Saturday, December 2 2023

The stretch between last Thursday’s NBA draft and the start of free agency this Friday night promised to bring trade activity. Sure enough, the Utah Jazz and Atlanta Hawks struck a deal to bring John Collins to Salt Lake City, league sources told Yahoo Sports, ending almost a year’s worth of dialogue between the two front offices that centered around Collins trade scenarios. More movement seems to be on the horizon. The Hawks have also been active in conversations about trade opportunities for De’Andre Hunter, while other transactions, like the Minnesota Timberwolves extending Naz Reid to the tune of three years, $42 million, will have ongoing ripple effects across the offseason landscape.

Collins’ trade to Utah is the latest in a recent string of cost-conscious deals around the NBA. The Warriors’ swap of Jordan Poole for Chris Paul was perhaps the most notable deal of draft day, when the Mavericks and Kings also offloaded Dāvis Bertāns and Richaun Holmes, respectively. Atlanta was attempting various avenues to finally move the three seasons left of Collins’ five-year, $125 million deal all throughout the predraft process, sources said. It once seemed like the Mavericks and Hawks would be perfect trade partners, but the two teams never found an agreement — including striking out on Clint Capela concepts, sources said — that could have involved the Nos. 10 and 15 picks changing hands in various outcomes.

Atlanta’s talks with Utah were also well known around the league. The Hawks and Jazz have discussed Collins trades dating back to the aftermath of Utah dealing Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, and the Jazz holding the Nos. 9 and 16 picks presented other logical opportunities for the Hawks. Atlanta, though, couldn’t use Collins to move up in the draft. That’s the nature of the NBA’s marketplace under the new collective bargaining agreement, with player salaries slated to keep rising following the league’s next television contract in 2025. Both the Hawks and Jazz, league sources told Yahoo Sports, left draft night with the understanding that a Collins deal could still come to fruition before the start of free agency. It took Rudy Gay to opt into his $6.4 million player option Monday to complete the transaction, but Collins is at last a member of the Jazz. We’ll see if any of Atlanta’s other loose threads of trade talks, like the Hawks’ draft week negotiations with the Pistons and Pacers regarding Hunter, can regain momentum.

Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins (20) shoots the ball during the first half of Game 6 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Boston Celtics, Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins (20) shoots the ball during the first half of Game 6 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Boston Celtics, Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

John Collins landing with Utah could take away a potential landing spot for others. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

How the rest of this offseason unfolds always occurs in some form of trickle-down effect. Utah, for example, had been planning to target forwards on the market, sources said, and acquiring Collins takes a potential landing spot off the board for someone like Kyle Kuzma — one of the top free-agent forwards said to be searching for upward of $30 million in average annual salary. The Jazz only landed Collins, mind you, after Utah lost out on a chance to sign a primary target in free agency. As Marc Stein first reported on Substack, the Jazz were expected to become expensive bidders for Kristaps Porziņģis until the Wizards managed to pull off a three-team trade with the Celtics and Grizzlies that sent Porziņģis to Boston. The Celtics will now have the chance to extend Porziņģis for two more years, which brings Grant Williams’ status in Boston further into question.

Williams is another power forward who’s been linked to Utah before he reaches restricted free agency, further illustrating how interconnected the offseason’s web of scenarios is. Utah can still create upward of $28 million in room this summer, but that would require letting veteran scorer Jordan Clarkson walk, and the Jazz mainstay has long been considered a favorite of Utah team owner Ryan Smith. Even if the Jazz keep that ample amount of cap space, it’s difficult to foresee another frontcourt piece looking to join Utah’s rotation that’s already jammed with All-Star Lauri Markkanen, second-year center Walker Kessler, Collins and the No. 9 pick in Taylor Hendricks. Maybe that money is still enough to scare away the Lakers with a massive offer sheet for Austin Reaves.

Reaves still appears to be an option for the Rockets, although word has only grown in league circles about Houston’s chances of prying veteran point guard Fred VanVleet from Toronto. While staying with the Raptors still sounds like it’s on the table for both parties, Houston is prepared to offer VanVleet a very competitive deal, while all those whispers about a James Harden return have noticeably decreased in recent weeks. The Rockets, sources said, are considering short-term, high-salary contracts in order to land top-target free agents with their $61 million in cap space. It would take a maximum contract to ultimately lure VanVleet from Toronto, sources said, which would top out at two-years, $80 million. Dillon Brooks continues to be mentioned by league personnel as the top wing on the Rockets’ radar, in addition to Brook Lopez ranking as Houston’s primary big man option. Keep an eye on the Rockets possibly trading bouncy forward K.J. Martin to create further financial flexibility. The Rockets have held an increasing number of trade calls on Martin with several teams since the NBA draft, sources told Yahoo Sports. Atlanta, Phoenix and Brooklyn have been mentioned as Martin suitors dating back to the February trade deadline.

