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.

Kyle Lowry to critical DeMar DeRozan: ‘Every shot you shoot is a bad shot, analytic-wise’ (video)

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Your reminder that Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are the best together.

DeRozan was asked about Lowry’s long 3-pointers after the Raptors’ win over the Timberwolves last night.

  • DeRozan: “”Them shots be lucky. … To me, it’s a bad shot.”
  • Lowry (off camera): “Every shot you shoot is a bad shot, analytic-wise.”

That’s not quite what the analytics say, but I won’t let the facts get in the way of a superb diss.

Gregg Popovich pins Spurs’ effort problems on players: ‘I don’t remember playing tonight’ (video)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gives instructions against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night – which begged the question:

Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?

Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

Popovich:

I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.

Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.

But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.

His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility – and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.

Donatas Motiejunas signing four-year, $35 million contract with Rockets

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets is helped to his feet by teammates James Harden #13 and Patrick Beverley #2 of the Houston Rockets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. 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 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Once the Rockets let Donatas Motiejunas back into free agency, this was only a matter of time.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This sounds remarkably similar to the salaries and incentives set in the original offer sheet from the Nets. But remember, the Rockets didn’t match some of those bonuses that Brooklyn would have been bound to.

So, why not hold Motiejunas to what became a four-year, $31 million offer sheet once matched? Houston got something in return – a later trigger date on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ 2017-18 salary. Originally, that decision had to be made March 1 – which would’ve meant dropping Motiejunas from the team this season to prevent his salary from counting next season. Now, the Rockets can make that call in July, after this season is complete.

The following two Julys, Houston will also have a choice on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ upcoming salary or dropping him.

Essentially, Motiejunas is signing the most lucrative Hinkie Special in NBA history. If he plays well and stays healthy, the Rockets have Motiejunas at an affordable rate. If he struggles or his back injuries flare up, they can drop him with little to no penalty.

After they backed themselves into this corner, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, didn’t do so bad. Considering the similarity between this contract and the Nets’ original offer sheet, it seems Houston helped Armstrong save face after a bungled free agency (which is easier to accept when you’re adding a talented reserve to a formidable team).

But for how little is guaranteed and how much control the Rockets hold over the next four years, wouldn’t Motiejunas have been better off accepting the $4,433,683 qualifying offer?

Report: Rockets return Donatas Motiejunas to restricted free agency, working on new contract with him

Donatas Motiejunas, Kenneth Faried
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Rockets had Donatas Motiejunas in a bind.

He was beholden to them on a four-year, $31 million deal and unable to sign with other teams. Motiejunas’ choices: Report for a physical or wait in limbo.

But apparently Houston has allowed him out of that constraint.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

This means Motiejunas can’t sign with the Nets, who signed him to the original offer sheet, for one year.

I bet it also means Motiejunas and Houston have agreed to a new contract. Otherwise, why release him from the offer sheet? The Rockets would be giving up a tremendous amount of leverage out of the goodness of their hearts – unless this is just a prelude to a new deal with Houston.