put together the best package for Durant that the Nets are likely to receive.

Grange describes the Raptors as “optimistic” rather than “confident,” noting that there’s a sense Durant is at least open to the idea of playing in Toronto, even if the team is not atop his wish list.

However, Grange cautions that the Nets may not agree with the Raptors’ assessment that they can offer the best package for Durant. Additionally, Grange’s story suggests Toronto has remained opposed to making reigning Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes available so far.

While the Raptors have all their future draft picks and have several solid veterans on good contracts – including All-Stars Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam, as well as OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. – it’s unclear if they’d be able to make a deal for Durant without putting Barnes on the table.

“That’s the billion-dollar question,” one source said to Grange.

Here’s more on Durant:

  • In the latest episode of ESPN’s Hoop Collective podcast (video link), Tim Bontemps said he believes “Toronto thinks it’s in the game” in the Durant sweepstakes, while Brian Windhorst said he still considers the Suns the favorites, since it’s rare for superstar players not to end up where they want to go.
  • Windhorst (video link) has heard that the Pelicans view head coach Willie Green – an assistant in Golden State during Durant’s Warriors years – as an asset in the chase for the former MVP. As Windhorst explains, the hope would be that if the Nets like what the Pelicans have to offer, Green would get the opportunity to sell Durant on New Orleans.
  • With New Orleans being mentioned as a possible Durant landing spot, Scott Kushner of NOLA.com wonders whether or not the Pelicans should seriously pursue the 34-year-old.
  • Within his latest look at the Durant situation, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype confirms that the Nets would want more than Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges in a trade with the Suns and says that any Heat package built around Tyler Herro “wouldn’t scratch the surface of what the Nets want.”
  • Brooklyn is seeking teams’ best assets, Scotto writes, including All-Stars, rising young players, and “substantial” unprotected draft picks and swaps.

Latest On Kevin Durant

After speaking to “a couple” NBA general managers, Marc J. Spears of ESPN (video link via Talkin NBA) outlined during an appearance on NBA Today what sort of return the Nets are seeking as they explore the trade market for Kevin Durant.

“A young or future All-Star,” Spears said, “lots of picks, the ability to swap picks, and another starter.”

Spears went on to say that Durant “might not have as much control of the situation as one would think,” not only because he has four years left on his contract but because there are so many teams involved in the bidding. According to Spears, about half the league’s clubs remain interested.

Here’s more on Durant:

  • Sam Amick of The Athletic explains that Phoenix is Durant’s preferred destination in part because of his close relationship with Monty Williams, who was an assistant for the Thunder in 2015/16. The bond between the two men grew deeper after Williams’ wife was killed in a car accident in February 2016, Amick writes.
  • While Phoenix may be atop Durant’s wish list, Amick has gotten the sense that the Nets would want something more – or something “different” – than a Suns package headlined by Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges. Cameron Johnson is a player who might help move the needle for the Nets, Amick adds. However, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link) suggests that any deal between the Suns and Nets would likely see Phoenix giving up the maximum amount of first-round picks (four) and pick swaps (three).
  • The Heat are also on Durant’s wish list, but Amick says the former MVP would only want to play on a Miami team that features Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Kyle Lowry. Amick is understandably skeptical that a package centered around Tyler Herro would gain any momentum.
  • The Nets have been “emboldened” by the returns in the Rudy Gobert and Dejounte Murray trades, which both included multiple unprotected first-round picks, Adrian Wojnarowski said during an appearance on ESPN’s televised NBA Free Agency Special on Friday evening. Wojnarowski added that he doesn’t believe the Nets are in any rush to make a deal, since they want to fully assess all their options.
  • Wojnarowski also said during ESPN’s NBA Free Agency Special (video link) that he believes the Raptors are “lurking” as a possible suitor for Durant, given their combination of players and draft picks, as well as their track record for making this sort of deal (for Kawhi Leonard in 2018).