Kurt Helin

Jahlil Okafor

Report: If Lakers take D’Angelo Russell at No. 2, Celtics to make “Godfather offer” to Sixers for Okafor

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It’s not clear exactly what the Lakers are going to do with the No. 2 pick, take big man Jahlil Okafor or point guard D’Angelo Russell. According to the well connected Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, the decision is still up in the air. It ultimately falls to GM Mitch Kupchak to make the call, and he’s not a guy to divulge what he’s thinking.

If the Lakers do take Russell at No. 2, the NBA Draft roller coaster will start early and fast.

The Sixers have the No. 3 pick and are loaded with big men. More importantly, Celtics GM Danny Ainge is high on Okafor and sees him as a perfect fit in green. Meaning if Okafor is on the board, Boston is going to go big to try and try to trade for the Sixers No. 3 pick, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, via CSNNE.com.

The Celtics are prepared to make a “Godfather”trade offer to the Philadelphia 76ers if Duke’s Jahlil Okafor should slip to the No. 3 spot tonight in the NBA Draft, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported on “SportsCenter” Thursday morning….

Windhorst said NBA executives that he’s talked to think Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will make “a Godfather offer” – one that can’t be refused – to the Sixers for Okafor. Windhorst mentioned Celtics point guard Marcus Smart being included in the offer.

 

Boston has the No. 16 and 28 picks in this draft, but it’s going to take a lot more than those two picks and Smart to get this deal done. A lot more. Which is why there have already been reports that those talks have stalled a little. Of course, the reality is we don’t know how much Ainge is willing to put on the table until the Lakers make their pick.

Meanwhile in Manhattan, Phil Jackson will host a drum circle in hopes of pleasing the universe so that the Sixers (or whoever gets their pick) take anyone but Okafor, and the Duke big man falls to New York. If not, he’ll take a lot of the same calls Sixers GM Sam Hinkie just got.

 

 

Report: LaMarcus Aldridge told Trail Blazers he will not be back as a free agent

Portland Trail Blazers v Miami Heat
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This would certainly explain yesterday’s trade of Nicolas Batum.

While the writing seems to have been on the wall for a little while, there is now a report that LaMarcus Aldridge made it official and told the Portland Trail Blazers he was moving on. Eric Gunderson of the Columbian as the report.

A Western Conference executive with knowledge of the Aldridge pursuit has told The Columbian that the free-agent has already informed the Blazers that he will not return to the Northwest….

Another league executive told The Columbian on Wednesday that the trade of Batum looked like “a rebuilding move,” and league sources say that the Blazers are “not done” dealing.

Expect the denials of this to come soon. Doesn’t mean it’s not true, but there will be denials.

After the way things have been trending, this shouldn’t be a shock. That said, it’s sad, because of what might have been in Portland. There was a time when it seemed like Brandon Roy and Aldridge would be a powerful duo, then Roy’s knees gave out. There was the Greg Oden situation that never panned out but could have given the Blazers a dominant front line. Then even this season the Blazers seemed like a dangerous playoff team until Wesley Matthews went down.

Aldridge is rumored to be most interested in joining the San Antonio Spurs, but that depends on if they can clear out enough cap room (especially since Tim Duncan apparently wants to play one more season). Aldridge’s hometown of Dallas is in the mix, and the Lakers are rumored to be fast climbing his list of preferences. Other teams like the Rockets and maybe even Celtics want to get in the mix as well.

Now the Blazers have to look ahead.

The first call the Trail Blazers will make at midnight July 1 is to Damian Lillard, to lock him up to a max extension off his rookie deal.

The next call will be to Kevin Love, someone who can be plugged straight into the Aldridge role — and someone with Portland ties. But this is a real longshot. Most likely Love stays in Cleveland at least another season, and if he does decide to bolt the Lakers have long been considered the front-runner.

After that… it’s rebuilding time. You make moves like moving Nicolas Batum to start stocking the team with young players, picks and assets. You start reshaping the roster. And you hope a little.

 

 

Who will fall down draft board tonight? Watch injured Kevin Looney, also Willie Cauley-Stein

Willie Cauley-Stein
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Injuries scare teams off players they like in the NBA Draft. Well, not the Sixers but the other 29 teams. Guys fall annually because of injury or health concerns.

Who is dropping like a rock now that we are just hours away from the start of the NBA Draft?

Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein and UCLA’s Kevin Looney. This has been reported by Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times, among others.

A few weeks ago Cauley-Stein was seen as a potential Top 5 pick because of his defense — he’s 7’0″ and can protect the rim but also is athletic enough to show out or switch onto smaller guards on the perimeter.

But a foot issue — concerns about how a surgery from more than a year ago has healed — that may require another surgery has teams backing away. Foot issues with big men can linger. Cauley-Stein has fallen to the late lottery and could drop into the mid to high teens by the time teams make their picks.

