Orlando is in trouble now because it’s not good at drafting

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More and more research is showing, if you want to build a sustainable winner in the NBA you need to do it on draft day.

Look at the teams still playing. Miami had to draft Dwyane Wade, which made it possible to bring in Shaq to get them one title (and LeBron James doesn’t come there without Wade). The Thunder are an obvious and easy example with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden all drafted by the franchise. The Spurs not only drafted Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, they found Manu Ginobili late in the second round and have rebuilt their roster with youth through the draft. The Lakers drafted Andrew Bynum and made a draft-day trade to get Kobe Bryant. Boston drafted Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo.

Orlando drafted Dwight Howard in 2004 and that set the tone for the past seven years, including one trip to the finals. But what they have done since then to build a team through free agency and not the draft has left them in a bind this summer, scrambling to find a trading partner to get a big piece to go next to Howard (good luck with that) or maybe having to move Howard.

Why don’t they have the pieces. Look at their draft since 2004: First rounders are Fran Vazquez (11 overall), J.J. Redick (11), Courtney Lee (22) and Daniel Orton (29). That’s just four first round picks in seven years and only one who panned out for them (Redick, although Lee had moments). The second rounders are all misses. By the way, who was drafted after Orton in 2010? Landry Fields, Devin Ebanks, Jerome Jordan, Luke Harangody and Jeremy Evans (not rock stars, but guys who might contribute).

Why the problem? Alex Kennedy has details at Hoopsworld that should make the stomachs of Magic fans turn (read the whole post about what the Magic need to do next).

The main reason that Orlando hasn’t been able to draft contributors is because they don’t put much time or effort into the pre-draft process.

When Orlando drafted Orton, they hadn’t seen him work out in person. Nearly every other team in the league had witnessed Orton struggle in workouts and knew of his knee issues. The Magic selected him sight unseen, and Orton isn’t the exception. Justin Harper had never met or interviewed with Orlando before they traded for his draft rights last year.

Rival executives openly joke about the Magic’s approach to the pre-draft process. Most teams interview and work out everyone on their draft board. Some teams will even bring in a player multiple times to make sure they have a good read on his personality and game. The Magic’s lack of preparation has hurt them and a new regime must have a better approach to the draft.

You can expect the Magic to deny the report in 5…4…3…

Whatever happens with Howard, Jameer Nelson and the rest of the circus this year, the change in the approach by the new regime is key. (We say that like it’s going to happen because we don’t imagine both coach Stan Van Gundy and GM Otis Smith lasting much longer.) If you are going to win and stay on top, you do it through the draft. It is how good teams stay on top.

Marcus Smart responds to Jimmy Butler: ‘It ain’t hard to find me’ (video)

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Jimmy Butler said Marcus Smart is “not about that life.”

Smart, via MassLive:

Laugh at that. This about the Celtics versus Chicago Bulls, not Marcus Smart versus Jimmy. I ain’t got to sit here and say this and that. I’m this. I’m that. I ain’t that type of guy. My actions speak louder than words. It ain’t hard to find me. But, right now, I’m focused on my teammates and this series.

That led to a few excellent follow-up questions:

Are you about that life?

Like I said before, I ain’t got to talk about what I am about. I just show you. I can show you, but I’m not going to tell you. Like I said, it ain’t hard to find me. You heard him. He said, “I don’t think Marcus Smart is about that life.” Last time I checked, if you’re going to say somebody ain’t about that life, you should know, right? But like I said, we’re going to keep this Chicago Bulls vs. Boston Celtics, not Marcus vs. Jimmy.

Has anyone accused you not being tough before?

Never.

What was your reaction to that?

Haha.

Smart flops too much. He gets overly emotional.

But he’s way too tough to let Butler’s comments pass without rebuttal.

The real test will come on the court in Game 5 tomorrow.

