With the 2013 NBA draft just eight days away, various outlets continue to update their mock drafts, with Chris Mannix of SI.com and Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com the latest experts to provide new versions of their respective mocks. Mannix and Givony actually agree on the top four - Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Otto Porter, and Alex Len, respectively - but starting at No. 5, their first rounds diverge significantly. Here are more of today's draft-related updates:
- Mannix's latest mock draft includes a number of interesting tidbits, including word that the Cavaliers continue to shop the first overall pick, but "have completely overvalued it," according to one executive.
- We already passed along one notable update from Chad Ford's latest chat at ESPN.com, but the entire chat was full of interesting answers, as Ford addressed nearly every first-round pick.
- C.J. McCollum and Michael Carter-Williams worked out with the Pistons today, tweets Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News.
- If Carter-Williams falls to No. 12, he'd be an ideal fit for the Thunder, says David Thorpe of ESPN.com (Insider-only link).
- The Trail Blazers worked out Mason Plumlee, Archie Goodwin, Myck Kabongo, Phil Pressey, E.J. Singler, and Dewayne Dedmon today, according to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com (Twitter link).
- The Grizzlies, who hold three second-round picks, will work out Erick Green, Elias Harris, Brandon Davies, Jason Jones, D.J. Stephens, and Mareks Mejeris tomorrow, the team announced in a release.
- James Ennis was among the players who worked out for the Clippers today, according to the team's official site.
- LaMarcus Aldridge ($14,628,000)
- Nicolas Batum ($11,295,250)
- Wesley Matthews ($6,875,480)
- Damian Lillard ($3,202,920)
- Joel Freeland ($2,897,976)
- Meyers Leonard ($2,222,160)
- Victor Claver ($1,330,000)
- Will Barton ($788,872)
Free Agents / Cap Holds
- J.J. Hickson ($7,600,000)
- Eric Maynor ($5,846,803)2
- Luke Babbitt ($2,902,758)
- Elliot Williams ($2,373,538)
- No. 10 pick ($1,930,600)
- Nolan Smith ($1,424,520)
- 1st Round (10th overall)
- 2nd Round (39th overall)
- 2nd Round (40th overall)
- 2nd Round (45th overall)
- Guaranteed Salary: $43,240,658
- Options: $0
- Non-Guaranteed Salary: $1,399,507
- Cap Holds: $22,078,219
- Total: $66,718,384
If you were simply perusing the NBA's regular-season standings, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Trail Blazers took a step back this past season. After all, Portland's 33-49 record (.402) was the franchise's worst mark in seven years, and the club took a nosedive at the end of the season, losing its final 13 games.
But consider how the Blazers' roster looks now compared to how it looked after the lockout. The 2011/12 season opened with Nate McMillan on Portland's bench, coaching a veteran-heavy team that included Raymond Felton, Marcus Camby, and Gerald Wallace, among others. Since then, Portland has jettisoned its overpriced veterans, added 2012/13's Rookie of the Year (Damian Lillard), locked up a promising young swingman (Nicolas Batum), and built around a big man who receives perennial All-Star consideration (LaMarcus Aldridge).
In addition to Lillard, Batum, and Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Meyers Leonard look like keepers, and give the Blazers a solid core at positions one through five. But while that five-man unit represents a nice start for Portland, the team's weakness in '12/13 wasn't its starting lineup -- it was its bench. With J.J. Hickson starting in Leonard's place, the Blazers' bench was made up primarily of NBA rookies (Leonard, Joel Freeland, Victor Claver, and Will Barton) and unproductive players on rookie deals (Nolan Smith and Luke Babbitt).
The bench figures to be GM Neil Olshey's primary area of concern this offseason, as he enters the summer armed with the 10th overall pick and over $10MM in cap space. Olshey has talked multiple times about making the roster deeper and more flexible, so it's unlikely he'll put all his cap room toward a single player, though a big man like Nikola Pekovic could make a nice target. The more likely scenario involves dividing that cap space and using it on multiple mid-level type players to give the team some productive bench players while its young players continue to develop.
Although a number of mock drafts have the Blazers taking a big man like Steven Adams, I'd be a little surprised if the club targeted a center with the No. 10 pick, considering Leonard remains a work in progress in the middle. Pairing Leonard with another rookie makes less sense to me than having him team up with a veteran who can help him develop. Hickson saw plenty of minutes at the five a year ago, but Portland figures to target a more traditional center rather than playing a power forward out of position again. Chris Kaman looks to me like a good fit, and Jermaine O'Neal has indicated he'd have interest in returning to the Blazers.
