Kurt Helin

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Report: Phil Jackson told Derrick Rose they would go after Kevin Durant. Shocking, I know.

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It will only be surprising if a team says, “We are not going to chase Kevin Durant if he’s a free agent. We don’t see how he could help our roster.”

If Durant opens the door to teams other than the Thunder, 29 of them will want an interview. He is one of the five best players in the world, a true franchise changing talent, and those do not come available very often.

So yes, Phil Jackson told Derrick Rose the Knicks want to go after Durant, as reported by Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

But Phil Jackson believes that by acquiring the former MVP point guard for one starter, a rookie and a veteran with an expiring contract the Knicks enhanced their bid to land the biggest free agent on the market, Kevin Durant….

The difference now, however, is that the Knicks are not only selling Durant on Madison Square Garden and Madison Avenue, but also a roster that features a triangle we can all understand; Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Rose, who turns 28 in October.

Previously, Durant has reportedly said he has no interest in the Knicks. Would the hiring of Jeff Hornacek and the addition of Rose be enough to change that sentiment? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Especially considering the Warriors, Heat, Spurs, Lakers, and Clippers are likely in line if front of the Knicks.

Talk to teams around the league and they think the Thunder are in the best position by far and likely retain Durant, but if he leaves the Golden State rumors are real. After that, the odds get longer and longer. Even for Phil Jackson and his 11 rings.

Report: Oklahoma City Thunder testing trade market for Serge Ibaka

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This is surprising, and a little bit odd unless you think you-know-who is not coming back.

However, according to the very well connected Marc Spears of The Undefeated, Serge Ibaka could be had in the right deal.

The Thunder is shopping big man Serge Ibaka on this draft day, a source said.

Here’s why I think nothing happens, at least not on draft night.

Mainly, there is no way they are doing this to get draft picks in this draft (The Thunder’s first-round pick belongs to the Sixers, the second rounder to Denver). Ibaka is arguably the best two-way four in the NBA, averaging 12.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game last season.

The Thunder are a win-now team and there is nobody in this draft — even if they got one of the top two picks — who would be better than Ibaka next season. Now, the Thunder may be thinking bigger targets.

After the trade of Derrick Rose, the Bulls are not moving Butler. The Thunder would have to offer more than Ibaka to get Butler in the first place.

The Thunder were the third best team in the NBA last season by the time the playoffs were done, and a serious title contender. As long as Kevin Durant comes back (even if on a one-year deal), they will keep this group’s core together to go after a title. If Durant does leave there could be a number of trades, but that’s not happening before KD makes anything official.

Final NBC/PBT mock draft: The draft really starts at 3

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The NBA Draft starts at No. 3 this year.

The first two picks are locks — Ben Simmons (Sixers) and Brandon Ingram (Lakers). After that everything is up in the air — expect a ton of trades and surprises. There are guys deep into this draft who can make an impact in the NBA with a little time and proper development. Who goes where? NBC/PBT’sNBA Draft expert — NBA Draft Blog owner and Rotoworld writer — Ed Isaacson took a crack at the first round.

FIRST ROUND 

1. Philadelphia: Ben Simmons, PF, LSU – The suspense is gone as Philadelphia informed Simmons he will be their choice at number one, and it is the right choice. No matter fit, or any other criteria, you don’t pass up on a player as unique as Simmons, even with his flaws. His ability to handle the ball, pass, create off the dribble, and score around the rim are plenty to start with, and things like shooting will hopefully come in time.

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke – With Simmons gone at number one, the Lakers are still glad to get Ingram in the second spot. Ingram will give them something they sorely need, an athletic shooter on the wing, who can also get to the rim. He still needs to work on developing his body, and while having long arms, he’s not a very good defender, unless in position to block a shot, but there is a lot of potential here for Ingram to be the Lakers’ go-to guy for the future.

3. Boston: Kris Dunn, PG, Providence – Boston is still doing all they can to dump this pick to get a player who can help continue their momentum towards the top teams in the East, but if they don’t find their deal, Dunn will be a good choice here, even with their crowded backcourt. While Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, and Isaiah Thomas have their strengths, none can be the creator that Dunn is at the point, while Thomas can spend more time off the ball, where he is at his best. Add in Dunn’s defensive ability and the Celtics still add a quality player.

4. Phoenix: Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington – Like Boston, Phoenix also has multiple first-round picks, and may consider a deal here for the right player, but if not, getting a power forward who can stretch the floor could be a priority. Chriss is still somewhat raw skill-wise, and he doesn’t quite understand the game yet, but he is a high-level athlete who can run the floor, block shots, and knock down jumpers. He could turn into a good starter down the road.

5. Minnesota: Dragan Bender, PF, Croatia – While I think Minnesota would hope that Dunn falls to them here, and they may also consider a shooter like Buddy Hield or Jamal Murray, the chance to pick up the top international prospect may be too tough to pass. A young, skilled big man with the ability to knock down jumpers, put the ball on the floor a bit, and developing vision and passing skills, Bender can be a great long-term compliment to Karl Towns in the Minnesota frontcourt. While not ready to contribute anything significant soon, adding Bender to the young core could be a great thing for his development.

6. New Orleans: Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma – Eric Gordon is a free agent, and Jrue Holiday has a year left on his deal, so looking to either backcourt spot is the way to go. In Hield, the Pelicans can add a very good long-range shooter who can help open up the floor some more for Anthony Davis. Jamal Murray is also an option here, though Hield’s competiveness on the floor should make a good impression on his teammates.

7. Denver: Jaylen Brown, SF, California – Denver added their point guard, Emmanuel Mudiay, in this spot last season, but with the health of Danilo Galinari always a question, looking to add one of the few top-tier wing prospects could be a smart move. I’m not sold on Brown, as he didn’t really stand out as a freshman, and his lack of perimeter shooting ability hurts, but he has an NBA body and is a good athlete, both which he uses well to get to the basket. Like Boston and Phoenix, Denver also has three first-round pick and may also explore a trade here for a player who can help them now.

8. Sacramento: Jamal Murray, PG/SG, Kentucky –Dave Joerger will hopefully get things moving in the right direction in Sacramento, and they can really use some help in the backcourt. I don’t see much of a chance that Rajon Rondo is re-signed, and off-court issues with Darren Collison are a question mark, so a point guard could make sense. I’m not in the camp that Murray should, or could, play the point at the NBA level, but he does have some ability to create. What he can do is knock down threes extremely well, another thing that the Kings could use.

9. Toronto: Henry Ellenson, PF, Marquette – With Bismack Biyombo testing free agency, there will be a need to add some depth to the center position, and though Ellenson is more of a four, he is versatile enough to provide depth at both positions, especially on offense. He won’t bring the defensive potential of a Skal Labissiere or Deyonta Davis, but his combination of size and skills should allow Toronto to try some different line-ups.

10. Milwaukee: Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah – Poeltl remains in the tenth spot for the third straight draft, as this just seems like the perfect landing spot for him. Greg Monroe hasn’t really seemed to gel with Jason Kidd’s offense and defense, but Poeltl has the potential to step in and help on both ends. He has above-average potential as a rim protector, and though not the most athletic player, he is skilled on the offensive end, comfortable in the pick-and-roll, and can make an impact on the offensive boards.

11. Orlando: Deyonta Davis, PF/C, Michigan State – The Magic are another team with an exciting young core, but there are still some holes to fill, and shoring up the defense around the basket is one major area. Nikola Vucevic still has a few years left on his contract, but he doesn’t bring a major defensive presence, especially as a rim protector. Davis is young, has good size, is an improving scorer around the rim, and is a strong defensive presence, including the ability to block shots.

12. Utah (for Atlanta): Wade Baldwin, PG, Vanderbilt – The Hawks are parting with Jeff Teague in a three-way deal which gets them this pick from Utah. Stories suggest they want to combine this pick with their pick at twenty-one, but if they stay put, this would be a great spot to nab a back-up point guard for Denis Schroeder in Baldwin, a high-energy guard with long-range shooting ability and defensive potential.

13. Phoenix: Timothe Luwawu, SF, France – This is Phoenix’s second pick, and after taking Chriss at number four, they can look to add some scoring ability, length, and athleticism on the wing in Luwawu. As with their other picks, Phoenix could look to package this pick in a deal, or if Luwawu isn’t what they are looking for, they can look at another European player who should stay overseas another year or so in Furkan Korkmaz.

14. Chicago: Domantas Sabonis, PF, Gonzaga – With Derrick Rose off to New York, and the Gasol/Noah era likely at an end, the Bulls can look for another big to add to Bobby Portis for the long-term, or if they like any of the point guard prospects, take a shot there. Portis has a bright future, but Sabonis will bring more of physical style of play to the frontcourt, and he can be a difference maker on the glass on both ends.

15. Denver: Skal Labissiere, PF/C, Kentucky – While Denver really doesn’t have a lot of need in the frontcourt with the way Nikola Jokic played as a rookie, and also having Josef Nurkic, Labissiere is worth the risk if he falls here, giving a potential stretch four with shot-blocking ability. He’s not ready to really contribute now, so the focus can be on developing his game and body for another year or two down the road.

16. Boston: Furkan Korkmaz, SG, Turkey – This is Boston’s second pick of the first round, and like their first pick, there is a good chance that this pick will be dealt alone or in some package for a player they can use now. If they do use it, they could decide to look at a player they don’t need to bring here right now in Korkmaz, a talented 18-year old shooting guard. While his shooting ability has come along, there are still a lot of areas where Korkmaz needs work, and he may as well stay overseas another year or two where he can get playing time.

