Kurt Helin

Lakers? Cavaliers? Pacers only care about best offer when trading Paul George

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The Indiana Pacers are getting out of the Paul George business. Well, more accurately, he told them he’s getting out of the Pacers business in the summer of 2018, so Indiana is now hunting around looking for trade partners to get something before he walks.

Most of the speculation has focused on Cleveland going after him to pair with LeBron James, or the Lakers making a move to get him because he wants to come there as a free agent in 2018 anyway.

Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard isn’t limiting himself — he’s going to talk to 29 other teams, and the one with the best offer wins. That simple. It’s all bottom line. Pritchard doesn’t care where George wants to go, stuck in a bad situation the Pacers are gong to get the best deal they can and do it quickly.

That best deal may not come from Cleveland or Los Angeles, there may be a team that thinks with a year in their culture they can win him over the long term and are willing to pay a little more for the opportunity — although probably not as much as the Pacers are asking.

Still, let’s take a closer look at the two teams most rumored.

The Lakers have little incentive to put together a deal that gives up something of value because George’s people have already let it be known he plans to go there as a free agent next summer. Why spend now?

The one reason for the Lakers to get involved — fear that George will sign somewhere like Cleveland, like it, and decide to stay. Even with that risk, the Lakers don’t want to give up much — they could try to dump one of the bad Luol Deng/Timofey Mozgov contracts, plus throw in someone they see fitting long term (such as Julius Randle), but the Lakers don’t have picks to throw around, they don’t have a tradable first rounder until 2020.

It makes sense for Cleveland to try and get in the sweepstakes — they need an upgrade, and better play on the wings, to compete with Golden State. The Cavs are as win now as it gets and should go all in here. They may, and they have no concern about just renting George, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

The Cavs are willing to enter into trade talks for George without any assurances he will commit to a long-term deal in Cleveland, a source familiar with the Cavs’ thinking told ESPN. Cleveland is confident its championship culture and overall atmosphere could sway George to want to stay after playing out the 2017-18 season on the final year of his deal.

The bigger question for the Cavaliers: What can they give up that Indiana wants? They don’t have young players on the bench the rebuilding Pacers want, and it’s years befoe Cleveland has picks they can send out. They also are not trading away Kyrie Irving.

The name that comes up? Kevin Love. First off, this is not fair to Love who has worked hard and improved his game each year he has been in Cleveland — and he played hard and as well as could be expected in the Finals. The problem is, the Warriors are a beast, one that Love does not match up well against. The questions are, would the Cavs deal Love, and would Indy think Love and filler works for them? Trade George and the Pacers are in rebuilding mode, they would need to flip Love to get the kind of young player and picks needed to get on that path.

If another team comes with a better offer, the Pacers will take it. They are trying to make the best of a terrible situation, they don’t care where the offer comes from. They may even be a little patient, but the market for a rent-a-player is never all that high.

 

Report: Knicks targeting French point guard Frank Ntilikina in draft

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In the last NBC mock draft, we have the Knicks taking Kentucky gunner Malik Monk with the No. 8 pick — he would be a popular choice with Knicks fans. No question he can fill it up.

The Knicks may have their eyes somewhere else, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

This could be part of a smokescreen — there’s more smoke being blown around the NBA right now than at a Cypress Hill concert. Eighth is certainly higher than most teams have Frank Ntilikina on their draft boards.

It also could be true. Ntilikina, who is a French national, is a tall, 6’5″ point guard — and we know Phil Jackson likes tall point guards. Ntilikina has a 7-foot wingspan and is strong defensively, something the Knicks desperately need. He is young and raw, he needs to be developed, but Ntilikina has the potential to be a strong two-way player. He has shown flashes of being someone very gifted on offense, a smart pick-and-roll player who has shown an ability to drive or knock down pull-up jumpers.

It’s going to be a big leap for him from playing in Strasbourg to the athleticism and defensive pressure he will see next season, but he has the physical tools to make it in the league.

The Knicks could see him as a good pairing with Kristaps Porzingis. They also must think his game fits the triangle offense.

It wouldn’t be crazy to see them go this direction, but I also wouldn’t bet the rent money on it.

Sixers deal for point guard they need with Markelle Fultz

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Jerryd Bayless was supposed to be the guy, the veteran stabilizing presence, but he broke his wrist. He played in three games.

T.J. McConnell was a surprise and a find, but he’s a backup at the point long term, not the answer.

Sergio Rodriguez threw great passes, but he was always a stopgap.

