5 Players OKC Thunder Are Most Likely to Target in a Potential Trade

The silver lining of the injury cloud hanging over the Oklahoma City Thunder is that the role players are getting an opportunity to ply their trade in meaningful NBA minutes against starting-caliber opposition. Not only does this give head coach Scott Brooks the chance to evaluate his depth, but it also raises the trade value of those rotation pieces.

It’s unlikely that OKC pursues a trade this season given the battle awaiting the Thunder as they attempt to claw their way back into the playoffs, the tremendous heart exhibited by this depleted roster and general manager Sam Presti’s tendency to avoid rocking the boat.

But this season is also a perfect reminder that championship windows are fleeting, and there are a few players who could pique OKC’s interest if they were made available.

Similarly, the Thunder have a few pieces of their own that could be moved for the right price. The value of expiring contracts on the trade market has decreased over the last few seasons, but Kendrick Perkins and his $9.7 million contract are coming off the books after this season. It could be a chip that intrigues any teams looking to add frontcourt depth while freeing up cap space for the offseason.

Nick Collison has long been a fan favorite for the franchise and has been an invaluable part of the roster as a glue guy, but his extended three-point range, high basketball IQ and $2.2 million expiring contract make him an enticing option for other teams.

Likewise, OKC could look to sell high on Perry Jones III, who has shown flashes of the immense talent that made him one of the most sought-after college recruits in the nation. And then there’s always the possibility that the Thunder try to get some pieces in exchange for Reggie Jackson instead of potentially losing him for nothing in restricted free agency.

It seems unlikely that any of these players could net OKC enough value to prompt a trade, but here are some potential players of interest who could realistically be available around the trade deadline.

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NBA Rumors: Latest Buzz on Potential Roster Moves Around the League

While teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers worry about positioning for the NBA playoffs early in the season, others like the Philadelphia 76ers already have their eyes on next year.

However, there are still some rumors revolving around the 76ers early in the 2014-15 campaign because they are required to actually play the games on the schedule. Playing the games on the schedule actually means fielding a roster, even if it’s not competitive.

With that in mind, here is the latest from Philadelphia, as well as a rumor regarding a former Big Ten superstar.

 

Philadelphia 76ers

Tom Moore of Calkins Media passed along an update on the 76ers’ big-man situation:

Philadelphia sits at 0-7 and is fresh off a blowout loss at the hands of the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night. This team is not built to compete this season and would be better off losing every game for draft purposes.

Still, as mentioned, it has to field a deep enough roster to play actual NBA games.

Considering Henry Sims and Nerlens Noel are the only healthy centers on the roster while Joel Embiid recovers from injury, adding another center would bolster the interior depth. Sure, there may not be a lot available at this point of the season, but even a replacement-level center would help take some mileage off Noel’s legs.

The good news given the current roster situation is that it won’t be particularly difficult to find a player to cut.

Eventually, the 76ers could field a roster led by Michael Carter-Williams, Embiid, Noel and Dario Saric, but this will be yet another lost seasonregardless of whatever big man they pull off the free-agency pile at this point of the year. 

Hopefully, the fanbase has impressive patience.

 

Aaron Craft

Sportando’s Orazio Cauchi noted that former Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft could have a new basketball home rather soon.

“According to several sources, Aaron Craft is the main target at PG position for the Partizan Belgrade. Craft spent the training camp with the Golden State Warriors and he has the chance to play in D-League for the Santa Cruz Warriors,” he wrote.

Craft is best known for his time as a Buckeye, where he reached the Sweet 16 three times, the Elite Eight twice and the Final Four once. He was never much of an offensive threat (8.9 points a game in his four-year career), but he was an absolute defensive wizard at the college level.

Craft won the 2013-14 NABC (National Association of Basketball Coaches) Defensive Player of the Year and racked up 337 steals in his career, which is the most in the history of the Big Ten.

It is really no wonder that the Partizan Belgrade are interested in landing a perimeter defender who can keep up with almost any ball-handler on the outside and apply full-court pressure when needed. There could also be room for that type of play at the NBA level if Craft was put in the right situation.

He is capable of coming off the bench and speeding up the game for short spurts with pressure defense and forced turnovers.

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr seemed to think so when he said the following to NBA TV (h/t Bob Baptist of the Columbus Dispatch) during summer league: “Guy’s a baller. He just plays.” 

