NBA Draft: Nuggets looking to move up, willing to trade Lawson

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According to ESPN Draft Insider Chad Ford, the Denver Nuggets are looking for another big man to fill out their rotation, and would like to accomplish that goal by trading into the top 10 of the draft. If they do manage to get their hands on a top-10 pick, they would have their pick of big men prospects such as Cole Aldrich, Ed Davis, and Ekpe Udoh. According to Ford’s sources, Denver is offering point guard Ty Lawson for the pick.  

When looking at all the teams with a top-10 pick in this year’s draft, a couple of obvious trade partners emerge. The Wizards and 76ers obviously aren’t looking to trade their picks for Lawson. Lawson probably isn’t worth a top-10 pick, and the Timberwolves, Kings, and Warriors drafted a combined four point guards in the first seven picks of last year’s draft anyways. Lawson would make some sense in Detroit, as Rodney Stuckey is more of a combo guard than a true point. However, Detroit may have made their bed with Stuckey, and need help up front just as badly as the Timberwolves do. 
In all likelihood, the two most realistic trade partners for the Nuggets in this situation are the Pacers and the Clippers. T.J. Ford has been a major disappointment for the Pacers, who desperately need someone to make Jim O’Brien’s up-tempo offense work. Lawson is a monster in transition, and the Pacers are already developing Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansborough up front. 
The Clippers have Baron Davis to run the point, but Davis has been unhealthy and unreliable. Lawson could give the Clippers some much-needed depth at the point guard position, not to mention a long-term successor for Davis after his contract runs out. The Clippers are already invested in 2009 #1 pick Blake Griffin up front, and getting a known commodity in Lawson could help them draw a big free agent with their cap space.
I know the Nuggets need some depth up front, but it feels like they may have put too much value on their hook in this situation. This is supposed to be a fairly top-heavy draft, and late-lottery big men are never a very safe bet. Lawson, meanwhile, followed up an extremely successful college career with a very solid rookie seasons; it’s an impressive feat for any guard to shoot 50% from the field and 40% from three, let alone a rookie guard. And it’s not like Lawson doesn’t have upside; he’s one of the fastest players in basketball, he’s a pure point who knows how to make plays, and he knows how to finish around the basket. Lawson was overlooked in the draft, and ended up being one of the best value picks of 2009. Now he’s being overlooked again, and somebody should capitalize. 

76ers coach Brett Brown says he doesn’t expect rookie Zhaire Smith to play in NBA this season

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Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons.

Zhaire Smith?

A few recent 76ers first-round picks missed their entire first professional season due to injury. Smith, the No. 16 pick in last year’s draft could join them.

Smith has missed the entire season so far with a broken foot then allergic reaction. He just returned to practicing with the 76ers, but maybe not in time to play for them this season.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

If the 76ers clinch their playoff seed before the regular season ends, I wouldn’t be surprised if Smith plays for them. But meaningful minutes seem unlikely.

Philadelphia is trying to win now, and a rookie who entered the NBA relatively raw then missed so much time is unlikely to help.

That said, backup wings James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons aren’t exactly reliable options. If everything breaks right for Smith – essentially the opposite of his season to date – maybe, just maybe, he plays for the 76ers this season.

Warriors vs. Bucks or Raptors betting favorite to be NBA Finals matchup

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Who will we see in the NBA Finals come June?

The West looks cut and dried — if the Warriors are healthy, it’s hard to imagine any other team in that conference giving them too much trouble.

The East? That’s wide open. A good case can be made for Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, or Milwaukee finding their way in. (For a more detailed breakdown, listen to the latest PBT Podcast where Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports and myself break down the East in more detail.)

The bookmakers over at BetOnline put together these odds on potential Finals matchups, and after the first four options the odds get pretty long.

Milwaukee Bucks vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Toronto Raptors vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Boston Celtics vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Indiana Pacers vs Golden State Warriors 28/1
Brooklyn Nets vs Golden State Warriors 33/1
Boston Celtics vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Toronto Raptors vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Charlotte Hornets vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Detroit Pistons vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Miami Heat vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Orlando Magic vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Washington Wizards vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Boston Celtics vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Toronto Raptors vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1

A few quick thoughts on that list:

• Interesting that the Sixers and Celtics are just a little behind the Bucks and Raptors in the minds of the bookmakers.

• I don’t know that I’d have Houston in front of Oklahoma City as the second-best option in the West. Not this season. The Thunder have the defense and star power to do playoff damage.

• If you’re thinking about putting money on Washington or Orlando to make the Finals — against anyone — just donate that money to charity instead. That way it will do some good.

Likely No. 1 pick Zion Williamson leaves Duke-North Carolina game with knee injury

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Zion Williamson will probably be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

He’s a generationally good prospect. The rest of this draft also looks relatively weak.

In fact, Williamson has such a stranglehold on the top pick, some have suggested he sit out the rest of his freshman season.

His injury during Duke’s game against North Carolina tonight will only heighten those calls.

Duke:

Hopefully, Williamson is OK.

And hopefully, the system changes. The NCAA is a cartel in which schools conspire to cap compensation for athletes at a scholarship plus some expenses. In a free market, Williamson would earn far more.

Unfortunately, it probably can’t be both. If Williamson escapes this without major injury, the status quo will likely endure.

But, if this injury even allows him to play again this season, it might be a warning shot that causes him to sit until he can enter the NBA draft.

Again, I hope he’s healthy enough to make that decision for himself.

Jayson Tatum guarantees Celtics will win 2019 NBA championship

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Friday morning, Jayson Tatum guaranteed the U.S. team would beat the World team in the Rising Stars game that night. The U.S. team won.

So, Tatum was asked Saturday morning whether he wanted to guarantee anything for that night. He guaranteed he’d win the Skills Challenge. He won.

So, then ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked Tatum whether he wants to guarantee anything else. And he really let it ride.

Tatum:

We’re going to win the Finals this year. February 16th, mark it. Jayson Tatum says we’re going to win the Finals this year.

Obviously, Tatum wasn’t going to pick against Boston. But this wasn’t that. He could have easily avoided such a grand proclamation.

Instead, even if he were just caught up in the emotion of an All-Star Saturday Night victory and taking the interview especially seriously, Tatum put a little more attention and pressure on the Celtics.

I’m not convinced that’s what this team needs.