Tobias Harris

Latest On Jimmy Butler Trade Saga

It has now been 19 days since word of Jimmy Butler‘s trade request was leaked, and despite pressure from Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau, Butler has “never wavered” on his desire to be moved, sources tell Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. According to Krawczynski, Butler has dined with teammates and sent text messages of encouragement to players like Taj Gibson and Josh Okogie, but remains determined to leave Minnesota, preferably before the season begins.

If the Timberwolves are unable to complete a deal soon, Butler may “begrudgingly” report to the team in advance of the regular season, says Krawczynski. Despite not reporting to Minnesota so far, Butler isn’t expected to forfeit pay checks once the season begins, even if his return would create an awkward situation for him and his teammates.

Here’s more on the Butler saga:

  • While trade talks between the Timberwolves and the Heat – and other teams – have hit a stand still at various times in recent weeks, those discussions are still ongoing, says Krawczynski. While some potential trade partners can perhaps afford to wait and see if they can sign Butler during 2019’s free agent period, clubs like the Heat and Rockets are under more pressure to pull off a trade, since they won’t have cap room next summer.
  • The Heat now appear willing to include Josh Richardson in a potential deal for Butler, but the Clippers haven’t relented on Tobias Harris, according to Krawczynski. A report last week indicated that the Clips didn’t plan to trade Harris, and nothing has changed on that front — L.A. hasn’t put its veteran forward in any offers for Butler, per The Athletic. There are “no active talks” between the Timberwolves and Clippers, Krawczynski adds.
  • The Timberwolves have “quietly pushed back” on the idea that they deserve the blame for a deal not being completed yet, writes Krawczynski. The Wolves insist they don’t feel obligated to accept a below-market offer for Butler just because the regular season is approaching.
  • Within his Sunday report on the talks between the Heat and Timberwolves, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski suggested that the Heat’s apparent willingness to pay Butler a five-year deal at or near the maximum salary has contributed to the swingman’s enthusiasm for a trade to Miami.
  • The Heat had been looking to involve a third team in the Butler talks to take on an unwanted contract – perhaps Dion Waiters‘ deal – but incentivizing that third team with draft picks became one of the road blocks to getting something done, league sources told Wojnarowski.

Wolves, Clippers Continue To Discuss Jimmy Butler

While the Heat have long looked like the favorites in the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes, Miami isn’t the only team talking to the Timberwolves. According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the Wolves and Clippers have had ongoing discussions about a Butler trade.

[RELATED: Wolves tell teams to improve offers for Butler]

The Timberwolves have asked for multiple players and picks in conversations with the Clippers, and would prefer to land Tobias Harris in any Butler deal, sources tell Haynes. Minnesota’s asking price has thus far been deemed too high for the Clippers, who don’t plan to trade Harris, Haynes adds.

Some details in Haynes’ report echo what we’ve heard in previous stories about the Timberwolves’ trade discussions — the Yahoo Sports scribe suggests that the Wolves’ front office “hasn’t fully engaged” the Clippers’ pitches. Other reports on Butler have conveyed similar sentiments on Minnesota’s apparent unwillingness to actively engage potential trade partners.

As Haynes writes, there’s a belief that Tom Thibodeau is still holding out hope that he can convince Butler to report to the team and rescind his trade request, despite Thibodeau’s public insistence that the Wolves are working on making a deal. Minnesota’s head coach and president of basketball operations told reporters today that trade talks are “ongoing,” as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press relays.

The Clippers were initially named as one of the teams on Butler’s short list of preferred destinations. The team will clear a significant amount of salary from its books at the end of the 2018/19 season, and could have room for a second maximum-salary free agent even it acquires Butler.

In other Butler news, Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link) hears from a league source that the Bucks haven’t had any “substantive” talks with Minnesota about Butler. No players were put on the table and there’s no ongoing dialogue between the two sides at the moment, Velazquez adds. Milwaukee had been named as a potential dark horse Butler suitor early in the process.

Western Rumors: George, Schroder, Butler, Harris

Paul George made up his mind to stay with the Thunder weeks before free agency, which is why he didn’t bother meeting with the Lakers, Marc Spears of ESPN relays. George, speaking after a Team USA practice on Thursday, acknowledged Oklahoma City took a gamble by trading for him last offseason after he previously made it known he wanted to play in L.A. That gamble paid off, even though it was “tempting” to meet with the Lakers, according to George.