Damian Lillard ‘obsessed’ with beating Warriors

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The Warriors just eliminated the Trail Blazers for the second straight year.

Portland star Damian Lillard sounds hardened by the experience.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

After the Portland Trail Blazers were swept by the Golden State Warriors on Monday, point guard Damian Lillard told ESPN he’s developed a newfound obsession with trying to take down the Warriors.

“You have to be obsessed with that because you know that they’re so good that they’re going to be there,” Lillard said after a 128-103 loss in Game 4. “That’s who you’re going to have to get through to get to where you want to get to. That’s what it is.”

I have no doubt this will drive Lillard. He just finds way to lift himself.

But will the rest of the Trail Blazers keep up with a team that features Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson?

C.J. McCollum is a solid co-star, but it gets dicey beyond that with several players locked into expensive long-term contracts. Portland will have to pry enough production from Jusuf Nurkic, Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless, Allen Crabbe, Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis, Meyers Leonard and the Nos. 15, 20 and 26 picks in the upcoming draft.

The Trail Blazers have a path upward, but needing to climb as high as Golden State, the road is narrow.

Pat Riley says he wishes he gave Chris Bosh’s max contract to Dwyane Wade

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Heat president Pat Riley has said he should’ve given Dwyane Wade a max contract in 2014 after LeBron James left Miami.

Instead, Wade stayed with the Heat on what became two one-year contracts. That lack of long-term security bothered Wade, who took discounts in prior years, and contributed to his exit to the Bulls.

But paying Wade and Chris Bosh, who got a max contract from Miami two years ago, so much into their late 30s likely would have cost the Heat dearly. It’s nearly impossible to build around two declining max players.

Riley apparently has a retroactive plan for that – re-signing only Wade, not Bosh.

Wright Thompson of ESPN:

But of course, Riley says, almost immediately after LeBron left, Bosh’s camp wanted to reopen a deal they’d just finished, knowing the Heat had money and felt vulnerable. Bosh threatened to sign with the Rockets. In the end, Riley gave Bosh what he wanted. Now he wishes he’d said no to Bosh’s max deal and given all that money to Wade.

Riley says that Wade’s agent asked to deal directly with the owners instead of Pat, so he merely honored that request. Mostly, he just wishes the whole thing had gone differently. “I know he feels I didn’t fight hard enough for him,” he says. “I was very, very sad when Dwyane said no. I wish I could have been there and told him why I didn’t really fight for him at the end. … I fought for the team. The one thing I wanted to do for him, and maybe this is what obscured my vision, but I wanted to get him another player so he could end his career competitive.”

When he describes his reaction to Wade’s leaving, it’s always in terms of how sad it makes him feel

Riley has done a much better job explaining to the public how sad he is about Wade leaving rather than actually doing something while he had the chance or even expressing his regret to Wade after the fact.

It’s almost as if Riley knew excommunicating a Heat Lifer would be both good for the franchise long-term and a terrible look in the short term and is trying to mitigate the damage. Wade might even realize that, too.

To a certain degree, Riley could be speaking in hindsight. Bosh’s deal has not worked out, with Riley believing the big man’s career is over due to blood-clot issues. But hindsight also says giving Wade, now 35, a five-year contract two years ago would’ve been disastrous.

There’s sentimentality at work here. Wade is the greatest player in Heat history. Riley drafted him, groomed him and built three championship teams in two eras around him.

I just can’t figure out how much Riley is exploiting that sentimentality to warm Miami fans after coldly letting Wade walk and how much Riley genuinely regrets contract negotiations with Wade. This is almost certainly shades of both.

Raptors’ Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wear same outfit to Game 5 (photo)

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I can’t verify Raptors forwards Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wearing the same outfit to last night’s Game 5 against the Bucks is the happenstance Patterson presents it as. But there’s a saying in journalism: It’s too good to check out.

Whatever led to this, Toronto ought to keep doing it. The Raptors smashed Milwaukee.

Patterson: