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Can LeBron James and Magic Johnson lure next big star to Lakers?

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Kyrie Irving asked to be traded away from LeBron James and Cleveland because he wanted out of LeBron’s massive shadow and to have his own team.

Paul George pushed his way out of Indiana with his people telling anyone who would listen he was going to be a Laker in the summer of 2018. However, when he had the chance to join LeBron last summer, the Lakers didn’t even get a meeting.

Jimmy Butler is trying to force his way out of Minnesota and the teams on his preferred listthe Heat, Clippers, Nets, and Knicks — do not include teaming up with LeBron.

The Lakers won the summer by landing LeBron — combine him with their existing young core of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and it’s easy to see the potential. Right now, however, this team is not a threat to Golden State, Boston or Houston, right now the Lakers are a middle-of-the-pack team in the West. To get to where LeBron and team president Magic Johnson want to be, it starts with bringing in one more elite player… but the moves of Irving, Butler, and George raise a question.

Can LeBron and Magic recruit their next star to the league?

Yes.

The tag-team combo of Magic (an all-time great player and the model for an athlete-turned-business man) and LeBron (best player on the planet and one of the biggest athlete brands in the world) will be formidable. Throw in the lure of the Lakers’ brand and playing in Los Angeles and LeBron/Magic will land someone.

Just don’t expect it to be easy.

Lakers fans shouldn’t expect every elite player switching teams to just flock to Los Angeles to play with LeBron. Playing with LeBron is not for everyone. For a player who wants the ball in his hands, who wants to be the man and lead his own team (like Irving), playing in LeBron’s shadow is not a draw. Even if the pairing looks good on paper and might lead to a ring. We’ve seen that with the examples above.

It takes a particular mindset to play with the LeBron. Kevin Love was asked about this recently, by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

“You have to follow. You have to learn a lot about that…

“You have to be resilient. I had a lot of hard nights. There were dark times,” Love said. “But I always believed keep fighting, I was stubborn about it. And LeBron makes sure you have a chance to win every year. He’s gotten a lot of guys rings.”

Playing with LeBron forces guys to adjust. Love did. Chris Bosh had to learn how to stretch the floor in Miami and work as a pick-and-pop guy not on the block. Dwyane Wade had always had the ball in his hands before LeBron and had to learn how to cut and move off the ball to thrive with him. For ball dominant players, playing next to LeBron is a massive adjustment.

Players today and their agents get that, which is why not every free agent about to come up is going to fit with the Lakers. Take Kevin Durant for example. If leaves Golden State (still a big “if” even if the team is preparing for the possibility) league sources suggest he’s not going to leave the ball-sharing system and shadow of Stephen Curry to be in LeBron’s shadow and be the No. 2 option again. Durant wants his own team if he’s leaving the Warriors. Or, look at it this way: Remember how much heat Durant took for leaving OKC and jumping to a championship team? What happens if he leaves that to join LeBron?

The Lakers reportedly love the idea of how Klay Thompson would fit with them, and they should. But nobody around the league thinks Thompson is leaving the Warriors. He’s spoken openly and multiple times about wanting to be a Warrior for life. Beyond him, Kyrie Irving has said he will re-sign in Boston and Butler does not want to be a Laker.

There are other big names out there, with Kawhi Leonard at the top of the list. He reportedly wants to come to Los Angeles, although sources have told me (and others have reported as well) that the Clippers could be that destination as much as the Lakers. (Yes, Lakers fans, seriously, Leonard is not a fan of drama around the team and overly bright spotlights, and the Lakers are both those things by their nature. Plus, the LeBron shadow/own team thing is legit.) Also, Leonard may decide to pull a PG13 and stay. After that the free agency talent pool drops off to very good players but not what the Lakers need — DeMarcus Cousins, Goran Dragic, Al Horford, Kemba Walker.

Anthony Davis is the big prize everyone around the league is watching, and Davis switched agents to Rich Paul, LeBron’s agent. However, he has two years on his contract. The Pelicans are not trading him this season, they will get to next summer and put a designated veteran $230 million offer in front of him and dare him to say no. You don’t switch to an aggressive agent if you plan to sign whatever is put in front of you, but that’s a lot of money. If Davis turns the offer down maybe the dynamic changes and the Pelicans talk trade, and maybe not (think Durant in OKC, smaller markets don’t get players like that often and will not always make a trade even at the risk of losing him for nothing). Even if they do talk trade, teams such as Boston and Philadelphia — and, frankly, every team in the league will be in on it.

There are a lot of obstacles, but other names will come up as well and nobody doubts at some point the tag-team of Magic and LeBron will land the Lakers another superstar.

But it’s not going to be simple and easy. Don’t expect a conga-line of stars just dancing their way to Los Angeles and the Lakers.

Report: Heat source says Timberwolves asking for ‘the first born of all our kids’

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Timberwolves-Heat Jimmy Butler trade discussions reportedly collapsed over the weekend, Miami placing the blame on Minnesota.

Just how bitter are the Heat?

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

Asked what the Wolves are seeking, a Heat source said: “The first born of all our kids.”

The Wolves are believed to be asking for several of the assets the Heat considers most valuable: Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Kelly Olynyk, Justise Winslow and a No. 1 pick.

That’s some rhetoric.

Remember, the Heat are incentivized to paint Minnesota – especially Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau – as unreasonable. That could get Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who’d probably be more agreeable, to step in and run negotiations.

Either the Heat are desperate for that to happen or Minnesota is really getting on their nerves. Maybe both. But discussions have pushed Miami to this extreme position.

The Heat have several players with consensus bad contracts: Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters, Hassan Whiteside. Including one of them in the deal would only increase the positive assets – like Richardson, Adebayo, Dragic, Olynyk, Winslow and a No. 1 pick – Miami would have to send the Timberwolves.

Butler is extremely valuable. Minnesota should seek a lot for him.

Report: Timberwolves, Heat were making ‘significant progress’ on Jimmy Butler trade until Minnesota changed proposal

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We’ve learned a little about what the Heat are offering for Jimmy ButlerGoran Dragic and/or Hassan Whiteside, but not Josh Richardson or Bam Adebayo. With Miami Butler’s reported preferred destination, the Heat have additional incentive to trade for him, as they’ll have a better chance of re-signing him this summer.

Will Miami complete a deal for Butler?

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

This will only fuel skepticism about Timberwolves president Tom Thibodeau actually trading Butler. The quick (and fun) assumption: Thibodeau sabotaged negotiations so he could keep his star player.

But I’m always leery of these reports. One team’s ‘significant progress’ isn’t necessarily the other team’s. Minnesota might have never viewed talks as gaining traction.

Especially without including Richardson or Adebayo, it’s hard to see the Heat making a compelling offer. Butler is far more valuable than Dragic, and Dragic is only a marginal upgrade over Timberwolves point guard Jeff Teague. Miami shopped Whiteside earlier in the offseason without finding positive value for him.

Both Butler and rival teams have incentive to paint Minnesota’s front office as unreasonable. They want Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor – by no means a basketball expert – to step in and trade Butler himself, presumably for less return and more quickly than Thibodeau would do.

So, consider the idea Minnesota’s front office is being overly difficult. It’s certainly possible. But don’t blindly accept it, either.

Here are players Heat, Rockets and Bucks reportedly offering for Jimmy Butler

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The Timberwolves have reportedly offered Jimmy Butler to the 76ers for Ben Simmons and Bucks for Khris Middleton, getting rejected both times.

But what kind of offers is Minnesota getting for the disgruntled star? The Rockets and Heat (with evident limitations) are interested, and apparently the Timberwolves’ request didn’t scare off Milwaukee like it did Philadelphia.

Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN:

My understanding is from talking to numerous league officials, league sources, front-office folks, a coach – actually, a couple coaching sources – that the Wolves have all the parameters of the deals that they can make. So, it’s on the Wolves at some point here to say yes.

Now, do they wait a little bit longer just to see if some team adds a player in – like Miami? Miami is not willing to move Josh Richardson, but in the end, do they offer Josh Richardson?

But, so far, as of October 2nd, no sense whatsoever that Miami is making Josh Richardson available. Same goes for Bam Adebayo. Is Goran Dragic available? Yeah. The Wolves could acquire Goran Dragic. Is Hassan Whiteside available? Yeah, the Wolves could acquire Hassan Whiteside.

