Serge Ibaka

Trade Breakdown: Kevin Durant To The Suns (Four-Team Deal)

This is the ninth entry in our series breaking down the significant trades of the 2022/23 season. As opposed to giving out grades, this series explores why the teams were motivated to make the moves. Let’s dive into the biggest blockbuster of the year, a four-team deal between the Suns, Nets, Bucks and Pacers.

Trade details

On February 9:

  • The Suns acquired Kevin Durant and T.J. Warren.
  • The Nets acquired Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, the Suns’ 2023 first-round pick (unprotected), the Suns’ 2025 first-round pick (unprotected), the Suns’ 2027 first-round pick (unprotected), the Suns’ 2029 first-round pick (unprotected), the right to swap first-round picks with the Suns in 2028, the Bucks’ 2028 second-round pick, the Bucks’ 2029 second-round pick, and the draft rights to Juan Pablo Vaulet (from Pacers).
  • The Bucks acquired Jae Crowder.
  • The Pacers acquired Jordan Nwora, George Hill, Serge Ibaka, a 2023 second-round pick (likely the Cavaliers’ second-rounder; from Bucks), the Bucks’ 2024 second-round pick, the Pacers’ 2025 second-round pick (from Bucks), and cash ($1.36MM; from Nets).
  • Note: The Bucks acquired the Pacers’ 2025 second-round pick in a prior trade.

The Suns’ perspective:

After posting a losing record for seven straight seasons – and missing the playoffs for 10 straight – the Suns had a remarkable turnaround in 2020/21, going 51-21 and reaching the NBA Finals, ultimately losing in six games to the Bucks. Last season, the Suns held the league’s top record at 64-18, but had a meltdown in their second-round loss to Dallas, getting blown out at home in Game 7.

Phoenix was reportedly high on Durant’s list of preferred destinations when he requested a trade this past offseason, but there were rumors of low-ball offers from rival teams and Brooklyn was said to be disinterested in obliging his request.

A few weeks later, there were questions about Deandre Ayton’s eagerness to be back in Phoenix after he signed a four-year, maximum-salary offer sheet from the Pacers over the summer amid tensions with head coach Monty Williams. The Suns quickly matched, however, signaling they still valued the former first overall pick, even if his role sometimes fluctuates.

In mid-September, former owner Robert Sarver was suspended by the NBA for a year and fined $10MM for workplace misconduct, including racist and misogynistic comments, following a lengthy investigation. He subsequently decided to sell his controlling stake in the franchise to Mat Ishbia, which was finalized shortly before last month’s deadline.

Finally, right before training camp opened, Crowder said he wasn’t going to participate, as he was reportedly unhappy with Williams after being told he would come off the bench (he had started the previous two years). The Suns then made an announcement saying the two sides would work together to find Crowder a new team.

Despite all the turmoil, ‘22/23 started out pretty well, with Phoenix going 15-6 over its first 21 games. Unfortunately, Johnson tore his meniscus during that span, and Chris Paul was sidelined by a foot injury until early December. The Suns lost five straight shortly thereafter, with star guard Devin Booker going down with a groin injury in mid-December.

Obviously, Crowder being away while Johnson was hurt didn’t help. Torrey Craig did an admirable job filling in, as did Ish Wainright, who was promoted to a standard deal from a two-way contract last month. But ideally, neither player would be logging heavy minutes on a championship-caliber team.

Paul is 37 years old (38 in May), and he is not the same player he was when the Suns made the Finals a couple years ago. He’s still good, just not on the same level, particularly from a scoring standpoint. That’s a huge deal, because he was Phoenix’s second-best player during the previous two seasons.

The Suns reportedly offered up Paul in an effort to land Kyrie Irving from Brooklyn shortly before Durant made his own request. I don’t know if those rumors are true, but either way, CP3 stayed put.

By mid-January, the Suns were just 21-24, and the season was slipping away. They recovered well leading up to the trade deadline, going 9-2 over that span to sit with a 30-26 record prior to February 9. Still, the damage had been done. I don’t think the Suns make this trade – specifically the way the deal was structured – if they still believed they were a real championship contender without acquiring Durant.

Ishbia played a major role in the deal. Even before he was officially approved by the league’s Board of Governors, a report came out saying the Suns were willing to make win-now moves, and he talked about being aggressive just before the deadline. He was also quickly willing to sign off on the extra $40MM the deal cost the Suns in salaries and tax penalties, a stark departure from the previous ownership group.

A report from ESPN indicated that president of basketball operations James Jones wanted to negotiate the inclusion of Bridges or add protections to the first-round picks, but the Nets held firm in their demands. The Suns also may have had another deal lined up for Crowder, but he ultimately was included in this trade as well.

Durant is in the first season of a four-year, $194MM extension. Booker, Durant and Ayton are all under contract through at least ’25/26. If healthy, those three alone make up a very strong (and expensive) core. It remains to be seen how long Paul will be around – his $30.8MM contract for next season is guaranteed for $15.8MM, and it is fully non-guaranteed in ‘24/25.

Durant is one of the greatest players in NBA history. He is a former league MVP, two-time Finals MVP, 13-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA member and four-time scoring champion.

In 981 career regular season games (36.7 MPG), he has averaged 27.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.1 SPG and 1.1 BPG on .499/.384/.886 shooting. In 155 career playoff games (40.4 MPG), he has averaged 29.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.0 SPG and 1.2 BPG on .476/.356/.866 shooting. He is the definition of a superstar.

Despite being 34 years old and tearing his Achilles tendon four years ago, he continues to play at an incredibly high level. In fact, when healthy, you could easily make a case for Durant being the best player in the league this season.

In 42 games (35.7 MPG), he has averaged 29.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 5.2 APG and 1.5 BPG on .566/.386/.931 shooting, good for an absurd .681 true shooting percentage. The FG%, FT% and TS% are all career highs. He is shooting 62.9% on twos, which is ridiculous considering the majority of his shots are mid-range jumpers.

Durant is also playing very motivated and strong defense in ‘22/23, which surprised me a bit because he had coasted on that end at times the past couple seasons. His teams have gone 29-13 this season when he has played, which is the equivalent of the second-best winning percentage (69.0%) in the league, only trailing the Bucks (71.8%).

Durant can do everything on the court at a high level. He’s 6’10” with a 7’5” wingspan, but he possesses guard-like skills, with elite shooting and excellent ball-handling. His passing has improved throughout his career, and when he tries, he is a top-tier defender. He is a matchup nightmare.

After playing in just four games from 2020-22 due to a couple of left foot surgeries, Warren finally returned to the court for the Nets in December, averaging 9.5 PPG and 2.8 RPG on .510/.333/.818 shooting in 26 games (18.8 MPG).

He clearly wasn’t at his best physically or from a production standpoint (he averaged a career-high 19.8 PPG on .536/.403/.819 shooting the season before getting injured), but he was still contributing off the bench. Warren has hardly played in his second stint with Phoenix, however, averaging just 6.4 MPG in eight games. He’s on a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract, so he might not be back next season.

A few weeks after the trade was completed, Ishbia claimed the move carried “no risk.” That, of course, isn’t true.

Durant has gone down with a sprained MCL a few seasons in a row. You could say that’s a fluke, since it has involved players falling into his knee. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s played 35, 55 and 42 games over the past three seasons after missing all of ‘19/20 with a torn Achilles.

His ankle sprain on a routine layup while warming up prior to his fourth game with Phoenix was concerning. I could very well be wrong, but to my eyes, it didn’t look like he slipped; it looked like his ankle just gave out and rolled.

Durant is in his 16th season, has made several long playoff runs, and has also played in the World Cup (once) and the Olympics (three times) for Team USA. He’s still incredible, but the tread on his tires are pretty worn.

Giving up Bridges and Johnson stings. They were key role players for Phoenix who both improved tremendously throughout their Suns tenures, which we’ll get into more shortly.

Anytime you give up an unprotected pick in a future season it’s a risk. The Suns gave up three beyond 2023 — four if you count the 2028 pick swap, which will only be exercised if Phoenix is worse than Brooklyn.

Those picks from 2027-29 in particular could be extremely valuable. Durant will be 37 when his contract expires after ’25/26. Will he still be playing at this level, and will the Suns want to keep him if he’s not?