Philadelphia headed into this offseason unsettled long-term at the point. There has been talk of chasing Kyle Lowry or some other free agent veteran point guard to settle the young team down, but those again were not the long-term answer.

Markelle Fultz is that answer.

By trading for the No. 1 pick in this draft, sending the Boston Celtics the No. 3 this year than either the Lakers No. 1 next year (if it falls in picks 2-5) or the Kings pick in 2019, the Sixers get a potentially great young point guard, a versatile one who fits what they are trying to build.

Fultz, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons — that could be the Sixers big three.

Fultz should bring the ability to organize the offense consistently that Philly lacked last season (with Bayless out injured). They needed someone to set the table, and Fultz can do that.

But Fultz can do so much more.

Fultz is a versatile point guard for the modern game. He can shoot (41.3 percent from three last season), can score from the midrange or attack the rim, he’s a strong playmaker in transition or the halfcourt, and he’s a good floor general. There’s very little he can’t do on offense, and defensively he has potential.

Brett Brown can use Fultz off the ball if Simmons is running the point, or he can trust Fultz to run the show. They could form the kind of dangerous pick-nd-roll play with two ball handlers who can shoot we have seen from Cleveland with the Kyrie Irving/LeBron James 1/3 pick-and-roll. Plus both Fultz and Simmons are good passers who can feed Embiid.

Philly’s potential new big three also are all on basically the same career arc.

We don’t know how this move will ultimately play out, or if these three can mesh with the Sixers. Can they stay healthy enough to find out?

However, right now, this is a strong move by Philly — there comes a time to cash in some of those treasure trove of picks and get the guys you want. Bryan Colangelo did that here. I’ve had my concerns about how the new Sixers GM would mess up “the process” but this is not that. This is getting a potentially great young player that fits what the Sixers are building. This is a strong move.

Here is more of what Markelle Fultz said after Philly workout

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Markelle Fultz was smooth.

Not necessarily on the court after his Saturday night workout with the Philadelphia 76ers — although he looked good enough for the Sixers to pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade for the No. 1 pick with the Boston Celtics.

He did look polished, however, speaking to the media after his workout. He said he felt the love from Philly fans when he attended a regular season game there.

He showed up to the workout wearing a Sixers hat.

The truth is Fultz would not have worked out for Philly with the No. 3 pick if not for this trade coming. He knew the deal was done as long as his medical checked out and he didn’t try to punch a coach during the workout. Still, he said all the right things after the game — including that he wanted to go get a cheesesteak.

Was Boston’s moving No. 1 pick first step in aggressive summer chasing stars?

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It’s obvious what the Philadelphia 76ers are thinking trading for the No. 1 pick in the 2017 Draft: make Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz their big three of the future.

However, what was Danny Ainge thinking moving Boston’s No. 1 pick?

It’s a big risk, Fultz could turn out to be a stud Celtics fans will regret passing on for years. The Boston Celtics have a crowded backcourt, and that factored into their decision to trade the No. 1 pick to Philadelphia for this year’s number three pick, plus either the Lakers’ pick next year (if it falls 2-5) or the Sacramento Kings 2019 pick.

The question now is, will the Celtics draft Josh Jackson out of Kansas No. 3 (they are rumored to like him), keep him and continue their slow build? Or has the plan been to flip this pick and other assets to land a star to go after the Cavaliers sooner rather than later?

The sense is Boston is looking to move this pick and other assets to get a star.

This would be an elite player to go next to Gordon Hayward (or maybe Blake Griffin) in a revamped starting lineup in Boston.

We know there are targets the Celtics have an interest in, starting with Jimmy Butler in Chicago. The Bulls have reportedly been asking for ransom in return, but if they are willing to break this team up and rebuild, the Celtics have the pieces to jump-start that.

Boston could go after Paul George, but because he is a free agent next summer expected to at least test the market, Ainge will offer less to rent him. The Pacers had been reluctant to move George at the trade deadline, but with Larry Bird out and Kevin Prichard in running the show, has the dynamic changed?

Maybe the Celtics can talk about Kevin Love with Cleveland, or if they want to think young D'Angelo Russell with the Lakers (assuming L.A. drafts Lonzo Ball), although either of them moving are long shots. There will be other names that surprisingly pop up as available as well.

Getting a trade made is hard. This may not come together.

Drafting Jackson, or Jayson Tatum (the other guy they reportedly are high on), and keeping the pick seems like the fallback option for Boston. It’s not a bad one, they add another quality young player to the core, for example, Jackson and Jaylen Brown might pair well together.

But Boston seems poised to make a big move now, and this trade of the No. 1 pick is just the first step in an aggressive summer.