Suns GM Ryan McDonough believes there is quite a talent dropoff in this year’s NBA Draft after the team’s pick at No. 13 overall, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic writes. Phoenix hasn’t targeted a specific player, and if it retains the pick, will likely target the best player available, Coro adds. “As a non-playoff team, I think you need help everywhere,” McDonough said. “So we’ll take the best player, even if that goes against what some people think we should do in terms of conventional wisdom. I think, unless you’re a championship-level team, you always take the best available player. Our philosophy is if he’s better than the guys who are on your current roster, maybe he beats him out and you move one of the guys on your current roster. I think some mistakes, in the history of the draft, are made drafting for saying, ‘Oh, we need this. Let’s do the best player who does whatever.’ When you draft that guy, you tend to reach sometimes.”
Here’s the latest from the NBA’s Pacific Division:
- McDonough also indicated that the Suns may be more willing to deal away their first round pick than in years past, Coro adds. “At some point, there is a saturation point for young players as you try to put together a team that is capable of competing and making the playoffs in the Western Conference,” McDonough said. “I think it [trading the pick] is something we’re more open to than in the past but, at the same time, we like the players that we think will be there at 13.“
- In an radio appearance with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd (hat tip to Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel), Jared Dudley spoke about NBA free agents not wanting to play with the Lakers‘ Kobe Bryant. Dudley said, “Most guys don’t want to play with Kobe. He gets in this thing where he doesn’t pass and then overpasses and then tries to get triple-doubles every night. …. That’s why I think it will be a while for the Lakers to get good because they’ve got no stars. I would be surprised if Kevin Love goes there.”
- Former Minnesota guard Andre Hollins has a workout scheduled with the Clippers, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.
- The Kings have workouts scheduled for Friday with Corey Hawkins, Mikh McKinney, Shaquielle McKissic, Alan Williams, Charles Jackson, and Will Davis II, the team announced.
The Magic, Kings and Celtics are interested in soon-to-be free agent Kosta Koufos, sources tell Aris Barkas of Eurohoops.net. The Grizzlies would like to keep the Ohio native who also has Greek nationality, though that will have much to do with Memphis’ pursuit of a new deal with Marc Gasol, Barkas hears. The Grizzlies are aware of the desire Koufos has to play a starting role, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com recently wrote, and such a gig wouldn’t be open to Koufos in Memphis if Gasol re-signs.
The interest from Sacramento and Boston dates back to earlier this season, when Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com identified the Kings as among the teams that had called Memphis about trading for the former 23rd overall pick. The Celtics were also one of many who made Koufos trade proposals to the Grizzlies, according to Stein. Orlando is the apparent newcomer among the suitors, but the presence of center Nikola Vucevic, whose incentive-laden, four-year, $48MM extension kicks in next season, would seemingly make the Magic an odd choice for Koufos. Vucevic played occasionally at power forward in the past, as Basketball-Reference shows, but it would nonetheless be a difficult fit if Koufos is to see starter’s minutes. Cousins has played exclusively at center in the NBA, but his athleticism makes him a candidate to see time at power forward if the Kings land Koufos. The Celtics have Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, among others, jockeying for time on the interior, but Koufos would have as clear a shot at a starting job in Boston as he would anywhere.
The Kings, Celtics and Magic all have the capacity to open enough cap room to give the Mark Termini client a significant raise on this season’s $3MM salary. Sacramento, with about $53MM in commitments, has the least amount of flexibility, but even that provides ample breathing room against a projected $67.1MM cap. The Grizzlies have Koufos’ Bird Rights and can spread their financial offer to the 26-year-old over five years, an advantage other teams don’t have, though just how much of an edge that would really give Memphis remains to be seen.
It’s widely assumed that the Nets will look into trading Joe Johnson and Jarrett Jack as cost-cutting alternatives to using the stretch provision to waive Deron Williams, write Marc Stein and Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com. Trade talk has swirled around Johnson off and on since December, while the Nets likely would have dealt Jack to the Wizards if they’d closed a deal on a proposal to send Brook Lopez to the Thunder, as TNT’s David Aldridge reported in the wake of the deadline. Johnson has a whopper of an expiring contract that calls for a salary of nearly $24.895MM in 2015/16, while Jack is due $6.3MM next season with a partial guarantee of just $500K on the same amount in 2016/17. Stein and Mazzeo have more on the Nets, and while the full piece is a must-read for Brooklyn diehards, we’ll pass along a few highlights here:
- Some executives from opposing teams figure the Nets will explore the trade market for Mason Plumlee, too, Stein and Mazzeo hear. The Nets were reportedly unwilling to give up Plumlee in a proposal that would have sent Williams to the Kings in December, though GM Billy King said this month that the Nets looked into the idea of trading every player on the roster at some point this past season. Plumlee’s role on the team decreased after the acquisition of Thaddeus Young and the resurgence of Lopez.