The Suns knew the risks. But the West is seemingly up for grabs, and they had faltered in their quest to make it back to the Finals.

I can’t say adding Durant made Phoenix the favorite in the West, but he nearly carried the Nets to the Finals with both Irving and James Harden injured a couple years ago. If healthy, this team will be extremely dangerous.

The Nets’ perspective:

The Nets were literally an inch or two away from sending Milwaukee home in Game 7 of their second-round series in 2021, which saw the Bucks prevail in overtime after Durant’s foot was on the three-point line on a potential game-winning buzzer-beater. The Bucks went on to win the championship.

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Haynes’ Latest: Suns, Rose, Curry, Lonzo, Kleber, More

Sources tell Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report that the Knicks will not be picking up Derrick Rose‘s $15.6MM team option for 2023/24. While that news is hardly surprising considering the 34-year-old former MVP is out of New York’s rotation, Haynes has also heard that the Suns would be interested in Rose if he reaches a buyout agreement.

There have been mixed reports regarding Rose potentially going for a buyout with the Knicks. While it still seems “unlikely,” sources tell Haynes not to rule it out entirely.

Haynes’ report came before the Suns filled their last remaining standard roster spot with Ish Wainright, who was promoted from a two-way deal. It’s unclear who the team would consider waiving if Rose became available, as there aren’t any obvious candidates.

Here’s more from Haynes:

  • Warriors star Stephen Curry is set to be reevaluated on Wednesday in his recovery from a left knee injury. Curry was optimistic about the injury but said it was frustrating with so few games remaining and the team in a precarious position. “I can’t give a target date because this isn’t an injury I’ve dealt with before. So, I just have to be careful and patient,” Curry told Haynes. “It’s a frustrating process because unlike the other injuries I’ve been through, this is one where games are running out and we need to climb up the standings fast to make these playoffs. That’s the hard part, but I’m going to do what’s right and try to help my team make this push when I return.”
  • Injured Bulls guard Lonzo Ball is planning to receive a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection to help combat the left knee soreness he’s been dealing with following two knee surgeries last year, sources tell Haynes. Chicago recently ruled Ball out for the season; he last played in January 2022.
  • The Mavericks are optimistic about Maxi Kleber returning from his torn hamstring within the next five games, per Haynes, though Kleber already said he’d be out Sunday versus the Lakers. One of the team’s best defenders, the versatile Kleber last played on December 12, having missed the past 34 games with the injury.
  • Serge Ibaka and Will Barton, a couple of veteran free agents, are “waiting for the right opportunities to present themselves,” Haynes writes. Ibaka was released by Indiana after being traded by Milwaukee, while Barton reached a buyout agreement with Washington.

Heat Notes: Love, D. Robinson, Injuries, Herro

The Heat may be able to attract Kevin Love by offering a starting role, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. News broke late Wednesday night that Love is involved in buyout talks with the Cavaliers, and Miami was mentioned as a possible destination for the 34-year-old big man, who was recently removed from the rotation in Cleveland.

Caleb Martin currently serves as the Heat’s starting power forward, but at 6’5″ it’s not his natural position. Love could bring more size, better rebounding and improved passing to the starting lineup if he can be convinced to sign with Miami. Winderman notes that the addition of Love would also reduce the urgency to give a standard contract to Orlando Robinson, who is nearing the end of his eligibility on his two-way deal.

The Heat have their full $4MM+ bi-annual exception available, as well as $3MM+ on their mid-level exception, which gives them an advantage in the buyout market over teams that are limited to minimum-salary offers. Miami has also been linked to players such as Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley, but Winderman hears that the front office is prioritizing front-line help over a guard, making Love or Serge Ibaka a more likely target (Twitter link).

There’s more from Miami:

  • Duncan Robinson was able to return Wednesday after finger surgery in January sidelined him for the past 20 games, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Robinson, who still feels discomfort in his finger, was originally expected to be sidelined until after the All-Star break, but he played Wednesday because the team has so many other injured players. “That was one of the things that I knew when I elected to do the procedure is that there was going to be pain,” Robinson said. “But it’s significantly less than it was before and it functions better than it did before.”
  • The Heat will welcome the All-Star break to heal up from their injuries, Chiang adds. Tyler Herro, Nikola Jovic, Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo and Omer Yurtseven were all unavailable Wednesday, and Miami ranks second in the league with 235 missed games. All five players are expected back at varying points after the break ends. “The biggest thing for us is we’re glad everybody will get fresh legs,” Martin said. “We’ve been down a lot of guys most of the season, so it will be good to get everybody fresh from the jump.”
  • Herro is considered day-to-day with a left knee contusion, but he’s still expected to participate in the three-point contest at All-Star Weekend, according to Chiang.

Heat Notes: Yurtseven, Lowry, O. Robinson, Ibaka

The Heat’s approach to the buyout market may depend on the prognosis for Omer Yurtseven and Kyle Lowry, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Miami will have two roster openings when Jamaree Bouyea‘s two-way contract expires and will have to fill at least one of them within two weeks of that date.

Yurtseven is recovering after undergoing left ankle surgery in November and is expected to make his season debut shortly after the All-Star break. He appeared in 56 games as a rookie last season and might be entrusted with the backup center minutes. If the Heat are confident in Yurtseven, they may not look to add a free agent big man.

Chiang notes that the team’s level of confidence in Yurtseven could also affect Orlando Robinson, who has been the reserve center for the past month but can only be on the active roster for six more games on his two-way contract. Miami could fill one of its roster spots by converting Robinson to a standard deal, which would make him eligible for the playoffs, but the need to do that is lessened if Yurtseven takes over as the backup center.

Lowry, who’s dealing with soreness in his left knee, is expected to miss the rest of February and maybe more time beyond that, according to Chiang. The Heat are rumored to be a potential suitor for Russell Westbrook if he reaches a buyout with Utah, and Lowry’s health could affect how they proceed.

There’s more on the Heat:

  • There may be mutual interest with Serge Ibaka, who was waived by the Pacers over the weekend, Chiang adds. The 33-year-old only played 16 games for the Bucks before being traded, but he could provide shot blocking and outside shooting, along with a wealth of playoff experience.
  • Chiang points out that Miami can be competitive on the buyout market following last week’s trade of Dewayne Dedmon. The Heat are now almost $5MM under the threshold, allowing them to use their $4.1MM bi-annual exception or the roughly $3.2MM left on their mid-level exception without facing tax penalties.
  • Lowry’s injury may open the door to making him a bench player once he returns, suggests Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Even when healthy, Lowry hasn’t been up to his usual standards this season, averaging just 12.0 PPG while shooting 39.6% from the field and 33.3% from three-point range. Gabe Vincent has been starting at point guard while Lowry is sidelined, and a buyout addition could take over that job for the rest of the season.

Pacers Officially Waive Serge Ibaka

As expected, the Pacers have waived veteran center Serge Ibaka. The team confirmed the transaction in a press release.

Ibaka was traded from Milwaukee to Indiana on deadline day, but he was only included for salary-matching purposes in the four-team trade that sent Jae Crowder to the Bucks (and, of course, Kevin Durant to the Suns). A Thursday report indicated that he would be released by the Pacers.

Ibaka, 33, hasn’t looked the same after having back surgery a couple years ago. This season with the Bucks, he averaged a career-low 11.6 minutes per game in 16 appearances, putting up 4.1 PPG and 2.8 RPG on .481/.333/.615 shooting in his limited role. He and the Bucks agreed last month that he’d remain away from the team as the two sides sought a trade.

Ibaka has a strong NBA track record, having been one of the league’s best shot blockers during his time in Oklahoma City and playing a key part on a championship team in Toronto in 2019. We should get a sense based on how much interest he draws in free agency whether teams still believe he has something left in the tank.

The big man will clear waivers on Monday, assuming he goes unclaimed.

The Pacers are reportedly expected to re-sign James Johnson to fill the roster spot that Ibaka’s release will open.

Buyout Rumors: Green, Westbrook, Bulls, Beverley, Ibaka, Heat, Sixers, Grizzlies

After Rockets general manager Rafael Stone confirmed in a Friday press conference that Houston will simply waive John Wall, with no buyout required, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said during an appearance on NBA Today (YouTube link) that Danny Green would welcome a similar arrangement.

