A few random notes from around the league as the Spurs and Heat do battle in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
A batch of notes regarding the league's never ending coach's carousel.
A few notes about the upcoming NBA draft, which, remarkably enough, is only nine days away.
The Mavericks will almost certainly trade their first-round pick in this year's draft to clear cap room to pursue Dwight Howard, reports Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. The Mavs don't quite have enough space to offer Howard a max deal, so removing the $1.66MM cap hold associated with the 13th overall pick would help clear a little more room.
According to Sefko's source, there's a 0% chance that the player selected 13th overall ends up on Dallas' roster next season. The most likely outcome involves trading the pick, while there's about a 15% chance the Mavs could take a player who could be stashed overseas for a year, meaning he wouldn't count against the team's cap. Sergey Karasev may be the best possibility for that scenario.
Given how aggressively the Mavs seem to be shopping the pick, the club doesn't figure to have a whole lot of leverage in trade talks, but it doesn't sound like the asking price is too high either. Even if other teams are reluctant to help out a potential suitor for Howard, it'll be hard for a rebuilding franchise to pass up on a lottery pick if it comes cheap.
Previous reports have suggested the Mavs would like to package Shawn Marion and his $9MM+ salary with their first-rounder, but it sounds as if Dallas is a good bet to move the pick with or without Marion attached to it.
Free Agents / Cap Holds
If you were simply perusing the NBA's regular-season standings, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Trail Blazers took a step back this past season. After all, Portland's 33-49 record (.402) was the franchise's worst mark in seven years, and the club took a nosedive at the end of the season, losing its final 13 games.
But consider how the Blazers' roster looks now compared to how it looked after the lockout. The 2011/12 season opened with Nate McMillan on Portland's bench, coaching a veteran-heavy team that included Raymond Felton, Marcus Camby, and Gerald Wallace, among others. Since then, Portland has jettisoned its overpriced veterans, added 2012/13's Rookie of the Year (Damian Lillard), locked up a promising young swingman (Nicolas Batum), and built around a big man who receives perennial All-Star consideration (LaMarcus Aldridge).
In addition to Lillard, Batum, and Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Meyers Leonard look like keepers, and give the Blazers a solid core at positions one through five. But while that five-man unit represents a nice start for Portland, the team's weakness in '12/13 wasn't its starting lineup -- it was its bench. With J.J. Hickson starting in Leonard's place, the Blazers' bench was made up primarily of NBA rookies (Leonard, Joel Freeland, Victor Claver, and Will Barton) and unproductive players on rookie deals (Nolan Smith and Luke Babbitt).
The bench figures to be GM Neil Olshey's primary area of concern this offseason, as he enters the summer armed with the 10th overall pick and over $10MM in cap space. Olshey has talked multiple times about making the roster deeper and more flexible, so it's unlikely he'll put all his cap room toward a single player, though a big man like Nikola Pekovic could make a nice target. The more likely scenario involves dividing that cap space and using it on multiple mid-level type players to give the team some productive bench players while its young players continue to develop.
Although a number of mock drafts have the Blazers taking a big man like Steven Adams, I'd be a little surprised if the club targeted a center with the No. 10 pick, considering Leonard remains a work in progress in the middle. Pairing Leonard with another rookie makes less sense to me than having him team up with a veteran who can help him develop. Hickson saw plenty of minutes at the five a year ago, but Portland figures to target a more traditional center rather than playing a power forward out of position again. Chris Kaman looks to me like a good fit, and Jermaine O'Neal has indicated he'd have interest in returning to the Blazers.
Assuming the Blazers don't target size in the draft, a shooter such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or C.J. McCollum would be ideal, as ESPN.com's Chad Ford suggests in his latest mock draft. It's also worth noting that Portland controls three second-round picks, at 39th, 40th, and 45th overall. After incorporating so many rookies a year ago, the Blazers will prefer to add veterans this year, so I'd be surprised if more than one of those second-round picks ends up on the roster next season. It's more likely that the Blazers will use those picks to either facilitate trades or to stash international players overseas.
