Why European star Vasilije Micic didn’t end up with Bulls this summer

Anadolu Efes become 2021-22 EuroLeague champions by beating Real Madrid 58-57
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Vasilije Micic is the best player in the world not currently in the NBA.

Seemingly every summer reports surface of teams interested in the 6’5″ Serbian combo guard and EuroLeague Final Four MVP who led Turkish powerhouse Anadolu Efes to back-to-back EuroLeague championships. Then every summer ends and he chooses to stay in Europe. This summer the Bulls were mentioned as primarily interested (the Bucks came up as well), but in the end, Micic chose to return to Anadolu Efes.

What happened? Sean Deveney of Heavy.com spoke to some league executives.

First, there was Micic himself. To ditch Efes and head to the NBA, Micic wanted a few things—a salary in the $6-7 million per year range, a starting spot (or, at least, starter-type minutes), and a role with a contending team.

That limited the pool of teams he would play for, and most of them were already over the cap. Those teams had concerns.

“I think there was hesitancy to give up what would be your whole midlevel (exception) if you were a tax team for a guy who, you’re not sure how he fits,” on NBA general manager told Heavy Sports. “Most of the good teams, they’re tax teams this year. So you’re using your best chance to improve on a guy who has some risk, a lot of unknown. I think the Clippers’ experience with (Milos) Teodosic fed into it where a lot of teams said, ‘We don’t have much to spend, we can’t afford a mistake like that.’”

For those who don’t remember, Teodosic was like Micic in that he was the best player in the world not in the NBA, he came to the Clippers on a two-year, $12 million contract and made some spectacular plays but also never fit well on that team or in the NBA game.

The “process” 76ers drafted Micic in the second round (52nd pick) in 2014, eventually trading those draft rights to Thunder. GMs have seen him as a potential NBA fit for that long time — and Micic will showcase what he can bring playing next to Nikola Jokic for Serbia at EuroBasket — although whether it would work out is always a question. GMs are always looking to limit risk. This year they couldn’t do it enough with Micic, so he is headed back to Europe.

But the rumors will be back next year.

Bulls reportedly could talk contract extension with center Vucevic

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Chicago has its core locked up. They just max extended Zach LaVine, plus the trio of DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso are locked up for this season and next. Patrick Williams becomes extension eligible after this season if the Bulls want to secure his services as well.

Then there is Nikola Vucevic, who was once considered part of that core but now draws more shrugs. The former All-Star center averaged 17.6 points and 11 rebounds a game last season, and he can space the floor as a pick-and-pop big (although he shot 31.4% from 3 last season), but he is not a shot blocker, doesn’t move well laterally, and is a target on the defensive end. He does not look like the center of the future in Chicago.

But they might extend him anyway at the right price, according to a report from Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

…a source said both sides want him to stay with the team beyond the last year of his contract this coming season and will have initial discussions on what that might look like when training camp begins in the fall.

Why? Because if the price is right, Vucevic remains the type of player who fits in with how the Bulls were built on both ends of the floor.

While the Bulls may want to consider a trade for a center such as Myles Turner if the goal is to make a leap up the standings in the East (the Bulls were mentioned as Rudy Gobert suitors), that will not be easy due to a lack of first-round picks they can send out (their 2023 and 2025 first-rounders were sent to Orlando to acquire Vucevic in the first place).

Which is why Vucevic may be a smart extension at the right price — but what is that price? He is set to make $22 million this season, the final year of a four-year, $100 million contract (signed with the Magic). That salary puts Vucevic in the earnings ballpark of Turner, Jarrett Allen, Clint Capela, and a little above Jusuf Nurkic.

Would a two-year, $36-$38 million extension work for both sides? That would make Vucevic still very tradable for the Bulls (especially if he finds his 3-point shot again) but pay him about the average of centers of similar impact. With the rising salary cap, the Bulls may be open to two years, $40 million.

Whatever the number, don’t be shocked if the sides get a deal done. The added security makes sense for both the team and the player.

Would Lakers need to surrender two first-round picks to trade Westbrook?

New Orleans Pelicans v Los Angeles Lakers
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The Lakers have two first-round picks they can trade — 2027 and 2029, although they could convey a year earlier — but have been very reluctant to include them in any trade negotiations. After dealing away a lot of picks to land Anthony Davis (which resulted in banner No. 17), the Lakers want to restock, not keep sending out future picks.

They don’t have a choice if they want to trade Russell Westbrook. And while the Lakers reportedly have put one pick (with little or no protections) in their conversations about a Kyrie Irving trade with the Nets, it may require both picks to get the deal done reports Michael Scotto of Hoopshype on the Hoopshype podcast:

When it comes to any potential Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving trade talks, or if the Lakers are moving Westbrook to any team, both future first-round picks have to be included. You already saw Indiana decline multiple second-round picks (in addition to one first-round pick)… If the Nets were going to get Westbrook, my assumption would be there will be a third team involved, and one of those first-round picks would go to a team with salary cap space like the Pacers or Spurs, for example. They’d likely have more of an appetite for buying him out to get a first-round pick.

