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Report: Bulls’ front office execs Gar Forman, John Paxson’s jobs safe

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A month ago, speaking with Sean Highkin of The Athletic about the Bulls on the PBT Podcast, this topic came up: With the lack of direction this Bulls franchise is showing, are the jobs of vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman in any danger? No was the answer. For the Reinsdorf family that owns the Bulls, loyalty matters and that will win the day.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune talked to people inside the Bulls and got the same answer — the Gar/Pax front office is going nowhere.

Despite some outside perception to the contrary, the jobs of executive vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman are safe, sources familiar with ownership’s thinking told the Tribune. In fact, ownership’s trust in Paxson and Forman remains so intact that they would be retained even if the Bulls miss the postseason for a second straight season, one source said.

It’s well-documented that Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and son Michael, who runs the business side as president and chief operating officer, are loyal and long have favored front-office continuity. But there’s also inherent trust in the roster-building process that Paxson, Forman and their staff have in place.

One internal belief is that this represents the first season in the attempt to open a new championship window after the franchise had ridden out Derrick Rose‘s maximum contract — and myriad injuries — until finally trading Rose with one season left on the deal. There’s also an internal feeling that Forman’s publicly stated goal to remain competitive while overhauling the roster over several seasons to get younger and more athletic is working.

Some Bulls fans are not going to like this, but first off it’s the Reinsdorf’s team and their call, and second they are not wrong about a need for front office continuity. There is no surprise in this report.

If I were a Bulls fan, what would worry me from this story is the idea that ownership believes the process to overhaul the roster and get younger while not tearing down to rebuild is working.

This .500 team is being carried by at-his-peak 27-year-old Jimmy Butler, and 35-year-old Dwyane Wade. After that, which young players do you see on this roster drafted/assembled by Forman and Paxson that you would want to keep as part of this great future? Nikola Mirotic? Bobby Portis? Jerian Grant? Denzel Valentine? They drafted Tony Snell, but moved him for Michael Carter-Williams, who is not a significant part of the future either. Doug McDermott isn’t long-term answer, and Gar/Pax traded two first round picks to get him, picks that both became better players in Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris.

Maybe there is something with big man Cristiano Felicio as a part of a future rotation, same with Paul Zipser. But neither of those picks are game changers.

And that’s not even bringing up the Rajon Rondo signing.

Bottom line here, the Bulls are one of the least athletic rosters in the NBA and the last pick they nailed was Butler back in 2011.

The Bulls are a .500 team, and while we’ve heard their “rebuild on the fly around Butler” plans, it’s difficult to see that being executed.

To get under luxury tax, Thunder reportedly would trade Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, No. 21 pick

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As you read this, without their roster completely filled up yet, the Oklahoma City Thunder are more than $6 million over next season’s luxury tax line of $132 million. That’s just the guaranteed money. By the time you factor in non-guarantees and the cost of the No. 21 pick, the team will be more than $19 million into the luxury tax.

That price may be a little steep for Thunder ownership, according to Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated.

It would be impossible for the Thunder to avoid the luxury tax without doing serious damage to their chances to chase a ring next season — and in a Western Conference that doesn’t have a dominant Golden State team on top, the Thunder believe they have a shot. This is likely more about reducing the tax hit than avoiding it.

The Thunder will pay $38.5 million next season to Russell Westbrook and $33 million to Paul George, and obviously those two are untouchable.

Adams will make $25.8 million next season and $27.5 million the one after that, however, trading him would do serious damage to OKC’s fourth-ranked defense last season. Adams is an integral part of the Thunder identity on and off the court, and trading him is highly unlikely. Dennis Schroeder will make $15.5 million each of the next two seasons, and he provided a lot of value for the Thunder off the bench.

Andre Roberson seems a more likely candidate. He missed all of last season due to a ruptured left patellar tendon (although they did miss him(. He’s set to make $10.7 million and if a team can be convinced the defensive specialist is back and healthy there would be teams interested. The challenge for the Thunder is constructing a trade that does not bring back salary.

Nothing may happen around the draft, but keep an eye on Thunder this summer as they try to save a little cash without damaging their playoff dreams.

Report: Rockets tried to give away Chris Paul, but teams – including Knicks – said no

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Rockets general manager Daryl Morey not only denied a report that Chris Paul demanded a trade, Morey said Paul would remain in Houston next season.

We might never know how tense the situation has gotten between Paul and James Harden. We might never know whether Paul requested a trade.

