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Suns’ center Alex Len expected to sign qualifying offer, head to camp

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In the free-spending summer of 2016, Bismack Biyambo got a $72 million contract. Timofey Mozgov got $64 million.

Those kinds of contracts — and there were plenty more of them — had a lot of NBA big men (and players in general) heading into this summer thinking they were going to get PAID. Instead, teams learned the lessons from their drunken spending binge and the market got tight. Especially for centers.

Which leads us to the news Suns big man Alex Len is going to bet on himself and sign his qualifying offer before coming to camp, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Barring an unforeseen change of events, Phoenix Suns center Alex Len is planning to sign the team’s $4.2 million qualifying offer before training camp, clearing the way to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018, league sources told ESPN….

Phoenix wants to study’s Len’s progress in the 2017-18 season before committing to a long-term, lucrative contract extension to him. Len has started 80 games over the past two seasons, including 34 in 2016-17 when he averaged eight points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks a game.

Phoenix wants to leave its options open. Len is mobile, can protect the rim, and has some skills that would help him fit in a modern NBA style offense — he could play with Devin Booker and Josh Jackson — plus last season he improved his shooting around the rim and in the paint. However, he’s not consistent on either end of the court. He shows his potential in flashes, but the Suns need to see more.

Len will now be an unrestricted free agent next summer — he is playing for his next payday. If that can’t motivate him, nothing will.

PBT Podcast: Warriors, Lakers, Pacific preview with Mark Medina

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The Golden State Warriors are a juggernaut, the Mt. Everest the rest of the NBA is trying to climb this season.

Nobody is on that level yet, but the Lakers look like a team with a good foundation — and the ability to draw free agents — who could challenge the Warriors in a couple of years. That is, if Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram can live up to the hype.

Mark Medina of the San Jose Mercury News — a Warriors beat writer who used to cover the Lakers — joins me to discuss those two teams and their coming season, as well as the Clippers, Suns, and Kings.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

Celtics pay the price to transform themselves

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

Boston turned over 11 of 15 players from a team that earned the No. 1 seed and reached the conference finals. The Celtics made three trades each bigger than many teams’ biggest move this summer, and they signed Gordon Hayward.

An offseason so busy, I had to grade it twice.

Boston’s massive overhaul culminated in dealing for Kyrie Irving, a huge trade among the Eastern Conference’s two best teams. The Celtics got the young star, but at a significant cost.

The Nets’ unprotected 2018 first-round pick is an elite asset. Jae Crowder is a versatile 3-and-D wing on one of the NBA’s most team-friendly contracts. Isaiah Thomas is a star himself when healthy (obviously a major question). Ante Zizic is a nice developmental prospect. And Boston sent another second-rounder to complete the deal.

It can be hard to conceptualize the value of the Brooklyn pick, as it doesn’t show up when comparing last year’s Celtics roster to this year’s – definitely younger, maybe even better. But that pick was the centerpiece of their offer, and to me, it tilted the trade to unfavorable.

At least Irving will be ready to begin the season, unlike Thomas. That’ll keep the Celtics rolling, especially with Hayward.

Hayward was the lynchpin of a successful offseason. An in-his-prime star acquired with cap space created by renouncing marginal players and trading Avery Bradley for Marcus Morris.

That trade wasn’t great in a vacuum. I didn’t like trading the No. 1 pick for the No. 3 pick (Jayson Tatum) and a future first-rounder, either. My reservations about those deals largely stand from my initial grading:

Boston traded down from the top pick to No. 3 to draft Tatum. Count me among those who believed there was a significant drop from Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball to the next tier – and the tier after that.

The extra first-rounder the Celtics acquired has also only lost value since the trade.

It’d convey from the Lakers if they pick 2-5 next year. But they added two players, Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, better than they were expected to get. Los Angeles looks less likely to stumble into a top-five pick – especially without incentive to tank.

If not the Lakers’ pick this season, Boston will get the higher of Sacramento’s and Philadelphia’s 2019 first-rounders (or lower if one is No. 1). The Kings signed a couple veterans, George Hill and Zach Randolph, to help them in 2018-19. Sacramento’s young players will be more developed by then, and mirroring the Lakers this year, there’s no incentive to tank. (Philadelphia is also on the rise, but the Celtics probably already knew that.)

