When LeBron James returns to Miami this afternoon, he is hoping for a better reception than the one he got from Cleveland four years ago, reports Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. James became a villain in Ohio after leaving the Cavaliers in 2010 to join the Heat. Now that he has returned to the Cavs, he hopes fans in Miami will be understanding. “I’ve got nothing but love for Miami,” James said. “Regardless of what happens, it won’t change how I feel about that city and the organization.” After leading the Heat to four straight NBA Finals, James opted out of his contract and accepted a two-year deal last summer to go back to Cleveland.
Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:
- Bitterness isn’t a quality that fits South Florida, opines Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report. The columnist urges Heat fans to be gracious hosts to James and to remember the unprecedented heights he helped the franchise reach. He also credits James for being willing to leave the Cavaliers in 2010 and gamble on building a winner in Miami.
- Guarding James was one of the NBA challenges Magic rookie Aaron Gordon was looking forward to, but Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel reports that will have to wait. Gordon fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot in November and will miss his 21st consecutive game when the Cavaliers come to Orlando Friday night. He was recently able to shed his walking boot and got medical permission to shoot set shots, but not jumpers. “My team needs me, and I can help my team,” Gordon said. “But I have two shoes on now. I’m not wearing a boot.”
- Phil Jackson offered some encouragement to Knicks fans on an otherwise gloomy Christmas, writes Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com. On a day where the Knicks were embarrassed by the Wizards on national television to fall to 5-26, Jackson sent out a pair of tweets promising 2015 will be a better year. Immediate help from the trade market seems unlikely, as Jackson has said he will only bring in players who fit New York’s long-term plans. So Begley said the team’s main hope is the draft, where the Knicks currently are in line for the second overall pick, as our Reverse Standings show.
Aaron Gordon underwent successful surgery today to repair damage to the the fifth metatarsal in his left foot and will be out of action indefinitely, the Magic announced in a press release. Gordon will miss a minimum of six to eight weeks, at which time he will be re-evaluated, but the exact timetable for his return hinges on how well he responds to rehabilitation. The 6’9″ rookie out of Arizona fractured his foot during last Friday’s contest against the Wizards.
The injury to Gordon is among a rash of early season maladies that have sidelined a number of NBA stars, including Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal, Ricky Rubio, and Marcus Smart. This injury is certainly a setback in the development of the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft. Gordon is still trying to establish his NBA position, and has been used primarily at power forward, though he has the skillset to play small forward as well.
Gordon appeared in 11 games this season for Orlando, averaging 5.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 0.6 assists while logging 15.0 minutes per night. His slash line is .581/.500/.667.
10:01am: Their contracts are indeed for 120% of the rookie scale, as Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel tweets.
9:44am: The Magic have signed No. 4 overall pick Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton, the 10th overall pick, the team announced via press release. Official signings with first-round picks are one of the few maneuvers allowed during the July moratorium. They’re both presumably getting the standard 120% of the rookie scale, so Gordon will likely make slightly more than $3.992MM this season while Payton will probably draw nearly $2.398MM, as our table of salaries for first-round picks shows.
Orlando pulled a surprise with its choice of Gordon, a power forward from Arizona, while Dante Exum and Marcus Smart were still on the board, but the team filled its need for a point guard not long after, swinging a trade to acquire Payton. Orlando gave up No. 12 pick Dario Saric, a 2017 first-rounder and a 2015 second-rounder to the Sixers in exchange for the point guard from Louisiana-Lafayette.
Eddie Scarito of Hoops Rumors gave the Magic an A for their draft, one in which they also netted No. 56 overall pick Devyn Marble. Still, he pointed to the risk involved with Gordon when he examined him as part of our Prospect Profile Series.
If the Jazz stay at No. 5, Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune (on Twitter) hears that Aaron Gordon will likely be the pick. Earlier today it was reported that Marcus Smart was a consideration for Utah even though he hasn’t worked out for them. Here’s more from Utah:
- Some around the Jazz aren’t high on Smart but nonetheless believe he’s the best choice, according to Jody Genessy of the Deseret News (Twitter link).
- Trading down is also a possibility for the Jazz, Jones suggests (on Twitter). Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle, and Smart are all in consideration at No. 5 but they also like guys like Doug McDermott and Nik Stauskas who could be had later, Jones says.
- Trey Burke would have no concerns if the team does indeed wind up selecting Smart, a fellow point guard, as Burke’s camp tells Genessy (Twitter link).
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert wants the team to draft Andrew Wiggins first overall, but the front office prefers Jabari Parker, report Jeff Goodman and Chad Ford of ESPN.com. That’s somewhat surprising, considering that Parker is seemingly the better of the two for Gilbert’s desire to win now. It’s unclear if Gilbert will let GM David Griffin and company take Parker, but after letting his executives make the call on Anthony Bennett at No. 1 last year, Gilbert will at least have a “stronger voice” this time around, Ford tweets. Here’s more on the eve of the draft:
- Andrew Wiggins wants to play for the Sixers, reports Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
- The Sixers would take Wiggins at No. 1 if they were to move up, but the Bucks, Magic, Jazz, and Celtics would all select Jabari Parker if they wound up at the top of the draft, tweets Chad Ford of ESPN.com.
- Multiple teams are trying to buy copies of Joel Embiid‘s medical records, a source tells Jake Fischer of The Boston Globe. Other sources tell Fischer that the buying of draftees’ medical records is common practice. (Twitter links)
- James Young says his workout with the Sixers went well, and gets the sense that he could be selected by Philadelphia with the No. 10 pick, tweets Pompey.
- Julius Randle passed on a second workout with the Celtics, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
- Marcus Smart did perform a second workout with the Celtics, and also worked out for the Magic a second time, tweets Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders,
- Zach LaVine tells Andrew Perna of RealGM he has worked out for every team holding picks six through 17 (Twitter link). The Sixers, Magic, and Bulls are teams in that range that had not been linked to a workout with LaVine previously.
- Thanasis Antetokounmpo worked out for the Knicks, tweets Charles F. Gardner of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Knicks acquired two second round picks earlier today.
- Bogdan Bogdanovic has come stateside to work out for the Spurs and Clippers, and Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress tweets that the Serbian wing is gaining steam as a potential pick late in the first round.
- Alec Brown has worked out for the Bulls, Cavs, Mavs, Clippers, Knicks, Sixers, and Raptors, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
- Tim Bontemps of The New York Post thinks it’s likely that the Nets can pick up a second round pick, and opines that they could even make their way into the late first round, where multiple teams would like to trade out of.
- Dan Gilbert tweeted out his insistence that he and the Cavs front office are not split (hat tip to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel).
- An opposing GM told Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio that the Cavs are entertaining “everything,” because they are in the driver’s seat (Twitter link).
- It’s still unknown if Dante Exum will work out for the Cavs at their request, but Andy Katz of ESPN.com reports that the guard is unlikely to cooperate without an assurance that there is a deal in place for Cleveland to move down and select him.
- The Hornets have shown sporadic interest in dealing away their No. 24 pick, but those talks have cooled recently, tweets Chris Mannix of SI.com.
- The Celtics face tough odds of moving up in the draft because “lots” of other teams with better players to offer are trying to do the same, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.
- One such team could be the Kings, who sources tell Ken Berger of CSBSports.com are trying to move up from No. 8 to have a chance at landing Joel Embiid.
- Rival GMs believe that Nuggets GM Tim Connelly is in “deal-making mode” with Denver’s No. 11 pick, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The Nuggets have been reportedly shopping the pick for some time now.
- Noah Vonleh is expected to be selected first of the power forward grouping including Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, and Julius Randle, a source tells Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
- Gordon is not expected to drop any lower than the eighth selection, per Spears’ source.
- Nets GM Billy King told Rod Boone of Newsday that the asking price to acquire a first round draft pick is likely too high for Brooklyn, and that a second round pick seems more possible (Twitter link).
- Jusuf Nurkic has a buyout to leave his international club and join the NBA this season, tweets Wojnarowski. There was some confusion as to Nurkic’s willingness and ability to join an NBA team immediately before this revelation, tweets Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.
- Joel Embiid is in “strong consideration” for the Sixers at No. 3, and it’s highly unlikely he slides past the Lakers at No. 7, according to Chris Mannix of SI.com (Twitter link). The Sixers have obtained Embiid’s medical information, as Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com reports.
- The NBA buyout in the extension that Walter Tavares signed with his Spanish team is $600K, agent Andy Miller tells Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv, and that’s precisely the amount NBA teams can pay without it counting against the cap. There were representatives from 11 NBA teams at a private workout Tavares held on Tuesday, and Raptors GM Masai Ujiri and executives from the Knicks and Nets were among them, Zagoria reports. Zagoria also adds the Spurs to the list of teams that have brought the 22-year-old center in for an audition.
- Fellow European prospect Vasilije Micic prefers to stay overseas regardless of whether he’s drafted on Thursday, as he told Rigas Dardalis of Eurohoops.net.
- The Hawks were the last of a dozen teams to work out Zach LaVine, observes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today (Twitter link).
- Andre Dawkins auditioned for the Kings, as Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report notes within his broader look at the draft. Dawkins tells Zwerling that the Cavs, Pistons and Wizards have expressed interest in him.
- Jordan Adams wasn’t able to get to Memphis in time as the Grizzlies scrambled to put together a last-minute audition, so Michael Dixon is taking his place in the four-man workout group, tweets Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal.
The Hornets‘ top priority this offseason is finding players who can shoot from the outside, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Charlotte GM Rich Cho said, “I think shooting is hard to find – especially mid-range shooting. You don’t see a lot of kids practicing that. Shooting is at a premium now because a lot of teams want to take threes instead of long twos, just from an efficiency standpoint. In an ideal world you want a shooter who can also really defend. But in the real world, there’s not a lot of that.”
More from the east:
- In a separate article, Bonnell examines the Hornets‘ top-10 franchise assets, which include the presence of Al Jefferson, Coach Steve Clifford, and abundant cap space.
- Bonnell also writes that the Hornets need frontcourt depth and a backup point guard. If the team uses a first round pick on a point guard, the names to watch, according to Bonnell, are Elfrid Payton, Zack LaVine, and Shabazz Napier. In the frontcourt, possibilities would be Aaron Gordon, Adreian Payne, or Jusuf Nurkic.
- The Bulls first round draft choices have been a series of hits and misses, writes K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. In the article he looks back at the 10 first rounds of the John Paxson-Gar Forman era.
- The Bulls are offering players with non-guaranteed contracts in most of their trade talks, writes Johnson in a separate article. Johnson mentions Mike James, Ronnie Brewer and Louis Amundson as the players the team has been trying to include. If some or all of them were needed to acquire Arron Afflalo, this could limit the Bulls’ preferred scenario of acquiring Carmelo Anthony via sign-and-trade discussions with the Knicks, notes Johnson.
Joel Embiid‘s foot injury has shaken up the draft, with split opinions around the league regarding the seven-footer’s prospects for the draft and beyond. One league source tells Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe that Embiid’s health concerns place him in legitimate danger of plummeting out of the lottery, while others are confident he will still be selected in the top 10. More draft rumblings:
- Tyler Ennis will have his second audition for the Magic on Monday, tweets Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel (H/T Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic).
- The international teams for Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic, Nemanja Dangubic, and Vasilije Micic will not put any barriers in place to keep the players from joining the NBA if drafted, per tweets from Yugobasket and Misko Raznatovic (H/T Emiliano Carchia of Sportando).
- Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh, and Aaron Gordon are the Celtics preferred group of draftees at No. 6, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
- Boston’s “most likely” scenario for the draft is to keep both of their picks, GM Danny Ainge tells Washburn (Twitter link).
- The Cavs are making efforts to trade down from the top spot to the No. 3-5 range in the draft, where they think Embiid would still be available, tweets Brett Poirier of Sheridan Hoops. The Magic, sitting at No. 4, have not been contacted by Cleveland, a source tells Poirier (Twitter link). The Sixers and Jazz own the third and fifth pick, respectively.
- The Lakers would consider taking Embiid at No. 7 if he fell that far, a source familiar with their thinking tells Mark Medina of Los Angeles Daily News. Unsurprisingly, LA’s choice would hinge on their confidence in the big man’s recovery.
- The Lakers are more likely to hang on to that seventh pick than deal it, despite their ongoing efforts to explore what they could net for it, writes Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com. The pick was linked to Klay Thompson as part of the Kevin Love discussions earlier today.
- The Suns are willing to trade away the 27th pick for a future first-rounder, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link).
- Jakarr Sampson, Niels Giffey, Glenn Robinson III, and Chane Behanan will work out for the Celtics today, tweets Holmes.
- As previously reported, the Warriors, Blazers, Pelicans, and Knicks are all looking to acquire first round draft picks, but the price tag is extremely high due to the deep draft pool, reports Alex Kennedy (via Twitter). Kennedy says that teams are asking for future picks that are unprotected or barely protected in return for first-rounders this year.
- The NBA has invited 21 prospects to the green room for the draft broadcast, Chad Ford of ESPN.com reveals in two tweets. The invite is a sign of consensus around these players as first round selections. The players invited were Andrew Wiggins Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Dante Exum, Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, Doug McDermott, Dario Saric, Gary Harris, Elfrid Payton, Nik Stauskas, James Young, Zach LaVine, Jusuf Nurkic, Adreian Payne, T.J. Warren, Tyler Ennis, Rodney Hood, and Shabazz Napier.
The Lakers will audition Zach LaVine for a second time on Saturday, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com, and they’d like to be able to do the same with Doug McDermott, according to Chad Ford of ESPN.com, who writes in an Insider-only piece. The Lakers are also the only team for which Aaron Gordon has worked out twice, as he told reporters, including Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). Here’s more from around the draft scene:
- The Sixers would like to meet with Gordon, too, and they have an audition scheduled Saturday for Marcus Smart, Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding tweets.
- Tyler Ennis, Cleanthony Early, Roscoe Smith, Eric Moreland, Ojars Silins and Viktor Gaddefors are performing for the Suns today, according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter links). It’s Smith’s second workout for the team, Coro notes.
- It appears as though Jarnell Stokes hasn’t had a chance to make up workouts he had to cancel with the Sixers, Celtics and Hawks when he suffered injuries in a car accident, as Andy Katz of ESPN.com details. He has auditioned for the Rockets and Spurs, among previously reported teams, since his recovery, according to Katz.
- Tarik Black, Sean Kilpatrick, Nick Russell and Philipp Neumann are among those showing off for the Bucks today, the team announced (Twitter link).
- The Lakers added South Carolina power forward Matthew Hezekiah to today’s workout group, Pincus notes (on Twitter).
We’ll keep tabs of tonight’s draft-related links below:
- The Lakers will work out Aaron Gordon, P.J. Hairston, Elfrid Payton, Marcus Smart, and Nik Stauskas, tweets Mike Trudell of Lakers.com.
- Tomorrow’s draft workouts for the Grizzlies will include Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Deonte Burton, Fuquan Edwin, James McAdoo, and Kendall Williams, per the team’s official website.
- Interestingly, the Lakers have been trying to get Doug McDermott in for a second workout but have been unsuccessful, tweets ESPN Insider Chad Ford.
- Former University of Michigan standout Mitch McGary is slated to work out for the Bucks tomorrow, reports Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times.
The Cavs are strongly leaning toward taking Joel Embiid first overall, a source tells Chris Mannix of SI.com. Of course, earlier reports have indicated leanings toward Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, and Cleveland threw a curveball with last season’s selection of Anthony Bennett at No. 1, so it’s tough to get a read on owner Dan Gilbert’s team. Still, Mannix and others have plenty of intel surrounding the draft with eight days to go:
- The Nets are seeking a first-round pick, according to Mannix, who echoes earlier reports that the Pelicans and Knicks are doing the same.
- The Celtics like Aaron Gordon the best among the power forwards likely to be available at No. 6, Mannix hears.
- The Lakers are leaning toward keeping their No. 7 pick rather than trading down for multiple picks, believing there’s a drop-off after the top 10 prospects, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com. McMenamin nonetheless doesn’t say whether the team is leaning toward keeping the pick rather than acquiring a veteran, and the Lakers and the Kings are reportedly more open to trades than any other lottery clubs.
- The Jazz aren’t necessarily seeking Parker as they attempt to trade up from the fifth pick, as Chad Ford of ESPN.com writes in a chat with readers.
- Several teams were disappointed when Kristaps Porzingis decided to withdraw from the draft, and one executive told Mannix that he believes the Latvian has a decent chance to become a top-five pick next year. The Thunder, who’d reportedly promised to draft him, and Mavs were particularly high on him, according to Mannix, while the Hawks were also enamored with him, Ford says in his chat.
- The Grizzlies appear likely to trade into the second round, as we passed along earlier.