Kurt Helin

Report: Pacers make 2017 first rounder available in effort to get Paul George help

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One of the things dragging down the trade market with just more than a week to go before the trade deadline is nobody wants to give up a first-round pick in the coming draft. The 2017 draft is seen as deep with talent, and general managers are not making their picks available.

Except for the Larry Bird and the Indiana Pacers.

They want to make a win-now move and are making their pick available, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

In an attempt to secure help for All-Star forward Paul George, the Indiana Pacers have made their 2017 first-round pick available in a trade, league sources said.

In what is considered to be a deep draft, the Pacers are hoping that such an asset would translate to the addition of either an established wing or established frontline player, according to sources.

While the Pacers want to stop their six-game losing streak that has them sliding down the East standings, this move has another big-picture motive — keeping George a Pacer.

George can opt out of his contract at the end of the 2017-18 season. The Pacers have a small window to provide him with a championship-type supporting cast. And whether he signs an extension this summer probably will be predicated on the moves the franchise can execute up to that point.

There is one other factor in George re-signing with the Pacers: If he makes an All-NBA team this season he will qualify for the “designated player” super-max contract that could weigh in at five-years, $209 million (exact figures will depend on the final cap number for the 2018-19 season, the first year the extension would kick in). If he didn’t qualify and the Pacers gave him a five-year extension it would be about $179 million over five years, while other teams could give him four years at $133 million guaranteed (but he would make money in that fifth year eventually, bringing him close but not all the way up to $179 million).

All of which is to say, if he qualifies for the designated player contract and the Pacers offer it, he’s not going anywhere regardless of who is around him.

But the trade will come first. If there is a trade (the Pacers are not going to want to take a lot of salary back on this deal, they are already at $90 million this season). There are a lot of bigs available — Brook Lopez of the Nets will cost more than this pick, but would this high-teens pick be enough to get someone like Danilo Gallinari out of Denver? It likely could get them Lou Williams from the Lakers, but does he fit the Pacers’ needs? Not exactly. Is it overpaying for P.J. Tucker in Phoenix? The Trail Blazers have some overpaid wings that may be available, if the Pacers like any of them.

Nothing may come of this, but it’s worth watching

Baron Davis shows off handles/range, Lynx’s Lindsay Whalen throws no-looks at celebrity game

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The East beat the West in the All-Star Celebrity Game 88-59.

Not that you or anyone else really cares, the celebrity game is all about the celebs and the highlights. Such as Baron Davis showing he still has some handles and range (as you can see above).

Also, the Minnesota  Lynx’s Lindsay Whalen was throwing the no-looks to get Win Butler some buckets.

Although the pass of the night went to “white chocolate” Jason Williams, recreating one of his most famous moments.

Kemba Walker wants East to roll out five point guard lineup in All-Star Game

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NEW ORLEANS — How’s this for small ball? A lineup of Kyrie Irving, Isaiah Thomas, Kemba Walker, John Wall, and Kyle Lowry?

Walker wants Eastern Conference coach Brad Stevens to do it Sunday night in the All-Star Game.

“I hope we can get all five guards out there at once,” Walker said Friday. “I’ll play center if they need me to.”

Walker, who officially and generously is listed as 6’1″, playing center isn’t likely. But it is good to see the five quality point guards in the East all make the roster, there were concerns one of them could have been left out in the name of roster balance.

Walker just missed the cut last year, and now in his first All-Star Game he is just trying to soak up the environment around the event.

“I’m excited, I’m really looking forward to spending the weekend with the fellas, and my family,” Walker said…

“You know we compete all year, especially against each other. Especially before (the All-Star Game), there’s chatter about who is going to make it and who’s not, you’ve got to one up the other guard. Now that we’re all here, all on the same team, it’s going to be fun.”

When the fun weekend is over, Walker returns to a Hornets team that is dropping fast, having lost 10-of-11 and having fallen out of the playoffs. Their defense has suffered, and on the offensive end it feels too much like Walker against the world — he needs more consistent help. But with the Hornets just 2.5 games out of the playoffs, Walker is holding out hope.

“We still have a fighting chance to get back into the race, we’ve just got to clean some stuff up and get locked in and hopefully we can get back into that playoff race,” Walker said. “But we’ve got to change and change really fast.”

PBT Extra: Giannis Antetokounmpo running away with Most Improved Player

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Before the season tips off, the Most Improved Player award is the hardest to predict — the point of it is to rewarded the guy who made big strides we didn’t see coming.

Nobody has strides as long as Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Bucks’ point forward has run away from the field with this award, and now with Zach LaVine injured for the season it’s hard to see anyone catching him. Antetokounmpo is an All-Star and deserves a little end-of-the-season hardware.

Jahlil Okafor just trying to enjoy New Orleans, have some gumbo, not worry about possible trade

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NEW ORLEANS — Jahlil Okafor was out of the Sixers lineup, a lineup already without Joel Embiid, because he was close to being traded. Or the Sixers were trying to drum up trade interest. Either way, he is a guy who very well may be playing in a different city and in a different uniform after the All-Star break.

He will be on the court for the Rising Stars Challenge Friday night, playing for Team USA against The World, but he said the trade rumors and the possibility of a new home are on his mind.

“I’ve thought about it, it’s hard not to, you hear all the rumors, some are absurd, but the organization has been really straight with me,” Okafor said Friday morning.

He added he is just trying to not think about it for a few days, and being in New Orleans can help with that.

“Everybody’s here enjoying themselves, I’m just trying to enjoy myself this weekend without having to worry about what’s going to happen,” Okafor said. “I got some gumbo last night.”

The question becomes what are the Sixers willing to accept for the No. 3 pick. Okafor has one valuable skill — he can score the rock inside. He’s averaging 11.6 points a game this season in Philly, shooting 51.3 percent, and 78 percent of his shots come within 10 feet of the rim. The problem is he doesn’t fit the modern NBA — he can’t space the floor, he doesn’t defend well, and he’s not strong on the boards for a big. Which means teams are not going to give up much to get him.

Will the Sixers find a deal they will take? Okafor’s just trying not to think about it for a few days.