Just when you think the NBA trade market is finally starting to calm down and the offseason malaise can set in, the Association does that one move that pulls you back in.
The Indiana Pacers and Phoenix Suns completed a three-player trade Saturday, with Luis Scola headed to Indiana in exchange for Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee and a protected first-round selection. The deal was announced via a press release on the Pacers' official website.
While a relatively minor move all things considered—the Miami Heat aren't suddenly going to start stocking canned foods in a shelter or anything—it's again proof that anything can happen. Scola's name wasn't being bandied about on the trade market much this summer, with most assuming the Suns were happy with the 33-year-old Argentine forward's production for such a cheap cost.
Instead, general manager Ryan McDonough worked the phones and landed a 2014 first-round pick for Scola—one of the most coveted assets on the market. As the NBA goes on a semi-hiatus in the coming weeks and months, with rumors and innuendo coming to a standstill, it's likely we'll begin seeing a couple of these out-of-nowhere deals come around and spark conversation.
No matter how far out of the national lexicon the NBA gets—and it will get pretty far with NFL and college football training camps starting up—team executives are always working the phones for the next big move.
What might the next deal be? Here is a complete breakdown of the latest news and notes from the NBA's rumor mill.
Spurs Not Biting on DeJuan Blair Sign-and-Trades for Now?
Suffice it to say, the last 12 months could have gone better for DeJuan Blair. A stalwart in Spurs coach Gregg Popovich's starting lineup for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, the former Pitt standout found himself on the fringes of the playoff rotation in 2012 and almost completely discarded this past campaign.
Blair set career lows across the board, scoring 5.4 points and grabbing 3.8 rebounds per contest. Though the 24-year-old big man started 16 games, he missed 21 due to injury and averaged a career-low 14 minutes per game. Most of Blair's minutes were given to Tiago Splitter, the Brazilian center who finally emerged as a solid fit next to Tim Duncan in the starting lineup.
While Splitter was given a brand-new four-year deal, Blair has been left scrounging for table scraps at the NBA's dinner table. The Spurs have a cap hold for over $2 million for next season with Blair and hold his Bird Rights, allowing them to hold discussions about a possible sign-and-trade.
Unfortunately for Blair, no team has offered anything substantive enough for San Antonio to bite. Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy had an update on the current situation, stating that the Spurs have been uncooperative through the process as they old out for an amenable deal.
It doesn't help that waters have been tepid on Blair's rights altogether.
Blair's camp has been looking for a multiyear deal starting at about $3 million per season, per ESPN New York's Jared Zwerling. While Blair's per-36-minutes production (14.9 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 52.8 FG%) is astounding for his career and he could benefit from increased playing time, teams are understandably hesitant to give long-term deals to players without ACLs.
Blair's injury situation has been viewed as a ticking time bomb since he entered the league. Those knee issues along with his size (6'7") were the overarching reason Blair lasted until the second round in 2009 to begin with, and the trepidation hasn't changed since—even as he's had a relatively healthy career.
It's worth noting, though, that the Spurs have been a markedly better team with Blair on the bench versus when he was on the floor. San Antonio was over 11 points better per 100 possessions with him on the bench in 2011-12, and 10 points better this past season. Much of that has to do with Blair being a liability on the defensive end.
Don't be surprised if he winds up taking the Spurs' qualifying offer and hoping to land elsewhere midseason.
Spurs Had Interest in Scola?
Elsewhere around the Alamo, things have been relatively quiet. The Spurs renounced their rights to guard Gary Neal, allowing him to hit the free-agent market after signing a deal with Marco Belinelli, who will essentially be a better version of Neal.
Other than renouncing Neal, who signed with the Bucks Saturday, per Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, Spurs general manager R.C. Buford's squad has kept the movement to a minimum. The Blair situation is still playing itself out, and the team landed value deals with Belinelli and Jeff Pendergraph early in free agency.
With a team filled to the brim with aging veterans and guys who got playoff experience last season, it would have been understandable to stand pat after those moves. Only, if you read the tea leaves on recent reports, it seems like Buford has been working the phones more than anyone expected.
Before the Pacers were able to land Scola, Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported San Antonio was intrigued about the possibility of bringing him back. The tweet has since been deleted by Wojnarowski, but KOCO 5 sports reporter Carson Cunningham captured it and added his own take on the matter:
Bullet dodged RT @WojYahooNBA: Spurs had been intrigued w/ Scola return (drafted him). Off the bench for contender, he's a difference maker.— Carson Cunningham (@CarsonC5) July 27, 2013
The Spurs drafted Scola in 2002, stashing his rights while he rose to prominence in Spain. They then shipped him off before the 2007-08 season to the Houston Rockets, a deal which led to Scola coming over stateside.
While Scola would have made an interesting fit in San Antonio, the more notable take here is that the Spurs aren't satisfied with their current roster situation. Per Wojnarowski, they were one of the teams heavily pursuing Andrei Kirilenko before he signed with the Brooklyn Nets, a move that generated controversy throughout the league.
Based on their interest in Kirilenko and Scola, it seems San Antonio is pushing for another player who can guard the 4 spot. It's notoriously difficult to parse any notable information out of Buford and Co. So it's unclear whether Kirilenko and Scola were just special cases worthy of their consideration, or if the team will delve down the list of available bigs even more to make a move.
San Antonio's depth chart currently has a bit of a logjam at the 4, so it's possible a bit of a hybrid forward could be a better target. Either way, there could be a stealthy move coming from the Spurs here in the coming weeks.
Blazers, Aldridge Meet to Discuss Trade? Management Gives Noncommittal Answers
Inarguably the biggest name who could send the August trade market into a tizzy is Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge. His name has come up in rumors off and on since the regular season ended, as Portland's core of young players looks to be on a different trajectory than its superstar.
Seeing as Aldridge has never been out of the first round of the playoffs and just turned 28 years old, his hesitance to express faith in the Blazers is understandable. The former No. 2 overall pick is one of the game's most underrated stars, a guy who could easily be the second-best player on a championship contender.
With his time as a potential difference-maker dwindling, however, Aldridge and the Blazers reportedly had an air-it-out meeting during Las Vegas Summer League, per Chris Haynes of Comcast SportsNet.
The impetus of the meeting was for Aldridge's representatives to discuss trade scenarios with Portland general manager Neil Olshey. Haynes notes the meeting was productive, but Olshey was in "no rush" to move his All-Star big man.
Unfortunately, there (are) a lot of rumors in the NBA. We don’t really comment on rumors. You go with every team, there (are) a lot of rumors out there. I’m not necessarily going to comment on LaMarcus. It’s just unfortunate that things like that are out there when there hasn’t really been comment on either side.
Will LaMarcus Aldridge be a Blazer next season?
Stotts went on to say he expected Aldridge back with the Blazers next season, but it's apparent this marriage is on strained terms at best. Portland has done a nice job of adding to its collection of talent and should see vast improvements in its league-worst bench, but this team is at least two or three years away from championship contention—if that ever comes.
Aldridge is the Blazers' best player and trade piece. He'll bring enough in return to help Portland grab even more talent, guys who are more on the trajectory of Damian Lillard and the other young pieces.
It will just be interesting to see whether a deal comes this summer or during the season. The Blazers own Aldridge's rights through 2014-15, so they don't have to make a rushed decision.
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