- People around the league continue to doubt the idea that Mikhail Prokhorov doesn’t want to sell a majority stake in the Nets, according to Stein and Mazzeo. Josh Kosman and Claire Atkinson of the New York Post reported in March that Prokhorov had ended efforts to do so while Prokhorov said the next month that he had never tried. Stein and Mazzeo cite “persistent rumbles” around the league that the reason Prokhorov isn’t actively trying to sell the team is that he would also have to sell his share of the Barclays Center as part of the deal, a detail that Daniel Kaplan and John Lombardo of SportsBusiness Journal reported in February. However, a sports banker who spoke with Kosman and Atkinson disputed that there was any such mandate that Prokhorov would have had to bundle the team and the arena.
- Stein and Mazzeo figure the Nets will indeed consider waiving and stretching Williams, yet they believe Brooklyn will ultimately decide against doing so.
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.
The Lakers will look at D’Angelo Russell for the No. 2 overall pick, but preliminary indications are that they’ll take either Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns, depending on which one of those two is left after the Timberwolves pick, as Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times hears. Trading the pick is also an option, GM Mitch Kupchak says, as Sean Deveney of The Sporting News tweets. In any case, the choices at No. 2 are a bit better than the Lakers would have had if the lottery had gone according to form and the team had ended up with the fourth pick. Here’s more from around the Pacific Division:
- Kings president of basketball and franchise operations Vlade Divac said his team should be open to trading its draft pick, but in comments that Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee relays, he distanced himself from the mechanics of any such move. “I’m leaving that to my basketball people,” Divac said. It’s an odd statement from the team’s top basketball executive. In any case, Chad Ford of ESPN.com identified the Kings, who pick sixth, among the teams most likely to trade their top-10 pick, along with the Magic, Pistons, Heat and Hornets, as Ford wrote in a chat with readers.
- The Kings and the Pacers are the teams with the most interest in Willie Cauley-Stein, Ford adds in the same piece.
- Andrew Bogut is a fan of the way Steve Kerr handles his assistant coaches, as the big man tells Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group a year after assistant coaches were squarely in the spotlight for Golden State. The departures of assistants Brian Scalabrine and Darren Erman from the Warriors bench last year were symbolic of the tumult near the end of Mark Jackson‘s time as Warriors coach. “In their own way, they all have free reign,” Bogut said of Kerr’s staff. “You see them talk to the media, which is something that wasn’t happening with us the last couple of years. There’s no agendas where a coach thinks, ‘Oh, he’s doing extra workouts with this guy, he’s trying to take my job, or vice-versa, or he’s trying to get himself a head-coaching job.’ We don’t have any of that. We have guys that say something when they need to say something and to be professional throughout.”
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.
The Lakers landing the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft lottery could spell the end for center Jordan Hill in Los Angeles, Eric Pincus of The Los Angeles Times writes. With the Lakers expected to select either Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor, coupled with Hill’s team option for 2015/16 worth $9MM, the franchise could find the veteran big man expendable, especially if it wishes to land a max level free agent this offseason, Pincus adds. The 27-year-old appeared in 70 games this past season, averaging 12.0 points and 7.9 rebounds in 26.8 minutes per contest.
Here’s more out of the Pacific Division:
- Despite the Kings not moving up in the draft lottery, team executive Vlade Divac believes the team can turn the No. 6 overall pick into an asset, Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee writes. “We have some options,” Divac said. “I think this class of rookies are very strong. We should be able to get someone who can help us next year.” This could also include the team dealing the pick, Jones adds. “I think we should be very open,” Divac said regarding a potential trade. “Our goal is we want to improve next year. We want to be much, much better.”
- Warriors coach Steve Kerr downplayed his role in the team winning a franchise best 67 games, and said that he simply joined the organization at the best possible time, Brian T. Smith of The Houston Chronicle writes. “I can’t say I expected it but I knew it was a possibility,” said Kerr, referring to the team’s success this season. “It was one of the reasons I took the job. The team has great talent; they were on the rise already. And I felt like we could make improvement and that we would be right in the thick of it in the West. … I probably took over the team at the ideal time. They were good but very hungry.”
- The Lakers securing the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft has made the franchise much more attractive to free agents who are on the market this summer, writes Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. “I think it is something that helps out their sales pitch in a big, big way,” one agent told Deveney. “The past couple of years, their pitch has sort of been, ‘Come play for us because we’re the Lakers and the weather is nice.’ That’s not enough. You’ve seen that. They have not had a direction, and that’s why players don’t want to go there.”
The Kings have been searching for players who can score from the perimeter in the last few drafts but haven’t struck gold yet, Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee writes. However, Sacramento isn’t a few more made three-pointers away from being a contender, and the franchise should focus on adding a playmaker rather than a simple scorer in this year’s draft, Jones opines. “I think they’ve got to be careful,” ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said. “They’re in that range where they don’t want to reach and take a guy with maybe top-15 talent just because it’s a need. My suggestion to the Kings would be take the best available player and hope that guy is a shooter.”
