Draft-day trades are coming, which ones are most likely?

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More than any year in recent memory, it feels like we are going to see a lot of trades, a lot of moves in the days, hours and minutes leading up to the draft.

While the consensus may be this a deep draft, some teams are willing to move to out while other teams are looking to move up. Plus, there are players (many bringing cash savings) on the market to get those picks.

Predicting future trades is about like predicting what Charlie Sheen will do next, but we can give you a few things to look for (with trades… not Sheen).

• Charlotte Bobcats and the No. 2 overall pick. From the seconds after the lottery put the Hornets on top of the draft pile, there have been rumors and reports of the Bobcats shopping the No. 2 pick. Even the Bobcats coach said making a trade makes sense for them. This rumor is picking up steam but don’t expect them to drop far — Charlotte reportedly doesn’t want to drop out of the lottery and wants a good young player in return or more picks. The Bobcats are getting calls but the most likely option appears to be the Cavaliers giving the Bobcats the No. 4 and No. 24 pick for the No. 2 (because the Cavaliers really want Bradley Beal of Florida and Washington will take him at No. 3 for sure). Maybe another deal jumps in front of this one, but it’s out there.

• Sacramento Kings and the No. 5 pick. This feels likely to happen, and maybe with the Rockets, but it will be a draft-night move. The Kings are willing to trade that pick and if someone is high on, say, Andre Drummond and he drops to No. 5 there could well be a deal. As ESPN noted, the Kings brought in a lot of guys for workouts who should be drafted in the teens. It’s a sign they are looking at what they could get if they have to make a trade.

Toronto Raptors and the No. 8 pick. They might as well have a KMart blue light special light going off over their pick. (Does KMart still do blue light specials?)

• Houston Rockets have made one trade and more are coming. The Houston Rockets have already made one trade, moving forward Chase Budinger for the No. 18 pick. That gives the Rockets the No. 14, No. 16 and No. 18 picks as well as some guys they could trade (Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Samuel Dalembert) as they head into draft night. Their goal is to get a couple picks in the top 10 then turn around and try to parlay those picks and a player or two to Orlando for Dwight Howard. If the Magic aren’t dealing (and they appear not to be, yet) then watch for a deal for Josh Smith from Atlanta.

• Portland moves picks No. 6 and No. 11 to move up in draft. All sorts of discussion of this and if they love a player a little higher — or get a good veteran to just move a pick — they would do it. New GM Neil Olshey is not afraid to gamble.

• Lakers or some other team without pick moves into late first round. If you want a pick and don’t have one, there are a whole lot of picks available in the 20s, according to reports. The Lakers reportedly have interest, the question becomes what is the price? Outside their bigs, the Lakers are not loaded with assets people want.

• Dwight Howard trade… nah. Not in a draft-day deal. Not yet. Despite how hard the Rockets push reports are new GM Rob Hennigan has not even met with Howard yet. But I bet you see Howard’s moved this summer.

• Luol Deng or Joakim Noah from Bulls. There is a lot of buzz about the Bulls moving Deng to get into the lottery, but I don’t see it as floated out there just to get picks and cap space. The Bulls are contenders and while they would love to lower their payroll (what team owner wouldn’t?) they are not going to hurt the roster just to make a move. There would have to be a veteran that could help the Bulls coming back to them with the pick.

• Andre Iguodala trade. As with some other rumors here it would be a surprise, but they have been shopping him off and on for years and eventually someone will bite.

• Lamar Odom trade. This would be a purely financial move for a team looking to save a few bucks — Odom is set to make more than $8 million but can be bought out for $2.4 million. If nobody trades for Odom, the Mavs will buy him out to get the cap space.

Kevin Durant misses game vs. Nets with sprained ankle, status vs. Thunder in doubt

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Not that the Warriors needed him with Stephen Curry going off again, but Golden State was without Kevin Durant on Sunday in Brooklyn due to a sprained ankle.

