Sure, the Knicks want LeBron James. And they’ll make their pitch. But they’ll need more than the King to contend, and will need other players on roster to lure James anyway. And there’s always, you know, the simple fact that they should probably look into some backup plans in case their best pitch isn’t good enough for James to swing at.
Target acquired: Hawks shooting guard Joe Johnson.
ESPN reports that Knicks GM Donnie Walsh and head coach Mike D’Antoni will fly to the west coast on Wednesday in anticipation of the Thursday midnight EST start of free agency. They’ll meet with Joe Johnson at 9PM Pacific time, then hop on a flight and catch up with Amar’e Stoudemire in Phoenix.
So, yeah. Two players who excelled under Mike D’Antoni in Phoenix will be the first two visited by the master of “Seven Seconds or Less” within the first three hours of the free agency period. Later in the day, they’ll meet with LeBron James.
If we’re examining realistic possibilities, the Knicks have an outside shot at James. Their roster isn’t in a place to contend, and other bidders will have that luxury. But Johnson and Amar’e present an interesting alternative. Both would likely be impressed with being stars of a New York team. Both have played together under D’Antoni in the past. Both can get buckets in efficient ways (though Johnson’s efficiency has begun to plummet).
Is Johnson worth the max contract? No, not at his age. Is this a championship contending core? Probably not. But it is a monumental step forward for a franchise that literally only recently finished up digging itself out of the hole Isiah Thomas put them in.
While D’Antoni’s system would be greatly improved with a dynamic point guard like Steve Nash, Johnson and Amar’e could run the pick and roll with devastating results. Johnson would need to adjust to being more of a facilitator, but hey, D’Antoni has been known to get through to players.
Johnson and Amar’e aren’t the biggest fish out there. But they’re still good catches, and if things were to fall just right, one or the other could help land LeBron.
No. 1 DeAndre Ayton to Phoenix.
No. 2 Marvin Bagley III to Sacramento (probably).
It’s at No. 3 in this draft that things seem to open up right now. The Atlanta Hawks have listened to trade offers for the pick but are rumored to be seeking a premium to move down in the draft (same with the Grizzlies at No. 4). If the Hawks make the pick, it’s been unclear what direction they go, in part because there were a lot of rumors about Sacramento’s leanings. Now that seems settled, there may be a direction for Atlanta — Luka Doncic. From Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Slovenian teen star Luka Doncic has elevated to the forefront of the Atlanta Hawks’ internal discussions on the third overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, league sources told ESPN….
Doncic started to separate himself in organizational discussions around the choice, an examination that has included a tremendous intrigue with Jaren Jackson Jr., league sources said.
This could be a real interest, in the sense that the Hawks may want to draft the 19-year-old Slovenian (who will be at the draft after he led his Real Madrid team to the Spanish League title on Tuesday). He is a 6’8″ point-forward gifted at running the pick-and-roll, is a great playmaker in transition, and he is the best passer in this draft. Doncic has shooting range from the NBA three and he can finish inside. He also may be the most NBA ready player in this draft, having been a star (EuroLeague MVP) at the highest level of basketball outside of the United States. Doncic has, at the very least, the highest floor of anyone in this draft.
Or, could this be a leak to put pressure on the Dallas Mavericks and other teams high on Doncic — would Dallas be willing to swap picks (they draft No. 5) and throw in a young player or future pick to entice Atlanta to make the swap?
Doncic is not expected to fall past No. 4, although with teams down the board having a lot of interest in Mohamed Bamba and Michael Porter Jr. it’s possible a team trades up to get one of that pair and Doncic slides a little. It’s an unpredictable draft.
But we may see Doncic off the board at No. 3.
DeAndre Ayton seems to be the player most likely to go No. 1 overall on Thursday night in the 2018 NBA Draft to the Phoenix Suns.
The Arizona big man is still a little raw, and there are several good players in the Top 10 that Phoenix could choose from including Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley III, and Mo Bamba.
However, fans are confident that Ayton will end up in Phoenix, apparently so much so that some have already made up jerseys with his name on it and had them signed by the lottery pick-to-be.
For obvious reasons there’s no way Ayton will end up wearing the number 13 in Phoenix. That jersey has been retired for Steve Nash.
However, it seems like the chatter around the NBA has been more about who will go below Ayton and what teams will do to shift their draft picks leading into Thursday’s big selection night.
It was probably a mixture of fun and funny for Ayton to sign this Suns jersey, but it seems like all signs point to Phoenix taking him No. 1 overall. Then again, the NBA is crazy and anything could happen in the next 48 hours.
Don’t count the San Antonio Spurs out of the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes just yet.
We have been waiting on pins and needles to see whether or not Spurs coach Gregg Popovich would meet with the apparently disgruntled Leonard this week before San Antonio approaches Thursday night’s NBA draft.
According to Yahoo! Sports’ Shams Charania, Leonard and Popovich met on Tuesday night in San Diego where Leonard has been working out.
For what it is worth, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reporterd that Popovich has not yet met with Leonard, but is traveling to Southern California to meet with the Spurs forward. Even further, Leonard has reportedly requested a trade to Los Angeles from the Spurs, specifically to the Lakers.
Leonard wants a trade to Los Angeles, preferably the Lakers over the Clippers, league sources said. He has privately maintained that he no longer wants to play in San Antonio, and will eventually alert rival teams considering trades for him that his intentions are to sign in Los Angeles — preferably with the Lakers — when he can become a free agent in 2019, league sources said.
Leonard had told confidants that he did not want to sit down with Popovich and has been purposely difficult for the Spurs to reach recently. Among the issues, Leonard is angry over what he believes was the Spurs’ mishandling of a quad injury, and remains irate with public comments out of teammate Tony Parker and Popovich that he felt were not supportive of him, league sources said.
We had to know this was coming. San Antonio wasn’t going to let Leonard dictate the terms of his departure from Texas all by himself. Although Leonard has put the Spurs in a tough situation given his reported open request to play in Los Angeles, no doubt both parties would be better off from a basketball perspective if they were together. San Antonio apparently doesn’t want to make a deal with a Western Conference team, either.
Since the Spurs were trying to get in touch with Leonard before Thursday’s big selection night, it could be a signal that Leonard is on the move. Several teams, including the Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Cleveland Cavaliers are rumored to be interested in Leonard’s services.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are trying to do everything in their power to retain LeBron James. They are also doing everything they can do to prepare themselves for if James decides to leave Cleveland once and for all.
Last week we heard rumors about how the Cavaliers were trying to prepare an offer to snag Kawhi Leonard away from the San Antonio Spurs. That move could be seen either as an intent to entice James to stay, or as a replacement for The King.
Now, we have rumor that the Cavaliers could be interested in acquiring an Eastern Conference point guard, presumably to help LeBron next season.
According to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, the Cavaliers have inquired to the Charlotte Hornets about the availability of point guard Kemba Walker.
Walker, 28, just became the Hornets all-time leading scorer this last season. The University of Connecticut product has just one year left on his current deal at $12 million, and could be both a good rental for a season as a means to bolster another James Finals run, or as a focal piece moving forward.
As is the issue with any package for Leonard, a trade to the Cavaliers from Charlotte for Walker really depends on what a third trade partner can bring into the mix. Not many of Cleveland’s young players have performed well enough to be used as trade bait for marquee guys. That necessarily means that Kevin Love will be the main trade bait, and it is tough for many teams to have interest in the sharp-shooting forward given many already have that position filled.
We are just 48 hours away from the 2018 NBA Draft and no doubt rumors like this will continue to heat up as we get closer to 4 p.m. Eastern on Thursday night.