Zach LaVine

Central Notes: Cavaliers, Jackson, LaVine

Following last week’s completed blockbuster trade, the Cavaliers‘ roster — on paper at least — appears to be set for training camp. The only pressing issue is the health of point guard Isaiah Thomas, who is currently dealing with a hip injury that will likely force him to miss the start of the season. If Cleveland’s current roster struggles and Thomas misses significant time, the team could shop the Nets’ 2018 first round pick (acquired in last week’s trade) in search for a starting point guard, Buddy Grizzard of Basketball Insiders writes.

We examined the importance of the Cavaliers’ signing of Derrick Rose in a Community Shootaround last week. The former Most Valuable Player is a diminished player but showed he can still score with authority if healthy. However, Rose is under contract for the veteran’s minimum and not a long term piece. One player Cleveland could target with their draft pick is Suns’ point guard Eric Bledsoe.

“If Rose is not seen as the answer and too many questions surround Thomas,” Grizzard writes. “Bledsoe could be the solution. He’ll have one season remaining on his contract after this season, which could at least entice James to stay on for another two-year contract with a second-year player option.”

Check out other news tidbits from around the Central Division:

  • Reggie Jackson has not returned to basketball activities yet but Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy hopes he will be ready soon, per Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links).
  • Two-time dunk contest winner and new Bulls guard Zach LaVine is a “wild card” on the sneaker market, ESPN’s Nick DePaula writes. LaVine’s rookie deal with Nike expires at the end of September and DePaula notes that moving from the third option in Minnesota to main option in Chicago is a chance for LaVine to cash in on his new deal.
  • The Pelicans will send $2.5MM to the Bulls as part of the deal that sent Quincy Pondexter to the Windy City last week, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link).

Central Notes: Monroe, Terry, LaVine, Bradley, Mirotic

Greg Monroe‘s name has been prevalent in trade rumors the last 12 months and not much has changed. The former seventh overall pick from the 2010 NBA Draft is still a productive asset but his lack of rim protection partnered with his sizeable salary ($17.8MM next season) make him an expendable player for the Bucks.

Before the Bucks faced the Jazz for Summer League action in Las Vegas Friday, Monroe told reporters, including Gery Woelfel of Woelfel’s Press Box, that he’s thrilled to be in Milwaukee and doesn’t want to go elsewhere.

“I’m happy,” Monroe, 27, said.“I had no reason to leave. I want to build on what we started last year. I’d like to stay but that’s up to them.”

Coming off the bench last season, Monroe averaged 11.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and shot 53% from the floor in 22.5 minutes per game. However, Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s new extension kicks in and Tony Snell (four years, $46MM) will take up a big chunk of the Bucks’ payroll so shedding Monroe’s salary remains an enticing proposition.

Here are additional notes around the Central Division:

  • Free agent Jason Terry is drawing interest around the league, Woelfel notes in the same article. The 39-year-old was a solid veteran presence for the Bucks last season but his return to Milwaukee is not certain. Woelfel adds that a Western Conference squad is weighing an offer to the former NBA champion.
  • After trading Marcus Morris to acquire Avery Bradley from the Celtics, the Pistons have high expectations from their new acquisition, Rod Beard of The Detroit News writes. Coach Stan Van Gundy expressed his excitement with Bradley joining the team while the Celtics’ second leading scorer last season is ready to maximize his skills under Van Gundy’s tutelage and alongside players like Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond.
  • Nikola Mirotic wants to remain with the Bulls and the feeling is mutual, Joe Cowley of he Chicago Sun-Times writes. While Chicago has undergone several changes — most notably trading away Jimmy Butler — the restricted free agent and the team are just waiting it out before likely agreeing to a deal. Mirotic also discusses Butler’s exit and his plans for the future.
  • One of the Bulls’ newest acquisitions, Zach LaVine, is expected to be ready for training camp as he rehabs from knee surgery, ESPN’s Marc J. Spears tweets.

Bulls Notes: Wade, Rondo, LaVine, Butler

Now that Dwyane Wade has opted into the final year of his contract with the Bulls, the team doesn’t appear to have much interest in buying him out, as Nick Friedell of ESPN.com writes, Executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson told reporters today that the Bulls and Wade’s camp haven’t discussed a buyout for the veteran guard, and for the club to consider such a move, it would “have to be advantageous for us.” In other words, Wade would likely have to give back a significant chunk of his $23.8MM salary for the 2017/18 season if he wants out of Chicago.

Here are a few more Bulls-related notes:

  • At season’s end, the Bulls sounded committed to bringing back Rajon Rondo, whose contract for 2017/18 is mostly non-guaranteed. However, the team sounds less certain now, and Paxson said that decision is still being weighed. “We’re going to sit down with [Rondo’s agent] Bill [Duffy] and talk through [things],” Paxson said today, per Friedell. “We do understand that veterans are important for a young basketball team. The right veterans. The guys that are good teammates, are supportive of the young guys, and continue to teach them how to be pros. Those are things we’ll be addressing.”
  • While it’s possible the Bulls will cut Rondo and try to re-sign him at a lower number than his current $13MM+ salary, that looks like a long shot, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune.
  • Zach LaVine, who was introduced as a Bull today, is optimistic about his rehab process, but doesn’t want to put an exact timetable on his return to the court, writes Friedell. “I’m going to be safe,” LaVine said. “The main thing is always being safe. And I always have to take care of myself and this franchise as well, so I’m going to be safe. I’m going to do everything I can physically to get back, and then when I’m at that point, I’m going to be ready.”
  • Shortly after he was traded to the Timberwolves, Jimmy Butler spoke to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Although Butler said he wasn’t mad at the Bulls, he admitted he didn’t exactly love the way the franchise handled the process. I guess being called the face of an organization isn’t as good as I thought,” Butler added. “We all see where being the so-called face of the Chicago Bulls got me.”

Bulls Trade Jimmy Butler To Timberwolves

JUNE 22, 8:58pm: The trade is now official, with commissioner Adam Silver announcing it during the TV broadcast of tonight’s draft. The Wolves used the No. 16 pick on Creighton’s Justin Patton to complete the deal.

6:44pm: The Timberwolves are set to acquire Bulls forward Jimmy Butler, with K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune tweeting that the two sides have reached an agreement in principle on a Butler deal.Jimmy Butler vertical

According to Johnson (via Twitter), the Bulls will receive Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the No. 7 overall pick. The Wolves will also receive the No. 16 selection from Chicago. Marc Stein of ESPN.com (via Twitter) first reported that a deal was close.

The deal reunites Butler with Tom Thibodeau, his former coach in Chicago, who now serves as coach and president of basketball operations in Minnesota. Butler has been an All-Star the past three seasons and averaged 23.9 points and 6.2 rebounds with the Bulls this year.

The Timberwolves are taking on much more salary in the deal than they are unloading. They had about $24MM in available cap room after waiving Nikola Pekovic on Tuesday and receiving cap relief for his remaining salary.

Butler has three seasons left on the $95MM deal he signed with the Bulls in 2015. He is due to make nearly $18.7MM next year and more than $19.8MM in both 2018/19 and 2019/20. He also has a 5% trade bonus in his contract, tweets Bobby Marks of The Vertical, giving him an extra $1.8MM over the next three seasons.

In return, the Bulls will receive LaVine, a promising 22-year-old combo guard whose season ended in early February when he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee; and Dunn, the fifth overall pick last year. Both players are on rookie contracts and were discussed when the two teams talked about a Butler trade a year ago. Chicago will also land Lauri Markkanen, the seventh overall pick.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bulls Notes: Rebuild, Rondo, Mirotic, Wade

Bulls executives Gar Forman and John Paxson spoke to reporters late on Thursday night in the wake of the blockbuster trade that sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and signaled a full-scale rebuild in Chicago. As Nick Friedell of ESPN.com tweets, Paxson explicitly used the R-word (“rebuild”) in his comments.

As a result of the its new direction, the club will remain “patient and disciplined” this offseason, according to Paxson, who says the Bulls won’t be investing big money in players unless there’s a long-term fit (Twitter link via Friedell).

