Washington Wizards v Cleveland Cavaliers

Josh Howard interested in joining the Celtics

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The lack of a free agency period to date has all but eradicated the NBA’s rumor mill. Teams have undoubtedly discussed some of their potential targets in private, but with no structure set to actually enable player acquisition, those discussions lack grounding. Those general managers, owners, and coaches are floating ideas, ones that up to this point have yet to escape via unnamed sources.

So now, we turn to the other side of the coin. With NBA teams unwilling to talk about — or even leak anything about — any player in particular, all we’re left with are potential free agents and their personal preferences. Such players know little to nothing about which teams might be interested in them and what they’d be willing to offer, but some players have been willing to discuss their preferred landing spots on a conceptual level.

Josh Howard isn’t exactly a top-tier free agent, but he’s nonetheless a useful player who will be courted by a handful of teams. A report from The Boston Globe hinted that Howard could be on the Celtics’ wish list, a pairing that could certainly be beneficial for both parties. Howard could use a successful platform to give his career a jump start, and Boston — even after acquiring Jeff Green mid-season — could still use a bit of help in filling out their wing rotation on the cheap. Howard isn’t likely to demand a very substantial contract, and could pan out as a nice, short-term value signing for a team like the Celtics.

And, wouldn’t you know it: Howard sees the same potential value in the pairing. From Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe (via Celtics Town):

Josh Howard has spent the past 18 months recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, spending most of last season on the sideline before playing in 18 games with the Wizards. A free agent at age 31, Howard said he is just now reaching 100 percent health, but the lockout – and the lack of a summer league – has prevented him from showcasing his game.

In last weekend’s Chris Paul-organized all-star game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Howard participated in his first organized action of the summer, expressing full confidence that his knee is healed. During his prime, Howard was an effective swingman who averaged 18 or more points for three consecutive seasons (2006-09) and was an effective defender.

…The Celtics, meanwhile, have only seven signed players and may be seeking established veterans of Howard’s ilk. “Boston is a great organization,’’ he said. “I also have a good friend in Marquis Daniels that spent a lot of time up there and who spoke highly of the organization. So that would be one of the teams I would actually look at if I had the opportunity to go there.’’

These aren’t the kinds of comments that players just volunteer on their own; Washburn was following up on the initial note from his previous report, and appears to have clearly and directly asked Howard about his own interest in the organization. His response is noncommittal, but vaguely positive.

That’s about all one could ask of Howard at this point in the game, and this is about as close as we’ll get to a true free agent rumor until the lockout finally ends. Unnamed sources around the league are on a gag order and risk being heavily fined if they start tossing out player names, so we’re limited to thoughts and one-sided responses. I never thought I’d miss the spitballing of the rumor mill, but trade buzz and free agent rumors have become an integrated part of the NBA experience. Even if they offer little more than a glimpse into an alternate reality, they fuel the NBA and its sense of infinite possibility.

Warriors first team favored over the field for championship entering season since Michael Jordan’s Bulls

7 Jun 1998:  Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls walks on the court during the NBA Finals Game 3 against the Utah Jazz at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  The Bulls defeated the Jazz 96-54. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport
Credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport
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When asked my prediction for the 2017 NBA champion, I say the Warriors have about a 50-50 chance. Some call that a copout answer – but it’s really not.

For a team to have even odds against 29 others combined entering the season is extraordinary.

Just how rare is it?

David Purdum of ESPN:

Jeff Sherman, head NBA oddsmaker at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, remembers the 1997-98 Bulls team, which was coming off a 72-win season, being around a minus-125 title favorite entering that season.

But Sherman and other sports betting industry veterans struggled to recall another team — in basketball, baseball or football — that was an odds-on favorite to start the season.

Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman and Scottie Pippen led Chicago to the championship in 1998 (which was actually two seasons removed from the 72-win year).

Will Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson also meet their oversized expectations and deliver a title this year?

Flip a coin.

Report: Minnesota still talking Tyus Jones trade, Sixers may have interest

TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 08:  Tyus Jones #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves poses for a portrait during the 2015 NBA rookie photo shoot on August 8, 2015 at the Madison Square Garden Training Facility in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.   (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Tyus Jones has a lot to like — he’s a point guard who makes good decisions, his shot is developing (40 percent from three at Summer League), and he’s got skills. Minnesota won the Summer League championship because of Jones’ leadership — just drafted and highly touted Kris Dunn was out for the title game, that’s where Jones shined.

But Dunn is the future at the point in Minnesota, and Ricky Rubio is still there. So Minnesota is seeing what might be out there for Jones, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Minnesota has had talks with Philadelphia, New Orleans, and others about Jones for a while.

Jones is likely a steady backup point guard at the NBA level — he’s a smart passer, knows how to run a team, and as his shot develops he becomes more dangerous. His downside is defense, but as a reserve that’s less of an issue.

For a team like the Sixers — without Jerryd Bayless to start the season — or while New Orleans waits for Jrue Holiday‘s return, Jones makes some sense. The only question is the price going back to Minnesota.

Report: Bucks preparing for Greg Monroe to opt in next summer

Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe, center, drives to the basket against New Orleans Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca, left, and guard Tyreke Evans, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman
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The Bucks got a rude awakening about Greg Monroe‘s value when they tried to sell low on him this offseason – and still got no takers.

Now, Milwaukee seems to have gotten the picture. Monroe – whose agent claimed the center could name his contract terms from multiple teams last year – might opt into the final year of his deal, which would pay $17,884,176.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

Milwaukee is already preparing for the possibility Monroe opts into his deal for 2017-18, league sources say.

The Bucks indicated this thinking when they extended Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s contract, putting a large 2017-18 salary rather than a relatively low cap hold on the books to begin next offseason. If Monroe opts in, the difference in Antetokounmpo’s initial cap number is far less likely to matter. (Though Antetokounmpo’s extension wasn’t a complete giveaway into Milwaukee’s Monroe expectation, because the Bucks saved over the life of the extension.)

Don’t put it past Monroe to opt out if he believes he can find a better situation. After all, he signed the small qualifying offer to leave a tough basketball fit with Andre Drummond in Detroit. Monroe also took the risk of a shorter detail in Milwaukee. He’s secure enough in himself to at least consider moving on if he’s unhappy.

It’s also possible he finds a satisfying role with the Bucks. They’ll bring him off the bench, which could hide his defensive shortcomings and give him a chance to mash backup bigs. Heck, he could even play well enough to justify opting out.

There’s still a full season before Monroe must decide on his option, and a lot can change by then. But it seems Milwaukee now has a realistic expectation.

Report: NBA increases 2017-18 salary-cap projection to $103 million

AP Money Found

The NBA is reportedly closing in on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the new deal will still call for owners and players to split Basketball Related Income about 50-50.

So, July’s projection of a $102 million salary cap in 2017-18 still carries weight – except it’s been updated.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Why the change?

Perhaps, the shortfall adjustment – which increases the cap when teams don’t spend enough the previous year – is being revised in the new CBA.

More likely, the league anticipates more revenue. These projections tend to start conservative then rise as July nears.