Joel Embiid looked good in workouts, so what should Cleveland do now with No. 1 pick?

32 Comments

Cleveland needs talent. Much more of it. They got a star in Kyrie Irving but have missed on other picks in recent years and they remain in the lottery despite owner Dan Gilbert saying he wanted to be back in the playoffs (which in the East should not be that hard to do).

They have another No. 1 pick and can’t blow it. Not again, as they did on Anthony Bennett last year (he could still pan out to be a rotation player in the league, but they passed over some much better guys to get a rotation player?).

Who do they take: Andrew Wiggins? Joel Embiid? Jabari Parker?

Embiid, the 7-footer out of Kansas, looked good, moved fluidly, got banged on by some former NBA big men and his injured back held up well in workouts in Los Angeles recently. That had a lot of people saying he jumped to the top of the Cavaliers draft board.

But PBT’s draft expert Ed Isaacson of NBADraftBlog.com and Rotoworld says not so fast, there are other factors in play here.

“For many other teams, Embiid being okay physically would leap him ahead of the other main options, Wiggins and Parker, but this is Cleveland and how they handle this pick may require a lot more thought,” Isaacson told PBT. “The team clearly reached the past couple of years with Dion Waiters at #4 in 2012 and Anthony Bennett at #1 in 2013. Embiid could be a star in the NBA, but he still has a long way to go, and if you watched him play against similar sized players last year, it becomes more evident. Parker may be considered the “safest” of the three options, but I don’t see where he fits with the current team, especially if the team isn’t ready to give up on Bennett yet. Wiggins to me is still the best option at #1 with a great combination of being able to come in and make some impact immediately, but enough untapped potential that Cleveland should see significant growth from him over a number of seasons.”

[MORE: Multiple lottery picks available in trades … at the right price]

Fair or not fair, Parker is often third in these discussions with the reason being he is projected to have a lower “ceiling” than the other guys at the top of the draft board. Which is really not fair, Isaacson notes.

“I think the idea of Parker’s “ceiling” becomes more prominent when you put him in a discussion that involves the likes of Embiid, Wiggins, and even Dante Exum,” Isaacson told PBT. “Unfortunately, no matter how often people want to use the term ‘ceiling,’ it has no concrete meaning, and it becomes less meaningful when it gets tied to a player’s age.

“The general idea with Parker is he is so advanced offensively for his age, that there can’t be any real significant improvement likely, which is wrong. There are plenty of ways he can improve, especially over the next few seasons, but when you factor in the defensive part of the game, it’s easy to see why people get “down” on him compared to Wiggins and Embiid. When people envision Wiggins long-term, they see a player who could make a big positive impact on both ends of the floor, and Embiid, even if he just tops out as an average offensive player, could still be the rim protector that teams are looking for. I just don’t see Parker ever having that kind of full impact, even if he can become one of the top scorers in the league.”

[MORE: Watch Joel Embiid throw down dunks]

To me, Cleveland needs to bring in all three of these guys, grade them out after workouts, have the doctors look them over (particularly Embiid’s back) then take the best guy. Not the best player today, but the guy who will be the best player in three years, Position doesn’t matter, talent matters, the Cavs need to get as much of it as they can.

New Orleans Saints fire Pelicans’ team physician

Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Pelicans have been crushed by injuries the last few years.

Why? That’s an incredibly complex question.

But the New Orleans Saints – who share an owner (Tom Benson), a front-office leader (Mickey Loomis) and other staff with the Pelicans – have found culprits for their own injury woes.

Mike Triplett of ESPN:

The Saints have fired team orthopedists Deryk Jones and Misty Suri, per source, after it was discovered that CB Delvin Breaux has a fractured fibula and will require surgery expected to sidelined him for 4-6 weeks. Breaux was originally diagnosed with a contusion

Suri is a Pelicans team physician.

Scott Kushner of The Advocate:

Fairly or not, Suri – after the Saints deemed him unacceptable – will be in the crosshairs if he keeps his job with the the Pelicans and their injury woes continue.

Rumor: LeBron James ‘100 percent’ leaving Cavaliers next summer

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
9 Comments

Chris Sheridan was ahead of the crowd in 2014, reporting LeBron James would likely leave the Heat for the Cavaliers – which obviously happened.

But Sheridan called it a “90 percent chance,” a small – but large enough – hedge. He also said LeBron would announce the decision on LeBron’s personal website. Of course, LeBron revealed his choice in a Sports Illustrated essay.

So, maybe Sheridan knows what he’s talking about. Maybe he doesn’t.

But the longtime NBA writer just fanned the flames of the already hot LeBron-leaving-Cleveland rumors.

Sheridan:

Of course, the denials came quickly.

There have already been plenty of warning signs about LeBron’s relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, which didn’t restart in a great place.

It’s entirely believable LeBron would leave Cleveland, in large part due to Gilbert.

But it’s also fun to speculate about that salacious storyline.

Maybe Sheridan or his source got carried away for that very reason. Or maybe they know something.

Neither possibility should be discounted.

Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant betting odds favorites to win MVP

Getty Images
5 Comments

Unlike the early projections for the NBA title next season, the MVP race seems wide open.

Russell Westbrook put up ridiculous numbers on his way to the award last season, but now he is going to share the rock with Paul George. James Harden made a legitimate case and would have won most seasons, but now he will have the ball in his hands less with Chris Paul running the show.

Who is going to win? Westbrook and Golden State’s Kevin Durant are the early betting line favorites, with these odds courtesy of online gaming site Bovada.

Russell Westbrook (OKC) 7/2
Kevin Durant (GS) 9/2
Kawhi Leonard (SAN) 13/2
LeBron James (CLE) 15/2
James Harden (HOU) 8/1
Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 17/2
Steph Curry (GS) 11/1
Anthony Davis (NOP) 16/1
Paul George (OKC) 25/1
Chris Paul (HOU) 25/1
Isaiah Thomas (BOS) 25/1
DeMarcus Cousins (NOP) 33/1
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 33/1
John Wall (WAS) 33/1
Blake Griffin (LAC) 40/1
Nikola Jokic (DEN) 40/1
DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 50/1
Joel Embiid (PHI) 50/1
Kyrie Irving (CLE) 50/1
Damian Lillard (POR) 50/1
Draymond Green (GS) 60/1
Ben Simmons (PHI) 66/1
Gordon Hayward (BOS) 70/1
Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 75/1
Jimmy Butler (MIN) 75/1
Andrew Wiggins (MIN) 75/1
Kevin Love (CLE) 100/1
Kyle Lowry (TOR) 100/1
Kristaps Porzingis (NYK) 100/1

Yes, it is far too early to discuss this. As a voter, I don’t even start to make a list of serious candidates until midway through the season (then that list evolves as the season wears on). But it’s fun to speculate about.

To me, the smartest bet on the board seems to be Kawhi Leonard — he could have won last year, and if anything the Spurs are going to ask more of him this season. I think Harden has a chance to win it this season even with CP3, same with Westbrook, but it feels less likely. It’s hard to imagine one Warrior being picked above the others for the award. If Giannis Antetokounmpo finds his jumper it could happen, but that feels more like something a couple seasons away. Same with Karl-Anthony Towns being in consideration.

If you’re going to bet on Kevin Love, just donate that money to charity where it will do some good.

If Jeff Hornacek doesn’t work out with Knicks, is David Blatt next in line?

Associated Press
1 Comment

It’s not fair to judge Jeff Hornacek of his first season as coach of the New York Knicks. Phil Jackson made some poor roster decisions — don’t hire a coach that likes to play fast then go sign Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah — and then there was the on again, off again, on again triangle offense looming over everything.

This season Hornacek will sink or swim on his own terms, and his ability to develop Kristaps Porzingis into a true franchise cornerstone and put Tim Hardaway Jr. and other young players in good positions around them.

If not, is former Cavaliers coach David Blatt lurking? Frank Isola of the New York Daily News says it’s something to watch.

Blatt, who has enjoyed tremendous success abroad, owns an impressive resume. No question about it. But you know the old saying, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And Blatt has connections with people in high places inside the Knicks front office, namely team president Steve Mills and newly hired front office executive Craig Robinson…

Mills is going to give Hornacek every opportunity to succeed in New York but Mills, who is said to have strong opinions about how the team should be coached, also wants to see results. That begins with Hornacek repairing his relationship with Kristaps Porzingis, who did not connect with the head coach last season and ultimately skipped his exit meeting with Jackson, Hornacek and Mills in April.

Repairing that relationship with Porzingis is crucial. We’ll see if Hornacek can do that and get this team moving in the right direction.

Blatt wants to return to the NBA, but his he the guy to connect with Porzingis? Blatt’s problems in Cleveland had far less to do with Xs and Os than it did relationships with players — Blatt was saying he wanted to team to play faster long before Tyronn Lue said that when he took over, but Lue could get players to buy in and listen. Blatt couldn’t. Blatt came in expecting to be handed respect, touting his European resume (that NBA players shrugged at), and demanding deference rather than building partnerships with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Blatt came off as needing to be the smartest guy in the room, always. Basically, Blatt could not handle the player/power dynamic in the NBA (coming out of Europe, where coaches have absolute power, like an American college coach). Has he learned how to deal with it?

Before we get to that question, Hornaced gets his shot. The real test for the Knicks comes after Christmas, when they spend most of a couple of weeks on the road (due to the Grammys coming to Madison Square Garden), it’s a tough couple of weeks, and the team could struggle in that stretch and not recover. Hornacek has to have the team playing well enough, and buying in enough by then, to survive that trip. Do that and he will stick around. If not, the sharks are circling.