Report: Board of Governors expected to pass draft lottery reform, Sixers and Thunder opposed

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When the NBA’s Board of Governors meets on Wednesday, they will vote on a set of draft lottery reforms designed to disincentivize tanking by adjusting the weights on teams’ odds at winning the No. 1 pick. The Philadelphia 76ers have been known to be opposed to the reforms, as the team that has taken the most steps to be as actively terrible as possible over the last two seasons.

However, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Oklahoma City Thunder are joining the Sixers in their opposition.

Grantland’s Zach Lowe confirms the report that the Thunder are the other team that have come out against the reforms:

The reforms, which Lowe first reported in July, would give the four worst teams in the league identical odds (around 11 percent) at winning the top pick, with the fifth team having about a 10 percent chance and the rest of the teams declining. Under the current system, the team with the worst record has a 25 percent chance at the No. 1 pick and the second-worst team has a 19.9 percent chance, with each subsequent team’s odds declining slightly.

The proposed changes would have the obvious effect of taking away the advantage of having the worst record in the league. If the bottom four teams have the same odds at winning the top pick, there’s no reason to try to lose as many games as possible to get the worst record. The idea is that you can still win a respectable amount of games as a lottery team and still have a decent chance of getting the No. 1 pick, which would result in the bottom-tier teams being more competitive and thus creating a better fan experience.

It’s no surprise that the Sixers are against the idea. Their entire rebuilding plan is predicated on the current system. In 2013, they traded All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans for center Nerlens Noel, who missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL. This summer, they followed that up by trading veteran forward Thaddeus Young and using both of their lottery picks on players who can’t help them in the immediate future. The No. 3 pick, Joel Embiid, will likely miss the entire year with a broken foot. The No. 12 pick, Dario Saric, can’t come over for the next two seasons because of buyout issues with his current contract with the Turkish club Anadolu Efes. Most of the Sixers’ roster is comprised of D-Leaguers and fringe NBA players. Their roster is designed to lose games, and they’ve made no secret of it. If the proposed changes pass, they could go 11-71 and lose the No. 1 pick to a 27-win team with the same odds in the lottery.

The Thunder’s reported opposition to the reforms is more interesting. They’re a title contender in the Western Conference (presuming Kevin Durant’s foot injury isn’t lingering), so this doesn’t affect them in the short term. They won’t be picking in the lottery regardless. However, the Thunder got where they are by following a rebuilding model very similar to what the Sixers are attempting to do. Their middle-of-the-decade awfulness (some of which took place when they were still the Seattle SuperSonics) resulted in three consecutive top-five picks, all of whom became superstars: Durant in 2007, Russell Westbrook in 2008 and James Harden in 2009. They see the value in the strategy and don’t want to lose the option of bottoming out again if Durant leaves in 2016.

Still, despite their protests, the reforms are expected to pass. Most teams are set in their rosters at the moment, but it will be interesting to see how this affects rebuilding strategies going forward.

Hawks trade Harkless, second-round pick to Thunder for Vit Krejci

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The Atlanta Hawks just saved some money, getting under the luxury tax line. The Oklahoma City Thunder picked up a second-round pick for their trouble of taking on a contract.

The Hawks have traded Moe Harkless and a second-round pick to the Thunder for Vit Krejci the teams announced (Shams Charania of The Athletic was first).

This saves Atlanta a little over $3 million, which moves them from above the luxury tax line to $1.3 million below it. While the almighty dollar was the primary motivation in the ATL, the Hawks also pick up a development project. Krejci showed a little promise in his rookie season, appearing in 30 games and averaging 6.2 points plus 3.4 rebounds a night, before having his knee scoped in April.

Krejci was on the bubble of making the team in Oklahoma City, now the Thunder pick up a second-round pick for a guy they might have waived anyway.

Harkless, 29, is on an expiring $4.6 million contract, which fits nicely into the Disabled Player Exception the Thunder were granted for Chet Holmgren’s season-ending foot injury.

The Thunder are expected to waive Harkless and buy him out, making him a free agent. However, they could keep him and see if another trade could net them another second-round pick.

Lonzo Ball says ‘I can’t run’ or jump; Bulls’ Donovan has to plan for extended absence

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
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Officially, Lonzo Ball will be out 4-6 weeks after getting his knee scoped this week.

However, this is his second surgery on his left knee this year — he had meniscus surgery in January, after which he was never able to return to the court — and there are concerns Ball could miss significant time again. And coach Billy Donovan has no choice but to plan for an extended absence.

