UFC 235: Jon Jones Retains Light Heavyweight Title, Defeats Anthony Smith

In his second fight back post his third career suspension, Jon Jones was once again dominant, and made it all look easy.

Jones defeated Anthony Smith by unanimous decision at UFC 235’s headliner event Saturday night to retain the light heavyweight title and officially overcome a two-point deduction for an illegal knee to the head of Smith in round four. The unanimous decision was made following the fifth round.

Throughout the fight, Smith seemed over matched by Jones, and stated in his post-fight press conference that he essentially let “Jon Jones be Jon Jones.” Jones started off the first round with several spinning kicks to Smith’s body, and also landed a few hard shots in the calf area. Smith did however cause some damage in the area of Jones’ left eye when he landed a counter right hand punch in the second round. Because of the excellent success Jones had at landing both punches/kicks on the body of Smith, he outstruck Smith 238-45.

Had Smith not been able to continue the fight because of Jones’ illegal knee, it would’ve been extremely likely that Jones would’ve lost the fight due to disqualification. Another factor that would’ve played into a possible disqualification is if the referees of the fight determined that it was an intentional move on Jones’ part. Disqualification is how Jones lost his first, and only ever fight in 2009 when he was called for an illegal strike against Matt Hamill.

The 31-year-old Jones told ESPN post-fight that he started to experience ‘flashbacks’ of the Hamill incident following the illegal strike call. He acknowledged that the fight also could very well been offer as a result of his kneeing, and shared that Smith will “always have his respect” for finishing the fight. All three scorecards had Jones as the 48-34 winner.

When it comes to what is next for Jones in terms of when he will fight again, Jones did not give a definitive answer. He wants to fight four times in 2019, which will make his next fight his second title defense fight since returning from suspension, and his tenth overall.

With the win tonight, Jones tied Demetrious Johnson for the second-most wins in title fights in UFC history (12), with only Georges St-Pierre ahead with 13. Jones now has a 24-1 record career in his career that also includes one fight was deemed a no-contest against Daniel Cormier at UFC 214. He won that fight via knockout, but the California State Athletic Commission elected to over-turn the result of the fight following news of a failed drug test by Jones. UFC President Dana White also elected to strip Jones of the light heavyweight title in-favor of Cormier as a result of the suspension.

In the co-main event at UFC 235, Kamary Usman stunned Tyron Woodley, and dominated the fight to win via unamious decision in the fifth round. This made Usman UFC’s first African-born champion, and the fourth fighter to start his UFC career 10-0 or better, joining Silva, Royce Gracie, and Khabib Nurmagomedov, per ESPN Stats & Info.

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Photo: Zuffa LLC, video courtesy of UFC

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Bucks Confirm Contract Extension With Point Guard Eric Bledsoe

Milwaukee Bucks general manager Jon Horst confirmed Friday that the team is progressing towards a four-year, $70 million contract extension that was first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

This extension means that Bledsoe, who was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, won’t reach free agency until the 2023 off-season. The 29-year-old Bledsoe will earn $15.6 million next season, $16.8 million in 2020-2021, $18.1 million in 2021-2022, and $19.3 million in 2022-2013.

For Milwaukee, who currently holds the NBA’s best record (47-14) going into tonight’s marquee match-up with the Los Angeles Lakers, it became imperative to retain Bledsoe, who told ESPN in January that he considers Milwaukee to be home. It also allows the Bucks to have one less thing on their plate this summer, when Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Nikola Mirotic, and Malcolm Brogdon are all set to become free agents.

Middleton will receive the largest payday out of the bunch, but Lopez, Mirotic, and Brogdon also figure to bring home multi-year agreements that will include an average annual salary of $10 million-plus. The timing of the Bledsoe extension makes it more likely that the Bucks will be able to retain their core around superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, and potentially avoid paying the luxury tax for the 2019-2020 season.

