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Reports: 76ers-Pelicans Jahlil Okafor trade talks include New Orleans sending 2018 first-rounder, Alexis Ajinca

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The Pelicans are tied for the NBA’s fifth-worst record.

They might be even worse next year.

That also might be someone else’s problem.

So, the rumored Jahlil Okafor trade apparently focus on New Orleans sending the 76ers its 2018, not 2017, first-round pick.

 

Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders:

Justin Verrier of ESPN:

The 2017 draft is loaded. The Pelicans might dream of Okafor lifting them in the playoff race, but that seems far-fetched. So, it’d be foolish to deal that 2017 first-rounder, at least depending on the protections.

Trading a 2018 first-rounder becomes even more logical for New Orleans when you consider general manager Dell Demps’ seemingly shaky job security. Okafor could help the Pelicans become more respectable in the short term — and if the center doesn’t, Demps might be gone for the 2018 draft.

That’s why the protections on the pick, even if it won’t convey until 2018, will still be so crucial.

As lousy as this season has gone for New Orleans (19-32), next year could be even worse.

Anthony Davis has missed just four games this season. He has never missed fewer than 14 games over a full season. The top members of his supporting cast so far this year, Jrue Holiday and Terrence Jones, head into unrestricted free agency next summer. Meanwhile, underwhelming performers Solomon HillE'Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway, Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca are locked into long-term contracts. The Pelicans’ clearest path to even reasonable cap space involves Holiday leaving.

Dumping Ajinca (owed $10,247,192 over the next two years) would help New Orleans a bit. He holds negative value (though having him on the books would be less costly for the 76ers, who are under the salary floor and have more cap space in coming years than they know what to do with).

But there are still numerous viable paths to the Pelicans declining — even while adding Okafor. Okafor, a talented interior scorer with majorly concerning defensive limitations, does not justify an all-in move.

If you’re a New Orleans fan looking for good news, Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said Jahlil Okafor would start against the Pistons tonight. If the 76ers thought the trade were close, they’d probably sit Okafor until finalizing it.

Should Okafor escape tonight uninjured and these teams continue exploring the deal tomorrow, keep a close eye on the pick protections.

Gordon Hayward’s agent says return this season unlikely

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Wednesday night in Boston Gordon Hayward underwent surgery to repair his dislocated ankle and fractured tibia suffered just five minutes into the season-opening game, a gruesome injury that put a pall over the rest of the night.

There had been hope from some Celtics fans that Hayward could return this season, likely for the playoffs, but now that the surgery is complete Hayward’s agent told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN not to expect him back until next season.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who saw the injury. Hayward is in the first year of a four-year deal with the Celtics, they were always going to choose a cautious path rather than rush him back. Under Danny Ainge Boston has always taken the long view, even with all their moves this summer — specifically bringing in Hayward and Kyrie Irving — the target was to be the team set up for next as LeBron James and the Cavaliers faded. That plan does not change now.

Earlier in the day, Hayward had sent a video message out to Celtics fans thanking them for their support in the past 24 hours.

Without Hayward, the Celtics now will focus more on smaller lineups, rookie Jayson Tatum will get more run, as will Marcus Smart in his contract year. Jaylen Brown will be thrust into a more significant role. Also, Kyrie Irving will be asked to do more as the team’s second-best playmaker is now out for the season.

The Celtics will take a step back this season without Hayward, who was going to be crucial for them on both ends of the floor. That’s evidenced by their 0-2 start, falling to the Cavaliers and Bucks on the first couple nights of the season. Boston should still be a team well above .500 and in the playoffs, but they will not be quite the same this season.

Trail Blazers beat Suns by 48, biggest season-opening rout in NBA history

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Any controversy over C.J. McCollum‘s suspension for the season-opener should be put to rest. The Trail Blazers fared fine without him.

More than fine.

Portland beat the Suns, 124-76, Wednesday. The 48-point margin is the largest ever in a season opener, even as the Trail Blazers let a 58-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle.

Here are the most lopsided season-openers in NBA history (openers for both teams appearing twice):

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The 48-point defeat is also the Suns’ worst lost in franchise history, topping a 44-point loss to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1988. It could be a long year in Phoenix.

Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova scrap (video)

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Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova thrive on aggravating opponents, so when matched up, of course they aggravated each other.

Deduct points from Smart for pulling the hold-me-back charade behind a referee. Plus, Dellavedova’s Bucks beat Smart’s Celtics, 108-100.

Report: ‘Tremendous concern’ for Jeremy Lin’s knee injury

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The Nets’ projected record this season came under greater scrutiny when the Celtics traded Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick to the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade. After finishing third-to-last and last the previous two years, were the Nets poised to take a step forward, or would they convey a very high pick to the Cavs?

Jeremy Lin, who missed 46 games last season, getting healthy was a reason for optimism in Brooklyn and pessimism in Cleveland. But it appears the veteran guard could be out a while.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Billy Reinhardt of Nets Daily:

If the injury is as bad as feared, what a bummer for Lin. He came to Brooklyn expecting to play a leading role on a developing team, and he just can’t stay healthy.

The Nets were probably more focused on developing their younger players, but – especially without their own draft picks – there was no harm in shooting for the playoffs. This appears to a blow to that (already unlikely) dream.

It’s a boon to the Cavaliers, though. And whenever something significantly affects LeBron James‘ team, it has ramifications into the entire power dynamic of the Eastern Conference. For an injury to a player on a team most expect to be bad, the medical developments here will be tracked closely around the league.