NBA Lottery: Let the debate begin, Wall or Turner for Wizards?

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Thumbnail image for eturner.jpgThis one won’t be a no-brainer.

John Wall is a near consensus #1 overall player. His vision, athleticism, natural skill and length have drawn lofty phrases as strong as “best draft prospect since Carmelo Anthony.” And now the Wizards have the opportunity to select him with the first overall pick. Only problem? They already have a former All-Star point guard and star power that they’ve kind of committed to, even with his rampant off-the-court (in-the-locker-room) issues.

The Wizards made a public show of support of Arenas, saying they planned on him returning to the team following his suspension for the whole guns in the locker room thing. If they plan on standing by that pledge, they’ve got an interesting set of scenarios to debate as they head towards June.

The formula essentially breaks down into four options. 1. Choose Wall and jettison Arenas. 2. Choose Arenas, draft Evan Turner, a stud prospect in his own right. Or 3. Keep Arenas and trade the top overall pick. Or 4. Choose Wall, keep Arenas and move him to shooting guard. The fourth option is the easiest selection, obviously. It allows you to draft the best player available, keep the best talent involved, not have to clearance sale all those Arenas jerseys, and focus on rebuilding your frontcourt. But what’s the best option? Let’s start with the easy option and go backwards.

The issue with drafting Wall and keeping Arenas is the fact that both players will need the ball in their hands. Arenas had a usage (estimated percentage of possessions used) of 32.00 last year, good for tops on the Wizards and eighth highest in the league. You’re now asking Arenas who likes to shoot and have the ball in his hands before he shoots, to move off the ball and give control of the offense up to a rookie. That could be problematic. Similarly, you’ve got the concern that Arenas has never revealed himself to be a great leader and you don’t want Wall to enter a poisonous situation. The upside is that if Arenas does adapt, Wall and he would provide killer scoring potential and it takes the pressure off Arenas to create which feeds into his bad habits.

Keeping Arenas and trading the pick is the riskiest of all options. It’s simply a nightmare scenario trying to garner enough of a package to pull the value of a top pick, even in a weak draft, much less one with Wall and Turner. The only good alternative might be to try and use the pick in a sign and trade for a major free agent. But then, why not just use the overall pick as a draw for one of the free agents to sign without the sign and trade? You can’t trade this pick, unless you get an offer for a top player in this league you can’t sign in free agency. And there are maybe five of those players.

Now, keeping Arenas and drafting Evan Turner out of Ohio State is certainly an option. There are people who believe that Turner will end up being the better prospect. Turner is a scintillating prospect and would give Arenas a scoring option to share the offensive load. Versus Caron Butler, who acts as a versatile Swiss Army Knife, Turner can act as a machete. And he brings an athleticism upgrade over Arenas following his knee surgeries. Turner would also be more comfortable as a number two option and wouldn’t challenge Arenas’ ego. If you really still believe Arenas can be part of a championship contender, this might be the way to go.

Drafting Wall and putting Arenas on the block is bold, but would send a message. It means a clean break from not only the shenanigans of last year, but a revitalization of the team under a banner of youth. Wall isn’t just a potential star, he’s a potential brand in and of himself. He’s a draw for free agents. After the last three years of Arenas’ career, you cannot say the same. You can rebuild a chemistry-centric team around Wall without questioning his alpha status. Trading Arenas may not garner much, but if he does, wouldn’t that be a great way to move up quickly? You can build a young core by moving for more picks, use your cap space carefully and really build from the ground up, as opposed to trying to force something awkward. Gilbert Arenas can still be a good player. But building around Wall could mean the start of a team like Arenas’ were supposed to be.

Tough decisions will have to be made, but the good news is, there’s not really a bad option. As dark as the times were five months ago, light has come to the Wizards, and not a moment too soon.

Report: Stan Van Gundy to meet with Pistons’ owner next week

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After a disappointing 39-43 season that has the Pistons sitting at home watching the playoffs — even after trading for Blake Griffin mid-season, — the sense around the league is that coach and GM Stan Van Gundy is going to lose one if not both of those titles. He’s expected to no longer be the team’s president of basketball operations, whether he stays on to coach the team is another question.

The meeting where Van Gundy’s fate is decided will come next week, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN.

Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy have set a meeting for next week to discuss Van Gundy’s future with the franchise, league sources told ESPN.

The two had initially planned to sit down late this week, but the meeting was pushed back, leaving the Pistons organization to await word on how, if at all, the franchise’s structure could be altered.

Feuling the speculation on Van Gundy’s status is the fact that former super agent Arn Tellem works for the Pistons on the business side. He was brought in to help transition the franchise to the new building where it plays in downtown Detroit, but with that done the sense is Gores will give him a different job, running the basketball side.

If he loses his GM title, would Van Gundy stay on as coach?

Whoever sigs in the big chair has his work cut out for him. With that Griffin trade, the Pistons are basically capped out. Making changes to the current roster will not be easy.

Report: Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer no longer considering Suns job

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There’s been a lot of talk as the coaching carousel ramps up, long before the NBA season is even over. Now, we know one coach won’t be heading to the Phoenix Suns: Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.

Budenholzer was reportedly among one of the candidates for the Suns job, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi the Hawks coach has decided not to pursue the position after being given the opportunity to do so.

