Author: Brett Pollakoff

Lon Babby, Ryan McDonough

Suns GM: Trading their first-round pick is ‘something we’re more open to than in the past’


The Suns finished up a disappointing year four games under ,500 in the standings, and out of the playoffs for the fifth straight season.

Phoenix partly has itself to blame, after making a series of midseason trades which essentially blew up the roster. Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas were sent packing, while Brandon Knight, Marcus Thornton and Danny Granger were added — though it remains unclear if any of them will still be with the team next season.

The draft will be important for the Suns, but perhaps only in terms of what may be available to them in trade when that time comes. The roster is a mess right now, and adding more young players wouldn’t appear to be the answer on the surface — which is why the team may be more open to trading its lottery pick than in years past.

From Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic:

“As a non-playoff team, I think you need help everywhere,” [Suns GM Ryan] McDonough said. “So we’ll take the best player, even if that goes against what some people think we should do in terms of conventional wisdom. I think, unless you’re a championship-level team, you always take the best available player. Our philosophy is if he’s better than the guys who are on your current roster, maybe he beats him out and you move one of the guys on your current roster. I think some mistakes, in the history of the draft, are made drafting for saying, ‘Oh, we need this. Let’s do the best player who does whatever.’ When you draft that guy, you tend to reach sometimes.” …

“At some point, there is a saturation point for young players as you try to put together a team that is capable of competing and making the playoffs in the Western Conference,” McDonough said after making five first-round picks in two years. “I think it (trading the pick) is something we’re more open to than in the past but, at the same time, we like the players that we think will be there at 13.”

In addition to figuring out what to do with their draft pick, the Suns have to decide whether their unrestricted free agents — Thornton, Gerald Green, and Brandan Wright — are worth pursuing, and whether or not their key restricted one (Knight) is going to be worth what it may cost to retain him.

After a couple of seasons where the rebuild in Phoenix seemed to be trending in the right direction, things are at now a critical juncture. The playoff drought has gone on too long in the desert, so rebuilding from scratch would appear to be an unappealing option. But unless a trade or two can be made to immediately add some impact players to the mix, the Suns seem primed to once again finish in no-man’s land — too good to land a high lottery pick, though not talented enough to crack the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference.

LeBron James: ‘I couldn’t foresee us being in The Finals at the beginning of the season’

LeBron James

The Cavaliers have made it to the NBA Finals, just as many expected the moment that LeBron James announced his return, and the deal to acquire Kevin Love via trade had been completed.

But James himself had his doubts.

LeBron was careful not to make the same elaborate championship promises that he did when leaving Cleveland the first time to join the Miami Heat. He was coming into a completely new situation, with a rookie NBA head coach and young players like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters who, along with Love, had never experienced the postseason.

After the sweep of the Hawks was complete, and James had time to reflect on the accomplishment, he admitted that getting to the Finals in his first season with this club was something he never envisioned.

“To be at this point tonight sitting up here talking to you guys, like I said, it’s very emotional,” James said at the postgame podium. “Could I foresee this? At the beginning of the season, I couldn’t. I couldn’t foresee us being in The Finals at the beginning of the season because I just knew that we just had to get better and I just saw how young we were and how young‑minded we were at that point in time. But I knew I had to lead these guys, and if they just followed my leadership, I knew I could get them to a place where they haven’t been before.”

Look at all that’s happened since James signed on:

– Anderson Varejao was lost for the season due to injury.

– Dion Waiters was traded out of town.

– J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov were added via midseason trades.

– Kevin Love was lost for the remainder of the season in the first round of the playoffs.

– J.R. Smith was suspended for the first two games of the second round.

– Kyrie Irving missed two Conference Finals games with a knee injury — both of which were Cavaliers victories.

And there’s probably even more that could be mentioned.

James was right to doubt whether or not his goal could be accomplished with the team he joined in July. But the one that remains standing and will play in the Finals in June should be more than capable of competing with whoever comes out of the Western Conference.

Paul Millsap: Hawks ‘are a family,’ which will ‘play a lot into’ his free agent decision

Cleveland Cavaliers V Atlanta Hawks - Game Four

The Atlanta Hawks just completed their best season in franchise history, winning 60 games and making a run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Injuries (along with LeBron James) put an end to Atlanta’s season, but the talent on the roster, especially when healthy, proved capable of competing the the league’s best.

But the Hawks have a couple of key guys hitting free agency this summer.

DeMarre Carroll was perhaps the team’s best player during the postseason, and should command a high-dollar, multi-year deal; Paul Millsap is an All-Star talent who may require something closer to the max to retain.

In Millsap’s case, he says the fact that the Hawks are a close-knit team will play an important role in deciding whether or not to re-sign.

From Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“I think looking at different options, looking at this team, looking at what we’ve built thus far, in weighing my options I can’t make a decision right now,” Millsap said. “It’s been a long series, a long year, for me and the team. Let things die down, cool off, relax and think about it a little bit. We are a family. This team is close. It will play a lot into the decision.”

There’s a decision for the Hawks to make, as well.

If the team feels as though the first half of the season was real, and something that can continue into the playoffs with a fully healthy roster, then maybe they offer Millsap what he’ll require, and make a similar commitment that entices Carroll to stay.

But the Hawks will need to add depth, too, as the playoff on-off numbers painfully illustrate. There’s only so much money to go around, and part of the curse of the Hawks having so much success is the fact that their players have earned the right to sign lucrative deals this summer — either in Atlanta, or somewhere else.

Report: Nets to explore trade market for Mason Plumlee

Brooklyn Nets v Detroit Pistons

The Nets had chances to trade Mason Plumlee early in the season, but the problem at the time was that he was playing well while Brook Lopez was sidelined due to injury, and the offers wouldn’t have brought back enough in return.

Brooklyn was reportedly deep in talks with the Kings on a multi-player deal that would have shed the contract of Deron Williams, but Sacramento asking for Plumlee to be thrown in eventually killed the conversation.

As the Nets look to dramatically reshape the roster this summer, just about everything is on the table. And that includes revisiting what the market may now be like for Plumlee’s services.

From Marc Stein of

It’s unavoidably tantalizing to think about what the Nets might have gotten for Plumlee, had they actively shopped him before he fell out of favor — bearing in mind the two future first-round picks Denver extracted from Cleveland for Timofey Mozgov.

Some rival executives think the Nets might go ahead and explore the Plumlee marketplace anyway, in hopes teams remember his dogged play for Team USA the past summer more than his struggles to get on the floor under first-year Nets coach Lionel Hollins. Now, though, would not appear to be the ideal time to see what shopping him might fetch. …

And I’m hearing teams have indeed begun to inquire about availability of Mason Plumlee based on belief Nets willing to move young big man

The only scenario that should be appealing in terms of trading Plumlee would be one in which Williams or Joe Johnson would be dealt at the same time, while Brooklyn received young talent or draft picks in return to jumpstart the rebuilding process.

Plumlee is still on a rookie scale contract, and having productive players on those inexpensive deals is invaluable for teams trying to manage salary cap and luxury tax challenges.

The Nets have wildly overspent in recent years, and it’s gotten them nowhere. Even if Brook Lopez re-signs in free agency, and even though Plumlee played sparingly as Brooklyn made its late-season run to make the playoffs, Plumlee remains a solid prospect capable of improving. And for what the Nets are paying him, he’s an even better fit for the long-term plans of the franchise.

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak: ‘Anywhere from 4-8 players could be in consideration’ for No. 2 pick in NBA Draft

Mitch Kupchak

Once the Lakers became lottery winners, and came away with the No. 2 pick in this summer’s draft, the speculation immediately began in terms of how L.A. would explore its options.

The Lakers could trade the pick, though that’s not what the team is planning on — at least until the potential offers begin to roll in. But L.A. is not the most patient of franchises, and unless the front office evaluates one of the available players as being a sure-fire cornerstone for the future, dealing that pick will remain a very real option.

This explains the latest from GM Mitch Kupchak, who said his team will look at as many as eight players while deciding who to select with the second overall pick.

From Mike Trudell of

Kupchak said anywhere from four to eight players could be in consideration for the No. 2 pick. Keeping options open and broad right now.

LAL want to be prepped to pick from 1 all the way to 60; could always make a trade or purchase a pick as they did for Clarkson last year.

That seems like too many.

Taking a look at four players that would be worthy of going as high as two seems about right. But once you get past Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay, things get murky fairly fast.

It is worth noting, though, just how strong the Lakers have been in their talent evaluation most recently.

L.A. bought a second-round pick from the Wizards in last summer’s draft, and turned the 46th overall selection into Jordan Clarkson — a player who just happened to finish the year by earning first team All-Rookie honors.