Cavaliers big on Valanciunas who may not even be around for two years

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The Cavs have a great shot at getting not just one building block for their rebuilding franchise in this year’s draft, but two. Even in a weak class like this one, having two top-five picks is sure to land you some significant talent if you use the picks correctly. And while they continue to debate which of the two best prospects should go first in the draft (for some reason), their second choice at the fourth pick may be just as important in shaping the future of the franchise and trying to get it out of the rubble of you-know-who’s departure. And at this point, the Cavs may be leaning towards a player who may or may not be around the next two years. From the Akron Beacon Journal, in a lengthy and thorough roundup of where the Cavs stand with both picks:

The Cavs are high on Valanciunas, who is 7 feet tall and has a 7-foot-4 wingspan. One league executive who attended the Eurocamp told NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper that Valanciunas is ”a future franchise center.” The question is how long a franchise would have to wait to get him. The Cavs are leery of Valanciunas’ European contract, which lasts for two more years and does not include an NBA buyout. Valanciunas is represented by Leon Rose, who is still negotiating the buyout. Working in Valanciunas’ favor is the fact his Lithuanian team, Lietuvos Rytas, is reportedly hurting financially and open to a deal. The team that drafts Valanciunas would probably have to pay Lietuvos Rytas $500,000. Valanciunas would then pay his former team a portion of his first contract based on his draft position. The exact percentage is part of what is being negotiated.

via Ohio.com – Irving or Williams? Cavaliers haven’t decided. Valanciunas is likely to get the buyout taken care of and be free to be you and me for the Cavs. But this pick doesn’t make much sense. Yes, Valanciunas could, if he continues to add weight and isn’t bowled over by the extra aggressiveness of NBA bigs, be a defensive stalwart. And yes, Valanciunas rolls off the pick and roll as well as any big drafted in the past three years. But setting aside the Zydrunas Ilgauskas comparisons and the fact that he allowed a 1.02 points per possession according to Synergy Sports last year for Lietuvos Rytas (which is high), look at what the Cavs have and don’t have. Their best player right now, at any position, is center Anderson Varejao. You can conceivably play Varejao at power forward with Choonus, but is the big rook going to be able to produce enough offense on his own, even with Irving dishing to him? It does make Varejao expendable on the trade block, but he’s there already and is still recovering from injury. Meanwhile, the Cavs’ biggest positional need is small forward, which they would simply not address in this draft. If they take Derrick Williams No.1, they have to target a guard to get him the ball (“But what about Baron Davis?” you cry. “What about Baron Davis?” we respond.).

It’s certainly true that the Cavs should be shopping for overall talent and not positional need given the absence of any discernible talent on their roster. But wouldn’t a better combination be Irving and forward Jan Vesely, who comes with a bit of nasty aggression, even if he’s older and not as much of a pick and roll threat? But then, so far this Cavaliers’ organization that took over from Danny Ferry’s regime following the anarchy created by you-know-who hasn’t been much in the way of well-conceived planning. If the worse they get is a huge defensive presence with touch out of that fourth pick, they’re still doing fine. That’s the luxury of those two top-five selections, even in a draft as questionable as this one.

Nets hire Pablo Prigioni as assistant coach, Tiago Splitter as scout

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have hired former NBA player and Argentine guard Pablo Prigioni as an assistant coach.

The Nets also announced Tuesday that former Spurs center Tiago Splitter was hired as a pro scout.

Prigioni spent most of his professional career in Spain and won a bronze medal with Argentina in the 2008 Olympics before coming to the New York Knicks in 2012 as a 35-year-old rookie. He spent four years in the NBA with the Knicks, Rockets and Clippers.

Splitter helped San Antonio win the 2014 NBA championship before spending the final two seasons of his seven-year career with Atlanta and Philadelphia. The Nets said Splitter, who also played for Brazil’s national team, will have added duties related to player on-court development.

