Lakers need to answer big questions: Is Howard the future? Can he co-exist with D’Antoni?

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The Lakers are not making the playoffs.

Some in Los Angeles probably think there is still a shot, but most of them also think their screenplay is just about to get picked up by a studio with Hugh Jackman attached to it. That and the Lakers in the postseason have about the same chance of happening.

With the trade deadline coming up in less than a month (Feb. 21), the temptation might be for the Lakers to make a move to bolster the team this season. They shouldn’t. Write this year off. They have to think long term. And I think the ever patient Mitch Kupchak or even Jim Buss are doing just that.

But that means they have some serious questions to answer about what kind of team this is going to be and whose team it is going to be. Any and all moves need to be based on the answers to these questions and to bring both the roster and coaching staff in alignment with these answers”

• What is the Lakers identity? Post players and defense? Up-tempo pick-and-roll heavy? Who are they?

• Can Los Angeles re-sign Dwight Howard and keep him as the future anchor of the franchise going forward?

• Can Howard co-exist with Mike D’Antoni in his system?

The Lakers want to keep Howard and sign him to a max deal this summer — even in an off year coming off back surgery he is as good as any big in the league. And he’s going to get back to his old self (or close to it) at some point. He is absolutely still a guy you anchor a franchise around. The Lakers are Kobe Bryant’s team right now, but they can be Howard’s in a couple years.

On the other side of that equation, Howard, following his ugly exit from Orlando, isn’t doing anything this season to repair that damaged reputation. Packing up and becoming a free agent again certainly doesn’t help that. He gets more money in Los Angeles and he can win there, he’s likely going to stay.

But can he coexist with Mike D’Antoni?

And with that, how committed are the Lakers to D’Antoni? And to Steve Nash? Because if they truly are committed them, the Lakers need to make a lot of changes to the roster to get more athletic, to get younger and faster. That likely means a Pau Gasol trade at least. And they have to convince Howard to run a lot of pick-and-roll — and even then does he fit or just clog the lane. Howard is not a classic D’Antoni player in the least.

But if Howard and D’Antoni can’t fit together, which side are the Lakers more committed to?

Adrain Wojnarowski reports at Yahoo that Howard is likely to re-sign in Los Angeles, but it is D’Antoni that gives Howard pause. And that D’Antoni has never been Howard’s biggest fan.

Frankly, in a star player vs. coach situation the player almost always wins because there just are not many of them in the NBA. There are maybe 10 guys who are true NBA franchise anchor players and Howard is one — you don’t trade him and you build around him with a system that fits.

There are a whole lot of unanswered questions in this post because there are a whole lot of unanswered questions about the Lakers. And there are many, many more but they are all offshoots of the big unanswered questions.

You can’t just slap a bunch of superstars together and call it a team, you need an identity to build toward. We don’t know what that identity is for the Lakers.

The Lakers need to go into the trade deadline and the summer thinking about next season and what they want the team to look like. You can’t build a skyscraper without a blueprint and right now the Lakers don’t seen to have one, just a lot of parts laying around the site waiting to be put together. Someone needs to be the architect.

2018 NBA draft pronunciation guide

AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
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You’ve watched hours of Luka Doncic YouTube videos. You keep reading. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is climbing draft boards. You’re convinced Zhaire Smith is a sleeper.

And you want to tell everyone about it.

One problem: You’re not quite sure how to say any of these 2018 NBA prospects’ names.

Thankfully, the NBA published a pronunciation guide:

Jaylen Adams: JAY-lin Adams

Deng Adel: Deng uh-DELL

Rawle Alkins: Raleigh ALL-kins

Kostas Antetokounmpo: COAST-us Ah-day-toe-KOON-boe

DeAndre Ayton: dee-AN-dray AY-tin

Marvin Bagley III: Marvin Bag-lee the third

Mohamed Bamba: Mo-HAH-med BAHM-bah

Jaylen Barford: JAY-lin BAR-ferd

Keita Bates-Diop: .KAY-tah Bates DEE-opp

Trevon Bluiett: TRAY-vahn BLEW-it

Isaac Bonga: EE-zack BON-guh

Mikal Bridges: Mick-L Bridges

Jalen Brunson: JAY-lin Brunson

Khadeen Carrington: kuh-DEEN KAIR-ing-tun

Jevon Carter: Je-VOHN Carter

Wendell Carter Jr.: Wen-DELL Carter Jr.

