Kurt Helin

Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets

Reports: Thunder close to acquiring Brook Lopez from Nets


Oklahoma City already looked likely to swoop into the bottom playoff spot in the West and become the scariest eight seed ever.

Now they are on the verge of becoming even more dangerous — maybe the favorites to come out of the West.

The Thunder have revived talks and are close to signing off on a deal that would be a massive upgrade for them at the center spot, bringing in Brook Lopez, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and confirmed by others.

It may be more than just the Thunder signing off on this deal that has delayed it, there may be other moving parts of previously discussed deals.

There is a risk here for Oklahoma City — Lopez has a player option for $16.7 million next season, meaning he can be a free agent this summer. They could be giving up some nice assets for a three-month rental if he bolts.

That said the Thunder should make this happen — they need to win now. Kevin Durant can be a free agent in 2016 and the idea that he might bolt OKC for the bright lights of a bigger market are far more than idle talk, several sources have told me he has people in his camp pushing for an exit. However, win a ring and it becomes much harder to walk away (especially since the Thunder can offer a larger contract with one more guaranteed year).

The Thunder were title contenders before this deal, even if they are the eight seed this is a team that made the conference finals last year and can go farther if healthy. Lopez upgrades the team’s weakest position.

For the Nets, they get a potential point guard of the future in Reggie Jackson (because it’s not Deron Williams). It’s one they have to re-sign — Jackson is a restricted free agent this summer — but a guy they can keep. Jackson wanted his own team to run (not to be stuck in the shadow of Russell Westbrook), the Nets could be that team. And it’s in a market he would like.

Expect this deal to be finalized before the deadline passes. The only question is in what form.

Report: Portland trades for Arron Afflalo, adding much needed depth to Blazers

Denver Nuggets v Sacramento Kings

This is why LaMarcus Aldridge decided to forgo thumb surgery and stick around — the Trail Blazers believe they are legit title contenders, they just needed a little depth. Now, they just got better and deeper in the team’s weakest position.

The Trail Blazers and Nuggets have agreed to a deal that will send Arron Afflalo to Portland, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. There he will team with sharpshooter Wes Matthews and the struggling Nicolas Batum to form a quality wing rotation (to go with Aldridge inside and Damian Lillard at the point).

Portland gets Afflalo and Alonzo Gee.

Denver gets a lot of pieces back, including a 2016 first-round pick that is lottery protected, but it’s unlikely Portland misses the playoffs, so that’s going to be the pick. If not, it’s a 2017 lottery protected pick, and after that it’s two second rounders. Denver also receives another second round pick. As for players, they get Thomas Robinson (this is now his fourth team), Will Barton and Victor Claver.

Afflalo, 29, is the best player in this deal. He is scoring 14.5 points a game and while his is shooting 33.7 percent from three this season he is a career 38 percent shooter from beyond the arc. Last season he showed more shot creation skills as the lead guard in Orlando, but this season he has struggled some in Denver’s muddled offense. Going to Portland we likely see a return to form. He’s also a solid wing defender (maybe not as good as his reputation, but solid).

Afflalo has a player option for $7.9 million next season, but most around the league expect him to opt out and become a free agent. This could and should give Portland the inside track on re-signing him.

In the short term this is a score for Portland because Afflalo can start at the three for Batum, or come off the bench and play the two or the three — Terry Stotts has options. Portland’s bench has been an issue all season, and it just got better.

Report: With news he wouldn’t re-sign there Sacramento backs out of Goran Dragic chase

Miami Heat v Phoenix Suns

This is exactly what Goran Dragic’s camp wanted.

He wants to go to a big market — the Lakers, the Knicks, the Heat (Miami is actually a middle market but isn’t perceived that way). The Suns want as much back for trading their best player as they can get so they were in talks with teams that had assets to move — the Celtics, the Rockets, the Kings. Suns owner Robert Saver is angry and does not want to cave to Dragic’s demands. To counter that, Dragic’s camp made it known that he doesn’t care about the fifth year of new contract, which would be worth more than $25 million on a max deal and could be offered by the team that has his rights after the deadline today.