It looks like Craft may have to turn more heads than just Kerr’s from abroad now if he ever wants to make it in the NBA.

 

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Knicks Rumors: Phil Jackson and New York Smart to Delay Potential Trades

The New York Knicks are off to a disappointing 2-3 start, but President Phil Jackson and the rest of the front office members are not going to make any knee-jerk reactions when it comes to the roster.

Marc Berman of the New York Post noted why that is the case.

“According to a source,” Berman wrote, “Jackson has no plans to make any deals until Dec. 15—a key NBA date as 2014 free-agent signees and 2014 draft picks are eligible to be traded.”

This patience is smart for a number of reasons, a main one being that the Knicks are trying to rebuild toward the future. The quickest way to do that is by stockpiling young assets, such as those 2014 draft picks who will be eligible for trades on Dec. 15.

That is not to suggest that the Knicks are going to suddenly land an elite youngster to turn around the franchise, but this at least gives them more options in trade discussions. It also opens up the more realistic possibility of exploring trades with veteran pieces for cheap, young players for salary purposes and then eventually using that freed-up money to lure in big-name free agents.

There were rumors regarding J.R. Smith in that same Berman piece.

“One of President Phil Jackson’s big decisions this season is whether to trade J.R. Smith,” Berman noted, “and the club had recent conversations with the Pacers regarding ex-Knick Chris Copeland, according to a league source.”

While Jackson wouldn’t have to wait until Dec. 15 to trade for Copeland, the idea that the team may trade Smith is more important here. The bottom line is that the Knicks are trying to free up cap space, and Smith could be a problem in that regard if he elects to pass on his opt-out clause and postpone his free agency until 2016.

That Smith’s name is even in rumors at this point means the team is interested in switching the roster around, but not until mid-December.

Delaying any hasty trades before that Dec. 15 mark is also important because the team is still gradually becoming accustomed to new coach Derek Fisher and the triangle offense. This will give Jackson more of an opportunity to evaluate his own roster before any trades.

The triangle takes time to fully grasp and understand, but there should at least be some type of progress by Dec. 15.

Jackson will have a better understanding of who fits into the triangle best on the current roster and who looks like a potential long-term asset in the system.

While Carmelo Anthony is certainly not on the trade block, his recent struggles, via Ian Begley of ESPN New York, highlight just how difficult it is to pick up the triangle right away:

If the struggles continue, Jackson may think about changing the supporting cast members in an effort to improve the looks Anthony is getting on a nightly basis. However, a larger sample size is needed before making any type of move based on Anthony’s comfort level and production, which is another reason the patience is important.

The extended time frame will also give players more of a chance to jell with Fisher. Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy discussed Fisher in flattering terms, via Eric Woodyard of MLive.com:

There’s all types of paths to doing it. And I watch Derek’s team play right now and execute the triangle and stuff, and he’s doing a helluva job and that’s what it’s all about. No, I don’t have any problem. I think if you’re an organization you go out and hire the guy you think is best, period. Phil Jackson obviously knows Derek Fisher very well. He knows his basketball beliefs, he’s a guy that’s aligned with his philosophy so I would say probably a very good hire. And I think they’re off to a very good start, playing again very well.

With a coach and foundation like that, it shouldn’t take the players long to learn their expected roles.

Finally, waiting until Dec. 15 means Jackson will know which of the Knicks’ young players is progressing the most and who across the league looks like someone who would work well in the triangle system. Players who are well-suited for the triangle offense could become trade targets, and Jackson has time to evaluate the rest of the league. 

Just like trading on Wall Street, NBA trading is best accomplished if you bring plenty of information to the table. A larger sample size of games will give Jackson a better idea of what he has and what he ultimately needs to build a contender in New York.

 

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It’s time Jennings reaches potential

Stan Van Gundy sees Brandon Jennings as key to a successful season for the Pistons.

      
 

 

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Michigan Basketball: Why Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle Are Potential Breakout Stars

They’re each roughly 6’9″ and 240 pounds. One has an inside game, one has an outside game—and both should be steady contributors to Michigan in 2014-15. 

But don’t ask Wolverines coach John Beilein to pigeonhole either one right now, as redshirt freshman Mark Donnal and true freshman Ricky Doyle have more to offer than what meets the eye:

I need to watch both of them more, but at the end of the preseason here, when we get into November, one will probably have the upper hand on the other, but I can’t make that call yet. We may get situational sometimes, but I wouldn’t discount Mark’s inside game or Ricky’s outside game.

