Looming lockout or no, there will still be a draft this June. After that? Good question.

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Yes, we’re still pretty convinced in these parts that there will be a lockout come July 1. Hope we’re wrong, don’t think we are.

But lockout or no, there will be an NBA Draft this June 23. Clippers fans can start debating now whether or not to draft Harrison Barnes with that top pick.

What happens after that, nobody is sure.

Draft picks cannot be signed until after July 1 in any year, according to ESPN’s Collective Bargaining Agreement expert Larry Coon. That means these players will be signed under any new CBA — and if there is a lockout they are locked out. They really have no control over the situation.

The threat of a lockout is not impacting decisions about whether or not to come out or stay in college another year, at least not yet, according to Jonathan Givony, president and director of scouting for Draft Express.

“I imagine at the end of the day players will still enter, except for those rare guys that truly love school and come from the type of background that means they don’t have to worry about financial considerations as much as others,” Givony said via email. “Every year there are a ton of guys who enter without much hesitation at all because they feel like they’ve had enough of college and they are ready to be pros. My opinion is they’ll still enter.”

One interesting side note: As Henry Abbott noted at TrueHoop yesterday, one group that consistently loses in every NBA CBA is young players, particularly those yet to enter the league. To use an easy example, if David Stern wants to push the mandatory one year of college (well, really one year after high school) rule to two years, the players union is likely to go along with that because it means players in the union have fewer people threatening their jobs short term.

That two-year rule will come up in negotiations (whether it is put in or not remains to be seen). But would a rule like that push more players to go the Brandon Jennings route and go to Europe for a couple years?

“Europe could become a more attractive option if that’s indeed the case, but the big-money European teams need to show mutual interest, and right now they aren’t,” Givony said. “Those guys after all really can’t help those teams win games at their level. A lockout will mean more borderline NBA type players will head to Europe, so there will be even less “good jobs” for those high school guys.”

Rumor: Bulls’ belief in Zach LaVine waning

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Zach LaVine was the centerpiece in the Bulls’ return for trading a star. Chicago was reportedly willing to match a max offer sheet for LaVine in restricted free agency.

But maybe the Bulls have at least somewhat soured on him.

Nick Friedell of ESPN:

I don’t know why the Bulls would be down on LaVine now. I also don’t know why they were so high on him the first place.

LaVine is a good 3-point shooter and impressive dunker. But, despite his athleticism, his all-around contributions are lacking. He also hasn’t looked completely over his February 2017 ACL tear.

This leak could just be strategy. Instead of trying to scare off teams with the threat of matching any offer to LaVine, Chicago could be trying to dissuade suitors by projecting its own reluctance.

The Bulls don’t want to overpay LaVine. But they also don’t want to lose him for nothing.

Will anyone make a hard push for the 23-year-old? He surely wants a lucrative long-term contract, whether he re-signs directly with Chicago or gets an offer sheet. But, if the Bulls aren’t sold on him, I’m not sure any team will is.

LaVine’s qualifying offer will be $4,333,932. That might wind up his next salary.

PBT Extra: Grading the top of the NBA Draft

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The Phoenix Suns got it right at the top of the draft — they took Deandre Ayton.

But what of their move to trade for Mikal Bridges, the No. 10 pick, surrendering a valuable pick and the potential of Zhaire Smith for what should be a solid “3&D” wing to go with their athletic stars?

How did the Kings do at No. 2? What about Dallas’ big trade up to land Luka Doncic at three, or the Atlanta bet on Trae Young?

In this PBT Extra, I grade the top 10 picks in the draft, from the moves I like (I think Dallas did well) to ones I’m not sold on (sorry Chicago).

 

Have questions leading up to free agency? Submit your questions via e-mail for our PBT Mailbag feature. Drop us a line at pbtmailbag@gmail.com.

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

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LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.

Paul George never said that, though.

So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.

Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:

Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational

The text:

When you were just a kid

In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale

We were dreaming too.

While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival

And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.

Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.

The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too

Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?

My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?

Report: No divide between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

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That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.

Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.

Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.