Los Angeles Clippers v Miami Heat

Report: Clippers pursuing LeBron James, but won’t trade Blake Griffin for him


Can you imagine a team with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and LeBron James? Even surrounded by minimum-salary players, it would immediately become championship favorites.

The Clippers want to make that happen – but on their terms.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

Griffin is extremely valuable to the Clippers, and I’m sure they don’t want to trade him.

But if pressed, there is absolutely no way they should should keep Griffin over acquiring LeBron.

Loyalty is important. LeBron is more important.

And if the Clippers are serious about landing LeBron, they’d likely have to part with Griffin in a sign-and-trade.

Even if the Clippers strip their roster to just Paul and Griffin, they still wouldn’t have enough space below the projected salary cap to offer LeBron his max – though the difference would be negligible.

More importantly, trimming the roster to that point would be a huge challenge.

Glen Davis and Danny Granger are helping by opting out. Darren Collison is also opting out, and Willie Green has a fully unguaranteed contract that becomes fully guaranteed July 1. Either way, the Clippers should waive him.

That still leaves Paul, Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes, Darren Collison and Reggie Bullock under contract for next season. Clearing those last seven would take considerable maneuvering. Even if all but Dudley has real value, those are several trades to lineup.

Unless Doc Rivers accomplishes all that, a sign-and-trade would be required. He’d certainly pitch one based on Jordan, but there’s no way Pat Riley accepts. He’s not going to help LeBron leave Miami without significant return.

It would take Griffin to even get the conversation rolling – and that still might not be enough. The must be really convinced LeBron is leaving regardless.

LeBron joining the Clippers is a longshot, but it’s much, much, much more improbable if they’re unwilling to deal Griffin.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets 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)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told NBCSports.com. The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.