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Five teams most likely to get the No. 1 pick

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The NBA’s lottery reform won’t go in effect until 2018-19, meaning there’s still the same old incentives to sink to the bottom of the standings this season. Every team has a greater than 75% chance of not getting the No. 1 pick, as the league’s worst record only cinches a 25% chance, and no team can guarantee the bottom record at this point. But here are the teams “leading” the race for the top pick:

Chicago Bulls

New franchise player Zach LaVine will miss at least the first month of the season, and it’s unclear how athletic he’ll look upon his return from a torn ACL. The roster is littered with other rookie-scale players who haven’t shown the acumen to contribute positively to winning: Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, Jerian Grant, Bobby Portis, Cameron Payne and even Lauri Markkanen, a rookie who’s admittedly more of an unknown quantity. The only seasoned veteran, Robin Lopez, specializes in the dirty work that won’t matter much on a team where nobody can do the heavy lifting. The Bulls are knowingly rebuilding, and if their goal was completely bottoming out this year, they’re looking good.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Possessing Brooklyn’s unprotected first-rounder from the Kyrie Irving trade, the Cavaliers have a backdoor into the lottery. The Nets were the NBA’s worst team by a four-game margin last season. Then, they traded their best player. Brook Lopez went to the Lakers for D'Angelo Russell, an intriguing prospect, but a player still in need of major fine-tuning. Jeremy Lin should be healthier. Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll and Timofey Mozgov are all helpful veterans (though overpaid, which is why they were acquired). The Nets have no incentive to be bad. But they probably can’t help themselves. They were so thin at center, Tyler Zeller was a major upgrade.

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are finally rebuilding after a decade-long playoff streak. They lost their two best players from last season, Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard, and a couple others who were in the running as third-best, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Thabo Sefolosha. Despite a 43-39 record last year, Atlanta had the point difference – typically a better predictor than record of future success – of a 39-43 team. The bottom might have fallen out, anyway. The Hawks just mostly kicked it out themselves. Atlanta is trying to remain somewhat competitive, but that’s probably a losing battle with this starless/not particularly deep roster.

Sacramento Kings

At least the Kings are young. With eight players on rookie-scale contracts – plus 2014 first-rounder Bogdan Bogdanovic signed to a larger deal this summer – Sacramento has done well in prioritizing team control. Having traded their 2019 first-rounder and not yet possessing an elite prospect, the Kings are particularly incentivized to tank while they still can this year. Newly signed Zach Randolph and Vince Carter are probably too old to get in the way of that. George Hill is far more productive, but he can’t seem to stay healthy.

Phoenix Suns

With Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe, the Suns could be frisky. But Bledsoe has had trouble staying healthy, and Phoenix has proven its eagerness to shift into mid-season tanking. Giving playing to raw young players like Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender would both help their development and improve the team’s draft position.

Michael Beasley fouls out in 10 minutes, gets standing ovation (VIDEO)

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Michael Beasley hasn’t played all that much for the New York Knicks. The journeyman forward is 10th in minutes played for the team, and is a bench contributor at this stage in his career.

Beasley appeared to be a bit overexcited to get some run late in Sunday’s win over the Atlanta Hawks, 111-107. Having played just 10 minutes in the game, Beasley quickly racked up three fouls in the span of one minute and 45 seconds.

That earned him his sixth foul — the others were picked up earlier — and a standing ovation from the Madison Square Garden crowd after his disqualification.

Via Twitter:

Support your guys, NBA fans, even if they’re out here getting DQ’d after scoring one point and grabbing two rebounds.

Kobe Bryant gave a 30-minute pep talk to the Eagles before Rams game (VIDEO)

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Kobe Bryant is just about everywhere during retirement. We’ve talked before about how his post-playing career revisionism is one of the greatest works of sports marketing currently underway.

Of course, Ol’ Bean has to take some days off from being a “storyteller” and that includes cheering on his hometown Philadelphia Eagles. Bryant was born in Philly and lived there for various parts of his childhood, of course going pro directly from Lower Merion High School, located in a nearby suburb.

So despite the return of the Los Angeles Rams, it appears that Kobe is still an Eagles fan through and through. He apparently even spoke to the Eagles for half an hour before the team practiced in California on Friday.

Bryant also gave the world a little video message.

Via Twitter:

The bummer news for Eagles fans, of course, was that it was Philadelphia QB and MVP candidate Carson Wentz who was hit high and low on Sunday, and the team fears that he has torn his ACL.

Kobe is looking pretty thick in that jersey. Maybe they should work him out and see if he can’t beat out Nick Foles for the starting job the rest of the season?

Watch Victor Oladipo score a career-high 47 points vs. Nuggets (VIDEO)

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Victor Oladipo was sent from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Indiana Pacers along with Domantas Sabonis as part of a major trade for Paul George.

Boy, Pacers fans have got to be glad things have turned out the way they have.

Oladipo is having a career season in terms of scoring, rebounding, blocks, 3-point shooting and field goal percentage. His advanced stats look good too, as Oladipo’s efficiency per-100 possessions in many offensive categories have seen a rise to go along with his box score bump.

On Sunday, Oladipo scored a career-high 47 points in an overtime win against the Denver Nuggets, 126-116.

Oladipo’s performance was incredible, adding seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, and a block to go along with his 47 points. Oladipo shot 15-28 from the field, including 6-of-12 from 3-point range, and added 11 points from the free-throw line.

Watch the full highlights of Oladipo’s performance in the video above.

Rumor: NBA executives think Rockets have shot at signing LeBron James

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LeBron James is now rumored to be headed to about 29 NBA teams this summer when he can opt out of his current contract and become a free agent. Earlier this week, we heard rumblings that LeBron could be interested in sharing a Los Angeles Lakers roster with Dallas Mavericks center-at-large Nerlens Noel.

Now we’re hearing that NBA executives think the Houston Rockets have a chance of nabbing The King in the summer of 2018.

All aboard the Banana Boat.

According to USA Today’s Sam Amick, both the Rockets themselves and rival execs think Houston is a real landing spot for James thanks in part to how well they are playing this season. James Harden is having another MVP-caliber year, and Chris Paul has played beautifully in his return.

Via USA Today:

While James has made it clear that he won’t deliberate his uncertain future until the Cavs’ season is complete, there is strong belief in Rockets circles that they’ll have a legitimate shot at landing the four-time MVP this summer. Rival executives also believe the Rockets will have a real chance. And once you really look at it, when you get past all the noise about the Lakers and even the compelling case for the up-and-coming Philadelphia 76ers, it makes all sorts of sense.

The only team we haven’t heard connecting rumors about is the Cleveland Cavaliers themselves. LeBron — whose family lives in LA — recently bought a new house there and all signs point to James heading to the Western Conference. Well, unless he goes to the Philadelphia 76ers, of course.

Then again it felt like a certainty that LeBron would head to the New York Knicks nearly a decade ago, an idea that seems hilarious in retrospect. The NBA is weird, and if LeBron dips from Cleveland expect it to get even weirder.