Report: NBA executives increasingly believe Jabari Parker will remain at Duke another season

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Andrew Wiggins hasn’t been quite as good as many hoped at Kansas, but that doesn’t significantly diminish the 2014 NBA Draft. This beauty of the upcoming draft – and the reason so many teams are tanking – is how strong and deep it is at the top.

The team with the NBA’s worst record gets just a 25 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick in the lottery, hardly a safe proposition in a draft that features only one elite prospect. But this draft features several, meaning teams don’t need to combine tanking and lottery luck. Just tanking will do.

The NBA’s three worst teams will be guaranteed the option to pick at least one of Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Dante Exum or Marcus Smart – that is if all six of those players declare for the draft, which is not a given.

Sam Smith of Bulls.com:

And the growing view among NBA executives seems to be Jabari Parker will not leave Duke this year. Chicagoan Jahlil Okafor, a Parker friend and big man, is going to Duke next season. Parker is a bright young man with a strong family and the feeling is he understands both the importance of education and feels he owes Duke and the chance to have a great Duke team, which more than likely is the next two seasons. Plus, Parker has seen what staying in school has done for other greats compared with the tough starts for even stars like Kobe Bryant.

First of all, Parker owes Duke nothing. In fact, Duke owes him a lot more than the scholarship it’s giving him. Elite basketball players like Parker generate so much money for their schools, and most of it goes to coaches, administrators and other people whose compensation is artificially inflated by the NCAA’s absurd amateurism rules.

That said, if Parker wants to stay at Duke another year for whatever reason, more power to him. That’s his choice, and outsiders shouldn’t tell him what’s right or wrong for him.

I don’t actually expect Parker to stay, though. That’s easy for him to believe now, while he’s cruising, averaging 19.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. But what if he suffers a minor injury? That might convince him to stop risking his future for little compensation. What about when Duke’s season ends? That might give Parker the sense of finality he needs to go pro.

Or maybe, without any additional impetus, Parker just realizes how much money is at stake. I don’t know whether the Kobe comparison came from Sam Smith or trickled down from Parker himself, but the example seems pretty ridiculous. Does anyone think Kobe regrets how his career turned out? By skipping college, Kobe accelerated the timeline for getting his second contract – when NBA players really cash in – and added an additional year(s) to the post-rookie-scale portion of his career. Though there are plenty of variables that would have been affected, Kobe skipping a year of college basketball probably added more than $20 million to his career salaries.

Many players in Parker’s position consider staying in school. Few actually do. The money is just too great.

Lastly, we’re hearing this third-hand at best. Perhaps, Parker told NBA executives who told Smith. More likely, there were more links in the chain and more possibilities for the message to get twisted.

It’s possible Parker stays at Duke another year. I still consider that unlikely.

Report: LaMarcus Aldridge unhappy playing for Spurs

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The Spurs trading LaMarcus Aldridge – they’re reportedly shopping him – could open enough cap space to sign Chris Paul.

But that isn’t the only reason San Antonio is trying to move Aldridge.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

According to a person with knowledge of the Spurs forward’s situation, it’s the 31-year-old’s unhappiness in San Antonio that is the driving force behind the Spurs’ trade talks on Thursday. The five-time All-Star, according to the person, is hopeful that San Antonio can find a better fit for his talents.

Rumors about the Spurs trading Aldridge emerged early in the season, as he was reportedly unhappy about Kawhi Leonard getting the spotlight. When Aldridge signed with San Antonio, it seemed Leonard could do the heavy lifting as the team’s best player and Aldridge could get outsized credit as the leading scorer. But Leonard has emerged as the go-to offensive player, pushing Aldridge into a supporting role both in reality and reputation. Gregg Popovich calling out Aldridge publicly during the playoffs surely didn’t improve relations.

Aldridge turns 32 this summer and will likely become a free agent after next season. Wanting to leave the Spurs – held up as the NBA’s best culture – will raise additional red flags.

San Antonio might not get as much as it hopes in a trade for Aldridge. If Chris Paul is coming, the Spurs wouldn’t need as much for Aldridge. But they won’t know about Paul until July.

San Antonio also values building a roster of players who’ve, as Popovich puts it, “gotten over themselves.” If that’s not Aldridge, the Spurs might not want to keep him around.

There are numerous factors to weigh and incomplete information, but this is the twisting road San Antonio is navigating.

Here’s Knicks’ reported asking price from Celtics in Kristaps Porzingis trade

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Knicks president Phil Jackson’s asking price for Kristaps Porzingis is reportedly “massive.”

Just what does that mean?

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

According to a Knicks source, Jackson is asking for the third overall pick in Thursday’s draft as well as next year’s Brooklyn pick along with Jaylen Brown and Jae Crowder. This version of the deal would not include Boston taking on Joakim Noah‘s contract.

All the Knicks fans who threatened to relinquish their fandom if the team traded Porzingis – most would love this deal.

Would the Celtics? I doubt it.

The question is whether there’s a middle ground between what New York wants and what Boston would do. It’s possible Jackson won’t budge and is just shopping Porzingis on the off chance someone accepts outlandish requests like these and to teach Porzingis a lesson for skipping his exit meeting.

Report: First-round draft prospect says Phil Jackson fell asleep during his workout

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Like I said, there are better reasons to criticize Phil Jackson than him saying his priority was the Knicks and that he had discussed trading Kristaps Porzingis.

Jay Williams of ESPN:

A top-15 draft pick told me the other day, because we were involved in this out of this conversation about Phil Jackson and the Knicks, and he said, “Phil Jackson was falling in and out of sleep in my workout.”

Yes. “Falling in and out of sleep at my workout.” This is what this guy told me.

Especially given Jackson’s salary and reputation for not being a diligent worker, this story is too good to check out.

O.G. Anunoby invited to NBA draft, Harry Giles declines

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The NBA’s invitations to the draft are a good indicator of when players will get drafted. The league samples executives, who are more likely to be honest here than in leaks to the media, about how they rank players. So, the list is worth monitoring.

The players who will attend tonight’s draft nearly match the leaks – with one exception. O.G. Anunoby is going, and Harry Giles isn’t.

Here are the players who will be at the draft – a reasonable placeholder for the players most likely to get picked in the top 20 – via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England:

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress:

Harry Giles declined his invite sources told DraftExpress.

Did Giles decline his invite because, with his extensive injury history, he feared falling too far? Or did he just prefer to watch elsewhere?

Was Anunoby simply 21st on the NBA’s list of players to invite? Or was the league too unsure of his medical status to include him until getting a stronger grasp now?

I don’t know, but the possibility that Giles could slip or Anunoby is more secure alters my perception of their draft stock (Anunoby up, Giles down).