What NBA insiders are buzzing about at Las Vegas Summer League

The NBA universe is still in the first week of free agency, and the league was back in business to start summer league in Las Vegas after the holiday and the warm-up exhibitions in Utah and California.

Well, the league was up and running before Friday's earthquake halted events.

What have scouts, coaches and executives said about the most important player-movement news and young player flashes? Here are the latest intelligence and buzz-worthy items from the MGM Resorts Summer League.

More:Summer league scores/schedules | Free agency news | Trades

Russell Westbrook: The summer's last big domino to fall?

In the wake of the trade that sent Paul George to the LA Clippers -- pairing him with Kawhi Leonard-- the biggest question buzzing around both gymnasiums in Las Vegas was an obvious one: What's going to happen to Russell Westbrook?

The thought from any and all people in attendance Sunday was that this story has one ending: Westbrook, the standard-bearer for the franchise throughout its 11 seasons in Oklahoma City, will be traded at some point. The follow-up questions -- when such a deal would happen and where it would send him -- led to more nuanced discussions.

Westbrook has a massive contract, with four years and $170 million remaining. He also has a game built upon athleticism and will turn 31 in November. That combination, along with a strong personality, is why the prevailing opinion among insiders is that the Miami Heatare the most likely landing spot.

The mechanics of a trade with Miami will be difficult because the Heat are hard-capped. But the Heat signed another star this summer who is entering his 30s in Jimmy Butler, and they have a franchise ethos of trying to be as competitive as possible. They also have pieces, including Goran Dragic's $19 million expiring contract and forward Justise Winslow, that seem like reasonable building blocks in such a deal.

As recently as 48 hours ago, the idea of Westbrook being traded anywhere wasn't on anyone's mind. Today, though, it is a top question around the league.

-- Tim Bontemps

The Clippers' polarizing pursuit of Leonard and George

Kawhi Leonard's decision to join the LA Clippers and bring Paul George with him has his team as the favorite to win it all by some oddsmakers. Others believe the Los Angeles Lakers -- who lost out on Leonard -- are still better positioned to make noise next season.

"After all the mismanagement and drama they've been through, they still have LeBron James and Anthony Davis," one general manager told ESPN. "Even as an 8-seed, get them in the playoffs, and that's a scary team."

Leonard's choice might have been surprising, considering he became the first Finals MVP to leave the team he just won the Larry O'Brien Trophy with and he picked L.A.'s other NBA franchise, but many saw it coming.

"The Clippers tracked him like a dog all year long," one Eastern Conference front-office member said.

To get George, one exec said that the Clippers gave up a ton of assets but thought it was worth it. "You have Kawhi on one wing and PG on the other. That defensive prowess is off the charts," he added.

There was a difference in opinion about Oklahoma City's role in the deal, however. Some thought Thunder GM Sam Presti had to do the trade, underscoring the overwhelming amount of assets the Clippers were forking over to break up a team that was over the cap and won a single playoff game this spring. But others thought the Thunder could have put their foot down to enforce the league's often-overlooked tampering standards.

With the Clippers so invested in Leonard, was it just a player trying to persuade another player to come play with him -- which is allowed -- or was the force of a franchise behind it?

"If it wasn't such a big haul," one Western Conference GM said, "then OKC would have made an issue of it." With yet another superstar demanding a trade before his contract was through, the GM suggested that such demands could lead to owners pursuing non-guaranteed contracts for players.

-- Dave McMenamin

That's not quite all, folks

Anthony Davis spent a solid 20 minutes in the middle of a hotel lobby on Friday afternoon talking to New Orleans Pelicans coaches and staffers in an unexpected meeting before his former team's first summer league game. As he started to walk away, Davis realized that his former head coach, Alvin Gentry, had made his way to the group to come over and say hello. Davis took a few steps in the other direction while his former colleagues chuckled. After a few more steps, Davis turned around with a smile on his face and gave his old coach a big hug. It was another intriguing moment in an afternoon full of them for Davis and the Pelicans, as the former face of the franchise met the new face of New Orleans basketball when Zion Williamson made his way off the elevator and into the lobby a few minutes later.

"He just can't stay away," one Pelicans staffer said of Davis, with a hint of sarcasm.

The reality, as Gentry pointed out after spending a couple of minutes with Davis, is that the 26-year-old center is still well-liked by many throughout the organization. Davis clearly has a soft spot for the people he used to work with, as he took pictures with a few, including Pelicans summer league coach and former Maryland star Greivis Vasquez. Davis gave Williamson a handshake and a hug on his way to the team bus for his first professional game -- a game that, as Gentry noted earlier, had fans paying upward of $500 outside the Thomas & Mack Center for good seats to see Williamson's debut.

-- Nick Friedell

Pelicans lead peer review of impressive offseasons

The Pelicans' offseason drew consensus appeal as one of the best by any team this year in an informal poll of team employees on the first day of NBA summer league action in Las Vegas. The first couple of months on the job for new Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin drew rave reviews, even among those discounting the lottery luck that landed New Orleans Zion Williamson.

Naturally, it started with the package the Pelicans were able to get for star Anthony Davis, including three first-round picks, to which New Orleans was able to add a fourth by trading down from fourth to eighth in this year's draft. No. 8 pick Jaxson Hayes was a popular selection in the eyes of members of other front offices, and the two-year, $26.5 million the Pelicans gave JJ Redick was lauded as one of the summer's best deals.

The Memphis Grizzlies were also a popular choice, having added three first-round picks between the deal sending Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz and the one to take back Andre Iguodala's salary. So, too, were the Jazz, who added shooting to their defensive-minded team with Conley and free agent Bojan Bogdanovic. Surprisingly absent from the conversation: the Brooklyn Nets, possibly because their marquee additions in free agency (Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving) made them too obvious a choice.

-- Kevin Pelton

Making sense of Nikola Mirotic's return to Europe

The surprising decision by Nikola Mirotic to turn down a reported three-year, $45 million contract offer from the Utah Jazz led to interesting conversations in Las Vegas, with most wondering whether this move could turn into something of a trend or is a one-time occurrence unlikely to happen again. The stretch-4 was projected to have a starting salary of $12 to $14 million on a long-term deal if he signed with an NBA team, according to ESPN's Bobby Marks.

The initial rumors on the size of Mirotic's deal were quickly debunked by sources with knowledge of the situation. Mirotic reportedly will sign for something much closer to $6 million a year gross (far less than the NBA midlevel exception and about a third of what he was offered in the NBA after accounting for taxes). Even that relatively minor amount by NBA standards is something that virtually no club in Europe, including the richest ones such as Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow, has shown any interest in offering other players.

It might be a while before we encounter another player willing to sacrifice such a large amount of money, dissatisfied with his role in the NBA, hungry to get back to being the focal point of an offense and homesick enough to accelerate a return to the country where he spent his formative years -- all factors that went into Mirotic's move, according to sources.

In short, don't expect this to become a trend with players of Mirotic's caliber, as the financial gap between Europe and the NBA only seems to be widening.

-- Jonathan Givony

The draft-day trade holding pattern

Just like fans, NBA executives were eager for Kawhi Leonard to announce where he would be playing next season. For execs, though, it wasn't just about curiosity -- their teams' summer league roster makeup depended on it.

Take New Orleans, for example. Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes are both healthy but didn't play in the Pelicans' debut against the New York Knicks. Why? Because technically they aren't on New Orleans' roster until the Lakers, Pelicans and Hawks complete trade calls with the league office.

The Lakers wouldn't have had the necessary cap space to sign a maximum-level player -- such as Leonard -- if the draft-day transaction happened first. Some team officials mused that the NBA league office should work to coordinate the moratorium period with the beginning of summer league. De'Andre Hunter, whose trade to the Hawks was also pending, waited until Sunday to make his pro debut after the Friday blockbuster deal resolved the Lakers' waiting game.

-- Malika Andrews

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