Kurt Helin

Eric Bledsoe, Jeff Hornacek, Goran Dragic

Suns coach Hornacek tries to quell Bledsoe trade rumors

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Generally in the NBA, where there is smoke there is fire — maybe not the raging, four-alarm blaze being sold through rumors and sources, but something is burning.

Starting with the NBA Draft and through today, there has been a lot of smoke rising out of the desert surrounding Phoenix in regards to an Eric Bledsoe trade. There were rumors the Knicks were interested on Draft night, now there are reports Sacramento may be interested. The Suns plan to be patient and let the market play out a little.

Suns’ coach Jeff Hornacek went on SiriusXM NBA Radio radio recently and tried to put out the Bledsoe rumor fire. He was asked if they are seriously entertaining moving Bledsoe.

“No. (laughs) No.  You know, it’s funny, trade deadline and around the draft I always tell our players, I say, ‘Look, if you hear your name out in the trade rumors a lot it’s probably there’s nothing going on.  If you’re going to get traded usually you don’t hear your name.’ I think there were some calls from the Knicks about Eric.  Of course they would want to have Eric on their team.  For us, we are taking some strides, we had a little step back last year due to some trades and some injuries late but Eric is a big part of our future and there was no entertainment of that.”

The first rule of trading a player is to not look like you want to trade that player, it’s bad for leverage. Read into Hornacek’s comments whatever you wish, I lean toward the cynical.

How serious are the Suns about keeping Bledsoe? You can likely tell by how much the Suns offer to re-sign Brandon Knight this summer — if they offer him five-years, $70 million as reported, Bledsoe will be on the move at some point. You’re not going to pay two point guards that much.

But if they offer Knight less, maybe kind of offer that goes to a backup point guard, then we’ll know Hornacek wasn’t just trying to put out the fire, there wasn’t much of a flame to begin with.

LaMarcus Aldridge to meet with Raptors? That’s the report.

Portland Trail Blazers v Miami Heat
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LaMarcus Aldridge is done playing hoops in Portland. Well, except as a heartily-booed member of a road team next season, but he’s done as a Blazer.

He might land in San Antonio — that’s his preference, but it requires a delicate financial dance by the Spurs to make it happen (if you see Boris Diaw get traded, the Spurs are likely on to something). The Lakers are reportedly climbing his list, and they will get a meeting. So will the Dallas Mavericks — Aldridge grew up in Dallas, and some Cowboys players are going to help try to recruit him.

And don’t forget about Toronto… wait, the Raptors? Apparently they are in the mix as well.

There may be a little logic to this. Toronto does have the cap space to offer a max deal. They have some quality players on the roster: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and others. They are in the East, so it’s an easier path to the Finals (save for that LeBron James guy).

But Aldridge is going to not go to contend with the Spurs, not go home to Dallas, not become the face of the Lakers brand, and instead choose to go to Toronto? With all due respect to one of the NBA’s best (and certainly most underrated) fan bases, I just can’t see it. Not when he has better options.

Report: Dwyane Wade will not opt-in with Heat, to become free agent (as expected)

Orlando Magic v Miami Heat
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There will be no Luol Deng last minute change of heart.

Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat have been at an impasse for a while now — reportedly as much as a $24 million impasse. So Wade is using the only leverage he has.

Wade will not opt-in to the next year of his contract with Miami, reports Ramona Shelburne at ESPN.

This is the opposite of a surprise. From Wade’s perspective, he left money on the table both to bring the big three together, and then again the Heat to rebuild the roster after LeBron James went home. Now Wade wants to get paid, reportedly seeking in the $20 million a year range.

The Heat front office still wants that flexibility and sees a diminishing on the court role for Wade. They reportedly hoped he would take far less than $16 million a year after this season, maybe closer to $10 million.

When Wade can get on the court he still is an All-Star level player — he averaged 21.5 points a game last season, he can still get to the rim and he had a PER of 21.4 — he’s still fairly efficient. But he has chronic knee issues and only played in 62 games last season, after 54 the season before that. His minutes have to be kept in check at this point.

The real question for Wade and his effort to leverage the Heat: Who is going to give him more money than Miami? That list of teams may be very slim at this point in his career.

But it looks like we are going to find out.

Report: Knicks front runner to land Arron Afflalo (and Greg Monroe, too)

New Orleans Pelicans v Portland Trail Blazers
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The Knicks made a respectable call picking Kristaps Porzingis at No. 4 in the NBA Draft — if they can be patient and develop him this is a reasonable gamble. But patience will be key as he is three years away from really contributing to the Knick at anywhere near the level they hope.

Patience is not exactly the strong suit of New Yorkers. So what are the Knicks going to do to get better short-term?

How about landing Greg Monroe and Arron Afflalo? The Knicks are the front-runners to get both, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports — but it’s not cheap.

For months, the Knicks and rival executives have believed that New York is the likely destination for Detroit free agent forward Greg Monroe, and now it appears that Afflalo is the most likely target to potentially join him with Carmelo Anthony in New York, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

With Monroe expecting to command a maximum contract on the market, Afflalo could earn a deal in the neighborhood of three years, $36 million-$38 million, league sources said.

Afflalo started last season in Denver then was traded to Portland to back up Wesley Matthews, which was a fantastic plan to add depth to a dangerous team. Well, it was a fantastic plan until Matthews suffered an Achilles injury and was out for the season, forcing Afflalo to start. The Blazers were not the same after that

That price for Monroe is the going rate for a quality big man in the NBA, if the Knicks don’t offer it the Lakers and a host of other teams will.

But $12 million a year for Afflalo? The most he has ever made in a season is $7.75 million. Last season he averaged 13.3 points a game but his efficiency took a hit (his 53.3 true shooting percentage was right at the league average). He’s solid defensively, but not as good as his reputation. Bottom line is he is a solid pro, a quality rotation player and a guy worth having on your team, but $12 million per may be a little steep for the guy.

Still, the Knicks have money to burn and they do need to get a little better now. Monroe, Afflalo and a healthy for the season Carmelo Anthony might be able to make the playoffs in the East.

 

Report: Teams around league expect Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young to re-sign with Nets

Brook Lopez
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When the Brooklyn Nets shipped Mason Plumlee out the door on draft night, trading him to Portland, it was a sign they were very confident they could bring back free agents Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young. As New York Post Nets writer Tim Bontemps noted, the only other bigs on the roster are Cory Jefferson, Earl Clark, and Chris McCullough.

The Nets need Lopez and Young back, and the sense around the league is they will get just that.

From Marc Stein and Mike Mazzeo of ESPN:

Rival teams interested in Brooklyn Nets free agents Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young are increasingly convinced that they have no shot at luring either one away from the incumbent Nets, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN.com that both Lopez and Young are widely expected to reach verbal agreements on new deals with the Nets early in free agency, which officially begins Wednesday at midnight.

Not long after free agency opens, the Nets are expected to reach a verbal agreement with Lopez for three-years, $60 million, while Young will get in the neighborhood of four years, $50 million, according to multiple reports. The two sides can start negotiating on July 1, but no deal can be signed around the league until July 9 (there is a moratorium).

The Nets are active on other fronts as well. They are trying to trade Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, both guys are making more than $20 million next season and the Nets want to reduce or eliminate their luxury tax.

Mazzeo also added this about another Nets free agent.