The perception would be that one is one thing and the other is the other thing, but I think both have the ability to play the other’s game, and that’s what we’re working on, so they can be really versatile.

True enough. It’s early (really early), so pegging them into definite roles would be a bit premature. However, there’s no harm in a little projection, as each stands to give Michigan a leg up on the rest of the Big Ten. 

One’s going to have range while the other will live in the paint. Or is that the other way around?

This is a “problem” that any coach would like to have. Once Doyle and Donnal figure out their purpose, Beilein, a professional developer, should have one of best young forward tandems in the Big Ten. 

 

Fresh Frontcourt

This year’s frontcourt is one of Beilein’s youngest since arriving at Michigan. That’s not a bad thing; he knows how to bring out the best in his athletes. They may not take the Big Ten by storm this season, but the combination of Donnal and Doyle should evolve into something special. 

Michigan’s team trip to Italy yielded great results. Caris LeVert regained health, nearing 100 percent recovery from surgery on his right foot, while Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin also made strides in the right direction. 

But those guys are guards. Well, LeVert can play forward, but let’s keep it simple…

What about the true power forwards/centers? Mitch McGary is gone. So is Jordan Morgan, whose experience and knowledge will be difficult to replace.

As mentioned, the frontcourt is young. But Beilein isn’t complaining about that. Instead, he enjoys watching it grow. 

“Both Ricky and Mark have had interesting games,” Beilein said, per Jake Lourim of The Michigan Daily, UM’s student media source. “One time, Ricky didn’t get a rebound (in Italy) and then Mark all of a sudden had a double-double. Both of them are making really good progress. We’d like to see more, but I like what I’ve seen.”

Bacari Alexander, Beilein’s top assistant, recently discussed the potential of a Doyle/Donnal frontcourt during an interview with Sam Webb on WTKA 1050 (via Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press).

Doyle is “thunder,” and Donnal is “lightning,” he says.

There’s early signs of the potential of all three of our bigs, if you talk about Max Bielfeldt, as well, who’s coming back from a hip procedure. Being able to knock down 15-to-17-foot jumpers. Where that becomes important on the court is when teams are trying to use their defensive big to sag off and disrupt cutting action and things of that nature.

If you can develop those guys to a level where they keep defenses honest with the ability to do that, which all three of the players have shown early on, it give us a different dimension. It gives us an opportunity to explore some different things.

Lots of coach talk. That’s what they do. Everything is technical, tactical and precise (foggy). Allow for a loose translation: These two can ball, and Michigan can’t wait to see what they can do.

There. That sounds better, doesn’t it? 

 

The Scoop on Doyle

A few months ago, Doyle seemed all but destined for a redshirt. He was too raw. At the time, a year of learning from the bench and not on the court seemed like a smart move—and according to Matt Herting, who coached Doyle at Ft. Myers Bishop Verot, that probably wouldn’t have mattered. 

“His thinking was, he committed to play basketball at Michigan, so he’s going to do everything he can to play basketball at Michigan,” Herting, who saw “50-50″ odds of Doyle redshirting, told MLive’s Brendan F. Quinn in June. “If coming up early is going to give him the best chance to play, then he might as well. I think it was a no-brainer for he and his family.”

According to 247Sports, Doyle was the No. 50-ranked power forward and No. 203-ranked overall prospect of 2014.

 

The Deal on Donnal

Donnal was the No. 18-ranked power forward and No. 86-ranked overall prospect of 2013. He ended up wearing red for his first year of college.

So he’s a higher-ranked guy who ended up taking a seat on the bench? But this year, a lower-ranked guy is primed for immediate action? And they’re interchangeable and play in similar fashions? 

Yes.

But personnel played a factor for Donnal, who, unlike Doyle, joined a team with established forwards. Now that he has a year of experience on his resume, he’s ready for action. In a sense, that was the best thing for him, as the Wolverines did fine without him. 

That was Beilein’s developmental touch at work. With Doyle and Donnal ready to pounce, Beilein’s in line to compete for a Big Ten title and extended run through March. 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Opening quote from John Beilein was obtained via press release from the Michigan athletic department.

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5 Potential Problems with Boston Celtics’ Rebuild

In case you haven’t heard, the Boston Celtics are in the process of rebuilding their ballclub. Of course, rebuilding is not everyone’s favorite decision, especially for a franchise that has won 17 NBA championships, but sometimes, circumstances make it absolutely unavoidable.

