Will Cavaliers make the playoffs after trading for Luol Deng?

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The deal between the Bulls and the Cavaliers that went down Monday night was all about the long-term for Chicago, and more about this season in Cleveland.

Luol Deng will be a free agent this summer, and after reportedly turning down a contract extension worth $30 million over three years, it was clear he was going to seek more than the Bulls would offer. So, rather than lose him without compensation and pay an exorbitant amount in payroll and luxury taxes for what is essentially a lost season, the Bulls traded him for a future draft pick and a player in Andrew Bynum who they will waive to get under the tax line this season.

Cleveland, though, has other ideas. The franchise is hoping to make the playoffs, partly to impress upon Kyrie Irving that it is indeed committed to winning in the immediate future so that Irving doesn’t try to bolt the city when he has the chance at the end of the 2015 season (if the sides don’t agree to an extension he would be a restricted free agent, other teams could make offers but the Cavaliers would have the right to match it). Cleveland wants to keep its star and face of the franchise happy.

That was the reason for taking the chance on Bynum in the offseason, and adding players like Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark in free agency, both of whom were coming off of above average seasons. It is also the reason for acquiring Deng, who may be no more than a half-season rental since it’s unclear if the team will want to pay him his open market value once the summer is upon us.

But does simply adding Deng get Cleveland to the playoffs?

There are too many teams ahead of the Cavaliers in the standings right now to say that it’s likely, but it improves the squad enough to where they have a very legitimate chance.

Cleveland sits just three games out of eighth in the dreadful Eastern Conference, but its looking up at New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Brooklyn right now before we even get to Detroit, who currently occupies that eighth spot. The Cavs could certainly acquire enough wins to get there with Deng in the fold, but it will take more consistent efforts from Irving, some maturation in the game of Dion Waiters, and an improvement in team defense that’s essentially been middle-of-the-road this season, which is unacceptable given the low level of competition in the East.

But teams ahead of Cleveland aren’t going to go down without a fight. Despite the starts that have been far below expectations, the Knicks and Nets are both likely to see a spike in wins once they can get some lineup consistency in place. The Sixers are coming together and are proving they can beat good teams, but it’s possible they trade Thaddeus Young or Evan Turner in deadline deals to continue the rebuilding process. The Celtics will add Rajon Rondo to their squad soon, and Boston has been better than expected, as well.

Teams like Detroit, Charlotte, and now Chicago are vulnerable, however, and one or more could easily fall out of playoff contention. If the Cavaliers come together quickly with Deng in place, a playoff spot — the team’s short-term goal for this season — can certainly be realized.

NBA Championship odds: Lakers, Bucks favorites as NBA plans restart

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It’s all about LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

At least for the gambling public. With the return of the NBA set for July in a 22-team format, the NBA futures odds to win the title have gone up at sportsbooks. Not surprisingly, LeBron and the Lakers, and Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, are the betting favorites. Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers are close behind, with a considerable drop off after that.

Here are the current odds (with money won on a $100 bet):

TEAM CAESARS FAN DUAL
Los Angeles Lakers +200 +270
Milwaukee Bucks +275 +240
Los Angeles Clippers +325 +340
Houston Rockets +1500 +1200
Boston Celtics +1500 +2000
Toronto Raptors +1700 +2400
Denver Nuggets +2200 +2500
Miami Heat +4000 +2700
Philadelphia 76ers +2500 +2700
Utah Jazz +6000 +2900
Dallas Mavericks +3500 +3600
Brooklyn Nets +6000 +6000
Indiana Pacers +12500 +10000
Oklahoma City Thunder +6000 +10000
New Orleans Pelicans N/A +12000
Memphis Grizzlies +50000 +21000
Portland Trail Blazers +7500 +21000
San Antonio Spurs +100000 +21000
Orlando Magic +75000 +25000
Phoenix Suns +50000 +25000
Sacramento Kings +200000 +25000
Washington Wizards +100000 +25000

A few quick thoughts:

• Brooklyn is only at 60/1 odds because of Kevin Durant‘s possible return to the court — except that’s not happening. Even if he could, Kyrie Irving is not recovered from his March surgery yet, and no way KD is coming back without Irving.

• Along those same lines, John Wall is not returning for the Wizards this season.

• The best bet on the board? I would say the Clippers.

• If I had to bet who will end up with the eighth seed in the West, I would take Portland. New Orleans and Memphis both have a legitimate shot, but Portland gets Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins both back, and that was a 50+ win team with those two the season before.

• I’m basing my thoughts on what happened before March 11, and all of that feels somewhat irrelevant heading into this unprecedented situation.

PBT Podcast: The NBA is back! Breaking down the restart format.

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The NBA is back!

Or will be in July, at least, when 22 teams report to Orlando to play in a format that will see eight “seeding” games followed by potential play-in games for the eighth seed. After that, it’s a regular playoffs — no 1-16 seed but still East and West — with seven-game series each round.

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman from NBC Sports, along with our friend Keith Smith — who lives in Orlando near the Disney property and has been all over this story from the start — break down the format and whether this is a format that provides enough safety to the players and staffs in Orlando.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Adam Silver: Older coaches may not be on bench in Orlando “in order to protect them”

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Gregg Popovich is 71. Mike D’Antoni is 68. Alvin Gentry just turned 65.

People 65 and older have proven particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control says 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States are people 65 and older.

As the NBA heads to the Walt Disney World resort complex in Orlando to resume the season, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressed concern for some of the league’s older coaches during an interview on TNT.

“There are people involved in this league, particularly coaches, who are obviously older people…” Silver said. “We’re going to have to work through protocols, for example, and it may be certain coaches may not able to be the bench coach. They may have to maintain social distancing protocols, and maybe they can be in the front of a room, a locker room… with a whiteboard, but when it comes to actual play we’re not going to want that that close to players in order to protect them.”

You can guess how that went over with D’Antoni and Gentry (and, likely, Popovich).

Pretty quickly, Silver was walking his statement back. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, president of the NBA Coach’s Association, was quickly on the phone with Silver.

The league may want to take coaches who are members of vulnerable populations and find a way to add layers of protection for them, but keeping them from coaching their teams would be an incredibly tough sell to everyone around the league.

NCAA sets August deadline for early draft entrants to withdraw

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — The NCAA has set a new schedule for early entrants to the NBA draft to withdraw and return to school.

The NCAA announced Thursday that it would give players until 10 days after the NBA scouting combine or Aug. 3, whichever comes earlier. This comes three weeks after the NCAA postponed its deadline, which was originally scheduled to fall on Wednesday.

That June 3 deadline was set to come 10 days after the completion of the combine, but the NBA postponed the combine amid the coronavirus pandemic and has yet to announce a new date.

The NBA has announced the date of the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery, now set for August 25. Traditionally the NBA Draft Combine would follow a few days after that, although there has been no official announcement.

The NCAA’s date will force players to decide whether or not to stay in the draft before the combine takes place, or even before many have found out if they are invited. Some players who might otherwise have returned to school now likely will keep their name in the draft, only to not get a combine invite.

In a statement, the NCAA said the Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee worked with the National Association of Basketball Coaches on the new timeline and “believes this is the most equitable alternative available in these unprecedented circumstances.”

“This provides the utmost flexibility to student-athletes testing the waters to make the most informed decision about their future during this uncertain time,” NCAA Senior Vice President for Basketball Dan Gavitt said in the statement.