Minnesota Timberwolves v Boston Celtics

NBA draft lottery: Who needs to win this most?


Your team isn’t in the NBA draft lottery unless it needs help (or you used to do trades with Isiah Thomas).

Everybody in it needs to win it. Especially this year, where the drop off from All-Star to “maybe he can be a rotation guy in a couple years” to “we’re hoping he can develop” is very quick and steep. The prize at the top is Kyrie Irving of Duke, and although you can debate if he is a future All-Star or superstar, the consensus is you’re getting a very good point guard. And if you’re in the lottery, you take him.

Who needs to win this most? Here are our five picks:

Minnesota Timberwolves (25 percent chance of getting top pick). Why they need to win the lottery: The Wolves won 17 games last season, so they need all the help they can get. They have one building block inside in Kevin Love and a couple decent wing players (Wesley Johnson, Martell Webster), but they need a Mr. Outside. In theory that would be Ricky Rubio, the guard they drafted from Spain two years ago, but despite what Timberwolves management says, there is no reason for him to come over. They win and draft Irving, and they can shop Rubio to fill another need. They won 17 games, so there are a lot of needs.

Cleveland Cavaliers (22.7 percent chance of getting top pick, via their own pick and the Clippers pick). Why they need to win the lottery: Their last top lottery pick left them, and they need another. The Cavaliers won 19 games with a sad roster that suffered a lot of injuries (frankly explaining cold fusion would be easier than explaining how Minnesota won fewer games than Cleveland). There is no position on the floor where they are set. They need stars and role players, as such they are wisely stockpiling draft picks. Irving would give them a guy to start building around. They have two lottery picks, so theoretically they could get the top two picks, and now we are taking about the rebuilding getting fast tracked. And, despite all of Dan Gilbert’s actions, they are owed a break by the basketball gods.

Toronto Raptors (15.6 percent chance of getting top pick). Why they need to win the lottery: Their best player left them and they need a star to replace him. This team won the lottery in 2006 and has Andrea Bargnani to show for it (Hey, it could have been worse, they could have drafted Adam Morrison.) Really, this team has a few pieces — DeMar DeRozan is a good athletic wing, Ed Davis was solid as a rookie, Jarryd Bayless is a quality guard, and even Bargnani can shoot. A top-flight point guard such as Irving ties this team together, and they get a lot better fast. Well, on offense. Until they start defending it’s all moot, but that’s another issue.

Detroit Pistons (4.3 percent chance of getting top pick). Why they need to win the lottery: Maybe this will convince them it’s time to blow it up and rebuild. The Pistons have lived in a limbo with roster that was begging to be broken up and rebuilt, but that couldn’t happen with an unsettled ownership situation. Throw in veteran players in virtual open mutiny against the coach and things got ugly. Right now Rodney Stuckey is the point guard of the future, but he is no Irving at the point. They have a good young center in Greg Monroe and Austin Daye can be a part of the future, but Irving and a new owner might lead to the rebuilding of this team that has been needed for more than a season.

Golden State Warriors (0.8 percent chance of getting top pick). Why they need to win the lottery: This is a long-suffering fan base that had an owner that really didn’t care, they deserve a break. This is a team with some pieces that is about to undergo a makeover and winning the lottery helps that along dramatically. New owner Joe Lacob — who will represent the team at the lottery — is looking to change this franchise into one that plays defense and not Don Nelson’s scatter ball. Sure, they already have two guards in Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, but they win the lottery and one of those (*cough* Curry *cough*) will be moved.

Jahlil Okafor tweets apology for recent off-court behavior

Jahlil Okafor
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The off-court incidents have been piling up for Jahlil Okafor over the past month: first, an incident captured on video that showed Okafor getting into a fight with a heckler early Thanksgiving morning; then, a report that Okafor had a gun pulled on him in a previous incident; and finally, this morning’s report that the Sixers’ No. 3 overall pick in this June’s draft had been pulled over in recent weeks for driving 108 miles per hour in Philadelphia. Together, they aren’t a good look for the rookie.

On Sunday afternoon, Okafor apologized for his recent behavior in a series of tweets:

The recent incidents involving Okafor are surprising—going into the draft, he never had any red flags for maturity or off-the-court issues. He’s certainly saying the right things after the fact, and he’s only 19, so hopefully this is nothing more than a small rough patch where he’s made some bad decisions, and not an indicator of things to come.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


It has seemed like this was it for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Bulls’ Dunleavy to see specialist after suffering setback with back injury

Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah
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CHICAGO—Over the past few weeks, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has seemed to be making progress in his back rehab. Dunleavy underwent back surgery shortly before the start of training camp and was initially given a timeline of 8-10 weeks. Recently, he’s been increasing his workload, and he traveled with the team on their recent west coast road trip.

However, his recovery may have hit a snag.

“Mike is going to see a doctor again tomorrow and then we should have a better update after that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after practice on Sunday. “He had a little bit of soreness. But we’ll have more on that tomorrow.”

An update to Dunleavy’s status is coming, but given Dunleavy’s age (35) and the frequency of back injuries to reoccur, this news certainly isn’t encouraging. Between Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the Bulls have struggled at both ends of the floor on the wing. Getting Dunleavy back, whenever that happens, will be a huge help. But nobody knows when that will be.

Stan Van Gundy calls out Andre Drummond’s effort after loss to Thunder

Andre Drummond
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After a promising start to the season, the Pistons have lost three of their last four games and seven of their last 10. And although he’s been outstanding for most of the season, Andre Drummond has not been above receiving criticism from Stan Van Gundy. The coach called out Drummond’s effort on Friday night after a loss to the Thunder.

Via Sportando:

“I didn’t think he brought much energy to the Milwaukee game, and I didn’t think he brought much energy tonight,” Van Gundy said of the two beatings the Pistons received this week. “Why that is, I don’t know. But we need a lot more from him than we got tonight.”

Calling out your best player in the media is bold, but Van Gundy has enough of a track record and a reputation, going back to his days in Orlando with Dwight Howard, that he can get away with it. It also sends a message to the entire team that Van Gundy isn’t going to hold his star to a different standard than the rest of the team.

Despite a couple of poor performances, Drummond is having a career year, leading the league in rebounding at 17.1 per game while also averaging 17.9 points.