In franchise history, Milwaukee has only ever paid the luxury tax once, and that was in 2002-2003 when they paid $4.7 million, per NBA Salary Cap Expert Albert Nahmad. What could complicate Milwaukee’s salary sheet this summer is whether or not there is interest in re-signing Mirotic, who was acquired by the Bucks in-exchange for four-second round picks ahead of the NBA’s trade deadline. There’s expected to be mutual interest in both sides at reaching an agreement, and perhaps with a new arena in downtown Milwaukee in the Fiserv Forum and a championship roster, Bucks ownership may be more willing to pay the tax to maintain it’s deep roster.

A lot of what the Bucks are going to be able to do with their roster this summer likely hinges on what the market suggests Brogdon’s value. The Bucks will reserve the rights to match any contract offer he will receive as a free agent, but it’s highly likely that the Bucks would prefer to come to an agreement with Brogdon and not let another team potentially dictate the specific terms of the contract to make it harder to match the offer.

In-addition to extending Bledsoe, ESPN also reports that six-time NBA all-star Pau Gasol will sign with the Bucks on Sunday once his contract buyout is complete with the San Antonio Spurs. While Gasol is having the least-productive season of his NBA career to this point, he brings championship experience to a Bucks roster that seems to only be lacking that. Gasol has won two NBA championships during his career, with both of those titles coming during his tenure with the Lakers.

Bledsoe, who was acquired by the Bucks in a November 2017 trade, is arguably having the best season of his NBA career, averaging 15.7 points, 5.5 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per game, while shooting a career-best 49% from the field, and 32% from three-point territory. He recorded his fifth-career triple double in the Bucks’ 141-140 overtime win over the Sacramento Kings Wednesday night.

Photo: Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Harper Agrees to Largest Contract in MLB History With Phillies

After months of speculation, the Bryce Harper sweepstakes has reportedly came to an end.

Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies reached agreement on a 13-year, $330 million contract Thursday afternoon, according to MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman. This new contract means it is entirely possible that Harper ends his career with the Phillies, as the pact also includes a full no-trade clause.

Landing a long-term contract was a huge priority for Harper, per his agent Scott Boras, who said Harper wanted to sign the “longest contract he could get.” Harper also wanted to secure a $300 million-plus guarantee, and once Manny Machado received a ten-year, $300 million contract from the San Diego Padres last week, it became very clear that both Harper and Boras wanted to sign a more lucrative deal than Machado’s.

Harper’s contract is also now the most lucrative contract in Major League Baseball history, surprising the 13-year, $325 million contract New York Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton signed with the Miami Marlins in November 2014. Stanton told reporters earlier today that he knew “eventually” someone would end up topping his contract. Harper, Stanton, and Machado are the only three players in the MLB history to receive $300 million-plus guaranteed contracts.

Here’s the full breakdown of Harper’s contract with the Phillies, courtesy of ESPN’s Jeff Passan:

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The signing of Harper caps off a monster off-season for the Phillies, with various media reports suggesting that Philadelphia is now ‘out’ on free agent pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, unless they ended up wanting short-term deals due to what the market is suggesting. In-addition to adding Harper, the Phillies have also added Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, and J.T. Realmuto this winter.

Harper, who spent the first seven years of his career with the Washington Nationals, is now scheduled to play against Washington at least 247 times over the course of the next 13 years. It was reported by USA TODAY Sports in November that Harper turned down a $300 million extension offer from the Nationals in September, and while the team was still open to negotiating with Harper, that $300 million offer was pulled from the table following the rejection.

Last season, Harper struggled for the first 94 games of the season, batting just .214/.365/.468 with 23 home runs and 54 runs batted in during that stretch. He started to look more like the National League’s 2015 MVP Award Winner in the second half when his batting line jumped to .300/.434/.538 and included 11 home runs and 46 runs batted in. Even with the struggles that accompanied Harper at time’s last year, he still ranked as the 18th best hitter in baseball (tied with Jose Altuve and Eugenio Suarez) thanks to a 135 wRC+.

During Harper’s tenure in Washington D.C. the Nationals found great regular season success and captured the National League East division crown four separate times, but never ended up winning a playoff series. He leaves the Nationals having never accomplished what many speculated he and star pitcher Stephen Strasburg could do for the franchise as back-to-back number one overall draft picks. Still, Harper and Strasburg help dig the Nationals out of a really dark time, and created a lot of great memories a long the way.

