Ja Morant

Associated Press

Report: Lakers trying to keep Kyle Kuzma out of Anthony Davis trade talks


Updates on the Anthony Davis trade drama keep coming out…

Which is to say spin from the various sides has been put forward to promote their interests. However, some interesting tidbits do come out through all of this. Here are the latest updates — from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and Marc Stein of the New York Times — with some thoughts/commentary on what we’re seeing.

There’s nothing new here in terms of news. That the Celtics are not backing off their efforts to get Davis in the wake of Davis’ agent Rich Paul saying AD would not re-sign in Boston is not a surprise or a change from what we reported before. Same with the note in Wojnarowski’s story that the Nets and Clippers have gained some “traction” in talks with the Pelicans.

However, this getting leaked, much like Pelicans VP David Griffin saying there is no timeline to make a trade, sounds like spin from the Pelicans camp to keep the pressure on the Lakers to come up with a better deal than whatever is on the table now.

And what is on the table now is not Kyle Kuzma, Stein reports (and Wojnarowski confirms).

If I’m a Lakers fan, I’m feeling pretty good right now, it sounds like they are the clear frontrunners. That said, Griffin and the Pelicans know they get just one shot at this and they will push hard for the best deal possible. As they should. I’d want Kuzma in a deal, and if he’s not there, the Lakers need to get someone else that the Pelicans want with that fourth pick.

If there is a team that has fallen in love with Jarrett Culver or Darius Garland in this draft and is willing to move up and get them, then the Lakers could get that needed player to entice New Orleans. The challenge is, almost every scout I’ve spoken to sees a drop off after three (or, some see a drop off after two and Ja Morant, there are some not high on R.J. Barrett). Will the Lakers be able to spin this pick into a player that the Pelicans want?

This is a trade that almost certainly gets done before the draft, and the Lakers are in a strong position, but getting this over the line is not going to be easy.

Memphis Grizzlies reportedly hire Bucks’ assistant Taylor Jenkins as head coach

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Memphis is tapping the Spurs/Gregg Popovich coaching tree, hoping to find the next Mike Budenholzer or Quin Snyder or Kenny Atkinson.

Milwaukee assistant coach Taylor Jenkins will be the new head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Memphis let go of JB Bickerstaff after a 36-46 season, then conducted a wide-ranging two-month search to find their guy.

Memphis is rebuilding after the grit n’ grind era, but they have a good core to start with, having drafted Jaren Jackson Jr. last year — he made NBA All-Rookie First Team — and they are expected to pick up point guard Ja Morant with the No. 2 pick in this coming draft. It’s also likely they will trade Mike Conley this summer for players and picks to help jumpstart that rebuilding process.

Memphis is going to be a player development, rebuilding kind of coaching job. That may make this a good fit, Jenkin’s reputation is as a teacher whose specialty is development of young players. Budenholzer and the coaches out of his tree (an extension of the Spurs tree, where Budenholzer was a coach for many years) have some of the best player development programs in the NBA. Look at the leaps made by guys in Utah and Brooklyn.

Jenkins seems a smart roll of the dice by the Grizzlies. As long as ownership and management sticks with the plan, there is real reason for hope in Memphis.

Zion Williamson headlines first list of players reportedly invited to NBA draft green room

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For players, getting invited to the NBA Draft night “green room” — a staging area for the players and their family/agents to hang out before being called up on stage after being selected — matters because it means they are likely a first-round pick. The league invites about 20 players to the room, which is really an open area in front of the podium, and the guys there are considered first-round locks. The league doesn’t want the story to be about “Player X falling down the board” as we watch him squirm uncomfortably in his chair.

The first invitations to the room went out, reports Jonathan Givony of ESPN, and the expected names are on there:

Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, RJ Barrett, Darius Garland, De'Andre Hunter, Jarrett Culver, Coby White, Cam Reddish, and Jaxson Hayes.

Williamson and Morant are all but locks to go first and second. Barrett likely is the No. 3 pick, although there are teams not as high on him and it’s possible Garland or Culver jump up, depending on what team makes the pick (the Knicks own the No. 3 pick but are shopping it around in an effort to bring in veteran stars).

Other players will get invited to the green room, and still other players will just make their way to New York anyway. The Draft is June 20th at the Barclay’s Centre in Brooklyn (home of the Nets).


Presumptive No. 2 pick Ja Morant reportedly to have knee scoped

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Ja Morant, the athletic point guard out of Murray State, is going to be drafted No. 2 by the Memphis Grizzlies, becoming part of their core for the future with Jaren Jackson Jr.

This news isn’t going to change that.

But Morant is going to have his knee scoped, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a pretty routine surgery and should not impact him long term.

Short term, he may not play in Summer League games. Memphis will be at the Salt Lake City Summer League July 1-3, then head to Las Vegas for the NBA’s official Summer League starting July 5. He could be healed in time to play, but the Grizzlies shouldn’t (and I imagine wouldn’t) push him back just for those games.

Morant is an explosive athlete, and that combined with an impressive handle allows him to get to the rim. He had to think score first at Murray State, but he also has fantastic court vision and he knows how to make every pass you can think of. His jumper needs work so he doesn’t become another point guard teams just go under the pick against, but he has the second highest ceiling in the draft.

Report: R.J. Barrett declines workout with Grizzlies, excited about Knicks, who could trade down or out

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The Grizzlies reportedly intend to draft Ja Morant with the No. 2 pick.

R.J. Barrett apparently doesn’t want to change their mind – even with the Knicks, who hold the No. 3 pick, potentially fast-tracking around Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and/or Anthony Davis.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

The Grizzlies’ ownership group is still telling people around the league the team is locked in on Morant, but the front office has requested to have Barrett in for a private workout — something he has declined but might revisit over the next three weeks, sources told ESPN.

Barrett is scheduled to work out for New York on June 10. As I reported from the combine: Although sources say Barrett would be excited about landing in New York, the Knicks planned to do their due diligence by making calls on trade options and evaluating other prospects in the top 10.

New York has explored the possibility of trading back in the lottery, sources told ESPN, perhaps to acquire pieces that better complement potential high-volume All-Star free agents (such as Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving). Trading the No. 3 pick for the Atlanta Hawks’ two first-rounders (Nos. 8 and 10) is under consideration by the Knicks, one source said.

Teams should always research their decisions as thoroughly as possible.

Morant looks like the second-best prospect in this draft (behind only Zion Williamson). But Memphis should thoroughly explore Barrett and other prospects before finalizing that decision.

Likewise, Barrett looks like the third-best prospect. But he’s hardly a lock to flourish in the NBA. His shooting, defense and selfishness are real questions. It’s worth considering trade down for multiple prospects, even if each is individually less likely to succeed.

Of course, if New York lands veterans like Durant, Irving and Davis, that changes everything. The team will prioritize winning immediately, and a rookie wouldn’t fit well – especially a high-usage one like Barrett. Unfortunately for the Knicks, they won’t know on Durant and Irving until after the draft (though there could be backchannel talks beforehand). Trading for Davis would probably require sending the No. 3 pick to the Pelicans.

If that appears like a possibility, Barrett could always change his mind and work out for the Grizzlies.

But, as the consensus third-best prospect in this draft, it seems likely he’ll go No. 3. The big question: To which team?