Should Cavaliers trade No. 1 pick to Sixers for No. 3 pick, Thaddeus Young?

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Teams with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft just don’t trade it. With good reason. Those picks tend to be too valuable in a league where you need franchise changing guys and All-Stars to win, you can’t pass up the potential to draft one.

However this year the rumors are out there.

Chad Ford of ESPN started it (he starts a lot of rumors) and others have reported there have been at least some talks about the Sixers packaging the No. 3 pick and Thaddeus Young for the No. 1 pick — the Sixers want to make sure they get Andrew Wiggins that badly. How far down that road talks have gone is up for debate, but it has been discussed.

The Cavaliers have a lot of options, but should they really trade the No. 1 pick? Should the Sixers do it when a lot of mock drafts have Wiggins falling to them at No. 3 anyway?

For the Cavaliers, the answer to the above question is tied to the answer of another question: Do you think Joel Embiid or Andrew Wiggins can be a transcendent player?

If the Cavaliers believe that Embiid — the Kansas center said by many to be on top of the Cavs draft board — is a future top 10 NBA player who, along with Kyrie Irving, can be the foundation of a team that wins championships, then you keep the pick and take him. Talent wins in the NBA and you need those top 10 guys to get a title. You don’t trade them unless your hand is forced (see Minnesota with Kevin Love). The same is true if the Cavaliers grade Wiggins (or Jabari Parker) out that way.

However, if the Cavaliers believe that those three guys are close together and will all be good but not top 10 players, then I’d make the move because if you want to make the playoffs next season, Young is a good guy to have on your roster. The Cavs would still have the No. 3 pick and get a quality player.

The Sixers are clearly very high on Wiggins, which makes sense because putting the freak athlete on a team that wants to play ultra fast is a good marriage of player and system. But should they give up Young just to make sure they get Wiggins? Again, are they that sold he can be transcendent?

Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com doesn’t think the trade is the best move for the Sixers and GM Sam Hinkie.

…to me that the talent between the three players is marginally equal, and to give up another asset to pick at No. 1 is overpaying for the selection….

For my money, it’s entirely possible that Wiggins slips to No. 3 overall, where the Sixers will make their first selection of the 2014 draft — barring a trade to move up or down.

I would much rather see the Sixers keep the third pick and then package their 10th pick, along with one of their five second-round selections, to move up to eighth and take the shooter they like best in this draft. Imagine if the Sixers’ starting five looked like this next fall: Michael Carter-Williams at point guard, Michigan’s Nik Stauskas — who shot 44 percent from three-point range last year — at two-guard, Wiggins at small forward, Thaddeus Young as a hybrid four and Nerlens Noel protecting the rim.

That would be a fun young core, certainly a group that would struggle at times but be entertaining to watch. There would be hope in Philly.

In a lot of current mocks, Wiggins does slip to three. However, if Hinkie and the Sixers believe Wiggins is going to be a transcendent star, then giving up assets to get him is the right play. It just depends on how you grade him out.

In the end, I just can’t see the Cavaliers moving the pick, this time they seem assured to get somebody who can help them in that slot. You just don’t trade No. 1 picks in the NBA.

Warriors’ Matt Barnes on facing Kings: ‘I’m trying to kill ’em’

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The Kings were very good to Matt Barnes.

They signed him to a two-year contract worth more than $12.5 million when it seemed he wouldn’t come close to that on the market. Then they waived him, allowing him to receive all his salary and escape basketball hell for the Warriors, who make him much happier.

Yet, he’s going into tonight’s Golden State-Sacramento game with an edge.

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle (hat tip: CSN Bay Area):

Matt Barnes holding a grudge? Why, I never.

Surging Heat have playoffs in sight after dreadful start

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MIAMI (AP) — They have won 24 times in their last 31 games. They put together the NBA’s longest winning streak this season, a 13-game run that was beyond surprising. They are on the cusp of doing something never accomplished in NBA history.

This Miami Heat comeback tale has been an epic one.

And now comes the toughest part – finishing the job.

None of the other 125 teams in NBA history who started 11-30 or worse made the NBA playoffs. The Heat, with 10 games left on their regular-season schedule, are in position to change that. They held the second-worst record in the league in mid-January, are tied with San Antonio for the best record since, and hold a one-game lead over Chicago and Detroit for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot entering Friday’s games.

“These guys want this so bad,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra – a reluctant coach of the year candidate who cringes when players lobby on his behalf – said Thursday after a loss to the Toronto Raptors. “They want this opportunity to be in the playoffs. We’ve fought, scratched, done everything we possibly can to put ourselves into a position to fight for it.”

More fighting and scratching awaits.

Of Miami’s final 10 games, a stretch that starts Sunday in Boston, eight are against teams still battling for either a playoff spot or playoff positioning. The only two exceptions are a home-and-home next week with New York, which earlier this season was seven games ahead of the Heat in the standings and now are eight games behind Miami (35-37).

“We’ve dug ourselves out of a deep ditch,” Heat center and NBA rebounding leader Hassan Whiteside said.

True, but they’re not on firm playoff footing yet.

Under normal circumstances, Whiteside almost certainly would not have played Thursday. He needed 13 stitches to repair a cut in his right (shooting) hand on Tuesday, and a similar injury two years ago left him sidelined for three games.

Not only did he start Thursday, he led the Heat with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Afterward, he had icepacks strapped to both of his knees, covered his right hand in a clear plastic bag so the stitches wouldn’t get wet in the shower, and had his newly sprained left ankle wrapped.

“He’s a tough dude,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said.

He hasn’t been the only one.

Factoring in that Chris Bosh‘s on-court tenure with the Heat was declared over when he failed a physical in September, Miami has had at least two players unavailable to play in every game this season because of health reasons. Since Jan. 1, it’s been at least three every game – and often more.

A huge blow came last week when shooting guard Dion Waiters sprained his left ankle. He’s at three missed games and counting, and the Heat offense has struggled since.

“This is that time of the year,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody is feeling it, so this is the mental toughness we have to get to.”

The Heat have no practice Friday, though most players will be in the training room for treatments. Practice resumes Saturday, preceding the flight to Boston. And then Sunday, the 10-game sprint to the finish begins.

“I want our guys to enjoy this,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t feel that we’re putting any undue pressure, but everybody will feel like when they lose that the world is collapsing. This playoff race is still going on. And I think we need a day to get away from it, to decompress and to get back to work on Saturday.”

Remember when Shaq started practice naked? His former Lakers teammates do

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The Lakers are unveiling a statue for Shaquille O’Neal tonight, a perfect opportunity for his former teammates to share their favorite Shaq stories.

Mark Medina of The Orange County Register:

“We had a rule you can’t be late to the center huddle,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton, who played with O’Neal as a rookie in 2003-04. “He got here where he didn’t have time to get his clothes on. So he made sure he was on time in the center circle.”

“I’m just scarred by the one where he ran out into the middle of the court naked before practice,” said former Lakers forward Rick Fox, who played with O’Neal from 1997 to 2004. “I can’t get that image out of my mind.”

“Shaq walked onto the court, put his hands up and said ‘I’m ready to practice,’ said Lakers assistant coach Mark Madsen, who was O’Neal’s teammate from 2000 to 2003. “He had not one inch of clothing on. So he was there in all of his glory.”

“He would start running around looking for guys to hug. Everybody was trying to get out of the way,” mused former Lakers guard Derek Fisher, who played with O’Neal from 1996 to 2004. “That’s’ why when I hit that shot in San Antonio in 2004, that’s why we were so good at sprinting off of the court.”

As much as he toed the line with his wardrobe choices before practice started, O’Neal always practiced with his actual uniform. Fox expressed the views of many saying he’s “not guarding him, not doubling down in the post and digging for the ball” sans uniform. As Madsen mused, “that would’ve been the day I would’ve submitted my resignation papers.”

Want to criticize Shaq for not setting a better tone of punctuality? It’s a fair argument, and you might have had Kobe Bryant on your side.

But Shaq keeping the Lakers loose was instrumental in their high-pressure pursuit of championships. Don’t discount that contribution to their three titles with him.

Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac, probable top-10 pick, declares for NBA draft

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Jonathan Isaac explored bursting through a loophole to declare for the 2016 NBA draft straight out of high school.

Instead, he went to Florida State. Now, he’ll enter the 2017 draft.

Isaac:

If he doesn’t hire an agent, Isaac can maintain college eligibility, but this message seems pretty final. Expect Isaac to remain in the draft, and expect him to go in the top 10.

What I like most about the 6-foot-11 forward: Despite being so lanky, he was an elite defensive rebounder. That shows an underlying technical proficiency and physicality that should serve him well.

And then there are the drool-inducing flashes – his ability to go up and get alley-oops above the rim and a sweet-looking jumper.

He’s still a work in progress, and he deferred a lot at Florida State. But he’s just 19, and he has the tools to do more. I’d love to get him on my team as he learns to assert himself.