Kurt Helin

Brooklyn Nets v Portland Trail Blazers

As expected, Steve Blake opts in with Portland Trail Blazers

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Last season, solid veteran point guard Steve Blake saw his numbers dip — he averaged 4.3 points a game, shot just 37.3 percent overall and a career-low 35.2 percent. In the playoffs, those numbers fell off the table — 18.2 percent from the field and 12.5 percent from three.

At age 35, Blake earned himself another year of a nice paycheck, opting in with the Portland Trail Blazers for $2.2 million, the team announced. This was expected; Blake was not going to do better — he might struggle to find any guaranteed money — out on the open market.

Blake is still second on the Trail Blazers depth chart at the point, behind Damian Lillard. The team may look to change that this summer.

Blake helped lead Maryland to the national championship in 2002 and since then has worked hard to carve out a solid 12-year NBA career. He’s averaged 6.7 points and four assists a game, shooting 38.5 percent from three for his career. He also is well liked in locker rooms and active in the community wherever he has played.

However, as is to be expected, his numbers have dipped in recent years.

He can provide some veteran leadership in the locker room for the Blazers, while it is likely his on-the-court role will diminish from the nearly 19 minutes a game he saw last season. It’s also possible the Blazers use him in a trade package.

 

Lakers, with No. 2 pick, don’t expect to get to work out Karl Anthony Towns

NBA Draft Prospects Workout 2015
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On Friday, the Lakers had their second workout with Jahlil Okafor out of Duke. With the No. 2 pick in the draft — the highest pick the organization has had since it took James Worthy No. 1 in 1982 — the Lakers are wisely doing their due diligence, working out and meeting with all the guys near the top of the draft board: D’Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay, Kristaps Porzingis and others.

Well, all except Karl Anthony Towns.

The Kentucky big man projected to go first overall to Minnesota isn’t working out for anyone privately, and the Lakers have given up expecting him to, reports Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

The Lakers have also become increasingly doubtful they will have a workout for Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns. The Lakers believe their lack of progress with those efforts stem from most NBA mock drafts predicting the Minnesota Timberwolves will select with their No. 1 pick. But the Lakers will accommodate their workout schedule should Towns and his representatives express interest in a workout.

Towns reportedly met with Minnesota officials Friday but is not believed to have worked out for them at that time.

This is simply an agent making sure he controls the spin and situation as best as he can, and he wants to make sure his client is seen as the unquestioned, prohibitive favorite No. 1 pick.

Still, it’s unusual, particularly for this reason: It’s not a lock the Timberwolves take Towns No. 1. It’s likely, but there is a well-reported difference of opinion between Minnesota decision maker Flip Saunders — who loves Okafor — and the rest of his staff (and just about every other scout) who likes Towns better. Saunders watched Towns at a workout last week in Southern California — one not put on or organized by the Timberwolves — and reportedly came away impressed. It made it more likely Towns goes No. 1. But it is no lock.

You can expect the top of the draft board to go Towns then Okafor, but even if the order flips those will be the top two. When things really get interesting is with Philadelphia at No. 3 and the Knicks at No. 4 (with New York willing to move the pick for the right price).

Report: Expect Bucks, Khris Middleon to reach quick deal in free agency

Chicago Bulls v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Three
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Khris Middleton was the best value in the NBA last season. The Milwaukee Bucks got 13.4 points per game (18.1 per game after the All-Star break) and a guy who shot 40.7 percent from three, played strong defense against multiple positions, and was incredibly efficient with a league 10th-best real plus-minus of +6.07, all for just $915,243.

This summer, Middleton is going to get paid.

The restricted free agent should have a number of suitors but nobody thought the Bucks would let him go (they have the right to match any offer). However, it may not come down to matching, according to the Milwaukee Journal’s Gery Woelfel (hat tip Eye On Basketball).

Free agency begins July 1 and, according to a person close to the scene, Khris Middleton won’t be a free agent for long and will reach a quick agreement to remain with the Bucks.

Expect that deal to be north of $8 million a year, maybe well north. He is the perfect example of a player who gets locked up on what seems a big contract this summer, but a deal that looks good once the salary cap spikes in 2016.

The Bucks only have a couple potential free agents this summer, and Middleton is the highest priority (Jared Dudley is expected to opt out of his deal as well and be an unrestricted free agent). Middleton fits with a lineup loaded with versatile and long defenders, such as Michael Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Middleton has said he wanted to reach a deal with the Bucks and stay with this team and coach Jason Kidd.

Milwaukee announced itself as a team on the rise last season, and they will add instant offensive punch getting Jabari Parker back from injury, plus whoever they likely add in free agency. Middleton is a key part of that future and the Bucks aren’t going to let him go.

Report: Former Nuggets coach Melvin Hunt near deal to be lead assistant in Dallas

Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers
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Melvin Hunt did a good job when handed the head coaching job in Denver mid-season — a team that had given up on Brian Shaw won six of its first eight for the popular assistant coach. They did so well management cut him off at the knees forcing him to rest guys, they were concerned the team would fall too far down the draft. Still the team was 10-13 under him, taking steps forward.

After the season, Hunt was a front-runner for the Nuggets job that was ultimately given to Mike Malone (who had been unfairly let go in Sacramento in the middle of the season).

Now it looks like Hunt has found a new home, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.

Great hire by Dallas. Hunt is professional, and the player like and respect him — this is a good hire by the Mavericks.

Hunt is going to get another head coaching job in the coming years, until then Dallas has a quality assistant coach.

Report: Lakers will not pick up $9 million option on Jordan Hill

jordan hill
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When the Lakers wildly overpaid Jordan Hill $9 million last season, with a team option for this season, the idea was to create a salary that could be a trade chip. The hope was Jordan’s salary would become part of a deal to bring a quality player to the Lakers, and the team that traded for Jordan would not pick up the option and save cap space.

It didn’t work out that way, no deal involving Jordan materialized.

Instead, the Lakers are going to get that cap space. The Lakers are not likely to pick up Hill’s $9 million option for next season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.com.

As the Los Angeles Lakers maneuver to free $24 million-plus of salary cap space for summer free agency, the franchise is unlikely to exercise the option on forward Jordan Hill’s contract for the 2015-16 season, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Lakers are not obligated to make a final determination on the $9 million owed on Hill’s contract before June 30, but momentum is strong that they’ll allow Hill to enter into free agency, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Hill started 57 games for the Lakers and averaged 12 points and 7.9 rebounds a game. You can’t fully trust his midrange game, but he can pop and not just roll off the pick. He can play solid defense in the paint, is athletic, and appears to have worked out off-the-court issues. He’d make a decent reserve big man somewhere.

He’s just not going to make $9 million again.

And if the Lakers draft Jahlil Okafor at the No. 2 spot, there would be far fewer minutes for Hill anyway.

There will certainly be interest in Hill in the $4 million to $5 million range, and the Lakers may well be among the teams interested. They liked him. Just not at that price.