NBA Rumors: Latest on Michael Carter-Williams Trade, J.R. Smith Free Agency

Thomas Duffy@@TJDhoopsFeatured ColumnistOctober 12, 2016

Oct 5, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; A fan holds a sign of J.R. Smith before the game between the Orlando Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Need a break from football? Let's talk NBA rumors.

With the regular season quickly approaching, the grapevine is more raisin-like as teams have mostly solidified their rosters by now.

But all of them haven't.

Some trade rumblings are floating around the Milwaukee Bucks, and J.R. Smith remains unsigned. We'll look into both situations below.

   

Michael Carter-Williams

Feb 25, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe (left) and guard Michael Carter-Williams (5) and forward Jabari Parker (12) react during the second of a game against the Boston Celtics half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-US
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, ESPN's Marc Stein reported that the Bucks offered Michael Carter-Williams to the Sacramento Kings for shooting guard Ben McLemore. Stein added that they "will continue to probe for potential deals after the Kings rebuffed that pitch for 2013's No. 7 overall pick."

One day prior, fellow ESPN insider Zach Lowe shared a similar sentiment, writing Milwaukee is "open to moving either Greg Monroe or Michael Carter-Williams in the right deal, league sources say."

Carter-Williams (left), Steven Adams (center) and Ben McLemore (right)
Carter-Williams (left), Steven Adams (center) and Ben McLemore (right)Steven Freeman/Getty Images

MCW was sidelined with a hip injury from February 29 until the end of last season. In his absence, Giannis Antetokounmpo exploded as an electrifying 6'11" force as the Bucks' floor general.

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"Point Giannis," ladies and gentlemen:

And again:

The Greek Freak put up 19.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.9 blocks, 1.5 steals and 2.9 turnovers while shooting 51.4 percent from the field in 36.3 minutes during the 23-game stretch.

His emergence as an uber-dynamic backcourt weapon makes it plausible for the Bucks to shop Carter-Williams. But on Friday, the same day Stein's report came out, head coach Jason Kidd defended the 2014 Rookie of the Year on SiriusXM NBA Radio (h/t HoopsHype):

Rumors are just part of this business. We're happy with Michael (Carter-Williams). He's had a great summer and has worked extremely hard and it showed in the first game in Chicago. He came off the bench and I think he led us in rebounds. He can be one of the best wing defenders in this league. He helped us late in the game running the team at the point guard position. There's always speculation around different guys, but I think Michael is going to help us win.

MCW seemed to tweet a response to the buzz:

Carter-Williams doesn't present the types of problems Antetokounmpo does, but his versatility and frame are still strong assets on a team that's made length a priority. He's only 25, and, despite some ups and downs, has averaged 14.5 points, 6.1 assists and 5.6 rebounds over his three-year career.

The Bucks did just sign Matthew Dellavedova to a four-year deal in the offseason, so Milwaukee isn't thin at point guard. Breakout star shooting guard Khris Middleton underwent surgery for a ruptured left hamstring on Sept. 29 and is likely to miss six months, though, which opens up backcourt minutes.

Count on the Deer holding tight on MCW. Clunky frontcourt fit Monroe seems like the piece more likely to be moved.

   

J.R. Smith

Jun 22, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, forward LeBron James and guard J.R. Smith laugh during the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA championship celebration in downtown Cleveland. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

This should be done already.

It's been nearly four months since the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, and everyone's favorite eccentric shooting guard remains unsigned.

Smith has been hanging out—and working out—with LeBron James and other Cavs teammates, but he reportedly turned down a three-year deal (with a fourth-year option) with $42 million guaranteed, per ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin.

While Smith seems to be losing leverage the closer Cleveland gets to the regular season, he does have one monumental advantage in his corner: LeBron.

Here's what the King told reporters, per McMenamin, about Smith on Sept. 30: "Negotiations are always two-sides, but J.R. did his part. J.R. did his part. He showed up every day. Worked his ass off every day. Became a two-way player, a model citizen in Cleveland and he's a fan favorite, obviously we all know that."

Think back to last year, when Tristan Thompson was in a similar situation. He got $82 million over five years on Oct. 21.

Jun 16, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts during the fourth quarter with guard J.R. Smith (5) against the Golden State Warriors in game six of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

James, Smith and Thompson are all represented by Rich Paul at Klutch Sports.

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News provided a twist on Saturday: "It is likely that Smith, a one-time Sixth Man of the Year with the Knicks, will re-sign with Cleveland, but there are several teams that have interest in the shooting guard. One team is the Boston Celtics, whose second unit could certainly use a little scoring punch."

Per Isola, Smith is looking for a deal worth $15 million annually, while Boston only has $9 million in cap space. Smith would also become a backup to Avery Bradley after starting a career-high 98 games (playoffs included) during last year's title run.

The wait is presumably getting a bit uncomfortable for both sides, but it'd be a shock if Smith bolts to Boston or elsewhere. He should be back in Cleveland.