The Celtics and Sixers account for one-sixth of the 60 total draft choices this year, as we pointed out last week (Twitter link), but the rest of the Atlantic Division isn’t so replete with picks. The Nets have two picks, though they won’t be picking as highly as they would have in the first round had they not allowed the Hawks to switch picks under the terms of the Joe Johnson trade. The Knicks, who fell in the lottery, and the Raptors only have one selection apiece. Here’s more on the draft and other matters from the Atlantic:
- NetsDaily’s Reed Wallach examines needs the Nets can fill through the draft, writing that Brooklyn would be likely to use a higher pick on a point guard if the team indeed trades up as GM Billy King said he would try to do. The Nets have the 29th and 41st picks.
- Danny Ainge is firmly in control of the draft process for the Celtics, yet Brad Stevens takes an interest and was more engaged than many of his counterparts on other NBA teams at the draft combine, as Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald examines.
- Knicks president Phil Jackson expressed fond wishes for J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni (on Twitter), all conference finals participants whom the Knicks traded away this season, citing his desire for them to find their “comfort zones.” That led Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com to wonder why they couldn’t find comfort zones on Jackson’s Knicks.
The NBA draft is just one month from tonight. The lottery and the combine are finished, so team workouts will be the main focus from now until draft night. Now that we know where every team will pick, we debuted our mock draft this weekend, and we’re continuing with our Prospect Profile series. Here’s more on the draft as the event starts to get close:
- Louisville point guard Terry Rozier has made a habit of overcoming the odds, and he didn’t disappoint in his workout with the Jazz this weekend, according to Utah vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin, as Carter Williams of the Deseret News examines. The Jazz were one of 17 teams scheduled to audition Rozier, Williams writes, a group that apparently includes the Rockets and Spurs.
- Kevon Looney added the Nets, Wizards, Jazz, Suns, Bulls, Cavs, Raptors, Hawks and Knicks to the list of the teams he interviewed with at the draft combine earlier this month, as the UCLA power forward revealed to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. Looney is a raw prospect, but even though he feels he could have improved if he’d stayed in college, he tells Medina that he’s confident he can also develop at the NBA level.
- Connecticut point guard Ryan Boatright, LSU power forward Jordan Mickey, Texas combo forward Jonathan Holmes and Louisville swingman Wayne Blackshear are among the players tentatively scheduled to work out Friday for the Timberwolves, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link).
The Sixers hold the third overall pick in this year’s draft and the team will select the player that they believe will be the best player long-term rather than the player who’s more NBA ready now, Tom Moore of Calkins Media writes.
“We’ll spend all the available time between now and then to try to gain all the information we can to make good decisions,” GM Sam Hinkie said. “By design, we’ll have to make a decision at the end of June. I think it’s really a mistake to make one sometimes much, much earlier.”
Many executives believe the Sixers will take D’Angelo Russell, but selecting Emmanuel Mudiay remains a possibility due to his potential. Moore wonders what the team will do if either Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns fall to the third pick. He believes the team would keep Towns, but it would look to trade Okafor, potentially to the Knicks for their fourth overall pick and an additional asset. New York cannot trade a first round pick until 2018, but that might work for Hinkie, who appears to be one of the most patient executives in the league.
Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- Joseph Young will work out for the Nets, Robert Windrem of NetsDaily writes. Chad Ford of ESPN.com ranks the Oregon product as the 40th best prospect, while Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress ranks him as the 53rd. Brooklyn holds the No. 29 and No. 41 picks in this year’s draft.
- The Celtics need to improve their talents and cannot afford to pass on free agents this summer, Jackie MacMullan of the Boston Globe opines (Video link). MacMullan concedes that a top target, such as LaMarcus Aldridge, could be difficult to obtain, but even if that is the case, the team needs to add players from the next tier of free agents. She suggests Khris Middleton and Tobias Harris as potential targets. DeMarre Carroll could be another option, as Boston reportedly has interest in the forward. The Celtics have slightly more than $40.4MM in guaranteed salary on the books for the 2015/16 against a projected $67.1MM salary cap. The team could sign a few mid-tier free agents in order to improve on their 40-win campaign.
Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter has the potential to be a draft steal, writes Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders. Hunter is a two-time Player of the Year in the Sun Belt and played a key role in the upset of Baylor in the NCAA Tournament. He is currently ranked 21st by Chad Ford of ESPN.com and 24th by Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress. “Being a coach’s son and a captain alone is extra pressure,” Hunter said during the NBA Combine. “I had to learn how to react to coaching for me and my teammates. So I feel like I’m a good leader. I think I’m a proven leader.”
There’s more news as the NBA counts down to draft day:
- The top four teams in the draft have reached out to Emmanuel Mudiay, reports Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv. Zagoria notes that the Knicks are expecting Mudiay to be available with pick number four, but surprises could happen in the next month to shake up the draft. Zagoria says the Wolves could be willing to trade the number one pick and the Lakers aren’t committed to drafting Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor with the second pick.
- Frank Kaminsky is eyeing a new position when he transitions to the NBA, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders writes. “[I’m] turning myself into a four,” Kaminsky said. “In college, I played the five for so long. I know I can play the four. I just have to pick up the nuances. The NBA values big guys that can stretch the floor.”
Chris Crouse contributed to this post
Goran Dragic is a fan of coach Erik Spoelstra as well as team president Pat Riley, and the Heat’s status as the front-runner to keep him remains unchanged, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald hears. Jackson lists the Lakers, Knicks, Pelicans, Kings and Bucks as other teams that are expected to have interest in signing the guard.
Dragic has previously confirmed that he’ll turn down his $7.5MM player option. The Heat possess the guard’s Bird rights, meaning they can offer him a fifth year, which is reportedly something Dragic values highly. The 29-year-old has previously said the Heat meet all the criteria he’s looking for in a team from a basketball standpoint and he’s named Miami as his favorite U.S. city. Dragic wants the Heat to play much faster next season, but he’s been assured that’s a key part of Miami’s plan, a source tells Jackson.
Still, Dragic has reportedly viewed the Lakers as a “perfect fit,” so perhaps Los Angeles is Miami’s biggest threat to sign the winner of the NBA’s 2013/14 Most Improved Player award. The Knicks and Lakers, along with the Heat, were among Dragic’s preferred destinations prior to the deadline trade that sent him from Phoenix to Miami.
Last year was the worst season in franchise history and Bradford Doolittle of ESPN.com examines the Knicks’ options to improve their roster. Doolittle suggests the Knicks should target a top level free agent, such as Marc Gasol, Paul Millsap or Greg Monroe. If they are unable to land a top free agent, Doolittle suggests the team should attempt to re-sign Andrea Bargnani to a short-term contract or trade for David Lee, who is a systematic fit and has feel out of the rotation in Golden State. The Warriors already have slightly more than $77.6MM in guaranteed salary on the books for the 2015/16 season and the team will have to account for a possible maximum salary contract for Draymond Green if they want to keep the Michigan State product from leaving in free agency. Bringing Lee back to New York could be the kind of low risk-high reward transaction that could help the team quickly improve on their 17 win campaign.
Here’s more from New York:
- The Knicks’ brass are big fans of Justise Winslow, according to Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Ford ranks Winslow as the sixth best prospect, while Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress ranks him as the seventh best prospect.
- Ian Begley of ESPN.com believes the Knicks should consider Winslow because of his potential to make an impact on defense. New York ranked 28th in defensive efficiency last season. Begley also notes that drafting Winslow would force Carmelo Anthony to play more minutes at the four spot, which has benefited the team in the past.
- Emmanuel Mudiay is another possibility for the Knicks and Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal profiles the 19-year-old point guard. Herring notes that teams led by Phil Jackson have never invested heavily at the point guard position, but in today’s NBA, the position is more critical than in the past.
The next logical step in the Sixers‘ rebuilding plan would be to begin adding high-value free agents to the team’s cache of draft picks and role-players, but that phase could still be a ways off, Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Ford also opines that any expectation that Philly will contend for anything special in the next two seasons is probably overly optimistic. “There are things you can look at on our roster and assume to be solidified. Our overall roster churn in terms of minutes was much less this year than last year. Maybe it will be less next year as opposed to this year. We’re not really sure,” GM Sam Hinkie said.
Here’s more out of the NBA’s Atlantic Division:
- Hinkie also acknowledged the frustrations voiced by fans of the team as being justified, Ford adds. “Our fans ought to demand some change. They ought to demand that we be looking [around] and changing,” Hinkie said. “I don’t think the Warriors fans should demand a whole lot of change. I think people would be really upset if they changed the top set of those players. But I think we should always be looking. People tease us about the players who are here two weeks or a month, but then there’s Robert Covington who’s here all year . . . and is an NBA rotation player. If those players we bring in have a 25% chance of being a rotation player, you ought to expect it takes four of them to find one.”
- Numerous mock drafts, including my own, have the Knicks selecting Emmanuel Mudiay with the No. 4 overall pick, a development that would sit well with the young guard, Roderick Boone of Newsday writes. Speaking about playing alongside Carmelo Anthony, Mudiay said, “I would love to, but I don’t know where I’m going to end up. He’s a superstar in this league and somebody that knows the game in and out, so he would definitely give me some good advice if I was to go there.“
- The Nets are still waiting on Brook Lopez‘s decision regarding his player option worth $16,744,218 for next season. Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily took a look back at Lopez’s 2014/15 campaign where he averaged 17.2 points and 7.4 rebounds, and was the subject of numerous trade rumors.
The Lakers aren’t necessarily set on selecting a big man with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, which could potentially allow either Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor to slip to the Knicks, who pick fourth, Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com writes. This unlikely scenario would also depend on the Sixers selecting D’Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay, instead of adding another big to go alongside Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid, Begley adds.
Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- The Knicks could also look to select forward Kristaps Porzingis, whom ESPN’s Kevin Pelton believes is a better fit for the team than Mudiay, who many mock drafts have linked to New York, Begley adds. “Having succeeded against far tougher competition in Spain, [Porzingis] figures to have more immediate impact, and he’s only seven months older than Mudiay. Also, I have some concerns about how well Mudiay — a poor shooter whose best attribute will probably be running the pick-and-roll — will fit in the triangle offense. There’s flexibility there, but a pick-and-roll-heavy style isn’t what [team president] Phil Jackson and [coach] Derek Fisher ideally want to play. I would take Porzingis,” Pelton opines.
- The Sixers are comfortable with having the No. 3 overall pick, and believe that they can land an impact player, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “If you look at [GM] Sam Hinkie‘s draft record, you have to feel pretty good,” said Philly’s CEO Scott O’Neil. “You look at guys around the league who were drafted around there. We’ve got [Embiid] coming back. We’ve got a really improved Noel. Next year, we’ve got four first-round picks and [Dario] Saric. So you’ve got a pretty exciting story here.” Speaking of Hinkie’s draft record, you can see a full rundown of all of his past selections here.
- Despite all of the mock drafts predicting that the Sixers will select Russell, Hinkie said the team hasn’t targeted any specific player yet, Pompey notes. “I think it’s too early now,” Hinkie said. “This time of year, everyone gets away to what one mock draft or another says. And other times, that doesn’t appear to be true very much. Let’s sort of see how things go.”
The benefits to this summer’s max-level free agents of signing a short-term deal to re-enter free agency when the cap surges in the next couple of years outweigh the risks, argues Louis Roxin of RealGM. A couple of executives who spoke to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders take the opposite viewpoint, arguing that the specter of a decline in production, a major injury, or both make it too difficult to pass up a four- or five-year deal (Twitter links). Of course, team executives probably want to avoid paying a premium if they can avoid it, but how it all plays out this summer will be fascinating to watch. Here’s more from around the league:
- Clippers reserve Dahntay Jones insists there’s no rift between DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul, as had been reported, telling TMZ that everyone on the team is united in their desire for Jordan to re-sign in free agency this summer. “Those guys are brothers, man,” Jones said of Jordan and Paul. “They sit with each other on the plane, on the bus. If you don’t like a guy you stay away from him.”
- The Bulls front office was miffed when Tom Thibodeau left his last contract extension unsigned for months and think he hasn’t given them enough credit for building the roster, while some in the organization feel the coach wants more power, as Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com hears. Friedell provides a timeline of the breakdown in the relationship between the coach and the Chicago brass.
- The Nets have the highest 2014/15 payroll, but their paltry $351K in money to the waived Brandon Davies pales in comparison to the $24.8MM the crosstown Knicks spent on six players no longer on the roster, including Amar’e Stoudemire, as Pincus examines.