Both Wall and Green were acquired by Houston as salary-matching chips in the team’s Eric Gordon trade on Thursday. It’s unclear if Green would be willing to give up money as part of a buyout agreement.

If Green does become a free agent, teams like the Celtics and Cavaliers would be among those with interest, according to Wojnarowski. Woj also mentions “Los Angeles” as a potential Green suitor, though it’s unclear if he means the Lakers, the Clippers, or both — they each have an open spot on their 15-man roster.

Here’s more on the NBA’s buyout market:

  • Jazz general manager Justin Zanik told reporters on Friday that no decisions have been made yet on Russell Westbrook‘s future and that the veteran guard is open to the idea of playing for Utah to finish the season, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic. Westbrook is considered a strong candidate to be bought out.
  • Wojnarowski said today on NBA Today (YouTube link) that if Westbrook does become available, the Bulls are a team to watch as a potential frontrunner. Head of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said today that the team plans to “look at” the buyout market, per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. The Clippers have also been linked to Westbrook, but Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times says the Clips aren’t expected to be overly active in the buyout market, adding that insiders around the league are skeptical about Westbrook landing with L.A.
  • The Magic and Patrick Beverley are working on a contract buyout, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). The Magic said on Thursday that they weren’t requiring Beverley to report to the team, so that news comes as no surprise.
  • Big man Serge Ibaka, who will be waived by Indiana, has some interest in joining the Heat, but it’s unclear if that interest is mutual, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald.
  • The Sixers and Grizzlies will take decidedly different approaches to the buyout market. Sixers executive Daryl Morey said today that moving under the tax line at the trade deadline sets up the team to potentially pursue “multiple” targets on the buyout market, per Kyle Neuback of Grizzlies head of basketball operations Zach Kleiman, on the other hand, said he doesn’t envision his team looking at the buyout market, per Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Kevin Durant Trade Officially Completed As Four-Team Deal

Kevin Durant has officially been traded from Brooklyn to Phoenix, according to press releases from the Suns and Nets.

The blockbuster trade has been combined with the three-team trade agreement involving the Bucks, Nets, and Pacers that sends Jae Crowder to Milwaukee, turning the two deals into a single four-team transaction.

It breaks down as follows:

  • Suns acquire Durant and T.J. Warren.
  • Nets acquire Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, the Suns’ 2023 first-round pick (unprotected), the Suns’ 2025 first-round pick (unprotected), the Suns’ 2027 first-round pick (unprotected), the Suns’ 2029 first-round pick (unprotected), the right to swap first-round picks with the Suns in 2028, the Bucks’ 2028 second-round pick, the Bucks’ 2029 second-round pick, and the draft rights to Juan Pablo Vaulet (from Pacers).
  • Bucks acquire Crowder.
  • Pacers acquire Jordan Nwora, George Hill, Serge Ibaka, either the Bucks’ 2023 second-round pick or the least favorable of the Cavaliers’ and Warriors’ 2023 second-round picks (whichever is most favorable), the Bucks’ 2024 second-round pick, their own 2025 second-round pick (from Bucks; it was traded away in a prior deal), and cash (from Nets).

“Today is a transformative day for this organization,” new Suns owner Mat Ishbia said in a statement. “We are thrilled to welcome Kevin and T.J. to the Valley as we build a championship culture both on and off the court.

“Not only is Kevin one of the greatest and most accomplished players in the history of the sport, but his character also embodies the world class commitment to excellence we are instilling across every facet of this organization. T.J. is a natural leader whose work ethic and commitment to getting better every day make him an important addition to the team as he returns to the Valley. Phoenix will be one of the best organizations in all of sports and we are so excited to start our journey with this incredibly dynamic team.”

Nets general manager Sean Marks offered a statement of his own in Brooklyn’s press release:

“After thorough evaluation of the best path forward, we believe making this trade now positions the franchise for long-term success. Mikal and Cam are elite, ascending, versatile wings, plus the draft capital provides us additional avenues to continue to acquire talent. We remain steadfast in our commitment to building the team Brooklyn deserves. We are excited to welcome Mikal, Cam and their families to Brooklyn and thank Kevin for the moments and memories he delivered our fanbase.”