Durant is officially day-to-day, but that brings up the question of whether he will be ready to go Wednesday night when the Warriors travel to Oklahoma City to take on his former team. Chris Haynes of ESPN asked Durant about it.

While some blowhards will talk about him dodging the Thunder, the Warriors course here is obvious — they do not want to rush him back for any game in November. Even one against Russell Westbrook. Ankles with stretched ligaments are easy to re-injure if not fully healed, and the Warriors don’t want this to be chronic and last through more of the season.

Durant is averaging 24.9 points per game, 7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists, and — with all due respect to fellow former MVP Curry — he is the best player on the Warriors. Maybe the best player in the world right now, period. Durant can score at will, and he had become a key part of the Warriors’ fifth-ranked defense blocking 2.2 shots per game (their offense is No. 1 in the league).

Three Things to Know: Aggressive Lonzo Ball is what Lakers need from him

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Here’s what you missed while creating Arya Stark memes to mock the iPhoneX.

1) Aggressive Lonzo Ball racks up triple-double, pushes Lakers to win in wild game. This is the Lonzo Ball the Lakers need. This is the Lonzo Ball Lakers’ coach Luke Walton wants to see when he says he needs him to be aggressive.

Ball picked up his second triple double in just more than a week Sunday night against Denver, with 11 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists. He still wasn’t efficient as a shooter — 5-of-13 overall, and a decent but not great finisher going 4-of-6 at the rim and 4-of-8 total in the paint — but he pushed the pace (a very fast 106 possessions) and got teammates involved with a good mix of throw ahead passes and pushing the ball by the dribble up the court. It kept Denver on its heels all night.

Ball put his mark on this game — and that’s what the Lakers need from him. I’m not going to overreact to this positively the same way I was not going to overreact negatively to his rough start — he’s a 19-year-old NBA rookie. It’s a process, one that takes time. After Summer League the hype machine — thanks to his father and a zealous fan base — spun out of control. Summer League is a far cry from the NBA and Ball is a reminder of that, it’s still a big step up. Ball needs to work on his conditioning, his handles, his shot, and his decision making at pace will improve with practice (Sunday was a step in that direction). Just be patient and we’ll see how good a player he develops into.

Ball pushed the Lakers to a 127-109 win (thanks in part to Julius Randle‘s 24 points), but Los Angeles got a lot of help from Denver — specifically coach Mike Malone and leading scorer/playmaker Nikola Jokic getting ejected in the second quarter. Malone was hot, feeling fouls were being committed on Jokic and not being called, and after Kyle Kuzma put an arm in Jokic’s back and pushed him down on a rebound (subtlety, it was a veteran-style move) Malone stormed onto the court during play and got in the path of referee Rodney Mott and challenged him. Mott immediately ejected Malone and then Jokic when he said something.

Malone can get out the checkbook now, he’s going to get a healthy fine for that one.

2) Joel Embiid with the Tweet of the Day (plus some Markelle Fultz news). The Sixers’ big man Joel Embiid wrote maybe the most perfect Tweet on Sunday: He owned up to an ugly come-from-ahead loss to Golden State while still managing to throw shade at the Warriors. Plus he got in a Draymond Green reference.

Embiid is just magic with social media.

The other news out of the Sixers camp Sunday was an update on Markelle Fultz — which the team had leaked the day before would be a positive one. The update: Fultz is progressing but will be out another 2-3 weeks, then he will be re-evaluated. I guess that’s what passes for positive with the Sixers and injury updates.

Also, to the people out there on Twitter throwing dirt on the career of Fultz or calling him a bust — stop it. You are close to what Dean Wormer said about Flounder. We are a month into Fultz’s NBA career, and we have 0.0 percent knowledge of how that career will go. But if you think he can’t come back from an extended layoff and succeed, please look at Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid, go talk to Blake Griffin while you’re at it, then get back to me.

