Zach LaVine

Raptors Considered Legitimate Suitor For Damian Lillard

The Heat have long been viewed as the frontrunner to land Damian Lillard, in large part because Miami is his preferred destination.

However, outside of the Heat, the Raptors are one of the top contenders – “if not the most viable threat” – to trade for the Trail Blazers star, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Fischer draws a comparison to the Donovan Mitchell deal last year, when the Knicks were long viewed as the favorite to land the All-NBA guard but the Cavaliers surprisingly traded for him instead.

A couple different reporters have cited the Raptors as a possible Lillard suitor, and Fischer suggests their interest is more than just cursory. Still, despite being involved in plenty of rumors over the past year, Toronto’s lack of actual moves has created skepticism around the league that the team will actually acquire Lillard, Fischer writes.

As for what Toronto would give up, OG Anunoby is a name worth watching, according to Fischer, but it’s unclear where the defensive stalwart would eventually land in a potential deal. Sources tell Fischer that Scottie Barnes is off limits and Pascal Siakam is unlikely to be involved, but first-rounder Gradey Dick could be included.

The Trail Blazers are focused on finding the “greatest possible return” for Lillard, sources tell Fischer, and have “strongly considered” the possibility of acquiring Suns center Deandre Ayton as part of a multi-team framework. Ayton’s potential involvement was first reported by John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 on Thursday night.

The Bulls are also interested in Lillard, Fischer confirms, but teams around the league — including Portland — aren’t excited about acquiring Zach LaVine, who has been available for a few months now, as Fischer has reported multiple times.

Central Notes: Hield, Bucks, Lillard, Bulls, Ball

The Pacers and representatives for shooting guard Buddy Hield are working together to find a potential trade for the eighth-year sharpshooter after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on an extension. Owed roughly $18.6MM on an expiring deal, Hield makes sense as a trade target for several teams across the league. Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype breaks down six trade destinations that could work.

Before coming up with hypothetical packages, Gozlan looked into what Indiana might look for in a trade. Gozlan writes that the typical framework for a deal of this nature is to bring in a player with an expiring contract and draft capital. However, Gozlan believes the Pacers should look for a player who can fit into the rotation right now rather than draft picks, given their postseason potential.

Gozlan names the Rockets, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Celtics, Nets and Sixers as the teams who would be the best fits for the former Oklahoma standout. The Rockets, who need shooting, could put together an offer using the salary of Kevin Porter Jr, given their recent attempts to trade him, alongside draft capital to entice the Pacers. However, if the Pacers are looking to add players, it’s unlikely they’d consider taking in Porter, even if it’s just for salary purposes, given his uncertain NBA future following his assault and strangulation charges.

The Mavericks, Grizzlies, Celtics and Nets are teams that would be able to provide win-now players for Indiana in a possible trade, Gozlan reasons. Tim Hardaway Jr, Luke Kennard, Malcolm Brogdon and Royce O’Neale are among the players named in the article who could appeal to the Pacers for help on the wing.

As for the Sixers, Gozlan writes that such a partnership could be contingent on a James Harden deal, specifically to the Clippers. If Philadelphia and Los Angeles struck a deal, Indiana could look to get in on the trade by sending Hield to the Sixers and bringing in Norman Powell from L.A, Gozlan says. For my money, Dallas, Boston and Brooklyn make the most sense of the named teams if Indiana wants a strong rotation piece in return.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks are another team that could make some level of sense for Hield in a trade, The Athletic’s Eric Nehm writes in his latest mailbag. However, such a trade would be risky, based on a combination of factors. For starters, it would likely take multiple rotation players being shipped out, and a better player could become available later on, leaving the Bucks without a path to acquire said player. Additionally, Hield has not played in a playoff game since making his NBA debut in 2016, which isn’t ideal for a contending team, Nehm writes.
  • The potential of Hield coming to Milwaukee is just one of many topics Nehm writes about in his mailbag. Nehm also covers the assets the Bucks have available to trade, whether Giannis Antetokounmpo is better suited for point or post play this season, rotation questions, and more. I recommend reading the article in full here.
  • With reports surfacing that the Bulls are trying to get in on the Damian Lillard sweepstakes, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago considers what such a move would look like in practice. As reported on Wednesday, Chicago is exploring the possibility of moving Zach LaVine in a multi-team deal that could send a combination of players and picks to Portland. Johnson writes that a move for Lillard would likely come with a DeMar DeRozan extension, meaning the Bulls would have to be 100% certain about a core of Lillard, DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic winning together.
  • Johnson adds in his mailbag that while the Bulls could theoretically look at moving Lonzo Ball, whose career has been plagued with injury, he gets the sense that nothing happens on that front this season, with Ball working hard to return to the court.