Assuming the Blazers don't target size in the draft, a shooter such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or C.J. McCollum would be ideal, as ESPN.com's Chad Ford suggests in his latest mock draft. It's also worth noting that Portland controls three second-round picks, at 39th, 40th, and 45th overall. After incorporating so many rookies a year ago, the Blazers will prefer to add veterans this year, so I'd be surprised if more than one of those second-round picks ends up on the roster next season. It's more likely that the Blazers will use those picks to either facilitate trades or to stash international players overseas.
A backup point guard behind Lillard also figures to be a priority, and the Blazers will have the option of extending a qualifying offer to Eric Maynor, who was acquired from the Thunder in a deadline deal. Given Maynor's performance and injury woes over the last couple seasons, his stock isn't exactly sky-high at the moment, so Portland may decide to pass on the QO and consider him along with a handful of other unrestricted free agents. Mo Williams, Devin Harris, D.J. Augustin, and Will Bynum are among the guys who also could be in the Blazers' price range.
A year ago, the Blazers attempted to make a huge splash by signing Roy Hibbert to a four-year max offer sheet, but they were thwarted by the Pacers, who matched the offer. Hibbert would have provided exactly the sort of rim protection Portland lacked in 2012/13, and it will be interesting to see how the team addresses that issue this summer. Of the top free agent centers, Dwight Howard isn't coming to Portland, Pekovic and Al Jefferson don't offer a whole lot in the way of rim protection, and a pursuit of the injury-plagued Andrew Bynum may cause a riot in Portland. As such, I think we're unlikely to see the Blazers make any huge bids on free agents like they did with Hibbert.
For Portland, this figures to be a summer of filling in a number of holes without spending exorbitantly on any one spot. With all their core players locked up through at least 2015, the Blazers have to focus on adding the right complementary pieces if they want to become a playoff team in the West. The success they have in finding those players may determine how long Aldridge remains in Portland -- if the Blazers undergo another losing season in 2013/14, it will likely only be a matter of time before trade rumors start swirling.
- I focused more on free agent targets than trade targets for the Blazers, but trades are very much in play for Olshey. One asset to consider when Portland eyes a potential deal is Kostas Papanikolaou, whose agent expects the Blazers to move his client at some point.
- The Blazers will continue to pay the amnestied Brandon Roy his salary through 2014/15. Assuming Roy doesn't sign elsewhere for the '13/14 season, which looks like a safe bet, he'll receive a $17.89MM salary from Portland.
- Pavlovic's contract is fully non-guaranteed. It becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before January 7th, 2014.
- Maynor will be eligible for a qualifying offer of $3,351,387.
Storytellers Contracts and Sham Sports were used in the creation of this post.
Up to this point, we've heard that the Cavaliers are weighing a number of options for their first overall pick. Assuming they don't trade the pick, it's possible the Cavs could select Nerlens Noel, Otto Porter, Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo, Alex Len, or Anthony Bennett. Previous reports have suggested Cleveland isn't tipping its hand, but Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans Times-Picayune is hearing that Len appears to be the frontrunner for that No. 1 spot (Twitter link)
As we wait to see whether Smith is right, or whether the Cavs' top choice turns out to be someone else 10 days from now, let's round up a few draft items....
- Gorgui Dieng and Nate Wolters are among the prospects scheduled to work out with the Knicks tomorrow, according to the team's PR Twitter account.
- Wolters is also among the six prospects working out for the Bucks today, per Milwaukee's PR department (Twitter link).
- Archie Goodwin has workouts lined up with three Western teams, according to Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv (via Twitter): The Jazz, Kings, and Trail Blazers.
- With three second-round picks in hand, the Blazers brought in a handful of potential targets for those picks today, as Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com tweets.
- The Wizards will work out a number of international prospects later this week, writes J. Michael of CSNWashington.com.
- Joel Brigham of HoopsWorld identifies a few of the players he thinks will be steals in this year's draft.
With the 2013 draft less than two weeks away, the majority of the NBA's teams are continuing to bring in prospects to get a closer look at them. Here are the latest updates on draft workouts:
- In addition to Michael Carter-Williams, who we heard about yesterday, Trey Burke and Alex Len also participated in the Pelicans' first draft workout today, tweets Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com.
- The Pistons won't start working out players for the No. 8 pick until next week, according to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, who tweets that Mason Plumlee will work out for the club next Friday.
- The six players scheduled to work out for the Nets on Monday include C.J. Leslie and Tony Mitchell, according to a team release.
- Ray McCallum, Brandon Paul, Tony Snell, Nate Wolters, Jack Cooley, and Zeke Marshall worked out for the Trail Blazers today, according to Joe Freeman of the Oregonian (Twitter link).
