This much I feel safe in predicting about the NBA Draft Thursday night: Everyone’s mock drafts will be well off.
That’s because once you get past the first two picks — the Timberwolves taking Karl-Anthony Towns and the Lakers taking Jahlil Okafor — things get unpredictable. Who will Sam Hinkie and the Sixers take at No. 3, D’Angelo Russell or Kristaps Porzingis? Will Phil Jackson trade the Knicks out of the four spot if Towns, Okafor and Russell are off the boards? Then there are a number of teams — Denver is at the top of the list — you can expect to be active with draft night trades.
Jenna Corrado and I try to look into our crystal balls and predict the draft in this latest PBT Extra.
Report: Timberwolves shopping Anthony Bennett for trade
I don’t know what the Timberwolves expect to get for Bennett, but it won’t be much.
Though he was the No. 1 pick just two years ago, his stock has sunk quickly. Besides, it seems only the Cavaliers thought he warranted the top selection. Treat him like a mid-lottery pick who has struggled, and that’s a better approximation of his value.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, Bennett’s salary is that of a No. 1 pick. He has a $7,318,289 team option for 2016-17 that must be exercised by the end of this October. It’s essentially impossible for him to prove he deserves that before next season gets underway.
So, who wants to trade for Bennett as a possible rental? Though his team would have his Bird Rights, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent if his his option is declined.
If the Timberwolves want to dump him, they probably can. If they want an asset in return, that’s a tossup.
Report: Timberwolves tell Karl-Anthony Towns they’ll draft him No. 1
Towns is the top talent in the draft, a well-rounded big man with size and athleticism on his side. What really sets him apart from Jahlil Okafor is his versatility, which will give the Timberwolves flexibility as they build their roster around Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
The future looks bright in Minnesota.
PBT Podcast: Should the Knicks take Justise Winslow? That and other draft questions.
The top two slots in the NBA Draft are all but locked in — Karl Anthony Towns will go to the Timberwolves at No. 1 and Jahlil Okafor will go to the Lakers at No. 2. Anything you hear different is spin and smoke.
At No. 3 the draft gets interesting. Does Philadelphia take D’Angelo Russell? Kristaps Porzingis? Do they trade out? And what should the Knicks do at No. 4?
In this podcast we asked PBT’s resident draft expert Ed Isaacson what he would do if he were Phil Jackson and Okafor, Towns and Russell were off the board — and he said take Justise Winslow out of Duke.
We get into some detail breaking down the draft in this podcast, with Isaacson — of NBA Draft Blog and Rotoworld — answering the questions of PBT’s Kurt Helin and NBCSports’ Dominic Ridgard. There is love for Bobby Portis, questions about Robert Upshaw, talk about what to expect from Porzingis and Mario Hezonja, plus talk of Emmanuel Mudiay adventure in China. Plus much more.
Spend an hour with us and you will be better prepped for the draft. Promise.
I know most fans in Philly want to see the team draft Russell because the impressive point guard out of Ohio State — a guy who can score but also has great court vision and passing skills — fits well on paper with a front line of Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and, eventually, Dario Saric. I also know that having Sam Hinkie as your GM means a flood of rumors and reports, including reliable ones that Hinkie is seriously considering drafting seven-foot, sweet-shooting Euro Kristaps Porzingis.
As for the Russell rumors…
Two outside forces are at play here. First, the New York Knicks would love Russell to fall to them — if that happens, they keep the pick and take him. (The Knicks also would love Jahlil Okafor to fall to them, that’s not happening.) So if the Knicks can float rumors that make it less likely Philly takes Russell, why wouldn’t they do it? Second, Russell’s agent knows the marketing potential of his client landing in NYC, and he’d be far from the first agent to try and steer his client toward a major market in the draft.
All that said, none of it matters — if Hinkie and the Sixers decide Russell is their man, they can take him, and he basically has to play there. This isn’t the NFL where a top draft pick can Eli Manning his way to New York. If the Sixers draft Russell, he’ll go (unless he wants to sit out all basketball for a year, re-enter the draft, and then again be at the mercy of franchises he may not wish to play for).
The ball is in the Sixers court; they just may take that ball and go play in Europe.