Report: Hawks exploring sign-and-trade options for Paul Millsap

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This may be too little, too late.

A year after losing Al Horford for nothing, the Atlanta Hawks are on the verge of losing Paul Millsap the same way in free agency. Then GM Mike Budenholzer traded Kyle Korver and was moving toward a Millsap trade at the deadline when that rug was pulled out from under him by ownership. Now the Hawks have traded Dwight Howard and seem committed to the rebuild, but now they would like to get something back for Millsap after ownership killed plans to trade him at the deadline.

They are trying to find a sign-and-trade that works, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN on SportsCenter (hat tip SLAM).

There are three or four teams out there that are willing to give Millsap a max contract, and sources have told me that the Hawks have begun getting some feelers on sign-and-trades.

Teams like the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets are interested in Paul Millsap.

Under the rules of the CBA, Millsap cannot make more money with a sign and trade (the days of a team signing a guy to a five-year max in a sign-and-trade are gone, now that contract can only be for the four-year deal another team could offer as a free agent). Which means the only motivation for these other teams is to clear out some cap space needed to sign Millsap, or to get other value.

The Hawks don’t have much leverage here. If he wants to go to Denver and they work it to sign him outright, Atlanta has no leverage. However, if the Nuggets want to clear out space or move someone like Wilson Chandler, they can do it through a sign-and-trade. It’s more up to the Nuggets than the Hawks.

It’s something to watch as the Hawks try to salvage something from their two biggest stars leaving.

Timberwolves waive oft-injured center Nikola Pekovic

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Timberwolves have waived center Nikola Pekovic, whose troublesome right foot limited a once-promising career to 271 games with the team over seven seasons.

The move was made Tuesday, with one season remaining on the five-year, $60 million contract Pekovic signed after a breakout 2012-13 season. The 31-year-old Pekovic last appeared in a game for the Wolves on Jan. 31, 2016.

Drafted in the second round in 2008, the 6-foot-11, 307-pound native of Montenegro made his NBA debut on Oct. 27, 2010. But just 10 games in, he sprained his left foot. Pekovic went on to miss an average of 21 games over his first four seasons to injuries, mostly on his right foot. He had Achilles tendon surgery in April 2015 and played in only 12 games the following year.

C.J. McCollum on the Warriors being bad for the NBA: “I think that’s garbage”

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The Golden State Warriors drafted most of their top players. Stephen Curry was No. 7 in 2009. Klay Thompson was No. 11 in 2011. Draymond Green was No. 35 in 2012. Save for Kevin Durant, they are the epitome of built and not bought. They were unfair when they won 73 games a season ago without Durant’s help.

But with Durant?

The complaint of some NBA fans has shifted from unfair advantage to exploitation.

Not everyone agrees with this complaint. I certainly don’t, at least not from a procedural standpoint. Sure, watching the Warriors mow down the NBA for the next few years doesn’t give a sense of hope, but the way they came about their riches was relatively by the book.

Even some NBA players, like Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum agrees. Speaking with Alex Kennedy on a podcast recently, McCollum spoke to whether he thought the Warriors were bad for the NBA.

Via Soundcloud:

No, no, that’s garbage. They’ve done things the right way. It’s not like they cheated. They drafted well, they developed players and then they bring in an outsider in KD, who was a free agent and had every right to sign with the team he wanted. If anything other teams need to get better, other teams need to figure out ways to execute trades, to execute the draft, develop players internally, and try to put something together.

McCollum, when asked whether he wanted to then go out and recruit stars like the Warriors did responded with a joking, “Paging Paul George.”

I’m with McCollum here, even if I do find watching the Warriors to be a bit tiresome at times. I’m definitely in the camp that Durant had every right to go to Golden State by the rules of the league, so he can’t be penalized for that. As far as him playing on that team, it’s a little wack. You should be able to separate the two.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers are trying to make a superteam of their own and Paul George appears headed to the Los Angeles Lakers in one way or another. The NBA: where weird happens.

Report: Bulls “actively shopping” Jimmy Butler for trade; Cavaliers, Celtics at front of line

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Retool around Jimmy Butler or trade him and rebuild completely?

That was the question hanging over the Bulls for at least a year now, and it has been hard to read what Bulls management was thinking, their actions were inconsistent. Last year they were going to go young, then went out and signed Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo.

Now it looks like trading him may be the call. From Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com.

The Bulls routinely say they’ll take phone calls from teams about Butler’s availability around this time and at the trade deadline but this time around, multiple sources tell CSNChicago.com the Bulls are doing more than listening: they’re shopping Butler to many teams….

The Boston Celtics have always been fond of Butler and have the assets the Bulls, in theory, would be attracted to in terms of multiple draft picks and affordable contracts on the current roster. The Cleveland Cavaliers seemed to be on the Bulls’ doorstep before abruptly ending their partnership with GM David Griffin Monday evening.

On the surface they would appear to be the favorites as the Phoenix Suns have been “doing due diligence,” according to league sources. And the Denver Nuggets were on the periphery at the trade deadline, acquiring about Butler.

The most interesting thing is that the Bulls seem serious this time. Maybe. Ownership there doesn’t like the idea of a rebuild, they want to make the playoffs every year and sell out (contending is nice but not required). This would be a rebuild and the Bulls are out of the playoffs for a few years. Butler has said he wants to stay, and he likely would qualify for a designated player super max contract in 2019 when he is a free agent if they want to keep him.

The Celtics would be interesting, they have the pieces to pull this off, but in the past they haven’t put all that on the table for Butler. If they are willing to trade the No. 3 plus two of Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, and Jae Crowder, then they would only need to make a few smaller moves to still have the money to still chase Gordon Hayward in free agency with a max offer, stockpiling their team. If they trade all three players they would have space, but the Bulls likely want picks in this deal. Plural.

Butler wants to go to the Cavaliers, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. David Griffin reportedly left the Cavaliers proposals they could pitch for Butler (and Paul George), but could owner Dan Gilbert and defacto GM Koby Altman really pull that off? I’m not convinced, mostly because the Cavaliers don’t have a pick to trade until 2021, so it would take a third team and delicate negotiations.

The Nuggets have a lot of good assets, and you slide Butler next to Jamal Murray, getting passes from Nikola Jokic, and you have something there. The Suns have assets as well.

The only question is if the Bulls are really serious this time.

Report: Rockets offering James Harden contract extension that could be worth projected max of $168 million over four years

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The Rockets signed James Harden to a contract extension last year, which would usually preclude him from signing another extension this year. But the new Collective Bargaining Agreement includes a special provision for him and Russell Westbrook.

Houston apparently hopes to take advantage.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

For the second consecutive season, the Rockets intend to offer Harden a contract extension long before he could hit free agency, a person will knowledge of the team’s plans said Tuesday. The individual spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team’s intentions have not been made public.

The Rockets “plan to extend James Harden at the first opportunity,” the individual said. “That is the plan.”

Harden is locked up for the next two years, at $28,299,399 and $30,421,854. An extension would kick in in 2019.

It could be worth a projected max of $168 million over four years. (The exact total wouldn’t be determined until 2019.) Presumably, the Rockets would give him the max. He’s their unquestioned franchise player, and they have treated him as such.

Houston and Harden could wait another year – again, he can’t become a free agent until 2019 – and sign an extension next year. Then, it could be for five years worth a projected max of $217 million. It’d have the same structure over the first four years as the extension he could sign this summer. It’d just have a fifth season tacked on (with a projected $49 million salary).

There’s plenty to weigh – security vs. flexibility. But the Rockets are going to give Harden the option of locking in again.