Bonzie Colson: BAHN-zee Cole-son

Angel Delgado: Angel del-GAH-doe

Hamidou Diallo: ha-MUH-dew dee-AH-low

Donte DiVincenzo: Donte dee-vin-CHEN-zo

Luka Doncic: LOO-kuh DON-chitch

Trevon Duval: Trey-VON du-VAL

Matt Farrell: Matt FA-rull

Wenyen Gabriel: WHEN-yin GAY-bree-ull

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: Shay GILL juss Alexander

Devonte’ Graham: De-VON-te Graham

Donte Grantham: DON-tay GRAN-thum

Isaac Haas: Isaac HAHSS

Devon Hall: DEH-vin Hall

Kevin Hervey: Kevin Her-Vee

Tryggvi Hlinason: TRIG-vee hLEE-nuh-son

DJ Hogg: DJ HOAG

Kevin Huerter: Kevin Hurter

Chandler Hutchison: Chandler HUTCH-ih-sin

Jaren Jackson Jr.: Jair-in Jackson Jr.

Alize Johnson: AL-uh-zay Johnson

Arnoldas Kulboka: are-NALL-duss COOL-buh-kuh

Rodions Kurucs: ROE-dee-ons COO-roox

Jock Landale: Jock Lan-dale

Jo Lual-Acuil Jr.: Joe LOO-ahl ah-CHU-ill Jr.

Daryl Macon: DARE-ull MAY-cun

J.P. Macura: JP Muh-CYURE-uh

Kelan Martin: KEY-lun Martin

Yante Maten: Yahn-tay May-tin

MiKyle McIntosh: muh-KY-ull MAC-in-tosh

Jordan McLaughlin: Jordan Ma-GLOFF-lin

De'Anthony Melton: dee-AN-thony Melton

Chimezie Metu: chi-MEH-zee Meh-tu

Manan Musa: JOHN-on MOO-suh

Svi Mykhailiuk: Svee muh-KAI-luke

Malik Newman: muh-LEEK NEW-min

Elie Okobo: EL-ee oh-KO-bo

Josh Okogie: Josh oh-KO-ghee

Theo Pinson: THEE-o PIN-sin

Malik Pope: muh-LEEK Pope

Dusan Ristic: Doo-sahn Wrist-itch

Desi Rodriguez: DEH-zee Rodriguez

Issuf Sanon: ee-SOOF sah-NON

Landry Shamet: Landry SHAM-it

Anfernee Simons: AN-fur-knee SIGH-muns

Zhaire Smith: zhi-AIR Smith

Omari Spellman: o-MAR-ee Spellman

Jared Terrell: Jared turr-ELL

Khyri Thomas: KY-ree Thomas

Allonzo Trier: Alonzo Tree-ER

Moritz Wagner: Mo-RITZ VOG-ner

Yuta Watanabe: YOU-tuh wah-tuh-NAH-bay

Kenrich Williams: KEN-rich Williams

Trae Young: Trey Young

What to watch for in NBA Draft? Trades, trades, trades

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Every year we say it — there’s a lot of buzz about trades heading into the draft. Fans want to see it — teams moving up and down, players getting shipped out or brought in to facilitate those draft day moves.

The comes draft night and… meh. There are a few deals but not like was predicted.

But this year we really mean it — this year there is an incredible amount of buzz about trades.

Starting as high as with Atlanta at No. 3 and more likely Memphis at No. 4, there are going to be picks traded (we already saw one, with the Lakers taking on the 39th pick from the Sixers for a future second rounder). There also are going to be players moved — we already saw Dwight Howard get traded to Brooklyn in what was mostly a financial deal for both sides.

Why will there be trades this year, why is it not going to bomb out like all those other years?

Two reasons.