Ball did a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday and it’s hard to come away from what he said overly optimistic. Rob Schaefer reported on the call for NBC Sports Chicago:

“Literally, I really can’t run. I can’t run or jump. There’s a range from, like, 30 to 60 degrees when my knee is bent that I have, like, no force and I can’t, like, catch myself. Until I can do those things I can’t play,” Ball said. “I did rehab, it was getting better, but it was not to a point where I could get out there and run full speed or jump. So surgery is the next step.”

The symptoms are something Ball said he has never dealt with and have left doctors, in his words, “a little surprised.”

It’s never good when doctors are surprised. Ball said the doctors don’t see anything on the MRI, but there is clearly something wrong, so they are going in and looking to find the issue and fix it.

Ball has been diligent in his recovery work from the start, the problem was pain in his knee. Something was still not right after the first surgery. Whatever it is.

The 4-6 week timeline would have Ball back in early November, but you know they will be overly cautious with him after the past year. Coach Billy Donovan was honest — he has to plan for a season without Ball.

The Bulls need Ball in a deep and challenging East. He brings defense, pushes the pace in transition, and takes care of the rock. Chicago has other players who can do those things individually — Alex Caruso can defend, Coby White pushes in transition, Goran Dragic takes care of the ball — but the Bulls lack one player who can do all those things. At least they lack one until Ball returns.

Whenever that may be.

Deandre Ayton says he hasn’t spoken to coach Williams since Game 7

Phoenix Suns v New Orleans Pelicans - Game Four
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In a Game 7 against the Mavericks last May, Suns coach Monty Williams benched center Deandre Ayton, who ended up playing just 17 minutes in an ugly, blowout loss for Phoenix. When asked about it after the game Williams said, “It’s internal.”

Ayton and Williams have not spoken since then, according to Ayton.

Yikes. Remember that includes a summer where the Suns would not offer Ayton a max contract extension so he went out and got one from the Pacers, then the Suns instantly matched it. Ayton did not sound thrilled to be back in Phoenix on Media Day, and he was rather matter-of-fact about dealing with his coach.

It’s what every fan wants to hear — “this is just my job.”

Reporters asked Williams about this and he played it off, saying he hasn’t spoken with a lot of players yet.

It’s just day one of training camp, but there are a lot of red flags around the Suns: owner Robert Sarver being suspended and selling the team, Jae Crowder not in camp waiting to be traded, and now not a lot of communication between the team’s star center and its coach.

Maybe it all amounts to nothing. Maybe the Suns get on the court, Chris Paul looks rejuvenated, Devin Booker looks like Devin Booker, and none of this matters. But what had looked like a stable situation not that long ago now has a lot of red flags flying heading into the season, and that has to concern Suns fans.

 

Report: Lakers would have traded both first-round picks for Irving, Mitchell

Utah Jazz v Brooklyn Nets
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“If you make that trade, it has to be the right one, you have one shot to do it,” Lakers GM Rob Pelinka said at media day, pulling back the curtain a little on his thinking of trading two first-round picks. “So we’re being very thoughtful around the decisions on when and how to use draft capital in a way that will improve our roster.”

That tracks with the consistent messaging out of Los Angeles all summer: The Lakers would only trade the only two first-round picks they fully control for the rest of this decade (2027 and 2029) for a deal that made them a contender.

That meant landing Kyrie Irving or Donovan Mitchell, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin said on The Hoop Collective Podcast.

“I’ve been told that had the Lakers been able to acquire, Kyrie Irving, or the Lakers been able to acquire Donovan Mitchell, either of those players, the Lakers were willing and able to move both those [first-round] picks to do it.”

The problem for the Lakers is the market price for elite talent has moved beyond two first-round picks. The Jazz got three unprotected first-round picks (2025, 2027 and 2029) plus the rights to two pick swaps (2026 and 2028) in the Mitchell trade, not to mention three players: Lauri Markkanen (who they will try to trade for another pick), Collin Sexton, and Ochair Agbaji. The price for Kyrie Irving would have been at least as high, if the Nets really wanted to trade him.

The Lakers traded all of their young players and most of their picks to land Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, except for the ones they let walk away (Alex Caruso). Before he was judicious in making trades like he was this offseason, Pelinka made deals that backed him into this corner.

The Lakers likely could use both picks to acquire Buddy Hield and Myles Turner out of Indiana (sending Westbrook back), but that doesn’t make Los Angeles a contender (a playoff team, but not a title threat) and it messes with the plan to have around $30 million in cap space next summer to chase a big name.

The Lakers you see in training camp are the Lakers you get. At least for now.