Joel Embiid

Report: Scouts, GMs leaning toward Joel Embiid for No. 1 pick

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Predicting the No. 1 pick in this NBA Draft before Tuesday night’s draft lottery is impossible — there is not a consensus between Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid….

Or is there? Veteran NBA reporter Mark Heisler, writing for Forbes, has this note coming out of the Chicago pre-draft combine last week.

If there’s no consensus No. 1 pick in the press, one super prospect emerged in the minds of the NBA people I talked to. That was Embiid, the 7-0, 250-pound (as listed by Kansas) freshman who started around No. 5 on sheer size and raw potential and realized enough of it to rocket to No. 1 in mid-season when a GM told me, “His ceiling is Hakeem Olajuwon. His basement is Serge Ibaka.”

Said GM comment came before Embiid missed the end of the season and the NCAA Tournament with a stress fracture in his back — the second time in two years he had that injury. A lot of Embiid’s draft status comes down to what team doctors find when they get a closer look at is back.

This all feels like a smoke screen to PBT’s draft expert Ed Isaacson of the NBAdraftblog.com and Rotoworld.

“Embiid may be a popular pick among NBA executives if he is healthy, but with that still outstanding, and with none of the top players having been brought in by teams yet, any opinion is far from set in stone. Once the draft order is known tonight, we will have a better idea of what player may be the best fit for the team at #1, but with many teams who have a good shot desperate to get this right, expect teams to take their time up to the draft making their decision.

“Also, NBA executives do not like giving their draft thoughts out, even if they are unnamed. The “smoke screen” quotes from executives will increase over the coming weeks and we will hear Embiid, Wiggins, and Parker all become “popular” picks at #1. Each offers something different to a team, and legitimate arguments can be made for all of them. This may all be a case of executives saying Embiid because it is very safe to say you like the 7-footer who has a ton of untapped potential.”

We will likely have a better idea who goes No. 1 as the Draft itself gets close… then again we thought we had an idea last year and Cleveland chose Anthony Bennett. A lot of things could happen here.

Chris Paul finds brilliant counter to hack-a-DeAndre Jordan (video)

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I originally favored allowing Hack-a-Shaq as the NBA currently does. I found the strategy fascinated – why and when teams would use it and how their opponents would counter.

But it just became too common. Far too many games featured a parade of trips to the line, a boring stretch that made games too long. I thought the intrigue had run its course.

Then, Chris Paul pulled this move last night.

The Clippers guard saw Jonas Jerebko charging toward DeAndre Jordan to commit an intentional foul, so Paul stepped in front of an unsuspecting Jerebko and took the foul himself. That’s sent a good free-throw shooter to the line instead of the dismal Jordan.

Just an awesome heady play by Paul.

PBT Podcast: NBA All-Star Weekend talk, predictions with Sean Highkin

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NBA All-Star weekend descends upon frigid Toronto starting Friday, with everything from the Rookie/Sophomore… er, Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, the Dunk Contest/Three-Point Contest on Saturday, and the main event on Sunday.

Kurt Helin and Sean Highkin of NBC’s ProBasketballTalk break it all down, from Pau Gasol replacing Jimmy Butler to predictions on the Dunk Contest and if anyone can knock off Zach LaVine. Plus, there is plenty of “why Sting?” talk.

PBT will be in Toronto with reports from the event all weekend, so come back early and often for all the latest (plus trade talk, as all the GMs get together in one city where it’s too cold for them to go outside).

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Pistons retire Chauncey Billups’ jersey at halftime (VIDEO)

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Moments before his jersey went up to the rafters, Chauncey Billups spoke to the crowd about the night the Detroit Pistons wrapped up the 2004 NBA title by routing the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the Finals.

“We had one motivation,” he said. “We wanted to win it here at home.”

Billups was the most valuable player in the Finals that year, and he had his No. 1 jersey retired by the Pistons on Wednesday night at halftime of their game against Denver.

He was the second player from that 2004 team honored by the Pistons this year. The Pistons retired Ben Wallace’s jersey last month at a similar ceremony – in front of a packed house on a night Detroit beat Golden State.

There were some empty seats in the upper level Wednesday, but Billups wanted to be honored while the Pistons were playing the Nuggets. Billups is a Denver native and played for the Nuggets for two stints during his career.

“This was by design, only because there’s a lot of people that contributed to my success as a player and as a man, in Denver, my hometown,” Billups said before the game. “There were several dates that I could have chosen. This one obviously stuck out.”

Billups does have a mild regret about his run of success with the Pistons. He figures they could have won more titles.

“I felt like, two and maybe three championships – we were that good,” he said.

Ben Wallace was on hand Wednesday, and so were Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince from the 2004 champions. Pistons great Isiah Thomas was also at the Palace for the ceremony.

“This is what tradition looks like,” Thomas told the crowd. “This is what it feels like.”