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Report: Anthony Bennett likely would’ve fallen out of lottery if Cavaliers didn’t draft him No. 1

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Sometimes, teams pilloried for drafting a bust were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

One of the Trail Blazers or SuperSonics were always going to wind up using a top-two pick on Greg Oden, no matter whether Portland picked him or Kevin Durant No. 1 in 2007. Darko Milicic was the consensus No. 2 pick in 2004 before the Pistons even landed that selection in the lottery. Derrick Williams surged to pre-draft ratings that nearly perfectly matched his No. 2 selection by the Timberwolves in 2011.

And then there are the Cavaliers in 2013.

Cleveland took Anthony Bennett No. 1 – a shocker to everyone, but apparently especially the teams drafting next.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN on The Woj Pod:

That draft night, it was funny, if you go back and look at – I guess if you went back and looked at Twitter, I’m pretty confident – I’m almost sure of this – there’s a tweet from me around, I want to say, 7 o’clock that night saying, hey, Anthony Bennett has a real chance to drop tonight.

And I was right except for, I was going through teams like two, three. I had gone as far as, I want to say, 14 or 15, who were saying to me, “He’s not really on our board. We’re not taking him. If he got to us, I still like guys better than him.” I spent the afternoon going through really every – I don’t know if I talked to all 15, but I had a very strong feeling from most of them, that if he got to them, they were passing on him.

And I was still not believing that Cleveland was going to take him one. They were talking about it, and I kept believing it was a smokescreen. I kept believing they really didn’t mean it.

And so I was right that he was going to drop, except for the fact he went one.

That’s the thing. If he didn’t go one that year, it wasn’t like he was going to go two or three or four. He probably – and I really believe this. This is not revisionist everyone later saying, “Oh, s— no. I wouldn’t have taken this guy.” It wasn’t that. It was that night leading into it that I really believe he would’ve dropped out of the lottery.

There are no Wojnarowski tweets up about Bennett’s stock before the draft, but he tweeted about Cleveland’s plan:

Obviously, that was wrong. Reading teams’ intentions before the draft is hard. Executives mislead, if not outright lie, frequently when given anonymity.

Maybe other lottery teams were as down on Bennett as they said before the draft. But if any teams were hiding their pro-Bennett stance behind a smokescreen of disliking him, they sure weren’t going to admit it after he turned into a bust. They’d just keep that part of the story private.

To some degree, the Cavs were just stuck in an unfortunate spot – holding the No. 1 pick in a draft thin on talent at the top. The rest of the lottery – in order: Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, Cody Zeller, Alex Len, Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Trey Burke, C.J. McCollum, Michael Carter-Williams Steven Adams, Kelly Olynyk, Shabazz Muhammad – has combined for only one All-Star appearance. And Oladipo didn’t get it until his fifth season and third team. Oladipo could make more All-Star games, and maybe McCollum, Porter and/or Adams sneak in. But this wasn’t a great lottery.

The best players in the draft – No. 15 pick Giannis Antetokounmpo and No. 27 pick Rudy Gobert – just weren’t discussed for the top pick. Criticizing the Cavaliers for passing on those two requires extreme hindsight bias.

But there were far better realistic choices than Bennett, who – judging by league-wide consensus – was an even bigger reach than previously realized.

Grizzlies win, Suns lose; Phoenix locks up worst record, best lottery odds

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PHOENIX (AP) — The Phoenix Suns will have a 25 percent chance at the No. 1 pick.

That’s because Klay Thompson scored 22 of his 34 points in the first quarter and the Golden State Warriors beat Phoenix 117-100 on Sunday night in the final home game of the Suns’ awful season.

With the loss, and Memphis’ win over Detroit, Phoenix – at 20-61 – is assured the worst record in the NBA and, consequently, the most ping pong balls in the May 15 draft lottery.

Danuel House scored a career-high 22 for Phoenix. Alex Len added 16 points and 10 rebounds, Dragan Bender 14 points and 14 boards, and Tyler Ulis 15 points and 10 assists.

The Warriors, who had lost two in a row and five of their previous eight, were already locked in to the No. 2 playoff spot in the Western Conference and working to get healthy for the playoffs, but still had Kevin Durant, Thompson and Draymond Green in the lineup against the severely depleted Suns.

Phoenix was without Devin Booker (right hand sprain), T.J. Warren (left knee inflammation), Josh Jackson (right quad contusion), Marquese Chriss (hip soreness), Elfrid Payton (left knee) and Alan Williams (right knee soreness). Troy Daniels tried to play despite a sprained ankle but sat out the second half.

Golden State didn’t have Stephen Curry, still recovering from left MCL sprain, Andre Iguodola (left knee soreness) and Patrick McCaw (lumbar spine contusion).

Thompson scored 19 consecutive Warriors points in the first quarter, going 9 for 11 from the field and 4 for 6 on 3s in the period. But Golden State led only 33-29 after one.

