Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao received as good a vote of confidence as one can get from head coach Byron Scott, who called the Brazilian big man "the best center in the NBA right now." Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio writes that Varejao's statistical production makes Scott's statement a difficult one to disagree with, also mentioning that some fans have wondered if Cleveland should take advantage of his value and trade him. With that being said, Amico asserts that Cavaliers brass currently has no intention of dealing their most tenured veteran. For the rest of tonight's tidbits from the Eastern Conference, you can find them below:
- Bill McCandless, the agent of Mickael Pietrus, told Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com about the other teams that that had been under consideration while they had waited for the right opportunity in free agency. Whereas the Rockets and Timberwolves were potential destinations in the West, McCandless listed the Bulls and Hawks as the other Eastern Conference teams which had been in the hunt along with Toronto.
- Celtics coach Doc Rivers offered a poignant comment about Rajon Rondo and the current state of his team, telling reporters: “I don’t know if I want to rally around my 6-foot guard being the enforcer. That’s nice but at the end of the day, if that’s the threat you’re sending, the other team has to feel [good]" (Mike Petraglia of WEEI.com reports). Although we heard Rivers say earlier that the team is in no rush to make any changes to the roster, Petraglia hypothetically mentioned Kenyon Martin as a possible target if Boston decided to look into free agency for help.
- Aside from wanting rookie guard Maalik Wayns to become a more accomplished defender, 76ers coach Doug Collins likes the direction of his development, writes Mark Narducci of Philly.com.
- Jodie Valade of the Plain Dealer points out that Zydrunas Ilgauskas was at the Cavaliers' practice facility on Thursday to help Byron Scott teach forward Tristan Thompson about making quicker decisions and moves offensively to counter shotblockers.
- Mary Schmitt Boyer (also of the Plain Dealer) discusses the challenge that Danny Ferry faces in building the Hawks into a playoff contender, just as he had done in Cleveland from 2005 to 2010.
- Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes that Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap has taken notice of Jeff Taylor's development as the rookie has stepped in to fill the void left by Gerald Henderson's injury. In another article, Bonnell mentions that the continued lobbying of New Orleans Hornets owners to rebrand their franchise could mean an opportunity for Charlotte to re-acquire the Hornets nickname.
- Nate Taylor of The New York Times discusses Tyson Chandler's offensive efficiency as of late, noting that the 7'1 Knicks center is averaging a career best in points (12.0 PPG) and leading the league in field goal percentage at 71.8%.
The Bobcats have signed Jeffery Taylor to a contract, tweets Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Taylor was the first pick of the second round in June's draft, coming off the board 31st overall.
Terms of Taylor's deal weren't disclosed, but he'll likely earn the rookie minimum. It's not clear yet how many years he signed for or what sort of guarantee he received.
The Nets may be looking to find a way into the first round of this month's draft, but a number of teams are considering moving their first-rounders. According to Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio (via Twitter), every club besides the Cavs that has multiple first-round picks is trying to trade one of them for a young player. The Blazers, Celtics, Warriors, Rockets, and Hornets all fit the bill, with two first-rounders each. Let's round up a few more of today's draft rumors....
- Teams inquiring on the 10th overall pick are being told by the Hornets that taking on a contract like Emeka Okafor's or Trevor Ariza's won't be enough to land the pick, tweets ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
- Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld is hearing "emphatically" that Harrison Barnes will be drafted by the Cavs fourth overall (Twitter link).
- Another candidate for that No. 4 pick, Bradley Beal, says he'd "love" to play with Kyrie Irving, according to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal (Sulia link).
- Kyler adds (via Twitter) that the Bobcats are "open for business" on the No. 2 pick, and are meeting with plenty of guys expected to be drafted later in the first round.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would love to play with the Bobcats' Kemba Walker, tweets Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
- Keith Langlois of Pistons.com tweets that John Henson has a number of workouts lined up with teams drafting in the top ten, including the Kings, Blazers, Warriors, and Pistons.
- Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com says the Trail Blazers have workouts lined up with a number of top prospects, including Jared Sullinger, Austin Rivers, Damian Lillard, and Tony Wroten (all four Twitter links).
- ESPN.com's Chad Ford identifies Lillard as one of a number of prospects that stood out at the draft combine (Twitter link).