“Honestly, I wanted to come back home. But again, I got traded to [the Thunder],” he said. “Loved the situation. Loved where I was at. I decided to stick around a little longer. … I just wanted my free agency to be over with.”

George inked a four-year, $137MM deal to stay put.

In other developments around the Western Conference:

  • George is thrilled with the acquisition of Dennis Schroder from the Hawks, as Erik Horne of The Oklahoman passes along. Schroder was biggest piece OKC acquired from Atlanta in the Carmelo Anthony swap. “He’s not going to start, but hands down the best backup point guard in the league,” George said. “He’s that mid-tier star in our league, one of the best point guards in the league in general. … We’ve got another scorer, another playmaker and just another savvy guy in the locker room that can help us win ball games.”
  • Timberwolves shooting guard Jimmy Butler underwent a minor elective procedure on his right hand, the team’s PR department tweets. Butler has already returned to offseason activities.
  • Clippers forward Tobias Harris appreciated the team’s $80MM extension offer but ultimately decided he’d take his chances as an unrestricted free agent next summer, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reports. “I think that as a player you never know, but just to get that offer was an amazing feeling,” Harris told Turner. “For me, I’m a kid who puts everything into the game and to have an organization come to me with that offer and to be able to present that was a really big accomplishment. It showed that the team valued me as a player.”
  • Warriors forward Draymond Green isn’t participating in the USA Basketball minicamp, Spears tweets. He joins many other stars, including LeBron James and Stephen Curry, who decided to skip it.

Tobias Harris Declines Clippers’ Extension Offer

After ongoing amicable discussions between player and team, Clippers forward Tobias Harris has reportedly decided to turn down a contract extension offer worth approximately $80MM and play out the final season of his current deal in Los Angeles, according to David Aldridge of TNT.

Because the maximum amount the Clippers could have offered in the first season of an extension is only 120% of Harris’ 2018/19 salary, which equates to $17.76MM, and raises are limited to 8%, the maximum value of the extension offer was $79.56MM. Based upon the $80MM figure reported by Aldridge, it therefore appears as though the Clippers offered Harris the most money they possibly could under NBA rules.

Nevertheless, Harris, 26, will now play out the final year of his current deal and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He will be eligible to sign a five-year, $189.7MM with the Clippers or a four-year, $140.6MM deal with another franchise, whereas as explained above, he could have only earned $94.4MM over the next five years if he had excepted the extension offer.

Still, it’s still a bit surprising to see Harris turn down such a lucrative offer when next year’s free agent crop is turning heads already and big deals like we saw in the summer of 2016 just aren’t coming around as often. Only time will tell whether Harris made the right call.

Mavs Optimistic About Signing DeMarcus Cousins

The Mavericks believe they have a strong chance of signing DeMarcus Cousins in free agency, according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic. Cousins, coming off a season-ending Achilles tendon injury, will be an unrestricted free agent next month. While the Mavericks’ interest in Cousins has previously been reported, Scotto’s story suggests the Mavericks are ready to make him a hefty offer to lure him away from the Pelicans. If the Mavs pass on Texas big man Mohamed Bamba with the No. 5 pick, that would reinforce the notion they’ll go all in to secure the services of either Cousins or the Rockets’ restricted free agent center, Clint Capela.

Scotto also has several other notable items to pass along:

  • The Sixers discussed the possibility of packaging the No. 10 and 26 picks, along with last year’s top pick Markelle Fultz, to move into the top five of the draft with Michael Porter Jr. as their target. However, lingering concerns over Porter’s back have cooled their interest in making that move.
  • Tobias Harris expiring contract is part of the package the Clippers are dangling to move up in the lottery. They have back-to-back picks at Nos. 12 and 13.
  • The Hawks are trying to make a deal with the Clippers or Nuggets (No. 14) in order to nab Miami (Fla.) guard Lonnie Walker IV. They are looking to package their picks at Nos. 19 and 30.
  • The Nets are dangling point guard Spencer Dinwiddie and the No. 29 pick in order to move into the middle of the first round.
  • The Rockets have received calls on guard Eric Gordon and could move him in order to get a mid-first-rounder.

Kawhi Leonard Rumors: Clippers, Lakers, Celtics

The first major story of the NBA offseason broke on Friday, when multiple reports indicated that Kawhi Leonard wanted out of San Antonio. While the Spurs will take a patient, measured approach to the situation and won’t rush Leonard out the door, there was certainly no shortage of trade rumors surrounding the star forward over the weekend.

We’ve got a few more Kawhi-related items to round up this morning, so let’s dive right in…

  • Both the Lakers and Clippers have some concerns about the severity of Leonard’s quad injury, writes Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. While no player on the Lakers’ roster is untouchable, the team’s willingness to part with major pieces for Leonard would depend on how confident the front office is in his health.
  • Assuming the Clippers are comfortable with Leonard’s health, they’d be willing to create a package headlined by Tobias Harris and the 12th or 13th pick in this year’s draft, a source tells Ganguli.
  • Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks of ESPN.com take a closer look at what the Celtics could offer for Leonard, exploring whether higher-priced veteran stars like Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward could be trade chips or whether Boston could put together a package using a handful of less expensive players.
  • Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com examines the impact that the Leonard situation could have on LeBron James‘ decision this summer.
  • The Leonard saga represents the “end of the innocence” for Spurs fans, Mike Finger explains in a column for The San Antonio Express-News.

Nets, Clippers, Sixers Exploring Draft Trades?

The Nets, who currently hold the 29th, 40th, and 45th overall picks in the 2018 NBA draft, would like to move up into the teens if possible, league sources tell Michael Scotto of The Athletic.

Scotto identifies the Nuggets (No. 14), Wizards (No. 15), and Bucks (No. 17) as three teams picking in the middle of the first round who are currently in win-now mode, making them potential trade partners for Brooklyn. The Nets could dangle modestly-priced point guard Spencer Dinwiddie in trade talks, according to Scotto, who notes that veteran forward DeMarre Carroll may appeal to some teams too. Carroll played for new Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta.

Scotto suggests that the Nets would rather not compromise their 2019 cap flexibility, so if they take on any salary in a trade, they’d prefer expiring contracts. That could make them a match with the Denver or Washington — both teams will probably be looking to shed some salary this offseason and are carrying pricey veterans entering contract years.

According to Scotto, the Nets aren’t the only team mulling the possibility of a move up. As Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports reported earlier this week, the Clippers have weighed trading up in the lottery too.

Per Scotto, the Clips have made calls to multiple teams in the top 10 to inquire on how much it would cost to make a deal. In addition to holding the 12th and 13th overall picks, Los Angeles has some veterans entering contract years. Tobias Harris would be a particularly appealing trade chip if the team is willing to move him.

The Sixers are one more team to keep an eye on when it comes to draft-related trades, Scotto observes, pointing out that Philadelphia currently owns two first-round picks and four second-rounders. The club figures to move at least one or two of those selections, and may target draft-and-stash prospects with some others, says Scotto.

Pacific Notes: Jordan, LeBron, Harris, Cauley-Stein

The lack of teams with ample salary-cap space this summer will present a tough choice for Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, as Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer explains. Jordan has a player option of $24.1MM this summer and multiple league executives told O’Connor he probably wouldn’t receive an annual salary approaching that on the open market. Some of the teams that will have cap room, such as the Nets, Hawks and Sixers, aren’t looking to add a veteran center at a high salary, O’Connor continues. It’s plausible that Jordan will opt in and take his chances on the open market in 2019, O’Connor adds.

Also around the Pacific Division:

  • The lack of elite, established players on their current rosters will make it tough sell for the Lakers and Clippers to land LeBron James this summer, Marc Spears of The Undefeated opines. The Lakers could sign two major free agents this summer, but the Clippers don’t have that much cap room, Spears notes. The Clippers may have hurt their cause to sign a top free agent by trading away Blake Griffin in the first year of his long-term contract, Spears adds.
  • Forward Tobias Harris has been traded three times during his career and he’s taken the latest one in stride, as he told Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders. Harris was the top player acquired by the Clippers in the Griffin blockbuster. “My first trade from Milwaukee to Orlando was a situation where I just wanted to prove myself to the league,” Harris said. “When I was traded from Orlando to Detroit, it was a situation where I wanted to help the team get to the playoffs, and that’s similar to this one here, too.” 
  • Willie Cauley-Stein establishing his market value is among the storylines surrounding the Kings the remainder of the season, according to James Ham of NBCSports.com. Cauley-Stein has to emerge as the defensive stopper he was in college and improve his rebounding to earn an extension this offseason, Ham continues. The development of the De’Aaron FoxBogdan Bogdanovic backcourt and the need for Buddy Hield to become a playmaker are some of the other things to watch, Ham adds.

