Rudy Gobert, Steven Adams worth watching as extension deadline nears

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With two weeks and change to go before the buzzer sounds on Extension Season for first-round picks from the NBA's Class of 2013 draftees, we've seen only two deals done to this point.

Portland's C.J. McCollum (four years, $106 million) and Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo (four years, $100 million) are the lone extension recipients.

Yet things are virtually certain to heat up ‎as the Oct. 31 deadline draws near, even when you account for the added layer of uncertainty in this extension period because the league and its players union are actively trying to come to terms on a new labor deal that will inevitably impact the NBA's financial landscape in a significant way.

As Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey recently admitted, they don't get serious about extension discussions in the Pacific Northwest -- unless it's a no-brainer candidate at the Damian Lillard or McCollum level -- "until the week that deadline hits."

‎There are also still several notable names eligible for extensions before the Halloween horn, which ensures further action.

Most league insiders agree that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert remains the most likely candidate, of the 2013 first-rounders still on the board, to land an extension by month's end. The French Rejection -- or Stifle Tower if you insist -- is one of the foremost draft steals of recent vintage, ranks as a leading NBA Defensive Player of the Year favorite and stands as a key figure in Utah's rise in the West.

Rest assured that Jazz officials are well aware that securing the long-term futures of Gobert and Derrick Favors can only enhance their chances of avoiding the nightmare scenario of seeing free agent-to-be Gordon Hayward leave in the summer.

‎Harder to forecast is how the Oklahoma City Thunder will handle the cases of big man Steven Adams and newly acquired Victor Oladipo. OKC is naturally thrilled to have both players as it begins post-Kevin Durant life, especially the fast-developing Adams, but attempting to preserve salary-cap space for the summer to pursue free agents who'll appeal to Russell Westbrook is likewise enticing.

Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the Minnesota Timberwolves duo of big man Gorgui Dieng and guard Shabazz Muhammad are three more players in play for deals, but the latest signals are less encouraging for Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder.

The Hawks gave Schroder some of what he wanted by trading away Jeff Teague and clearing the way for the 23-year-old German to take over as Atlanta's starter at the point. Yet there's a sense that the Hawks, as high as they are on Schroder, prefer to see how he responds to his promotion before launching into ‎a new long-term arrangement.

Setting Schroder up to be the starter, remember, wasn't Atlanta's only motivation in dealing Teague to Indiana. The Hawks understandably didn't want to employ two point guards entering the final year of their respective contracts.

As a third full week of training camps dribbles to a close, J.R. Smith and the Cleveland Cavaliers appear no closer to a deal to bring the reigning NBA champions closer to full strength.

The Cavs, according to league sources, were offering an annual salary in the range of $10 million to $11 million for some time and any subsequent movement northward hasn't been sufficient to close the gap on what Smith is seeking.

What's next?

Sources say it's only a matter of time before Smith starts engaging with other teams. There are currently six, for the record, with anywhere from $13 million to $27 million in available cap space: Minnesota, Phoenix, Utah, Denver, Brooklyn and Philadelphia.

Boston is not an active suitor for Smith, but sources say that's only because the Celtics have a mere million-plus in cap space. Sources maintain that the Celtics' reported interest in Smith is genuine, which means it's wise to keep an eye on them, since creating cap space with the help of one of those aforementioned six clubs is certainly feasible.

Separate from the Smith saga, rumbles persist that Cleveland has strong interest in reuniting LeBron James with his old Miami teammate Mario Chalmers when the veteran point guard is sufficiently healthy to return from Achilles surgery in March. ... The Jazz, at least for now, appear inclined to go with what they have as opposed to trying to make a fill-in signing after losing Hayward to a broken finger suffered last week. Utah is hopeful Hayward can make a faster-than-expected recovery since surgery is not required. ... This is the first time, since the American League Championship Series was introduced in the magical year of 1969, that Major League Baseball and the NBA can claim semifinal contestants from the same city in the same year. It's Cleveland and Toronto in the ALCS, mere months after the Cavs and Raptors dueled in the Eastern Conference finals.

If Golden State and Cleveland live up to billing and advance to the NBA Finals, it will mark the first time in league history that the same two teams have met in the championship series in three successive seasons.

It has happened once in each of North America's other four major sports leagues, but never in basketball.

‎Since the NBA/ABA merger entering the 1976-77 season, there have been six previous occasions where two teams had a chance to square off in three straight Finals.

In three of those six seasons, though, neither team even reached the Finals.