Jimmy Butler Contract: Latest Buzz and Speculation on Negotiations with Bulls

Jimmy Butler and the Chicago Bulls‘ talks regarding a new contract have ended without a deal, and he’s set to enter restricted free agency after the 2014-15 season.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported the news, adding Butler rejected the final offer Chicago made on Friday before the midnight deadline. He’ll remain on for the fourth year of his rookie-scale contract at $1.3 million per year.

Butler is banking on a big year to up his stock in the open market.

“It came down to me deciding that I want to bet on myself,” Butler told Wojnarowski in a text message. “It was about me believing that I put the work in this summer to become a better player with the hope that my improvement will give the Bulls a better chance to win a championship.”

It will be a lucrative bet for Butler to say the least, but he has to like his chances. He’ll start at shooting guard in a new-look Bulls lineup that looks the part of the Eastern Conference favorite entering the season.

He’s also quite popular with Tom Thibodeau and his coaching staff for his excellent two-way play, emerging as one of the league’s best perimeter defenders and a great on-ball matchup for Chicago against rival LeBron James. 

Shooting is unquestionably one thing the Bulls hope to see improve this season, with Butler regressing to an under 40-percent clip from the field last year after shooting 46.7 percent from the floor in the prior season.

Despite being a big piece to the puzzle for 2014-15, the Bulls couldn’t reward Butler with a much-needed extension. That means when the offseason comes, Chicago may be forced to match a sizable offer from another team or let him go.

Either way, it appears Butler will be on his way to a big payday if he continues his ascension into 2014-15. 

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Marquis Teague Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz and Speculation on Nets Guard

For the second time in his three-year NBA career, 2012 first-round pick Marquis Teague appears to be on the precipice of being shipped out of town. The Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers are closing in on a deal that will send the former Kentucky star to Philadelphia, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Brooklyn is not expected to receive “anything of significance” in return. NBA rules prohibit assets to be traded without compensation, so the likeliest outcome is a conditional or highly protected draft pick or a non-guaranteed contract that can be easily waived.

Teague, 21, was drafted No. 29 overall by the Chicago Bulls in 2012. He left after only one up-and-down season at Kentucky, with the Bulls hoping Tom Thibodeau could mine the talent that made Teague a highly touted prep star.

The relationship did not work out. Teague struggled mightily on both ends of the floor and was excised from the Bulls rotation to the point he was relegated to D-League duty. He played in only 67 games with Chicago before the team cut bait, sending him to Brooklyn in exchange for Tornike Shengelia.

“It just wasn’t clicking with Thibs the right way,” Teague told reporters in January. “Just trying to figure out the system was kind of tough for me. The way they play isn’t really my style, so it’s kind of difficult for me.”

The Nets experience went a little better for Teague, as he averaged 3.0 points and 1.4 assists per game on 41.5 percent shooting in 21 appearances. But Brooklyn’s offseason acquisition of Jarrett Jack leaves Teague without much chance at playing time.

His only extended preseason audition came in Wednesday night’s loss to the Boston Celtics, where he scored 10 points and made four assists (with six turnovers) in 24 minutes. In four other appearances, Teague had a total of 13 points in 37 minutes played.

Moving on allows Brooklyn to shave Teague‘s $1.12 million salary and its subsequent luxury tax costs off the books. The Nets have well north of $90 million in guaranteed contracts on their books, per Sham Sports, putting them well above the $76.83 million luxury tax. In 2013-14, Brooklyn paid an NBA record $90.57 million in luxury taxes.

The Sixers, far under the salary cap as they continue their rebuilding effort, can absorb Teague‘s contract without sending salary in return. Philadelphia is likely willing to give Teague a shot due to Michael Carter-Williams’ expected absence. The reigning Rookie of the Year has set a Nov. 13 target date for his return following offseason shoulder surgery, per Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com.

