Author: Brett Pollakoff

Sixers GM ‘would like to think’ he would have drafted Jahlil Okafor even if Joel Embiid was healthy


When the Lakers selected D’Angelo Russell with the second overall pick in the NBA Draft, it made things fairly tough for the Philadelphia 76ers.

L.A. was expected to go with Jahlil Okafor in the weeks leading up to the draft, which would have made Russell an easy choice for the Sixers when looking at the team’s glut of frontcourt players.

But even with Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid needing plenty of minutes in order to develop, Philadelphia took Okafor anyway, because he was the best player available regardless of position.

Okafor may end up filling a need, if the setback suffered by Embiid in regards to his foot injury turns out to be a worst-case scenario. The fact that Embiid’s season is in question made the decision to select Okafor a little easier, but Sixers GM Sam Hinkie believes he may have gone with Okafor anyway, even if Embiid was 100 percent.

From John Smallwood of

Hinkie said selecting Duke University freshman center Jahlil Okafor third overall was not connected to Embiid’s situation. He said Okafor was the pick because he was the best player available.

But what if there was no issue with Embiid?

“I’d like to think we’d have had the courage to do it anyway,” Hinkie responded when asked if he would have still selected Okafor. “I knew and it’s hard to unknow where things stood with Joel, but I’d like to think we’d have the courage anyway.”

It seems far more likely that Philadelphia would have attempted to trade down to select a point guard like Emmanuel Mudiay if there were no issues with Embiid, rather than grabbing yet another big man to add to an unbalanced roster.

Cavaliers GM says team is open to re-signing J.R. Smith

Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One

J.R. Smith declined his player option for next season, one that would have paid him just under $6.4 million to remain with the Cavaliers.

Smith, you’ll recall, was awful in the Finals when LeBron James needed someone, anyone, to step up and hit open shots. He was 24-of-77 from the field in six games against the Warriors, and was one flagrant foul away from a suspension, which would have been even more devastating to his team’s chances in the series.

Despite all of that, the Cavaliers are open to bringing him back — if the price is right.

From Dave McMenamin of

J.R. Smith did not inform the Cleveland Cavaliers he planned on opting into his $6.4 million contract for next season by Thursday’s 11:59 p.m. ET deadline and thus will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 by default, according to Cavs general manager David Griffin.

“If it’s the right situation for us, yeah,” Griffin said late Thursday night when asked if the Cavs are interested in re-signing Smith. “We certainly intend to pursue those conversations.”

Smith is a bit of a wild card, obviously, but seemed to fit in with the Cavaliers during the regular season. He’s reportedly seeking an increase over his previous salary, and wants the security that a multi-year deal can provide.

The question in Cleveland will become whether or not the team can go out and get more consistent shooting in free agency, at a more palatable price. If the Cavaliers can’t find any options that are more appealing, it’s possible they go with the devil they know by attempting to bring back Smith on a reasonable deal for next season.

Report: David West ‘very likely’ to sign with Knicks in free agency

Indiana Pacers v New Orleans Pelicans

When it was reported that David West would decline his player option with the Pacers for next season to become an unrestricted free agent, it was at least a little bit of a surprise.

West could have earned $12.5 million next year by staying in Indiana, and then entered free agency right as the salary cap is set to spike in advance of the 2016-17 season.

But at age 34, and after playing 12 NBA seasons, West wanted to try to secure a multi-year deal now instead. And, it appears as though he already has his sights set on his next destination.

Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report:

League source: David West is “very likely” to sign with the Knicks come FA. “He knew that before he chose not to opt in” with the Pacers.

It’s unclear what the Knicks would offer West, but even if he were able to secure a two-year deal in the $8 million per season range, he’d already have set himself up to receive a nice little raise.

West has a reputation of being one of the league’s actual tough guys, and is someone whose leadership style has traditionally commanded the respect of his teammates behind closed doors. Carmelo Anthony is more the lead-by-example type, so depending on who else New York is able to add in free agency, a veteran voice like West’s should be a welcome locker room addition.

West averaged 11.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 28.7 minutes per contest with the Pacers last season.

