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What the Hawks seek in a Paul Millsap trade

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Which teams should pursue Millsap? (1:48)

Chauncey Billups and Jalen Rose think the Raptors and Celtics could be good fits for Paul Millsap should the Hawks decide to trade him. (1:48)

Seven days.

That's as long as you had to wait in 2017 for an NBA trade to be consummated.

NBA Trade Season, in other words, is fully underway well in advance of the league's Feb. 23 trade deadline. Which means it's time for some fresh dribbles of the latest chatter from the league's personnel grapevine:

Once ESPN's report hit Sunday that Atlanta was suddenly willing to trade its most dependable player, Paul Millsap became the All-Star Most Likely To Be Dealt this winter.

Denver engaged in serious talks to acquire Millsap last summer and is known to be interested again, alongside Toronto and Sacramento. (The Nuggets, for the record, are now openly shopping third-year big man Jusuf Nurkic in addition to the widely assumed availability of vets Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler).

Other serious suitors for Millsap are bound to emerge, but here's the real question: Can Atlanta get a future first-round pick of better quality than the first it received for Korver when Millsap is poised to attract so much big-money interest as a free agent come July 1? Teams could well prove hesitant to surrender too much for a primo pending free agent.

The Hawks, sources say, want at least one quality first to headline a Millsap deal. The Raptors, meanwhile, have to decide whether a deal for Millsap closes the gap on Cleveland sufficiently to part with quality assets and justifies the expense involved to re-sign him in the same offseason All-Star guard Kyle Lowry is due for a new deal.

In the interim, as we all lock arms on Millsap Watch, we ask: Isn't it hard to believe he's the last starter left from Atlanta's 60-win team in 2014-15?


You're undoubtedly wondering what the Warriors will do in response to Cleveland's looming acquisition of Korver ... as well as LeBron James' latest pointed public demand for the signing of a recognized backup point guard to Kyrie Irving.

Just don't forget that the Warriors are comparatively short on trade options. Making a retaliatory move is simply tougher with their roster composition.

Yet that's not to say the Warriors' roster you see today is how it will stay. There will be buyouts in various corners of the league, after the Feb. 23 trade deadline and before the March 1 playoff eligibility deadline, because there always are.

That's how the Warriors had opportunity to sign Anderson Varejao last spring and figures to be the surest route to them adding another player who can help in the playoffs.


Given this week's loss of Justise Winslow for the season, on top of the ongoing unavailability of Chris Bosh, Miami would seem to have more motivation than ever to fully embrace The Tank and start shopping Goran Dragic.

Miami's price for acquiring Dragic, however, is still said to be too high to encourage any serious trade discussions.

Yet.


Word is that two first-round picks is the Nets' current asking price for center Brook Lopez.


Sources with knowledge of the Bulls' thinking emphatically deny the notion that All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler is available.

Given all the chaos enveloping the Bulls lately, with considerable doubt bubbling about how much longer Rajon Rondowill stick around Chicago, hanging onto one of the game's best two-way players seems prudent.


I'm told Dallas' Wesley Matthews, like Butler, is not in play. The prospect of an Andrew Bogut trade remains very real in Big D -- an outcome even Bogut has acknowledged -- but sources say that the Mavs are batting away pitches for Matthews as he continues an impressive recovery from an Achilles tear.


Word is Portland, of late, has been tracking Tyson Chandler as a potential trade target, since the Phoenix center could certainly help the Blazers with their defensive issues.

Chandler, 34, has two seasons left on his contract after this season valued at $26.5 million, but it remains to be seen how willing the Suns are to part with their interior anchor after Chandler encouraged the club to resist outside trade interest last summer.


What self-respecting compendium of trade scuttle from the 2016-17 season would fail to include an update on DeMarcus Cousins?

Not ours.

But here's the thing devoted fans of Trade Season -- of our beloved Transaction Game -- won't want to hear:

Cousins became even less likely to be moved once the NBA's new labor deal was hatched.