Thus far, the makeover has gone smoothly. General manager Danny Ainge has been able to cut ties with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, accumulate a wealth of draft picks and make good use of them and hire a head coach in Brad Stevens who seems like a perfect fit for the current situation.

That being said, nothing is ever 100 percent flawless, meaning that, somewhere along the line, something could go awry for Boston. Perhaps not enough to derail the rebuild completely, but at least enough to cause some bumps along the way.

Ainge has probably envisioned these potential issues already and has prepared appropriately for them, but sometimes, even the most thorough preparations cannot remedy problems right away.

Hopefully for the C’s, they don’t come across any of these hiccups.

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The One Thing Holding Andre Drummond Back from Reaching His Full Potential

Andre Drummond is far from a finished product, but there is one hole in his game that dwarfs all others—free-throw shooting.

Drummond made 41.8 percent of his free throws last season. Only one player in NBA history has posted a worse mark in a season with at least 300 free-throw attempts—Wilt Chamberlain.

Drummond‘s free-throw shooting was similarly bad as a rookie, bad enough to inspire Truehoop’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss to write Drummond a somewhat embarrassing open letter, encouraging him to try shooting free throws underhanded:

We both know your free throw efficiency factors into the intentional fouls. It’s easy to see why defenders would avoid your 60.8 percent field goal shooting in favor of your 37.1 percent free throw shooting. Until the league addresses “hack-a” strategies, you’ll also have to deal with teams fouling you before the play even starts. 

Drummond only averaged four free-throw attempts per game last season. That is a small total and means the difference between his free-throw percentage and a league-average player only cost his team about 1.3 points per game last season.

For a player who does so many things well, and inhabits such a small role on offense, free-throw shooting may seem like a small flaw to be focused on. Drummond was among the best rebounders in the league last season—offensively and defensively. He rarely turned the ball over, was among the best finishers in the league and is well on his way to becoming a defensive force. 

However, this small flaw is an enormous factor in his overall impact.

According to the NBA’s SportVU Player Tracking statistics, Drummond touched the ball 3,266 times last season. He was fouled 259 times over the course of the season, which works out to being fouled on about eight percent of his touches. If we filtered those touches and fouls to only include ones which occurred in the frontcourt, the number would probably be much higher.

Knowing you are going to be fouled regularly, undoubtedly changes the way you play. That fact is especially true when you’ve had experiences like this:

Going back to the SportVU statistics, we see that Drummond touched the ball 40.3 times per game on average last season. But on average, he actually had the ball in his hands for just 0.8 minutes per game. That means his average touch lasted about 1.2 seconds before he passed the ball, shot the ball or—about eight percent of the time—was fouled.

Those short touches are partially a function of how he is used in the offense—primarily as a screener and finisher around the basket. On one hand they are a good thing, as many of those short touches led directly to easy baskets. However, they also show what a small window he has for developing a comfort level with the ball in his hands, a prerequisite for developing new facets to his offensive game.

The fear of being fouled has both Drummond and his team working in concert to make sure that the vast majority of his touches are brief and end with a dunk. It’s a noble goal, but it also lowers his ceiling and solidifies him as the player he is right now. This semi-intentional limiting of Drummond also can be seen in different ways during the course of a game.

The table below shows Drummond‘s offensive involvement throughout the game, measured as possessions used per-36 minutes in each quarter. It also shows what percentage of his offensive possessions ended in trips to the free-throw line in each quarter.

Quarter Poss. per-36 Minutes % of Poss. from FTA
1st 15.0 7.9%
2nd 15.3 13.8%
3rd 13.4 17.7%
4th 12.5 19.3%

You can see that Drummond‘s offensive involvement shrinks as the game goes on. More than twice as many of his offensive possessions in the fourth quarter end in shooting fouls than in the first quarter.

We can’t attribute the entirety of this trend to Drummond‘s poor free-throw shooting, but it’s likely a fairly significant factor. Teams are more prone to foul him quickly down the stretch of games and his teammates, aware of this fact, seem less likely to involve him.

If his poor foul shooting is drawing a noose around both his involvement and his development, then clearly improvement from the line is the key to improvement in other places. However, the statistical track record is not good.

Research by Kevin Pelton at Basketball Prospectus found that, on average, players improve their free-throw shooting by a modest 0.7 percentage points per season up through age 27. At that rate of improvement, Drummond would hit his free-throw percentage peak at 46.7 percent. However, Pelton‘s research is looking at all players not just those who start near the bottom of the barrel.

In the three-point era, 10 players besides Drummond have shot less than 60.0 percent from the line on at least 450 free-throw attempts, across their first two seasons. Of those 10, six eventually pushed their free-throw percentage past 65.0 percent in a season. That group includes some players who actually become respectable from the line—Karl Malone, Rony Seikaly and Blake Griffin.

However, the average rate of improvement for the entire group was about 1.7 percentage points per season. That rate of growth would put Drummond at 53.7 percent by age 27, a huge improvement, but still far from respectability.

Ten players is an extremely small sample, far too small to draw any realistically reliable conclusions about Drummond‘s potential for growth. The small sample size may actually be even more telling here—just 10 other players were as unreliable at the stripe during their first two seasons as Drummond has been, and his numbers are even at the bottom of this group.

It is important to note that despite Drummond‘s poor free-throw shooting, the rest of his game undoubtedly makes him a net positive to have on the floor. His combination of ferocious offensive rebounding and high-efficiency (albeit low-usage) scoring has ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus estimating him as the fourth most effective offensive center in the league last season.

That’s not enough. From the ill-fitting trio of Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe, Drummond has by far the most potential. He is the center of the Pistons’ present and they would very much like him to be the center of their future as well. Those optimistic visions of the future show a player who is much more dynamic and versatile at the offensive end, one who can elevate the group instead of needing to be compensated for at the end of games. 

Making that dream a reality means making free throws at a respectable percentage. 

 

Statistical support for this story came from NBA.com/stats, unless otherwise stated.

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Phoenix Suns Betting on Potential over Production by Extending Morris Twins

The Phoenix Suns weren’t finished spending after reaching a five-year, $70 million agreement with emerging star Eric Bledsoe.

On the heels of a surprise 48-win season that nearly qualified the Suns for the playoffs, general manager Ryan McDonough‘s front office had a mandate to keep this young roster intact. That includes keeping the NBA‘s most famous twin duo in the fold for years to come.

In a market increasingly characterized by swelling player values, both of those deals are unequivocal bargains.

“We are excited to be able to extend the contracts of Marcus and Markieff,” McDonough said in a statement on the team’s website, via NBA.com. “They have had great success playing together at every level of basketball, including last season with the Suns…They are just entering their primes and we think they will play the best basketball of their careers over the course of the next five years.”

It’s what you’d expect a GM to say, but the optimism is well-founded. 

Markieff turned heads in his third season out of Kansas, averaging a career-high 13.8 points and six rebounds in 26.6 minutes per contest. He ranked as one of the league’s most effective sixth men, and his ability to stretch the floor becomes even more vital in the absence of Channing Frye, who left via free agency for the Orlando Magic.

NBA.com notes that, “In 2013-14, Markieff finished fourth in voting for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year and 10th in voting for NBA Most Improved Player as he led the league in points scored off the bench (1,115), double-digit scoring games off the bench (59) and double-doubles off the bench (11).”

Marcus commanded a smaller contract, reflecting the extent to which his career has been slightly less productive. Still, he’s coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 22 minutes and 9.7 points per game.

Markieff was taken by Phoenix with the 13th overall pick in 2011. Marcus was taken immediately thereafter by the Houston Rockets and wasn’t traded to the Suns until 2013, at which point the Morris brothers became just the second pair of twins to join forces in the NBA—the first being Dick and Tom Van Arsdale, also of the Suns, way back in 1976-77 (h/t ESPN.com).

To this point, neither brother has shown superstar potential. They’re strong complementary players, and their versatility fits well with a Suns team that ranked eighth in pace a season ago, per Hollinger’s NBA Team Statistics. Head coach Jeff Hornacek likes to push tempo and look for the long ball, a game plan that privileges 4s who can space the floor.

Only three teams attempted more three-point field goals than the Suns last season, and this team collectively made 37.2 percent of those attempts—tied for the seventh-best mark in the league.

So these extensions are in part of a matter of chemistry. Continuity is always a good thing, but it’s even better when the personnel gel with the system.

But these extensions also reflect a hope that the Morris brothers continue their improvement. Each has undergone steady growth in his first three seasons, and—at 25 years old—McDonough‘s belief that they’re “just entering their primes” isn’t unrealistic. 

History seems to suggest Markieff has the higher ceiling, but he’ll likely be facing greater challenges this season.

As Grantland’s Zach Lowe put it, “Defenses will focus on him, and Morris will share the floor with more accomplished scorers if he replaces Channing Frye in the starting lineup.”

The good news is Morris has an increasingly polished game that very well could withstand heightened defensive attention.

Lowe added that, “Morris was one of the league’s very best post-up scorers last year; he shot 46 percent from the block, drew fouls at a decent rate, and took care of the ball, per Synergy.”

The big question is what kind of strides Markieff can make going forward. Having already made a big leap last season, a more pessimistic school of thought holds that his play will more or less plateau from here on out.

Even if that’s the case, Phoenix may have gotten a bargain. 

As NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman notes, “With the salary cap projected to rise drastically the next few years, neither [deal] will burn Phoenix.”

But the relatively modest dollar amounts attached to these deals should caution against any unreasonable expectations about how much impact either Morris twin will make—now or ever. No one is betting on All-Star appearances.

Rather, the realistic hope is that the Morrises continue taking small steps along with a young roster that’s still finding itself.

“We had to go over and over things last year because it was all new,” Hornacek said, according to The Arizona Republic‘s Paul Coro. “This year, we’ll get into things quicker and be able to play more. We should be able to cover the little things. We did a great job of scoring last season, but now it’s about the little things.”

Last season was Hornacek‘s first in Phoenix. Bledsoe and swingman Gerald Green are coming off their first campaigns with the club. After adding point guard Isaiah Thomas this summer, McDonough‘s roster appears to have taken shape.

Now’s the time for that group to build some connectivity and continue its rapid maturation.

From that perspective, it’s hard to see either of these deals backfiring even a little bit. At worst, the Suns have two good (maybe very good) power forwards in a rotation that tends to rely more on guard play anyway. This was something of a no-brainer for the organization.

Besides, this franchise isn’t going anywhere without taking some chances. 

“In finance, you learn once you’ve spent money, it is a sunk cost and it has no bearing on your next decision,” owner Robert Sarver said of past personnel decisions earlier in September, per Coro. “In this case, some numbers were really big. That makes you pause. You get used to the fact that you’re going to make mistakes. If you’re afraid to make mistakes, you’re going to be afraid to make decisions.”

The Suns certainly haven’t been averse to making decisions this summer. They’ll pay Thomas just $7,238,606 this season, a figure that declines in each of the three years after that. And even Bledsoe‘s pricey contract could eventually prove worth every penny.

Striking deals with Markieff and Marcus was the next logical step in a bid to keep the band together.

It wasn’t Phoenix’s noisiest move of the summer, but it was a crucial one. That will become all the clearer in time.

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5 NBA Teams That Should Gamble on Potential Rajon Rondo Trade

Any talk of trading Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo has to be qualified by the fact that he may or may not even be on the market. 

General manager Danny Ainge‘s most recent declaration expressed more hope than certainty.

The truthful answer is I really don’t know,” Ainge said when asked about the possibility of dealing Rondo, per the Worcester Telegram & Gazette‘s Bill Doyle. “I have no intention. I’m not trying to trade Rondo, but because he’s a free agent this summer, he assured me that he wants to stay in Boston. We’d love to keep him in Boston.”

“The possibility of a trade is not out of the question,” Ainge added. “Nobody is untradeable, but I don’t see that happening.”

That possibility will remain until and unless Rondo makes a long-term commitment to the organization. Otherwise, context suggests a trade may be even more than a possibility. Rondo is accustomed to winning, and it may be some time before the Celtics complete a protracted rebuilding process.

We may have limited insight into Rondo’s wishes and the front office’s intentions, but we do know Boston is nowhere close to becoming the kind of contender the 28-year-old ostensibly prefers.

As CBSSports.com’s James Herbert put it, “Regardless of what Rondo has or hasn’t expressed to Celtics management, trade rumors are bound to persist throughout this coming season if he’s not moved beforehand.”

So if the Celtics do decide to sell, who should consider buying?

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Atlanta mayor: Plenty of potential Hawks buyers (Yahoo Sports)

The mayor has already heard from plenty of potential buyers for the Atlanta Hawks. Flanked by Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins and other city leaders, Mayor Kasim Reed said Tuesday he expects the sale of the team to move briskly after racially charged comments by owner Bruce Levenson and general manager Danny Ferry. ”All six of those prospective buyers will have to go through a process to be vetted by the NBA.

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