Big Men On The Move As NBA Draft Inches Closer

Dwight Howard and Brook Lopez are on the move. Dwyane Wade is opting in. Pau Gasol is opting out. The Los Angeles Lakers provided the clearest indication yet that Lonzo Ball is their guy.

The NBA offseason is already in overdrive.

A dizzying series of moves came on Tuesday. Howard got traded by the Atlanta Hawks to the Charlotte Hornets, who acquired the eight-time All-Star center for a package that included Miles Plumlee and Marco Belinelli.

And Lopez – another center – is leaving Brooklyn and headed to the Lakers, part of a deal that has D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov going to the Nets.

That leaves the Lakers with a clear need at point guard, a problem they will likely rectify on Thursday when they presumably will take Ball with the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft. It was a big move for the Lakers in another way; Mozgov is still owed $48 million over the next three seasons, while Lopez’s contract will expire after next season.

Howard will be playing for his third team in three seasons following a disappointing homecoming in Atlanta. He signed a three-year, $70.5 million deal with Atlanta and then sat out the fourth quarter in two of six playoff games in the Hawks’ first-round loss to Washington.

“Let the madness begin,” Portland guard CJ McCollum said. “Draft week is always the most interesting time of the year.”

Madness is right.

Barely a week after the Golden State Warriors won their second NBA championship in three years, the rest of the league is maneuvering like mad.

Along with the trades, confirmed by people with direct knowledge who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither deal was formally announced, Gasol opted out of his $16 million deal for next season with San Antonio – but intends to sign a new multiyear deal with the Spurs that will reduce his annual salary but give him more security, and presumably give his team a chance to add a big-time free agent this summer. Wade told the Bulls he will take his $23.8 million deal for next season, a decision he had until next week to make.

And Minnesota parted ways with Nikola Pekovic, waiving him in what could be the last act of a career that was derailed by foot and ankle problems over the past three seasons. Pekovic missed all of last season and played only 12 games the previous season.

All this comes with Paul George’s status in Indiana most uncertain and with many trade rumors swirling there, the belief by many across the league that Jerry West joining the Clippers’ front office could help their pursuit of LeBron James in the summer of 2018, and the ongoing watch in New York of what the Knicks will do – if anything – with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.

It’s not like Monday was a slow day, either.

That was when Philadelphia and Boston completed the deal that sent the No. 1 overall pick to the 76ers – giving them the chance to take Markelle Fultz, and allowing the Celtics to choose likely either Jayson Tatum or Josh Jackson at No. 3, which they got in the swap. The Celtics said they think the player they take at No. 3 would likely have been the player they used the No. 1 pick on anyway, so they called it a win-win move.

Then came Monday night’s news that the Cleveland Cavaliers were parting ways with general manager David Griffin after three straight trips to the NBA Finals, a move that James clearly was not happy about. Cleveland then talked with former All-Star guard Chauncey Billups on Tuesday about a job in the front office.

To think, summer doesn’t even start until Wednesday.

The draft is Thursday.

The league’s inaugural after-the-season awards show is Monday.

Free agency and the new collective bargaining agreement start on July 1.

“Wow,” Phoenix guard Devin Booker said on Twitter.

It wasn’t clear what Booker was exactly referring to, though he probably said it a few times Tuesday.

Wow, indeed.

AP Basketball Writer Jon Krawczynski and AP Sports Writers Andrew Seligman and Tom Withers contributed.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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