And with the No. 1 pick in the draft, the Cavaliers… trade it?

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The top pick in the NBA draft hasn’t been traded in two decades — elite talent wins in this league and you get that by being bad, winning the lottery and drafting it.

But there is no elite talent in this year’s draft class. So….

It’s been said by people around the league for a while that if a No. 1 pick were going to trade hands this would be the year. And the Cavaliers are going to explore it at least, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

“You want to look at all your options and make the best decision for your team,” Cavs general manager Chris Grant said. “This is a valuable asset that we can add to the group, whether it’s in trade or keep it and add a player.”

The Cavs are in a favorable position to make a deal. The team has more than $20 million in salary cap space, the No. 1 pick plus the No. 19, No. 31 and No. 33 picks, and a roster with young prospects that could be used in a deal.

The Cavaliers want to be a playoff team next year — even owner Dan Gilbert’s lucky charm son Nick Gilbert said so up on stage at the draft lottery. The likely No. 1 pick for them this draft would be Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel — a player who will not be back until Christmas with a torn ACL and is a couple of years away from really meaningful contributions anyway. He doesn’t really help you make the playoffs next year.

But for another team Noel can be a good fit — especially one already thinking about losing a lot of games next season and being high in next year’s lottery and draft where there will be franchise changers like Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle. Noel would fit nicely with them in a few years. But you’d have to give up a quality asset (likely a big man or a slashing forward) who could help the Cavaliers with their short-term goals.

It probably still will not happen. It’s not likely a GM is going to surrender much to get the top pick in this draft, so the trend will continue and the Cavaliers will take Noel and think long term (then use that cap space to get the players they want for next season).

But it’s something to watch. For the first time since it happened to Chris Webber was drafted by the Magic and traded that night to Golden State, the top pick in the draft could be on the move.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.