Kurt Helin

CCajasol-Obradoiro en San Pablo.

His former Spanish teammate Marcus Landry says Kristaps Porzingis should be No. 1 pick


For many NBA fans — and a few front office types — Kristaps Porzingis is a mystery man. He’s a seven-footer out of Latvia and the Spanish league who has a sweet outside shooting stroke and the ability to finish in the lane.

But how good is he?

Good enough that he should be in the mix for the No. 1 pick if you ask the Bucks’ Marcus Landry And why should you ask Landry? Because he andPorzingas were teammates at Cajasol Sevilla in the Spanish ABC league (the second best league in the world right now).

Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times did ask Landry and got a glowing report.

“It sad nobody really knows much about this kid right now because he played in Spain,’’ Landry said. “I think this kid is amazing.’’…

“Honestly, I think Kristaps should be the No. 1 pick if you’re going to base it off potential,’’ Landry said. “I personally think he’s the best kid in the draft. And I’m not saying that because he’s a friend of mine.

“I know basketball. I’ve been in the NBA; I’ve been around NBA players. I’d tell you if he sucks. But he’s really good. If he goes beyond No. 2, that would be a mistake on some team’s part.’’

There are scouts that agree with Landry.

Porzingas is big but what grabs scouts attention is the fluidity of his game — he plays like a three on the wing, but can finish with authority in the paint. He can thrive in an uptempo game, or a league trending small. The biggest plus is a sweet shooting stroke, a quick release that already has NBA three-point range.  His length and athleticism make him strong on the glass, and his length allows him to block shots in the paint. He is the walking definition of a guy with upside.

He has to put on muscle, and he needs time to develop a better feel for the game. The team that drafts him may be three years away from really knowing what they got.

But if you ask Landry, they are getting a franchise player.

Porzingas will be drafted somewhere between the Sixers at No. 3 — GM Sam Hinkie likes him and D’Angelo Russell — and No. 5, no way he falls past the Magic. In between are the Knicks at No. 4, a team willing to trade their pick.


Report: Miami to offer Goran Dragic five-year deal, but not at max salary

Orlando Magic v Miami Heat

The Miami Heat want to give Goran Dragic the ball and tell him to run their offense — they traded for the point guard in the middle of last season and Pat Riley has been clear he has every intention to re-sign him (Dragic can and will opt out this summer).

That includes offering a fifth year on his contract — something only Miami can do, and a stability Dragic has said he wants. However, the Heat plan to make their first offer considerably less than a max contract, which would be worth in excess of $100 million, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Heat are planning to offer Dragic a five-year deal in excess of $80 million to keep him in Miami after acquiring the 2014 All-NBA third-team selection from Phoenix on trade deadline day in February….

A five-year maximum deal for Dragic would exceed $100 million but Miami also might find itself dealing with Dwyane Wade’s free agency one summer earlier than expected if Wade decides to bypass his $16.1 million player option for next season. The Heat also await a decision from Luol Deng about his plans to either invoke next season’s $10.2 million player option or opt for free agency.

If the offer is five-years, $80 million (give or take), expect Dragic to step back and assess his options. That’s $16 million a year (and Florida has no state income tax). However, a four-year max offer from another team will be in the $85 million range with an annual salary of more than $21 million (exact figures are not available as next year’s salary cap is not yet locked in place). A team like the Lakers or Knicks may well put a max of offer on the table. Which might force Miami to go a little higher.

But Dragic would be faced with a question: Does he want that fifth guaranteed year when he will be 33, or is he willing to be a free agent again a year earlier to get the higher salary now? Then come the factors of where he wants to live and the style of play of those teams (Miami seems a good fit there).

If I were to bet I would say Miami keeps Dragic this summer, but it is no slam dunk.

D’Angelo Russell says “I can definitely thrive” in triangle offense

NBA Draft Prospects Workout 2015

It is possible that D’Angelo Russell falls to the Knicks in the No. 4 slot in Thursday’s NBA Draft. Karl Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor will almost certainly go 1-2 to the Timberwolves and Lakers. After that comes the Sixers, and while Russell has had strong workouts for them — and they could use a point guard — there is a lot of buzz that GM Sam Hinkie might take promising Euro Kristaps Porzingis.

But are the Knicks looking for a strong point guard since they run the triangle offense? As Phil Jackson has run it, that offense tends to attack out of the wing or post, with the point guard just there as a shooter (think Steve Kerr or Derek Fisher).

