NBA Rumour Roundup: Clippers trying to pair Leonard with Butler

NBA columnist Mitch Lawrence breaks down what the Raptors will do in order to keep Kawhi in Toronto.

As the free-agency moratorium period draws closer with every passing minute, the NBA rumour mill — including speculation surrounding where Kawhi will play basketball going forward — is churning ever-faster.

So much more is bound to transpire in the coming days leading up to July 6 at 12 p.m. ET (the official time when the free-agency moratorium ends), but between now and then there’s still plenty of notable rumours worthy of your attention.

From Kyrie Irving meeting with Brooklyn, to Derrick Rose nearing an agreement with Detroit, here’s a summary of all the latest happenings from around the Association:

Note: The league announced its salary cap for the 2019-20 season will be $109.140 million with a tax line of $132.627 million. These new adjusted salary cap totals will be in effect during July’s free-agency period and impact signings and trades.

Irving meeting with Nets on Sunday

Irving and the Nets’ mutual interest in one another has been rumoured for quite some time now, to the point where the talented floor general meeting with and eventually signing in Brooklyn has felt inevitable.

Well, leave it to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski to confirm what many believed to already be the case. The NBA insider confirmed Irving and the Nets plan to meet Sunday sometime after the free-agency moratorium period begins on June 30 at 6 p.m. ET. Wojnarowski adds that both parties are “motivated to move quickly toward” reaching an agreement on a four-year, $141-million max contract.

After spending the first six seasons of his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Irving has been a man on the move in recent off-seasons. If he does wind up signing with Brooklyn as expected, the Nets would become the third team in the last four seasons Irving has played for.

The all-star guard averaged 23.8 points, 6.9 assists and five rebounds in 67 regular-season contests, but struggled mightily during Boston’s first-round playoff exit against the Milwaukee Bucks, shooting just 38.5 per cent from the field and 31 per cent from beyond the arc.

If there is a podcasting odd couple, this might be it. Donnovan Bennett and JD Bunkis don’t agree on much, but you’ll agree this is the best Toronto Raptors podcast going.

D’Angelo Russell’s days in Brooklyn may be numbered

If all goes according to plan for the Nets, the organization will enter the 2019-20 campaign with a new starting point guard leading its roster.

Wojnarowski added that once Irving signs with Brooklyn, the team plans to renounce Russell’s rights, thus making him an unrestricted free agent and free to sign on for a four-year max contract with another team. The potential for a sign-and-trade arrangement between Brooklyn and another team reportedly remains a possibility as well.

Russell has been garnering plenty of interest from teams leading up to free-agency, particularly from the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves.

Wojnarowski reported that Russell’s representatives at CAA have been contacted by Lakers management with the hopes of setting up a meeting between the two parties. Meanwhile, a meeting between the Timberwolves and Russell has already been planned for Sunday according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.

When the Anthony Davis trade was first reported, two short and very long weeks ago, many speculated whether the Lakers would successfully be able to lure a third star to L.A. Now, just days after Davis decided to waive his $4-million trade kicker — a move that paved the way for the Lakers to free up $32 million in cap space, almost enough for a third max slot — it’s no longer a matter of if the Lakers will secure meetings with top-tier free agents, it’s simply a matter of when and with whom.

Butler taking his talents to South Beach?

Butler, who has previously been linked with the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers, is expected to meet with the Miami Heat in South Beach on Sunday, Wojnarowski reports.

The Heat and Rockets both reportedly plan to work towards respective sign-and-trade scenarios in order to land Butler, with the latter expected to meet with the all-star guard early next week.

On top of expected meetings with the Heat and 76ers, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported the Lakers and Nets are also interested in Butler’s services.

In terms of how specific sign-and-trade packages could be construed, there isn’t much of a framework to turn to yet.

However, Marc Stein of The New York Times did previously report the Rockets found a trade partner willing to acquire Clint Capela, but Houston didn’t plan on following through with dealing the centre unless Butler was included in the package heading back to Houston.

Given the complicated potential trade scenarios surrounding a Butler acquisition, we may have to wait and see how the first few big chips of free-agency fall in order to grasp a better understanding of where the 29-year-old may land.

Clippers trying to pair Leonard with Butler

The Clippers have long-been rumoured as a potential landing place for Kawhi Leonard should he choose to leave the Toronto Raptors, but new reports from Stein suggest their plan goes beyond signing the two-time Finals MVP.

