Seeing names like Kobe and Durant on the three stars of the night can get a bit routine, even when they are both putting up a triple double. But we have a first at the three stars — someone making it because of their defensive efforts. And it’s well deserved. Honorable mention to DeMarcus Cousins (29 points in a losing effort) and Carmelo Anthony (26 points and 9 boards), but they just miss the cut.
Third Star: Jrue Holiday (he shut down Kyrie Irving to key Sixers win)
Kyrie Irving came into Sunday fifth in the NBA in points averaged per game at 24.4, ahead of Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard and others. Irving is the heart of the Cavaliers offense. Holiday was in his jersey all night long and shut him down about as much as one can — Irving had just nine points on 4-of-14 shooting, with four assists and five turnovers. That was why the Sixers got another win.
Second Star: Kobe Bryant (22 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists)
The Lakers are starting to run some of what Mike D’Antoni wants, and that means a lot of pick-and-roll in the half court. With Steve Nash out with a broken leg, it has fallen to Kobe Bryant to be the guy running the offense — and for a couple games in a row he has put up monster numbers. In this case, a triple double in a comfortable win over the Rockets.
First Star: Kevin Durant (25 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists)
This is Kevin Durant’s first triple double, which leads us to say “really?” Doesn’t it feel like he has four already? Nope, the Warriors were the “defense” in the way of his first. Durant has done more ball handling and playmaking this season, his game has been growing and building, so it makes sense this is the next step in the evolution. You get the feeling this is the first of a whole bunch.
Austin Rivers opting in for $12.65 million with Clippers
He’ll be overpaid, but he can still help the Clippers. Maybe that’s as an expiring contract used to facilitate a larger trade. Maybe that’s on the court. L.A. will reportedly drop guard Milos Teodosic. The Clippers, with the Nos. 12 and 13 picks in tonight’s draft, could select another guard, but few rookie point guards are reliable.
Report: Spurs ‘shut the door’ on Lakers’ Kawhi Leonard trade inquiry
The Lakers are reportedly Leonard’s preferred destination. Of course, San Antonio isn’t obligated to send him there. But he can influence the process by stating a plan to sign with only certain team(s) in 2019 unrestricted free agency.
The Celtics and 76ers might have better assets to send the Spurs. But if only the Lakers have a commitment from Leonard to re-sign, they might offer a greater share of their assets than Boston or Philadelphia would (especially if Los Angeles believes acquiring Leonard would be the first domino in also landingLeBron James and Paul George).
Between Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and future first-round picks, the Lakers could offer roughly commensurate value for Leonard. San Antonio might not like those particular players, but a third team could always get involved. Send some combination of Ball, Ingram, Kuzma and Hart to a team that wants them and have that third team convey players more desirable to the Spurs.
But that takes thoughtful negotiating, and San Antonio doesn’t seem interested.
At three things really open up. Atlanta is listening to trade offers but one way or another is likely to pick Luka Doncic. There are rumors that multiple teams — Dallas, Orlando, others — would then trade their pick plus some other asset (young player/future pick) to the Hawks for Doncic. Who the Hawks reportedly really want is Trae Young, but they can move down to get him.
If the Slovenian is off the board, it’s more likely that Memphis trades the No. 4 pick, according to sources. However, there are questions about whether Memphis can get what it thinks is fair value for selling the No. 4. So maybe they just take Jaren Jackson Jr.
How is it going to shake out?
Here's how the Top 6 of tonight's NBA Draft is taking shape: 1. Suns: Deandre Ayton. 2. Kings: Marvin Bagley Jr.; 3. Hawks: Luka Doncic; 4. Jaren Jackson, Jr.; 5. Mavericks: Mo Bamba; 6. Magic: Trae Young.
That follows my final mock draft, which was put together Wednesday for the video above. It has:
1. Phoenix: DeAndre Ayton
2. Sacramento: Marvin Bagley
3. Atlanta: Luka Doncic
4. Memphis: Jaren Jackson
5. Dallas: Mo Bamba
6. Orlando: Trae Young
7. Chicago: Michael Porter Jr.
8. Cleveland: Wendell Carter Jr.
9. New York: Kevin Knox
10. Philadelphia: Mikail Bridges
11. Charlotte: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
12. LA Clippers: Robert Williams
13. LA Clippers: Collin Sexton
14. Denver: Miles Bridges
How the Spurs are operating, per multiple sources from teams that have checked in on Kawhi Leonard in recent days: We're not shopping him, but if you want to make us an offer, go ahead, we'll consider it.
The Spurs can try to mend their relationship with Leonard. They could even use a super-max contract – projected to be worth $219 million over five years – to aid that process. They don’t have to trade him.
But the clock is ticking toward tonight’s draft, teams using their cap space in other ways and Leonard’s 2019 free agency.
San Antonio has no choice but to get more aggressive in handling Leonard’s future. This is a small step in that direction.