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PBT Awards: Defensive Player of the Year

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Kurt Helin

1. Rudy Gobert, Jazz

2. Joel Embiid, 76ers

3. Anthony Davis, Pelicans

If Joel Embiid had stayed healthy through the end of the season, maybe I view this differently, but maybe not — Rudy Gobert was so dominant the second half of the season it’s hard to see anyone else winning this. It’s not just the blocks, it’s the guys who see him and pull up from 12 feet out rather than challenge him that changes things. I decided to go with Anthony Davis over Al Horford for the final spot of the three, but it’s really close. Horford was fantastic on the back line for Boston. If Andre Roberson had played more than 39 games, this entire list could look different.

Dan Feldman

1. Rudy Gobert, Jazz

2. Joel Embiid, 76ers

3. Robert Covington, 76ers

The top spots became pretty obvious as the season wound down – Gobert defending at an elite level, Embiid seeing his playing-time advantage shrink as he sat out due to injury. Two 76ers on the ballot? Yup. Embiid gets most of the credit, but Covington’s versatility was essential for Philadelphia’s cross-matching, and Covington usually took the toughest perimeter matchup. The 76ers defended at an elite level when he played (with or without Embiid), and that was while covering for some teammates with defensive deficiencies. Al Horford, Clint Capela, Anthony Davis and Jimmy Butler also strongly contended for the final spot.

Dane Carbaugh

1. Rudy Gobert, Jazz

2. Joel Embiid, 76ers

3. Dejounte Murray, Spurs

It’s sort of ridiculous that you only have one spot for a center on the All-Defensive teams, which puts me in an awkward situation here with Rudy Gobert on my first team and Joel Embiid on my second. In any case, each have been incredible this season but Gobert deserves the credit he should have received last year. Murray, meanwhile, has been a big part of why the Spurs have been able to both move on from Tony Parker and remain a playoff team for yet another season despite losing Kawhi Leonard.

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.