Ricky Rubio

Northwest Notes: KAT, Westbrook, Rubio, Jazz

The Timberwolves‘ moves this offseason have drastically improved the team and put the organization in a position to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The acquisition of Jimmy Butler and the free agency signing of Jeff Teague fusing with the current core of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns poses a serious threat to the Western Conference.

Towns spoke to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News to clarify his recent comments in which he referred to the Timberwolves as a budding dynasty. The former Rookie of the Year cited the Warriors, Spurs, and Cavaliers as real dynasties but maintained confidence in winning with Minnesota’s upgraded roster.

“For me, what everyone needs to know is that we’ve made great moves,” Towns said. “We made great moves to make ourselves better. I have been very fortunate to be with such a great franchise and the organization is going to do so well from here on out. I think we are building a team that has a great sense of what it wants to be, and also adding players who ooze greatness and ooze winning, it’s just something that is contagious.”

The team’s quest for improvement has been noticed by other stars, most prominently disgruntled Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, who reportedly listed Minnesota as one of his four preferred destinations if he was traded. Playing in the same conference with the defending champion Warriors and perennial powerhouse Spurs will be difficult but a young, athletic, and hungry Minnesota squad could see a drastic improvement in 2017/18.

Below are additional notes around the Northwest Division:

  • Reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook recently visited Oklahoma City but he is not in the Thunder‘s home city to sign an extension, Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman writes. Westbrook, a Los Angeles native, primarily spends his summers in California but is known to visit OKC periodically during the offseason, Dawson adds.
  • Newest Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio no longer has to worry about trade talk after the deal that brought him Minnesota to Utah. After years of rumors involving Rubio, the six-year NBA veteran tells Ryan McDonald of The Deseret News that he was happy to be dealt to “an organization that really believed in me.”
  • After the losses of Gordon Hayward and George Hill, the Jazz may have an issue with spacing and three-point shooting next season, Benjamin Nehic of The Desert News writes. Utah’s spacing with its current roster is projected to dip and with less effective outside shooters, the team may have to adopt a new primary scoring method.

Northwest Notes: George, Patterson, Gobert

Make no mistake, Oklahoma City’s one mission this season is to convince Paul George to remain with the Thunder once he hits free agency next summer. But what, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman asks, does the All-Star forward want?

George and his representation have been nothing if not forthright about the 27-year-old’s desire to sign with the Lakers in the summer of 2018 but he still has a season under contract and a fresh, new change of scenery to enjoy with the Thunder until that time comes.

If George truly wants to play for a winner, the Thunder have a legitimate chance of positioning themselves as the better option than the Lakers, Horne writes. Oklahoma City has, after all, been competitive for the past five years while the Lakers have toiled in mediocrity.

The question is whether playing for a winner will ever actually trump George’s desire to return to his home state.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The move to sign Patrick Patterson will help the Thunder on the defensive end, the forward’s former coach Kevin McHale told The Oklahoman. He says Patterson is the type of player that excels at all the little parts of the game.
  • With Gordon Hayward on his way to the Celtics, it’s become clear that Rudy Gobert may have been the leader of the Jazz all along, Brad Rock of The Deseret News writes. The big man has long been more charismatic and vocal than his Beantown-bound counterpart.
  • The move that sent Avery Bradley from the Celtics to the Pistons has all but extinguished any hopes the Jazz had of pulling off a sign-and-trade connected to Gordon Hayward’s move to Boston, Jody Genessey of The Deseret News writes.
  • The Timberwolves saw an opportunity and seized it this offseason, bringing Jeff Teague into the fold at the expense of long-time point guard Ricky Rubio. “Ricky did a good job here; we’re happy for him,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau told the media, including Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. “We wish him well. He made a number of contributions to our team, our organization and community and we certainly appreciate that. For us where we are now, we have to get out of this hole and we felt we had an opportunity to improve our team, and that’s why we did what we did.”
  • An additional benefit the Timberwolves will enjoy after bringing Jimmy Butler aboard will be his contributions as a recruiter, Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago writes.
  • No team in the NBA shot worse when wide open beyond the arc than the Thunder did last season, that should change after the club welcomes Paul George and Patrick Patterson to its lineup, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes.

Free Agency Rumors: Reed, Hayward, Jazz, Hawks

Veteran big man Willie Reed, who spent the 2016/17 season with the Heat, is flying somewhat under the radar in free agency, but he has no shortage of suitors. Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, having already reported that Reed was drawing interest from Miami, Philadelphia, Indiana, and Houston, has added the Hawks to the list of the teams interested in the unrestricted free agent. For his part, Reed says he want to prove he’s “worth every penny” he gets, no matter where he lands.

“I feel like I’ve gotten better every single year and my goal for next season is to win the Most Improved Player Award,” Reed said. “I have really high expectations for myself next year. With more minutes, I think I can be the Most Improved Player in the NBA. I want to be an elite shot-blocker and make a big impact. I think it’s just a matter of getting more minutes and experience.”

Here’s more on free agency from around the league:

  • Although reports last week suggested that Gordon Hayward wanted the Jazz to re-sign George Hill, Hayward also told the team he’d love to play with Ricky Rubio, per Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com (Twitter links). Utah is sitting down with Hayward today, and Rubio is part of the team’s contingent in that meeting, according to Shelburne, who says Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles are also in attendance.
  • If the Jazz are able to bring back Hayward, they won’t be done trying to upgrade their roster, tweets Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah would, at the very least, still have some form of the mid-level exception available in that scenario.
  • Many teams around the NBA appearing to be waiting for resolution on the Hayward situation before moving forward on lower-tier free agents, and the Hawks are among that group, says Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • The Timberwolves pursued Paul Millsap before he committed to Denver, and there was “lots of communication” between Millsap and the Wolves, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. However, according to Wolfson, the two sides never really came close due to Minnesota’ lack of cap room.

Knicks Rumors: Hill, Rubio, Lee, Baker, Griffin

George Hill appears to have emerged as the Knicks’ top free agent target, writes Ian Begley of ESPN.com. According to Begley, the team has been making an effort to unload some salary in order to make a competitive offer to a free agent point guard, and Hill has emerged as the name atop that list. Although the Knicks have made their interest in Hill known, they didn’t formally reach out to his camp during the early hours of free agency, says Begley.

Here are a few more Knicks-related rumors and notes:

  • The Knicks had some interest in trading for Ricky Rubio, but weren’t willing to part with a first-round pick for the veteran point guard, a source tells Begley.
  • If the Knicks are able to move a salary, Courtney Lee is the prime candidate, though Carmelo Anthony would be another option. We heard on Friday night that New York and Houston had discussed Anthony, but there’s currently no traction there.
  • Terms of Ron Baker‘s new deal with the Knicks aren’t yet known, but Begley says people in touch with the team expect New York to use an exception to re-sign Baker. That’s a little vague, but assuming the Knicks go under the cap, the exceptions available for Baker would be the room ($4.3MM), minimum ($1.3MM), and Non-Bird ($1.6MM).
  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com provided an update on the Knicks’ front office situation on Friday, tweeting that if David Griffin were to join the franchise, he would likely become the general manager, with current GM Steve Mills ascending to president of basketball operations. It remains to be seen whether that situation would appeal to Griffin.

Wolves Trade Rubio To Jazz For First-Round Pick

4:22pm: The Jazz are able to absorb Rubio’s $13.6MM contract today, but only today. As of tomorrow, the official start of the 2017/18 campaign, a Rudy Gobert raise coupled with some cap holds would push Utah’s payroll higher.

4:16pm: Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press has tweeted that the deal is done and awaiting league approval. The 2018 first-rounder from OKC will be Top-14 protected, ESPN’s Marc Stein says.

4:05pm: Jody Genessey of the Deseret News has relayed a report from Zone Sports Networks’ Spencer Checketts that Utah will send Oklahoma City’s first-round pick to Minnesota in exchange for Rubio.

4:00pm: Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets that the Rubio trade “is happening”, noting that the deal is close to being done. It hasn’t, however, been formally confirmed yet.

3:45pm: The Jazz and Timberwolves are actively discussing a deal in which Ricky Rubio would head to Utah, Shams Charania of The Vertical tweets.

It’s unclear what would be heading back to Minnesota in the exchange but the news that Rubio could be on the move isn’t exactly groundbreaking. Despite the fact that the Timberwolves have already traded away two point guards this month, Rubio’s name has been a mainstay in trade rumors since the Wolves drafted Kris Dunn last June.

Much can and has been inferred from the news of these ongoing Rubio negotiations. Zach Lowe of ESPN tweets that this could mean George Hill will be unlikely to return to Utah. If nothing else, he adds, it will give the team leverage in contract negotiations with the 31-year-old.

