Nassir Little

More Details On The Three-Team Lillard Blockbuster

The Bucks were interested in acquiring Damian Lillard immediately after he made his trade request on July 1, but the deal didn’t start to come together until this past Sunday.

As Adrian Wojnarowski writes in an in-depth story for ESPN (Insider link), Bucks general manager Jon Horst told Trail Blazers GM Joe Cronin from the outset that their talks had to remain a secret or Milwaukee would withdraw from negotiations.

According to Wojnarowski, Horst didn’t want Jrue Holiday to be involved in any trade rumors, or used as leverage by Cronin with other teams to increase offers for Lillard. The Bucks didn’t want to disrupt their chemistry and hold Holiday in very high regard. That meant Cronin was unable to gauge Holiday’s market value before agreeing to the trade.

As Wojnarowski details, Horst told Cronin that the only way a deal would work is if the Blazers took their time fielding offers and eventually circled back to Milwaukee for one-on-one talks. That started Sunday evening, with both sides feeling like they had reached a breakthrough.

Cronin was determined to say patient and accept the best possible offer, per Woj, and kept details of Lillard negotiations hidden from prying eyes. Lillard’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, was determined to steer him to Miami, but Lillard didn’t have much leverage. Wojnarowski strongly suggests Cronin felt the need to keep things private from Goodwin in case he tried to tank trade talks with non-Heat teams.

One of the most fascinating and “delicate” parts of the deal was Phoenix’s involvement. According to Wojnarowski, the Blazers and Suns had the outline of a trade together for months — Deandre Ayton to Portland for Jusuf Nurkic. Cronin wanted to tie that agreement into any Lillard trade, so throughout the offseason he kept circling back to the Suns.

However, as Wojnarowski writes, due to Milwaukee’s insistence on secrecy, Cronin was unable to tell Suns CEO Josh Bartelstein the final details until the last minute. According to Woj, Phoenix knew it was getting Nurkic, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson from the Blazers in a three-team deal, but the Suns wanted another asset in return.

Cronin was unable to tell the Suns who that player was — or who he played for. Cronin did tell the Suns the mystery player’s position and gave an approximation of his salary, and Phoenix was able to deduce it was either Thunder guard Victor Oladipo or Bucks guard Grayson Allen.

Only on Wednesday afternoon — just before the trade was made public — did Cronin confirm that it was Allen, whom the Suns had reportedly been interested in for several months. According to Wojnarowski, Bartelstein, GM James Jones and owner Mat Ishbia quickly discussed and then agreed to the deal.

The Blazers were happy and relieved to have completed the deal, per Woj, and believed they did right by Lillard by sending him to a contender, even if it wasn’t his preferred destination. Shortly thereafter, Cronin was bombarded by calls inquiring about Holiday, who is now the hottest name on the trade block.

Wojnarowki’s full story is definitely worth reading in full if you subscribe to ESPN+.

Suns Rumors: McConnell, Johnson, Ishbia, Ayton, Lowry

The Suns are believed to have maintained their interest in Pacers guard T.J. McConnell, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports said in the latest episode of the No Cap Room podcast (YouTube link).

Phoenix’s interest in McConnell was reported by multiple outlets earlier in the summer, but at that time, the team had no clear path to acquiring him due to his $8.7MM cap hit. Following their trade of Deandre Ayton and Toumani Camara for four players, the Suns have more potential pathways to acquiring McConnell, with either Nassir Little ($6.25MM) or Grayson Allen ($8.93MM) as a logical salary-matching piece.