- While the Hornets are open to moving their No. 10 pick, it would likely take a starting-caliber point guard to pry it from them, tweets Amico.
- Bradley Beal has a workout scheduled with the Bobcats, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer (via Twitter). Beal is a candidate to be picked second overall, though Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Thomas Robinson are probably better bets.
- Weber State's Damian Lillard says he's heard he could be picked as high as sixth by the Trail Blazers, tweets Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. Sam Amick takes an in-depth look at the young point guard in a piece for SI.com.
- The Pistons have a number of players scheduled to come in for workouts, including Quincy Miller, Jeff Taylor, and Scott Machado (all Twitter links).
At 6'11'', 235 lbs, and the ability to play either forward position, potential-lottery pick Perry Jones III from Baylor stands out as one of the most intriguing prospects among this year's NBA Draft crop. Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated takes a closer look at Jones' draft stock, acknowledging that it can significantly change depending on the impression he makes in his upcoming workouts and interviews. Amick adds that Jones and his representatives aim to put an emphasis on his small forward skills during workouts in order to better market himself to talent evaluators. In an interview, Jones elaborated about his newfound confidence, his current training at UC Santa Barbara, and the belief that he was not properly utilized at Baylor.
Here are some more tidbits from Amick's article, including a brief rundown of this year's top small forward prospects, Miles Plumlee's workout in Minnesota, and a guard prospect from Vanderbilt to keep an eye out for...
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist tops the small forward rankings, followed by Harrison Barnes. Other names in the small forward race include Baylor's Quincy Miller, Iowa State's Royce White, Moe Harkless out of St. John's, and Vanderbilt's Jeff Taylor.
- Miles Plumlee recently participated in a group workout held by the Timberwolves and wowed scouts with his impressive play as well as his jumping abilities, registering a 41-inch vertical leap "with steps" and 34-inches "without steps." Amick also mentions that former Baylor power forward Quincy Acy also partook in the workout and performed well.
- Vanderbilt's John Jenkins considers himself the best shooter in the draft, and Amick can see him grabbing the attention of teams in need of another scorer. The 6'4'' guard averaged 19.9 PPG on 54.2% shooting from the field and 43.9% from long range in college last season. The Nuggets, who have the 20th, 38th, and 50th picks respectively, are scheduled to bring him in for a second workout.
Confidence is everything in life, and that includes basketball. Despite being blessed with a whole lot of natural talent, Vanderbilt forward Jeff Taylor could never seem to produce consistently. This season, head coach Kevin Stallings sat down with the 6-foot-7, 225-pound senior and explained to him that he wasn't expected to be perfect each and every night.
"I just told Jeff that he couldn't allow great to be the enemy of good," Stallings told Chris Dortch for NBA.com. "And that good was more than acceptable a lot of the time. We would take great when we could get it, but we didn't want to feel bad about good."
In 2011/12, it was clear that Taylor listened to his coach's advice and saw his level of play improve significantly to close out his collegiate career. The native of Hedvig, Sweden averaged a career-best 16.1 PPG while still shooting 49.3% from the floor. Perhaps most impressively, Taylor stepped up his perimeter game, going from a 34.5% three-point shooter in his junior season to 42.3% in his senior year. Taylor has always shown that he can beat his defender to the basket but he added a new dimension to his offensive game in 2011/12 and showed scouts that he can be a well-rounded scorer at the next level.
Scouts are pleased with Taylor's new found stroke from the outside but are still concerned about the forward's ability to create his own shot. Taylor isn't clumsy with the basketball but he's not Rafer Alston either and ball handling will never be his strong suit. His stock also isn't helped by his age: Taylor celebrated his 23rd birthday last week and some fear that he doesn't have as much room to grow as others on the board.
Where will Taylor wind up? DraftExpress has Taylor at No. 27 on their top 100 and predicts that he will be tabbed at No. 26 by the Pacers. ESPN.com's Chad Ford also has Taylor as the 27th best prospect in the draft and sees him going No. 28 to the Thunder. It seems to be a safe bet that Taylor will land somewhere late in the first round but the small forward can improve his stock by displaying his outside shot and quality defense for teams in the coming weeks.