Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Jan. 7) -- LeBron says Cavs need more help Staff

LeBron says Cavs need more | Carroll favors a Millsap trade | Should Hawks send Millsap on his way?

1. LeBron says Cavs need more: The rich got richer, but the rich also remain greedy. So says LeBron James, who believes the Cavs could use a little more sprucing up before the NBA trade deadline in February. The defending champions upgraded an already-formidable three-point shooting group by adding Kyle Korver, one of the better long-distance shooters in recent NBA history. Still, LeBron wants to shore up any and all weaknesses to give the Cavs a strong group heading into the playoffs next spring. Here’s Dave McMenamin of ESPN with the story:

“We still got a couple more things we need to do,” James said at Cavs shootaround Friday morning in preparation for their game against the Brooklyn Nets. “We got to get a point guard.”

It was a continuation of the point guard drum James was beating after the Cavs lost to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.

“Yeah, it’s my last time saying it,” James said. “We need a point guard.”ESPN’s Marc Stein reported this week that former Cavs playcaller Jarrett Jack is available, as are former Miami Heat point guards Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, who both have ties to James.

The Cavs’ roster would be at the maximum of 15 players should the Korver deal include Mike Dunleavy as the lone player being shipped out. But under the current framework of the trade, the Cavs would send Mo Williams, Dunleavy and a protected 2019 first-round pick to the Hawks for Korver, sources said. The teams are talking about moving Dunleavy to a third team but had not yet found one, sources said.

Both DeAndre Liggins’ and Jordan McRae’s contracts don’t become fully guaranteed until Jan. 10. If the Cavaliers chose to part ways with one of the two in order to create a roster spot, they would need to do so by Saturday in order for the player to be processed in the 48-hour window it would take to clear waivers by Jan. 10.

Liggins is certainly safe, as Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said he will remain the starter in the backcourt, even when Korver presumably reports to the team. And Lue made a point to tell reporters that McRae was on the court Friday morning, refuting the notion that the swingman could be on the way out.

According to a team source, there is a “zero percent chance” McRae will be waived.

There is the possibility that Cleveland will be able to negotiate a buyout with either Williams or Chris Andersen, who are both occupying spots on dead-weight deals.

“I think that’s the next step,” James said of a point guard addition, “… and, uh, you know, you look at our league, most teams have three point guards. We only have two, with [Kyrie Irving] and our rook in Kay [Felder]. I think just having that secure blanket [is important]. Every NFL team has three quarterbacks. Having that secure blanket in case of a [situation like the Raiders losing] Derek Carr. We’ll see what happens, but we’re happy with our team right now.”

Indeed, there was a noticeable joy among the Cavs as they took the court at Basketball City on Pier 36 on Friday, as they considered the possibility of adding a former All-Star in Korver to their already accomplished group.

* * *

2. Carroll favors a Millsap trade: One of the suitors for Paul Millsap, who might be on the market, is Toronto. The Raptors believe they’re the best team in the East capable of unseating Cleveland but that doesn’t mean they’re built to beat the Cavs, who just upgraded with Kyle Korver. In the event that the Raptors are at least one player short, DeMarre Carroll believes he knows who that player is. Caroll came to the Raptors from the Hawks two summers ago as a free-agent signing, and while injuries limited him for about a season and a half, he has begun to round into form now. Here’s Ryan Wolstatt of the Toronto Sun speaking with Carroll about his former teammate:

Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll played with Millsap in both Utah and Atlanta and they are extremely tight. Late Thursday night, Carroll was trying to process exactly what was happening with the Hawks.

“I actually talked to (Millsap) a couple of days ago. It’s kind of crazy. He just keeping his head up and keep trying to play the way he play,” Carroll told a few reporters.

“It’s crazy right now, man, I don’t know what’s going on.”

Korver is also a close friend (Carroll joked while both were Hawks that he wanted to be “The African-American Kyle Korver”) and since the Hawks got swept two years in a row by the Cavaliers, he found it a bit odd that Atlanta would beef up a rival.

