Josh McRoberts to join Miami Heat for mid-level exception

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UPDATE 3:02 pm: Josh McRoberts has decided to bring his versatile game to South Beach, choosing Miami over the same offer from Charlotte. That was first reported by Marc Stein of ESPN.

It has since been confirmed by the Miami Heat.

McRoberts is the kind of player the Heat could have used in the Finals, he’s not great at any one thing but works hard on every possession and if you don’t think he’s athletic you will end up in one of his poster dunks.

Is that enough to sway LeBron James? Maybe not but it’s a step in the right direction.

And it’s a hit to a scrappy Bobcats team that used guys like McRoberts to maximize their talent last year.

—Kurt Helin

1:59 pm: When he sits down with LeBron James this week, Pat Riley will want to share some good news with the Heat’s biggest free agent.

Two rumored top Miami targets are off the market. Kyle Lowry will re-sign with the Raptors, and Marcin Gortat will re-sign with the Wizards.

How will Riley sell LeBron?

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

If the Heat give McRoberts the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception – $5,305,000 starting,$22,652,350 over four years – they’d be hard-capped at the apron ($4 million above the luxury-tax line).

They’d still have room to offer LeBron, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade max contracts, keep Norris Cole Cole and Shabazz Napier, use the full bi-annual exception and fill the roster with minimum-salary players. However, Miami would lose a little flexibility to accept trades that add salary.

That’s a small concession to make for a player the caliber of McRoberts, who averaged 8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game while starting for the playoff-bound Bobcats last season.

But McRoberts, despite his overall ability, might not be a great fit in Miami.

Before opting out, he thrived next to Al Jefferson in Charlotte. McRoberts spread the floor with his shooting and passing, freeing Jefferson to work inside, and defended well enough to meet Steve Clifford’s demanding standards.

McRoberts’ defense might travel, especially considering I’m not sure what type of scheme Erik Spoelstra will implement as his team ages. But his floor spacing would be a bit redundant with Bosh. There’s nothing wrong with playing two perimeter-oriented bigs, but who are they clearing the paint for? Is LeBron driving that effected? Wade can’t get to the rim nearly as frequently as once did, though an offense built around LeBron posting up more often could be intriguing.

Beyond McRoberts adjusting to playing beside a very different center than Jefferson, there’s no guarantee the Heat get the same player Charlotte had last year. McRoberts, 27, just had the best season of his career. How long his prime lasts – the MLE can last up to four seasons – is a key question.

McRoberts’ main skills – shooting and passing for his size – generally age well, but he uses a sneaky amount of athleticism to position himself to take advantage of those skills. For Miami, though, impressing LeBron, Bosh and Wade now matters much more than a contract that might turn sour before its expiration.

In the last two years, Charlotte drafted a couple solid power forward from Indiana in the lottery – Noah Vonleh and Cody Zeller. The Hornets have a strong future at the position, but McRoberts is probably better than either youngster right now. As long as returning to the playoffs is a goal – and it should be – Charlotte might be most comfortable re-signing McRoberts as a stop-gap.

As long as they don’t sign Gordon Hayward to a max offer sheet, the Hornets have room to top an MLE offer from Miami for McRoberts. The questions are whether Charlotte wants to spend so much and whether McRoberts would accept less to join the Heat.

Most importantly: If Riley can lure McRoberts, what would LeBron think of the move?

Report: Hawks eyeing Luke Doncic with the No. 3 pick.

Associated Press
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No. 1 DeAndre Ayton to Phoenix.

No. 2 Marvin Bagley III to Sacramento (probably).

It’s at No. 3 in this draft that things seem to open up right now. The Atlanta Hawks have listened to trade offers for the pick but are rumored to be seeking a premium to move down in the draft (same with the Grizzlies at No. 4). If the Hawks make the pick, it’s been unclear what direction they go, in part because there were a lot of rumors about Sacramento’s leanings. Now that seems settled, there may be a direction for Atlanta — Luka Doncic. From Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Slovenian teen star Luka Doncic has elevated to the forefront of the Atlanta Hawks’ internal discussions on the third overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, league sources told ESPN….

Doncic started to separate himself in organizational discussions around the choice, an examination that has included a tremendous intrigue with Jaren Jackson Jr., league sources said.

This could be a real interest, in the sense that the Hawks may want to draft the 19-year-old Slovenian (who will be at the draft after he led his Real Madrid team to the Spanish League title on Tuesday). He is a 6’8″ point-forward gifted at running the pick-and-roll, is a great playmaker in transition, and he is the best passer in this draft. Doncic has shooting range from the NBA three and he can finish inside. He also may be the most NBA ready player in this draft, having been a star (EuroLeague MVP) at the highest level of basketball outside of the United States. Doncic has, at the very least, the highest floor of anyone in this draft.