First, this year there is less of a consensus and a wider variance in how many top picks are ranked by teams. For example, Luka Doncic is a second and pushing for the top spot on some team’s big draft boards, others have him more like seventh. Michael Porter Jr. falls anywhere from No. 2 to “with that back there is no way we take him.” Trae Young could go third (unlikely but not impossible) or 13th. I could go on with Mohamed Bomba or Aaron Holiday or others, but you get the point.

What that means is if a team really likes Bamba or Doncic and he’s still on the board at No. 4, they will be willing to give up players/future picks to get him, and Memphis will be willing to slide back. (If one team is most likely to trade their pick, it’s the Grizzlies, according to sources around the league, but they want to dump the Chandler Parsons contract in the process.) Or take the case with the Hawks at three — they are rumored to really like Young, but they could slide back four or five (or more) slots and get him, plus get another asset from a team that wants to jump up to No. 3 to draft Bamba or Doncic or Jaren Jackson or whoever.

It continues like that all the way down through the lottery and into the first round. The Cavaliers are testing the waters to see what the No. 8 pick and Kevin Love could net them (someone who would help keep LeBron James in town?). The Clippers are thought of as likely to move one of their two picks at 12 and 13. There are a lot of teams who may see the guy they wanted off the board and decide they would slide down the draft, and other teams who see the guy they like still on the board and want to move up or into the first round. That’s what the player evaluation variance means. There’s going to be a lot more pick swaps than usual.

Second — and this is going to carry over into July and free agency — there are a lot of teams where management is looking at their roster, looking at the landscape of the NBA, and thinking “we are paying too much to just be average (or wherever they are at).” Those teams are going to look to move key players. For example, Washington had the fourth highest payroll in the NBA last season, barely got into the playoffs as the eighth seed and were bounced by a Celtics team about to get a lot better. They are rumored to be looking to make dramatic moves.

Toronto is looking to shake things up. Portland is reportedly testing the trade waters for C.J. McCollum. Charlotte is doing the same with Kemba Walker, who is a free agent in a couple of years (although the Howard trade could be about keeping Walker). Miami, Washington, and a host of other teams want to shake things up. There will be unexpected moves.

And that’s not included the more obvious ones: The Spurs being forced to move Kawhi Leonard (not on draft night, however, that will drag out), the Lakers trading most of their young players to get Leonard if they can, the Cavaliers moving Kevin Love (either with the No. 8 pick on Thursday or Love separately if LeBron leaves).

Bottom line: This year we mean it — there’s going to be a lot of trades on draft night. We’re serious. More than most years, there’s a lot of buzz about trades going on around league circles.

How it shakes out is going to be fascinating.

PBT Extra: One last mock draft of NBA lottery

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DeAndre Ayton will go No. 1 to the Phoenix Suns Thursday night. Marvin Bagley III probably goes second to Sacramento (but that’s not a lock).

After that, things get wide open in the 2018 NBA Draft. Teams value different players at very different levels this year, and there are going to be a number of trades.

Which makes putting together a mock draft for this year more random than a roulette wheel. Not that it stopped me. Here is my final mock draft for the 14 lottery picks. I present it without much confidence, but I’m throwing it out there anyway.

Report: Dewayne Dedmon opts in for $7.2 million with Hawks

AP Photo/Todd Kirkland
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The Hawks’ rebuild got going with big John Collins. Though they’re reportedly eying Luka Doncic with the No. 3 pick, they could easily draft another big – Jaren Jackson Jr., Mohamed Bamba, Marvin Bagley or Wendell Carter.

And then there’s veteran center Dewayne Dedmon.

He no longer fits in Atlanta (never did, really). But he’s not bypassing a chance to earn $7.2 million.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

There just wasn’t going to be that much money for the 28-year-old Dedmon in a tight market this summer.

Dedmon is a good defender, and he developed his ball skills – as a 3-point shooter and passer – in Atlanta last season. The Hawks could look to trade him. Maybe, in a deal primarily about his expiring contract, he adds extra value to the other team due to his playing ability.

If Atlanta doesn’t move him, Dedmon will be a fine player on a likely tanking team. At least he’s not good enough to subvert the Hawks’ tank, especially with the new lottery format.