Joel Embiid

PBT NBA Draft Preview: The Orlando Magic

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Picks: 4, 12

Needs: Everywhere. No doubt there are a few nice young players on the Magic roster — Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, and Kyle O’Quinn grew on me — but none of them is a franchise anchor piece.

There is no place on the court the Magic could not use a talent upgrade, they need to take the very best player available. Regardless of position.

Trade possibilities: There has been no serious talk of the Magic trying to move up into the top three picks and it’s likely the assets that Cleveland or the Bucks would want are the kind of longer-term projects the Bucks are not yet ready to give up on.

But in the wake of the Joel Embiid injury, a team may want to move up into the Magic’s slot and snag him. For example, it has been rumored that the Celtics still want Embiid and might trade up. If Orlando got Boston’s No. 6 pick and a sweetener (a young player or Boston’s 17th pick) that may do the job. It depends on if the Magic are in love with any players and if they think said player would be there at 6. Sources had told me a week ago that the Magic were big on Marcus Smart, but there have been more recent reports that feeling has cooled.

Orlando has trade assets, starting with Arron Afflalo, who apparently the Timberwolves covet and Denver would like to get as part of their package for the elite power forward (the Nuggets have the No. 11 pick). If not Denver a number of teams will have interest in Afflalo. Also on the roster that could draw interest are Andrew Nicholson, Jason Maxiell and maybe Ronnie Price. fa

Predictions: The Joel Embiid injury has blown the top of the draft wide open and put the Magic in a very interesting spot — Embiid very well might fall to them. By all reports they are gathering a lot of information on the foot injury and what that could mean. This is potentially serious, this is the same spot on the foot Bill Walton and Yao Ming suffered breaks and were never quite the same after.

But if he is there at No. 4, the Magic need to take him. Yes, it’s a risk, but this is a league where you need elite players to reach the highest levels of the game and Embiid has the potential to be one of those guys. There are reports the Magic liked Dante Exum (now not likely there at 4) and Marcus Smart (likely still on the board) but Embiid is the potential franchise changer and you need to roll that dice, even if you sit on him for a full year. Didn’t seem to slow Blake Griffin much.

At No. 12, it depends on who is still on the board. If Elfrid Payton falls that far they should snatch him up as the point guard of the future (I’m very high on him). Likewise if Aaron Gordon or a good shooter fell that that far they’d have to consider it (Gary Harris and Rodney Hood may well still be available and good fits). But there is more and more buzz they may take Bosnian Josuf Nurkic, a true center but one expected to be stashed overseas for a couple years to mature. Watch for that pick.

Report: Rockets owner would consider Kenny “the Jet” Smith as head coach

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Kenny “The Jet” Smith is the next Steve Kerr?

I’m with you, I don’t see that either. But apparently in the Houston Rockets’ broad search for a new coach — we know it will not be J.B. Bickerstaff — owner Leslie Alexander would consider Smith, a member of the Rockets’ championship teams in the 1990s. From Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources tell ESPN.com that TNT’s Kenny Smith, who like (Sam) Cassell is a former Rockets player, could also land an interview. Rockets owner Leslie Alexander remains close to many players from the team’s highly successful Clutch City era, which delivered two championships, and holds them in high esteem.

As seen in the video above, Charles Barkley asked Smith about it on Inside the NBA Wednesday and Smith tap danced around the question, saying “anything basketball is me.”

The Rockets need a defensive-minded coach and someone who can help guide and build a good locker room culture, two things that held the Rockets back this season. Someone who can get the respect of James Harden and get him to do things such as show up to training camp in shape.

That’s what makes Jeff Van Gundy an interesting fit, same with Frank Vogel if he is let go by the Indiana Pacers as it more and more seems like he will be. Both of them have experience doing what the Rockets need. Can The Jet coach? Who knows. But with Harden in his prime and some other quality role players on the roster (Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverley, Clint Capella, and the list goes on) why gamble on the unknown?

Report: Bulls telling teams they plan on keeping Jimmy Butler

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 14:  Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls warms up prior to action against the Toronto Raptors in an NBA game at the Air Canada Centre on March 14, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Bulls defeated the Raptors 109-107. NOTE TO USER: user expressly acknowledges and agrees by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Bulls are trying to find their identity. They used to be a defensive team, but they went and got an offensive coach in Fred Hoiberg and by the end of the season had slid badly on that end of the floor. They are no longer Derrick Rose‘s team, but they didn’t have the personnel to run Hoiberg’s system. The Bulls need to figure out who they are and what players on the roster should be part of that team moving forward.

Expect Jimmy Butler to be part of that future. He’s the best player on the team, but he rubs some teammates the wrong way, and there have been rumors the Bulls would listen to trade offers.

The Bulls are telling teams they plan to hold on to him, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.

A league source tells CSNNE.com that the Bulls, while still open to listening to offers for Butler, are telling teams that are inquiring about his availability that their plan for now is to keep him in the fold.

And while there was some thought that a top-3 pick coupled with a few decent players might be enough to entice the Bulls to pull the trigger on a deal to trade Butler, CSNNE.com has been told such an offer would have to include at least one “legitimate, NBA starter” for the Bulls to even possibly consider trading him.

“And that might be a stretch,” the source indicated.

What is the hardest part of assembling a potential NBA title contender? Finding the elite, cornerstone player you need who can lead your team at both ends of the floor. The Chicago Bulls have that in Butler, he’s locked up under contract until at least the summer of 2019 on a good contract (a max before the TV deal money kicked in), why would they trade him?

Stranger things have happened, especially with the Bulls, but unless they want to tear it all down and rebuild — and they don’t — getting rid of Butler doesn’t make sense.

The better question is who will be around Butler come next fall.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 =

Watch all 25 threes from Cleveland in Game 2 win

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Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.

Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.

In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.

Cavaliers threes shotchart

Report: Rockets to interview Mike D’Antoni, Frank Vogel for coaching vacancy

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers gestures during the game against the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center on February 28, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 126-122.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.

The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.

Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.