NBA Rumors: Rounding Up Buzz on Zach LaVine, Nikola Jokic and More

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 28, 2022

NBA Rumors: Rounding Up Buzz on Zach LaVine, Nikola Jokic and More

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    While the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat fight for the NBA crown, every other team is busy trying to map its own path to the throne.

    For those clubs, the 2022 offseason is already on, and they're on the prowl to find the free agent, draft prospect or trade target who could take them over the top.

    The latest buzz from the rumor mill involves a pair of Western Conference playoff participants searching for their breakthrough moves. Let's dive in.

Mavs Seek Second Star, Intrigued by Zach LaVine

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    No team leaned heavier on one player this postseason than the Dallas Mavericks did on Luka Doncic. The 23-year-old shouldered a usage rate of 39.6 percent, more than two points higher than the next closest player (Giannis Antetokounmpo, 37.3, per

    Doncic's wizardry, paired with timely combinations from his supporting cast, contributed to Dallas' first playoff series win since 2011—and its second. Once the Mavericks reached the Western Conference finals, though, they ran out of fuel and fell to the Golden State Warriors in five games.

    As Dallas attempts to aim even higher, NBA insider Marc Stein reported the Mavericks are seeking out a second star to pair with Doncic. While Rudy Gobert has often been mentioned as a possible target, Stein characterized the interest in the three-time Defensive Player of the Year as overstated. Zach LaVine, Stein reported, intrigues the front office.

    The Mavericks saw some success pairing Doncic with scorers and shot-creators in Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie. Plugging in LaVine would give Dallas a turbo-boosted version of that look. His numbers backtracked a tiny bit this season, and he still went for 24.4 points per game. The last Maverick not named Luka Doncic to average that many points was Dirk Nowitzki.

Despite Changes in Denver, Nikola Jokic Still Intends to Sign Supermax

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    The Denver Nuggets just lost their president of basketball operations Tim Connelly to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Fortunately, it doesn't sound like that departure has a certain reigning two-time MVP plotting his own way out.

    Nikola Jokic, who was drafted by Connelly and formed a strong relationship with him, is still on board with the long-term plan in Denver. When the Nuggets put the five-year, $260 million supermax on the table this summer, Jokic plans to sign it, per The Athletic's Shams Charania and Sam Amick.

    Jokic's brothers recently met with Denver's front office and all sides "left the meeting aligned in their vision," The Athletic scribes reported. That whooshing noise you just heard is a huge sigh of relief billowing out of the Mile High City.

Nuggets Willing to Sacrifice Draft Assets for Upgrades

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    Late in the 2020-21 season, the Nuggets appeared like they were trending toward title contention.

    Jokic was wrapping his fingers around the MVP award, Jamal Murray was fire-balling from his co-star role and Michael Porter Jr. was putting up points with effortless efficiency. Once Aaron Gordon arrived as the potential answer to Denver's defensive problems, Denver arguably looked as good as anyone.

    Of course, the injury bug reared its ugly head shortly thereafter, first shutting down Murray with a torn ACL, and then knocking out Porter with another back surgery.

    The hope in Denver is that if this roster is healthy, it can get back to competing for a title. The front office doesn't want to leave anything to chance, though. The Nuggets plan on "being aggressive" to upgrade the roster, seeking out length, versatility and defense on the perimeter, per Charania and Amick. If that search requires parting with draft assets, "there will be an openness to doing just that."

    Big, versatile wings are in high demand, and their trade cost reflects that. Still, maybe the right combination of picks and players (Monte Morris and Will Barton loom as possible trade candidates) can bring the potential missing piece to Denver this summer.