Report: Knicks working hard to land Nash, but hesitant to give up Iman Shumpert

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Steve Nash is an unrestricted free agent who is being courted at the moment by at least four teams: the Knicks, Raptors, Mavericks, and Lakers. Conspicuously absent from that list are the Suns, but all signs show that they’re ready to move on, and won’t come up with the money or the years that others are willing to in order to retain Nash’s services.

Nash can of course sign wherever he chooses. But because of salary cap restrictions, for him to get close to the money he’s worth (in the $8 million per year range), certain teams would have to work out a sign-and-trade to send players back to Phoenix to create that cap space.

The Knicks might be where Nash is leaning at the moment, but they would need to include Iman Shumpert in the deal. They’re hesitant to do that, reports MSG Network’s Alan Hahn:

Steve Nash, meanwhile, and the Knicks are working with the Suns to complete a sign-and-trade deal that would bring Nash to New York. Indications are the Knicks are his top choice, but because a trade is complicated (and there is great hesitation to give up Iman Shumpert), the Raptors are in play. A lot of effort has been made, however, to get this done.

Shumpert showed value last season as an excellent perimeter defender, which is an area where the Suns desperately need to upgrade their talent. However, Shumpert suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of the playoffs, and may not be ready to return to action until midway through next season.

The Suns will be fortunate to get anything of value in return for Nash, given his unrestricted status. The Knicks may like Shumpert, but if New York is Nash’s top choice, and the team is in win-now mode with Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler likely having two or three more seasons playing at an elite level, it should be an easy choice for New York to make to do what’s necessary to get Nash.

If the Knicks can’t get a deal done — either because of their hesitations or the Suns’ demands — Nash’s second choice would appear to be Toronto. The Mavericks will make an offer, but maybe only for one year due to wanting to keep their cap space freed up for 2013 free agents Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.

The Lakers have expressed interest, but it’s unclear what they would be willing to offer Phoenix in that all-important sign-and-trade. Nash would be a great fit for that team, and has said publicly he believes Kobe Bryant is the league’s best player. But his interest in L.A. is much lower than New York and Toronto at this point, so consider the Lakers a longshot at best to be the spot where Nash will eventually end up next season.

Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan staying in 2017 NBA draft

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Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan declared for the 2016 NBA draft, struggled at the combine, withdrew, got into great shape, had an All-American sophomore season, declared for the 2017 draft.

This time, he’s not turning back.

Swanigan:

Swanigan is a borderline first-round pick. He has a couple NBA-ready skills the good teams that typically pick late in the first round might covet, but thanks to trades, teams that didn’t win a playoff game this year hold most late first-round picks. They might pick someone with more upside than Swanigan.

Swanigan is a tenacious rebounder, particularly defensively. He has excellent fundamentals, size (6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan) and ability to read the ball, and he crashes through contact to hunt boards.

He’s also a quality post-up player who can finish with either hand and has the passing ability to make that play work.

But Swanigan is slow. NBA teams have become increasingly adept at running plodders like him off the court by dragging them into pick-and-rolls. Even when on the court, he hasn’t protected the rim at satisfactory levels.

Swanigan has overcome his athletic limitations as a rebounder. He hasn’t done so in other facets of defense.

He’s hardly a dinosaur offensively. He made 45% of his 3-pointers last season, and though I’m not confident that will translate to NBA 3-point range (give the small sample and his form), he should be at least a midrange threat.

Swanigan is also just 20, young for a sophomore. He can improve.

But it’s just hard to look past his defensive limitations.

Hawks hire Travis Schlenk as general manager

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The Hawks picked Warriors assistant general manager Travis Schlenk as their next general manager. All that was left was negotiating terms.

That’s done.

Hawks:

The Atlanta Hawks today announced the hiring of Travis Schlenk as General Manager and Head of Basketball Operations. He will start leading Hawks basketball operations on June 1.

Schlenk worked his way up the latter and helped the Warriors become the envy of every other NBA team. He deserves this opportunity.

But the job won’t be easy.

The Hawks are stuck between two directions. On one side, they have veterans Paul Millsap (a 32-year-old pending unrestricted free agent whom the owner has basically promised a huge contract) and Dwight Howard (who sounds unhappy). On the other side, they have a youth movement featuring Dennis Schroder and Taurean Prince. Tim Hardaway Jr., who bridges the age groups, is about to enter a potentially tricky restricted free agency.

Keeping the core together offers the upside of a playoff-series victory or two annually, modest outcomes for the cost. But a fragile Atlanta fan base might not tolerate a rebuild.

Schlenk works for owner Tony Ressler, and Ressler sounds committed to maintaining the status quo by keeping Millsap. It’s now Schlenk’s job to execute that vision or convince his boss to approve a different direction.

Potential none-and-done first-rounder Hamidou Diallo returning to Kentucky

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The more I’ve looked into the 2017 NBA draft, the less impressed I’ve become. There are a few bright spots in the first round relative to an average draft – No. 2, 5ish-10ish, 17ish-22ish – but I’m not convinced this is the generationally strong draft it has been touted as.

In the absence of prospects who offer secure promise, why not turn to upside? Hamidou Diallo offered plenty and was increasingly viewed as a first-rounder.

Yet, he’ll return to Kentucky for his freshman season.

Diallo:

A highly ranked recruit, Diallo began last school year at a prep school then enrolled at Kentucky for the spring semester. He practiced with the Wildcats, but never played.

Then, he went to the combine and posted excellent measurables: 6-foot-5, 6-foot-11 wingspan, 44.5-inch vertical and strong agility and sprint scores. Just 18, Diallo might have been the second-youngest player drafted this year (behind only Ike Anigbogu).

It wouldn’t have taken long – likely somewhere in the middle of the first round – for a team to bite on all that potential.

Instead, Diallo returns to Kentucky and must now show his ability to actually produce in basketball games. If he does, there’s no limit on how high he goes in the 2018 NBA draft. If he doesn’t, he’ll regret missing the opportunity to get drafted before his game got picked apart.

Report: Bulls expect Dwyane Wade to opt in

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Dwyane Wade said he wants to see the Bulls’ plan for Jimmy Butler and the rest of the roster before deciding on a $23.8 million player option for next season.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

I can tell you is most everyone associated with the Bulls believes Wade will pick up the option and remain in Chicago for a second season. More surprising things have happened in league history, though. So stay tuned.

This could be a tell that Wade will opt in. The Bulls could obviously be positioned to base their prediction on inside information into Wade’s thinking.

This could a tell the Bulls won’t trade Butler. If they know they’ll keep Butler, they can extrapolate what that’d mean for Wade.

Or the Bulls, like so many of us, just assume a 35-year-old Wade won’t turn down so much guaranteed money at this stage of his career.