Dan Feldman

Isaiah Thomas embracing Celtics drafting Markelle Fultz

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Isaiah Thomas has worked his way up from the last pick in the draft to an All-Star who led his team to the conference finals.

But he has yet to reap the rewards of his progress.

Thomas is still locked into a four-year, $27 million contract he signed before breaking out with the Celtics. Now, a year before he’s set to cash in, Boston has the No. 1 pick and will likely draft another point guard: Markelle Fultz.

Fultz is embracing the pairing. How does Thomas feel? He said he has spoken to the prospect.

Thomas, via Chris Forsberg of ESPN:

“He asks questions; I answer them,” Thomas said. “He’s a good friend of mine. If it happens, we’ll figure out how to play together. If not, we’ll go from there.”

Thomas and Fultz are both better with the ball in their hands, so there would be diminishing returns on the pairing. A higher talent level than better-fitting backcourts could supersede that, but it’s hard to see the concern completely dissipating.

Fultz – on a cost-controlled contract for four years then bound by restricted free agency – could affect how the Celtics handle the 28-year-old Thomas. I wouldn’t blame Thomas for disliking the situation.

But if Thomas and Fultz – who share an alma mater in Washington – enter their time of teammates with the best intentions of working together, that could go a long way. At minimum, both sound on board.

Report: Baylor’s Johnathan Motley staying in 2017 NBA draft

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A light appeared to come on for Baylor big Johnathan Motley this season.

He displayed a better feel for the game, working his way into borderline first-round status. But even with a solid chance of going in the second round, the redshirt junior is staying in the 2017 NBA draft.

John Werner of WacoTrib.com:

Baylor forward Johnathan Motley has signed with agent Happy Walters and won’t return for his senior year.

Motley is 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan and uses that physical profile well. He’s quick, showing none of the awkwardness taller players with similar reaches often possess. He also finishes well near the rim, using his length to shoot from nearly unblockable angles.

He has shown an ability to challenge shots and crash the defensive glass – just rarely simultaneously. Is he quick enough off his feet to eventually provide a full defensive presence, or will he be limited to an either/or style?

His shooting stroke shows enough promise to intrigue, but he’s not ready to shoot NBA 3-pointers. Will he eventually get there?

Those are the questions teams must ask as they evaluate the 22-year-old.

If he eventually shoots 3s adequately, he could become a nice power forward. His frame could allow him to play center, but he’s not strong enough yet. So, finding a way to get him on the court to develop could be a challenge – but at least there are real tools to work with.

Wizards’ Bradley Beal: ‘Cleveland didn’t want to see us’

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LeBron James has destroyed every Eastern Conference team in his path the last seven years.

HIs teams are 20-0 in playoff series and 81-20 in playoff games against the East since he went to the Heat. The Cavaliers again appear to outclass the Eastern Conference field.

But they won’t have to play the Wizards, who lost in the second round to Celtics, to return to the Finals.

Washington guard Bradley Beal, via Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic:

“Cleveland didn’t want to see us. I always said that. I felt like that’s the reason they didn’t play us in the second round. They didn’t want to see us in the second round,” he said. “If they were going to go down, they were going to go down in the conference finals. They didn’t want to go down in the second round.”

The Cavs might prefer facing the Celtics to the Wizards. Cleveland rested its stars late in the season and fell from first place to second place, avoiding an earlier matchup with Washington, which appeared likely for fourth place. But the primary impetus appeared to be lightening the load on LeBron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love before a long playoff run – not lining up matchups.

If the Wizards are such a formidable challenger, why didn’t they beat Boston? Washington – which went 1-2 against Cleveland in the regular season, including a tough overtime loss – doesn’t possess some grand matchup advantage against the Cavaliers.

The Cavs, when locked in like they are now, are so good. Facing the Wizards or Celtics probably makes only minimal difference. Neither opponent is a serious challenger.

Draymond Green: BS that Klay Thompson left off All-NBA teams

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All-NBA guards:

Klay Thompson‘s omission – despite three Warriors (Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green) making All-NBA teams – sure seemed to bother Green.

Green, via Monte Poole of CSN Bay Area:

“I think it’s bulls—,” he said. “When you look around teams . . . what did we win, 67 games or something like that? And we probably handed teams three or four. You’re talking a possible 70-win season. I think Klay is one of our top three guys, and to not be on an All-NBA team is pretty crazy.

“There are some guys on there, as scorers averaging 20 points and don’t have nearly the amount of wins we have. So how he could be left out, I don’t really understand it. And also the way Klay can defend, I don’t understand it.

“But I guess (voting media) have to find some way to punish us.”

What a victim complex.

Thompson deserved to make All-NBA ahead of DeRozan, but so did Chris Paul, Damian Lillard and Mike Conley – and all three belong in line before Thompson. Kyle Lowry and Kyrie Irving are also in the mix of more deserving than DeRozan and Thompson.

Team wins can’t be the only measure for All-NBA, or Zaza Pachulia would make it. A player’s contributions to winning must be measured. Thompson is very good, but he’s Golden State’s fourth-best player. His was in the mix for All-NBA, but I wouldn’t have given him a spot. It’s certainly not a travesty that he didn’t make it.

But Green wanted to stick up for a teammate. I think that, as much as, maybe more than, merit influenced his comments.

Rumor: Lakers told not to trade for Paul George – because he might just sign anyway

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Paul George and the Lakers are rather publicly flirting with each other.

It sounds as if there’s more backchannel communications going to Los Angeles about the Pacers forward, who can opt out of his contract in 2018.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

For the Lakers, they are pretty confident and have a great deal of belief that they’re in position to get Paul George in 2018. Whether he stays in Indiana or he’s traded elsewhere, he’s going to be a free agent in 18 if he doesn’t re-sign this summer in Indiana. They don’t have to give assets up to go and try to trade for him. In fact, I think they’ve been encouraged to do just the opposite. If Paul George is going to go there, he wants them to have assets. He wants them to be as good of a team as they can when he walks in.

With George missing  the All-NBA teams, an extension this year is completely illogical. Whether he remains in Indiana or gets traded, he’ll almost certainly become an unrestricted free agent in 2018.

George could earn more on his next contract if the Lakers trade for him first and then he re-signs in Los Angeles rather than leaving a prior team for the Lakers. The difference – $177 million over five years (about $35 million annually) vs. $132 million over four years (about $33 million annually) – is real, but it’s not necessarily enough to outweigh playing for a better team.

The Lakers have some nice young building blocks: D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Ivica Zubac and the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft (Lonzo Ball?). George could join them just as they’re ready to win and reap outsized credit for turning around the franchise. There’s value in that.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean George will sign with the Lakers.

Even if he or someone from his camp instructed the Lakers not to trade for him, George could just be getting his ducks in a row just in case. If George is even considering the Lakers, why not use his leverage to make Los Angeles as desirable an option as possible? He could also tell numerous teams, including Indiana, what would please him the most. That would just increase his chances of finding an ideal team in 2018, even if he doesn’t yet know which team that will be. Remember, Kevin Durant told the Celtics (and, I’d guess, other teams) what players he wanted to join him and then signed with the Warriors.

Or maybe George doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into Los Angeles yet. If the Lakers trade for him, he’d face immense backlash if he leaves his hometown team in free agency. This could just be George’s way of biding time as he evaluates options.

The Lakers’ optimism means something. But, even after regime change, it doesn’t mean everything.