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.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.