Tony Wroten will likely start at point guard while Carter-Williams is injured. Adding Teague may spell the end in Philadelphia for Casper Ware, a second-year guard who is on a non-guaranteed contract. Ware was impressive during his summer league run, but Philly’s flirtation with adding a point guard may signal a dissatisfaction with the guard rotation.

Or it may just be Sam Hinkie rolling the dice on a former first-round pick available for pittance. You never know with this team.

 

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Chase Budinger Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz and Speculation on Timberwolves Forward

The Minnesota Timberwolves are making waves on the trade front for the second time in two months, though this one may not cause the same ripple effect around the NBA.     

According to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the Timberwolves are fielding offers for Chase Budinger:

The Minnesota Timberwolves are shopping forward Chase Budinger in trade talks, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Among talks with several teams, the Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets have shown an interest, league sources said.

However, as Wojnarowski also notes, neither the Rockets nor Pistons are hungry to take on Budinger’s contract, which includes a $5 million player option for next season:

Houston is reluctant to take on the $5 million player option Budinger’s deal has in 2015-16, as are the Pistons, sources said. Nevertheless, the Pistons are taking a long look at Budinger and considering the possibility of making a deal. No trade is considered imminent for Budinger. 

Detroit lost shooting guard Jodie Meeks for two months because of a fractured back.

One reason the Timberwolves might be keen to get rid of Budinger, and why few teams will have interest, is because of his injury history. The 26-year-old has appeared in just 64 games since 2012-13, and he missed half of last season due to surgery on his left knee. 

Budinger addressed the topic of his health during the preseason, via the Timberwolves’ official public relations staff on Twitter:

Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press confirmed Budinger’s assessment of his health with this tweet from Minnesota’s training camp:

It’s not a surprise the Rockets would have interest in Budinger, however muted it might be due to his salary. The forward was drafted 44th overall by Detroit in the 2009 NBA draft before being traded to Houston. He spent three seasons with the Rockets and averaged 9.4 points per game. 

Budinger is a valuable bench piece to have if he can stay healthy. He’s shot 35.7 percent from three-point range in his career and shoots 80.6 percent from the free-throw line. Given the amount of time he’s missed since being traded to Minnesota, teams will need to see proof of a resurgence before biting on any deal. 

Fortunately, for Budinger and the Timberwolves, there is still time in the preseason and early in the regular season to show what he’s still capable of doing. If he establishes enough value in that time, then some team is more likely to bite on his salary. 

 

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Michael Beasley Rumors: Latest Buzz and Speculation Surrounding Free-Agent Star

Michael Beasley is one of the most notable free agents still left on the market with most of the NBA‘s offseason complete. The small forward played a limited role for the Miami Heat last season and has struggled to garner interest.    

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports Beasley will continue the process of trying to find a new home by working out for the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs this week. They join the Los Angeles Lakers among teams that have evaluated him:

Beasley’s had several workouts for teams this summer, including two with the Los Angeles Lakers, but remains unsigned for the 2014-15 season.

The Spurs have 14 guaranteed contracts for next season, and so far, they haven’t been able to come to terms with restricted free agent Aron Baynes.

The latest link makes sense on the surface. San Antonio lacks depth behind Kawhi Leonard with first-round pick Kyle Anderson needing time to develop. The UCLA product has forward height, but is more accustomed to playing guard.

Beasley would also bring another offensive weapon to the equation. He averaged better than 19 points per game during the 2010-11 season with the Minnesota Timberwolves but has watched his playing time drop steadily since that point.

That’s not without reason, of course. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald had a source explain why the Heat didn’t bring him back:

A person with direct knowledge cited several reasons for the Heat’s lack of interest: Inconsistency, lack of trust in his defense (and ability to execute the Heat’s defensive system), and maturity/focus issues, which are still a concern even though he improved somewhat in that regard last season.

Despite those problems, the Spurs apparently want to get a better look for themselves to determine whether he would be a good fit for their team.

Beasley did appear in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, scoring nine points in 17 minutes off the bench. It was too little, too late for Miami, but it did give San Antonio a look at what he’s capable of, at least on that end of the floor.

Ultimately, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft should latch on somewhere. While there are fair concerns about his defense and past off-court issues, he does bring enough to the table offensively to warrant a reserve role elsewhere.

There wouldn’t be a better place to attempt a career resurrection than San Antonio. It’s a stable environment with plenty of veteran leadership to help guide him, as was the case in Miami. Whether the Spurs are interested should become more clear after the workout.

 

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Tracy McGrady Rumors: Latest Buzz, Speculation Surrounding NBA Star’s Comeback

Now that he’s officially retired from the diamond, Tracy McGrady is apparently headed back to the hardwood.

In an email exchange with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, McGrady confirmed he’s currently working out with Kobe Bryant in hopes of seeing whether his body could handle an NBA comeback next season.

“Yes, I was working out with K.B. to get in shape and see how my body feels,” McGrady said.

McGrady, 35, retired after 16 NBA seasons last August. He last played with the San Antonio Spurs during the 2013 postseason, failing to score a point while missing all seven of his shot attempts. Before joining San Antonio, McGrady spent most of the 2012-13 campaign with the Qingdao Eagles of the Chinese Basketball Association.

His last meaningful NBA stint came with the Atlanta Hawks in 2011-12, where he averaged 5.3 points per contest in 53 games off the bench.

After retiring, McGrady briefly pursued a baseball career with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League, an independent outfit that was once the home to Roger Clemens.

He retired from baseball after recording a strikeout in the league’s All-Star Game, giving up five runs in his 6.2 innings pitched for the Skeeters.

It will be interesting to see whether McGrady’s comeback proves successful. In Atlanta and San Antonio, McGrady looked like a broken-down version of himself who was hanging on for one more check (with the Hawks) and a possible ring (with the Spurs).

Never an elite shooter and with his knee injuries having long since sapped his formerly prodigious athleticism, one has to wonder what McGrady could possibly offer an NBA team.

Wojnarowski‘s report noted that McGrady’s representatives touched base with two teams attempting to drum up a market. Both declined interest.

McGrady himself isn’t even sure how much interest he has in returning to the day-to-day NBA grind. He told Wojnarowski no official decision will be made about his basketball future until at least October, when he’ll return from a trip to China.

“The comeback will not happen, unless I have the drive whenever I get back,” McGrady said.

Ultimately, a return to China might be McGrady’s best bet if he wants to keep playing basketball. While his team didn’t have much success during his season in Qingdao, his individual numbers were in-his-prime great. He was named to the All-CBA third team and remains a well-liked figure.

It’s possible that he might even make more money in China than he would in the United States, where NBA teams are unlikely to offer much more than a non-guaranteed minimum contract.

Stephon Marbury is just one of a handful of former players who have found something nearing a home in China. McGrady is a much more accomplished NBA player and might perform even better in a second Chinese go-around knowing it’s not just a stopgap before a return home.

No matter his desire, odds are we’ve seen the last of McGrady playing basketball in the U.S.

Unless a team is desperate for a veteran voice to mentor young players—think Chauncey Billups on last year’s Pistons or Derek Fisher basically anywhere for the past half-decade—he’s going to have a tough time earning a gig on his own merit.

Of course, this is a shame to anyone of a certain age who remembers McGrady soaring to superstardom in Orlando.

There was once a time when “Kobe versus T-Mac” was a legitimate debate. Now, Bryant’s gearing up for a comeback to widespread fanfare, and Spotrac indicates he will make $23.5 million in 2014-15. McGrady will be lucky to get a tryout opportunity.

 

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Lakers Rumors: Latest Speculation Surrounding Michael Beasley to LA

Michael Beasley has earned several opportunities during his career, but landing with the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason might be his best-case scenario. With an experienced group heading into the 2014-15 season, Beasley in Hollywood has a chance to provide results. 

