We told you already that the Lakers may be the front runners to land either Dwight Howard or Chris Paul, although there are plenty of obstacles and other bidders that could get in the way of that.
Like the Chicago Bulls. Because who doesn’t want to play with Derrick Rose.
In the same article where Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski says the Lakers may be the frontrunners, he says the Bulls are in the mix.
What’s more, the Chicago Bulls are still a sleeper for Howard, several league executives believe. “Chicago may tell Orlando to take any two players – or three – besides Rose,” one GM said. Howard isn’t keen on the cold weather, but the Bulls would have the best point guard-center combination since Magic and Kareem.
The Bulls have Omar Asik developing fast as a potential replacement for Joakim Noah should the Bulls include Noah in a package. Noah would have to be a part of it, but would a combination of Noah and Luol Deng or Carlos Boozer – bringing back Howard and one of those bad Orlando contracts – be enough?
Normally you wouldn’t want to break up the core of a young team that went to the Eastern Conference finals last season, but Howard is the exception that would have me blowing up the Bulls. Rose and Howard, likely with Boozer (if I were Orlando I’d want Deng and Noah) would be a force that would make Chicago serious contenders for the next decade.
The question becomes, what is better for Orlando as it tries to rebuild? Do they prefer Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom from the Lakers? Is there another offer out there that works for them?
Orlando isn’t ready to make the trade yet, they want to find a way to keep Howard, it’s just hard to see how they do that with their current expensive but unimpressive roster. But if they decide to deal, the Bulls will get a look.
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.