Russian guard Dmitry Kulagin, with Kings interest, considering jumping to NBA

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In 2011, DraftExpress projected Dmitry Kulagin would become a first-round pick.

But Kulagin had fallen off the radar since. A couple years ago, Draft Express wrote:

NBA teams continue to admire his talent, but have the some reservations about his approach to the game, wondering about his overall focus and whether he will be able to live up to his significant potential as a 6-5 versatile and creative point guard.

Still, his potential remained evident. He really impressed Brett Pollakoff at Eurocamp this year:

My favorite player of the day was Dmitry Kulagin, a 21-year old 6’6″ combo guard who has been to Eurocamp in the past, but this time was by far his most impressive showing. His activity on both ends of the floor was immediately noticeable, and he was in attack mode from the moment he stepped on the court. Kulagin finished 6-of-10 from the field in his two games combined, and his athleticism and effort was a joy to watch.

Kulagin, now 22, was automatically entered into the 2014 draft, and he went unselected. That makes him an unrestricted free agent, and at least one NBA team is intrigued.

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

Russian shooting guard Dmitry Kulagin is receiving interest from the Sacramento Kings and is seriously considering coming to the NBA, a source told Yahoo Sports.

It’s possible Kulagin is just a standard undrafted free agent, someone with little value. Just a couple months ago, any team in the league could have drafted him and none did.

But if teams were worried about his desire to join the NBA, it’s possible he flew under the radar. Maybe he really is in demand now, something Spears devoting an article to him would suggest.

Kulagin’s salary, should he join the NBA, will reveal which is the case. Most undrafted free agents draw only minimum contracts or slightly more. If Kulagin gets more, that would imply something about his stock.

The Kings, though hard-capped, still have the bi-annual exception and room to offer its entirety to Kulagin. They can also contribute up to $600,000 toward his buyout without it counting against the cap.

That might be enough to lure Kulagin – if it even takes that much.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard likes tweets critical of Paul George trade

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Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Oops.

Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.

Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):

This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.

Report: Rival executives still expect Paul George to leave Thunder for Lakers

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.

He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.

Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.

So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency

Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.

There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.

Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.