The potential deal was initially reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

The Los Angeles Lakers are considering signing free-agent forward Michael Beasley and brought in the six-year veteran for a workout at their El Segundo, California, practice facility Wednesday, according to multiple sources.

“[Beasley] looked very good and he has been working out,” one source said. “A tiny rust from layoff, but [he] did a good job.”  

Following the first rumor surrounding Beasley, word has been mostly mum coming out of L.A. But talks have still been taking place between the two sides as Beasley looks to find his next landing spot in the NBA.

In recent days, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders shared his knowledge of the situation on Twitter:

Prior to those rumors, Kyler shared the stipulations for Beasley to sign with the Lakers. Those conditions include guaranteed money and playing time, according to Kyler. 

Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders also offered what franchises see in Beasley and his thoughts on a potential deal with the Lakers:

While Beasley put up just 7.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game last season with the Miami Heat, he appeared to accept his position as a role player. With just two starts and 15.1 minutes per game in 2013-14, a new team might offer more opportunities for success.

The former second overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft offers a low-risk, high-reward option for the Lakers. Kobe Bryant is aging and has a chance to mentor the former college star to help the team in the future.

Following a season where the Lakers fell well short of contending in the Western Conference, Beasley offers another weapon. And at just 25 years old, he is still young enough to turn his career around.

Thanks to also having the likes of Nick Young re-signed for four years, the small forward position is secured. Adding depth in the form of Beasley that can complement Swaggy P, he would flourish in L.A.

Beasley’s career hasn’t gone in the direction he once hoped, but the Lakers offer a fresh start. If he continues to mature and increase production with the franchise, Beasley also has a chance to be part of the future plans for the Lakers.

 

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Roy Hibbert Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz, Speculation Surrounding Pacers Center

Paul George‘s gruesome leg injury changed everything about the Indiana Pacers’ outlook for the 2014-15 season. However, it apparently won’t quiet the continued rumblings about Larry Bird shopping All-Star center Roy Hibbert

Matt Dery of New Detroit Sports 105.1 reported the rumblings have grown louder over the weekend, pointing toward the Pistons as a potential trade partner:

Greg Monroe remains a restricted free agent and looks no closer to a long-term deal with Detroit than he was a month ago. The Pistons have an offer on the table similar to Josh Smith‘s four-year, $54 million contract, per Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, but chatter differs on the dollar figure. Responding to a fan query on Twitter, Monroe said the numbers being floated in the media are inaccurate:

Because he is a restricted free agent, Monroe is in a difficult spot. He can either sign whatever long-term deal the Pistons have on the table or sign a one-year, $5.48 million qualifying offer and then test unrestricted free agency next summer. The latter, nuclear option involves leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table—something few young players are willing to do. 

As for a Hibbert-for-Monroe sign-and-trade? That has roughly a negative-infinity chance of happening.

The flaws in logic are pretty obvious here. Hibbert heading to Detroit creates a positional redundancy with Andre Drummond. Both players occupy space within five feet of the basket when not involved in pick-and-rolls offensively. Having them on the floor at the same time would somehow lead to more constricted spacing than the Pistons had in 2013-14—which is saying something.

The Pistons see Drummond as a foundational piece. There is little to no chance they would add an All-Star quality talent at his position and risk affecting his confidence. Drummond might benefit from learning how to better use his body by playing with Hibbert, but the risk-reward sheet is heavily tilted toward the former.

The potential reward here for Indiana is easier to see, albeit still under a flawed premise. Monroe is 24 years old and more likely to be in his prime for whatever Bird decides to do with his next core. The Pacers would run into some redundancy with David West and Monroe, but Monroe might wind up being a more effective offensive center, anyway. West can also become an unrestricted free agent next summer if he exercises his player option.

More likely, the Pacers are merely trying to recoup value for Hibbert. Sean Deveney of Sporting News first reported last month that the team was “quietly” shopping the Defensive Player of the Year runner up. There were also foreign reports, via Sportando, floating around saying Hibbert was offered to the Phoenix Suns in a package for Goran Dragic.

These rumblings follow a pattern indicating Indiana brass has decided its current core cannot compete for a title.

Lance Stephenson signed with the Charlotte Hornets this summer after seemingly butting heads in negotiations over a few million extra dollars. Stephenson and Hibbert were seen as two of the chief causes of an internal rift that helped sink Indiana’s run last season.

Stephenson and Evan Turner allegedly got into a fight on the eve of their playoff matchup with the Atlanta Hawks. Hibbert famously called out his teammates after a March loss, calling them “selfish.” The seven-footer also came under scrutiny for his lack of production down the stretch. He averaged only 8.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game on 39 percent shooting after the All-Star break, a run of befuddling play that carried into the postseason.

“When Roy loses his confidence, he struggles at times,” Bird told reporters in June. “I hope he can come back strong. I hope he can do the things necessary to get better.”

With George expected to miss most or all of 2014-15 due to a compound fracture to his tibia and fibula suffered in a Team USA scrimmage, Pacers brass needs to assess how they want to rebuild. Amin Elhassan highlighted the difficulty of potentially blowing up the core:

Hibbert can hit unrestricted free agency next summer and may decide he needs a change of scenery amid the criticism. His trade market is limited at the moment. But it’ll be interesting to see how the Pacers’ apparent push to move on plays out.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter. 

Contract information via Sham Sports.

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Lance Stephenson Rumors: Latest Buzz and Speculation on Free-Agent Star

Shooting guard Lance Stephenson is among the hottest commodities on the NBA‘s free-agent market, and it appears as though he is very much in play after the Indiana Pacers’ initial contract offer failed to blow him away.

According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, Stephenson isn’t satisfied with what Indiana is offering thus far, so he intends to shop himself around:

Broussard reported more details of negotiations:

“Lance and his representatives aren’t sure they’re going to be able to reach an agreement with the Pacers,” a source said. “It’s clear they want him back and he wanted to go back, but they may not be able to come to terms.”

[...]

While money is a factor, Stephenson will not simply go to the highest bidder, sources said. He wants to go to a team that is either a contender or a competitive up-and-coming club.

The Pacers pulled out all the stops Tuesday by hosting Stephenson and his family at a local theater and surprising him with a movie about his life.

Although Stephenson didn’t jump at the first offer sent his way, that doesn’t necessarily mean his time in Indiana is done. Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders is reporting that Stephenson is still very much taking the Pacers’ offer under consideration:

The obvious danger in allowing Stephenson to test the market, though, is that some franchise may be willing to offer him a deal he simply can’t refuse. If that happens, then the Pacers will be left scrambling.

Stephenson is coming off a career season in which he averaged nearly 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game. Few players in the NBA are capable of stuffing the stat sheet quite like him, but that isn’t the only benefit of signing someone like Stephenson.

While volatile and somewhat of a loose cannon at times, Stephenson is also a gamer. He is a catalyst capable of changing the game on both ends of the floor once he gets going, and he definitely adds another dimension to the Pacers that wouldn’t be easily replaced.

On top of that, he is quite young at 23 years of age and has plenty of growing left to do as a player and person.

As much as Indiana wants to keep him, Stephenson may want to stay even more. According to Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star, agent Alberto Ebanks believes the Pacers may represent the best possible situation for his client.

He expects to be in a position with a team to compete for a championship. If he stays with the Pacers, he doesn’t have to look very far with the No. 1 team coming out of the East. You want to make sure that there’s a good fit. The more I describe what he’s looking for, the more that the picture perfect next place for him is right where he is right now. It’s just a matter of can we can come to terms with the Pacers. If we can, there’s no need to really change something that’s been working.

The Pacers seemingly feel the same way, but the two sides have yet to come to an agreement. Stephenson already knows how he fits and what role he’ll play in Indiana, which is a positive, but he could be intrigued by other situations.