As expected, the Pacers waived Goga Bitadze and Terry Taylor to accommodate their new additions. The team also waived veteran forward James Johnson, per a press release. All three players will become unrestricted free agents if they clear waivers this weekend. Indiana will also cut Ibaka, as we previously relayed.

Because they no longer have to take on Crowder’s salary, the Nets will create a trade exception worth $18MM+ for Durant instead of $8MM, notes Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype (Twitter link).

For more details on the trade, be sure to read our previous stories breaking down the Durant and Crowder trades.

Bucks Acquire Jae Crowder In Three-Team Deal

[UPDATE: This trade was folded into the Durant blockbuster and turned into a four-team deal. It’s now official.]

4:24pm: Eric Nehm of The Athletic has the details on the second-round picks the Bucks are trading in the three-team deal. They are as follows:

To the Pacers:

  • Either the Bucks’ own 2023 second-round pick or the least favorable of the Cavaliers’ and Warriors’ 2023 second-round pick.
    • Note: If the season ended today, the Bucks would get the Cavaliers’ second-round pick (which is less favorable than the Warriors’ pick) and then would send the Cavs’ pick to Indiana, since it’s more favorable than Milwaukee’s second-rounder.
  • The Bucks’ own 2024 second-round pick.
  • The Pacers’ 2025 second-round pick (which was traded to Milwaukee in a prior deal).

To the Nets:

  • The Bucks’ 2028 second-round pick.
  • The Bucks’ 2029 second-round pick.

As we relayed in a separate story, Terry Taylor is also being waived by the Pacers to help accommodate the incoming players.

11:05am: Veteran forward Jae Crowder is being traded to the Bucks, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link), who reports that the Nets have agreed to a trade that will send Crowder to Milwaukee, with the Bucks giving up a total of five second-round picks.

Sources tell Charania (via Twitter) that it will be a three-team trade, with Bucks forward Jordan Nwora and two second-round picks (via the Bucks) heading to the Pacers. Indiana is waiving reserve center Goga Bitadze to make room for Nwora, Charania adds (Twitter link).

In addition, the Pacers will receive guard George Hill, an Indianapolis native who had a previous five-year stint with Indiana, and a third second-round pick, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter). Center Serge Ibaka will also be heading to the Pacers, per Charania (Twitter link). Both players were previously on the Bucks.

Here’s the deal as we know it so far, with bits and pieces coming in over time:

  • Bucks receive Crowder ($10.18MM)
  • Nets receive two second-round picks via Milwaukee (not confirmed), save a ton of money toward the luxury tax
  • Pacers receive Nwora ($3MM), Hill ($4MM), Ibaka ($2.9MM salary, $1.8MM cap hit) and three second-rounders (not confirmed) via Milwaukee; will waive Bitadze.

The Pacers are one of only two NBA teams with cap space available — the Spurs are the other — so they can take on money without having to worry about matching salaries. As the deal stands, Indiana will have to waive two more players and its cap space is down to $1.9MM, tweets Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype. Only Nwora is under contract beyond this season — Hill and Ibaka are on expiring deals.

Crowder, 32, has sat out the entire 2022/23 season while awaiting a trade. He was sent to the Nets as part of the blockbuster trade that will send Kevin Durant to Phoenix, and now will be rerouted to Milwaukee.

The Bucks had been linked to Crowder for months in trade rumors — they were recently granted permission to speak with him, and now they are finally acquiring him.

In 67 games (28.1 MPG) with Phoenix in ’21/22, Crowder averaged 9.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.9 APG and 1.4 SPG on .399/.348/.789 shooting. He makes $10.18MM in the final year of his contract.

According to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM (Twitter link), Suns head coach Monty Williams spoke to Crowder over the summer to inform him that Cameron Johnson (who was also sent to the Nets in the Durant deal) would be the starting power forward in ’22/23.

Crowder responded by saying he would prefer a contract extension or a trade. Evidently Williams found the 3-and-D specialist “too difficult to manage” and preferred to have him away from the team, per Gambadoro.