The Kings, as you surely know by now, are openly desperate to bring their 10-season playoff drought to a halt. Those who know Sacramento best continue to say that, as long as the West's No. 8 seed remains within the Kings' sights, they'll be increasingly reluctant to part with their All-Star ‎center.

But sources also say that the Kings, at season's end, want to pitch Cousins on a long-term partnership in the summertime, knowing he's going to be eligible in July for a Designated Player Extension that ‎could make him one of a handful of $200 million players league wide.

The latest signals suggest it would take a monster offer to get the Kings to tweak those plans.


The Lakers keep their pick in the June draft only if they finish in the top three of the next NBA lottery.

Maybe that's what they really want deep down.

You're moved to raise the question after watching L.A pass on signing Donatas Motiejunas. The Lakers had the first crack at auditioning Motiejunas before the Lithuanian big man ultimately signed with New Orleans. The Lakers also had more money to offer Motiejunas, who wound up settling for a prorated share of the $1.1 veteran minimum with the Pelicans.

The Lakers were in the midst of a 2-14 December -- with Larry Nance Jr. freshly injured -- when they worked out Motiejunas on Christmas Eve. They could have offered him their cap-room exception of nearly $3 million but decided it was preferable to pass on Motiejunas rather than urge Metta World Peace to shift from 15th man status to the coaching staff or waive Thomas Robinson.

The Motiejunas contract saga with the Rockets consumed more than five months and inspired plenty of debate about his value, even after Brooklyn jumped into the bidding, but a one-year deal with the versatile 7-footer doesn't seem like much of a gamble.

Especially if the Lakers -- suddenly facing a fourth straight trip to the lottery after only two during the Jerry Buss era -- are serious about trying to find something closer to the form that led to their 10-10 start under ‎rookie coach Luke Walton.

We'll soon see, based on how Motiejunas fares with the Pels, if they made the right call.‎


All 450 available roster spots in the NBA have been filled for most of the season to date, but eight teams suddenly have an opening. Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Philadelphia, Phoenix and San Antonio are all down to 14-man rosters after making cuts from the list of players on non-guaranteed contracts provided in our last Son of WD dispatch. In addition, Cleveland went from 15 to 14, with Atlanta going from 14 to full, when the teams completed the Kyle Korver trade Saturday. ... In addition to the veteran free agents looking to make a return to the league in 2017 that we reported on earlier this week -- guards Jarrett Jack and Mario Chalmers and forward Carl Landry -- add the name Norris Cole. According to the latest from my ESPN colleague Chris Haynes, Cole is also nearing a return to full fitness after a hamstring problem scuttled his recent stint in China. ... The inimitable @AlbertRandom1 on Twitter, providing this helpful follow-up on our recent Nikola Pekovic item, spells out that Minnesota will be eligible to apply to the league to have Pekovic's cap hits ($12.1 million this season; $11.6 million in 2017-18) removed from its payroll after Jan. 31. That's one year to the date of the last time Pekovic appeared in a game for the Wolves.


A few memorable numerical milestones, courtesy of ESPN research ace Micah Adams and including both the regular season and playoffs, from the calendar year ‎of 2016 that we just wrapped up:

*32 triple-doubles by Russell Westbrook; James Harden was next in line with 11.

*2,725 points for Stephen Curry; Kevin Durant was close behind with 2,704.

*468 made 3-pointers for Curry; Klay Thompson was second with 383.

*250 dunks for DeAndre Jordan to finish slightly ahead of Dwight Howard's 211.


Consider this a pertinent supporting footnote to our own Zach Lowe's column this week about the NBA's scoring boom:

The number of qualifying players averaging at least ‎20 points per game this season, after an eight-season dropoff, has risen sharply.

There were 33 players league wide, as of Friday morning, averaging 20 points or better.

Last season? There were only 20 such players.

A season-by-season breakdown of 20 PPG Men in the new millennium: