Prior to the trade that brought J.R. Smith to Cleveland, Cavs GM David Griffin consulted with LeBron James, who immediately gave his approval of the deal, Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com writes. “I knew the man he was and I didn’t really care about what everybody else thought of him,” James said. “Our front office, they have the last say. … I was definitely all for it.” The franchise’s faith in Smith is paying off during the playoffs, with Smith torching the Hawks Wednesday night for 28 points off of the bench. “He’s been great for us, and he’s been a great teammate, and he’s been a great guy to coach,” coach David Blatt said. “And no question, he’s one of the reasons, one of the main reasons, we’re here.”
Here’s more out of the NBA’s Central Division:
- Center Sasha Kaun, whose draft rights are held by the Cavaliers, will likely leave CSKA Moscow at the end of the Russian League’s season, Chema de Lucas of Gigantes.com reports (translation by Enea Trapani of Sportando). Kaun is averaging 9.9 points and 4.5 rebounds in 19.0 minutes per game this season.
- Bucks GM John Hammond acknowledges it will be a difficult task to improve upon the team’s surprising 2014/15 campaign, Charles Gardner of The Journal Sentinel writes. “The key is to become a 50-win team, be a home-court playoff team, start to compete for a championship and be able to do that year in and year out for years to come,” Hammond said. “The next step is to go from good to great. That’s where the real work comes in. You need some breaks along the way. You need some guys to continue to develop. The culture needs to stay right.“
- There is a consensus around the league as to who the top four players in the NBA Draft are, but the rest of the draft order is still up in the air, David Mayo of MLive notes. “I don’t think there’s a set order from that group on,” Pistons GM Jeff Bower said. “I think that next group of players is really a group that will have varied opinions and varied orders, and the teams and the evaluations will kind of determine a lot of things.”
- The Pistons are expected to target a forward this June, notes Mayo. “I think there’s a lot of depth at positions in this draft that fit targets that we would have to fill this summer,” Bower said. “And again, whether it’s in the draft or free agency, we will plan to address them. As we look at this class and this draft, there are a lot of players that do have that projection of being at that position.“
LeBron James and Stephen Curry finished atop the voting for the All-NBA Teams, with James Harden, Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol joining them on the first team, the league announced via press release. Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Paul, Pau Gasol and DeMarcus Cousins comprise the second team. Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Tim Duncan, Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving make up the third team.
Curry, the league’s MVP, and James each received 645 points through a system in which five points are awarded a first team vote, three points go for a second team vote and one point is given for a third team vote. The duo garnered 129 first team votes each, making them unanimous first team selections. They were followed closely by Harden, with 125 first team votes and 637 points, and Davis, who had 119 first team votes and 625 points. Marc Gasol, who’s heading into free agency, wasn’t as widely seen as a first-teamer by the media members who cast their ballots, rounding out the squad with 65 first-team votes and 453.
Every member of the second team received at least one first team vote, and Thompson and Irving were the only members of the third team not to get a first team vote. Al Horford also received a first team vote even though he didn’t make any of the teams. The NBA will soon display the votes of each media member on its website, but the league has already distributed the information via press release, so click here to check it out in PDF form.
Shooting guard J.R. Smith has made the most of his time with the Cavs and is still working toward changing the perception of him around the NBA, Tom Withers of The Associated Press writes. “I’m generally a good person, that’s what the people who know me tell me anyway,” said Smith. “I’m just being me in a better situation. Unfortunately, this picture of me got painted early in my career, so it’s pretty much taken me nine to 10 years to get over it. To be in this situation with these guys, going this far and to be playing this well, it’s a dream come true.” Smith has a player option worth $6,777,589 that he can opt out of this summer if he wishes to become an unrestricted free agent.
Here’s more from the NBA’s Central Division:
- When asked his evaluation of the 2015 NBA Draft class, Pacers president Larry Bird said, “I’d like to take a couple home with me. The talent pool this year is very good. There are a lot of good players out there, so all of us sitting up here tonight should be happy about that,” Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star relays. In the same piece, Buckner runs down the list of prospects who have interviewed and worked out for the franchise thus far.
- Matthew Dellavedova has received his fair share of criticism this season as the Cavs‘ backup point guard, but the team’s faith in the Australian is paying off in the playoffs, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes. Dellavedova can become a restricted free agent this summer if Cleveland tenders him a qualifying offer worth $1,147,276.
- Arizona forward Stanley Johnson believes that he would be a great fit alongside the Pistons‘ current personnel, Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press relays. “I know Reggie [Jackson] and I know Andre [Drummond] really well,” Johnson said. “They’ve reached out to me and they’ve told me obviously that’s where the team needs the help at. I think I’m a good player and I can help out in that way. I think with the position I play it’s wide open for me to come in there and do something special.“
The Timberwolves secured the top pick in Tuesday night’s NBA Draft lottery, and though the franchise is unlikely to trade the pick, team owner Glen Taylor indicated that the idea will at least be discussed internally, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com writes. “You never know what it could mean, if you could get the right one or two guys that could change your team,” Taylor said. “When you already have a bunch of young guys, you have to look at this type of stuff. But I think it’s a very hard decision to make.”
Here’s more from the Northwest Division:
- The Wolves owner also noted that the Cavs were reluctant to part with Andrew Wiggins, last year’s No. 1 overall pick, in the deal for Kevin Love, Berger adds. “They didn’t want to do that,” Taylor said. “I can tell you, because I ended up negotiating with their owner. They didn’t want to do that, because you just don’t know how good Wiggins could be in the future and you’re going to hear about that forever and ever and ever. So I think it’s probably highly unlikely, but I think it’s part of the discussion.”
- The Thunder achieved payroll flexibility as a result of the James Harden trade, and while the deal hasn’t resulted in an NBA title as a result, it has allowed the franchise to add a number of useful players to its roster, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes.
- Robin Lopez is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and the big man indicated that he would like to return to the Blazers for the 2015/16 campaign, Mike Richman of The Oregonian writes. “Nothing’s 100% certain,” Lopez said. “Obviously I’ve loved my time here in Portland. I would love to come back. I’d be very open to coming back, but it’s hard to say 100%. You just never know what’s going to happen.“
- With the Timberwolves having secured the top overall pick in June, Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders breaks down Minnesota’s potential choices and what each player could bring to the franchise. The three players who make the most sense for the franchise to potentially take are Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, or Emmanuel Mudiay, Brigham opines.
The decision by Tristan Thompson, who is represented by Klutch Sports agent Rich Paul, to not sign a big contract extension with the Cavaliers has paid off, especially considering how well he filled in for Kevin Love during the playoffs after the all-star went down with an injury, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun writes. The Cavs reportedly offered Thompson a four-year, $52MM extension this past fall before the October 31st deadline for rookie scale extensions passed. Thompson, 24, can become a restricted free agent this summer provided Cleveland tenders him a qualifying offer worth $6,777,589. The power forward is known as a superior offensive rebounder and a solid defender.
Here’s more news out of Cleveland:
- Matthew Dellavedova, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, has become a steady contributor for the Cavs and was an X-factor in their series against the Bulls, Zac Jackson of FOX Sports Ohio writes. Dellavedova, who LeBron James recently called “the toughest guy on our team,” has played well in a backup point guard role. Since an early-season knee injury cost him 15 games, Dellavedova has played at least 10 minutes in all but four of Cleveland’s games, Jackson notes.
- Cavs owner Dan Gilbert squashed the idea that coach David Blatt will be fired regardless of how the team finishes the season in a tweet responding to comments Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher made on the radio. Blatt’s timeout blunder in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bulls reignited the debate about whether or not the first-year coach was in over his head.
The Cavs are doing everything possible to make sure that Kyrie Irving will be ready for Wednesday night against the Hawks, including giving him rest. The point guard sat out of practice on Friday in an effort to heal up.
“We sat Ky out and he’s going through a lot of treatment and we’re monitoring and just hoping that he progresses from here until game time,” coach David Blatt said, according to Tom Withers of The Associated Press. “We’re very much on top of this obviously and Ky is doing everything he possibly can to get well.”
Here’s a look at the Central Division..
- Per the terms of the Ben Gordon deal, the Pistons sent their first-round choice to the Hornets last year. Considering the underwhelming rookie performance of the top-heavy 2014 draft class, that might have been for the best, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press writes. Since the pick was only No. 1-protected for this draft, the Pistons likely would have lost it at Tuesday’s lottery if they had kept it last year.
- Before the season started, many thought Tristan Thompson was making a big mistake in turning down a massive contract offer from the Cavs. Now, it looks like his gamble will pay off, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun writes. Thompson could have chosen the safe route and accepted Cleveland’s offer, reported to be worth $13MM per year over four seasons. Now, after a good season and filling in admirably for Kevin Love in the playoffs, he stands to get at least that much and maybe more.
- Vince Hunter grew up watching the Pistons and he would relish the opportunity to return to play for his hometown team, Rod Beard of The Detroit News writes. “It would be a great opportunity for me to be in Detroit,” he said. The UTEP guard averaged 14.9 points and 9.2 rebounds, shooting 53% from the field last season.
At least one GM is among the multiple executives who believe Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis has a shot to be drafted as highly as No. 2, reports Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com. The head of basketball ops for another team said that he’s a “lock” for the top five and that it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go within the top three, adding that he’d draft him in front of Jahlil Okafor, the Duke center who occupied the top spot in projections for most of the season. The 19-year-old is No. 5 in Chad Ford’s ESPN.com rankings and No. 8 with Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress. Here’s more as draft rumors kick into high gear:
- Christian Wood, a power forward out of UNLV, is hoping to follow in Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s footsteps as a ball-handler with unusual height and length, Howard-Cooper writes in the same piece. The Bucks intend to interview Wood, Virginia small forward Justin Anderson and others today, tweets Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times.
- Both the DraftExpress team and Ford go in depth on the measurements from the combine, with Ford, in his Insider-only piece, noting that most top prospects sized up well and that this year’s draft class is among the longest groups in memory in terms of both height and wingspan.
- Michigan State power forward Branden Dawson has interviewed with the Wizards, Clippers and Pelicans at the draft combine, as he told Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. Ellis, in the same report, adds Stanley Johnson, Frank Kaminsky and Rashad Vaughn to the list of prospects with whom the Pistons have spoken.
- Terry Rozier met with the Pistons, too, as well as the Mavs, Suns, Knicks and Spurs, reports Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders (on Twitter).
- The Sixers, Lakers, Cavs and Bucks have interviewed Cameron Payne, Kyler also tweets. Payne spoke with our Zach Links recently about his draft prospects.
- Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer adds the Hornets and Warriors to the list of teams speaking with Rakeem Christmas (Twitter link).
The 2015 NBA Draft combine is underway in Chicago and Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) offers up a primer for all of the scheduled events. The return of five-on-five play to the event has scouts and GMs excited, but that anticipation is tempered by the fact that only one player ranked in the top 30 — Terry Rozier, will be participating in the scrimmages, Ford notes.
Here’s more regarding the 2015 NBA Draft:
- Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal caught up with ESPN’s Chad Ford to talk about the Kentucky Wildcats’ seven NBA Draft hopefuls. Ford spoke highly of Trey Lyles, but says that he needs to prove himself in workouts between now and the draft.
- Former Virgina swingman Justin Anderson met with the Celtics today, and the player has a workout scheduled with the team on June 1st, A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com tweets.
- The Wolves interviewed UNLV big man Christian Wood, and are also expected to sit down with Texas center Myles Turner, Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune tweets.
- Arizona forward Stanley Johnson interviewed with the Hornets today, and Johnson touted himself as “the best two-way player in the draft,” Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer notes (Twitter link).
- Former Syracuse forward Rakeem Christmas met with the Bucks, Magic, and Suns today, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Twitter links). Christmas is also scheduled to workout for the Sixers, but he will not interview with the team at the combine, Pompey notes.
- Projected second-rounder J.P. Tokoto interviewed with the Cavaliers, Clippers, and Pistons on Wednesday, Charles F. Gardner of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel relays (via Twitter). The guard met with the Hawks, Nets, and Mavs today, Gardner adds.
Iman Shumpert has been a significant factor in the Cavaliers‘ success since he was acquired in what was a season-altering trade for Cleveland, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today writes. With the guard averaging 12.6 points in the series against the Bulls, Shumpert is dispelling notions that he’s strictly a defensive player, Zillgitt adds. “As long as we win, I don’t really care,” Shumpert told Zillgitt about being overlooked as a scorer. “I feel like the right people see what’s going on. Everybody around the league knows what’s going on. If you really understand basketball, you know what’s going on. I don’t take it personally, and I don’t search for credit. I just search for wins.” Shumpert is set to become a restricted free agent this summer.
Here’s more out of the Central Division:
- The Bucks interviewed Texas big man Myles Turner, who is a potential lottery pick, Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. Regarding Milwaukee, Turner said, “They’re long and athletic right now, they’re young. They’ve got coach [Jason] Kidd and I like his plan and his vision in place. Everything I just said describes me — young, long, athletic. So I’d fit well.”
- The 6’11” Turner met with Pistons team executives today as well, Vincent Ellis of The Detroit Free Press reports (Twitter link). Turner also interviewed with the Pacers, notes Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star (via Twitter). The big man said that the Pacers told him they were focused on changing their style of play, Buckner notes.
- The Pacers interviewed Arizona freshman forward Stanley Johnson today, Buckner tweets. Johnson calls Pacers forward, and former Wildcat Solomon Hill, one of his closest friends in the NBA, Buckner adds. Johnson also sat down with representatives from the Pistons, Ellis tweets.
- All signs are pointing to Bulls assistant Ed Pinckney leaving Chicago after the season to join coach Chris Mullin‘s staff at St. John’s University, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv tweets.
League insiders are split in their opinions regarding the Wizards’ chances to lure Kevin Durant to Washington D.C. when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2016, Zach Lowe of Grantland writes. While the franchise’s future appears brighter than many teams in the East, its success is tempered by the fact that it plays in a relatively weak conference, Lowe adds. What the Wizards will also need to decide upon is how aggressive they wish to be in pursing Durant, considering his mounting injuries, the Grantland scribe notes. Lowe also opines that the team should consider if coach Randy Wittman is the coach who will take them to the next level, and if not, then Washington should attempt to find that person this offseason.
Here’s more from the NBA’s Eastern Conference:
- David Blatt has proven himself to be a good coach during his career overseas, but that doesn’t mean he is the right coach for LeBron James and the Cavs‘ current roster, Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report writes.
- Swingman Evan Fournier did not disappoint during his first season with the Magic, John Denton of NBA.com writes in his season review of the player. Fournier proved himself to be one of the Magic’s best outside shooters and finishers at the rim, though he did miss 24 games due to various injuries, Denton notes. In 58 appearances the 22-year-old averaged 12.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 28.6 minutes per night.
- The Heat have not traditionally had great luck in regards to the NBA draft lottery, and the team will need that to change if it is to retain its first-rounder this year, Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel writes. Over the past 15 years, no team seeded beyond No. 10 has moved up in the lottery, Winderman notes, and if Miami’s pick falls out of the top 10 selections it will convey to the Sixers.