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Hoops Rumors Weekly Mailbag 3/8/15-3/13/15

In addition to our weekly chat, which Chuck Myron facilitates every Wednesday, we have added a second opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap, or the NBA draft? Drop me a line at [email protected] or @EddieScarito on Twitter. Now for this week’s inquiries:

“Can you see the Knicks trading their lottery pick (after the draft) to Sacramento for DeMarcus Cousins since the Kings didn’t rule out trading him at the deadline?” Rodney M.

I honestly don’t see the Kings parting ways with Cousins, who is one of the most talented big men in the league, unless a schism develops between him and coach George Karl that is deemed irreparable. But if given the chance, that’s a deal that Knicks president Phil Jackson should take immediately. Normally, I’m a big proponent of building teams through the draft, but the Knicks’ situation is a complicated one.

I wasn’t a fan of the Knicks re-signing Carmelo Anthony, and I still believe that New York would have been better served to work out a sign-and-trade for ‘Melo instead of tethering all its hopes to an aging, one-dimensional scorer. But the team is stuck with Anthony for the next few seasons, and to get the most out of team owner James Dolan’s investment in the forward, the Knicks need to acquire talent who can help them win immediately. There isn’t a player in this year’s draft, save for perhaps Willie Cauley-Stein of Kentucky, who could step in from day one and be a solid contributor. But he’s not top three pick material, which is where the Knicks will likely be selecting come June.

So if I’m the Knicks, I would explore all of my options with the pick, including trading it. Though the Kings are unlikely to bite and give up on Cousins without seeing what he can be under Karl’s tutelage. I certainly wouldn’t given his talent level.

“Where do you see JaVale McGee ending up?” Quincy

The easy answer to this question is that he’ll go to the first team to offer him a player option for 2015/16. McGee doesn’t strike me as being picky at this point. He absolutely needs to catch on somewhere and rehabilitate his rep and value before the end of the season. His next contract hangs in the balance. There are a number of contenders who could absolutely use McGee’s skills on the court, but very few of those franchises likely want to deal with him off of the hardwood, where he has a reputation for being immature and difficult.

But not to cheat you on providing an answer, I would say that he’ll most likely end up in Texas with the Mavs or the Rockets. Both teams are willing to gamble on players with questionable maturity, and both could benefit from more depth in the middle.

“Do you see a chance that any player other than Jahlil Okafor becomes the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft?”  Stephen R.

Is there a chance? Absolutely. In fact, Okafor’s hold on the top pick is becoming more tenuous as the NCAA season wears on. It’s not because Okafor has disappointed, because he’s been exceptional for Duke this season. It’s more about potential. Okafor isn’t an elite athlete, nor a good defender for his size, which will limit his overall ceiling somewhat. He’ll be a fixture in the middle for years to come for the team that drafts him, but that doesn’t mean he’ll end up the best player in this draft. There are a growing number of scouts who believe that Karl-Anthony Towns will end up being the superior player in a few short years. Towns does possess the athleticism to evolve into someone quite special on the court. His offense is a work in progress, but he’s already a superior defender to Okafor. But the Duke big man gets the edge in maturity and overall polish over Towns.

The wildcard in this year’s draft will be the positional needs of the team that wins the NBA lottery. A team like the Sixers, who have Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel in their frontcourt already, may find selecting Emmanuel Mudiay or D’Angelo Russell a more practical choice. Both guards have been mentioned at one time or another as being in contention to go No. 1 overall by various scouts. But barring an injury to Okafor between now and June, I still don’t foresee too many GMs taking a pass on adding Okafor to their roster if given the opportunity on draft night.

“Who do you think will be a sleeper pick in the NBA draft?” Dustin

This is a funny sort of draft. Just about every player in the second-tier could be considered a sleeper depending on where they are selected. The crop this year is close in so many ways. But I’ll give you a few players who could end up surprising the league.

  • R.J. Hunter (Georgia State) — Guard
  • Jakob Poeltl (Utah) — Center
  • Zhou Qi (China) — Forward
  • Justin Anderson (Virginia) — Forward/Guard
  • Robert Upshaw (Washington) — Center

Both Hunter and Poeltl could be mid-to-late first-rounders, though Poeltl may come back for his sophomore season at Utah. Poeltl has a wealth of potential, but needs quite a bit of polish. Coming back for one more season would be a good move, especially given the wealth of big men in this year’s draft.

Hunter is a player who I believe will make a better pro than college player. The kid is fearless and he can and will shoot from anywhere in the arena. He’s hitting under 40% of his field goal attempts this season, which obviously isn’t great. But he’s a player who could turn into a big time scorer off the bench.

Anderson should end up being a mid first round pick as well, and he’s a player with quite a bit of upside and athleticism. As with most college wings, his outside shot needs more consistency, and he needs to figure out how to create his own shot better if he wants to succeed at the next level.

The last two on this list, Upshaw and Qi, are likely second-rounders. Upshaw has first round talent, but with the glut of big men available in this year’s draft, he’ll probably slide a bit as a result. His defense should translate very well to the NBA, but he needs some serious development on offense. Upshaw also has some character concerns. He was dismissed from Fresno State for multiple rules violations before attending Washington. But his talent will make him worthy of a gamble.

Qi is a bit of a wild card. He’s a fantastic athlete with a high skillset. The Chinese big man would be a great draft-and-stash candidate for a patient team. The 19-year-old is scary thin, and would not survive an NBA season until he added some weight and muscle. But Qi just may be the third most talented international player in this year’s draft behind Mario Hezonja and Kristaps Porzingis.

That’s all the space I have for now. I’ll be back next week to answer more of your questions. So please keep filling up my inbox with them in the meantime. Feel free to add to the discussion in the comments section below.

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