Bulls Reportedly Trying To Deal For Damian Lillard

The Bulls are trying to get involved in the bidding for Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports said on a podcast on Wednesday.

Neubeck hears that Chicago has been exploring the possibility of moving Zach LaVine in a multi-team deal to see if can get a combination of players and picks in return that would interest Portland. He notes that there were trade rumors circulating around LaVine earlier this summer, but the Bulls have publicly denied that he’s being made available.

Neubeck also admits that Lillard might not be happy on a team like Chicago, where his best teammates would be Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan. He adds that the Bulls may be the Eastern Conference mystery team in the Lillard race that ESPN’s Marc Spears alluded to earlier this week.

Derek Bodner confirms on the podcast that he has heard the Bulls mentioned in conversations with other reporters, but he calls it a “borderline crazy gamble.” Bodner believes there are teams that should call Lillard’s bluff about not wanting to play anywhere but Miami, such as the Sixers, who could become legitimate title contenders by pairing Lillard with Joel Embiid. However, he’s not convinced that Chicago would have that type of leverage if acquires Lillard.

Rich Hofman says the Bulls are in a desperate position, so a big swing on a Lillard-type deal might be understandable. He adds that team president Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley may have to start worrying soon about their job security, but he doubts Chicago could make a run at a title even with Lillard on the team.

The three writers also considered the possibility of the Sixers making an offer for LaVine, but they agreed that it’s unlikely because of his contract. He’s entering the second season of a five-year, $215MM extension, and his salary will rise from $40MM to $48.9MM over the next four years.

Central Notes: Giannis, Turner, Sword, Bulls

Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t directly threatening to leave the Bucks, but he hinted at that option this week during an appearance on the 48 Minutes podcast (YouTube video link). The two-time MVP said he enjoys playing in Milwaukee, but his priority is winning another championship and he’s willing to go elsewhere if he decides it’s necessary.

“I’m a Milwaukee Buck, but most importantly I’m a winner,” Antetokounmpo said. “… If there is a better situation for me to win the Larry O’Brien (trophy), I have to take that better situation.”

Antetokounmpo made similar comments last month, saying he would like to play 20 years with the same team, but “being a winner” is more important to him.

Antetokounmpo will become eligible for a five-year extension next summer that could be worth up to $334MM, which would be the largest contract in NBA history. He also holds a $51.9MM player option for 2025/26, so he’ll have the equivalent of an expiring contract for the following season if he doesn’t accept the extension.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Appearing on Tidal League’s “Run Your Race” podcast with Theo Pinson, Myles Turner expressed regret that he wasn’t ready to assume the role of team leader after the Pacers traded Paul George in 2017 (hat tip to FanSided). “The beginning of that year, I got hurt. I got a concussion,” Turner recalled. “I was out for like two and a half weeks. So I missed the first two and a half weeks of the season, (and) Vic (Victor Oladipo) was going crazy. Hitting game-winners. Averaging like 20 a game. Domas (Domantas Sabonis) was like 20 and 10.” Turner added that he’s grateful to get another chance to be a leader with the current version of the team.
  • The Pacers‘ G League affiliate has acquired returning player rights for guard Craig Sword. The Fort Wayne Mad Ants announced a deal with Capital City to land the rights to Sword, who played for the Warriors during Summer League.
  • Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic are considered stars under the NBA’s new Player Participation Policy, but the guidelines shouldn’t affect the Bulls very much, observes Julia Poe of the Chicago Tribune. She notes that the team doesn’t rely much on load management, with Vucevic and Patrick Williams both appearing in all 82 games last season, while LaVine played in 70 of the last 71 after working his way back from offseason knee surgery.

Eastern Notes: Beverley, DeRozan, Bulls’ Schedule, Embiid, Knicks

It seems unlikely now that new Sixers point guard Patrick Beverley will play with James Harden in Philadelphia but he doesn’t blame Harden for being upset over his contract situation, Dave Early of relays. Beverley weighed in on the Harden saga on his Pat Bev Podcast With Rone.

“I don’t think it’s coming from a bad place. I think he understands exactly what he’s doing,” Beverley said. “And like I said it’s a tough one, ’cause I know both (Harden and Sixers executive Daryl Morey)…. I understand both guys…. it’s just so many pieces that we’re not educated about. But we do know there was something in place that didn’t go down and one man feels some type of way which he’s entitled to feel that way. So I’m not here for the bad James Harden press at all. … I hope I’m able to suit up and play with James Harden but from the way things are looking, [it’s] unfortunate.”

Beverley signed a one-year deal with the Sixers in July.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • DeMar DeRozan ranks as the Bulls’ most valuable trade asset among the team’s core group of players, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times opines. DeRozan, a highly-respected veteran scorer with an expiring contract, could be a hot property for a team with championship aspirations. Nikola Vucevic, despite the fact he signed an extension, could bring more in a deal at the trade deadline than Zach LaVine because of his more affordable contract, Cowley writes.
  • In a separate story, Cowley weighs in on five key games for the Bulls during this upcoming season. The last of the games on his list is the April 1 contest with the Hawks, who played three highly entertaining, hotly-contested games with Chicago last season.
  • The Knicks are one of many teams monitoring the Sixers’ situation and the possibility of Joel Embiid requesting a trade, Matt Ehalt of the New Yok Post writes. It would be an ideal scenario for the Knicks and New York’s top executive, Leon Rose, has the pieces and assets to trade for a superstar. Embiid, whom Rose represented early in the reigning MVP’s career, would immediately make the Knicks serious title contenders.

Bulls Notes: Dosunmu, Carter, LaVine, DeRozan

Ayo Dosunmu understood that nothing would be guaranteed when he decided to re-sign with the Bulls, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. After receiving a three-year deal worth $21MM as a restricted free agent, Dosunmu now has to prove that he’s worthy of consistent playing time.

With Lonzo Ball out for the season, Chicago appears to have a three-man competition for the starting point guard role. The organization also invested in the re-signed Coby White, who got $33MM over three years, and free agent addition Jevon Carter, who signed for three years at $20MM.

“You know I always want to come out here and compete,” Dosunmu said. “Anybody who says they don’t want to start, they would be not telling the truth. But that’s something that will be taken care of in training camp. … I’m going to make a way. That’s all I can say. I’ve always found a way. I’m going to continue to find a way.”

There’s more on the Bulls:

  • Carter, a native of the Chicago area, credits Derrick Rose for inspiring his NBA career (video link). Carter is thrilled to be playing in his hometown after spending time with four teams in his first five seasons. “When I started to watch Derrick Rose, he was really one of the ones that made me believe that going to the NBA was possible,” Carter said.
  • Trade speculation surrounding Zach LaVine has calmed down, but it’s likely to resume when the season begins, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. League sources told Cowley they got the impression that the Bulls were exploring their options with LaVine this summer. Even though executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas was pleased with the strong finish to the regular season, Cowley cautions that changes could be coming if the team doesn’t get off to a good start this fall. Cowley also points out that LaVine is Chicago’s only maximum-salary player, and the new CBA could make teams reluctant to add big money in trades.
  • Appearing on Iman Shumpert‘s podcast, DeMar DeRozan said it feels like the NBA is trying to de-emphasize the mid-range game, but he doesn’t mind going against the tide (hat tip to Josh Buckhalter of “The threes, that’s cool. I’m not never against that or anything,” DeRozan told Shumpert. “But sometimes it’s a complete game that you could have too, playing basketball. And I think so much of that gets lost by so many threes being shot.”

