Kurt Helin

Charlotte Hornets v Indiana Pacers

LeBron James wants Mike Dunleavy on Cavaliers, more likely gets Mo Williams

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LeBron James is playing a quaint little leverage game with the Cavaliers, where he will not talk about his next contract with them until they take care of his guy Tristan Thompson (they not so coincidentally have the same agent) and make some roster upgrades. What’s quaint is the notion of leverage — as if he is actually going to bolt Cleveland again.

But LeBron is making his voice heard. For example, he would like the Cavaliers to land Bulls sharpshooter Mike Dunleavy, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Except, nobody around the league thinks the Bulls are going to let Dunleavy get away. Unless some team comes in with a ridiculous, over-the-top offer the Bulls are going to pay Dunleavy to stay where he is — and he wants to stay with the Bulls. Just give Fred Hoiberg a chance.

But LeBron might get a new running mate on the wings, reports Chris Haynes of the Plain Dealer.

In case you lost track (and we can’t blame you if you have), Williams started the season in Minnesota and was traded to Charlotte for Gary Neal. Williams is still a solid NBA veteran player, one who averaged 14.2 points and shot 34 percent from three last season.

Williams could provide instant offense on the wing, the kind of depth and scoring the Cavaliers lacked in the Finals. He’s not going to be expensive. It’s a good pickup, one LeBron should be down with.

Even if it’s not Dunleavy.

Report: Greg Monroe to meet with Knicks, Lakers, Bucks, Blazers to start free agency

Cleveland Cavaliers v Detroit Pistons
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This is what Greg Monroe wanted, what he took a big gamble to get. He wanted out of Detroit, where he did not feel wanted in the least. He walked away from an offer in the four-year, $50 million range to play for $5.4 million last season, just to get out of Detroit.

That time has come, free agency is hours from starting and Monroe is a restricted free agent.

While he has been linked to the Knicks since about the minute he turned down that Pistons offer last summer (if not much earlier) the center will meet with four teams, reports Jeff Zillgitt of the USA Today.

The Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers are on Monroe’s list on day one of free agency, and there is a possibility he meets with other teams, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports.

Another factor in the Monroe negotiations: Monroe is interested in a three-year deal with the ability to opt out after the 2016-17 season and hit free agency in the summer of 2017 and take advantage of a salary cap that is projected to hit $108 million.

Monroe is going to get max offers, although at first teams may balk at that two-year opt out. However, with multiple teams in the bidding, someone will offer it to him.

Monroe is a good offensive player whose game may have room to breathe not being paired with Andre Drummond, plus Monroe is a beast on the boards — he averaged 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds a game last season.

Monroe would be a strong player at one corner of the Knicks triangle — and let’s be honest, the Knicks need talent upgrades everywhere, and Monroe is a borderline All-Star player. Monroe paired with Julius Randle up front in Los Angeles with D’Angelo Russell feeding them the rock has offensive potential (defense might be an issue). Same in Milwaukee, where they have a nice young team and Monroe with Jabari Parker would be a force up front. Portland is likely to lose LaMarcus Aldridge, and Monroe could step right in that slot.

They are all interesting options. Which is exactly what Monroe wanted.

PBT Extra: What players will most influence free agency?

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Clippers
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We know some of the biggest names in free agency are not going anywhere — LeBron James will stay with the Cavaliers, while Marc Gasol is meeting only with the Grizzlies.

But who are the guys who will most influence free agency that tips off July 1? Watch the trio of big men LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan and Greg Monroe.

I talk about them and others — like the situation the Hawks face with Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll — in this latest PBT Extra, one looking forward to free agency.

Report: Jimmy Butler postpones meetings with other teams after max qualifying offer from Bulls

Chicago Bulls v Portland Trail Blazers
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Jimmy Butler has some things to think over.

His agent was clearly trying to leverage his client for a shorter contract — so he could more quickly tap into the flood of television money that will engulf the NBA starting next summer — but the Bulls want to lock down a core piece for a long time. So the Bulls have given Butler a max qualifying offer — if he takes it, he gets five-years, $90 million — and a regular qualifying offer of one-year, $4.5 million. That means no other team can offer Butler fewer than three years, and the Bulls have the right to match any offer.

In the wake of this, Butler has changed his free agency first steps, reports Chris Broussard at ESPN.

The Chicago Bulls offered Jimmy Butler a maximum five-year, $90 million contract Monday, leading the restricted free agent to postpone meetings with several other teams as he decides how many years to re-sign with the Bulls for, sources said….

After receiving the max offer Monday, Butler postponed meetings with the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks, sources said.

While all those meetings would have been good theater, the Bulls were never going to let Butler walk this summer. He’s too key to them at both ends of the floor — he averaged 20 points a game, shot 37.8 percent from three, and is their best perimeter defender.

There’s a clear compromise to be made, one where the Bulls offer a three-year contract at the max (or four years, with a player option after three). That allows the Bulls to keep their young star in house as they try to create a post-Thibodeau identity. On the other side, it allows Butler to get well paid (he’s been on a small rookie deal) and still re-enter free agency in his prime.

Butler’s only other real option is an enormous gamble — take the one-year, $4.5 million qualifying offer and be an unrestricted free agent next summer. But that’s generation-changing money Butler would have to walk away from (then hope he doesn’t get injured).

The Bulls and Butler’s representatives will talk in the next 48 hours and see if they can work something out. If not, the meetings may be back on — even if teams know the Bulls will just match any offer.

PBT Podcast: The top guys to watch as NBA free agency tips off

Lamarcus Aldridge Wesley Matthews
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LeBron James is the biggest free agent name. Technically. But we all know he’s not leaving the Cavaliers.

However, when you start to talk about LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan, Greg Monroe and some other big bodies about to hit the free agent market, things get interesting.

In this latest PBT Podcast the guys talk about all of the big name free agents in a primer for the NBA’s wild off-season season, which tips off the second the calendar flips to July 1 (that’s when teams can start talking to free agents). We’ve got PBT’s Kurt Helin and Brett Pollakoff, plus NBCSports’ Dominic Ridgard breaking down the top guys on the board, from the ones not likely to move (Marc Gasol) to the guys trying to move but not finding it that easy (Dwyane Wade).

Listen to the podcast below or you can listen and subscribe via iTunes.