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Rumor: Trail Blazers mulling trade for Suns C Tyson Chandler

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The Portland Trail Blazers need a defensive-minded center. Badly. That’s why Neil Olshey & Company are weighing their options when it comes to a trade for Phoenix Suns big man Tyson Chandler, according to a report from ESPN.

Chandler, 34, still has two years after this season left on the 4-year, $52 million deal he signed with Phoenix back in 2015.

While he would be an addition to Portland’s weary front line, Chandler has slowed the team’s activity in the past on seeking a trade as recently as last summer.

The Blazers, meanwhile, seem to have rebounded a bit defensively as of late. Portland changed their defensive scheme, with more active defense from their big men and with infrequent double-teams thrown in against major post threats like DeMarcus Cousins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Al-Farouq Aminu‘s presence in the lineup has also been felt, as the defensive-minded power forward has rejoined the team after missing significant time with two separate injuries.

Portland has been one of the more disappointing teams this season, one that many picked to finish anywhere from 4-6 in the Western Conference before the season began. Riding an unexpected wave to a second-round exit in 2015-16, many felt the Blazers would improve as they returned the most minutes in the NBA this year.

However, many of the team’s signings have not worked out. Evan Turner has been slow to adapt on both offense and defense, and RFA Allen Crabbe has backslid, perhaps due to his relegation with the addition of Turner.

The Blazers’ big man problems were supposed to be craftily managed with the addition of Festus Ezeli, who signed a cheap, 2-year contract that was team-friendly. However, Ezeli has yet to see the court for the Blazers and likely won’t this year — or ever — as he is considering season-ending surgery to repair his ailing left knee.

At publish time, Portland has clawed its way back to the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, but their playoff lives are dependent on seeing the second-half improvement we saw from them last season.

Chandler might be an excellent addition, but it would mean giving up an asset of equal contract value with one of Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard, or Evan Turner heading to Phoenix. And while the Blazers could trade their own pick or Cleveland’s 2017 first rounder, taking a big gamble on a 34-year-old center with a very young team doesn’t feel like it’s up Olshey’s alley.

The big question is what Phoenix sees ahead for themselves, and what they are looking to get in return for Chandler. It’s not clear what the market is for the Suns center at the moment, and if it’s a leveraging of Portland’s long-term big men and picks in exchange for an aging post like Chandler, that might be the most prudent route for all involved.

PBT Extra: LeBron as MVP and other NBA postseason award predictions

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Last year, Russell Westbrook had a historic season on his way to the MVP award, with James Harden and Kawhi Leonard right on his heels. But heading into this season, the dynamic for MVP — and many of the NBA awards — feels very different and wide open.

In this latest PBT Extra, I lay out my preseason predictions for every award — LeBron James for MVP, Ben Simmons for Rookie of the Year, and on down the list. There are a few leaps and surprises in there (predicting Most Improved or Sixth Man before the season is a crap shoot, so why not gamble).

Now the predictions season is over, let’s get on to the games.

Jazz: Dante Exum undergoing surgery after shoulder injury

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Jazz point guard Dante Exum hurt his shoulder in a preseason game – an injury that immediately looked like it could be season-ending.

Though Utah doesn’t outright say Exum is done for the year, this doesn’t engender much hope.

Jazz release:

The following is a medical update on Utah Jazz guard Danté Exum who suffered a separated left shoulder on October 6 vs. Phoenix.

After further evaluation, Exum (6-6, 190, Australia) has elected to undergo surgery to stabilize the AC joint of his left shoulder. The surgery is scheduled to take place Tuesday, October 24 in Los Angeles. Further updates will be provided when appropriate.

Exum (obviously) didn’t receive a contract extension before today’s deadline, so he’ll become a free agent next summer. After one full missed season already and two years of limited effectiveness, it’s not even clear Utah will extend Exum a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. The former No. 5 pick almost certainly won’t meet the starter criteria, which means his qualifying offer would be worth $4,333,931 (down from $6,619,903 based on his draft slot).

The Jazz will start Ricky Rubio, and Raul Neto will be the primary point guard behind him. Wings Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles can all share facilitating duties.

Utah will probably be just fine without Exum this season, which speaks to his marginal place long-term.

Sprained ankle has LeBron James questionable for opener vs. Celtics

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James‘ playing status for Tuesday’s season opener against Boston remains unclear.

James has been slowed by a sprained left ankle for more than two weeks and it’s still not known whether he’ll be on the floor when the Cavaliers take on the Celtics and Kyrie Irving, who asked to be traded by Cleveland this summer.

Following Monday’s practice, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said “I really don’t know” when asked if James will play.

James took part in some post-practice shooting drills with teammates. He did not speak with the media as the Cavaliers prepared for their opener, a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals.

James has never missed an opener in his NBA career, and teammate J.R. Smith doesn’t expect him to miss this one.

“Oh, he’s going to go,” Smith said. “He’s going to go, trust me that. I don’t care what he’s got to do, he’s going to play.”

 

Report: Richard Jefferson signing with Nuggets

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Update: The Nuggets will waive Jameer Nelson, according to Wojnarowski:

It looks like Denver will ride with the younger Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard — a risky proposition. Nelson stabilized the position in the event Murray or Mudiay weren’t ready for bigger roles. The Nuggets aren’t hedging their bets now, which puts plenty of pressure on Murray and Mudiay.

Murray should be fine eventually. Mudiay’s promise is far less certain. But this is a team trying to reach the playoffs now, and it might have to ride out growing pains from its point guards without Nelson as a safety net.

 

Richard Jefferson became a late entrant into free agency when the Cavaliers traded him and the Hawks waived him.

But the forward is landing on his feet.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Jefferson could help the Nuggets, who look primed to end a four-season playoff drought. They were set to squeeze backup small-forward minutes behind Wilson Chandler out of the undersized Will Barton and oversized Juan Hernangomez. Jefferson is far more comfortable at the position.

He’s 37 and doesn’t offer long-term upside, but he’s a savvy defender and still pretty athletic. He picks his spots well enough offensively to help on that end, too.

But Denver also has a deep roster that already had 15 players on standard contracts. There’s not an obvious cut to make room for Jefferson, though the Nuggets clearly have something planned.