From Houston, you can get Eric Gordon. You can get P.J. Tucker. The Rockets want Jimmy Butler.

The Bucks are willing to move Brogdon, Bledsoe. The Bucks still have interest in Jimmy Butler. They’re not willing to move Middleton.

The Clippers are also still very, very interested in Jimmy Butler.

Now, league folks still say keep an eye on Miami, that Miami wants him the most. He wants to be in Miami – not that the Wolves care about that, but hey, if he wants to be in Miami, and Miami wants him, that eventually you can find some sort of happy medium, find a way to complete a trade.

It’s unclear whether each team mentioned is offering both the named players in proposals or only one per proposal.

Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon for Butler would work salary-cap-wise. But there would be diminishing returns for the Bucks dealing their best two point guards, leaving the position to Matthew Dellavedova, and Minnesota adding two point guards to a roster that already has Jeff Teague, Tyus Jones and Derrick Rose. This also just isn’t enough value for the Timberwolves.

Gordon and Tucker for Butler would also work cap-wise. That trade could be the most sensible, especially if Tom Thibodeau prioritizes the present.

Dragic and Whiteside for Butler would not work cap-wise, though Butler could be traded straight up for either Miami player. But neither Whiteside nor Dragic is nearly as valuable as Butler.

However, it’s difficult to evaluate these offers without knowing the exact parameters. Are other players involved? Picks? This information is interesting, but limited.

Mostly, though, it points to the Timberwolves not receiving enough value for Butler in an offer yet.

Five players most likely to be traded this season

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Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves

Even with all the reported issues in negotiation between Minnesota and other teams, Butler must make this list. He wants out, and Tom Thibodeau at least said he’d honor Butler’s trade request. It’s unclear precisely what Thibodeau means by that, but Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor could always get involved, and he’s more likely to deal Butler.

In the interest of variety, the rest of this list will ignore players with heightened trade alerts simply due to Butler’s availability. Minnesota could use this as a method to unload Gorgui Dieng. The Timberwolves could get another point guard then deal Jeff Teague or Tyus Jones. The Heat are reportedly talking about trading Justise Winslow, Goran Dragic and/or Josh Richardson for Butler.

Kyle Korver, Cavaliers

Even after losing LeBron James, Cleveland is trying to maintain perception of legitimacy. That could mean trading the 37-year-old Korver to a winner. He’s still a dangerous 3-point shooter, and his contract – $7.56 million salary this season, $3.44 million of $7.5 million guaranteed next season – is quite manageable. The Cavs could see trading Korver to a contender as doing right by him, a move that would be respected around the league. And they’d get positive assets for a player extremely unlikely to contribute to their next winning team.

Marquese Chriss, Rockets

Chriss just got traded from the Suns to Houston, but don’t assume he’ll stick there all season. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey loves to wheel and deal and is especially willing to shuffle players during the season. There’s probably a place for Chriss to develop his tools in the NBA, but it might not be on a championship contender. The 21-year-old has looked so far from understanding the game well enough to help at the highest levels. If he shines with the Rockets early, they could trade him for someone more experienced and dependable. If he doesn’t play well (or maybe even if he does), Houston might just want to unload his $3,206,160 salary considering his the luxury-tax hit.

Courtney Lee, Knicks

Lee denies he wants to be traded, but he can still see the writing on the wall: He no longer fits in New York. The Knicks are rebuilding and eying 2019 free agency. Lee is 32 and due $12,759,670 in 2019-20. That salary might make Lee difficult to move, but he can still play. Plenty of teams can use another 3-and-D wing.

Dewayne Dedmon, Hawks

Dedmon is a helpful player on an expiring ($7.2 million ) contract who’s stuck on a bad team – usually a set of factors that lead to a trade. But few good teams need a center, so his market is more limited. Dedmon’s combination of production and salary give him an edge in trade likelihood over other centers on expiring contracts on bad teams: Magic’s Nikola Vucevic, Bulls’ Robin Lopez, Kings’ Kosta Koufos. Atlanta also already has John Collins, Omari Spellman and Alex Len. The Hawks should want to get what they can for Dedmon then give more playing time to those younger bigs.