Shootaround (June 21) -- Cleveland Cavaliers' pursuit of Jimmy Butler, Paul George hits snag

Plus, the Houston Rockets' backcourt could be headed in different directions and more from around the NBA.

This morning’s headlines:

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Reports: Cavs’ pursuit of Bulls’ Butler hits snag; George trade talks icy, too — The NBA Draft is just a day away, yet it is hardly the next batch of new faces of the NBA that are the talk of the league today. Trade talks continue to swirl around several teams, with the Chicago Bulls’ Jimmy Butler and Indiana Pacers’ Paul George among the bigger names in swap talks. The Cleveland Cavaliers have interest in both players, but according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and the Chicago Tribune‘s K.C. Johnson, a Butler-to-Cleveland trade is far fetched for now.

Here’s what K.C. Johnson had to say about a potential deal with Cleveland:

As for Butler, the Bulls remain in active talks with several teams, although the long shot scenario of the Cavaliers landing him hit another speed bump Tuesday. Beyond the fact the franchise parted ways with general manager David Griffin on Monday and would need to convince a third team to send the assets the Bulls would demand for Butler because they don’t own them, a source said Butler’s camp made clear to the Cavaliers he would prefer to remain with the Bulls.

Butler remains committed to the Bulls for reasons beyond they’re the only organization for which he would be eligible for the “supermax” designated-player exception. If he’s traded, his ability to secure a five-year, $200-million-plus extension with one more All-NBA designation doesn’t transfer to another team.

Butler, sources said, feels a sense of loyalty to the organization that drafted him 30th overall and also enjoys living in Chicago.

The Bulls’ parameters for a Butler trade never have changed. To undertake a full rebuild, they would need rotation players or starters on manageable contracts and certainty on multiple high draft picks.

The Celtics remain the team with the most logical assets. But after serious talks between the franchises last June and more dialogue at the February trade deadline, the teams haven’t engaged as much this week to this point. The Timberwolves, Suns and Nuggets are teams that also logically could make a play at Butler.

And here’s what Marc Stein is reporting about a possible Butler move to the Cavs:

Sources said Tuesday that the Cavaliers have been notified that Butler hopes to stay with the Bulls and would be reluctant to commit his long-term future to Cleveland. Butler, sources said, remains intent on trying to lead the Bulls back to Eastern Conference prominence.

As far as acquiring George from the Pacers, the outlook for that move is much like the one for Butler — not so good right now, writes Stein:

When it comes to George, meanwhile, ESPN reported earlier Tuesday that the Pacers have begun trade talks with the Los Angeles Lakers, who overwhelmingly rank as George’s preferred destination as his free agency looms in the summer of 2018.

One option for the Lakers, sources said, is trying to sell the Pacers on a trade package headlined by the 27th pick — acquired as part of an agreed-to deal with the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday — and the 28th pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft, in addition to players such as forward Julius Randle and guard Jordan Clarkson. Indiana, meanwhile, continues to try to pry away Thursday’s No. 2 overall pick, despite L.A.’s well-chronicled determination to keep it off limits.

Sources said that David Griffin, in his final few days as Cavaliers general manager, aggressively pursued trades for both Butler and George, seeking to acquire an elite two-way player in the wake of Cleveland’s 4-1 NBA Finals defeat to the Golden State Warriors.

To land either Butler or George, sources said, Cleveland knows it would have to assemble a three-team trade (or one with more teams involved) — likely costing the Cavs All-Star forward Kevin Love — to manufacture the top-five draft pick Chicago and Indiana are known to covet in exchange for surrendering their respective best players.

ESPN’s Dave McMenamin and Brian Windhorst reported Monday night that Gilbert, alongside Cavaliers assistant general manager Koby Altman, would continue to aggressively pursue upgrades to the roster as Cleveland enters the final season in which LeBron James is under contract.

But sacrificing Love to acquire Butler or George — even for a historically bold team like the Cavaliers — would be risky if neither player is prepared to make a long-term commitment to the franchise.

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Report: Rockets shopping guard Beverley — Given the point guard-heavy nature of the NBA today, it’s a good strategy to have a point guard on your squad that can slow the NBA’s cavalcade of superstar playmakers. Perhaps no point guard in the league is better at that than the Houston Rockets’ Patrick Beverley. According to Sean Devaney of The Sporting News, Beverley’s name is being actively bandied about in trade talks:

The Rockets have been actively shopping point guard Patrick Beverley, a source with knowledge of the situation told Sporting News on Tuesday.

Beverley, who averaged 9.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists last season, has been open to a trade away from Houston leading into this offseason, the source said, and has consulted with the team about the possible move.

Tuesday night, Beverley took to Twitter and appeared to lend credence to the idea he may be on the move:

Last year, when the Rockets hired coach Mike D’Antoni, Beverley told Sporting News he considered seeking a trade, under the assumption that D’Antoni — known for his quickfire offense — would not welcome Beverley’s defense-first style. But after speaking with D’Antoni, who committed to Beverley as his point guard, he decided to give the new coach a try.

Beverley enjoyed playing for D’Antoni, he said multiple times last season. But other factors, the source said, have led the Rockets and Beverley to explore trade possibilities.

Beverley, a likely choice for one of the NBA’s All-Defensive teams, is entering the third year of a four-year, $25 million contract with Houston, and is scheduled to be paid $10.5 million over the next two years. The Rockets have been planning to pursue first-tier free agents this summer, and could be willing to move Beverley if it helps create cap space.

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Report: Rockets plan to offer Harden another extension — The 2016-17 season was a bounce-back campaign for Houston Rockets guard James Harden. He once again led the team in scoring and was among the league-leaders in that category, too, but also got Houston back in the upper crust of the Western Conference and led them on a playoff run. Those accomplishments — as well as him being a unanimous pick for the All-NBA first team — have him in line for a contract extension with Houston, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

With an eye on potential roster moves this summer and well beyond, the Rockets “plan” to take a step that will allow them to tell potential free agents that star guard James Harden will not be going anywhere.

For the second-consecutive season, the Rockets intend to offer Harden a contract extension long before he could hit free agency, a person with knowledge of the team’s plans said on Tuesday. The individual spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team’s intentions have not been made public.

The Rockets “plan to extend James Harden at the first opportunity,” the individual said. “That is the plan.”

Harden was the lone unanimous All NBA first-team player, making him eligible for the new Designated Player Veteran Exception that would be worth 35 percent of the salary cap, roughly as much as $168 million over four years, depending on the value of the salary cap to be announced.

An extension agreement with Harden would assure a free agent the Rockets’ top player would be signed for the duration of that players’ contract.

The Rockets also could seek a trade for Pacers star Paul George, who has told the Pacers he intends to leave the team, likely to join the Lakers, as a free agent after next season.

The Rockets are among the teams that would be willing to gamble that they could sign George, if they acquire him going into his final season under contract, according to a person with knowledge of the team’s thinking.

The Rockets, however, do not have a pick in the first round of Thursday’s draft to offer in a deal.

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Hornets take risk with Howard trade — The Atlanta Hawks ended their reunion with former hometown star Dwight Howard after just one season, trading him to the Charlotte Hornets last night. The Hornets know the days of Howard as the dominant post presence may be long gone, but can still see a capable defensive center that can help them in 2017-18. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer takes stock of what the trade may mean for the Hornets:

The blunt truth is the Hornets gave up next to nothing to make this deal. Getting rid of Plumlee and the remaining time on his contract ($12.4 million each of the next three seasons) is by itself a plus. It’s not Plumlee’s fault he got hurt almost immediately after the February trade from Milwaukee. But inheriting that contract for a player of such limited ability seemed as misguided then as it does now.

Belinelli, acquired from the Sacramento Kings for the 2016 No. 22 overall pick, was solid in his one season as a Hornet, but far from irreplaceable.

If Clifford can keep Howard on message, Howard can address rim-protection and rebounding. Some fans think the Hornets’ offense was their bigger flaw in a disappointing 36-46 season. I disagree; this team’s problem was a setback defensively and a bad second unit.

Howard can’t help but improve this team defensively, and regardless of who starts at center between Howard and Cody Zeller, the bench just got better. Both Howard and Zeller should collaborate well with All-Star point guard Kemba Walker in the pick-and-roll. Also, the attention Howard will draw in the post from defenses will help open the game for the Hornets’ perimeter shooters.

That’s the upside. The risk in this is whether Howard will fit into this locker room.

I started covering the NBA in 1988, and this group of players is as good a bunch as I’ve encountered. Walker, Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist all lead in their own ways. Hopefully, they will rub off on Howard and continue this collaborative tone of recent seasons in Charlotte.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Chauncey Billups has reportedly interviewed for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ GM position … In short, the Atlanta Hawks have moved on from their Dwight Howard experiment … A look at how the New York Knicks’ relationship with Kristaps Porzingis has soured … Oft-injured center Nikola Pekovic was waived by the Minnesota Timberwolves yesterdayRenovations have begun on Philips Arena …