Looney is a power forward with potential — he can shoot the three and has the tools to be a good defender — but he has slipped from the late lottery down to the late first round in recent days. The reason is a hip injury that some teams think would require surgery and would cause him to miss the upcoming season. Looney’s agent denied to CBSSports.com his player would miss significant time, noting this injury existed last season, and he played in every UCLA game.

When guys drop down the board like this, it becomes a matter of risk vs. reward/potential. At what point is the talent of the player and what he could develop into outweigh the injury risk?

With Cauley-Stein that potential as a defender means he’s not going to drop too far, likely not out of the lottery. With Looney, we’ll see if he hangs on in the first round.

Hornets’ coach says Lance Stephenson much better fit in Clippers offense

Lance Stephenson
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Lance Stephenson’s season in Charlotte was a disaster. There’s no other good word for it (at least that we can publish here). He shot just 37.6 percent overall and 17 percent from three (yet he took more threes as a percentage of his shots than he had in his career), and he never fit in with the Hornets offense. He spent more and more time riding the bench as the season wore on.

The Clippers acquired Stephenson in a trade (for Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes), hoping that a change of scenery — plus the leadership of Chris Paul and Doc Rivers — could find the Indiana version of Stephenson. The one that was a difference maker on both ends of the court.

Steve Clifford, the Hornets coach, told Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated Stephenson will fit in much better with what the Clippers run than what the Hornets did.

And that’s where I think that playing with the Clippers, who have more perimeter shooting than we do, will help him. I mean, his game is pick-and-roll. He can drive it, and he can make all the passes, he can hit the screener, whether the screener is rolling or flaring. And he can hit all of the perimeter options, and he has great size and a great knack for making the right decision. And with us, again, because we weren’t able to find ways where he was on the floor with a lot of perimeter shooting, he didn’t always have the room he was accustomed to to turn the corner, get in the paint and get the ball going to the basket. And if you look at it statistically, the biggest difference in his game really was the number of layups he was able to attempt here versus the year before in Indiana, and those turned into pull-up jumpers, which is not his strength.

Clifford is right, the last two years he was in Indiana 37 percent of Stephenson’s shots came at the rim, but that fell to 29 percent in Charlotte. Teams packed the paint against the Hornets, who had the worst three-point shooting percentage in the league. That said, with the Clippers the ball is usually in the hands of Chris Paul or Jamal Crawford, can Stephenson adjust to being off the ball for long stretches?

The larger questions and concerns with Stephenson are in the mental aspects of the game — two teams in a row were happy to move Stephenson and get him out of their locker rooms. The Clipper locker room is unlike most any other in the league, where players’ children have the run of the locker room after games, and the atmosphere can be pretty light. But it’s also a team with legitimate title aspirations. Rivers and Paul treat players like adults and expect them to respond accordingly, to be mature and professional. Can Stephenson do that?

If so, and if what Clifford said about Stephenson on the court pans out, this could be a good move for Los Angeles.

Report: Lakers climbing fast on LaMarcus Aldridge’s list of preferred destinations

Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three
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The Trail Blazers quickly denied it, but it sure felt like the team trading Nicolas Batum to Charlotte for Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson felt like the first move a franchise realizing their star player was about to bolt and they needed to adjust the roster.

That star is LaMarcus Aldridge, and if there is a top 15 player in the NBA most likely on the move this summer, it’s him. More and more the sense around the league is he’s gone.

While it has been assumed he’d want to go home to Texas (he played his high school ball in Dallas) the ever-present Lakers are lurking, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

ESPN.com reported in May that both the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks strongly believe they’ll have a great shot to lure Aldridge back to his home state of Texas next month. But sources said this week that Aldridge is actually thinking more and more about a free-agent jump to the Los Angeles Lakers….

The Spurs, sources say, continue to be Aldridge’s most likely destination if he goes through with the idea of leaving the Blazers to start anew. But sources also say there is a rising sentiment that the Lakers have edged past the Mavericks on Aldridge’s wish list despite the fact that he was a high school star in Dallas.

Remember this when you hear the Lakers’ name come up in seemingly every free agent rumor this summer: Every smart agent is using them as leverage. This is not to say the Lakers will not land somebody (this summer or next), maybe even Aldridge. But much like the NFL used the LA market to force other cities to build new stadiums, agents will use the threat of the Lakers to get other teams to up their offers.

This isn’t a question about money, Aldridge is going to get the max. He’d actually take home more in Texas, a place without state income tax.

The question is who is he would playing next to in Los Angeles… well, besides Kobe for a year. Is it Jahlil Okafor, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, or is it DeMarcus Cousins after a trade? (I wouldn’t bet on that trade happening, but that’s another story.)

With either of those options, is he closer to a title than he would be in Texas? Certainly not if the Spurs can free up the cap space to get him (it depends on what happens with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili). And Dallas has Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki and a roster that won 50 games last season. Both of those options are further along on the court

But the Lakers are a draw with cash to spend. And they are leverage. And they are going to be coming up in a lot of rumors this summer.