3) The Orlando Summer League is no more. This is big news for basketball junkies and hoops nerds: The late June/early July Orlando Summer League that has run for 14 years is no more. The Orlando Magic, which operated the league and ran it before the big NBA Summer League in Vegas, killed it, a story broken by Josh Robbins at the Orlando Sentinel. Eight teams played there last year — Orlando, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Indiana, Miami, New York, and Oklahoma City — but the NBA League Office wants all teams playing in Las Vegas. That is now closer to reality. Also, the Magic didn’t make any money off the tournament, so that limited incentive to keep it.

Some coaches preferred Orlando — Stan Van Gundy lamented the demise of the Orlando league (in part because he lives in the city in the off-season and throws a party for the coaches at his house). The Vegas Summer League has big crowds and all the distractions of Las Vegas, while the Orlando league was not open to the public (although games were shown on NBA TV) and that led to more focused development. Some coaches and GMs preferred that. (The flip side of that argument: I’ve been told by team executives they like the distractions in Vegas, because it shows them which players are focused on the game, and which ones are easily pulled off track.)

There still is the Rocky Mountain Review that the Utah Jazz relaunched a couple of years ago, which draws a handful of teams. But the NBA is finding Summer League a money-making success and wants its teams concentrated there in July.

Wild night in L.A.: Lonzo Ball has triple-double; Nuggets coach, Nikola Jokic ejected

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lonzo Ball had his second career triple-double and Julius Randle scored 24 points in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 127-109 victory over the short-handed Denver Nuggets on Sunday night.

Ball had 11 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and 11 assists in the 20-year-old rookie’s first triple-double in front of his hometown fans at Staples Center.

Brook Lopez scored 21 points and Jordan Clarkson added 18 for the Lakers, who surged to a 24-point lead in the first half and easily won for just the second time in seven games.

Denver coach Mike Malone and top scorer Nikola Jokic were ejected in the second quarter after Malone stepped onto the court during play to argue a no-call on a play by Jokic around the basket. Malone furiously confronted referee Rodney Mott, who swiftly ejected the coach and his best player when Jokic joined in the argument.

Forward Paul Millsap also left with a sprained left wrist in the second quarter of a miserable night at Staples Center for the Nuggets, who lost for just the second time in six games.

Ball and Magic Johnson are the only Lakers with multiple triple-doubles in their rookie seasons. Johnson had seven, and his new point guard has two in his first 17 games.

Randle added seven points and five assists in a stellar game off the bench.

 

LeBron James on Colin Kaepernick: “He’s been blackballed”

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LeBron James has never been shy about speaking his mind, this season even more so it seems. That’s why it made sense that sooner or later, The King of the NBA would weigh in on an issue that has captivated the sports community: kneeling, national anthem protests, and Colin Kaepernick.

Speaking at Cass Technical High School in Detroit on Sunday, LeBron said that he though Kaepernick’s absence from an NFL roster was the result of clear action by teams to blackball the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback.

James, speaking not only from the perspective of the most influential current NBA player on the planet but as an NFL fan, said that he felt Kaepernick was better than most backups.

Via ESPN:

“I do know Kap is getting a wrong doing. I do know that. Just watching, he’s an NFL player. He’s an NFL player and you see all these other quarterbacks out there and players out there that get all these second and third chances that are nowhere near as talented as him. It just feels like he’s been blackballed out of the NFL. So, I definitely do not respect that.”

“The only reason I could say he’s not on a team is because the way he took a knee,” James said. “That’s the only reason. I watch football every Sunday, every Thursday, every Monday night. I see all these quarterbacks — first-string, second-team, third-team quarterbacks — that play sometimes when the starter gets hurt or are starters that play. Kap is better than a lot of those guys. Let’s just be honest.”

James, along with players like Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose, has previously helped lead the way in the NBA when it’s come to social activism and high-level activism.

The NBA does have a rule about standing for the national anthem, and commissioner Adam Silver said before the season started the league would handle any infractions as they came.

Meanwhile, guys like Stan Van Gundy have also come out and called guys like Kaepernick “patriots”.

LeBron said that if he owned an NFL team that he would sign Kaepernick. Perhaps that will happen sooner rather than later?