In terms of WAR, Harper stacks up as one of the ten greatest players in Nationals/Expos history:

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Tying up a few loose ends on Harper’s contract details, there will also end up being no deferred money in the deal, and no opt-out clauses are included. The 26-year-old Harper is on-track to make over $385 million in his career.

Harper will be officially introduced as the newest member of the Phillies during a press conference Saturday.

Photo: Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

Dwyane Wade Stuns Warriors With Buzzer-Beating Circus Shot

Dwyane Wade‘s #OneLastDance wouldn’t be complete without some signature moments, and the world ended up receiving one tonight in the Miami Heat’s home game versus the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

With 0.8 seconds left in the game, Wade threw up a one-legged circus shot from three-point range and ended up banking it in off the backboard to win the game for the Heat 126-125. For Wade, the clutch dagger three-pointer was his fifth career buzzer-beater, per ESPN Stats & Info. It was also Wade’s first buzzer-beater in nearly 10 full years. The last time the Warriors lost on a shot at the buzzer was courtesy of LeBron James in January 2009.

Here’s a look at Wade’s thrilling game-winner:

Wade finished the game with 25 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists on 10-17 shooting from the field, including 5-8 from three-point range. Prior to the buzzer beater, Wade also knocked down a huge three-pointer following a four-point play from Golden State Warriors superstar forward Kevin Durant. Wade scored 10 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter.

The shot was very popular among several athletes on Twitter, who decided to share their personalized reactions to the shot:

In his last season, Wade is averaging 14.1 points, 4.3 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 43% from the field, and 31% from three-point range.

*All videos are exclusive property of the NBA, and no copyright infringement is intended in anyway.*

Photo: Miami Heat/NBA

Dwyane Wade Has Interest in Becoming Heat Owner Post-Retirement

As we get closer and closer to the finish line of Dwyane Wade‘s allustrious NBA career, the time has came to start talking about what Wade’s plans post-basketball potentially are.

One option for the 37-year-old Miami Heat guard is ownership, something he has expressed interest in previously. Just like several other NBA players, Wade believes that Seattle should have a NBA team, and he would be interested in helping bring a NBA team back to the city that previously had the Super Sonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder). However, Wade also has interest in becoming part of the ownership group in Miami.

Wade reiterated his desire to become a NBA owner yesterday pre-game in Dallas before the Heat’s 112-101 win over the Dallas Mavericks when he was asked by the media:

“I love Seattle,” Wade said, when asked about potential ownership options. “It’s great, Unfortunately it’s not a part of the NBA. When a question was asked what franchise you want to see back, Seattle was one for me. And we talking about who I want to be ownership of, Miami has first dibs and then I go from there.

It is not presently clear just how much of an ownership stake Wade would be looking for, but it’s likely that if he wants to join the Heat’s ownership group, it would be as a minority owner. Current Miami owner Micky Arison has given no indication that he wants to sell the team, but just like several other franchises, the Heat do have several minority owners.

In the coming years, there is expected to be a lot of moving parts when it comes to the reshuffling of the Heat’s front office. Miami’s current President of Basketball Operations in 73-year-old Pat Riley has given no indications that he is planning to retire in the near future, but the Heat have already started to make several hires to prepare for the inevitable departure. The most recent notable hiring was the hiring of Shane Battier, a former Miami Heat player and NBA veteran. Battier was given a prominent job title with the Heat right away as well, as the team’s Director of Basketball Development & Analytics.

There’s speculation that once Riley officially decides to retire, Battier will take over Riley’s old duties as the team’s president. It would make sense too, as the 40-year-old Battier has been highly-coveted by several other NBA teams since being hired by Miami, as he was consider the favorite for the Detroit Pistons’ open President of Basketball Operations job last year before he withdrew his name.