While Fischer points out that the Suns are extremely short on point guard depth, he admits he’s not sure if the team will be eager to sacrifice its wing depth by moving a player like Little or Allen. Allen, in particular, had been on Phoenix’s radar for a while, as Fischer noted on Wednesday.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • During the same podcast, Fischer reiterated that Keon Johnson‘s days in Phoenix are likely numbered. “I don’t think they’ve officially waived Keon Johnson yet, but from my understanding, they plan to waive him,” Fischer said. The former first-round pick was sent from Portland to the Suns in Wednesday’s blockbuster deal.
  • Suns owner Mat Ishbia was “very involved” in the trade that landed Allen, Little, Johnson, and Jusuf Nurkic in Phoenix, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. As Amick explains, the Suns view the move as one that not only adds depth but gives them players who better fit around their stars. Nurkic was a longtime target for the club, which is “thrilled” to have landed him, Amick adds.
  • While he’s not an All-Star like Damian Lillard and Jrue Holiday, Ayton is the only player in Wednesday’s blockbuster who is a former No. 1 overall pick, so his departure represents the end of an era, of sorts, in Phoenix. Doug Haller of The Athletic and Gerald Bourguet of take a look back at Ayton’s tenure with the franchise and, in Bourguet’s words, the “polarizing, complicated” legacy he’ll leave behind.
  • John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 has shot down a report claiming that the Suns had interest in acquiring Kyle Lowry from the Heat as part of a three-team trade if the Trail Blazers had decided to send Lillard to Miami. There’s “absolutely no truth” to that claim, according to Gambadoro (Twitter link), who says Phoenix was “totally focused” on Nurkic and the smaller pieces they could get with him.

Bucks Acquire Damian Lillard In Three-Team Trade

9:37pm: The trade is now official, the Bucks announced in a press release.

Damian Lillard is an elite player in our league and someone we’ve long been fans of,” said general manager Jon Horst. “These opportunities are rare and hard to measure and execute. We are incredibly grateful for this opportunity for our community and team, and beyond excited to welcome Damian and his family to the Milwaukee Bucks. His character, competitiveness, talent and experience complement our group and gives us the best chance to win at the very highest level as we create new memories together.”

These are the hardest, most human moments of this business. Jrue was unmatched in his commitment to the Bucks and the Greater Milwaukee community,” Horst said of Holiday. “He’s truly a champion on and off the court, and we are all thankful for what he and his family have given to our team and city. He and his wife Lauren were steadfast in their efforts to make a positive difference in the lives of so many people. Their leadership and dedication to the community has left an indelible mark and inspired the Bucks organization for years to come.”

1:22pm: The Bucks have reached an agreement to trade for star Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard in a blockbuster three-team deal that also includes the Suns, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter links).

According to Wojnarowski, Portland will acquire guard Jrue Holiday and an unprotected 2029 first-round pick from the Bucks, along with the right to swap first-round picks with Milwaukee in 2028 and 2030. The Blazers will also get center Deandre Ayton and rookie forward Toumani Camara from the Suns in the deal.

In exchange for Ayton and Camara, Phoenix will receive center Jusuf Nurkic, forward Nassir Little, and guard Keon Johnson from Portland, as well as wing Grayson Allen from Milwaukee, per Woj.

The massive deal is the culmination of a saga that lasted nearly three months after Lillard requested a trade out of Portland in early July. The seven-time All-Star had spent his entire 11-year NBA career with the Trail Blazers but felt that the team was no longer moving toward championship contention following consecutive lottery seasons and sought a change of scenery.

Miami was Lillard’s landing spot of choice, but reports throughout the process indicated that there was little communication between the Heat and Trail Blazers. In recent days, with the Blazers believed to be working to make a deal before the start of training camp, other Eastern Conference suitors like the Raptors and Bucks were increasingly connected to the 33-year-old.

Milwaukee ultimately emerged as the surprise winner of the Lillard sweepstakes, beating a handful of conference rivals to the punch and strengthening a core that also includes two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and standout starters Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, both of whom signed new free agent contracts with the club this offseason.

While there have been questions about whether Lillard would be happy to report to any team besides the Heat, both he and Antetokounmpo have expressed a desire to play with one another in the past, as Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and Alex Kennedy of point out (all Twitter links). And the Bucks should put Lillard in a better position to win a championship than he ever had with the Blazers.

Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo may not be any more inclined to sign a long-term extension with the Bucks following the acquisition of Lillard than he was earlier in the offseason, given that he would benefit financially from waiting another year. However, in dealing for another star like Lillard, the Bucks’ front office proved it heard Giannis’ call for the organization to be as committed to contending for titles as he is.

The Blazers, who patiently scoured the market for most of the offseason in the wake of Lillard’s trade request, will come away from the deal with a pair of intriguing new players in Ayton and Holiday, though the big man is more likely to remain in Portland than the veteran guard.

According to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), the Blazers – who are focused on developing a young backcourt that features Shaedon Sharpe, Anfernee Simons, and this year’s No. 3 overall pick Scoot Henderson – remain engaged in trade talks involving Holiday and could flip him to a contender for additional assets.

Holiday, who can become a free agent next summer if he turns down his 2024/25 player option, recently spoke about his desire to sign a contract extension with the Bucks, but now appears destined for a new long-term NBA home. Holiday will become extension-eligible in February, though as Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter), he won’t be able to sign a contract that exceeds the extend-and-trade limits (two new years, 5% raises) until six months after being dealt.

On the other hand, it sounds like Ayton will be a keeper for the Blazers, who have had interest in the former No. 1 overall pick in the past and were linked to him again within the last week. The 25-year-old had an up-and-down five-year stint in Phoenix that included some tension with former Suns coach Monty Williams, but he has averaged a double-double for five straight seasons, including 18.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in 30.4 minutes per game across 67 contests last season.

As for the Suns, they recognized that a player such as Ayton, who liked to have the ball in his hands, might not be an ideal fit alongside their new big three of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal, and turned the young center and his $32.5MM cap hit into a series of role players on smaller contracts, including another big man in Nurkic.

Acquiring Nurkic, Little, Allen, and Johnson will make the Suns deeper and will give them more flexibility in future trades, given that their nearly all of their non-stars had been on minimum-salary contracts. However, the move creates a bit of a roster crunch in Phoenix. The club will now have 15 players on guaranteed contracts, plus Jordan Goodwin and Ish Wainright on partially guaranteed or non-guaranteed deals. At least two of those 17 players will have to be traded or cut before the regular season tips off.

While the Suns will increase their roster count as a result of this trade, the Bucks and Trail Blazers are both sending out more players than they’re taking back. That’s especially notable for Milwaukee, which had been carrying 15 players on guaranteed salaries prior to agreeing to acquire Lillard. The Bucks now project to have an open spot on their 15-man regular season roster, which could be used to add a backup point guard.

From a cap perspective, the Bucks will take on the biggest long-term deal in the three-team trade — Lillard is under contract for four more seasons and will earn a projected $216MM during that time, while Holiday ($36.86MM) and Allen ($8.93MM) could both reach free agency next summer.

The Blazers will owe Ayton approximately $102MM over the next three years before he becomes eligible for free agency. Camara is under contract for four years, but it’s a minimum-salary deal and only the first season is guaranteed.

The Suns will take on Nurkic’s three-year contract worth $54.38MM and Little’s four-year contract worth $28MM in addition to Allen’s expiring deal. Johnson is owed a guaranteed $2.81MM salary in 2023/24 and has a $4.47MM team option that the Suns must pick up or decline by October 31, if he’s still on the roster at that point.

More Lillard Trade Notes: Nets, Raptors, Grades, Holiday

Ten days ago, Aaron GoodwinDamian Lillard‘s agent — privately informed the Bucks and Nets that his client would be interested in joining Milwaukee or Brooklyn, sources tell Marc J. Spears of Andscape (Twitter link). Spears also writes that the Raptors were a “real contender” for Lillard, who will reportedly land with the Bucks.

Appearing on 590 The FAN, Michael Grange of described the Raptors’ pursuit of Lillard as being less than full throttle.

There was always interest, determination to try to get a deal but they wanted to see if they could, knowing them, without having to give up everything,” Grange said (Twitter link).

As for the Bucks, they discretely began inquiring about Lillard a couple weeks ago, league sources tell Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Goodwill writes that Giannis Antetokounmpo and Lillard will be under a lot of pressure to bring another title to Milwaukee after going all-in, and losing Jrue Holiday‘s defense shouldn’t be ignored.

Why would Milwaukee appeal to Lillard? In addition to being on a title contender and playing with two-time MVP and 2021 Finals MVP Antetokounmpo, Lillard will also participate in more nationally televised games (19) than any other season in his career, notes Nate Jones (via Twitter), another of Lillard’s agents.

Here’s more on the three-team blockbuster between the Bucks, Trail Blazers and Suns:

  • In grading the deal, Kevin Pelton of ESPN (Insider link) gives both Milwaukee and Portland a B-plus, while Phoenix receives a B-minus. Pelton likes the addition of Nassir Little more for the Suns than Jusuf Nurkic, noting Nurkic’s injury history, inefficiency inside the arc and lack of mobility. Zach Harper of The Athletic has identical grades for the Suns and Blazers, but is more bullish on the Bucks’ side of the deal, giving Milwaukee an A.
  • Both Bill Oram of The Oregonian (subscriber link) and Mark Medina of Sportsnaut argue that the deal is a win-win for Portland and Lillard.
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks provides his breakdown of the deal (YouTube link). As Marks notes, Lillard’s long-term deal is actually an insurance policy of sorts for the Bucks, since Holiday can become a free agent next summer if he turns down his player option.
  • Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report (Twitter link) thinks it’s inevitable that Holiday — who is heading to Portland from Milwaukee as part of the deal — will eventually be traded. However, keeping him until the trade deadline isn’t a bad option, according to Highkin, as more teams might pursue the veteran guard during the season once more players become trade-eligible.
  • Don’t expect the Raptors to pursue Holiday, tweets Grange. Toronto was interested in Lillard’s elite half-court offense, while Holiday isn’t on the same level at that end of the court.
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (Twitter link) argues the Magic should pursue Holiday, while Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post believes the Knicks should trade for the All-Defensive guard, writing that head coach Tom Thibodeau would love to have him. “Thibs and Jrue,” a longtime NBA executive texted Vaccaro, “is a marriage made in basketball heaven.”
  • ESPN’s panel of insiders answer big questions after the massive trade, while Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports provides three takeaways from the Suns’ perspective.

Damian Lillard Rumors: Raptors, Little, Magic, Simmons

Multiple reporters have linked the Raptors to Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard over the past handful of days. Sources confirm to Michael Grange of that Toronto is “very much in the mix” for the seven-time All-NBA guard.

Grange cautions that there’s still work to be done on completing a potential deal, but the two sides have made progress in negotiations.

In an appearance on the Five On The Floor podcast hosted by Ethan Skolnick and Greg Sylvander, Matt Moore of Action Network said the Raptors came close to trading for Lillard on Thursday, but downplayed their current interest.

The Toronto stuff is just leveraging… I heard things were red hot on Thursday and again (Raptors vice chairman) Masai (Ujiri) walked away and then came back… I wouldn’t worry about the Raptors,” Moore said, per NBA Central (Twitter link).

However, Grange has heard differently, writing that from the information he has gathered, the Raptors are “very interested.”

As has been reported ad nauseam, Lillard hopes to land with the Heat, though Miami hadn’t been involved in trade talks with Portland as of a few days ago. The Magic are an under-the-radar team that could “make themselves heard” in the Lillard sweepstakes, sources tell Grange.

A Raptors deal centered around OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr., Thaddeus Young and draft picks would work from a financial standpoint, Grange observes. Toronto has also expressed interest in Blazers forward Nassir Little in the past, Grange notes.

That said, there are complications on a trade coming together. For starters, Lillard’s agent is Aaron Goodwin, who also represents DeMar DeRozan. Ujiri famously traded DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard in 2018, which led to Toronto’s first championship, but there was a fallout between Goodwin and Ujiri. Granges writes that the two men are believed to be on better terms now, but it’s still noteworthy.

Sam Amick of The Athletic also recently suggested Lillard might hold out if he were traded to the Raptors, writing that the 33-year-old “clearly doesn’t want to be” in Toronto. Raptors players tried to recruit Lillard a few years ago following Leonard’s departure, according to Grange, and were “instantly rebuffed.”

Still, Grange is skeptical Lillard would actually go the nuclear route, since it would tarnish his reputation and he would also lose a significant chunk of money. For example, when Ben Simmons held out for several months ahead of a trade in 2021/22, he lost about $20MM of his $33MM salary in the settlement with the Sixers, sources tell Grange. The NBA has also made clear with the player participation policy and awards tied to games played that it expects players to actually show up and perform, Grange notes.

While it’s easy to draw parallels between Toronto’s interest in Lillard and the team’s trade for Leonard, the situations are also markedly different. The Raptors had won 59 games in 2017/18 versus 41 last season — even with Lillard, the current group doesn’t seem like it’s close to contention. Lillard also has four years left on his contract and he’ll make a combined $121MM at ages 35 and 36, which carries far more risk than Leonard’s expiring deal did back in 2018.

The possible downside seems to outweigh the upside, which is why both Grange and Eric Koreen of The Athletic argue the Raptors should not trade for Lillard, even if they may have the assets to make it happen.

Trade Rumors: LaVine, Garland, Rockets, Clippers, Blazers, Bucks

The Bulls have engaged with “several” teams about the possibility of a Zach LaVine trade this offseason, but haven’t gotten serious about moving the high-scoring guard, reports Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

As Fischer explains, LaVine’s pricey long-term contract will make potential trade partners wary about giving up a substantial package of players and draft picks, but the Bulls would be seeking a return that far outweighs what Washington got for Bradley Beal last week.

Fischer names the Knicks and Mavericks as possible teams to watch for LaVine, but immediately throws cold water on the likelihood of either club emerging as a legitimate suitor in the near future. New York seems to be taking a more patient approach to building its roster, according to Fischer, who adds that Dallas was viewed as a more serious threat for LaVine before acquiring Kyrie Irving as a co-star for Luka Doncic.

Here are a few more trade-related notes and rumors from around the NBA:

  • Despite some speculation to the contrary, the Cavaliers haven’t had any discussions about trading Darius Garland and have no intention to move the All-Star point guard, sources tell Chris Fedor of (Twitter link). The Cavs appear focused on pursuing roster moves that don’t involve trading any of their four cornerstone players (Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen).
  • In addition to Kenyon Martin Jr., the Rockets have gauged potential trade interest in young players like Usman Garuba and Josh Christopher, sources tell Fischer.
  • Norman Powell and Marcus Morris have both been mentioned in recent days as trade candidates. According to Fischer, the Clippers have been canvassing the league to see what a package of both players might return.
  • No clear suitors have emerged for guard Anfernee Simons, who looks like the Trail Blazers‘ most obvious trade chip, says Fischer. According to Fischer, the Blazers and Cavaliers had some brief talks about Nassir Little prior to the draft, but didn’t gain any real traction toward a deal.
  • ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on the latest episode of his Lowe Post podcast that the Bucks had some “relatively serious” internal conversations about John Collins before he was dealt to Utah. “I do think Milwaukee is looking around for, like, ‘Can we get a little injection of randomness? (An) injection of, like, bounce and athleticism, and just change?'” Lowe said. “Maybe just change more than anything else. But I don’t think (the Collins interest) went anywhere serious.”

Blazers Notes: Lillard, Potential Trades, Nurkic, Little

After saying earlier this week that he wants the Trail Blazers to pursue veteran additions during the offseason, Damian Lillard doubled down on those comments on Wednesday in an appearance on “Stephen A’s World” (Twitter video link). Following two straight years of losing marked by late-season tanking, Lillard said the organization understands how important it is for him to part of a contending team.

Lillard clarified that his statement shouldn’t be interpreted as a threat and indicated that he won’t demand a trade if personnel moves don’t turn out the way he hopes. However, he wants Portland’s management to make a firm decision on whether it plans to compete right away or try to rebuild.