“That’s the NBA man, I don’t know. I got to call (Hawks head coach and president Mike Budenholzer) and see if he did that. I got to see who did that,” Carroll smiled.

Kent Bazemore, who replaced Carroll, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “”It sucks because it’s to a team we want to beat. That stings.”

Carroll’s head was spinning because it was only two seasons ago that Atlanta comfortably led the East and was one of the best teams in the NBA (Carroll and then Korver getting hurt in playoff series against Cleveland over the years took big tolls).

“That’s the crazy part about it. Sometimes in the NBA, especially on that side being a GM, being a coach, you think you can keep getting better and better, rather than just trying to improve a little bit, they’re trying to make big changes. It’s crazy, from two years ago, being 60 wins, to now, only one guy left (in the starting lineup with Carroll, Jeff Teague, Al Horford and now Korver elsewhere), it’s mind-boggling,” Carroll said.

I asked him what adding a player of Millsap’s caliber would do for a team (without specifically mentioning the Raptors, an obvious fit if Masai Ujiri is willing to finally open up his war chest of picks, prospects and value contracts a bit).

“Paul is the most unselfish all-star you probably would ever find. He’s always been a team player, he always fills the stat-sheet,” Carroll said. “If he wanted to, he could go up and get 30 points (a night) and get up 20 shot games. He tries to do whatever it takes to help the team win. That’s why so many people want him right now because you can just plug him in and he’s not just going to be that selfish guy that’s just trying to get numbers. He’s going to be that guy to try to help you win games and hopefully bring home a championship.”

Which obviously isn’t going to happen in Atlanta.

“The way … when they just traded Kyle, (just) me thinking? Nah, I don’t think he’ll finish (the season in Atlanta),” Carroll said. “ Making that trade, Kyle, it says they are going to go in a different direction.”

Will that direction lead to a swap with another conference rival in Toronto? Only time will tell.

Players the Raptors could target in a trade

Paul Millsap is the big name circulating on the NBA’s rumour mill, but what other players might be out there and might fit the Raptors?

Trevor Booker – Not a sexy name, but Booker is a solid player who would add depth. He’s an excellent rebounder, an above average defender (especially at the rim) and can score inside and out (34% from three this season). The Nets need picks and prospects. Booker is signed for good value for next year too.

Taj Gibson – Has been connected to the Raptors in the past. A strong defender and rebounder who played collegiately with DeMar DeRozan. For now, Bulls thinking playoffs, but that could change. Will be a free agent.

Nerlens Noel – He’s young and a great defender, but Noel is looking for a big new contract without a strong enough resume to justify it. Not to mention he lacks an offensive game, has had severe injury issues and Toronto’s front office has not been keen on him in the past.

Serge Ibaka – Orlando surrendered a ton to get the impending free agent, who is a Masai Ujiri favourite. Not as good as Millsap, but younger and likely would come at a slightly lower cost both in terms of what Raptors would have to give up and what he’d be eligible to receive on a new contract.

P.J. Tucker – Another player the Raptors tried for in the past (and actually drafted way back when). Veteran would add grit and outside scoring to the mix, but is undersized.

Greg Monroe – A fine rebounder and low-post scorer, but lacks the range to fit in on offence in Toronto and the footspeed to work defensively.

Tyson Chandler – Dwane Casey would surely love to have his old defensive lynchpin back, but Raptors aren’t close enough to a championship to justify a move like this which would leave Jonas Valanciunas on the sidelines (or traded).

DeMarcus Cousins – Sacramento is desperate to make the playoffs (currently eighth) and to convince the mercurial star to stay put. Would have to nosedive to move him.

Jared Sullinger – Toronto’s marquee off-season signing has yet to play a game but might return later this month. Will help address Achilles Heel, which is defensive rebounding, but fit with Valanciunas projects to be sub-optimal defensively.graph.

* * *

3. Should Hawks send Paul Millsap on his way?: There are signs that a housecleaning is underway in Atlanta, where the Hawks have likely raised the white flag in their futile pursuit of returning to the Eastern Conference finals, a place they visited for the first time in their Atlanta history just two years ago. The trade of Kyle Korver to Cleveland was a pretty big hint, and now there’s buzz about Millsap, who’s an unrestricted free agent this summer and will either (a) cost the Hawks a ton, or (b) sign with another team and leave the Hawks with nothing in return, which happened last summer when Al Horford signed with Boston. A strip-down wouldn’t be a bad idea, so says Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Constitution:

The surprising part isn’t that the Atlanta Hawks have decided to redo their roster. The surprise came when they only half-redid it last summer. They traded Jeff Teague. They let Al Horford leave. Now they’ve shipped Kyle Korver to Cleveland. (The deal is not yet official.)

Remember the great starting five of two seasons backs, the quintet that powered the Hawks to 60 victories and was named, as a collective, the NBA East’s player (sic) of the month for January? Here’s how many are still Hawks.

One. Paul Millsap. And he’s surely outbound as well.

I’m not going to carp about this happening. The Hawks had gotten old before our eyes, and they’d proved they couldn’t get past Cleveland in the East. (In two postseasons, they were 0-8 against LeBron and Co.) My issue is that the Hawks should have done more sooner. They should have done as the Braves did — rip it up and start again. (Granted, that’s harder to do when you’re still a winning team.)

Instead they re-signed Kent Bazemore, who’s a pretty good player but nothing more, for $70 million over four seasons, and hired Dwight Howard, who’s on the down slope of a career, for $70.5 million over three years. This looked pretty good when they were 9-2, but pretty soon they were below .500 and thinking the dark thoughts that should have occurred long before.

I wouldn’t have traded Horford/Millsap/Korver/Teague at last season’s All-Star break. Coming off 60-22, there was no reason not to see if the old gang had a big finish left in it.

Turned out it didn’t, which meant: Breakup time!

Teague needed to go to make room for Dennis Schroder, and re-upping Horford was always going to be a massive investment with no guarantee of a big reward. I didn’t hate those moves. I hated overspending for two guys (Bazemore and Howard) who weren’t going to move the “W” needle in the right direction.

Sentimentally, losing Korver is a big deal. On a pragmatic basis, it’s not. He turns 36 in March. He’s no longer a starter. The Cavaliers needed him because J.R. Smith broke his thumb. Korver was one of those shooters — actually, the best of those shooters — that Danny Ferry lovingly assembled and Mike Budenholzer molded into a beautifully functioning unit. The shelf life of that unit was, alas, brief. That happens when you’re working with older guys.

At issue now is whether, in Ferry’s conspicuous absence, Budenholzer knows how to rebuild. The Howard acquisition was clearly a Bud move: “I like him; I can coach him.” But here’s where having your coach as team czar isn’t the greatest of ideas. Coaches always think they can make something of a team — until they realize they can’t.

At this moment, the Hawks are fourth in the East and atop the Southeast Division. (They’ve won five in a row.) They’re nowhere near terrible, but they’re going nowhere. Millsap, who’ll turn 32 next month, is all but certain to leave as a free agent in July, and that would leave the Hawks with a core of Howard, Schroder, Bazemore and Tim Hardaway Jr., which is decidedly middle-tier.

The only way to get better is to get younger and hope for the best. The Hawks will receive a protected first-round pick from Cleveland, which is something. They can get more for Millsap. That trade needs to happen soon.

* * *

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Hawks GM Wes Wilcox, who recently made some comments that can be construed as racially insensitive by some, will not be punished by the NBA, and he has since apologized … The Suns’ priority should be developing youth, not winning, although do they really have a choice? … At least one observer thinks the Jazz have multiple All-Stars on the roster. That sounds like a lot … Yet another observer is not down with star players resting during the season and especially before the midway point of the season … A good story on the Onuaku brothers and how they arrived in the NBA … The Hornets really need to tighten up on the D, or else … The Heat have applied for an exemption … Stan Van Gundy the Pistons coach needs to have a talk with Stan Van Gundy the team Pistons president … Rick Barry thinks the Blazers need to address their “character” issues?