A number of teams have floated the idea of trading a player for one of the picks higher up in this draft. The Lakers dangled Lamar Odom, Tony Parker’s name was thrown around by the Spurs, and countless other deals have been suggested.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have done the same… except they really like their core. They don’t want to give up a key piece of a young and improving team.
So they are offering backup point guard Eric Maynor, according to Chad Ford at ESPN.
Sources say the Thunder have been quietly gauging interest in Maynor over the last few days in an attempt to move up into the top half of the draft. They’ve spoken to the Kings (No. 7) and Bobcats (No. 9) in particular in the last few days …
Who are the Thunder after? Like a lot of teams, it seems they are in hot pursuit of Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas.
Maynor is not chump change — he is arguably the best back up point guard in the league, a guy with real talent and he is entering just his third year in the league. For a team that needs a point guard he may be a better option than anything they can draft.
And look for Valanciunas to go very early in this draft. He may not be able to play in the NBA for a couple years due to buyout issues with his European club, but he may have a higher ceiling than any other player in this draft. Some scouts love his game.
Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.