“I ain’t gonna say I’m putting them on the clock,” Lillard told Stephen A. Smith.” I’m just saying if those things can’t be done — if we can’t do something significant like that — then we won’t have a chance to compete on that level. And then, not only will I have a decision to make, but I think the organization will, too. Because at that point, it’s like, ‘Are you gonna go young, or are we gonna get something done?’ I think we just kinda been on the fence with fully committing to either one. I just think we at that point now where everybody wants to win. They believe I deserve that opportunity.”

There’s more on the Trail Blazers:

  • The Knicks, Nets, Heat, Warriors and Clippers are the teams most likely to pursue Lillard if he becomes available, according to Sean Deveney of Heavy. General managers throughout the league don’t expect the Blazers to consider trading Lillard unless he requests it, but he could throw the league into a frenzy if that happens. “They’re not just going to ship him out to get rid of him,” an NBA executive told Deveney. “He has shown them loyalty and they’re going to do the same. But more and more, there is a bigger chance he will ask out. He could very well be the focal point of all talk in the next couple months.”
  • Jusuf Nurkic prefers to stay in Portland, but his contract could be a useful piece for salary matching in the type of trade that Lillard wants, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. The veteran center still has three seasons remaining on the four-year, $70MM deal he signed last summer. “As long as I’m wanted, if people want me here, I’m going to be here,” Nurkic said. “I’m not going to ask for a trade to try to go somewhere else.”
  • Nassir Little underwent surgery on Thursday for a right-side core muscle injury, the Trail Blazers announced in a press release. Little was limited to 54 games this season and has been sidelined since March 31.

Northwest Notes: Towns, Nowell, SGA, Little

Karl-Anthony Towns provided an uplifting moment by returning from a long absence caused by a calf injury to help the Timberwolves defeat the Hawks on Wednesday, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Towns received a thunderous ovation from the Minnesota crowd in his first appearance in roughly four months, then capped off the night by hitting two free throws to secure the victory.

“This is what movies are made of,” Towns said. “You come back, (52) games missing, sellout crowd, Target Center, and you get the ball with seven seconds left, no timeouts. You’ve got to make it. I mean, it doesn’t get better than that. … To be able to come up big for my teammates is all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

Towns’ return helped the Wolves climb back to .500 and move up to seventh in the crowded Western Conference playoff race. It also brought back the challenge of trying to effectively play him alongside Rudy Gobert, a combination that often seemed awkward before Towns got hurt.

“We’ve got to find a way to make the two-big lineup work,” coach Chris Finch said. “It has to be who we are in these last eight games. We have the flexibility to go a lot of different directions. But when a guy’s playing this well, he deserves to be out there in some form or fashion. It’s my job to figure it out.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell is back in the lineup after missing 10 games with left knee tendinopathy, but the condition is likely to continue for the rest of the season, according to Chris Hine of The Star-Tribune. Nowell is attempting to manage the pain enough to get on the court, and he was able to return to action Monday. “It was slow and long. Just really tough,” Nowell said of the rehab process. “There were times it felt good, then would play on it for like five minutes and it wouldn’t feel good. We just kind of had to sit and do a lot of treatment. It was tough, just getting out there and watching the game, not playing. But glad to be back now.”
  • Coach Mark Daigneault said the Thunder are “open-minded” about using Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in both games of back-to-backs for the rest of the season, tweets Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City faces the Clippers tonight and will stay in L.A. for Friday’s game against the Lakers.
  • Nassir Little missed Wednesday’s game after entering concussion protocol, the Trail Blazers announced (via Twitter).

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Wolves, Hyland, Jackson, Sexton

The Trail Blazers continued to deal with a number of injury absences as the second half of their season got underway on Thursday night. As Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian writes, Jusuf Nurkic (calf), Justise Winslow (ankle), and Anfernee Simons (ankle) are still on the shelf for Portland.

Nurkic hasn’t returned to practice yet, though Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups said the veteran center is “getting better.” Winslow, meanwhile, has begun taking part in non-contact drills, while Simons is doing weight-bearing activities but no on-court work.

The Trail Blazers opted to give Damian Lillard and Jerami Grant the night off on Thursday following a series of weather-related travel days that saw Portland players spend several hours on the team plane on both Wednesday and Thursday. The club’s resulting starting lineup in Sacramento was an odd one that featured three trade-deadline additions (Cam Reddish, Matisse Thybulle, and Ryan Arcidiacono) along with two reserves (Drew Eubanks and Nassir Little).

While the Blazers lost in Sacramento, Billups liked what he saw from Little, whose 26 points were easily a season high (story via Fentress). Reddish also continued his solid play following the trade that sent him from New York to Portland, scoring 24 points of his own.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Timberwolves came close to acquiring Bones Hyland from the Nuggets at this month’s trade deadline, Darren Wolfson of SKOR North said in his podcast The Scoop (hat tip to HoopsHype). According to Wolfson, Minnesota “would have done what the Clippers did” (given up two second-round picks) or even more than that. However, Wolfson believes Denver’s ownership group was reluctant to do any favors for former Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, who now runs Minnesota’s front office.
  • Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports spoke to Ish Smith, who previously played with Reggie Jackson in Oklahoma City and Detroit, about what the Nuggets‘ newest point guard can bring to the team. Jackson played 18 minutes in his Denver debut on Thursday, scoring seven points to go along with four rebounds and a pair of assists.
  • Jazz guard Collin Sexton, who strained his left hamstring in the team’s final game before the All-Star break, remains sidelined as a result of that injury. The expectation it that Sexton will be reevaluated on Monday, says Sarah Todd of The Deseret News.

Knicks, Jazz Have Had Exploratory Talks About Beasley, Vanderbilt

The Knicks and Jazz have engaged in some exploratory conversations about a possible trade that would send wing Malik Beasley and forward Jarred Vanderbilt to New York, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

According to Scotto, the proposed deal would see Evan Fournier, Obi Toppin, and draft capital going to Utah.

As Scotto details, the specific draft assets going from the Knicks to the Jazz presumably represent the sticking point in the talks between the two teams. Utah has reportedly sought a first-round pick for Beasley and one for Vanderbilt as well.

Given that Fournier’s contract, which includes an $18.9MM guaranteed salary for 2023/24, is viewed as a negative asset, the Jazz may want another first-round pick for taking on that deal rather than simply considering him the salary-matching piece for Beasley. On the other hand, Toppin – the eighth overall pick in 2020 – should have positive value and could perhaps take the place of one of the first-rounders Utah is seeking, Scotto notes.

Of course, even if the Knicks and Jazz could agree on the number of first-round picks that would accompany Fournier and Toppin to Utah, the two teams may not see eye to eye on how those picks are protected.

New York controls several protected first-rounders from other teams, including Dallas’ 2023 pick (top-10 protected), Washington’s 2023 pick (top-14 protected), Detroit’s 2023 pick (top-18 protected), and Milwaukee’s 2025 pick (top-four protected). Of those selections, only Milwaukee’s has a chance to ultimately land in the top eight. The Knicks also have the ability to add protections to their own first-rounders if they’re willing to trade one or more of them.

However, CEO Danny Ainge made it a priority to stockpile unprotected first-round selections in his offseason trades involving Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. Beasley and Vanderbilt don’t carry the same value as those two All-Stars, so Ainge won’t have as much leverage in this instance, but he’ll still be pushing to make the protections as light as possible on any pick he acquires.

Current Knicks executive Gersson Rosas signed both Beasley and Vanderbilt to their current contracts when he was the head of basketball operations in Minnesota. Led by president of basketball operations Leon Rose, New York had interest in Beasley before he re-signed with the Wolves in 2020, Scotto writes.

Beasley has reportedly drawn interest this season from teams like Cleveland, Atlanta, Phoenix and New Orleans in addition to New York.

As for Vanderbilt, Scotto has heard that the Pacers have interest in the fifth-year forward, previously named the Suns as a possible suitor, and confirms that the Trail Blazers are in the mix as well. Forward Nassir Little is a player to watch if Portland gets involved in trade talks with Utah, Scotto adds.