Tag:Draft Buzz 2010
Posted on: June 23, 2010 10:27 pm

Draft Buzz

Two days ago, New Orleans GM Jeff Bower’s phone was blowing up. But one rival GM suggested the breakdown of the call volume probably went something like this: 300 calls about the No. 11 pick in Thursday’s draft and one call about Chris Paul. Then, as often is the case at the height of the NBA’s essentially year-round silly season, the CP3 hit the fan.

Paul’s comments Tuesday that he’d be open to a trade if the Hornets weren’t committed to winning a championship sparked a flurry of speculation surrounding the All-Star point guard. So much so that owner-for-now George Shinn issued a statement that was 99 percent “we’re building around Paul” and 1 percent “never-say-never.” So the speculation continues.

Chances are, it’s all an overreaction. But given the uncertainty about the ownership transfer from Shinn to Gary Chouest – not to mention the fact that the Hornets are little more than an overpaid lottery team – and you have executives around the league eagerly throwing every conceivable offer for Paul against the wall in Bower’s office to see if one of them sticks.

“I call it the blink factor,” one GM said. “You want to see if they blink.”

Regardless of New Orleans’ intentions to keep Paul, the Hornets are facing what one exec termed a “serious” crossroads.

“No matter what,” the executive said, “they’re not going to pay [luxury] tax to win 30 games again. The 11th pick not going to change that.”

Short of trading Paul, one possible solution to solving the Hornets’ tax problem would be dealing David West. But a salary dump like that would only set off more alarm bells and accelerate Paul’s pursuit of a trade to a championship contender. With the understanding that I’m glad these are Bower’s problems and not mine, here’s the rest of the pre-draft buzz with less than 24 hours to go:

• League sources indicate that the first five picks Thursday night will go like this, with one caveat that I’ll explain: 1. Wizards, John Wall; 2. Sixers, Evan Turner; 3. Nets, Derrick Favors; 4. Timberwolves, Wesley Johnson; 5. Kings, DeMarcus Cousins. The caveat goes with picks 3-4. Rival executives are extremely dubious of all the noise about New Jersey taking Johnson over Favors, and they smell what I smell: a trade. Minnesota GM David Kahn already has telegraphed his intention to select Johnson. For Nets president Rod Thorn to immediately start beating the same drum smacks of a leverage play against Kahn. The Nets would agree to select Johnson for the T-Wolves with the third pick as part of a trade that would swap the rights to the third and fourth while giving the Nets one of Minnesota’s three picks in the 20s for their trouble. The Nets get Favors, whom they really covet, and pay him less money as the fourth pick. Everybody wins. The Kings have decided to take Cousins, unless somehow Favors is available.

• Sticking with the 3-4 conundrum, one executive poured cold water all over the notion that the Nets would consider taking Johnson as a down-payment to agent Rob Pelinka for one of his free-agent clients, Carlos Boozer. “Pelinka’s got to do Boozer right,” the executive said. “You can’t make that agreement now without knowing what options he’ll have – unless they’re going to overpay Boozer. And if they’re going to overpay Boozer, they don’t need to take Wesley Johnson.”

• Most available name on the trade menu? By far, it’s Elton Brand. The only way Philly will be able (or willing) to trade the No. 2 pick will be if someone is willing to take Brand and his albatross of a contract. Same goes for Minnesota’s No. 4 pick (which comes with Al Jefferson as the booby prize). Several teams have made credible offers to pay the freight for Beno Udrih or Francisco Rodriguez, but the Kings don’t want out from under those contracts badly enough to give up the No. 5 pick without getting back a player they like.

Tony Parker, as you know, can be had for the right deal as the Spurs consider handing the reins to George Hill and getting back enough talent to make the most out of essentially a two-year plan to ride Tim Duncan until the end. Richard Jefferson can definitely be had. No takers so far.

• Rival GMs report that the Raptors have made Jose Calderon available in addition to Hedo Turkoglu, but face the same obstacles as the Spurs do in trying to move Jefferson. Zach Randolph is in the same boat with Memphis.

• I hereby appoint Thunder GM Sam Presti as president of my apartment building’s co-op board, because nobody does more with less. Some execs believe Presti isn’t finished after scoring 3-point shooter Daequan Cook along with the 18th pick for the 32nd pick in the draft. The Heat were willing to deal a player and a better pick in order to clear more cap space for their summer of sucking up to Dwyane Wade. One GM believes Presti has his sights set on the Pacers’ No. 10 pick, which is seriously in play. His target would be a rebounding, shot-blocking big man (Patrick Patterson or Cole Aldrich), something the Thunder sorely lacked in their first-round loss to the Lakers. The Pacers could probably get the point guard they’re after (Eric Bledsoe or Avery Bradley) with the 18th pick.
Category: NBA
Posted on: June 22, 2010 10:36 pm

Draft Buzz

It wouldn’t be a post about NBA draft buzz without leading things off with a LeBron James update. Nothing happens without him involved in some way, so let’s get to that first:

Despite speculation to the contrary, a person with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday that James has, in fact, been in frequent communication with Cavs officials – with the most recent conversation occurring last week. James and his agent, Leon Rose, have maintained dialogue with the Cavs, but that doesn’t mean he wants to have a say in Cleveland’s coaching hire. • “LeBron wants to win,” the person familiar with the conversations said. “He doesn’t want to hire the coach.”