It worked, at least in Sacramento, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

As the Sacramento Kings continue to be warned that Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic would have no interest in signing an extension with them, the team has become increasingly reluctant to pursue a trade, league sources told Yahoo Sports…

The Kings would’ve been willing to offer a package that included 2014 first-round pick Nik Stauskus and a future first-round pick, but discussions are dissipating with the trade deadline approaching on Thursday afternoon, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Houston has not been scared off by the report; they have convinced other players who were not sure about Houston to stay.

Phoenix’s asking price for Dragic is steep — they want a good young player and at least one first-round pick (maybe two if it’s not likely to be lottery). The best offer they have may come from Miami, which is offering two first rounders according to Chris Broussard of ESPN. All of this makes for the possibility the Suns do not make a trade and call Dragic’s bluff. Will he leave that money on the table?

All of this makes for the possibility the Suns do not make a trade and call Dragic’s bluff. But he says he doesn’t trust Suns management and would just walk this summer. The bottom line is this phase of the Dragic story ends at 3 ET, but we could have a second round come July.

Report: Goran Dragic doesn’t care about fifth year of next contract; does care about location

Goran Dragic, Damian Lillard

Point guard Goran Dragic went to Suns management and said he was not re-signing with the team this summer — he wanted to be traded. More than that, he gave them a list of places he wanted to be traded to, including the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks or Miami Heat.

But if the Suns are going to trade him, they only care about what they will get back in return. With that, they have ignored Dragic’s list and talked to teams with more to offer — the Boston Celtics, Sacramento Kings, and Houston Rockets are on that list.

What those teams believe is they can change Dragic’s mind for two reasons. First, they will show him how good their team culture is. Second, as they will pick up his Bird Rights in the trade whichever team has Dragic after the trade deadline can offer one additional year and, with raises, more than $25 million more guaranteed. (Note, that is assuming he gets a max contract with his next deal, which is no sure thing.)

But Dragic doesn’t care about the money, according to a report from Sam Amick of the USA Today.

But according to a person with knowledge of his situation, the fifth year is not a factor for Dragic as he weighs his uncertain future. Dragic has been smart with his money, it seems, and the allure of the extra guaranteed year is not expected to have any sway on his free agency decision. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Dragic appears far more concerned with the fit with his future team, about being on a playoff contender or — in the cases of the Lakers and Knicks — about helping one of the league’s flagship franchises get back on its feet.

I don’t know Amick’s source, but I do know this:

This is exactly what someone in Dragic’s camp trying to scare off those other teams, the franchises where Dragic doesn’t want to land, would say. True or not, this is an attempt to spin those talks, to put doubts in the suitors minds.

But the Suns aren’t going to deal with the Knicks and Lakers, they simply do not have the assets to get a trade done (and frankly both know they don’t have to give up assets, they can make their pitch this summer). Miami is in better shape to deal but not a great space.

All of which is to say, some team may call Dragic’s bluff. Is he really willing to leave $20-$25 million (depending on the contract) in guaranteed money on the table? In four years it’s highly unlikely he could get that big a deal as a free agent, at age 28 this is his one last big kick at the can. I don’t care how well you managed your money, that’s a lot of money to potentially walk away from.

Dragic’s future is the best story of this trade deadline, but it also could be the best one of July also.

PBT Extra: One-on-one with LaMarcus Aldridge, talking Blazers’ playoff chances

NBA All-Star Game 2015
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NEW YORK — The ultimate sign of how much LaMarcus Aldridge believes in Portland came when he injured his left thumb — he put off needed surgery to keep playing this season.

PBT caught up with Aldridge All-Star Weekend to talk about that belief and what the Blazers need to do in the playoffs. It may come down to the defense the Blazers play, and we talk about that with the All-Star big man as well.