Here’s the latest out of the Pacific Division:
- Warriors‘ forward Draymond Green admitted that his pending restricted free agency this summer caused him to press at the beginning of the season, Jessica Camerato of Basketball Insiders relays. “A part of that was I was coming into a contract situation. It’s normal for that to be on your mind,” Green said. “Steve [Kerr] and [Alvin] Gentry sat me down and they said listen, ‘We know the situation you’re in. We know you’re in a contract year, and you better believe we’re going to do everything we can to help you in your contract year.’ Coach Kerr said, ‘I’ve played in this league 15 years, I’ve been a GM, I understand all that stuff.’ That kind of helped me settle down. It was like, alright don’t go out there worrying about that. It’s the completely wrong thing to be worried about.”
- Their salary cap situation will make it difficult for the Clippers to make roster improvements this offseason, Dan Woike of The Orange County Register writes. Los Angeles has $58,125,748 in guaranteed salary already on the books for next season.
- Kings president of basketball and franchise operations Vlade Divac further stamped out DeMarcus Cousins trade rumors today, calling him “untradeable” and someone he wants to build around in an appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio (Twitter link). Divac made it clear last month that he intends to keep Cousins in Sacramento for the long term, and the newly minted exec is reportedly in awe of the big man’s talent.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
If coach Tom Thibodeau is let go by the Bulls, the Magic would be willing to pay Thibodeau anywhere from $7MM to $9MM annually, reports The Journal Times’ Gery Woelfel, who cited two league sources. The Magic have not started formal interviews yet for their coaching vacancy. Woelfel reported earlier this month that the Magic’s top choice is seemingly Thibodeau. Thibodeau, 57, has led the Bulls to five straight playoff appearances. He has two years left on his contract with the team. Despite that, it’s nearly a foregone conclusion that Thibodeau will be coaching elsewhere because of a strained relationship with Chicago’s management. The Pelicans have been rumored as a favorite to land Thibodeau’s services, should he be let go by the Bulls.
Here’s more from around the basketball world:
- Speaking of the Bulls, they are counting on the backcourt duo of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler to lead them toward another playoff run next season, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes. This summer will mark Rose’s first offseason in which he’s not rehabilitating or preparing to return from a knee injury since 2011 and the star guard is under contract for two more seasons, as Johnson notes. The Bulls will offer Butler, who will be a restricted free agent, a maximum contract this offseason, Johnson adds.
- One NBA general manager told The Journal Times’ Gery Woelfel that Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky could go as high as six in the draft. Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress ranks Kaminsky No. 10, but he is the No. 14 overall player according to Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required).
- NBA executives were left impressed with Boston College guard Olivier Hanlan following interviews with the draft prospect, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports tweets.
- Kings coach George Karl is likely to add Nets assistant John Welch to his coaching staff, Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com tweets. Welch was on Karl’s staff with the Nuggets, and he specialized in player development.
Doc Rivers, the Clippers‘ coach and president of basketball operations, said re-signing DeAndre Jordan is the Clippers’ top offseason priority, tweets Dan Woike of the Orange County Register. The most obvious question mark for the Clippers heading into the summer is if they can re-sign Jordan, who will be an unrestricted free agent coming off a big season, but besides that, the Clippers’ biggest need is depth, Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com writes (Insider subscription required). Many, including Grantland’s Zach Lowe (on Twitter), attribute the Clippers’ collapse in the playoffs to their lack of depth. In an ideal world, from the Clippers’ perspective and according to Pelton, the Clippers would re-sign Jordan and bring back Mo Williams with the taxpayer mid-level exception. Williams will hit free agency again this summer after playing well with the Hornets.
Here’s more from the Pacific division:
- As far as probable starting big men go, the Suns only have two under contract for next season — Alex Len and Markieff Morris — so it makes sense for Phoenix to draft a player with good size with its pick in the first round, Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic writes. The Suns have a 96% chance of landing the No. 13 pick after Tuesday’s draft lottery, as Hoops Rumors’ odds page points out and as Coro notes. Coro lists Kentucky power forward Trey Lyles, Texas power forward/center Myles Turner, Arkansas power forward Bobby Portis and Wisconsin power forward Frank Kaminsky as possible targets that are projected to be available.Coro recently wrote in a seperate story that the Suns will consider taking Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker and Kaminsky.
- Quinn Cook, who played four seasons at guard for Duke, will work out for the Suns, tweets Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Cook is ranked No. 60 by Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress and is at No. 61, according to Chad Ford’s ESPN.com rankings.
- Vlade Divac, the Kings’ vice president of basketball and franchise operations, realizes there’s a lot of pressure on making Sacramento relevant again, but he has picked the brains of some top executives in the league and believes establishing team chemistry is the first goal, Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee writes. “This year, we have to make sure there’s stability, we have a goal, and create a good environment for them to have fun and go out there and play, because you see the talent we have,” Divac said. “It’s one or two steps from being competitive, and we want to make sure we make those one or two steps this summer.” The Kings are projected to pick sixth in the draft, pending the results of Tuesday’s lottery, and could move into the top three or fall as low as ninth, as Jones notes.