Along those lines, former Nets and Hornets coach Byron Scott continues to be the favorite to land the job of coaching – or maybe not coaching – LeBron. But since Scott’s situation is tied to Phil Jackson’s decision on whether to return to the Lakers next season, the Cavs are continuing to actively discuss their coaching vacancy with as many as three other candidates, sources say.

If Jackson decides to retire, Scott is viewed as the logical replacement – a former Laker whose defensive mentality and affinity for an up-tempo style would be attractive to Kobe Bryant. Jackson, who indicated he’d have a decision within about a week of winning his 11th championship last Thursday, hasn’t tipped his hand. A person with strong ties to Jackson and the Lakers told CBSSports.com Tuesday that his “gut feeling” is that Jackson would be back. But the person prefaced his opinion by stressing that it was only an educated guess based on conversations with Jackson before the Lakers’ championship run ended. Nobody can accurately handicap Jackson’s stance until he has the results of his year-end physical and takes the full week to mull his future. Jackson’s daughter, however, offered this nugget in a Sports Illustrated piece on the Lakers’ championship: “I think this is it. I think he’s done now.”

James, meanwhile, has yet to tip his own hand in conversations with the Cavs’ brass as to where he stands on his impending free agency binge. So the Cavs continue to entertain multiple trade scenarios, mostly geared toward trying to maneuver into Thursday night’s draft, in which they currently have no picks. According to sources who have been in contract with Cleveland decision-makers, the Cavs have been exploring buying their way into the first round but have been turned off by the going rate for a late first-round pick – $3 million plus an asset. As of now, that price is too steep for Cleveland’s liking, and one of the sources expected the price only to rise between now and Thursday night.

Cleveland also received inquiries from several teams about point guard Mo Williams. One of those teams was Portland, which also rejected an offer of a high first-round pick – believed to be Minnesota’s fourth selection – for swingman Nicolas Batum. According to sources, the Cavs are not aggressively seeking to trade Williams but are listening to offers. • Here’s the rest of the pre-draft buzz with less than 48 hours to go:

• There’s so much smoke blowing around New Jersey’s No. 3 pick that you’d think Snoop Dogg were making the selection. Speculation focused Tuesday on indications that the Nets were leaning toward Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson over Derrick Favors or DeMarcus Cousins – which could’ve been simply a smokescreen or a prelude to a trade. Reports later in the day refuted the Johnson speculation, saying the Nyets remained focused on Favors.

• Minnesota has been one of the more active teams on the trade front, and GM David Kahn laid the groundwork Tuesday for a swap with Memphis that would send Minnesota’s 16th pick to the Grizzlies for their 25th and 28th. All such deals are predicated on how the picks shake out, but one person involved in the talks cautioned Thursday that the Grizzlies had “nothing anywhere near completion with any team.” Okey dokey. By trading down from No. 16, the T-Wolves would have four of the top 28 picks. That’s either ample ammunition for a trade – Kahn’s efforts to move Al Jefferson have been futile – or ample opportunities to alienate many more draft picks.

• After John Wall goes with the No. 1 pick to the Wizards, Evan Turner seems to be a lock for the Sixers at No. 2. Which presents an intriguing scenario, given that Turner is represented by David Falk, who also happens to represent Elton Brand. Word among NBA executives Tuesday was that the Sixers were stepping up their efforts to trade Brand, whose value – if not his salary – has been decimated by two lost seasons in Philly.

• Don’t think Warriors GM Larry Riley’s comments about building the team around Stephen Curry went unnoticed in Monta Ellis’ corner of the world. “You don’t build your team around a two-guard. You build around a point guard,” said Riley, who apparently experienced a blackout from 1985-98, when a two-guard named Michael Jordan won six NBA titles. There’s a lot going on in Golden State, not the least of which will be a renewed push from Ellis’ camp to get him out of there once the team’s sale to Larry Ellison finally is completed. Though Ellison’s purchase isn’t expected to move forward until mid-August, the shedding of Corey Maggette’s $30.8 million over the next three years won’t hurt from a bookkeeping standpoint. Nor does it hinder any prospective savior/president of basketball operations (Jerry West?) who might swoop in to spare the new owner first-hand exposure to the Don Nelson/Riley regime.

• Speaking of front-office maneuverings, Denver GM Mark Warkentien has been quietly pushing for a decision one way or another from ownership on his future after his contract expires Aug. 31. With no contract offer forthcoming, Warkentien asked for permission to speak with Phoenix about its GM opening, with the understanding that he’d also want to speak with Portland and the Clippers after the draft. According to sources, Stan Kroenke’s deputies – son Josh Kroenke and CEO Paul Andrews – are expected to decide on whether to grant the Phoenix permission by the end of the week. Suns owner Robert Sarver, who successfully ran Steve Kerr and David Griffin out of town, is said to be “very interested” in speaking with Warkentien, according to a source.
Category: NBA
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