The other key forward spots in free agency will be Indiana and Detroit, which could both disappear depending on what happens with the aforementioned Hunter trade. The Pacers, sources said, are also a strong contender to sign Harrison Barnes from the Sacramento Kings. Barnes had a close relationship with All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton during their overlapping tenure in Northern California, and Barnes has further support from Indiana head coach Rick Carlisle dating back to shared days with the Mavericks. Signing Barnes could hurt other leading Indiana targets, such as Williams and Heat swingman Max Strus, sources said, who could also both be in play for Orlando and Detroit, depending on what the Pistons achieve. The rumblings of Detroit and former Suns coach Monty Williams throwing a massive offer sheet at Nets sharpshooter Cam Johnson, who reached the 2021 NBA Finals under Williams’ stewardship, have certainly gained steam around the league. Although the Nets are expected to match any practical offer for Johnson, and rival executives are prepared for Brooklyn to look at further cost-saving trades in the aftermath of a potential pricey new deal for Johnson.


Barnes’ likely departure from Sacramento, coupled with the Kings creating roughly $35 million in cap space following the draft night trade of Holmes and the No. 24 pick to Dallas, has rival front offices wondering what big swing the Kings are planning in free agency. Outright selling a first-round pick for savings, even in this economy, left many league personnel of the mind that Sacramento has a specific move up its sleeve — not just renegotiating and extending All-NBA center Domantas Sabonis for what’s expected to be in the ballpark of four years, $120 million, sources said.

Sacramento going after Bucks All-Star guard Khris Middleton has been a popular theory floated by league figures, but all signs are pointing to Milwaukee and Middleton finalizing a new agreement once free agency begins Friday after Middleton declined his 2023-24 player option last week. The Kings and head coach Mike Brown stealing Draymond Green from the Warriors would be quite the story, while Portland and Detroit are also expected to make plays for Green, sources said. Although all indications continue to point to Green returning to the franchise he’s won four championships with.

The name that’s gained plenty of momentum as a potential Sacramento target is Kuzma, who once thrived down the road in Los Angeles and was nearly dealt to the Kings in 2021 before the Lakers rerouted Kuzma to the Wizards instead and acquired Russell Westbrook. Even with a new deal for Sabonis, plus the Kings expectation to bring back versatile forward Trey Lyles, sources said, Sacramento could have more than $25 million to play with in cap room, according to salary projections provided to Yahoo Sports.

A Sabonis extension would eliminate one of the top big men from next summer’s free-agent class a year early. Reid, a key center in this summer’s market, returning to Minnesota has opposing executives waiting to see if the Timberwolves waive veteran wing Taurean Prince and his non-guaranteed $7.5 million salary, which would help Minnesota gain access to the full mid-level exception. There have already been several names linked to the Wolves at that salary slot, and they’re all playmaking, bigger combo guards such as Bruce Brown and Donte DiVincenzo. Both players are expected to have several options in that contract range, where there’s been growing noise among league personnel about DiVincenzo joining former Villanova teammates Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart in New York.


San Antonio was known to be waiting with a short-term contract for Reid and the hope of pairing him with Victor Wembanyama in the frontcourt, sources said. Now the Spurs will have to turn to other targets, perhaps someone like Pelicans center Jonas Valančiūnas, as New Orleans and San Antonio recently did business on offloading Devonte’ Graham’s contract, and the Pelicans, sources said, have since made Valančiūnas available in search of more mobile, rim-protecting big men. New Orleans made one call, sources said, to Cleveland about obtaining Jarrett Allen. Another team that wanted to be in the mix for Reid was Allen’s Cavaliers, sources said. Cleveland would have needed a sign-and-trade avenue to acquire the talented big man. It remains to be seen if the Cavs will continue searching for other frontcourt reserve options behind Allen and Evan Mobley, or if the front office simply valued Reid that highly.

The last prime trade situation at this juncture remains in Washington, where the Wizards are seeking draft compensation for both veteran guards Monte Morris and Delon Wright, sources said. With Washington currently holding 16 players on guaranteed contracts, the Wizards are also expected to come to a buyout agreement with Danilo Gallinari, acquired in the Porziņģis trade, clearing the way for the veteran scorer to find a home with a playoff contender. Clippers guard Norman Powell is also considered available for trade across the league, after his name was first mentioned in Los Angeles’ early efforts to acquire Paul from the Wizards.

Source: Yahoo Sports


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