Indiana really struggled to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, and there is no guarantee it will get that far again despite the relative weakness of the conference. Stephenson may see better championship opportunities elsewhere, which could force Indiana’s hand in terms of offering more money.

Losing Stephenson would be a major blow for the Pacers, so they may have to play ball sooner rather than later. Stephenson holds the upper hand in negotiations since he is a highly sought after asset, which means the Pacers will almost certainly have to up their offer.

 

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Paul Pierce Rumors: Latest Buzz and Speculation Surrounding Star Guard

The Jason Kidd saga appears to go deeper than just the Brooklyn Nets needing to find a new coach. Players who were inclined to stay with the team because he was leading them apparently no longer have that connection.      

Paul Pierce, who was traded from the Boston Celtics to the Nets last June in a package with Kevin Garnett, is a free agent and is looking for a place to play next season. Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports that Kidd’s departure opens the door for a Western Conference power to land the 36-year-old:

The Nets aren’t going to let Pierce go without putting their best foot forward. According to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, the Nets will negotiate with their own free agents but will let the market determine Pierce’s value:

The Los Angeles Clippers make sense as a potential landing spot for Pierce. Last year, L.A. tried to acquire Pierce, Garnett and Doc Rivers in a package deal with the Celtics.

The Clippers were able to get Rivers as their head coach from Boston, but Pierce and Garnett were dealt to Brooklyn along with Jason Terry in exchange for Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries’ expiring contract, Keith Bogans, Kris Joseph and first-round draft picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018. 

Pierce is coming off his worst season, at least by points, as a professional. He had a reduced role with Brooklyn, playing just 28 minutes per game and averaging a career-low 13.5 points per game. 

However, the 10-time All-Star had his best shooting percentage (.451) since 2010-11 and shot 37.3 percent from three-point range.

Pierce is no longer capable of being the No. 1 guy on a playoff team, but add him to a franchise like the Clippers, who have arguably the sport’s best point guard (Chris Paul) and two dominating inside players (Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan), and suddenly his ability to pop shots from the outside becomes more valuable. 

There is also the built-in trust that Pierce has with Rivers, who coached him in Boston for nine years, and the ability to play for one of the best teams in the NBA hoping to get at least one more championship before hanging up the sneakers. 

 

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Trevor Ariza Rumors: Latest Buzz, Speculation Surrounding Free-Agent Forward

Fresh off of arguably the best season of his 10-year NBA career, Trevor Ariza is attracting lots of interest. Before his expected flirtation around the Association, though, he’ll meet with current Washington Wizards head coach Randy Wittman. 

Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski has the news: 

Ariza was vital in helping Washington to its best season in nearly a decade. In 77 games, he averaged 14.4 points, a career-high 6.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals per contest. He also established himself as one of the best shooters in the league, knocking down 2.3 treys a game at a career-best 40.7 percent. 

Once regarded as a defensive specialist, he has developed into an all-around stud. When he was on the court last year, the Wizards averaged 104.8 points per possession and allowed just 101.2, per NBA.com. When he went to the bench, those numbers went to 99.9 and 104.9, respectively. That’s a massive net difference of 8.5 points per 100 possessions.

He certainly made life easier for point guard John Wall, who told the Washington Post‘s Michael Lee he wants Ariza back: 

In a free-agent class that features names like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Luol Deng, it might have been conceivable that Ariza could fly under the radar or be had at a bargain, but he is clearly a very hot commodity after such a standout campaign. 

According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi, two of the league’s best teams are potential suitors: 

In addition to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers, Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears cited a source saying the Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns will also be in the mix. 

Things are going to get interesting, and a bidding war could potentially drive Ariza’s price up. Either way, Wittman, who is also concentrating on bringing back Marcin Gortat, has his work cut out for him. 

If Ariza continues to build off of last year’s tremendous campaign, though, the work will be worth it. 

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