The deal also lends credence to a theory that the Timberwolves could be serious contenders to pursue Kyle Lowry. Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post echoed the sentiments of The Athletic’s Eric Koreen suggesting as much shortly after the negotiations were made public.

In a separate tweet, Eric Koreen says that, Minnesota unloading Rubio, coupled with revoking the Shabazz Muhammads qualifying offer would free up about $32MM for the organization.


Trade Rumors: Celtics, George, Parker, Beverley

Although the Celtics are reportedly still hoping to pull off a trade for Paul George after the new league year begins, Boston considers the Pacers‘ current demand for George unrealistic, per Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald (Twitter links). Murphy notes that the C’s are currently waiting to hear back from Indiana president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard.

According to Murphy, the Pacers’ most recent demand in talks with the Celtics included the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick and the Lakers’ protected 2018 pick, plus at least one starting player. As we noted earlier today, Boston is willing to put multiple picks and players in an offer for George, but wants to retain its most valuable draft assets, such as those two aforementioned picks.

Let’s round up a few more trade-related notes and rumors from around the NBA…

  • Jabari Parker‘s latest ACL injury has complicated the Bucks‘ ability to potentially improve their roster this offseason, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News, who says that Milwaukee had been considering including Parker in trades at the deadline in February. “His name definitely came up, and it was obvious they’d have a steep price, but they were willing to talk about him,” one league executive tells Deveney.
  • The Cavaliers have been eyeing Patrick Beverley for “quite some time,” but a source familiar with the team’s thinking tells Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com that the veteran point guard probably isn’t going anywhere now that he’s a member of the Clippers. According to McMenamin, L.A. likes Beverley and might not be willing to deal him after landing him in Wednesday’s Chris Paul blockbuster, even if Cleveland could offer a solid package.
  • One challenge the Timberwolves‘ front office faces if it wants to move Ricky Rubio comes in the form of owner Glen Taylor, per Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. Wolfson tweets that every Wolves trade goes through Taylor, who “loves” Rubio.
  • Executives around the NBA have questions about the way the Paul deal between the Rockets and Clippers went down, though an Eastern Conference exec says that no one’s going to “rat anybody out” when it comes to tampering. Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times has the details and the quotes.

Celtics Working To Land Both Hayward And George

With the free agent period fast approaching, the Celtics are pursuing an “aggressive” plan that would include signing Gordon Hayward and acquiring Paul George in a trade, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. The plan – first reported by Adam Kaufman of 98.5 The Sports Hub (Twitter link) – would require specific sequencing, and would hinge on getting a commitment from Hayward.

As Wojnarowski explains, the Celtics would want to get a verbal commitment from Hayward before attempting to finalize a deal with the Pacers for George. However, Indiana won’t necessarily be operating on the same schedule as Boston, and could look elsewhere in an effort to get something done with George while the C’s are waiting on Hayward.

Hayward is expected to start taking meetings with the Celtics and Heat on July 1, and the Jazz continue to fight to hang onto their star forward, according to Wojnarowski. The Vertical’s report indicates that Utah is exploring alternative offseason plans should Hayward leave, but is also working to upgrade its roster before July 1.

The Jazz have approximately $16MM in cap room that will expire on July 1, so that space could be used to accommodate a significant acquisition. For instance, ESPN’s Marc Stein has tweeted that Utah is among the teams to express trade interest in Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio. With their available cap room, the Jazz could absorb Rubio’s entire $13.5MM+ salary without having to send out any contracts.

If Hayward ultimately chooses Utah or Miami, the Celtics may look to substitute Clippers big man Blake Griffin in his place in an effort to land both Griffin and George, writes Wojnarowski. Griffin is also eligible for unrestricted free agency and can earn the same maximum starting salary as Hayward.

The Celtics and Pacers were said to be in “serious” talks involving George on draft night before those discussions stalled. As Wojnarowski points out, Boston is probably the Pacers’ preferred trade partner, since the C’s have a huge stockpile of young prospects and picks that would aid Indiana’s rebuilding process. Meanwhile, the Celtics also have a “growing confidence” that they could sign George to a contract extension and make him more than a one-year rental, which is “fueling” the team’s willingness to part with some of its assets, per The Vertical.

If the Celtics were to acquire George, he’d be eligible to sign an extension, but Boston would have to clear out even more cap room in order to renegotiate his contract and give him the sort a raise that might convince him to postpone his free agency. Like the rest of the Celtics’ plan, that wouldn’t be impossible, but there are a lot of moving parts involved that could complicate the situation.

