Jazz point guard scenario to influence Gordon Hayward decision

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Teams are lining up to offer Gordon Hayward a max contract when free agency begins Saturday morning. How the Utah Jazz address their point guard situation could affect the All-Star’s decision as much as anything else.

The Jazz can offer Hayward more cash than anyone else, but the seven-year veteran wants to win sooner than later. The Boston Celtics are considered a top suitor after advancing to the Eastern Conference finals with the ability to add two more All-Star caliber players this offseason. The Miami Heat are also expected to be in the mix.

Utah showed it was trending upward with its first 50-win season since 2009-10 and a playoff berth for the first time since 2012. Hayward and Rudy Gobert had career years, but the addition of George Hill gave the Jazz their best point guard production since Deron Williams was traded in 2011.

Hill, however, is a free agent.

“We’re very anxious to tell our story,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. “The last two summers, I think people are noticing. We anticipate a very good and interested audience. And obviously a veteran point guard is one of them.”

There are high expectations in Utah for point guards after watching Hall of Famer John Stockton for 19 seasons. That standard continued with Williams before the two-time All-Star and the team had an ugly breakup and he was traded. The Jazz have been looking for consistent play at the position since that split and finally got it last season with Hill, who along with Hayward is a Jazz free agent priority.

Utah has added at least one point guard to the roster every June since Lindsey has taken over, including three in the lottery and trading a pick for Hill. And despite their efforts, the Jazz continue to search for a long-term answer at the position. Trey Burke (No. 9 overall pick), Dante Exum (No. 5) and Raul Neto were all added between 2013-15.

Lindsey traded the No. 12 pick for Hill last June, and he averaged a career high 16.9 points, but struggled with injuries. Utah also drafted Marcus Paige in 2016. The Jazz traded up to draft Donovan Mitchell at No. 12 and selected Nigel Williams-Goss in the second round last week.

It is possible that Serbian point guard Milos Teodosic, among others, could end up in Utah this summer.

“It sounds really similar to when I was transferring to Gonzaga,” Williams-Goss said. “… Like being the quarterback for the Patriots or the pitcher for the Yankees. It’s a very marquee position in their organization. It’s the same here.

“If you haven’t prepared, then maybe the pressure can kind of get to you. I’ve worked my tail off to be ready when my number is called and I don’t see that changing here.”

Mitchell checks all the athleticism and character boxes that appeal to the Jazz. The 6-foot-3 defensive bulldog can play either guard position, but must improve offensively.

Williams-Goss doesn’t have the physical attributes of Mitchell, but had the more productive college career. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder was the West Coast Conference player of the year, a Bob Cousy Award finalist and Naismith Trophy semifinalist after averaging 16.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He also led Gonzaga to the national championship game.

Oh, and Williams-Goss has the backing of that point guard with a statue out front of the Jazz arena.

Stockton said, “Hey look, I thought he was the national player of the year,” Lindsey noted. “You cannot speed him up. He plays with great pace. He plays with great toughness and character.

“This is the comment I loved the most, `He plays like an adult.’ That’s meant a lot to us. That’s what I saw when I saw Nigel.”

The Jazz would prefer Hill to be the point guard of the present and future, but other teams will make a push for his services. This is likely the last major payday for the 31-year-old.

Hill has called Hayward his little brother and said his decision will have an influence. The opposite is likely also true, and the pair had planned to stay in contact at the end of the season.

Lindsey said he’s not feeling the pressure.

“Many times, what happens is, you capitulate to pressure and then you overreach,” Lindsey said. “We want to stick to our fundamentals of team building – mindset, culture, skills, fits, value adds, contract, production.

“We’re quite confident.”

 

Rumor: Clippers not planning to keep Milos Teodosic

AP Photo/Michael Conroy
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The Clippers have (an ideally healthier) Patrick Beverley at point guard. Lou Williams and Austin Rivers are comfortable as lead ball-handlers. With the No. 12 or 13 pick, L.A. could add another point guard – Trae Young, Collin Sexton or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Where does that leave Milos Teodosic, a 31-year-old who’s coming off a rookie season in which he missed 37 games while dealing with a foot injury?

O. Cauchi of Sportando:

The Los Angeles Clippers, in fact, are not planning to keep the Serbian point guard for the next season, a league source told Sportando.

his health is one of the main concerns behind Clippers’ decision, a source told Sportando. The team would love to add a younger player in that position and fear that Teodosic’s foot issue won’t be fixed easily, sources told Sportando.

Teodosic holds a $6.3 million player option for next season, but just $2.1 million is guaranteed until July 15. He ought to opt in and collect his $2.1 million before moving on. And if he opts in, maybe the Clippers strike out in free agency, don’t need the additional cap flexibility and keep him.

If they go through with waiving him, Teodosic could land with another NBA team or return to Europe. His foot issues could determine whether another NBA team wants him.

Teodosic is a wonderfully creative passer and good shooter. He’s also a woeful defender, and foot problems would only set him back further.

Report: Chris Paul recruiting LeBron James hard to Rockets

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Chris Paul built himself into the NBA’s greatest point guard since Magic Johnson (until Stephen Curry came around). Paul mastered the game, offensively and defensively. He led two franchises, New Orleans and the Clippers, taking huge burdens for each.

Then, he engineered a trade to the Rockets to become James Harden‘s sidekick. Paul learned to excel at that, too.

Now comes phase two in Houston. The Rockets must pay him, and it sounds as if they will. And Paul will recruit his friend LeBron James to join him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Chris is going to return there. And listen, right now, Chris Paul’s focus isn’t so much on his own free agency. He’s trying to recruit LeBron James to Houston, and somebody close to him said to me he is as focused on recruiting LeBron as anything he’s done in this league. He wants to find a way.

The Rockets were on the cusp of beating the Warriors. LeBron could put Houston over the top and get Paul an elusive championship. I certainly understand Paul’s hunger to make it happen. He’ll probably never get a better opportunity to win a title than this.

Could the Rockets get LeBron? Carmelo Anthony, before getting traded to the Thunder, told friends of a desire to team up with Paul and eventually LeBron in Houston. LeBron once said he’d take a pay cut to play with Paul, Anthony and Dwyane Wade – not that LeBron must to play with just Paul in Houston. The Cavaliers, Rockets and LeBron could execute an opt-in-and-trade that sends LeBron to Houston, similar to how Paul got there last summer.

But it seems Paul is fighting an uphill battle. LeBron reportedly said he doesn’t like Houston as a city, and lifestyle matters.

Not that the intensely competitive Paul will just give up.

Report: Marvin Bagley ‘near-lock’ to Kings at No. 2 in draft

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
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The Suns will almost certainly take DeAndre Ayton No. 1 overall in Thursday’s NBA draft.

The mystery begins with the Kings at No. 2.

They’ve been linked to Luka Doncic, Michael Porter Jr. and now, most strongly, Marvin Bagley.

Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News:

I wouldn’t like that pick. Bagley is a high-end prospect, but I’d take Doncic (and prefer a few others to Bagley).

Bagley is a phenomenal finisher and rebounder due to his athleticism and exertion. He runs the floor hard and is quick off his feet, repeatedly.

But he is a huge liability as a rim protector, making him a tough fit as a defensive center. His just lacks the awareness, length and strength to defend the paint well. He can improve his awareness and maybe his strength to acceptable levels, but there is such a long way to go.

I also don’t trust his jump shot or defensive awareness on the perimeter enough for him to play power forward offensively or defensively.

Of all the top prospects, Bagley might be the trickiest to build around. And the Kings don’t have the greatest track record of roster building, even in the rare times they get a lottery pick right.

Report: Wizards willing to trade No. 15 pick if team takes on bad contract with it

Associated Press
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The Washington Wizards had the fourth highest payroll in the NBA last season — a lot to pay for the No. 8 seed and an unceremonious first-round playoff exit.

One way or another expect changes to the Wizards’ roster going into next season. Big names could be on the move. Even before that, the Wizards have signaled they will trade the No. 15 pick in Thursday’s draft if teams will take on one of the Wizards’ oversized expiring contracts, reports our old friend Ben Standig working for thesportscapitol.com.

The Wizards are open to trading down from the 15th overall pick in Thursday’s draft if another team takes on one of Washington’s expiring contracts. That’s the message relayed from the Wizards to other NBA teams, a league source tells The Sports Capitol.

The Wizards have five players with expiring contracts, including starters Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris. Gortat’s $13.56 million salary for the 2018-19 season dwarfs the other expiring deals. The hefty figure counts among the reasons why the 34-year-old center is considered a likely trade piece.

This plan is unlikely to work unless the team in question actually wanted one of those players anyway. It is worth the shot.

That said, expect a lot of trades and movement on draft night — that is the buzz around the league. After DeAndre Ayton going No. 1 there is not really a consensus, and some teams have fallen in love with players and are willing to trade up and get them. Teams starting with Sacramento at No. 2 are fielding serious offers for their picks, and a few may jump at them.

The problem is the guys teams love will be off the board by No. 15, which means the Wizards may be making a pick. Which is not a bad thing, they have traded their picks away for years and they could use the injection of youth. Still, they will look to trade this pick too if it helps lessen the burden on their payroll.