Central Notes: Smith, Kaun, Bucks

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.

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