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Forman said tonight that it’s not yet clear whether the Bulls will pick up Rajon Rondo‘s option (Twitter link via Friedell). According to Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter link), there has been no discussion yet of a buyout for Rondo, but it’s “clearly a possibility” after the Butler trade. Rondo’s contract has a built-in buyout, since it’s only guaranteed for $3MM right now, so the Bulls would have to waive him by June 30 to avoid being on the hook for another $10MM+.
  • Despite using the seventh overall pick on Lauri Markkanen, a stretch four, the Bulls intend to re-sign Nikola Mirotic as a restricted free agent, Paxson said (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune).
  • Although he won’t be thrilled to see Butler depart, Dwyane Wade is still picking up his player option for 2017/18, as Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com tweets. Paxson suggested on Thursday night that if Wade had serious concerns about the team’s direction, he might not have exercised that option (Twitter link via Sam Smith of Bulls.com).
  • The Bulls believe newly-acquired Zach LaVine is ahead of schedule in his rehab from an ACL tear, but don’t yet know when he’ll get back on the court, tweets Friedell.
  • How did Butler react to Thursday’s deal? “He’s great,” a source close to the forward tells Goodwill (Twitter link). “He’s with Thibs now.” Butler’s agent, Bernard Lee, confirmed that his client “has definitely embraced the opportunity to look forward” (Twitter link via Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press).

Celtics’ Paul George Talks Stalled After Gaining Momentum

8:07pm: Discussions between the Pacers and Celtics on George have stalled for now, according to Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

7:06pm: The Pacers and Celtics are engaged in “serious” discussions about a potential Paul George trade, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (Twitter link). While the sides remain apart on a potential deal, talks have gained momentum, per Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

The Celtics used their third overall pick tonight to select Jayson Tatum. If the Pacers and C’s can come to an agreement on a George deal, it’s not clear whether or not Tatum will be involved in the swap.

George is one of the top trade candidates available now that Jimmy Butler is now off the board, with the Bulls having reached an agreement to send him to the Timberwolves. Before finalizing that deal, the Pacers and Wolves discussed a deal involving George, tweets Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500 in Minneapolis. The Pacers asked for Zach LaVine and more in return, which Minnesota refused, opting for Butler instead.

The Rockets also haven’t given up their pursuit of George, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com. I’d expect the Lakers to check back in as well if a deal appears close.

Arthur Hill contributed to this post.

Timberwolves Remain In Mix For Jimmy Butler

The Timberwolves and Bulls have been engaged throughout the day on a potential Jimmy Butler trade, Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania reported on The Vertical’s live show tonight. According to Wojnarowski, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn are among the players that have been discussed in those talks, along with draft picks.

While any executives around the league believe the most likely scenario involves Butler staying in Chicago, those execs believe that if the All-NBA forward goes anywhere tonight, it will be Minnesota, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News (Twitter link).

Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders passes along an interesting note on the Timberwolves, tweeting that the NBA has confirmed Nikola Pekovic‘s 2016/17 salary is no longer on the club’s cap. That means that Minnesota has about $24MM in cap room tonight, which could be very convenient when it comes to getting a trade done — the team wouldn’t necessarily have to match salaries for incoming players.

The Celtics, Suns, Nuggets, and Cavaliers have also been linked to Butler this week, though Boston isn’t currently believed to be in the mix.

Injuries Will Complicate Key Rookie-Scale Extensions

Players who are currently in the third year of their rookie-scale contracts will become eligible for contract extensions beginning on July 1, and will have until the start of the regular season to work out new deals with their respective clubs. For the most part, that group is made up of first-round picks from the 2014 draft, which means that plenty of promising young players will be up for extensions this offseason.

Former No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins will be a top extension candidate for the Timberwolves, and other top-10 picks from 2014 – like Aaron Gordon (Magic), Marcus Smart (Celtics), and Julius Randle (Lakers) – figure to discuss new deals with their teams. Several players selected later in the first round, such as Gary Harris (Nuggets), Rodney Hood (Jazz), Clint Capela (Rockets), Jusuf Nurkic (Trail Blazers), and T.J. Warren (Suns) will also be viable candidates for extensions.