17. Memphis: Malachi Richardson, SG, Syracuse – Memphis is in need of some help in the backcourt, whether Mike Conley stays with the team or not, and Richardson, who has been the subject of Grizzlies’ promise rumor, may be a bit inexperienced, but he has a knack for scoring that the team can use going forward. Add to that the obsession on Richardson’s length and defensive potential, and this may be a risk worth taking for a Grizzlies team going through some changes over the next few years.

18. Detroit: Dejounte Murray, PG, Washington – The Pistons have a strong nucleus of young players, led by Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Stanley Johnson, and Tobias Harris, but they can look to add some depth now, especially at the point guard position. Murray has good size for the point, and is a high-level athlete, though prone to mistakes and not much of a scorer, but there is a lot of potential here in the freshman. The hope is Stan Van Gundy can help him learn the finer points of the game, while backing up Jackson, will take the pressure off the learn it all right away.

19. Denver: Denzel Valentine, SG, Michigan State – This will be Denver’s third pick in the first round, and assuming they haven’t swung a deal to give up any of them, they should just look to add the best player available. Valentine is a lottery-level talent, though rumors of some medical issues with his knees have caused some concern. Either way, he can shoot, create off the dribble, and defend. There is always a place for players like Valentine on any roster.

20. Indiana (for Brooklyn): Taurean Prince, SF, Baylor – Though Prince didn’t meet a lot of the high expectations for his senior season, he is a long, athletic wing who can make an impact on both ends of the floor. Prince can knock down threes and get out in transition.

21. Atlanta: DeAndre’ Bembry, SF, St. Joseph’s – This is now the Hawks’ second pick in the first round, and while they may hope to make a deal, they have some needs they can fill. They are facing a few question marks this off-season with Al Horford and Kent Bazemore both free agents. Bembry could eventually slide into Bazemore’s spot, and has some similarities to his game. Bembry is a hard-nosed defender on the wing, and can be a versatile scorer inside the arc. He needs to work on his long-range shooting, but that could come with some more experience.

22. Charlotte: Malik Beasley, SG, Florida State – Charlotte has a lot of internal free agency issues to deal with, but getting a young shooter like Beasley falling to them will help no matter what. He is a more versatile scorer than many think, and he has shown some flashes on the defensive end. Charlotte may also look for a big man here, but if Beasley gets to this spot, I can’t see the Hornets passing him up.

23. Boston: Ivica Zubac, C, Croatia – This would be Boston’s third pick in the first round, barring any deals they make, and they certainly won’t be looking to add another player to their roster, so draft-and-stash is the way to go. 7’1 and a solid 265 pounds, Zubac is a semi-skilled offensive player, with the potential to be a real low-post or pick-and-roll scoring threat. Though he has great size, he isn’t much of a rim protector, post defender, or rebounder, but with some development, he could be passable.

24. Philadelphia: Demetrius Jackson, PG, Notre Dame – With their second pick in the first round, the Sixers could look to finally address the lack of backcourt talent, and having Jackson, my pick for the best long-term point guard in the class, is a gift in this spot. A strong pick-and-roll ballhandler, and one of the best athletes in this class, Jackson has the maturity and skill to make an impact from day one. Some are concerned about his size, and the dip in his long-range shooting last season, but you can’t pass on this combination of talent and potential.

25. Los Angeles Clippers: Cheick Diallo, PF, Kansas – Diallo never really got on track after an NCAA investigation caused him to miss a part of the early season. Long, athletic, and with a motor that doesn’t quit, Diallo may be short on skill, but he makes things happen with his energy on the floor. While not exactly what the Clippers need, they get a great value this late in the first round.

26. Philadelphia: Patrick McCaw, PG/SG, UNLV – With their third pick in the first round, Philadelphia could look to add another piece to the backcourt with the dynamic McCaw. 6’7, with the ability to play either guard spot, McCaw may make some curious decisions, but it can wow with his ability to create scoring chances off the dribble, as well as having very good defensive instincts. While his perimeter shooting isn’t there yet, his versatility is a bonus, and well worth a shot on his potential this late in the first round.

27. Toronto: Ante Zizic, C, Croatia –This is more of a long-range selection for Toronto to work towards securing their frontcourt for the future. Zizic has good size, works hard, and is just 19 years old. He’s not ready to come to the NBA now, so Toronto can leave him over in Europe to gain more experience, especially with his offensive skills, and hopefully seeing him move up to better competition.

28. Phoenix: Juan Hernangomez, PF, Spain – This is Phoenix’s third pick in the first round, and I would expect them to take a player they can leave overseas for a bit longer, though some may think Hermangomez is ready to come over now. He is a skilled and athletic power forward, with the ability to stretch the floor, and he has played a good amount of minutes overseas already. He really could use another year in Spain, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Suns see if they can find a way to get him over now.