There’s still a chance Boston winds up with a high pick – or even wins the trade with a middling additional selection. Tatum, as the Celtics have claimed, might be a better prospect than Fultz outright.

I originally thought the trade was about fair. Developments swing the pendulum away from Boston, though perhaps I’m overly colored by my relatively dim evaluation of Tatum. (I expected the Celtics to draft Josh Jackson when the trade was made.)

Boston’s next big move, signing Hayward, also comes with a major caveat. To get Hayward, the Celtics had to downgrade from Avery Bradley to Marcus Morris.

The reasons are clear: Bradley is earning $8,808,989 in the final season of his contract. Morris is locked up for two more seasons at $5 million and $5,375,000.

Bradley for Morris is understandable given the circumstances. Trading down for Tatum is a difference of opinion, and Danny Ainge is rightfully sticking by his.

The Celtics are in awesome shape. They have a young good team plus three extra first-rounders, including the vaunted Lakers/Kings/76ers pick and a sneaky valuable Grizzlies pick.

But it’s important to remember they entered the offseason in awesome shape, and I’m grading how their position has changed. Though I didn’t love their decision-making, luring Hayward with cap space that mostly existed anyway was a massive victory.

Offseason grade: B

Jury selection in trial of Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris for assault starts Wednesday

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Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris are about to get their day in court.

Jury selection in an assault case against the brothers stemming from a 2015 incident — when both were playing for the Suns — where the brothers and three others were accused of beating up a man outside a recreational basketball game will begin on Wednesday. It will be followed immediately by the trial, reports the AP via AZCentral.com.

Jury selection is set to begin Wednesday in Phoenix in the aggravated assault trial of NBA players and identical twins Marcus and Markieff Morris.

Marcus currently plays for the Boston Celtics, while Markieff is with the Wizards.

Back in 2015, the brothers were investigated and eventually charged with felony aggravated assault joining three other men to allegedly beat up Erik Hood at a recreational basketball tournament in the Phoenix area (hood ended up in the hospital with a broken nose and other injuries). The motivation allegedly had been Hood sending “inappropriate” text messages to the Morris brothers’ mother. From the start, both brothers said they were at the tournament but have denied any involvement in the attack.

From the start, both brothers have denied any involvement. Often cases like this are pled down to a lesser charge, however, the twins may not be willing to do that — any admission of guilt would come with a suspension from the NBA in addition to whatever punishment is ordered by the court. Plus, the brothers say they were not involved.

 

Suns’ offseason a snoozer

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The Suns made their usual bids for stars.

Also, as usual, Phoenix came up empty.

Then… nothing.

The Suns had the NBA’s quietest offseason. They drafted Josh Jackson (No. 4) and Davon Reed (No. 32) and re-signed Alan Williams to a completely reasonable three-year, $17 million contract. Otherwise, they mostly stayed quiet.

Alex Len remains a restricted free agent, and Phoenix has enough cap room to do something big – especially if it includes renouncing Len. But at this point in the summer, fireworks are usually finished.

The Suns could have made a late splash by trading for Kyrie Irving. They didn’t push too hard, logical considering they’re unlikely to win enough during the final two seasons before Irving’s player option to justify the cost of acquiring him.

Phoenix wanted the type of offseason the Denver had, landing a star like Paul Millsap while its payroll was low. When that didn’t happen, the Suns settled for the type of offseason the Heat couldn’t have – rolling over cap space, setting up to tank again and trying again next summer.

Aside from overspending on lackluster veterans, there just wasn’t much else for the Phoenix to do.

The Suns already have promising young players (Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, Tyler Ulis and Derrick Jones. Jr.). They have veterans to set a tone (Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley). They even have a few between players who could be part of the next winner in Phoenix or get moved before that (Eric Bledsoe, T.J. Warren and Alan Williams).

It was a bummer that Brandon Knight got hurt, but he was unlikely regain positive trade value. Davon Reed’s injury was also a bummer, but I didn’t have the highest hopes for him, either.

Getting Jackson at No. 4 was treated by many as a boon. But I always projected a player of that caliber to be available.

This offseason just didn’t move the needle in any way.

The Suns did very little, and as long as they don’t offer Len a huge contract or do something else wild, that was fine given the circumstances. High draft picks and cap flexibility are always good to have.

Offseason grade: C