 

Celtics to get Marcus Smart back for Game 5 Tuesday

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It’s a series that has hinged on defense — Boston has played it well for the majority of five games, bottling up Milwaukee in the halfcourt. The Bucks only played it with real energy at home (and only for about six of the eight quarters the last two games) but when they do they have overwhelmed the Celtics, then converted turnovers and missed shots into transition and early clock opportunities the other way.

For Game 5 Tuesday night, Boston gets its best perimeter defender back — Marcus Smart. He has been out since before the playoffs following thumb surgery last March.

Stevens, via NBC Sports Boston:

“He hasn’t played in six weeks, so it’s hard to say how much (time he will get) but will certainly play,” Stevens said. Stevens said there would not be a minutes restriction on him, but added that the fourth-year guard wasn’t going to play 35 minutes.

Smart is a very good perimeter defender who is very physical and usually assigned to the other team’s best guard (or wing, depending upon the matchup). When Smart was on the court this season, the Celtics allowed less than a point per possession and were 3.6 points per 100 better defensively than when he sat.

Smart likely will get time against Eric Bledsoe and Kris Middleton of the Bucks. Just his presence brings needed depth to the Celtics in what is a critical Game 5 in a series tied 2-2.

Report: Pelicans have discussed offering DeMarcus Cousins less than max over two to three years

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Last month, Anthony Davis said he heard DeMarcus Cousins planned to re-sign with the Pelicans. Cousins was out a torn Achilles, and New Orleans was rolling with Davis playing more center. But New Orleans’ ceiling looked higher with Cousins, and Davis made clear he wanted to keep Cousins – in itself a big deal. More important than keeping Cousins is keeping Davis, which requires keeping Davis happy.

Then, the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers, becoming the lowest seed to sweep a first-round series.

Is everyone still sure Cousins warrants a max contract, which projects to be worth about $176 million over five years?

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

The Pelicans have broached internally the idea of offering Cousins a two- or three-year deal at less than the max, per sources familiar with the discussions. I would not expect that to go over well with Cousins’ camp. But the Pelicans have the dual leverage of winning without Cousins and a tepid market for him.

Only a half-dozen or so teams have max-level space this season, and most won’t pursue Cousins at that level, sources say.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pelicans leaked this to test the waters. Word will get back to Cousins, and they can gauge how strenuously he objects. If they want, they can deny ever considering this and try to avoid offending Cousins.

But New Orleans has leverage.

It will be a tight market. Many of the teams with significant cap space are young and rebuilding, and they won’t want Cousins’ attitude. Even teams ready to win might not bring him into the locker room. Returning from a torn Achilles – hard for any player – will be especially difficult for the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins.

That said, Cousins has leverage on the Pelicans, too. He’s extremely talented, and players that talented are hard to come by. New Orleans would still essentially be capped out if he walked, left with only the mid-level exception to replace him. Cousins and Davis play well together, and Davis – who can become an unrestricted free agent in 2020 – wants Cousins around.

Confronted with a similar situation with Jrue Holiday last summer – capped out and no mechanism to adequately replace him – the Pelicans spent big. But Holiday wasn’t hurt and didn’t have any fit concerns with Davis.

For New Orleans, it’s clearly worth securing the 27-year-old Cousins for the next couple years. The upside is too high. But, especially given the injury, guaranteeing him money into his 30s is undesirable.

On the flip side, Cousins should want long-term security. This might be his last chance to get it.

So, maybe both the Pelicans and Cousins can meet in the middle. But finding that point is never simple.

Judge grills Suge Knight – facing murder charge – on NBA-champion pick (Rockets)

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Suge Knight is facing a murder, threat and robbery charges in three separate cases.

The former rap mogul was in court yesterday to set a trial date for the murder charge.

Marisa Gerber of the Los Angeles Times:

A few minutes later, during a separate hearing in the criminal threats proceeding, another judge asked Knight to return to his courtroom in May. The judge then turned to Knight, asking who he thought would win the NBA playoffs.

“At this time…” Knight said, before the judge cut him off, saying he wanted a once-and-for-all answer.

“Houston,” Knight responded.

“Alright, Houston. Good pick,” the judge said.

Knight smiled.

What?