Stein reported that the Clippers are “exploring the feasibility” of signing both Leonard and Butler in free-agency because Leonard, allegedly, wants to be joined by a top-flight free agent if he decides to leave Toronto.

Kevin Durant meeting with four teams

Despite suffering a torn Achilles’ tendon in Game 5 of the NBA Finals that will likely keep him sidelined for all of the 2019-20 season, plenty of teams are still itching for the chance to hand Durant a four-year max contract once free-agency opens.

Durant, who underwent successful surgery back on June 12, reportedly narrowed the list of teams he’ll meet with down to four: the Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks.

From a financial standpoint, the Warriors have an edge in negotiations involving Durant since they can offer the two-time Finals MVP extra term (five years instead of four) and money ($221 million instead of the $164 million other teams can offer) on a max contract.

Will those financial incentives play enough of a role in luring an already incredibly wealthy Durant — who’s coming off one of the most career-threatening injuries a basketball player can suffer — away from his long-rumoured destinations of New York, Brooklyn, and more recently Los Angeles, or will rumoured issues surrounding the Warriors’ handling of Durant’s injuries prove too irreparable?

As matters are currently situated, the Knicks will enter free-agency with enough cap space to sign two max free agents. It’s also worth noting that if the Nets sign Irving and renounce Russell’s rights as planned, Brooklyn will have enough cap space to sign a second max free agent as well — significant, given Irving and Durant’s rumoured desire to team up somewhere.

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Derrick Rose moving on to the Motor City

It appears as though Derrick Rose is nearing an agreement to join the Detroit Pistons, according to Frank Isola of The Athletic.

Rose, who’s battled various injuries during the past two seasons, appeared in 51 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves last year. His most memorable moment from the 2018-19 was one for the ages, as Rose dropped a career-high 50 points in a thrilling victory over the Utah Jazz on Halloween night.

Wojnarowski added a few hours after Isola’s report that Rose and the Pistons are “motivated on finding a pathway to a two-year contract.”

Rehabbing from various injuries throughout his 12-year career has left the former MVP as a shell of the player he once was. Even so, Rose is still a more than serviceable backup point guard capable of making spot-starts when called upon.

For a Pistons team that has struggled to trot out viable options at his position in recent seasons (see: Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith), Rose should help provide some excitement to a fan base longing for a semblance of energy in the Motor City.

The Pistons are set to become the fifth NBA team Rose has played for during his 12-year career.

Horford to NOLA?

In our current day and age, an NBA player following one of his colleagues on social media is enough to raise some eyebrows. So when Al Horford followed Pelicans forward Zion Williamson and guard Jrue Holiday on Instagram Saturday, Stein got ahead of any potential rumours that may form as a result.

Based on Stein’s prior reporting, Horford is unlikely to sign on with New Orleans given the former has a reported four-year contract waiting for him once free-agency opens. Stein added the Pelicans are also not currently pursuing players on four-year deals.

Vucevic planning on returning to Orlando

Another all-star calibre centre reportedly leaving the marketplace, Nikola Vucevic, who intends to commit to a four-year $100-million deal to stay with the Orlando Magic according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Vucevic was instrumental in leading the Magic to their first playoff appearance since the 2011-12 season — when Dwight Howard still manned the paint in Orlando.

Last season, his seventh with the Magic, Vucevic averaged 20.8 points and 12 rebounds per game.

Bucks make Brogdon a restricted free agent

The Milwaukee Bucks, fresh off of an Eastern Conference Finals appearance, are doing what they can to keep the band together.

Milwaukee has reportedly extended a qualifying offer to Malcolm Brogdon, making him a restricted free agent, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

It had been previously assumed that the Bucks would retain the rights to Brogdon by extending him such an offer, but the formality appears to be in motion, giving them the ability to match any offer Brogdon is given by an outside suitor once free agency begins.

Although he is far less of a household name than league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brogdon’s role as an affordable complimentary piece next to Giannis and Khris Middleton is an important one.

In 64 regular season games for the Bucks last season, Brogdon averaged 15.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

Here’s what else we know so far:

Kemba Walker has told the Hornets he’s joining the Celtics
Nikola Mirotic is taking his talents overseas to Barcelona
Klay Thompson and the Warriors plan to agree on a five-year $190-million deal
Darren Collison called it a career last night
Leonard and Durant reportedly discussed the possibility of playing together

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