Clippers Notes: Jordan, Bradley, Rivers, Harris

The Trail Blazers contacted the Clippers about DeAndre Jordan but never made a formal offer, according to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. His story corroborates a recent report from Marc Stein of The New York Times that the Blazers are among the teams with interest in the 29-year-old center.

L.A. is hoping to get a first-round pick, financial flexibility and young talent in any deal for Jordan, league sources tell Turner. That would be a package similar to what they received when they sent Blake Griffin to Detroit earlier this week. The same sources say teams are reluctant to trade for Jordan without assurances that he won’t opt out of his $24.1MM salary for next season and that he is willing to sign a long-term extension.

Jordan, who is averaging 11.8 points and 14.9 rebounds, would bring a huge defensive presence to Portland. Finding an acceptable match for his $22.6MM deal wouldn’t be easy for the Blazers, whose roster is filled with expensive, long-term contracts, though they do own all of their future first-rounders.

Clippers Trade Blake Griffin To Pistons

11:46pm: The trade is now official, according to a press release issued by the Pistons.Blake Griffin vertical

“We are serious about winning, and this is a major move to improve our team,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said in a statement.Blake Griffin is one of the NBA’s elite players, and when you get an opportunity to add that kind of talent, you take it. … He is a great fit for our team and will bring a combination of toughness and athleticism that will elevate our team and excite our fans.”

5:20pm: The Clippers have agreed to trade star power forward Blake Griffin to the Pistons in a multi-player deal, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Detroit will ship forward Tobias Harris, shooting guard Avery Bradley, center Boban Marjanovic, a first-round pick and a second-round draft pick to the Clippers, Wojnarowski adds, citing league sources.

Forward Brice Johnson and center Willie Reed are also heading to Detroit, Wojnarowski adds in another tweet.

Detroit’s 2018 first-round pick is protected if it’s a top-four selection, according to Wojnarowski; It has the same protection for the next two drafts, then goes unprotected in 2021. The second-round pick in the trade will come in the 2019 draft (Twitter link).

The Pistons, long rumored to be active on the trade market, have been trying to shake up their team while nosediving down the Eastern Conference standings. They have lost eight in a row and now sit in the ninth spot in the East. Wojnarowski had reported just hours ago that Detroit was shopping Bradley and his expiring contract.

Griffin re-signed with the Clippers on a five-year max deal over the summer, so the Pistons are taking on an enormous salary commitment in order to pair him with current franchise player Andre Drummond. Griffin is making $29.5MM this season and he’ll be due another $141.6MM over the next four years, though the final year of the contract includes a player option.

The longtime Clipper will also receive a $860K trade bonus spread over the next four seasons, salary-cap expert Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. The Griffin trade bonus is not voided because his current salary is slightly below the max, Marks adds.

The Clippers are in the playoff hunt at 25-24, so dealing Griffin certainly signals a change in the franchise’s long-term direction. It’s possible that this will be the first of multiple moves for the Clippers, since players like DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams have also been considered potential trade candidates.

Aside from Drummond, who is making approximately $23.8MM this season, Harris and Reggie Jackson are Detroit’s highest-paid players at $16MM this season. Bradley is making $8.8MM and Marjanovic is pulling in $7MM this season. Johnson is earning approximately $1.3MM and Reed has a $1MM contract this season.

Both teams are hard-capped and near the luxury-tax line, as Marks notes in a tweet, so it was crucial that each team sent and received about the same amount of money.

The Clippers will get cap relief in the long run as the contracts of Harris and Marjanovic expire after the 2018/19 season. Once this deal is finalized, Danilo Gallinari‘s contract will represent the only guaranteed money on L.A.’s cap beyond 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.