Kurt Helin

Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three

Report: Lakers climbing fast on LaMarcus Aldridge’s list of preferred destinations


The Trail Blazers quickly denied it, but it sure felt like the team trading Nicolas Batum to Charlotte for Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson felt like the first move a franchise realizing their star player was about to bolt and they needed to adjust the roster.

That star is LaMarcus Aldridge, and if there is a top 15 player in the NBA most likely on the move this summer, it’s him. More and more the sense around the league is he’s gone.

While it has been assumed he’d want to go home to Texas (he played his high school ball in Dallas) the ever-present Lakers are lurking, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

ESPN.com reported in May that both the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks strongly believe they’ll have a great shot to lure Aldridge back to his home state of Texas next month. But sources said this week that Aldridge is actually thinking more and more about a free-agent jump to the Los Angeles Lakers….

The Spurs, sources say, continue to be Aldridge’s most likely destination if he goes through with the idea of leaving the Blazers to start anew. But sources also say there is a rising sentiment that the Lakers have edged past the Mavericks on Aldridge’s wish list despite the fact that he was a high school star in Dallas.

Remember this when you hear the Lakers’ name come up in seemingly every free agent rumor this summer: Every smart agent is using them as leverage. This is not to say the Lakers will not land somebody (this summer or next), maybe even Aldridge. But much like the NFL used the LA market to force other cities to build new stadiums, agents will use the threat of the Lakers to get other teams to up their offers.

This isn’t a question about money, Aldridge is going to get the max. He’d actually take home more in Texas, a place without state income tax.

The question is who is he would playing next to in Los Angeles… well, besides Kobe for a year. Is it Jahlil Okafor, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, or is it DeMarcus Cousins after a trade? (I wouldn’t bet on that trade happening, but that’s another story.)

With either of those options, is he closer to a title than he would be in Texas? Certainly not if the Spurs can free up the cap space to get him (it depends on what happens with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili). And Dallas has Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki and a roster that won 50 games last season. Both of those options are further along on the court

But the Lakers are a draw with cash to spend. And they are leverage. And they are going to be coming up in a lot of rumors this summer.

Report: Utah Jazz looking to move up in draft

Jazz logo

The second half of last season, the Utah Jazz found an identity, going 19-10 after the All-Star break. With Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert up front, with Gordon Hayward on the wing, they became a force defensively that scored enough points to win.

But they need more talent — and they want to get it through the draft.

Utah has the No. 12 pick plus a couple second rounders, but they are looking to move up in the draft, according to Jabari Davis of Basketball Insiders.

With rumors about a potential mutual interest between the team and soon-to-be free agent Paul Millsap beginning to circulate, we now have a source confirming the organization not only intends to move up in tomorrow’s draft, but could be willing to package assets and players to do so if necessary.

“They have enough depth and have assets on the roster,” said David Locke, the radio voice of the Utah Jazz. “I am certain they are trying to couple those assets, picks and players to move up.”

How real the Millsap thing is can be debated — the Hawks want (actually, need) to retain him, and he has said he liked the family atmosphere in the ATL. But, a free agent needs leverage, and Utah could provide just that.

Still, there are some quality pieces Utah might want in this draft, the problem with moving up is you have to find a partner willing to move down. This is not the NFL with its war of attrition, where trading down for multiple picks makes sense. In the NBA the talent drops off quickly as you move down the board, and the Jazz would have to offer something of more quality than a couple second round picks to interest a team above them to move.

That said, it’s something to watch. Boston, Denver, and a host of other teams are expected to be active on draft night, a one a lot of people around the league expect to be a crazy night of trades and moves. Utah wants to get in on the action.

Report: Nuggets continue to try and reshape roster, put Danilo Gallinari on trade block

Danilo Gallinari

If you see a name on the Nuggets’ roster, he’s available in a trade.

Ty Lawson. Wilson Chandler. Kenneth Faried (after July 1 anyway).

And now you can add Danilo Gallinari to that list, according to Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. There is nobody on the Denver roster who is safe as the franchise tries to reshape its locker room and its culture under new coach Mike Malone.

Gallinari could be a good pickup, when healthy he is a dangerous scoring big who has three point range, can put the ball on the floor, and plays well in transition. He was the leading scorer for George Karl’s 57-win Nugget team, until he went down with a knee injury late in the season. That was followed by a botched surgery that kept him out the entire 2013-14 campaign.

But by the end of this past season Gallinari was starting to look like his old self — he averaged 19 points a game and shot 39.1 percent from three, plus grabbed almost five rebounds a game.

Gallinari has one season left on his contract at $11.6 million.

He’s not going to come cheaply — the Nuggets are looking to move Lawson and others, but with Gallinari the offer will have to be more substantial. But Denver will at least listen.

Report: Lakers, Kings discuss framework of trade for DeMarcus Cousins

Atlanta Hawks v Sacramento Kings

Has Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé been won over — or bullied into submission — by coach George Karl?

Ranadivé had been opposed to trading DeMarcus Cousins, but he’s let GM Vlade Divac talk to teams about it and Divac and the Lakers have the framework of a deal — a pricey one for the Lakers. From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings exchanged frameworks of a trade centered on All-Star DeMarcus Cousins on Wednesday and discussions could intensify on Thursday, league sources told Yahoo Sports….

Kings vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac has pursued a possible deal that would include a bevvy of assets, including the Lakers’ No. 2 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson and other draft assets, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Sacramento also would want to unload the remainder of forward Carl Landry’s two years, $13.5 million contract, league sources said.

That move would give the Lakers the star they have been looking for, and someone who could continue the tradition of great centers wearing Lakers purple and gold (or, Forum Blue, if you prefer).

But that is at a steep cost — three young, quality assets. Most likely the Lakers would want to reduce that by one (say, keeping Clarkson) and getting the No. 6 pick of the Kings. This is a negotiation, but the Kings may not back down.

Cousins had not pushed for a trade from the Kings — he said on twitter Wednesday he “absolutely” wants to stay with Kings — but with Karl trying to push him out the door, he and his camp have been more open to the idea. Cousin’s agent has worked to steer him to Los Angeles, but other teams such as the Boston Celtics have wanted in on the discussions.

Ranadivé refused to do a deal with Denver, where former Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro and coach Mike Malone have been hired, according to Wojnarowski.

It’s hard to imagine Ranadivé approving a trade with the Lakers that isn’t a massive haul for the Kings — trading the best and most popular player on your roster to your most-hated rival is how owners become hated. This would not go over well in Sacramento.

Still, if it’s all three young players it’s an interesting package for the Kings, coming close to getting real value back for Cousins.

But is the owner going to let the coach dictate the direction of the franchise and push everyone around like this?


Interesting dark horse in Kevin Love pursuit: Portland Trail Blazers

2015 NBA Finals - Game One

We need to start here: I don’t expect Kevin Love to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers. Love has repeatedly said he plans to return to the Cavaliers next season and chase a ring next to LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

But nothing is set in stone. Love opted out of his contract for next season as expected, and LeBron James doesn’t feel the need to recruit him to stay.

A host of teams will make a run at Love (we’ll see if he even meets with them). The Lakers are considered the favorites but the Celtics, Knicks and a host of other teams will give it a shot.

One interesting dark horse: Portland. From Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources say that the Portland Trail Blazers, furthermore, are likely to pursue the former Oregon high school star in the event that LaMarcus Aldridge — as many league executives expect — flees the Blazers in free agency.

Remember, Love grew up in that area and played his high school ball at Lake Oswego just outside Portland. Plus he would be plug-and-play in a good lineup, he would pair with Damian Lillard and a solid core of role players (if they can re-sign Wesley Matthews), and they could do some damage, even in a deep West.

It’s a long shot. Love leaving Cleveland is a long shot. But if you see him start to meet with teams other than the Cavs, keep an eye on Portland if LaMarcus Aldridge heads to the Mavericks (or other teams in Texas).