That is the most-discussed and logical scenario for a Westbrook for Irving trade: Irving to the Lakers, a pick to the Nets (plus maybe a player or two, but lower-level contracts), and Westbrook and a pick to the Spurs (or Pacers). That team would then buy out Westbrook, making him a free agent.

There are a lot of hurdles to getting that done, starting with getting the Lakers to put both picks in the mix. Sources around the league say the Lakers have been reluctant to put both picks in the mix. Then there are the Nets, who want to clear up the Kevin Durant trade situation — which continues to drag out — before closing in on any Irving trades.

As Scotto noted, the Lakers talked with the Pacers about a Westbrook for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner trade, but that would require both first-round picks, and the Lakers weren’t interested.

With LeBron James at age 37 and Anthony Davis in his prime, the Lakers are as “win now” a team as there is in the league. If the goal is to win banner No. 18 with LeBron (and get him to sign a contract extension), does L.A. have a choice other than to put both picks in the mix eventually? Even if it means future pain?

This feels like a situation that is going to drag out into training camp. Maybe longer. Which is why new Lakers coach Darvin Ham continues to talk up Westbrook. He knows that may be his reality at the start of the season.

Report: Heat remain “disinclined” to include Bam Adebayo in Durant trade

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The Miami Heat, who don’t have the treasure trove of picks to compete with a potential Knicks offer, have reportedly shifted their focus away from a Donovan Mitchell trade.

The Heat are focused on a Kevin Durant trade, but those talks have stalled out because the Nets are lukewarm on a Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson based trade offer, league sources have told NBC Sports. What would rekindle those talks would be to put in the player the Nets most want from the Heat: Center Bam Adebayo.

The Heat aren’t going there. At least not yet, report Anthony Chiang and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

Though the Nets would have interest in Bam Adebayo in a Durant trade, the Heat has not included Adebayo in offers for Durant and appears disinclined to do so. It should be noted that Adebayo is not currently eligible to be included in a trade with the Nets because of NBA salary cap rules, unless the Nets trade Ben Simmons to the Heat or another team. That’s because of the Designated Rookie Extension rule: A team cannot have two players acquired via trade who were signed to that type of extension such as Adebayo and Simmons.

Trading 25-year-old Adebayo for 34-year-old Durant should be a non-starter for Miami.

The goal of trading for Durant is to put him on a roster that can contend for a title. Remove Adebayo from Miami and, even with Durant and Jimmy Butler surrounded by Herro/Robinson/Kyle Lowry and others, this team is not a favorite to beat Boston or Milwaukee. But add Butler and Durant to a roster with Adebayo — one of the league’s top defenders plus a guy who can be the hub of the offense as a point-center for a stretch — and the Heat are title favorites.

Durant and Adebayo were teammates who won gold together in the Tokyo Olympics.

Durant trade talks have stalled out, not just with Miami but also with Toronto, Boston, Phoenix and the other teams in the mix. The bidding war the Nets hoped would materialize never did, leaving Brooklyn saying it will go into training camp with Durant on the roster rather than take a lesser offer. However, that would be a circus the Nets would much rather avoid.

Expect the Durant trade talks to pick up again as we get closer to training camps in September. But don’t expect Adebayo to be part of the talks.

Warriors out of Durant sweepstakes? GM says “I like our team and where it’s at”

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Were the Warriors ever really in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes? Yes, there were reports of interest, and Durant and some of the Warriors’ core players spoke, but it always seemed to be more in an “it’s crazy that could even happen” way, not a “we need to make this happen” way.

Warriors GM Bob Myers was at the ESPYs on Wednesday night and was asked about Durant by Mark Medina of NBA.com. Myers all but shut that talk down.

“I like our team and where it’s at,” Myers told NBA.com. “I want to give the guys a chance to do it again…

“It’s a good group. We’re lucky. It’ll be fun to see,” Myers said. “We were really hunting last year. Now I guess we’re back to being the hunted, which I didn’t think we’d be. We’ll see. I think we can handle it.”

Myers’ “Nah, we good” response echoes what Stephen Curry said when asked about a KD reunion.

The Warriors are defending NBA champions bringing their entire core back. While Durant is unquestionably one of the great scorers the game has ever seen — and was a deserving two-time Finals MVP with the Warriors — why would Golden State break up that core and take on Durant’s contract to get marginally better. Yes, they did it before, but that was after a Finals loss and at a time the salary cap spiked, allowing the Warriors to get KD without tearing up their core. Now? Any Durant trade sends a lot of good players back to Brooklyn, plus a lot of picks.

The Warriors are already at the top of the list of contenders. They are not getting in the Durant sweepstakes.

It’s not just the Warriors. All talk around a Durant trade has cooled. With other teams not feeling the need to increase their offers and start a bidding war — because it would strip their team down to get him at the Nets’ asking price, and even if a team did land him, how long could they keep him happy? — this feels like a situation that will drag into training camp. Or maybe longer.