This all connects back to Wade because of there isn’t a way Wade can join the Heat’s ownership, there is certainly a way for him to get involved with the front office is he so desires. Besides Battier, other former Heat players that currently work for the Heat include Alonzo Mourning, Juwan Howard, and Glen Rice. One of Wade’s good friends in former Heat player Chris Bosh, who will have his number retired by the Heat on March 26 against the Orlando Magic, has previously expressed interest in potential front office positions. Bosh’s career was brought to an abrupt end in 2016 due to blood clots, as the 11-time NBA all-star recently revealed to The Ringer’s Bill Simmons that his jersey retirement will officially end his playing career.

ESPN’s Dan Le Batard recently said on his radio show that part of the reason why the Heat wanted to get Bosh’s number retired relatively quickly is there is talks that he might join the front office. Would working alongside Bosh in the front office appeal to Wade? That is something presently unknown. What is known is that Riley has often said in the past that he believes the front office is missing one more piece before he can officially retire. Is that piece Wade/Bosh, or the both of them? Only time will tell.

For now, Wade still has 26 left to go in his career, including one last performance at Sunday’s 2018-2019 NBA All-Star Game, which will be the 13th overall all-star game for Wade. NBA commissioner Adam Silver made Wade a special addition to the all-star rosters to commemorate Wade’s last season, and Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki was also added under the same designation in what will likely be his final NBA season. Wade was drafted to Team LeBron in the all-star draft by his good friend LeBron James.

On the season, Wade is averaging 14.0 points, 4.3 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game, while shooting 43% from the field, and 32% from three-point range.

Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

2019 NBA Trade Deadline Tracker

Today is the last day of the 2018-2019 season where all 30 NBA teams are allowed to complete trades until the off-season, and they have until 3 p.m. eastern standard time to do just that.

To ensure that you are able to keep track of all the trades, we suggest bookmarking this page as your official 2018-2019 NBA trade deadline deal tracker, because it will be updated periodically throughout the day as trades are reported across the association.

Without further delay here’s every trade that happened before the deadline from January 22 on:

Los Angeles Clippers receive: Michael Beasley, Ivica Zubau

Los Angeles Lakers receive: Mike Muscala

Portland Trail Blazers receive: Skal Labissiere

Sacramento Kings receive: Caleb Swanigan

Brooklyn Nets receive: Greg Monroe, 2021 second-round draft pick

Toronto Raptors receive: $110,000

Atlanta Hawks receive: Jabari Bird, cash considerations

Boston Celtics: Protected second-round draft pick

Orlando Magic receive: Markelle Fultz

Philadelphia 76ers receive: Jonathon Simmons, 2020 first-round draft pick (via Oklahoma City), 2019 second-round draft pick

Atlanta Hawks receive: Shelvin Mack

Memphis Grizzlies receive: Tyler Dorsey

Los Angeles Clippers receive: Garrett Temple, JaMychal Green

Memphis Grizzlies receive: Avery Bradley

Indiana Pacers receive: Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin

Houston Rockets receive: Second-round draft pick

Milwaukee Bucks receive: Nikola Mirotic

New Orleans Pelicans receive: Jason Smith, Stanley Johnson, four second-round draft picks

Detroit Pistons receive: Thon Maker

(READ: NBA Best Bucks Swing Trade for Nikola Mirotic)

Philadelphia 76ers receive: James Ennis

Houston Rockets receive: 2021 second-round draft pick

Sacramento Kings receive: Harrison Barnes

Dallas Mavericks receive: Zach Randolph, Justin Jackson

New Orleans Pelicans receive: Markieff Morris

Washington Wizards receive: Wesley Johnson

Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss, protected 2019 first-round draft pick

Houston Rockets receive: Iman Shumpert, Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin

Sacramento Kings receive: Alec Burks, 2020 second-round draft pick

Chicago Bulls receive: Otto Porter Jr.

Washington Wizards receive: Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker, 2023 second-round draft pick

Miami Heat receive: Ryan Anderson

Phoenix Suns receive: Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington

(READ: Heat Agree to Trade Guard Tyler Johnson To Phoenix)

Philadelphia 76ers receive: Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott

Los Angeles Clippers receive: 2021 first-round draft pick (via Miami), 2020 first-round draft pick, 2021 second-round draft pick, 2023 second-round draft pick, Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, Landry Shamet

Philadelphia 76ers receive: Malachi Richardson, Emir Preldzic, 2022 second-round draft pick

Toronto Raptors receive: Cash Considerations

Los Angeles Lakers receive: Reggie Bullock

Detroit Pistons receive: Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, 2021 second-round draft pick

Portland Trail Blazers receive: Rodney Hood

Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin, 2021 second-round draft pick, 2023 second-round draft pick.

Chicago Bulls receive: Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, cash considerations

Oklahoma City Thunder receive: 2020 second-round draft pick

Dallas Mavericks receive: Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, Trey Burke

New York Knicks receive: Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, DeAndre Jordan, 2021 first-round draft pick, 2023 protected first round-draft pick

Chicago Bulls receive: Carmelo AnthonyJon Diebler, cash considerations

Houston Rockets receive: Tadija Dragicevic

Photo: Paul Mata/Rappler

Phillies Continue Busy Off-Season, Trade For J.T. Realmuto

Per an official press release from the team, the Philadelphia Phillies have acquired all-star catcher J.T. Realmuto via trade with the Miami Marlins.

The announcement was made official Thursday afternoon, making Realmuto yet another all-star traded away by Miami under CEO Derek Jeter‘s ownership group. Last off-season, the Marlins traded away Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Dee Gordon, and all of the players acquired by the Marlins in those trades have provided mixed results so far to this point.

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However, it makes plenty of sense for the Marlins to continue their rebuild and bring more young talent into their organization, as those four players plus Jose Fernandez didn’t lead too much success for the fish. That’s exactly what they did in this trade, by acquiring pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, who is ranked 27th by MLB Pipeline in the trade.

Sanchez has been on the radar of many for awhile now because of his hard-throwing ability. The 20-year-old Sanchez posted a 2.51 earned run average in 46.2 innings at Advanced-A Ball last season, while striking out 45 batters. For someone who relies heavily on velocity, Sanchez has very good command of the strike zone. In a full minor league season in 2017, he walked just 18 batters in 95 innings of work. He will likely begin the 2019 campaign at Double-A for Miami.

Also in the trade, Miami netted catcher Jorge Alfaro and another pitching prospect in left-hander Will Stewart. International signing bonus money was also attained in the trade, as the Marlins are looking to add more prospects through the international market after signing Victor Victor Mesa  and Victor Mesa Jr. earlier this off-season.

Alfaro, who batted .262/.324/.407 with 10 home runs and 37 runs batted in last season, is slated to replace Realmuto as Miami’s starting catcher, effective immediately. Back in October, Realmuto’s agent, Jeff Berry, predicted that a trade away from Miami would happen after Realmuto informed the Marlins that he wouldn’t ink a long-term contract extension with the club. Instead, Realmuto joins Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura as the other significant new additions to the Phillies this off-season, and with Philadelphia still in the market for free agent superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, it’s very possible the Phillies aren’t done adding yet.

As a first time all-star in 2018, Realmuto batted .277/.340/.484 with 21 home runs and 74 runs batted in. His marks in home runs, runs batted in, and slugging percentage were all career-highs, as was his .825 OPS.

Realmuto will earn $5.9 million this season, and will head to arabirtation following this season if he and the Phillies don’t hash out a long-term contract. The soon-to-be 28-year-old backstop is currently scheduled to be a free agent following the 2020 season.

Photo: Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports

Complete Results: 2019 NBA All-Star Game Draft

For this year’s NBA All-Star Game under the new format, Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo were tasked with drafting from a pool of 24 all-stars.

Both James and Antetokounmpo earned the captain designation after being the leading vote-getters in the Western and Eastern Conference respectively, and since James earned the most votes overall, he had the honor of utilizing the first overall pick in the draft. Here’s a full look at how James and Antetokounmpo decided to draft their squads:

Round 1 – Starters

1: Team LeBron – Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors)

2: Team Giannis – Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

3: Team LeBron – Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics)

4: Team Giannis – Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

5: Team LeBron – Kawhi Leonard (Toronto Raptors)

6: Team Giannis – Paul George (Oklahoma City Thunder)

7: Team LeBron – James Harden (Houston Rockets)

8: Team Giannis – Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets)

Round 2 – Reserves

9: Team Giannis – Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)

10: Team LeBron – Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)

11: Team Giannis – Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)

12: Team LeBron – Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)

13: Team Giannis – Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers, traded to Team LeBron)

14: Team LeBron – Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)

15: Team Giannis – Blake Griffin (Detroit Pistons)

16: Team LeBron – Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder, traded to Team Giannis)

17: Team Giannis – D’Angelo Russell (Brooklyn Nets)

18: Team LeBron – LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs)

19: Team Giannis – Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic)

20: Team LeBron – Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)

21: Team Giannis – Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)

22: Team LeBron – Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)

Round 3 – Special Additions

23: Team LeBron – Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat)

24: Team Giannis – Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks)


Team LeBron

Kevin Durant

Kyrie Irving

Kawhi Leonard

James Harden

Anthony Davis

Klay Thompson

Ben Simmons

Damian Lillard

LaMarcus Aldridge

Karl-Anthony Towns

Bradley Beal

Dwyane Wade

Team Giannis 

Stephen Curry

Joel Embiid

Paul George

Kemba Walker

Khris Middleton

Nikola Jokic

Russell Westbrook

Blake Griffin

D’Angelo Russell

Nikola Vucevic

Kyle Lowry

Dirk Nowitzki

Victor Oladipo – Injured

After many NBA players spoke out publicly about their desire to have the all-star draft televised, the NBA and the player’s association was able to make it happen, as it was televised on TNT before the start of their double header of NBA games tonight. Another first also happened tonight, as James and Antetokounmpo completed the first ever all-star draft trade when James traded Westbrook to Antetokounmpo for Simmons.

The 68th edition of the NBA All-Star Game will be played on February 17 from Charlotte.

Photo: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

NBA Best Bucks Swing Trade for Nikola Mirotic

The NBA’s best only ended up better on Thursday, with the Milwaukee Bucks acquiring power forward Nikola Mirotic from the New Orleans Pelicans.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe were the first to report that Mirotic was headed to Milwaukee, and the 27-year-old should fit right in with the team’s potent three-point attack.

When the trade is official, it will be a three-team trade between the Bucks, Pelicans, and Detroit Pistons, with the Bucks sending center Jason Smith and small forward to the Pelicans. Milwaukee acquired Johnson in a trade Wednesday that sent power forward/center Thon Maker to Detroit, but since this trade need a third-team to work, the Pistons ended up joining the trade just to make everything work under the NBA’s rules.

Per various media reports, there are expected to be four second-round picks in the deal, with only one of the second-rounders being Milwaukee’s original pick. The other three picks are coming from the Washington Wizards and the Denver Nuggets, with the Wizards suppling two of the picks. In October, the Bucks acquired a future second-round draft pick from Washington in a salary-dump trade for swingman Jodie Meeks, who ended up being waived by the Bucks.

Milwaukee already has one of the NBA’s best starting fives in Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Brook Lopez, so it’s likely that Mirotic will slide into a sixth-man role off the bench for head coach Mike Budenholzer. Having a consistent scorer like Mirotic, who is averaging a career-best 16.7 points per game this season in a bench role will be instrumental for a team that’s one weakness appeared to be a lack of consistent bench scoring.

In-addition to averaging the previously mentioned career-best 16.7 points per game this season, Mirotic is also averaging career-bests in minutes per game (28.9), rebounds per game (8.7), and three-point field goal attempts per game (2.7). It would be unsurprising to see that 2.7 per game metric for Mirotic uptick in Budenholzer’s offense that generates the most wide-open threes per game in the NBA at 21.9 attempts from distance. Per HoopsHype, Mirotic is shooting 40% this season on three-point shots that are defined as “open.”

Mirotic, who is making $12.5 million this season, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, with fellow Bucks players Bledsoe, Brogdon, Middleton, and Lopez also expected to be on the open market as well. However, Milwaukee now posses Mirotic’s bird rights, which will allow general manager Jon Horst to exceed the salary cap to re-sign Mirotic if there is mutual interest on both sides in getting a deal done.

While the trade deadline has officially passed, the Bucks still have an open roster spot, which means they will certainly be players in the contract buyout market that is expected to feature players such as Wayne Ellington, Robin Lopez, Frank Kaminsky, Chandler Parsons, Pau Gasol, JR Smith, Frank Kaminsky, and Markieff Morris.

Milwaukee (40-13), will play the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas tomorrow before returning to Milwaukee to host the Orlando Magic Saturday night on the second night of a back-to-back.

Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Heat Agree to Trade Guard Tyler Johnson to Phoenix

The Miami Heat and the Phoenix Suns are in agreement on a trade to send combo guard Tyler Johnson to Phoenix, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

In the trade, Phoenix will also receive sharpshooter Wayne Ellington, but the assumption league-wide is that Ellington will be bought out of his contract and waived, clearing way for the 31-year-old to join a playoff contending team in free agency. Wojnarowski also reports that Ellington’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, is currently working with the Suns to expedite the buyout process.

Miami will be receiving veteran power forward Ryan Anderson from Phoenix in the trade, which helps the Heat get closer towards being under the NBA’s luxury tax threshold. The Heat’s tax bill now stands at $1.2 million, which is down from $6.3 million, per NBA Salary Cap expert Albert Nahmad.

Nahmad also notes that in total, the Heat have now saved $8 million as a result of a trade. Miami could also potentially save more money if power forward/center Kelly Olynyk does not earn his $1 million bonus for playing 1,700 minutes. So far, Olynyk has played 987 minutes this season, meaning he is currently not on pace to meet the criteria.

With the NBA trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Heat are also reportedly still engaged in trade discussions concerning several players on their roster, such as Olynyk, center Hassan Whiteside, and guard Dion Waiters, per Greg L. Sylvander of Miami Heat Beat.

Contract wise, Anderson is currently making $20.4 million this season, but is guaranteed $15.6 million next season instead of $21.6 million after he agreed to reduce the guarantee in his contract to help initate a August trade that sent guard Brandon Knight to the Houston Rockets. If Anderson isn’t waived by the Heat by July 10, the $21.6 million salary becomes fully-guaranteed. Expect Miami to waive the 30-year-old Anderson by utilizing the stretch provision this summer.

The 25-year-old Johnson is currently making $19.2 million this season, and will make that same salary figure again in 2019-2020, assuming he utilizes the player option in his contract to opt-in for next season. Johnson is unlikely to fetch anywhere close to that $19.2 million on the open market, so it’s widely-expected around the league that Johnson opts-in.

Had Johnson remained with the Heat throughout the conclusion of the 2018-2019 season, that would’ve meant Miami would’ve had to wait for three players to make decisions on options in their contracts in Johnson, Whiteside, and Goran Dragic. Whiteside will likely opt-in to his $27 million salary for next season, but Dragic could decide to opt-out of his $19.2 million for next season, and re-sign with the Heat on a multi-year contract with a lower average annual salary. Dragic has expressed a desire to remain with the Heat for the remainder of his career, so the 2017 all-star may be more willing to value a multi-year deal as opposed to financial security.

The Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Milwaukee Bucks are among the teams expected to pursue Ellington once he officially becomes a free agent. After sinking a Heat franchise single-season record 227 three-pointers in 2017-2018 and making the NBA’s Three-Point Contest at All-Star Weekend, Ellington has often found himself out of head coach Erik Spoelstra’s rotation this season, due to the logjam of guards on Miami’s roster. Philadelphia is perhaps the most likely spot for Ellington, who grew up in the Philadelphia area.

As for Johnson and Anderson, Johnson is expected to provide the Suns with ball-handling skills as a combo guard, something that is currently lacking on one of the NBA’s worst teams. It is undetermined what Anderson’s role will be in Miami, but if he does play, he will provide the Heat with floor-spacing in a similar fashion that Olynyk provides it already.

Photo: Rob Foldy/Getty Images
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