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?

Karl-Anthony Towns helped off court after non-contact calf injury

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Hopefully this is not as bad as it looks.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony was trying to run back upcourt and went to the ground — without contact — grabbing his knee and calf. He had to be helped off the court.

The Timberwolves officially ruled Towns out for the rest of the night with a calf strain.

A right calf strain would be the best possible outcome, but an MRI will provide more details in the next 24 hours. This had the markings of something much worse as well.

Towns is averaging 214 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are off this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers, down from 39.3% for his career — as he tries to adjust to playing next to Rudy Gobert, he’s still one of the game’s elite big men.

The Wizards went on to beat the Timberwolves 142-127 behind 41 from Kristaps Porzingis.

Suns promote GM James Jones to to President of Basketball Operations

Phoenix Suns Open Practice
Barry Gossage / NBAE via Getty Images
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James Jones put together the roster that took the Suns to the Finals two seasons ago and had the best record in the NBA last season (64 wins). At 13-6, the Suns sit atop the Western Conference this season.

The Suns have rewarded Jones, giving him the title of President of Basketball Operations on top of GM.

“In the nearly 15 years I have known James, he has excelled in every role he performed, from player to NBPA Treasurer to his roles in our front office, most recently as general manager,” Suns interim Governor Sam Garvin said. “James has the unique ability to create and lead high-performing teams in basketball operations and his commitment to collaborating with our business side, including at the C-level with partners like PayPal and Verizon, is second to none. We are fortunate for his contributions across the organization and this promotion recognizes his commitment to excellence.”

Jones moved into the Suns’ front office in 2017 at the end of a 14-year playing career, then became GM in 2019. The move gives Jones a little more stability during the sale of the franchise. Not that the new owner would come in and fire a successful GM.

“I am grateful for the privilege to work with and support the players, staff and employees of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury,” Jones said in a statement. “The collective efforts of our business and basketball operations have allowed us to provide an amazing atmosphere and best-in-class experience for our fans and community. I remain excited about and dedicated to driving success for our Teams on and off the court.”

Jones has made several moves that set the culture in Phoenix, including hiring Monty Williams as coach then, after an undefeated run in the bubble (that left Phoenix just out of the playoffs), he brought in Chris Paul to take charge at the point.

Report: Leaders in Lakers’ locker room think team ‘only a couple of players away’ from contending

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There’s a sense of optimism around the Lakers: They have won 5-of-6 and are expected to have both Anthony Davis and LeBron James healthy Monday night, plus Russell Westbrook has found a role and comfort level off the bench and other players are settling into roles. They may be 7-11, but it’s early enough there is a sense this could be turned around.

That is echoed by “locker room leaders” who think the team is just a couple of players away from being a contender in the West (where no team has pulled away), reports Dave McMenamin at ESPN.

There is belief shared by leaders in the Lakers’ locker room, sources said, that the team is only a couple of players away from turning this group into a legitimate contender. But acquiring the right players could take multiple trades.

Let’s unpack all of this.

• “Leaders in the Lakers’ locker room” means LeBron and Davis (both repped by Rich Paul). Let’s not pretend it’s anything else.

• If the Lakers don’t make a move to significantly upgrade the roster, how unhappy will those leaders become? How disruptive would that be?

• It is no coincidence that McMenamin’s report comes the day the Lakers face the Pacers, a team they went deep into conversations with this summer on a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield trade, but Los Angeles GM Rob Pelinka ultimately would not put both available Lakers’ first-round picks (2027 and 2029) in the deal and it fell apart. Turner said the Lakers should “take a hard look” at trading for him. The thing is, the Pacers are now 11-8, not tanking for Victor Wembanyama but instead thinking playoffs, so are they going to trade their elite rim protector and sharpshooter away? Not likely. At least not without an overwhelming offer, and the Lakers’ two picks may not get there anymore.

• While Westbrook has found a comfort level coming off the bench (and not sharing the court as much with LeBron), he is still a $47.1 million contract that no team is trading for without sweeteners. To use NBA parlance, he is still a negative value contract, even if it feels less negative than a month ago.

• Are the Lakers really a couple of players away from contending? While they have won 5-of-6, three of those five wins came against the tanking Spurs, the others were against the so-injured-they-might-as-well-be-tanking Pistons, and the Nets before Kyrie Irving returned. The Lakers did what they needed to do and thrived in a soft part of the schedule, but that schedule is about to turn and give the Lakers a reality check on where they really stand. After the Pacers, it’s the Trail Blazers (likely still without Damian Lillard), then an East Coast road trip that includes the Bucks, Cavaliers, Raptors and 76ers. The next couple of weeks will be a better marker for where the Lakers stand, and if they can build off of the past couple of weeks.

Dallas Mavericks near agreement to sign Kemba Walker

Oklahoma City Thunder v New York Knicks
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
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Looking for help spacing the floor and with secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, the Dallas Mavericks are turning to Kemba Walker.

Marc Stein was first with the news the sides were close to a deal, but since then multiple reports — plus comments from team owner Mark Cuban — confirmed it is happening.

This will be a veteran minimum contract (all the over-the-cap Mavericks can offer). To create the roster spot, the Mavericks will waive Facundo Campazzo, who was signed a few weeks ago and has barely touched the court for the team.

Walker averaged 11.6 points and 3.5 assists a game playing solidly in stretches for the Knicks last season, but the concern was his staying on the court — he appeared in just 37 games due to ongoing knee problems. Walker spent the offseason working on getting past those, but the Knicks traded him to Detroit for picks, but the Pistons were stacked at the point guard spot (at least before the season and injuries hit Cade Cunningham), so they bought out his $9.2 million for this season.

Walker worked to convince teams he still had plenty in the tank, but it was always going to take a situation where a team reached a certain level of desperation. Enter the Mavericks.