New York Notes: Knicks, Rubio, Nets, Redick

The Knicks, who explored a possible Ricky Rubio deal at the trade deadline, talked internally prior to the draft about revisiting their pursuit of Rubio, according to Ian Begley of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Nothing came of those talks on draft night, and New York nabbed its point guard of the future in Frank Ntilikina with the No. 8 overall pick.

Still, Rubio reportedly remains on the trade block, and Ntilikina likely won’t be ready to step into the starting lineup right away, so it’s worth keeping an eye on the Knicks to see if they make a move for Rubio or another point guard when the new league year begins.

Here are a few more notes on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • The Nets continue to be cited as a probable suitor for J.J. Redick, with Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reporting that multiple league sources expect both the Nets and Sixers to make a “hard push” for the free agent guard.
  • The Nets had $3.4MM available to use in draft-day deal, but GM Sean Marks didn’t see any prospects worth trading into the second round to acquire, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. As Lewis notes, Brooklyn has until this Friday to use that cash before spending resets for the 2017/18 league year.
  • French big man Louis Labeyrie, whose draft rights belong to the Knicks, will play on the team’s Summer League squad for the third straight July, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Berman suggests the 2014 second-rounder could have a better chance to earn an NBA contract this time around, with the Knicks in rebuilding mode.
  • Earlier today, our Mark Suleymanov rounded up the highlights of the NetsD’Angelo Russell/Timofey Mozgov introductory presser in Brooklyn.

Wolves Still Looking To Trade Ricky Rubio?

JUNE 26, 10:32am: Despite Scott Layden‘s assertion (noted below) that Rubio will have a “great career” in Minnesota, Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link) hears that the Timberwolves remain intent on trading the veteran point guard.

A report over the weekend indicated that Minnesota may be eyeing a handful of notable free agent point guards. However, Jon Krawczynski of the AP cautions (via Twitter) that a Rubio deal is “no sure thing.”

JUNE 23, 9:46am: Appearing on KFAN FM 100.3 in Minnesota, Timberwolves GM Scott Layden suggested this morning that the team is planning on keeping Rubio, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press (Twitter links). Krawczynski acknowledges that things could always change, but says Layden praised Rubio’s second half and added that the point guard will “have a great career here.”

JUNE 22, 8:22pm: After completing the night’s biggest blockbuster, the Timberwolves continue to seek a trade involving Ricky Rubio, reports Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today (via Twitter). According to Zillgitt, the Wolves would plan on finding a new point guard in free agency if they make a deal involving Rubio.

[RELATED: Bulls agree to trade Jimmy Butler to Timberwolves]

In their deal with the Bulls, the Wolves included last year’s fifth overall pick Kris Dunn, who was viewed as Minnesota’s potential point guard of the future. That would appear to open the door for Rubio to hold the job for the foreseeable future without having to look over his shoulder — particularly since another one of the team’s top ball-handlers, Zach LaVine, was sent to Chicago as well. However, it seems that the Wolves may have their eye on another point guard for next season.

Rubio has been linked to a handful of teams in recent months, including the Mavericks, Pistons, and Knicks. One interesting potential trade partner for the Wolves is Utah. The Jazz were reportedly discussing Rubio earlier in the day, and have enough cap room to acquire the veteran point guard immediately without sending out any salary. If the Jazz were to land Rubio, that would likely pave the way for George Hill‘s exit in free agency.

Wolves Plan To Target Kyle Lowry, Three Others

With Jimmy Butler now on board, the Timberwolves’ next step is an upgrade at point guard, tweets Mitch Lawrence of The Sporting News.

Toronto’s Kyle Lowry tops Minnesota’s free agent wish list, according to Lawrence, followed by New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday, Indiana’s Jeff Teague and Utah’s George Hill.

Minnesota has about $20MM in remaining cap room, so more salary would have to be unloaded to offer a max deal. One way to do that, especially if a point guard is being targeted, is to find a taker for incumbent starter Ricky Rubio, who will make $14.25MM next season and $14.8MM in 2018/19.

The Wolves had discussions involving Rubio with the Knicks at last season’s deadline and the Mavericks more recently, but both teams just picked up new point guards in the draft.

Lowry is the most likely of the four to receive maximum money. Coming off three straight All-Star appearances, the 11-year veteran made $12MM with the Raptors this season. Although limited to 60 games by injuries, he averaged a career-high 22.4 points per game.

All four teams have Bird rights on their guards, so they will have the competitive advantage of being able to offer more money and one more season than Minnesota can.

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