However, it would be hard to make a list of 2017’s top rookie-scale extension candidates that doesn’t include three players currently on the shelf due to injuries: Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, and Zach LaVine.

Joel Embiid (Sixers)Joel Embiid vertical

Embiid may be involved in the Rookie of the Year conversation for 2016/17, but he’s technically a third-year player, meaning the Sixers will be faced with a major decision on his future sooner than they’d like. Embiid, who won’t play again this season due to a knee injury, has only played in 31 games in his first three NBA seasons, a disconcertingly small sample size for the Sixers as they weigh a possible extension.

As impressive as Embiid looked during those 31 games this season, it’s hard to imagine Philadelphia making a long-term commitment to him in 2017 unless the team can get something done at a significant discount. Like the rest of his fellow rookie-scale extension candidates, Embiid would be eligible for restricted free agency in 2018 if he’s not locked up this year, at which point the Sixers would be able to match any offer sheet he gets.

If Embiid stays healthy – or at least healthier – in 2017/18, it would be an easier decision for the Sixers to go up to the max for him in the summer of ’18. If not, then perhaps other suitors will shy away from making aggressive offers in restricted free agency as well, reducing the cost for Philadelphia. Either way, it probably makes sense for the Sixers to take another year to gather more information on Embiid — if he proves worthy of a maximum-salary investment by that point, they’d certainly be happy to do it.

Jabari Parker (Bucks)

Unlike Embiid, who is expected to be ready to go to start the 2017/18 campaign, Parker is expected to miss a full year after tearing his ACL, meaning he may not get back on the court for the Bucks until about halfway through next season. Clearly, that’s problematic for Milwaukee — the club will likely have to make a decision on an extension for Parker when he’s still a few months away from playing.

Before going down last month, Parker was enjoying a breakout season, averaging career highs in nearly every key category, including PPG (20.1), RPG (6.1), APG (2.8), and 3PT% (.365). He likely would have been on track for an extension worth at least as much as Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s (four years, $100MM) if he had stayed healthy. But it remains to be seen if the Bucks will be willing to make a long-term commitment to Parker while he continues to rehab a second ACL tear.

If Parker is seeking financial security, and the Bucks are confident in his ability to make a full recovery, it could be a good opportunity for the team to roll the dice — something in the four-year, $70-75MM range might make sense for both sides. For Parker, it’s a huge payday that ensures he’ll be set for life no matter how his knees hold up going forward. For the Bucks, it would be Luol Deng money for a player who has the potential to develop into an All-Star. It would be a leap of faith, but with the salary cap set to exceed $100MM, such a contract wouldn’t necessarily be a huge albatross if Parker’s health prevents him from taking the next step.

Zach LaVine (Timberwolves)Zach LaVine vertical

LaVine tore his ACL just a few days before Parker did, though the Timberwolves didn’t announce a timeline for his recovery, so it’s not clear if he’ll remain off the court until 2018 as well. Unlike Parker, LaVine had been relatively healthy during his first two years in the NBA, missing just five total games, so perhaps there’s more optimism about his ability to get back to 100%.

With Wiggins also up for an extension, and a big payday for Karl-Anthony Towns potentially coming in 2018, LaVine likely won’t be Minnesota’s top priority this offseason. Still, he shouldn’t be overlooked. Having increased his scoring average from 10.1 PPG to 14.0 PPG to 18.9 PPG in his first three NBA seasons, LaVine adds a dangerous scoring punch to the Wolves’ backcourt. The team may view him as a piece of a long-term Big Three, alongside Wiggins and Towns, so exploring an extension this fall makes sense.

As is the case in the other two scenarios, the Wolves would likely only re-up LaVine in 2017 if they can do so at a discounted rate. The club won’t sign LaVine to a max extension, but if he’s open to doing something in the Dennis Schroder range (four years, $62MM), I think the team would jump on it. If LaVine’s asking price is closer to the $84MM that a healthy Victor Oladipo got on his four-year extension with the Thunder, that would make it more difficult for Minnesota to pull the trigger.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Western Notes: Williams, LaVine, Plumlee, Afflalo

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle did not hesitate to insert veteran point guard Deron Williams into the starting lineup despite the emergence of rookie  Yogi Ferrell, Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com reports. Carlisle called Williams “a better player” than Ferrell, adding that Williams was “playing at close to All-Star caliber” before a toe injury sidelined him for eight games, MacMahon adds. Williams played 16 minutes in a blowout victory over the Magic on Saturday night, contributed seven points, four assists and three steals. Ferrell, who earned a two-year contract while filling in for Williams, played 32 minutes off the bench with Williams on a minutes restriction.

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Timberwolves shooting guard Zach LaVine will undergo surgery to reconstruct the torn ACL in his left knee on Tuesday, according to a league press release. Lavine, who suffered the season-ending injury driving to the basket against the Pistons on Friday, February 3rd, was averaging 18.9 PPG and 3.0 APG. Brandon Rush and Shabazz Muhammad have shared the shooting guard spot since LaVine was sidelined.
  • The Nuggets got the better of the pending trade with the Blazers, Ben Golliver of SI.com opines. While it’s unlikely that the pairing of Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee would work defensively, it gives Denver coach Michael Malone the ability to establish a clear offensive identity across his rotations if Plumlee is used in a backup role, Golliver continues. The Blazers were smart to get something now for Plumlee, who will become a restricted free agent, before he became too expensive to keep but the return of Jusuf Nurkic and a first-rounder the Grizzlies owed the Nuggets was modest, Golliver adds.
  • Kings guard Arron Afflalo is getting some minutes at point guard due to injuries, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes. Afflalo has not played the point since high school but is unfazed by the situation, Jones adds. “It’s not really that much different; it’s just making sure the team gets into a play, into a set,” Afflalo told Jones. “I’m pretty familiar with the sets, and a lot of our spots are interchangeable.”

And-Ones: Christmas, Calderon, Fultz, Parker, Dolan

A right Achilles tendon rupture has brought an end to Dionte Christmas‘ season, Jonathan Tannenwald of Philly.com reports. It’s an unfortunate development for the 30-year-old, as Christmas had averaged 14.9 points with 3.2 assists in 31 games with the Delaware 87ers. Delaware’s GM, Brandon Williams, lauded Christmas’ efforts in a team statement:

“[Christmas] has been a consummate professional, positive influence on the development of our young roster, and vital to our energy and drive. We will certainly miss his leadership on the court, but are inspired by his confidence as he attacks the next steps on the road to recovery.”

Other stories from around the league-

  • Bobby Marks of The Vertical profiled the Lakers, Nets, and Heat in his trade deadline series; three teams “in the rebuilding process that have limited assets.” Marks cites Jose Calderon as a buyout candidate for GM Mitch Kupchak; Calderon has previously been reported as a target for the Cavs. Trevor Booker and Brook Lopez, who are each under contract for the 2017/18 season, would provide “good value” for contending teams. While Miami’s front office have made deals in three straight trade deadlines, the Heat may be quiet come February 23. Miami has “depleted draft assets,” and appear unlikely to trade Goran Dragic or Hassan Whiteside.
  • The Vertical’s writing staff released their 2017 NBA Mock Draft, with Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Jackson going to the Celtics, Suns, and Lakers, respectively. The Vertical has Malik Monk of Kentucky falling to the Knicks at #10, calling him a good fit “under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.”
  • Zach LaVine and Jabari Parker‘s ACL injuries will create “tricky” rookie extension negotiations, Kevin Pelton of ESPN writes. While Parker’s value has been better established than LaVine’s entering contract discussions, Milwaukee GM John Hammond could limit risk by adding “guarantees based on games played” in Parker’s next contract.
  • James Dolan and Knicks management were subject to a scathing write-up from Michael Powell of the New York Times, who criticized Dolan’s lack of accountability in their confrontation. Phil Jackson, too, was targeted by Powell: “He [Jackson] fires off obscure Twitter posts poking Anthony in one rib or another, suggesting his skills are eroding and his hoop IQ low.”
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