Kurt Helin

Willie Cauley-Stein

Report: Willie Cauley-Stein slides down draft boards due to concerns about old foot injury

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Foot injuries with big men scares teams — these can be lingering, chronic things that limit players in some cases. The concerns about Joel Embiid with Philadelphia is just the latest in a long line of issues.

Which is why concerns about a foot issue with Kentucky big man Willie Cauley-Stein may have him sliding down draft boards, at least a few slots. Maybe even out of the Top 10 altogether.

The well connected Jonathan Givony broke it down at Draft Express.

Cauley-Stein suffered a stress fracture in his ankle on March 28th of 2014 in Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament victory over Louisville, and had a pin inserted via surgery to repair what Cauley-Stein described then as a “cracked bone or a stress fracture.”…

Five separate NBA teams we spoke with all indicated varying degrees of concern after consulting with their team doctors this week, with some saying it may cost the Kentucky big man a few spots on draft night. “There is some maintenance that needs to be done there, as it’s not completely clear whether the injury healed in a proper way. The pin that was inserted is supposed to be sitting at a 90 degree angle, but instead it’s at 45 degrees. That, plus some question marks about his background that came up could cause him to drop a few slots.”

Of course, his agent played down the issue with the foot. Cauley-Stein did come back to Kentucky after the surgery and played a full season not missing a game, being a defensive force for one of the nation’s top teams.

Yet, NBA teams are cautious when it comes to investing their money in a player. One of Cauley-Stein’s best assets is his athleticism, something that could be limited if this is a chronic foot issue. He’s being drafted in the lottery because of his defense — he’s a 7-footer who can show out off a pick and switch onto a guard without losing a beat. That is valuable in today’s NBA. His offense is raw, but he can find ways to score with hustle points while he develops a jumper.

He has been reported to be taken everywhere from the Magic at No. 5 — which now seems unlikely — to the Pacers at No. 11 (that Indiana would consider speaks to how things have deteriorated between the team and Roy Hibbert). It now looks like that late lottery slot may be the more likely landing spot, in part due to teams above that not looking to fill the role Cauley-Stein would play.

Report: Suns shopping Eric Bledsoe, offered to Knicks in package for No. 4 pick

Phoenix Suns v Washington Wizards
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After a lengthy off-season contract dispute, the Phoenix Suns signed Eric Bledsoe last summer and he gave them a strong season — 17 points and 6.1 assists a game, he led the team in Win Shares (seven) and had the highest PER of any player on the roster at the end of the season.

However, the Suns are shopping him around as we head into the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Sean Deveney of The Sporting News — and that’s starting with trying to get the No. 4 pick from the Knicks.

The Suns had talks with the Knicks about dealing the fourth pick for point guard Eric Bledsoe and the No. 13 pick, but Phoenix has not been limited to the Knicks in that regard. The Suns have been dangling Bledsoe in trade offers this offseason and are likely to continue to do so after the draft if Bledsoe is not moved this week, sources confirmed.

Remember a year ago when the problem was the Suns had too many good point guards? They had Goran Dragic but traded him to Miami, and they sent fan favorite Isaiah Thomas to Boston. That left Bledsoe as the last man standing, but now he may be shipped off this summer as well. GM Ryan McDonough has decided to strip this thing down as part of his rebuild. He did acquire Brandon Knight as a point guard in all those trades, but Knight struggled after the trade.

The Suns may move Bledsoe, but I can’t see the Knicks as a good fit — a ball-dominant point guard is not what is needed in the triangle offense. Bledsoe is strong attacking off the dribble but he lacks a good enough outside shot (32.4 percent from three last season, not much better on longer twos) to space the floor the way the offense needs. If the Knicks remain committed to the triangle — and Phil Jackson says they are — then Bledsoe is not their guy.

That said, Bledsoe may well be somebody else’s guy this summer.

 

DeMarcus Cousins with not-so-cryptic tweet, shot at George Karl

Boston Celtics v Sacramento Kings
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DeMarcus Cousins isn’t looking to leave Sacramento. Make no mistake, he’s had his frustration with the organization— and with good reason. The last few years of their ownership, theMalloof brothers were a mess with focus elsewhere. Then under new owner Vivek Ranadive the Kings hired a coach Cousins liked in Mike Malone and picked a direction built around Cousin’s style — and in the middle of last season Ranadive fires Malone because he wants to run more. Through it all Cousins has remained loyal to the Kings.

Now comes new coach George Karl, who isn’t putting a system in around Cousins. Rather, he is pushing to trade Cousins. He’s trying to get Ranadive on board.

