Lietuvos Rytas's Jonas Valanciunas (C) j

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.

Enjoy 50-best circus shots of last NBA season

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As of tomorrow, training camps around the league open, and all the focus goes to the 2016-17 season.

For fun, let’s look back one more time at last season — the 50 top circus shots of last season.

Stephen Curry driving the lane and throwing up prayers once he draws contact (and hitting them), there is Russell Westbrook throwing the inbounds pass off an opponent’s back, and so much more. Enjoy. Then let’s get on with next season.

To avoid trash talk, Steven Adams told Kevin Garnett he didn’t speak English

Kevin Garnett
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Kevin Garnett intimidates people. In the machismo-fueled world of professional sports nobody comfortably admits they were intimidated, but in the wake of Garnett announcing his retirement, a number of players stepped forward to say exactly that. And that KG trashed talked them fearlessly.

Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams found a way to avoid that — tell KG he didn’t speak English.

Brilliant.

Adams was lucky, KG had a reputation for going harder at foreign-born players with his trash talk and intimidation. Then again Adams is not the kind of guy prone to be intimidated.

Pistons’ Stan Van Gundy “encouraged” by players speaking out, protesting social issues

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 17: Head coach Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons yells to his players during the first half of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on April 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption ***Stan Van Gundy
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Athletes are injecting themselves into the needed national conversation about race, violence, and policing in this nation. That has taken some very public forms, including LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony speaking at the ESPYs, and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem and leading others to do so. Some NBA players likely will follow Kaepernick’s lead.

Pistons coach/GM Stan Van Gundy likes seeing players speak out.

A couple of his Detroit players — Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris — said they backed the 49ers quarterback. Here is what the never shy Van Gundy said about all of it, via Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.

“I’m encouraged by the fact of what some of those guys stood up and did at the ESPYs and had a conversation,” Van Gundy said. “I’m really proud of the fact that we have guys that not only see the problem, but want to try to do something about it…

“To me, in some ways, (police brutality is) just the most visible to focus on and it goes to deeper inequities in our criminal justice system, our education system so there’s so much to focus on,” Van Gundy said. “I think it’s great that we have players that want to be part of that conversation, and a lot of players that want to go beyond the conversation and be part of the solution.”

Van Gundy has been telling his players part of that solution is to vote.

The players union and NBA sent out a release saying they wanted to work together to create positive change, but details are still vague on what that might be. The only thing we know for sure as we head into the NBA season — with as divided a nation and election as anyone can remember as a backdrop — is that some NBA players are going to try and keep the conversation going.

Sunday is 16th anniversary of greatest dunk ever: Vince Carter over Frederic Weis

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It was the last game of the group stage of the 2000 Olympic basketball tournament at the Sydney Olympics, the USA was taking on France, another USA win on its way to another gold medal.

But what we all remember is this one play — Vince Carter dunking over the 7’2″ French center Frederic Weis.

Best. Dunk. Ever.

By anyone.

Weis was never the same.

In an impressive career — two-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star, hours and hours of crazy highlights — this is always going to be the highlight at the top of the list. So we will use the anniversary of this dunk to look at it one more time.

Hat tip to nitramy at NBA Reddit.