Or, could this be a leak to put pressure on the Dallas Mavericks and other teams high on Doncic — would Dallas be willing to swap picks (they draft No. 5) and throw in a young player or future pick to entice Atlanta to make the swap?

Doncic is not expected to fall past No. 4, although with teams down the board having a lot of interest in Mohamed Bamba and Michael Porter Jr. it’s possible a team trades up to get one of that pair and Doncic slides a little. It’s an unpredictable draft.

But we may see Doncic off the board at No. 3.

Deandre Ayton is already signing Phoenix Suns jerseys (PHOTO)

AP
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DeAndre Ayton seems to be the player most likely to go No. 1 overall on Thursday night in the 2018 NBA Draft to the Phoenix Suns.

The Arizona big man is still a little raw, and there are several good players in the Top 10 that Phoenix could choose from including Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley III, and Mo Bamba.

However, fans are confident that Ayton will end up in Phoenix, apparently so much so that some have already made up jerseys with his name on it and had them signed by the lottery pick-to-be.

Via Twitter:

For obvious reasons there’s no way Ayton will end up wearing the number 13 in Phoenix. That jersey has been retired for Steve Nash.

However, it seems like the chatter around the NBA has been more about who will go below Ayton and what teams will do to shift their draft picks leading into Thursday’s big selection night.

It was probably a mixture of fun and funny for Ayton to sign this Suns jersey, but it seems like all signs point to Phoenix taking him No. 1 overall. Then again, the NBA is crazy and anything could happen in the next 48 hours.

Report: Gregg Popovich met with Kawhi Leonard in San Diego

Getty
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Don’t count the San Antonio Spurs out of the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes just yet.

We have been waiting on pins and needles to see whether or not Spurs coach Gregg Popovich would meet with the apparently disgruntled Leonard this week before San Antonio approaches Thursday night’s NBA draft.

According to Yahoo! Sports’ Shams Charania, Leonard and Popovich met on Tuesday night in San Diego where Leonard has been working out.

Via Twitter:

For what it is worth, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reporterd that Popovich has not yet met with Leonard, but is traveling to Southern California to meet with the Spurs forward. Even further, Leonard has reportedly requested a trade to Los Angeles from the Spurs, specifically to the Lakers.

Via ESPN:

Leonard wants a trade to Los Angeles, preferably the Lakers over the Clippers, league sources said. He has privately maintained that he no longer wants to play in San Antonio, and will eventually alert rival teams considering trades for him that his intentions are to sign in Los Angeles — preferably with the Lakers — when he can become a free agent in 2019, league sources said.

Leonard had told confidants that he did not want to sit down with Popovich and has been purposely difficult for the Spurs to reach recently. Among the issues, Leonard is angry over what he believes was the Spurs’ mishandling of a quad injury, and remains irate with public comments out of teammate Tony Parker and Popovich that he felt were not supportive of him, league sources said.

We had to know this was coming. San Antonio wasn’t going to let Leonard dictate the terms of his departure from Texas all by himself. Although Leonard has put the Spurs in a tough situation given his reported open request to play in Los Angeles, no doubt both parties would be better off from a basketball perspective if they were together. San Antonio apparently doesn’t want to make a deal with a Western Conference team, either.

Since the Spurs were trying to get in touch with Leonard before Thursday’s big selection night, it could be a signal that Leonard is on the move. Several teams, including the Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Cleveland Cavaliers are rumored to be interested in Leonard’s services.

Rumor: Cavaliers could have trade interest in Kemba Walker

AP
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The Cleveland Cavaliers are trying to do everything in their power to retain LeBron James. They are also doing everything they can do to prepare themselves for if James decides to leave Cleveland once and for all.

Last week we heard rumors about how the Cavaliers were trying to prepare an offer to snag Kawhi Leonard away from the San Antonio Spurs. That move could be seen either as an intent to entice James to stay, or as a replacement for The King.

Now, we have rumor that the Cavaliers could be interested in acquiring an Eastern Conference point guard, presumably to help LeBron next season.

According to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, the Cavaliers have inquired to the Charlotte Hornets about the availability of point guard Kemba Walker.

Walker, 28, just became the Hornets all-time leading scorer this last season. The University of Connecticut product has just one year left on his current deal at $12 million, and could be both a good rental for a season as a means to bolster another James Finals run, or as a focal piece moving forward.

As is the issue with any package for Leonard, a trade to the Cavaliers from Charlotte for Walker really depends on what a third trade partner can bring into the mix. Not many of Cleveland’s young players have performed well enough to be used as trade bait for marquee guys. That necessarily means that Kevin Love will be the main trade bait, and it is tough for many teams to have interest in the sharp-shooting forward given many already have that position filled.

We are just 48 hours away from the 2018 NBA Draft and no doubt rumors like this will continue to heat up as we get closer to 4 p.m. Eastern on Thursday night.