So how does Cousins feel about Karl?

Karl has had his run-ins before. Remember he said Andre Iguodala was a “mole” for Mark Jackson and the Warriors when Denver (then coached by Karl) and Golden State met in the playoffs.

It’s hard to see how Cousins and Karl could co-exist next season. One of them will have to go, and at this point it seems more likely to be Cousins.

What Karl wants is to revamp the roster and bring in quality veterans, a team that can win now rather than be a slow build. That is something that is not going to happen with the rumored Lakers offer (which is focused around the No. 2 pick in the draft). But there will be other teams that are interested.

NBA invites 19 players to NBA Draft green room Thursday

2015 NBA Draft Lottery
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Other players will crash the party and just show up in the stands. Others will throw their own party at home on Thursday night.

But 19 guys got official invites to the big party Thursday in Brooklyn — the NBA Draft.

The NBA announced the 19 guys who got invites to the green room Thursday night, meaning they are expected to go in the first round.

  • Devin Booker (Kentucky)
  • Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky)
  • Sam Dekker (Wisconsin)
  • Jerian Grant (Notre Dame)
  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Arizona)
  • Stanley Johnson (Arizona)
  • Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin)
  • Kevon Looney (UCLA)
  • Trey Lyles (Kentucky)
  • Emmanuel Mudiay (Democratic Republic of Congo)
  • Jahlil Okafor (Duke)
  • Kelly Oubre, Jr. (Kansas)
  • Cameron Payne (Murray State)
  • Bobby Portis (Arkansas)
  • Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia)
  • D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State)
  • Karl-Anthony Towns (Kentucky)
  • Myles Turner (Texas)
  • Justise Winslow (Duke)

According to DraftExpress.com, three players were offered green room invites by the league but turned them down: R.J. Hunter, Delon Wright and Tyus Jones.

What seems certain is that Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor will go first and second to the Timberwolves and Lakers. After that… who knows? Sam Hinkie and the Sixers are leaning D’Angelo Russell according to the reports I hear, but Kristaps Porzingis is in the mix. And a lot of teams want Porzingis and might be willing to trade up to get him.

If you want to get some prep in on this guys before draft night, I recommend checking out the most recent PBT Podcast, with Ed Isaacson of NBADraftBlog. We talk about a lot of these guys, their strengths and weaknesses, and where they might land.

D’Angelo Russell says he would like to be a Laker

NBA Draft Prospects Workout 2015
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What does it take to get an agent to see marketing dollars floating around his head? Have a client near the top of the NBA Draft board, and have the nation’s two biggest markets — Los Angeles and New York — each with top four picks. That’s the Lakers and Knicks, two teams each with a massive, passionate fan base. From there it’s easy to see endorsement potential.

DeAngelo Russell seems poised to fall between the two big cities — the Lakers at No. 2 are expected to take Jahlil Okafor of Duke (Karl-Anthony Towns will go No. 1 to Minnesota). The Sixers are rumored to be leaning toward taking Russell at No. 3, right before the Knicks pick at No. 4 — and the Knicks like Russell. They’ll take him if he’s there, it’s just likely he’s not.

On Monday, Russell made his case to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports why the Lakers should take him at No. 2.

“If I were to go to the Lakers, I wouldn’t want anybody to hand me anything,” Russell told Yahoo Sports. “I wouldn’t expect Kobe to take me under his wing. I think he will want to see a resemblance of that hunger and fire that he came into the league with as a young kid. No one needs to be nicest guy in the world, or needs to pretend to be that. He will see through that, pick all that apart.

“I’ve got to be me.”

Russell would fit with the Lakers. He’d fit just about anywhere. He knows how to score — 19.3 points a game, shoots 41 percent from three — plus is a gifted passer with phenomenal court vision. He’s a good athlete and can defend. There is a lot to like.

It’s easy to see a fit in Philadelphia, where Russell has said he’d be willing to play. Russell could be making passes to (a hopefully healthy) Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel for a decade. But Russell sees a fit with the Lakers and their history, too.

“I want to work for it,” Russell told Yahoo Sports. “I know I can earn it. I am not Magic Johnson and I’m not 6-9, but I am 6-5 and it gives me an advantage to see over the smaller guards. Watching Magic, you learned to turn your back, put the guards on your hip and then dice up the defense.”

 

Russell can make his case, but he should know the Lakers are strongly leaning toward Okafor at No. 2 (and no, they are not trading the pick).

What Russell will find in Philadelphia is a passionate fan base that understands and appreciates hard work. They expect a lot and can make it a tough place to lose, but there are few places like it if you win.