Bitadze is earning $4.77MM in the final season of his rookie scale contract. The former 18th overall pick has only appeared in 21 games for an average of 9.6 minutes per contest this season. He will become an unrestricted free agent if he clears waivers.

Nwora, meanwhile, was the 45th overall pick of the 2020 draft. He re-signed with the Bucks on a two-year, $6.2MM contract in the offseason, but hasn’t played much, appearing in 38 games with averages of 6.0 PPG and 3.1 RPG in 15.7 MPG.

The 24-year-old has some offensive upside — he has converted 37.6% of his career three-pointers, including 39.2% this season. However, he’s a subpar defender and obviously wasn’t in the Bucks’ long-term plans. The Pacers will be taking a flyer on him in addition to adding a trio of second-rounders.

Ibaka seems likely to be bought out or waived by the Pacers and headed elsewhere as a free agent. Hill is less certain — as previously mentioned, he likely he has fans in the organization due to his previous run with the team.

Pacers To Waive Serge Ibaka, Terry Taylor

The Pacers will waive veteran big man Serge Ibaka, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (Twitter link) first reported that Indiana was expected to cut Ibaka.

Indiana is also expected to waive second-year forward Terry Taylor, per Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter).

The Pacers are acquiring Ibaka as part of the three-team deal that is sending Jae Crowder to the Bucks, but he will never officially suit up for Indiana. Assuming he clears waivers, Ibaka might find some suitors amongst the contenders, though he was just on one of the best teams in the league and struggled to receive playing time.

The 33-year-old unfortunately hasn’t looked the same after having back surgery a couple years ago. He appeared in 16 games for the Bucks this season, averaging 4.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in 11.6 minutes per contest.

After going undrafted out of Austin Peay in 2021, Taylor had a solid rookie season once he cracked Indiana’s rotation, averaging 9.2 points and 5.2 boards while shooting 61.4% from the field in 33 games (21.6 minutes). However, he hasn’t played much in year two, averaging just 8.8 minutes per night across 26 games in 2022/23.

Taylor’s deal for next season is non-guaranteed, so waiving him will only affect this season’s cap.

If our math is correct, the Pacers will still need to waive one more player as part of the trade with the Bucks — they’re adding three players, but had a full 15-man roster, and only two from the pre-trade roster (Taylor and Goga Bitadze) will reportedly be released. The team has to open up a spot for all three incoming players even though Ibaka will be waived.

And-Ones: Payton, Williams, Rising Stars, Taxpayers

Former NBA guard Elfrid Payton has signed with Puerto Rican club Osos de Manatí, per Dario Skerlectic of Sportando.

Evidently Payton decided against going the G League route and instead went with a (presumably) bigger payday. The 28-year-old spent last season with the Suns as the team’s third string point guard. He was a lottery pick back in 2014, selected 10th overall by the Magic.

Across 500 regular-season games (395 starts, 26.8 MPG) with Orlando, New Orleans, New York and Phoenix, he holds career averages of 10.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.2 steals.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA big man Alan Williams has signed a two-year extension to remain with the NBL’s South East Melbourne Phoenix, the Australian team announced in a press release. Williams started his career in China after going undrafted in 2015, spent time with the Suns from 2016-18, then played for the Nets in 2018/19. After that, he made a brief return to China and played three seasons in Russia. The 30-year-old played 67 games during his time in the NBA, averaging 6.2 PPG and 5.5 RPG in 13.0 minutes per contest.
  • Deron Williams, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol drafted their respective teams for the Rising Stars event at All-Star weekend, per the NBA. You can find the full results right here (Twitter link).
  • There are currently 10 teams — the Celtics, Nets, Mavericks, Nuggets, Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Bucks, Sixers and Suns — the above the luxury tax threshold, and John Hollinger of The Athletic believes several of them could make minor cost-cutting moves ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. The Sixers are an obvious candidate, as they’re just $1.17MM over the line. Hollinger also points out that the Bucks and Lakers could save a significant amount of money if they were to deal away some of their little-used veterans (he points to Serge Ibaka and Damian Jones as players who could be moved).