Andrew Wiggins

Don’t think Andrew Wiggins is a lock as No. 1 pick. He’s not.

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We’ve blown him up — when you talk about NBA teams taking this season we call it “riggin for Wiggins.” As in Andrew Wiggins, the Kansas freshman who had 22 points and 10 boards, plus played some good defense, in leading his team past Duke Tuesday night.

Wiggins is atop every serious mock draft right now and with good reason — he is a tremendous athlete who has a variety of shakes, hesitation moves and more to create his own shot. And that shot is getting better. He’s gotten the most hype of someone entering the draft since the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant draft. Or maybe back to LeBron James. That kind of hype is not fair to Wiggins and not something he brought on himself (by all reports he’s pretty humble considering) but it is his reality as the anointed No. 1 pick in the next NBA draft.

Except Wiggins isn’t a lock to be the top pick. Not close.

The reason franchises are “tanking” (or whatever institutional rebuilding word you want to use) this year is not one player but a number of them who could change a franchise’s fortunes.

“Anyone that tells you that Andrew Wiggins — or any of the three freshmen — is a lock for the No. 1 pick does not know what they’re talking about,” Rob Dauster of NBC’s CollegeBasketballTalk told PBT. “And the point that needs to be driven home here is that this has nothing to do with Wiggins as a prospect. He’s phenomenal. It has everything to so with the fact that Julius Randle and Jabari Parker are also franchise-changing talents, and that’s before you factor in guys like Marcus Smart, Joel Embiid, Doug McDermott and Dante Exum. There’s a sick amount of talent in this draft. Bottom line.

“Think about it like this: Minnesota got Kevin Love 5th in 2008. Are they complaining?”

It’s not just college basketball and draft experts saying that.

Look at what one scout and one GM told Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

“Until Wiggins learns how to play hard,” one NBA scout said, “he’s Kansas’ third-best freshman.”

“He’s not LeBron,” one NBA general manager said. “It’s not his fault regarding all the hype. People say he’s pretty humble. He’s a top-three pick for sure, if not No. 1.”

Or look at what another scout told Scott Howard-Cooper at NBA.com when asked if Wiggins was a lock at No. 1.

“I think in the media’s mind he is. But just in talking to one of our guys around the league, he said Wiggins was the third-best player in their practices. The media has Wiggins way ahead. I just don’t think the NBA has him way ahead.”

Part of a scout’s job is to pick apart a kid’s game and see if you can knock it off a pedestal. And no 18-year-old has anything resembling a complete game. Players evolve, ranking change. A year ago it seemed Nerlens Noel was headed for the No. 1 spot but an injury saw him fall down the board come draft night. Let’s hope none of these young college stars suffers that devastating and injury (Noel is not expected to play for the Sixers at all this season) but the point is that things change.

It’s not just one team that is going to be thrilled winning the NBA lottery next year. End up in the top seven and you are going to land a real stud player.

That is why tanking is going to be an issue all season.

Report: Kings also ready to trade Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo, Ben McLemore

Sacramento Kings guard Darren Collison, foreground, is hugged by teammate DeMarcus Cousins in the closing moments of the Kings 109-106 overtime win over the Golden State Warriors in an NBA basketball game Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. At right is Kings guard Arron Afflalo. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
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A driving force behind the Kings trading DeMarcus Cousins: Sacramento keeps its first-round pick in the loaded 2017 draft only if it lands in the top 10 (though the 76ers hold swap rights). Otherwise, the Kings’ pick conveys to the Bulls.

Sacramento, only a half game better than the NBA’s 10th-worst team, figures to drop into the keep-pick zone without Cousins, the team’s best player.

But the Kings can intensify a fall through the standings by trading supporting players like Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo and Ben McLemore.

Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:

The Kings excised Cousins, and there are strong indications they are not done dealing, either. Sacramento is determined to restock the franchise with assets, and will be targeting rookie-deal players and draft picks in the coming days, sources told The Vertical. Free agents-to-be Ben McLemore and Darren Collison are available, sources said, as is Arron Afflalo, a solid bench scorer with a manageable contract.

Collison is the Kings’ starting point guard, and he’d be solid for a team seeking a rental. He’s making $5,229,454 in the final year of his contract. Trading a starter would certainly help Sacramento keep its pick in the top 10.

Afflalo ($1.5 million of $12.5 million guaranteed next year) and McLemore (who can be made a restricted free agent next summer) are producing far less. It’s less likely other teams covet them. At least keeping these two guards probably won’t lift the Kings too high in the standings.

Paul Pierce uses two phones at dunk contest, says props shouldn’t be allowed

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Paul Pierce — NBA veteran and emoji enthusiast — used not one but two smartphones to record the action during Saturday night’s underwhelming dunk contest. Why was Pierce doing this? Perhaps he wanted to have an extra copy of it because he doesn’t trust “the cloud”. Or maybe he’s doing some work as a social media manager on the sly. You know, getting a jump on that retirement thing.

Or maybe this is just something that Pierce really likes to do:

Whatever he’s doing, I’m not sure if he looks like a boss or like a goober doing it. I feel this accurately sums up Paul Pierce’s aesthetic.

Meanwhile, after Glenn Robinson III won the 2017 NBA Dunk Contest, Pierce had some thoughts that he expressed via Twitter.

Pierce may have a point. Jeremy Evans dunking over a painting of himself in 2013 immediately felt pretty ridiculous. But eliminating props entirely? I’m not so sure about that. How would they sell Kias then?

DeMarcus Cousins projects to miss out on at least $29.87 million due to trade

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 17:  DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings speaks with the media during media availability for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game at The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans on February 17, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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DeMarcus Cousins was all smiles the moment he appeared to find out about his trade, or at least trade rumors of going, from the Kings to the Pelicans.

But once he examines the deal closer, he might not like every aspect.

Cousins stands to miss out on a lot of money — about $30 million or more — due to this trade.

Because he made All-NBA teams the last two seasons, he was eligible to sign a designated-veteran-player contract extension this summer. As a matter of fact, he reportedly planned to do just that with Sacramento reportedly planning to offer it. That extension projected to be worth $209,090,000 over five years ($41,818,000 annually).

But, once officially dealt, Cousins will no longer be eligible for that super-max extension. It’s reserved for players still with their original team or who changed teams only via trade during their first four years.

This is Cousins’ seventh season, dropping his max starting salary in 2018 from 35% of the salary cap as a designated veteran player to 30%. That projects to be $179,220,000 over five years ($35,844,000 annually) if he re-signs.

It’d be even less if he leaves New Orleans, a projected $132,870,000 over four years ($33,217,500 annually).

Notice how small that difference is now between his incumbent team and other suitors. By rule, the Pelicans won’t hold nearly the same advantage in keeping him as the Kings would have. In other words, New Orleans faces greater risk of Cousins walking.

And there’s no guarantee Cousins gets the max. You saw how little the Pelicans traded for him. That speaks to his value around the league.

Just over a month ago, Cousins appeared content to take $209 million or so and stay in Sacramento. Now, his financial future is far more uncertain. But this much we know: His max possible salary on his next contract just got lowered.

Is this the moment DeMarcus Cousins found out he was traded? (video)

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 18:  DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings attends practice for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 18, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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NEW ORLEANS — DeMarcus Cousins was set to answer questions after the All-Star game, when a Kings public-relations official said, “All-Star questions first, please. All-Star-game questions.”

“What other questions we got?” Cousins asked, seemingly unaware of his trade to the Pelicans.

The PR person whispered in Cousins’ ear.

“Oh, really?” Cousins asked.

More whispering.

“It’s whatever,” Cousins said.

Then, asked about his All-Star experience, Cousins smiled big and said, “It was amazing, man. I enjoyed the city of New Orleans. I love it here in New Orleans.”