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Report: Greg Monroe signing with Raptors

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Greg Monroe – according to his agent, David Falk – had max-contract offers from the Knicks, Lakers, Trail Blazers and Bucks in 2015. Monroe reportedly could have chosen his contract length, from one to four years. He picked a three-year deal with Milwaukee.

Three years later, instead of entering the final season of a max contract, Monroe will settle for about a minimum salary.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Monroe’s minimum is $2,165,481. I bet he gets that, especially because if he gets any more, the Raptors would have to pay and be taxed at his full salary. With Monroe on a minimum deal, Toronto would have to pay and be taxed at just $1,512,601 (the league covering the rest).

Monroe is a skilled interior scorer, strong rebounder and heady passer. But has neither the leaping ability to protect the rim nor foot speed to defend on the perimeter. It’s hard to build a sound defense with him at center, and that becomes especially problematic deeper into the playoffs. Monroe – who was sent to the Suns in the Eric Bledsoe trade, got bought out then signed with the Celtics – fell out of Boston’s playoff rotation fairly quickly last season.

With Kawhi Leonard, Toronto is definitely eying more postseason success. But Monroe was also the best free agent left on the market, and the Raptors needed depth behind Jonas Valanciunas. This is a minimum (or so) signing. Toronto needn’t panic about Monroe’s role in hte postseason. He should help in the regular season and in some playoff matchups.

Monroe might even allow the Raptors to trade Jonas Valanciunas. The Raptors are reportedly looking to trim salary, and Valanciunas (two years and $34,157,302 remaining) is a logical candidate to be moved. Toronto would miss him, but Monroe provides a value version. Deep in the playoffs, Serge Ibaka might become the Raptors primary center regardless.

Report: Bucks waive Brandon Jennings

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Brandon Jennings apparently thought his $2,222,803 salary was guaranteed.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

Actually, it was unguaranteed until July 1. But – for some reason – he agreed to push back his guaranteed date to Aug. 1.

Spears:

That decision backfired for Jennings.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Bucks kept Jennings until now in case they wanted him, but have apparently decided they don’t – at least not enough to guarantee his salary at this point. Eric Bledsoe, Matthew Dellavedova, Malcolm Brogdon and Giannis Antetokounmpo are capable of playing point guard. Milwaukee could also sign another point guard.

Jennings, 28, has struggled in stints with the Knicks, Wizards and Bucks the last couple years. Maybe he gets a minimum deal elsewhere, but many teams have filled their point-guard depth chart by now. Which is why Jennings should have forced Milwaukee to decide on his contract a month ago.

Lakers looking long-term — or at least to 2019 — in building with LeBron

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When LeBron James started winning rings and at least making it to the Finals every year (eight and counting) coincided with when he took charge of his own destiny and got into team building.

He chose to break with tradition and partner up with two other stars — Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — down in Miami. It was a move changed the landscape of the NBA. When the Heat situation no longer worked for him, LeBron went home again and pushed for roster moves he wanted — starting with moving Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love — and it all led to the four trips to the Finals and the first title for the city of Cleveland in more than five decades.

Now LeBron comes to Los Angeles — however, the process with the Lakers is not going to be as fast. It will take a little patience.

Heading into free agency there was no doubt LeBron James wanted to be a Laker, but plenty of people in the league were not convinced he would go on his own — he’d want another superstar player to come first. L.A. had to set up a team that could win right now because LeBron at age 33 was not going to wait around. Everyone knew LeBron plus the existing Lakers core is not going to be enough in the brutal West.

LeBron once again defied expectations and jumped in with both feet — he agreed to a four-year, $154 million contract with the Lakers.

Now it becomes about team building in Los Angeles.

That building starts with LeBron trusting Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka in a way he never trusted Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers organization — he gave the Lakers four years (three plus one year with a player option, technically). In Cleveland, it was a series of one-year deals, and even when they won a championship it was only two years. He never gave up leverage, he pushed them as an organization (with mixed results). In Los Angeles, he planted a flag for the long haul.

How is this Lakers team going to get built? Patience not rushed decisions. This is not just a summer of 2018 project, lining up the right players to contend will stretch into 2019. At least.

Kawhi Leonard is the first name to come up — and make no mistake, LeBron would love to have the Spurs’ Finals MVP on the wing. If healthy, Leonard is exactly the kind of running mate LeBron needs to start to threaten Golden State — an elite switchable defender who can hit threes and create off the dribble. Leonard is an MVP-level player when right.

However, the Spurs want to extract the best price they can for surrendering their best player. As they should. San Antonio is not going to move fast, and they want to drag multiple teams into a bidding war — Philadelphia wants to play, Boston is on the fringes, and the Spurs are trying to lure them in. San Antonio is going to slow play this.

The Lakers are not waiting around. Los Angeles doesn’t feel the pressure to land Leonard to get LeBron. The sides will keep talking, but a trade that guts the L.A. roster of young players isn’t mandatory to get the big prize. Los Angeles has what it most wanted.

Instead, the Lakers’ moves in the wake of signing LeBron show a team thinking about the summer of 2019. Everything has been one-year deals — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (for $12 million), Lance Stephenson ($4.4 million room exception), and JaVale McGee (for the minimum). Those are players who can help the Lakers compete now but who do not carry salaries over into next summer.

That summer of 2019 is when a host of free agents come up: Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Eric Bledsoe, and Kemba Walker are the biggest names, plus guys such as Kevin Love and Al Horford have player options. Anyone who comes on the market, the Lakers can be in the mix to land if they so choose.

The Lakers are also positioned to go after any player who becomes available in a trade — the Lakers have a nice young core that can be moved for the right star.

That young core is excited about LeBron to the Lakers.

Now comes the harsh light of evaluation on those players — which ones can help win a title for the Lakers, and which ones are out. The days of patient evaluation and growth measurement are over in a lot of ways, it’s about winning and winning big. Can Brandon Ingram help with that? Lonzo Ball? Kyle Kuzma?

Julius Randle could be back with the Lakers on a one-year deal, or if he signs the qualifying offer because there are not other offers out there (it’s a very tight market), but the Lakers are not sacrificing their cap space for anyone.

Flexibility is the buzzword for Los Angeles going forward. That and patience.

The Lakers trust that the combined gravity of playing with LeBron and the Lakers’ brand/market is going to bring in star players. LeBron has bet on that as well. It’s just not going to be instantaneous. Maybe the best options pop up this summer (Leonard). Maybe it’s something unexpected closer to the trade deadline. Maybe it’s the summer of 2019. Whatever it is, the Lakers have left themselves the flexibility to go after it and make it happen.

LeBron is back in the business of team building — and this could be his most legacy-defining building project to date. But now he has a partner.

Ersan Ilyasova reportedly agrees to three-year, $21 million deal with Bucks

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Milwaukee needs shooting. They have Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe (and Malcolm Brogdon and others) who can drive and dish, but they need to space the floor and have shooting to make new coach Mike Budenholzer’s system to work.

Enter Ersan Ilyasova.

The Turkish stretch four who shot 36 percent from three last season and helped the Philadelphia 76ers down the stretch and in the postseason is headed back to Milwaukee, where he started his career, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Ilyasova will come off the bench and provide a scoring punch for the Bucks, giving them a quality veteran who can fill it up and play a postseason role for them.

The interesting question: What does this mean for Jabari Parker? With a lot of players moving fast to grab money in a tight market, he could be a guy who is forced to take a one-year deal or something far less than he thought — maybe with the Bucks, maybe not, but they can low-ball him a little — because the market is drying up fast.

New Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer: ‘I think I’m in the best place in the league’

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Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo will almost certainly finish fourth in Most Valuable Player voting this year, his age-23 season.

The last coach to take over a team with a player who already accomplished so much at such a young age – Del Harris (a familiar name in Milwaukee), who inherited reigning MVP Moses Malone with the Rockets in 1979. It’s just so rare for jobs coaching such a promising player top come open.

“I think I’m in the best place in the league,” new Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said at his introductory press conference today.

Budenholzer had his pick of Milwaukee and Toronto, another highly successful team, especially for one seeking a new coach. But the Bucks offer Antetokounmpo and more modest expectations.

Milwaukee hasn’t won a playoff series in 17 years. Budenholzer was asked today as much about delivering a division title as an NBA title.

Topping the Cavaliers, Pacers, Pistons and Bulls sounds much easier than surpassing the Warriors, Rockets, Celtics and 76ers in coming years.

Not that Budenholzer, who reached the conference finals with the Hawks, is completely ducking big talk.

“We’re lucky to have a Giannis, who will do anything to win, and a Khris Middleton that will do anything to win,” Budenholzer said. “When you have your best players that are true competitors and that are truly unselfish and care more about the team than they do themselves, those are a couple of big, foundational blocks to winning championships and doing things that are special.”

The Bucks held the press conference at their still-under-construction new arena, the media wearing hard hats and orange vests:

But this isn’t a complete rebuild for Budenholzer.

Milwaukee has made the playoffs the last two seasons, including winning 44 games this year. Antetokounmpo is a superstar. Middleton is a borderline All-Star. Eric Bledsoe is a solid starter. Restricted free agent-to-be Jabari Parker is talented. The rotation is somewhat deep.

The Bucks just underachieved under former coach Jason Kidd (and never capitalized before him for more than a decade for other reasons).

Citing the potential of current players, Budenholzer said Milwaukee could become “elite” defensively. The Bucks are full of long and athletic players, and Budenholzer coached sound defenses in Atlanta. There’s only one reason to doubt him: Milwaukee finished just 17th in points allowed per possession this season.

But that’s a feature of this job, not a bug. The Bucks aren’t stuck with an inevitably bad defenders. They just underperformed. Budenholzer can nudge them ahead – and is positioned to receive outsized credit if he does.

“Working with the entire with the entire roster, with the front office, with ownership,” Budenholzer said, “I can’t wait to take us to the next level in Milwaukee.”

That next level isn’t that high, which is why Budenholzer is right.

Milwaukee is a great place for a coach to be.