At No. 4, the Cavaliers select… Jonas Valanciunas?

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Let’s for a moment assume that the Cleveland Cavaliers will be selecting the No. 4 pick overall. Because, they most likely will be. Teams look at this draft and are not giving up actual quality to move up.

There are now multiple reports (including the Morning Journal) that the Cavaliers are leaning heavily toward picking Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas with that pick. Especially if the pick comes down to Valanciunas or Turkish big man Enes Kanter.

ESPN’s Chad Ford was asked to compare the two during a conference call last Friday.

“I think if you picked Kanter, you’re picking because he is a bit more polished offensively right now, and he has a better NBA body right now. If you pick Valanciunas, you’re picking upside. You’re picking a guy who I know many NBA scouts feel in five years could end up being the best player in this draft, but he’s got a long way to go to get there.”

There are concerns about Valanciunas’ buyout with his European team, but most around the league expect that issue to be resolved. Valanciunas is 6’11” with a long wingspan but he needs to put on some weight (he’s listed at 240 now, he’d be giving up at least 25 pounds to most true NBA centers). He has soft hands is good as the roll man from the high post. There is a lot of raw talent there and there is a real good motor — he puts out the effort every time down.

But we are talking a guy that is a few years away from us really knowing how good he can be. Right now he makes energy plays but he needs a lot of work on his footwork, jumper, ball handling, passing. The skills are there, but they are raw. It’s hard to tell exactly how good he can be… but it could be very good.

The Cavs are a team rebuilding; they can wait to find out. It’s a good risk for them to take — if you’re gambling on a prospect anyway, take the one with the highest ceiling.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.

Isaiah Thomas: ‘Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here’

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”

Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.

His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.

Kyrie Irving knocks flamingo from Pacers fan’s hands (video)

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Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.

He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.