A backup point guard behind Lillard also figures to be a priority, and the Blazers will have the option of extending a qualifying offer to Eric Maynor, who was acquired from the Thunder in a deadline deal. Given Maynor's performance and injury woes over the last couple seasons, his stock isn't exactly sky-high at the moment, so Portland may decide to pass on the QO and consider him along with a handful of other unrestricted free agents. Mo Williams, Devin Harris, D.J. Augustin, and Will Bynum are among the guys who also could be in the Blazers' price range.
A year ago, the Blazers attempted to make a huge splash by signing Roy Hibbert to a four-year max offer sheet, but they were thwarted by the Pacers, who matched the offer. Hibbert would have provided exactly the sort of rim protection Portland lacked in 2012/13, and it will be interesting to see how the team addresses that issue this summer. Of the top free agent centers, Dwight Howard isn't coming to Portland, Pekovic and Al Jefferson don't offer a whole lot in the way of rim protection, and a pursuit of the injury-plagued Andrew Bynum may cause a riot in Portland. As such, I think we're unlikely to see the Blazers make any huge bids on free agents like they did with Hibbert.
For Portland, this figures to be a summer of filling in a number of holes without spending exorbitantly on any one spot. With all their core players locked up through at least 2015, the Blazers have to focus on adding the right complementary pieces if they want to become a playoff team in the West. The success they have in finding those players may determine how long Aldridge remains in Portland -- if the Blazers undergo another losing season in 2013/14, it will likely only be a matter of time before trade rumors start swirling.
As I wrote last week when I previewed the Cavaliers' offseason, Cleveland figures to be one of the league's most active teams this summer, particularly in the trade market. With four draft picks in the top 33 (including No. 1 overall) and a good chunk of cap space available, there are plenty of options available to the Cavs this summer. Here are the latest rumblings out of Cleveland on how the club may look to improve its roster:
3:28pm: Rivers is scheduled to be in Boston on Wednesday, and plans to sit down with Ainge, according to Wojnarowski (via Twitter).
12:41pm: With trade talks between the Clippers and Celtics dead in the water, it doesn't appear Doc Rivers will be coaching in Los Angeles next season. What remains to be seen is whether he'll be coaching in Boston. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Rivers is unsure about returning to the Celtics as the team's head coach.
As Wojnarowski reported earlier today, when talks between the Clippers and Celtics ended, GM Danny Ainge called Rivers to inform him he still wanted to see Doc return to Boston and coach the remaining three years on his contract. While Ainge and Rivers are close, it's hard to envision Rivers back on the sidlines for the Celtics next season, considering how far along things got with the Clippers. As one source tied to Celtics ownership and Rivers told Wojnarowski: "You don't just move on from this and act like nothing happened."
Rivers' contract with the Celtics includes a non-compete clause that would prevent him from coaching another NBA team over the next three years, unless Boston received satisfactory compensation. If Rivers were to part ways with the C's, he would likely have plenty of options available to him as a broadcaster.
Resolution on the situation is expected within the next several days, according to Wojnarowski. As the Yahoo! scribe notes, until the Clippers hire a new head coach, it's possible trade talks could be re-opened, but for now it appears the two sides are going their separate ways.
Echoing an overnight report from Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio, ESPN.com's Chad Ford says in his latest mock draft that the Cavaliers remain undecided on their first overall pick. While the team appears likely to keep the pick, a number of players are still being considered, including Nerlens Noel and Alex Len. According to Ford, Noel remains the favorite because he fits the sort of high-upside profile the Cavs typically target, but there are some in the organization who prefer Len.
Here are several more highlights from version 5.0 of Ford's 2013 mock:
2:33pm: According to tweets from Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi of ESPN.com, financial concerns weren't the reason the Clippers pulled out of the deal. The team was prepared to give Rivers a big contract, but didn't want to give up two first-round picks in the move (Twitter links).
11:46am: According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Ainge has called Rivers to inform him that talks are over and that he still wants Rivers back as the Celtics' coach.
11:41am: Sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link) that the Clippers got "cold feet" over the financial commitment necessary to complete the deal. Even if Terry and Lee weren't involved, the Clips would have been paying Jordan's trade kicker and committing a $6-7MM annual salary to Rivers.