- The Timberwolves will work out six players on Sunday, according to the team's PR Twitter account: Shabazz Muhammad, Archie Goodwin, Rodney Williams, James Ennis, Kyle Barone, and Jamelle Hagins (Twitter links).
- Brandon Davies, Mike Muscala, Elijah Johnson, B.J. Young, Grant Jerrett, and Colton Iverson worked out for the Clippers today, tweets Clips reporter Madelyn Burke.
- Jerrett and Davies are also among the players who will work out for the Jazz tomorrow, along with Snell, Gorgui Dieng, Jamaal Franklin, Isaiah Canaan, and Kelly Olynyk, among others (link via Utah's official site).
A few notes regarding draft prospects and the various teams they're meeting with throughout the league.
- Maryland center Alex Len reportedly worked out with the Trail Blazers last week, reports OregonLive.com's Sean Meagher. Standing seven feet tall, Len would provide Portland with stabilizing rim protection, something they sorely lacked last season.
- The Nets worked out several wing players who've shined at making plays off the dribble, including Reggie Bullock, Tony Snell, and Archie Goodwin, according to the New York Post's Fred Kerber.
- The Hawks are set to work out St. Joseph's C.J. Aiken, a 6'9" forward who's already worked out for several NBA teams and is projected to go undrafted, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Tyler Tynes.
- According to an official release from the team, the Pacers will hold a work out for Iowa State's Will Clyburn, Virginia Commonwealth's Troy Daniels, North Carolina State's C.J. Leslie, Missouri's Alex Oriakhi, Syracuse's James Southerland, and Ohio State's DeShaun Thomas.
- The Bucks will work out Tony Mitchell, James Ennis, Solomon Hill, Adonis Thomas, Trey McKinney Jones, and Steven Pledger, according to a tweet from the team's PR account.
- The Timberwolves are scheduled to work out six players on Thursday, according to a tweet from the team's PR account.
The Spurs blew out the Heat tonight, behind 51 combined points from Danny Green and Gary Neal. Though Green and Neal are American-born success stories, many of the Spurs' accomplishments have been built around players from overseas, as Seth Wickersham of ESPN The Magazine examines. Foreign players are "fundamentally harder working than most American kids," Gregg Popovich says. GM R.C. Buford is similarly high on imports, as no team in the league has more players from outside the U.S. than the Spurs do. We'll see if San Antonio's global approach sparks copycats in the years to come, but in the meantime, here's the night's news from the Association:
- The Nets, reportedly deciding between Brian Shaw and Jason Kidd for their next coach, want to make their choice by the end of the week, writes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. The Nets can give Shaw, also in the hunt for the Clippers job, the more lucrative offer, Bondy adds, speculating that Shaw's interview may be little more than a courtesy, given how high Brooklyn is on Kidd.
- Timberwolves president Flip Saunders had to cut short his meeting with Nikola Pekovic in Italy this past weekend, but the team still "badly" wants to re-sign their restricted free agent center, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
- Shabazz Muhammad will work out for the Blazers, The Oregonian's Mike Tokito notes via Twitter.
- Peyton Siva highlights a group of second-round hopefuls set to work out Thursday for the Grizzlies, reports Chris Vernon of 92.9 FM ESPN in Memphis (Twitter link). Julian Gamble, Jason Jones, Murphy Holloway, Jordan Aboudou and Romero Osby will also participate.
Chad Ford of ESPN.com delivered enough draft rumors for their own post this afternoon, and we rounded up more draft-related news in another post this morning. It's not hard to tell that the big event takes place just two weeks and two days from now. Here are tonight's updates, via Twitter unless otherwise noted:
- In spite of rumors that the Cavaliers probably won't draft him first overall, Nerlens Noel will visit with Cleveland on June 20th, following Saturday's meeting with the Wizards, The Plain Dealer's Mary Schmitt Boyer reports.
- Tony Snell's stock is on the rise, and two executives have told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports that the New Mexico swingman has solidified a spot in the first round.
- Kelly Olynyk is the most prominent name among a group of six prospects working out for the Blazers today, as Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com passes along. John Allen, Chris Babb, Erik Murphy, D.J. Stephens and Khalif Wyatt were the others in attendance.
- The Timberwolves will turn their focus to big men Thursday, when Steven Adams, Rudy Gobert and Mike Muscala will participate in a group workout for the team, observes Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune. Cody Zeller will be in Minnesota the same day, but he'll work out separately.
- C.J. McCollum will participate in a workout Wednesday for the Jazz that will also include Scott Bamforth from nearby Weber State, notes Jody Genessy of the Deseret News.
- Jared Berggren has shown off his skills in front of the Blazers and Suns, and the Wisconsin power forward will get to do so for the Bucks, likely on Thursday, according to Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times.
