The Suns currently are atop the Western Conference. They’ve won their last five games. “This team is special,” Jones said. “There aren’t any challenges that are daunting to us. If it’s injury, if it’s external situations, external factors, it’s back-to-backs, tough one-point losses. They don’t affect our psyche. Our guys all come in, they work and they show up in big moments. So I’m proud of this team just because I know these guys and I get a chance to see them every day. They don’t get a chance to display their grit and resiliency, but they’ve been able to do it for the first 20 games and we’ve been better for it.”
February 2, 2023 | 5:01 am EST Update
A similar line of thinking informs the discussion around VanVleet, although his on-court value and his status as a culture setter going back to the Raptors championship season makes his case different. The belief is that VanVleet wants to remain a Raptor, though fit and familiarity aside, money is a factor there too. “The worst thing that could happen to Fred is to be traded,” said one league insider. “Unless you’re a superstar who is getting the max no matter what, the best way to get paid is by staying with your own team.”
VanVleet hasn’t declared who his new agency will be, but industry insiders believe he will sign with Klutch, who – in addition to representing Trent Jr. – also represents Anunoby and Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. VanVleet’s one-time agent, Andy Miller, runs the coaching and executive division for Klutch. “I’m 99.9 per cent sure it will be Klutch,” said one source who is familiar with VanVleet’s situation.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have certainly not ruled out trading D’Angelo Russell, but he has played well in December and January. “He has been a good offensive player for them,” said Zach Lowe on his podcast. “That noise, to me, has kind of quieted. I know there are deals out there that they would do. I don’t think any teams have met those deal points yet.”
According to league sources, Trent could expect a deal in the $20-million range if he opts out of the last year of his contract, which is set to pay him $18.8 million next season. In other words, the idea of a Jordan Poole or Tyler Herro-like payday – two young scorers with comparable statistical profiles as Trent Jr. who scored extensions with their own teams in the $30-million per season range — may not be readily available in free agency.
Meanwhile, league sources peg Trent Jr.’s likely trade value at a protected first-round or two good second-round picks, along with a matching salary. From the Raptors’ point of view, the likelihood of improving your team by moving on from a 24-year-old who has proven himself as a quality perimeter shooter is relatively low. If Trent Jr. was determined to leave, or the Raptors didn’t believe they could re-sign him in free agency, the story might be different.
More and more, as the deadline draws near, I hear rival teams saying that they believe Detroit is poised to rebuff all trade inquiries for Bojan Bogdanovic. I was certainly among those who thought it was posturing when Detroit’s reluctance to trade Bogdanovic began to surface many weeks ago, but one league source went so far as asserting this week that the Pistons would refuse to surrender Bogdanovic even if offered that fully unprotected future first-round pick that everyone says Detroit covets.