11:31am: The Clippers don't appear to be posturing when they say talks are over, according to Turner, who tweets that the deal is "dead, dead, dead." Amick and Dan Woike of the Orange County Register are also hearing the same thing (Twitter links). Celtics GM Danny Ainge confirms to Baxter Holmes of the Boston Globe (Twitter link) that negotiations are over from Boston's perspective as well.
11:01am: After days of negotiating, the Clippers appear to have called off a potential deal with the Celtics that would have sent Kevin Garnett and coach Doc Rivers to L.A., according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter). Turner hears from a Clippers executive that the Celtics were asking for too much in the proposed swap.
Earlier today, we heard that while the Celtics would have liked to include Jason Terry's or Courtney Lee's contract in the deal, Boston was willing to hang on to those players if the Clippers gave up two first-round picks. However, according to Turner (via Twitter), the Clippers were unwilling to part with multiple first-rounders in addition to DeAndre Jordan. Los Angeles will move forward with its head coaching search, as owner Donald Sterling prepares to meet with Byron Scott today and Brian Shaw tomorrow, says Turner (via Twitter).
I'm a little surprised that a second first-round pick would be the sticking point for the Clippers, considering how many other concessions the Celtics appear to have made, including agreeing not to include Eric Bledsoe in the deal. The Clippers figured to be a perennial contender in the West for the next several years if they locked up Chris Paul to go along with a roster that would also include Blake Griffin, Garnett, and whatever other assets the team acquired this summer, so those future picks would likely have landed late in the first round.
It would seem to be in the best interests of both teams to get something done -- for the Clippers, it virtually guarantees Paul would re-sign with the team in July, while for the Celtics it would mean starting their rebuilding process in earnest. Both sides wanted closure one way or the other early this week, so it's possible that talks are indeed dead, as Sam Amick of USA Today is also hearing (Twitter link). But as Amick notes, until the Clippers officially hire a head coach besides Rivers, it's hard to believe both teams would truly walk away from this deal.
As we look forward to what could be the final game of the 2012/13 season tonight, let's check in on a few odds and ends from around the NBA....
1:38pm: Gentry will meet with the Grizzlies for a second interview later this week, according to Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal (via Twitter). Tillery adds (via Twitter) that Joerger remains the frontrunner for the job, but Gentry is "strongly in the mix."
1:05pm: The Grizzlies are expected to complete their search for a head coach by week's end, a source tells Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). Dave Joerger, who is reportedly interviewing with the team today, is expected to be the final candidate for the job, according to Spears.
Current Grizzlies assistant Joerger has long been viewed as the likely successor to Lionel Hollins in Memphis, but based on the candidates interviewed by the Grizz within the last week, it appears he's far from a lock. Former Nuggets coach George Karl met with the team yesterday, while ex-Suns coach Alvin Gentry and Bulls assistant Ed Pinckney also interviewed for the job.
The Grizzlies were also said to be monitoring Doc Rivers' situation in Boston, though it appears unlikely they'll get involved there, given the compensation required to pry Rivers away from the Celtics.
Although one report yesterday suggested that the Cavaliers were leaning toward selecting big man Alex Len with the first overall pick in next week's draft, Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio hears that's not the case. Amico reports (via Twitter) that there's still no clear frontrunner for the Cavs' No. 1 pick, which likely means Len remains in the mix along with prospects like Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, and Otto Porter. As we enjoy the uncertainty of not knowing which player will be picked first overall, let's round up a few more of today's draft-related news and rumors....
Even with Game Six of the NBA Finals less than 12 hours away, the hottest topic around the Association remains the trade talks between the Clippers and Celtics involving Kevin Garnett, DeAndre Jordan, and Doc Rivers. We rounded up a ton of reports on the story yesterday, but by the end of the night, the two sides had yet to reach an agreement. As the two sides continue to negotiate, we'll round up the latest rumors on the proposed deal below, with any additional updates coming throughout the day:
The trade talks between the Celtics and Clippers aren't quite dead yet, but they also didn't move forward at all yesterday, as we detailed in a pair of posts rounding up Sunday's updates. Though the two sides have reached a stalemate for now, they continue to engage in talks and hope remains of finding an agreement, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter). We'll keep tabs on today's new items right here, with any further updates added to the top of the page throughout the day: