Kurt Helin

Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One

It’s official, J.R. Smith opts out of $6.5 million deal with Cavaliers, but he wants to return

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J.R. Smith did a fantastic job getting the PhunkeeDuck scooter company some free publicity during the NBA Finals, but that was about the extent of things he did well. He didn’t exactly endear himself to Cavaliers fans with his performance.

The question now is will he be back next season in Cleveland?

Wednesday Smith made the expected official and opted out of his contract for next season with the Cavaliers, as reported by Shams Charania of Real GM.

Smith was traded to the Cavaliers from the Knicks at the trade deadline, and it was he, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov that helped turn the Cavaliers’ season around. Smith provided a spark off the bench and some depth that the Cavaliers had lacked. Sure, he was inconsistent and described his play in the Finals as “horses—“ but that’s what you get with Smith, he is the walking definition of the hot hand theory.

The Cavaliers may want him back but at what price?

My guess is it’s a million or so below the $6.4 he was to make last year, but for three years or so. That would give the Cavaliers some depth at a fair price and Smith some stability.

The question is will another GM, after missing out on a target, come in over the top with a larger offer?

Update, trade cancelled: Hornets change mind, do not go for Jeremy Lamb for Matt Barnes move

Jeremy Lamb
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UPDATE June 25, 10:05 am: This trade was never finalized, and at the last minute the Hornets found a better deal and moved Matt Barnes to Memphis for Luke Rindour. This saves Charlotte some money, and Barnes is pretty much a perfect fit for the grit-and-grind Grizzlies.

June 24, 8:30 pm: Getting Nicolas Batum out of Portland was not the only trade the Charlotte Hornets made on Wednesday.

Looking to add more three-point shooting (the Hornets were last in the NBA in three-point percentage last season) the team has added a young, athletic wing player with potential in Jeremy Lamb, something reported by Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

Matt Barnes is a solid, hard-working veteran rotation player that would fit on a lot of teams and seems destined for free agency (the Clippers sent him to Charlotte in the Lance Stephenson deal). He has a $3.5 million contract for next season but only $1 million is guaranteed and the Thunder seem likely to buy him out. Why? Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports explains.

Lamb didn’t play a big role in OKC but he will get another chance in Charlotte. Hcan certainly score from the wing and did that often off the catch-and-shoot in Oklahoma City. He’s a career 34.8 percent shooter from three and more than 40 percent of his shots come from beyond the arc. He’s incredibly athletic and shows flashes of potential.

But his defense often kept him on the bench in Oklahoma City — and it will do the same for Steve Clifford in Charlotte if Lamb doesn’t play better on that end.

That said he will get a chance. The Hornets need to space the floor and are on a mission to get some shooting on the roster (which is why they may draft pick-and-pop big man Frank Kaminsky out of Wisconsin).

Portland trades Nicolas Batum to Charlotte for Noah Vonleh, Gerald Henderson

Denver Nuggets v Portland Trail Blazers
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UPDATE 9:08 pm: It has become official, the trade announced by the Portland Trail Blazers. It was as reported, with Nicolas Batum going to Charlotte and Noah Vonleh and guard Gerald Henderson.

“Nic Batum was a key contributor to all of our recent success,” Portland GM Neil Olshey said in a released statement. “He will truly be missed as a person and a player. We wish Nic all the best for the future.”

7: 29 pm: Is this a signal that the Portland Trail Blazers think LaMarcus Aldridge is leaving as a free agent, and it’s time to rebuild for the future around Damian Lillard?

It’s too early to say with any certainty, but this trade about to be finalized and reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports certainly feels like it could be the first step in that direction.

Of course, the Blazers say this is not the first step in a rebuild.

Charlotte had been shopping Cody Zeller in search of wing help, but Portland clearly preferred the the younger, cheaper four on the Hornet roster.

I like this trade for Charlotte. This is a team that was 30th in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage, plus a team that took a step back defensively last season. Nicolas Batum can help on both those fronts if healthy. The Frenchman struggled some last season battling injuries, and eventually needed wrist surgery, however, he is expected to be healthy for the start of next season. He is set to make $12.2 million in the last year of his deal.

The buzz is that this means Charlotte will take Frank Kaminsky at the No. 9 pick. He could be the kind of pick-and-pop four they hoped Noah Vonleh would develop into.

And he still might. Vonleh is still a teenager, a guy who always was going to need some time to develop, and now Portland will have him on his rookie contract to make that happen. Vonleh is seen as a potential four who can stretch the floor, but Charlotte had concerns about his defensive awareness. The Trail Blazers also pick up a solid veteran rotation guard in Gerald Henderson. They also save about $3.5 million in cap space that can go to luring free agents.

This just doesn’t feel like the kind of trade a win-now team would make, and Portland with Aldridge would be a win-now team. It makes you wonder what they know, and what’s next.

PBT Extra: Will DeMarcus Cousins situation impact Kings in NBA Draft?

Sacramento Kings v Phoenix Suns
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Nobody is sure exactly what the Sacramento Kings are doing. Including, apparently, the Sacramento Kings.

The Kings’ owner and his GM have been clear, there are no plans to trade DeMarcus Cousins, but that doesn’t mean the offers will not come pouring in on draft night. And that is what I talk about during this PBT Extra — if the Kings decide they need to trade Cousins, they need to consider the offers coming in on Thursday night because those may be some of the best they see

Two other teams to watch on draft night covered in this video: Boston and Denver. The Celtics are trying to move up the draft board, turning their many assets into better assets. Denver wants to completely remake the locker room and roster. The question is, into what?

PBT Podcast: What is Sacramento doing? Plus other pre-draft rumors discussed.

Boston Celtics v Sacramento Kings
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Dysfunction, thy name is Sacramento.

The Kings have a foundational piece, arguably the best true center in the game in DeMarcus Cousins, a guy who scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds a game last season — and new coach George Karl is trying to force him out the door. Because Karl isn’t sure he can coach him, and because Karl wants to chase the all-time coaching win record, and he isn’t going to be patient with rebuilding. Plus, he just doesn’t seem to like Cousins. The problem for Karl is, the Kings’ owner does like Cousins. A lot. And he is not green lighting a trade.

We delve into the Kings mess — and where Cousins might land if Karl gets his way — in this latest PBT Podcast. In it PBT’s Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman, plus NBCSports’ Dominic Ridgard also get into talk about Monta Ellis, Dwyane Wade, LaMarcus Aldridge and a host of other NBA rumors and stories leading into the draft.

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