Kings’ executive Vlade Divac says he won’t be bullied into trading DeMarcus Cousins

Vlade Divac

All hell has broken loose in Sacramento over the last few days, when reports that DeMarcus Cousins would be traded at the behest of George Karl ran wild, and teams like the Lakers were supposedly firmly in the mix to acquire the disgruntled and difficult All-Star center.

The Kings have denied that Cousins was ever available, even after reports surfaced that a framework of a deal with Los Angeles had indeed been put into place. Karl reportedly shopped Cousins on his own, which left ownership in Sacramento pondering whether or not he was the right choice as head coach, and if it might be better to simply cut the team’s losses by cutting him loose, and starting from scratch by going in a different direction.

As of this moment, the plan in Sacramento appears to be to keep everyone in place. And newly-installed decision-maker Vlade Divac wants to make it clear that no matter what types of reports leak, and regardless of the amount of pressure that is exerted, he will remain steadfast in doing what he believes is best for the overall health of the franchise.

From Sam Amick of USA Today:

“I just was tired last week, or days, of these rumors, and putting a lot of stuff on our back, making this even harder than it is,” Divac said in an interview with Sacramento radio station KHTK 1140 Friday morning. “I try to be who I am, and try to do my job best I can and try to do the best I can for the franchise. I’m not going to let somebody change my mind because they’re putting (threats in) the paper or putting the pressure on me. I’ll do the best I can to improve this team.”

For all the understandable comparisons between Cousins’ situation and that of superstars like Carmelo Anthony (Melo-Drama in Denver) or Dwight Howard (Dwight-mare in Orlando), there’s one common thread that has been largely ignored by the masses: Cousins’ agent, Dan Fegan of Relativity Sports, who has long since become the industry leader in applying the kind of pressure to a team that he hopes leads to a trade of his choosing.

He represented Howard during those Orlando days, when all the endless twists and turns leading up to his Aug. 2012 trade to the Los Angeles Lakers did the kind of damage to Howard’s reputation that has never been truly repaired. He was behind the scenes in the Denver situation back in 2011, too, working unofficially with then-Nuggets adviser and close friend Bret Bearup to get Anthony to the Brooklyn Nets before then-general manager Masai Ujiri ultimately opted for a trade with the New York Knicks.

This is somewhat of a crazy story — not because an agent is being openly tied to the rumors that leaked with the intention of forcing a team to trade one of his clients to a more desirable destination, but because the details of those discussions are rarely made as public as they are in this account of how the events transpired.

It’s unclear whether or not Karl and Cousins can successfully (and peacefully) co-exist next season given the way this has all played out. But Sacramento seems to prefer to keep them both in place if at all possible, and Divac is determined not to let outside influences interfere with his plans of reshaping the Kings into a winning franchise.

Report: Spurs ‘operating under the premise’ that Tim Duncan will return next season

Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan is an unrestricted free agent this summer, but there isn’t a single team outside of San Antonio that believes it has even a remote chance of convincing him to jump ship.

The only question where Duncan is concerned is whether or not he’ll return to play for the Spurs for a 19th NBA season. And just as recent reports have indicated, the latest has the team operating as though he will in fact be back to do exactly that.

Marc Stein of

The San Antonio Spurs are operating under the premise that Tim Duncan will return in 2015-16 for a 19th NBA season, according to league sources.

Although Duncan and fellow Spurs mainstay Manu Ginobili have yet to make formal declarations about their plans for next season, sources said that the Spurs are optimistic about re-signing both at salaries that will allow the team to re-sign prized restricted free agent Kawhi Leonard this summer and to pursue top-tier free agent LaMarcus Aldridge.

Duncan could easily sign a “wink-wink deal” that would essentially mean stretching out his money for next season over two years instead. The Spurs could do the same with Manu Ginobili (assuming he returns, too), thus making their pursuit of free agents like Aldridge that much easier under the salary cap.

As for Aldridge, he’ll have the Lakers to consider, as well. But if San Antonio returns the bulk of the roster intact for one more season, you’d have to like their chances of signing him, considering the team’s projected ability at that point to contend for a title once again.