Blazers draft Zach Collins with No. 10 pick after swapping Nos. 15 and 25 with Kings

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The Portland Trail Blazers had too many picks in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, and they just got rid of a couple of them.

Portland GM Neil Olshey has reportedly swapped the Nos. 15 and 20 picks in Thursday’s draft for the Sacramento Kings’ No. 10 pick. Sacramento selected Zach Collins with that pick on behalf of the Blazers.

Collins, 19, was a crucial part of Gonzaga’s run to the national title game this year. The 7-footer shot 47.6 percent on 3-pointers for the Bulldogs. He also averaged 19.2 rebounds per 100 possessions while posting an impressive net rating.

What this means for fans in Portland isn’t yet clear, although more changes to this roster should be expected. The Blazers, top heavy with the salaries of Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe, needed to add some kind of depth to their roster. It could also signal a move away from some of their current players under contract.

Portland has struggled to find useful minutes outside of Jusuf Nurkic on their front line. Al-Farouq Aminu has been a complete necessity on defense, but his turnovers on drives and dip in 3-point shooting from a season ago hurt Portland’s offense rotationally. Maurice Harkless didn’t make a big jump after an impressive playoffs in 2015-16. Noah Vonleh is still extremely rough around the edges, and Meyers Leonard suffered all season long after having shoulder surgery.

For the Kings, this represents more value for them in the draft. They reportedly didn’t love anyone at No. 10, and after trading DeMarcus Cousins last year to the New Orleans Pelicans, they will be looking to rebuild their roster with young talent.

The story here is really where the Blazers will want to go next. It feels as though Crabbe has been the player most primed for a move, but now we have to think about their front line players as well. Aminu’s contract is still stellar at $7.3 million next season, and Vonleh has been Olshey’s pet project for two years.

That leaves Leonard as the odd man out after gaining significant traction with a non-qualifying 40-50-90 season in 2014-15. What value he has is difficult to gauge — he is a legitimate 7-footer who can shoot the lights out, and his summer workout regiment this offseason has been admirable. But he has struggled with confidence and has taken a step back defensively after Portland fired big man coach Kim Hughes in 2015.

Whether that’s the move, or if Olshey can find a suitor for Turner — who they externally have put faith in for another season — we will have to see.

There’s a logjam in Portland now, both with young big men and in salary. Something tells me Olshey isn’t done dealing yet, either by choice or by necessity.

Damian Lillard opposes idea of later NBA season start running into summer

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At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference a few weeks back (although it feels like a lifetime ago), Atlanta  CEO Steve Koonin suggested the NBA should permanently shift its schedule to a mid-December start with the Finals running into August. The idea was to stop going head-to-head with the NFL and college football at the start of the season. Then the pushed back playoffs forced by the coronavirus have made that discussion more relevant. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said everything is on the table.

Damian Lillard is not a fan of the idea.

He likes the schedule just the way it is, something he said during a video conference with the media on Tuesday, hat tip to Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Portland.

“I just don’t see it. I mean, the season starts when it starts now, then February all-star weekend, getting toward the end of the season in April and then getting into the playoffs. You get that early June Finals and then you get to go off into your summer…

“You get to enjoy real-time summer,” Lillard said. “Our break is into the summer and then you get to come back as summer is leaving. I think that’s been perfect…

“It’s been perfect for us,” Lillard said. “So, for that to change and for things to be pushed back, I’m definitely not a fan of that and I don’t see many guys being a fan of that.”

Lillard is not alone in thinking this way, but Silver is more open to change than most sports commissioners. That said, changes that break with long-standing traditions are hard to make a reality.

There would be a lot of questions around a schedule change. Would the ratings still be as high for a Finals series in the heart of the summer? The NBA season no longer would sync with the NCAA or international leagues’ schedules, leading to questions about the draft and timing for players who want to test the waters. There would need to be reworked television contracts, both regionally and nationally. It could make scheduling a challenge at arenas used to having more concerts and other events in the summer.

Plus, all of this would need to be negotiated with the players union — and Lillard speaks for a lot of players on this issue.

If the NBA could somehow convince players that starting later meant more money in their pocket, those union negotiations would take on a different tone. But would the move increase revenue? That’s not an easy sell.

With this NBA season likely running late, the start of next season could be pushed back, and this theory could get a little bit of a test. Or, the next season could be shortened a little to get the league back on its regular schedule.

Which would make Lillard happy.

Report: NBA deprioritizing playing regular-season games for local TV

Steve Kerr and LeBron James before NBA game
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The NBA is financially incentivized to play more regular-season games to satisfy local-TV contracts.

How does that square with resuming play – currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic – with a play-in tournament and playoffs?

It doesn’t.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to one source, getting some teams to a magical number of 70 regular-season games had been a goal, but in the last week has taken on less of a priority.

This stoppage is going to cost the NBA a lot of money. There’s no way around that. Not every source of revenue can be preserved. It’s about finding the optimal setup.

Importantly, canceling games could allow the NBA to reduce player salaries through force majeure. Of course, the union would consider that action when negotiating how to proceed.

LeBron James advocated for playing some regular-season games before the playoffs so everyone could get back into shape. But Steve Kerr called it very unlikely the Warriors would play another regular-season game. Perhaps, playoff-bound teams like the Lakers will play tune-up regular-season games while Golden State – the only team officially eliminated from the playoff race before the hiatus – doesn’t. It’d be a little odd to have such different formats, though. (Then again, these are odd times).

Considering this report, we ought to give more credence to the idea that Kerr knows something about the NBA’s plan and that the regular season is finished.

Lakers update that all players ‘currently symptom-free of COVID-19’

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Nearly two weeks ago, the Lakers announced that two of their players tested positive for the coronavirus. “Both players are currently asymptomatic, in quarantine and under the care of the team’s physician… All players and members of the Lakers staff are being asked to continue to observe self-quarantine,” the Lakers said at that time.

On Tuesday, the team provided an update saying nobody on the team is showing any symptoms after a couple of weeks of quarantine.

“All Lakers players are currently symptom-free of COVID-19. The team will continue to follow the health and safety guidelines set by government officials, the Lakers and the NBA,” the statement said.

The Lakers’ players who tested positive were never publicly identified (in fitting with HIPAA regulations).

A total of 10 NBA players — plus five members of staff associated with teams — have tested positive for the virus that has upended life in the United States. None reportedly have had to be hospitalized. Players such as Marcus Smart and others have recovered and free from the virus.

The NBA remains suspended, with the league hoping to jump-start the playoffs in June, possibly with all the teams in one location.

Report: NBA won’t hold draft until after season

NBA draft
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The NBA draft is scheduled for June 25. Most expect that date to change as the coronavirus pandemic causes postponements around the world.

Apparently, the draft will come after the NBA season – whether the season is completed in a modified format or just cancelled.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I think everybody in the league feels it’s almost impossible to have a draft if you still have a season that’s ongoing.

You can’t have a draft while teams are still playing. You can’t have some teams able to do trades because their season’s done and then some teams unable to do trades because they’re still playing.

It doesn’t strike me as difficult to hold the draft before the season ends. Teams wouldn’t be allowed to trade current players. The restriction would apply across the board, just like the interrupted pre-draft process. That’s not ideal, but compromises must be made amid this chaos.

Importantly, holding the draft sooner could appeal to both sides of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

It’d be an opportunity to hold a revenue-producing TV event. Obviously, drafted players wouldn’t attend a mass gathering. But with sports fans starved for content, people would watch the selections. A handshake with NBA commissioner Adam Silver is only a small part of the festivities.

The National Basketball Players Association should also push for an earlier draft. Prospects want information sooner so they can prepare for their next step – whether that’s the NBA, returning to college or playing overseas. That said, the union has bigger priorities than potential future members.

So, it’s easy to see why postponing the draft has gained momentum, even if that’s not a no-brainer solution.