The Suns coaching search still includes current interim coach Jay Triano and former Memphis Grizzlies head man David Fizdale.

Via ESPN:

Budenholzer met with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver early this week, but there was never traction on reaching a contract agreement as the week wore on, league sources said.

As the Suns kept interviewing candidates — including David Fizdale and interim coach Jay Triano — Budenholzer informed the Suns on Thursday that he would no longer be a candidate for the job, sources said.

Phoenix fired Earl Watson just three games into the season. Budenholzer had a hefty resume to consider — he won 60 games in Atlanta in 2014-15, heading to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Suns need someone to guide their young star in Devin Booker. Who they choose will influence the direction of their franchise for longer than the next coach may even be around.

Warriors beat Spurs in glum Game 3

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The Spurs were playing with heavy hearts following the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin. Kevin Durant and Shaun Livingston appeared to injure their left ankles on back-to-back plays late.

Everyone seemed ready for the Warriors’ 110-97 Game 3 win Thursday to end well before it did.

Soon enough, the first-round series will. Golden State is up 3-0, and all 127 teams to win the first three games of a best-of-seven series won it – most of them via sweep. Game 4 is Saturday in San Antonio.

There’s hope neither Durant’s nor Livingston’s injury is serious. Durant walked off on his own, though gingerly. Livingston shot his free throws before exiting.

Durant (26 points) and Klay Thompson (19 points) have carried the Warriors’ offense with Stephen Curry sidelined by his own injury. If Durant isn’t at full strength for Game 4, Golden State could really struggle to score.

But it still might not matter, as the Spurs are overmatched against the Warriors’ dialed-in defense. Draymond Green (10 points, seven assists, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals) led tonight’s effort.

After two losses in Oakland to start the series, returning to San Antonio didn’t do much for the Spurs, who were 33-8 at home and 14-27 on the road this season – the NBA’s largest home-road disparity in a half decade. It’s just had to see San Antonio – whether Popovich returns or Ettore Messina remains acting coach – finding enough sources of offense.

Pelicans move one game away from sweep after bashing Blazers in Game 3

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But for a moment, the Portland Trail Blazers felt as though they could turn the series. For half a quarter, the Blazers had hope. Then, Nikola Mirotic dropped a career-high 30 points, Anthony Davis added a double-double of 28 points and 11 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans moved one game away from completing a sweep of the third seed after a big win on Thursday night, 119-102.

Under the guidance of Mirotic, the Pelicans unleashed a barrage of 3-pointers starting midway through the first quarter. The game was close to being a contest, but Jrue Holiday and Mirotic started to pour it in after being uncorked, with New Orleans taking a 16-point lead going into the second period.

Running up and down the court in a panic, Portland looked nervous in the spotlight. The Blazers racked up 12 turnovers by halftime, all while rattling 3-pointers off the back iron. Portland rushed its offense in the face of unlikely success by the Pelicans, who continued to rain down from deep. New Orleans hit four big shots in the final 1:47 of the half, including three from beyond-the-arc.

Never one to back down, Blazers star Damian Lillard tried to force the issue. He would finish with 20 points on 5-of-14 shooting, but most evidentiary of his night was Lillard lobbing up a wild 28-footer with 24 seconds left in the half as he tried to answer a gutshot 3-pointer from E'Twaun Moore from a moment before. It didn’t work, and the Pelicans took commanding 64-45 lead to start the third quarter.

So went the story of the rest of the game, as Portland couldn’t fully tamp down the New Orleans offensive attack for longer than a few minutes at a time. Even after one 10-0 run for the Blazers in the third, the Pelicans ended it in the most deflating way possible — a wide open dunk for Mirotic on a cut after Portland’s defense fell asleep.

It was an electric atmosphere at Smoothie King, and the sellout crowd that gave us a glimpse of what kind of homecourt advantage the Pelicans could have in the second round. The New Orleans fans were in a back-and-forth with the players, with Smoothie King working to such a fever pitch it felt as though every shot hoisted by the team in red and gold was destined for the nylon.

Demoralized, Portland battled — flailed, really — but the Blazers couldn’t make up any ground as the momentum continued for New Orleans. Finally Blazers coach Terry Stotts relented and waived the white flag for Portland with 7:55 left in the fourth quarter as he subbed in his bench.

Even with a 49-win season under its belt, the questions surrounding the Blazers become more serious. The team that had a 13-game win streak this season now will face rumblings about whether Stotts will remain with the team. An exit for Stotts would be unwise for Portland — he did wonders with a team that didn’t play up to its potential most of the year — but it’s not out of the ordinary for a team looking to break through to look elsewhere, especially after Lillard’s meeting with owner Paul Allen.

Although their work isn’t done yet, New Orleans looks as though it’s a team to be feared in the playoffs. What it needs to do is concentrate on sweeping the Blazers, not only to give themselves confidence heading into the second round but to show their second-round opponent (likely the Warriors) that they aren’t to be taken lightly.

How Porltand can counter in the deciding Game 4 isn’t clear. The Pelicans have looked like the better team for nearly every quarter of the series, and the Blazers clearly don’t have an answer for them on either side of the ball.

Happy New Orleans fans will pack Smoothie King on Saturday for Game 4 at 2:00 PM PST in Louisiana. Davis will look to win his first playoff series, and Portland will try to avoid their most embarrassing sweep since they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1999 Western Conference Finals.