But we will know whether Paul begins next season in Houston.

Morey’s credibility is on the line with that. Will he really refuse to trade Paul? That’s not Morey’s style.

More likely, Morey made that declaration only after exhausting the market for Paul and the three years, $124,076,442 remaining on his contract.

Shams Charania of The Athletic, via CBS:

There’s not a team in the league right now that is like, “I’m going to go trade for Chris Paul.” Even some teams that they’ve called, I’m told, as just a dump, like, “We’ll give you Chris Paul for free,” those teams are like “We’re good.” So, the value just is not there right now.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer:

The Rockets recently explored trading Chris Paul into New York’s cap space, but the Knicks refused, according to league sources.

Good for the Knicks resisting. With Kyrie Irving apparently (maybe?) headed to the Nets and Kevin Durant‘s future up in the air, that’s the type of desperate move New York is known to make.

Paul, 34, is overpaid and declining. No team should absorb his contract into cap space.

But he’s still pretty good. Not nearly as good as he once was, but good enough to help the Rockets. Their championship window hasn’t necessarily snapped completely shut yet. There’s value in keeping Paul and trying to repair his and Harden’s relationship.

There also might be better opportunities later in the summer to trade Paul. Teams want to preserve their cap space now for free agents. But some teams will strike out and might view Paul as a good fallback option.

Of course, if Morey thought a deal later in the offseason were a possibility, he probably wouldn’t have so explicitly insisted Paul will remain in Houston.

Report: Minnesota “aggressive” in trying to trade up in draft, talked to Pelicans about fourth pick

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The Minnesota Timberwolves are slotted to pick 11th in the NBA Draft Thursday night. There they could land players along the lines of Brandon Clarke or Rui Hachimura, both of Gonzaga.

The Timberwolves have their sights set higher and they are looking to move up in the draft — maybe all the way to No. 4, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times.

Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic fleshed out some details.

Among the options being considered, as first reported by ESPN, is moving all the way up to No. 4, presumably for a shot at Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland. He missed most of his lone season in college due to a knee injury, but prior to that was widely scouted as the top point guard in the draft class. Interest in such a move is indicative of Rosas’s mindset of star-chasing, an approach honed in Houston.

That sounds great in theory, but what is the deal to be made for the fourth pick? David Griffin of the Pelicans has made it clear the No. 4 pick is available, but they want a veteran — and one not too old — in return. The Timberwolves don’t have that guy on their roster. (Technically they do in Andrew Wiggins, but that’s not a contract — four years, $122.3 million remaining — that the Pelicans would take on.)

Minnesota’s head of basketball operations Gersson Rosas told The Athletic how hard this kind of trade can be.

“The reality is, and history will tell you, it’s hard to trade up into the top three of the draft, even top five in the lottery,” Rosas said. “It’s very difficult. We know, because we’re tried, and will continue to try. But that price, the premium that teams charge for that is at a high level in any draft in any year.”

Minnesota seems a long shot, but don’t be surprised if the Pelicans trade the No. 4 pick. New Orleans has worked hard to find someone to take that pick off their hands, so long as they get a fair price back.

Report: Nets debating whether or not to sign Kyrie Irving without Kevin Durant

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The Nets want to sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Brooklyn appears set to get Irving. Durant a much bigger unknown.

Brian Lewis of the New York Post:

The question is if they can’t land Durant, do they still want Irving?

It also has become an internal debate the Nets are having right now.

The Post has confirmed Brooklyn might have qualms about signing the enigmatic Irving if he isn’t bringing the injured Durant with him.

Irving brings chemistry concerns, to be sure. He’s mercurial, and his season with the Celtics raises legitimate questions about him leading a team.

But Irving is a major talent upgrade. To win at the highest levels, teams must assemble a lot of talent and hope for the best.

I’d also caution Brooklyn against assuming re-signing D'Angelo Russell would mean the team maintains its current culture. The Nets can’t freeze time. Situations change. People change. There’s no guarantee Russell on a lucrative contract and his teammates jell as well as contract-year Russell and his teammates did.

Keeping Russell might look like the safe route, but nothing is assured.

The other huge issue: Durant might not know where he’ll sign when Irving is ready to commit. The Nets could have to decide on Irving before knowing whether Durant will accompany him. At that point, would Brooklyn really spurn Irving and a chance at getting both stars? I can’t see that.

Really, with so much talk of Irving joining the Nets, I thought we’d already crossed that threshold.