The Warriors stretched the lead in the second quarter. Durant scored on a 3-pointer – his first field goal of the game – and added a driving layup to put the Warriors up 55-41. Golden State led by as many as 18 in the second quarter and were up 64-50 at the break.

The Suns never seriously challenged after that.

Phoenix has won twice – in 28 games – since Jan. 31 and is guaranteed to finish no better than 21-61, the second-worst record in the franchise’s 50-year history. Only the 1968-69 mark of 16-66 was worse.

The Suns will miss the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season.

 

Blazers’ C.J. McCollum suspended for opener for leaving bench during altercation

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The lessons of Amar’e Stoudemire and leaving the bench during an altercation are still being learned.

Portland’s C.J. McCollum has been suspended for one game without pay for “leaving the bench area during an altercation” the league announced on Saturday. He will set out Portland’s season opener in Phoenix next Wednesday.

You can see it clearly on the video below from Wednesday’s game. Trail Blazers rookie Caleb Swanigan gets tangled up with Suns center Alex Len in a fight for rebounding positioning, and it turns into a little shoving match shoving match. Watch the Blazers bench, where McCollum walks off of it toward Len until an assistant coach pushes him back. By then it’s too late.

McCollum owned his mistake, texting to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

“I’ve been in the league way too long to have a mental lapse like that. I want to apologize to my teammates and the organization for putting our team in this situation. The Western Conference is already tough enough as it is. It won’t happen again. Lesson learned. I take full responsibility for those eight expensive and costly steps.”

Expect a little more Evan Turner and maybe Pat Connaughton for Portland with McCollum out.

Report: Grizzlies, JaMychal Green not close to deal

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A few weeks back, it appeared the Grizzlies and their likely starting power forward JaMychal Green were moving toward a two-year contract extension, reportedly for just less than $10 million a season. Green probably sees that as below market value, but he’s a restricted free agent big man in a tight market and others in his position — Nerlens Noel, Alex Len just to name a couple — have felt the brunt of the market this summer and struggled to get deals they thought they deserved. The Grizzlies have the leverage, and they are using it.

With no deal, Green has yet to appear in training camp. By Sunday the two sides need to have reached an agreement or Green will sign his qualifying offer, play this season for $2.8 million, then be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Right now, the two sides are nowhere near a deal, reports Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

As of Tuesday night, the Grizzlies and restricted free agent forward JaMychal Green weren’t close to making a deal…

“Everyone knows how we feel about him. I love him. He knows that,” (Memphis coach David) Fizdale said. “The fact that I was willing to start him over an All-Star (Zach Randolph) means my actions say enough about how I feel about him. Right now, I have to coach the living, the guys on the court.”

The Grizzlies have about $12-$15 million to go before they reach the salary tax line (which they will not pay), so they could go a little higher, but they don’t have much motivation to do so. The Grizzlies do need Green to take another step forward and play well this season if Memphis dreams of the playoffs (they have to stay healthy), but Green doesn’t have another option.

Green’s other problem is that next season the free agent market is again going to be tight, particularly for bigs, and there will be quality guys on the market ahead of him. He can bet on himself, but it’s a risk.

A two-year deal makes sense for both sides — Green gets back on the market sooner, the Grizzlies keep him for a couple more years with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol — and sometimes the pressure of the deadline leads to gaps being closed. We’ll see if that happens in Memphis, or if Green bets on himself for next summer.

Suns’ center Alex Len expected to sign qualifying offer, head to camp

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In the free-spending summer of 2016, Bismack Biyambo got a $72 million contract. Timofey Mozgov got $64 million.

Those kinds of contracts — and there were plenty more of them — had a lot of NBA big men (and players in general) heading into this summer thinking they were going to get PAID. Instead, teams learned the lessons from their drunken spending binge and the market got tight. Especially for centers.

Which leads us to the news Suns big man Alex Len is going to bet on himself and sign his qualifying offer before coming to camp, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Barring an unforeseen change of events, Phoenix Suns center Alex Len is planning to sign the team’s $4.2 million qualifying offer before training camp, clearing the way to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018, league sources told ESPN….

Phoenix wants to study’s Len’s progress in the 2017-18 season before committing to a long-term, lucrative contract extension to him. Len has started 80 games over the past two seasons, including 34 in 2016-17 when he averaged eight points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks a game.

Phoenix wants to leave its options open. Len is mobile, can protect the rim, and has some skills that would help him fit in a modern NBA style offense — he could play with Devin Booker and Josh Jackson — plus last season he improved his shooting around the rim and in the paint. However, he’s not consistent on either end of the court. He shows his potential in flashes, but the Suns need to see more.

Len will now be an unrestricted free agent next summer — he is playing for his next payday. If that can’t motivate him, nothing will.