Report: Luol Deng surprises Miami, opts in for 2015-16 season


UPDATE: Minutes after we posted how the Heat expected Luol Deng to opt out, he surprised everyone (including the Heat) by opting in for the coming season. From Tim Reynolds of Associated Press.


The days of Luol Deng as a lock-down defender, All-Star level small forward are gone. He’s still good — in Miami last season he averaged 14 points per game, shot 35 percent from three, and had a PER very close to the league average of 15.5 — but he’s not the guy from the Bulls years ago. Playing for Tom Thibodeau can age a player in dog years.

He’s set to make $10.1 million next season, and despite the sense around the Heat that like Dwyane Wade he would test the market, Deng decided to opt in and take the cash on the table.

He will now be a free agent in 2016, when the salary cap will spike. How long a deal he can get then at age 31 — and with a lot of miles on the wheels — remains to be seen.

The Heat can also use Deng as a trade chip.

The Heat now have just one big free agent to deal with in Dwyane Wade.

The Heat have drafted Deng’s ultimate replacement in Justise Winslow out of Duke. Having Deng around for a season to mentor Winslow and play key minutes when Eric Spoelstra doesn’t want a rookie— and his potential mistakes — on the court makes sense.

Report: As deadline nears, signs still point to Dwyane Wade opting out, becoming free agent


Dwyane Wade signaled his intention to become a free agent when, on ABC during the NBA Finals, he said he would worry about where he played next season “in July.” By July, he’d be a free agent.

While the deadline for Wade to opt-in to the next year of his contract is Monday (for $16.1 million), the indications are he will choose not to and become a free agent. Via Michael Wallace of ESPN.

Nothing has changed in the standoff between the Heat and Wade.

Wade sacrificed financially both to bring the big three together (and win a couple titles) for the Heat and then again last season to help Pat Riley restructure the roster post LeBron James. Now Wade wants to be made whole for those sacrifices; he wanted a new contract in the three-year, $60 million range.

Miami, seeking to maximize their flexibility (and maybe lowball Wade into opting in) reportedly have offered more like three years, $36 million.

This has led to a little bad blood.

The challenge for Wade is finding a team out on the open market that is going to offer much more. The Lakers have been rumored, but they already have a very expensive wing player who may still put up good numbers but is on the back side of his career and has been injured a lot the last couple years. Hard to see a need for two of those. There are not a lot of other teams likely to pay Wade much more than Miami is offering.

Wade will test the market, but in the end he may need to click the ruby slippers together three times and say “there’s no place like home.”

Report: Jimmy Butler wants to sign with Lakers. Sounds like someone’s agent wants leverage.


There are two simple facts to consider with this story:

1) Jimmy Butler is a restricted free agent, and the Bulls can match any offer he signs with another team and retain him.

2) The Chicago Bulls are very, very high on Butler and want to keep him.

With that background, we pass the report that what Butler wants to do is play for the Lakers. Via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:

Lastly, Chicago forward Jimmy Butler hopes to take his talents elsewhere and take advantage of the new television deal after his career year coincided with Tom Thibodeau’s firing and Derrick Rose’s chemistry issues. Although Butler wants to sign a one-year deal with the Lakers, according to a league source familiar with his thinking, the Bulls are expected to match any offer for the restricted free agent.

Two quick thoughts here. First, Butler does want to sign a shorter deal, not a five-year max contract, and the Lakers have been dropped as a team he is interested in before. Second, the Lakers cannot extend a one-year offer sheet. It’s part of the complexities of the salary cap, something the brilliant Mark Deeks breaks down here, if you want to read about it in detail. Just know it has to be at least a two-year offer from the Lakers.

This is an agent trying to use the Lakers to leverage the Bulls. There will be a lot of that this season, whether it is Dwyane Wade or a host of others, if an agent is looking to create leverage he’ll use the big market and wads of cash that the Lakers have to do it.

This is simply an effort to get the Bulls to offer Butler a shorter deal and not the five-year max, because like everyone Butler would love to tap into that television money that is about to start flowing into the NBA in 2016.

However, if Chicago does offer Butler a five-year max he will take it — everyone takes a max extension to his rookie contract (Greg Monroe was not offered that, according to the most reliable reports). That would be Butler’s first  huge contract, it is $90 million and that is “set your family up for generations” money. Players don’t walk away from that the first time it’s on the table. (LeBron James may leverage shorter deals now, but only after he got money in the bank off that first extension.)

If the Bulls offer the max, the Lakers would have to offer at least three years under the CBA, and the Bulls would just match that offer sheet if Butler signed it. If Butler really wanted out of Chicago, his only option would sign a one-year qualifying offer at $4.4 million and leave more than $85 million in guaranteed cash on the table, then he could be a free agent next summer. Not even the most deluded Lakers fan can picture that happening.

Butler is going to be a Bull next season. Nothing to see here, move along.

Report: Suns serious about shopping Eric Bledsoe this summer


After a game of cat and mouse through much of last summer, the Phoenix Suns committed to Eric Bledsoe — five years, $70 million. He responded by giving them a good season, averaging 17 points and 6.1 assists a game, leading the team in Win Shares (seven) and he had the highest PER of any player on the roster at the end of the season.

So, now the Suns want out of the Bledsoe business.

Phoenix is reportedly going to sign Brandon Knight to a $70 million contract this summer, and if that happens you can bet they don’t want to high-priced point guards and Bledsoe will be on the block. Marc Stein of ESPN put it this way:

It sounds like the Suns do not want to try and recreate the two point guard success they had with Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, just slotting Knight in there. Catching that lightning in a bottle twice was always going to be difficult to do. But do the Suns want to bet on Knight over Bledsoe? Interesting choice. And by interesting, I mean not the choice I would make. It’s simple here, Bledsoe is the better player.

If the Suns want to move Bledsoe, there will be interested trading partners, but you’d have to think the Suns would keep the price high.

Report: Suns will re-sign Brandon Knight to five-year, $70 million contract when free agency starts


Teams aren’t allowed to start formally negotiating with free agents until July 1, but that doesn’t mean behind-the-scenes talks haven’t taken place. The Suns are apparently close to locking up point guard Brandon Knight, whom they traded for at the deadline from the Bucks, to a long-term deal, according to Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times:

Knight, whom the Milwaukee Bucks traded to the Phoenix Suns in February in a multiple-team deal, appears on the brink of signing a lucrative long-term contract to remain with the Suns.

I’ve been told by an NBA official that Knight, who’ll become a restricted free agent on July 1, will sign a five-year, $70 million contract with the Suns.

Knight was having a career year in Milwaukee before the trade, which came as something of a surprise. The deal came at the same time as two other Suns trades that sent two of their other point guards to different teams — Goran Dragic to the Heat and Isaiah Thomas to the Celtics. The three-point guard experiment was a disaster, but they’re hoping that Knight and Eric Bledsoe can replicate the success of the Dragic-Bledsoe offense in 2013-14. Plus, Bledsoe and Knight will both be on very moveable contracts for starting-caliber point guards when the cap goes up.