Russell thinks he can thrive in the triangle, he told Ian Begley of ESPN.

“Now that I look at it, Kobe had great success in it. The shots that he took, the shots that he made were in the same areas, all from the offense. So I think I can definitely thrive there,” Russell said in a phone interview on Friday.


Maybe he can. Russell can score the rock — 19.3 points a game, shot 41 percent from three last season — but also is a gifted passer with phenomenal court vision. Another reason the Knicks may want him: Phil Jackson likes big guards and at 6’5″ Russell is that.

The question is less fit than if he is on the board at No. 4 when the Knicks pick? There was some buzz Russell doesn’t want to play for the Sixers, but GM Sam Hinkie isn’t about to let that influence his choice. He’s going to take the best player, and if he thinks Porzingis is the best player  — although likely three years or so away from maybe reaching that potential — Hinkie will snatch him up (then figure out how to deal with the glut up front later). Or he might trade the pick to a team that covets Porzingas. Or he might take Russell, which is what the fans in Philly want as there is an obvious fit with their young core.

If Russell (and Towns and Okafor) are off the board when then Knicks pick, Phil Jackson becomes the biggest wild card in the deck. He might trade the pick, he might draft Emmanuel Mudiay or Willie Cauley-Stein or Mario Hezonja. It’s going to be interesting.


Law firm hired by Hawks says no evidence Danny Ferry motivated by bias in Luol Deng comments

Danny Ferry, Mike Budenholzer

This past week, the outgoing ownership of the Atlanta Hawks voted to approve a settlement buy out of former GM Danny Ferry, ending his limbo status before the new ownership came in. Ferry had been on leave since August, when a recording of a call one year ago in June with ownership was made public, a call where Ferry said of then soon-to-be free agent Luol Deng he “has a little African in him,” and “He’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back.”

Ferry said he was reading from a scouting report and did not filter that part (and since then a scouting report with those phrases was made public).

Now the law firm that independently investigated the incident for the Hawks says it “did not find evidence” that Ferry “was motivated by racial, ethnic or country of origin bias or animus.”

Through a source, NBC’s ProBasketballTalk obtained a copy of the letter from Bernard Taylor, a partner in the law firm of Alston & Bird (the results of that letter were already made public by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media). That firm did witness interviews and looked through more than 24,000 work emails.

Taylor wrote this in the letter:

“We reported the results of our work to the Hawks. In summary, the facts indicated that you repeated comments that were not your own about Mr. Deng from a scouting report during the call, and there was no evidence to indicate that during the call you acted in a manner motivated by negative bias toward Mr. Deng.”

PBT also obtained a letter from one of the Hawks current co-owners, Todd Foreman, to Ferry, which shifted the onus more own ownership. That letter states that “at the heart of this dispute was the unfortunate disagreement amongst owners.” The Hawks current and outgoing ownership has three separate groups and infighting amongst them was common, as different groups tried to grab more power. All three parties are selling their shares to the incoming ownership group headed by Tony Ressler, which includes former NBA All-Star Grant Hill.

These letters were part of the settlement deal with Ferry.

Report: Greg Oden working out for Hornets, Mavericks

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game 6

Greg Oden is not yet ready to give up the dream of the NBA.

When we last saw the former No. 1 pick, he was buried on the bench of the Miami Heat. They gave him a shot at a comeback after three years out of the league, he even started a couple games for them, but by the time of the playoffs he was a complete non-factor and they let him walk. (Actually, the last time we saw him was in court dealing with a felony assault charge, but that has been resolved.)

Now, after another year out of the NBA, another year trying to rehab his rickety knees, Oden was working out at Ohio State and is now attempting to make a comeback, reports Shams Charania at Real GM.

As Greg Oden attempts a return in the NBA, the former No. 1 overall pick worked out for the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday and will visit the Dallas Mavericks this week, league sources told RealGM.

Oden will be part of the Mavericks’ free-agent mini-camp that includes wings and several big men, such as Keith Benson. The 7-foot Oden had worked out for the Memphis Grizzlies in the spring, and the franchise is expected to continue to monitor him.

This seems a real long shot. Just as a reminder, Oden has had seven knee surgeries, three microfracture. To his credit, most people in his shoes would have given up and just lived the rest of their lives comfortably on the million he made off his rookie deal as the former No. 1 pick, but Oden loved the game enough to fight all the way back and make the Miami Heat.

Still, it’s hard to imagine this working out differently than his last stint at this point. I would love for it to be different for him, but it’s just hard to picture.