Spurs Interested In Evan Fournier?

In addition to a few playoff hopefuls, the Spurs have also shown some interest in trading for Knicks wing Evan Fournier, according to Ian Begley of

As Begley outlines, Fournier shares an agent with fellow Frenchman Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 overall pick of last month’s draft. Fournier spoke last week about being intrigued by the possibility of joining San Antonio.

The 30-year-old’s $18.9MM pseudo-expiring contract (he has a team option worth $19MM in 2024/25) wouldn’t be viewed favorably by rival teams after he was pulled from New York’s rotation early last season. Fournier appeared in just 27 games in ’22/23, averaging 6.1 PPG and 1.8 RPG while shooting career worsts of 40.4% on twos and 30.7% on threes.

On the other hand, Fournier started all 80 of his games in ’21/22, averaging 14.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.1 APG and 1.0 SPG while converting the fourth-most three-pointers in the league (241, a career high). He holds a career mark of 37.9% from beyond the arc.

After making multiple deals this offseason, the Spurs no longer have the salary cap room to accommodate Fournier’s salary outright, Begley notes — they’d have to send salary back to adhere to the NBA’s trade rules. The Knicks also haven’t shown any inclination to attach draft assets to move off Fournier’s contract, Begley adds, but presumably would be more open to doing so if they could get a potential rotation player or two in return.

Fournier has come up in a couple other trade rumors this summer, but he remains on the Knicks’ roster for now, although he certainly hopes that isn’t the case when the season starts. It’s worth noting that Begley’s article is a week old, and a report a few days ago indicated Fournier could eventually become a buyout candidate if New York can’t trade him.

Begley’s mailbag column also touches on a handful of other topics. For example, he expresses skepticism that the Knicks were ever seriously interested in Bulls guard/forward Zach LaVine this offseason, despite having exploratory trade talks on the two-time All-Star at the February deadline. Begley also hears the Raptors were shutting down trade inquiries on OG Anunoby — a player the Knicks like — earlier this month.

Knicks Notes: Embiid, LaVine, Towns, Fournier, Free Agency

Trade speculation involving Sixers center Joel Embiid shows why the Knicks have decided to be patient in building their roster, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. Team president Leon Rose has been collecting assets to eventually use in a trade for a star, but that player will have to be a good fit for the organization to go all in, Katz adds.

When Rose pursued Donovan Mitchell from the Jazz last summer, he placed a limit on what he was willing to offer, according to Katz. The Cavaliers outbid New York and were able to land Mitchell in a late summer trade. The Knicks also contacted the Bulls about Zach LaVine, but a source tells Katz that Chicago’s asking price was “giant” and the teams never got close to a deal.

New York has been viewed as a logical destination if the Timberwolves decide to trade Karl-Anthony Towns because of his connections to Rose and CAA. However, Katz hears that Minnesota’s price for Towns is also “sky high,” and another source tells him that New York hasn’t expressed interest in acquiring Towns.

Embiid would represent both the talent level and the fit the Knicks are looking for, but Katz states that management isn’t focused solely on him. With a collection of young talent and all its own draft picks available to trade, plus protected first-rounders from the Mavericks, Wizards, Bucks and Pistons, New York will be in position to make a significant offer for any star who becomes available.

There’s more from New York:

  • Evan Fournier‘s recent comments to a French news outlet may complicate the Knicks’ plans to trade him, observes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Fournier began the season as a starter, but he only played 27 games and wasn’t used at all in the postseason. He expressed dismay at Tom Thibodeau’s decision and said his feelings were shared by Derrick Rose, who suffered a similar fate. Fournier said it would be “a disaster” for his career to spend another season in New York, but Braziller notes that the trade market is slow right now even for stars, so any Fournier deal may be a long way off.
  • The Knicks haven’t added a backup power forward since trading Obi Toppin to Indiana, and Ian Begley of is skeptical that they’ll find a replacement before training camp opens. Begley notes that Thibodeau prefers to use a nine-man rotation, and those nine players appear set already.
  • Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report suggests a few bargains who might be available for the Knicks on veteran’s minimum contracts.

Central Notes: Bucks, Siakam, Pacers, Carter, LaVine

After opting to retain their core free agents this summer and also make some cheap veteran signings, the Bucks are deftly navigating their present while trying to maintain some longer-term flexibility, writes Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“There is, without a doubt, an intentionality to try make sure that we maximize where we’re at right now with this team and always having an eye toward the future to try to figure out what the next version of this team looks like,” Milwaukee GM Jon Horst told Owczarski.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s major changes to the roster [upcoming] or there is or there isn’t, it just means that we gotta have an eye toward that and continue to look at how we’re going to build this two, three, four, five years down the road because the whole goal has always been to sustain our success over a long period of time,” Horst continued.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The rebuilding Pacers theoretically have the attributes to trade for Raptors All-Star power forward Pascal Siakam, but Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star wonders if the negatives of such a move would outweigh the positives, specifically with regard to how much the team would possibly need to surrender to Toronto.
  • Chicago native Jevon Carter is hoping to help elevate his new team, his hometown Bulls, both on the hardwood and beyond it this season, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. To wit, Carter is already prepping to host a local youth camp this weekend. “Anytime I dreamed about going to the NBA as a kid, it was always in a Chicago Bulls uniform,” Carter told Johnson. “So getting that call and hearing, ‘Congratulations, you’re going to be a Chicago Bull,’ like, I don’t even know what to say. My feelings are all over the place.”
  • Maximum-salaried Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine does not believe he will be traded by Chicago in the near future, per Ryan Taylor of NBC Sports Chicago. “I always rep my city whichever team I’m playing for to the best,” LaVine said. “And Chicago’s loved me and called me one of their own since I’ve been there. I don’t see anything happening anytime soon. But if it does, Chicago always has my love.”

Trade/FA Rumors: Lillard, LaVine, Sixers, Reed, Reaves, Spurs

The Trail Blazers are believed to be seeking a package in the neighborhood of four first-round picks and two quality players in exchange for Damian Lillard, according to Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian, who spoke to Lillard’s agent Aaron Goodwin about the negotiations. Goodwin reiterated that he’s telling other teams that his client only wants to play for the Heat.

“It’s not fair to a team to allow them to engage in a negotiation that could be futile in the end,” Goodwin told Fentress.

While Lillard may be focused on the Heat, it would require the involvement of at least one more team for the Blazers to get a package anywhere near the level they’re looking for. Having traded its 2025 first-round pick to Oklahoma City, Miami can only currently offer two first-rounders.

As we wait to see if negotiations between Portland and Miami gather any momentum with teams convening at the Las Vegas Summer League, here are a few more trade and free agency rumors from around the NBA:

  • League sources tell K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago that Zach LaVine‘s name has come up in preliminary trade discussions with both the Sixers and Trail Blazers. Neither of those conversations gained traction, according to Johnson, who hears that the Bulls‘ asking price for LaVine has been “extremely high.” Still, Johnson says the team has “fluctuated in its belief in LaVine’s consistency as a lead option.”
  • Kyle Neubeck of hears from sources familiar with the situation that the conversations between the Sixers and Bulls were really just “check-in” talks prior to the draft and didn’t evolve beyond that. So there’s no indication at this point that any multi-team deal involving LaVine and James Harden is on the way, Neubeck writes.
  • The Sixers‘ deals with centers Mohamed Bamba and Montrezl Harrell haven’t diminished their desire to retain restricted free agent Paul Reed, a team source tells Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
  • The Spurs legitimately considered the possibility of an offer sheet for restricted free agent guard Austin Reaves, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on his Lowe Post podcast. The Lakers ultimately re-signed Reaves on a four-year, $54MM deal, which was the most that they could give him directly — another team could’ve tested Los Angeles’ resolve by making a four-year offer worth up to $102MM. “I know San Antonio was going back and forth on it and for whatever reason didn’t do it,” Lowe said.