- Mason Plumlee is the headliner in a Wizards audition set for Wednesday, the team announced via press release. Karron Johnson, Bruce Massey, Brock Motum, Dexter Strickland and Kellen Thornton will join him.
Here's a look at the latest draft news as we close in on June 27th..
- The Trail Blazers took a gamble on a mid-major guard last season when they drafted Damian Lillard and Joe Freeman of The Oregonian wonders if they might do the same in 2013 with Lehigh's C.J. McCollum. Portland, who owns the No. 10 pick, worked McCollum out earlier today.
- On paper, Shabazz Muhammad is just the type of player that the Kings need, but the outside issues could dissuade them from taking him at No. 7, writes Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee.
- Today's Suns draft workout featured North Texas small forward Tony Mitchell, Duke center Mason Plumlee, Murray State point guard Isaiah Canaan, USC center DeWayne Dedmon, Delaware power forward Jamelle Hagins, and Temple shooting guard Khalif Wyatt, tweets Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic.
- The Nets released the workout lineup for their workouts on Tuesday and Wednesday. Jeff Withey of Kansas, Ray McCallum of Detroit, and Vincent Council of Providence are among the players who will audition in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
What does a guy have to do to keep his job in Denver? After being named the NBA's Coach of the Year, George Karl was dismissed from the Nuggets and left to find a place for himself on this offseason's coaching carousel. The move did not go without criticism from fans and people inside basketball, and Nugs president Josh Kroenke addressed the media today to explain his decision. Here's highlights from that and more out of the Northwest Division..
- Kroneke had to decide between giving Karl the extension he was seeking or letting him go, and he told reporters, including Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post, that there was only one way to go. "We talked about our future, we talked about our different desires for the organization," said Kroenke. "We both sat down and tried to figure out the best ways for both of us moving forward. My worst-case scenario that I kept coming back to was we're obviously going to start next season without (injured forward Danilo) Gallinari, and it would be a tough situation to put George in knowing that he might want to restructure his contract already."
- The Nuggets president added that he doesn't have a timetable for replacing Karl or outgoing General Manager Masai Ujiri, Dempsey writes.
- Dwight Howard might be the big name in free agency, but a number of teams would love to get their hands on Wolves standout Nikola Pekovic, writes Bill Ingram of HoopsWorld. While retaining Pekovic and having a healthy club in 2013/14 should go a long way for Minnesota, they would like to accomplish much more this summer.
- Cody Zeller told Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com (via Twitter) that it was his agent's idea to work out individually for clubs. The Indiana product auditioned for the Blazers earlier today.
- Earlier tonight, we learned that Kevin Durant has opted to change agencies and is expected to join Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports.
Yesterday, ESPN.com's Chad Ford reported that Croatian forward Dario Saric was leaning toward withdrawing from this year's draft, a surprising stance given how much his stock has risen in recent weeks. Today, Michael McNamara of Bourbon Street Blues passes along an email he received from Saric's agent, Robert Jablan, which reads:
"We make decision this morning that we will withdraw Dario from the 2013 draft."
We have yet to hear officially that Saric has pulled his name out of this year's draft class, and it's possible something was lost in translation. But it certainly appears as if Saric is leaning in that direction. He still has 10 days to make a final decision, so while we wait for the official word on the potential lottery pick, let's check out a few more draft-related updates:
- Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio reports that the Cavaliers are "seriously dissecting" the possibility of drafting Ben McLemore first overall, though he cautions that the team is far from decided on what it'll do with the pick (Twitter links). I'd be surprised if Cleveland eventually decided on McLemore -- it sounds to me as if the team is just covering all its bases.
- The latest Insider-only blog from Ford at ESPN.com is full of good info, including updates on Saric, Nerlens Noel, Trey Burke, and a handful of other prospects.
- Anthony Bennett is unable to work out due to a rotator cuff injury, but he will meet with the Wizards next week, writes J. Michael of CSNWashington.com.
- Lorenzo Brown, Myck Kabongo, Allen Crabbe, Jeff Withey, and Mike Muscala will work out for the Knicks on Monday, according to the team's official PR Twitter feed.
- The Suns' workout today included C.J. Leslie, Matthew Dellavedova, Ian Hummer, Korie Lucious, Rodney McGruder, and Phil Pressey, says Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic (via Twitter).
- Michael Carter-Williams intends to visit the Magic soon for a meeting and workout, tweets Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.
- Larry Drew II, E.J. Singler, Ian Clark, Ed Daniel, Trevor Mbakwe and Glen Rice Jr. worked out for the Trail Blazers today, according to a tweet from Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com, who also reports that Cody Zeller is having an individual workout with Portland today.