29. San Antonio: Brice Johnson, PF, North Carolina – With Tim Duncan’s future still up in the air, Johnson can at least add some athleticism to the frontcourt. While not the most skilled offensive player, he has improved a lot over the past few years, and his ability to run the floor and rebound could make him a very good value this low in the first round.

30. Golden State: Damian Jones, C, Vanderbilt – NBA Finals’ loss aside, the Warriors are still set up to be one of the league’s dominant franchises, but they will need to address their depth situation. They got Kevon Looney here last year, and now with a good chance that Festus Ezeli will be somewhere else next year, a big rim-protector could be what they need. Jones may drop a bit due to his recent surgery for a torn pectoral, but it shouldn’t be a long-term issues, and he is a great value here.

Five NBA Draft sleepers to watch, including Gary Payton II

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We know that Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram are going to be good, that’s why they will be the first two off the board at the NBA Draft Thursday night. But that’s just a couple picks in a 60-pick draft.

Each year a couple of players emerge from the second round — or are undrafted — then later carve out a nice niche for themselves in the NBA. Sleepers. Guys scouts and GMs looked past for some reason who develop late or have skills that overcome their weaknesses. There will be a few of those in this draft.

Rob Dauster of NBC’s CollegeBasketballTalk laid out a couple on the PBT Podcast breaking down the draft. Ed Isaacson of NBA Draft Blog and Rotoworld gave us three more guys to watch. Here is our list of sleepers that you should be happy if your team grabs.

• Gary Payton II, 6’3” point guard (Oregon State). Yes, the son of that Gary Payton. The younger Payton has speed and fantastic body control, which combined with good handles lets him drive through defenses and get to the rim. He’s a strong pick-and-roll ball handler. He’s not the defender his father was (who is?), but he’s good, particularly off the ball. He needs to work on his jumper, but this is a guy who just gets the game.
—Rob Dauster

• Tyler Ulis, 5’10” point guard (Kentucky). The obvious knock on Ulis is his height, which is officially 5’10” but that is generous. He has fantastic ball handling skills, is quick and uses that to get into the lane off the pick-and-roll, he has good vision and passing skills, and he is a quality floor general. He’s also a pesky defender (he was the SEC defensive player of the year). He’s not a future All-Star, but he can be a very good backup point guard off the bench.
—Rob Dauster

• A.J. Hammons, 7’0” center (Purdue). There may not be a big man prospect as ready to come in and make an impact than Hammons, the seven-footer from Purdue. His ability to defend in the post and the pick-and-roll is very good, and he averaged two blocks or more all four of his college seasons. Hammons’ offensive game has also developed well, including showing the ability to step out and knock down 15 to 18 footers. He’ll be 24 in August, but I’m not so sure any of the younger big men in this draft will develop his skill set on both sides of the ball.
—Ed Isaacson

• Isaiah Cousins, 6’6″ shooting guard (Oklahoma). Cousins played in Buddy Hield’s spotlight last season, but he is another versatile guard who can allow a coach to play around his line-ups. He has good size at 6’4.5, hit 41 percent from three, and plays solid defense. Add his ability to create in the pick-and-roll, and Cousins will be a very good value in the second round.
—Ed Isaacson

• Isaiah Whitehead, 6’5″ shooting guard (Seton Hall). Whitehead can cause a coach to lose his mind at times, but he has a special ability to create off the dribble, whether for himself or a teammate, plus has the versatility, size, and scoring ability to play either backcourt spot. If a coach can get him to reign in his inner-Lance Stephenson, Whitehead could be a great addition to any guard rotation.
—Ed Isaacson

Barack Obama has “discussed” becoming NBA owner after leaving office

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What will Barack Obama do next January when his term in office is up and he returns to regular civilian life has been a topic of discussion in Washington. It was the topic of the best skit during the White House Correspondents dinner this year.

One thing that could happen — minority ownership of an NBA team. From ESPN’s story:

According to press secretary Josh Earnest, becoming an NBA owner might be an option.

Earnest said Wednesday that the president, well known for being a big fan of Chicago sports teams, has “discussed” being part of an ownership group for an NBA franchise. Earnest added that Obama would pursue the opportunity “potentially … under the right circumstances.”

This is not new, Obama told GQ last year he has fantasized about being a part owner and helping put together a team. Which, by the way, is not what minority owners do. They get to be closer to the process, they get great seats for games and write a lot of checks, they are kept in the loop on things, but they don’t get to make decisions. (Which is why minority owners in all professional sports are often unhappy; these are people with money who get to make the call in virtually every other aspect of their life, but not with this expensive hobby.)

I wouldn’t be surprised if this happens some day. My guess is Obama would clear the NBA’s background check process. But I would be shocked if Jerry Reinsdorf let him buy a piece of the Bulls.