Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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Report: Hornets still view super-max-eligible Kemba Walker as top priority

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Now that he’s eligible for a super-max contract that projects to be worth about $221 million over five years, Kemba Walker called re-signing with the Hornets his priority.

The big question: Does Charlotte want him back at a huge price?

Apparently so.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

The Hornets and Kemba Walker both have each other as top priorities entering July 1, league sources said.

It increasingly sounds as if Walker staying in Charlotte is a done deal. And it might be. But because he can’t sign until July, there’s still time for complications.

Even on a designated-veteran-player contract, Walker is not locked into precise terms. The deal must be five years. It must have a starting salary between 30% and 35% of the 2019-20 salary cap. But his salary can annually increase or decease up to 8% of his initial salary. The contract needn’t be fully guaranteed.

So, there’s room for negotiation. If one side pushes too hard, the other could always look around. Walker can find better teams. Charlotte can find better values.

But as Walker and the Hornets head toward a long-term contract, attention should turn toward how Charlotte will trim salary. Unless Hornets owner Michael Jordan is suddenly willing to pay the luxury tax, expect Charlotte to trade Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller and/or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and/or stretch Bismack Biyombo.

Ranking the biggest NBA draft lotteries of all-time

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The 2019 NBA draft lottery appears particularly important.

Where does it rank all-time?

Here are the five biggest lotteries, based on what we knew entering the drawing:

1. 1997 (Tim Duncan)

Duncan looked like a ready-made superstar coming out of Wake Forest, where he played for four years. That gave NBA teams plenty of time to salivate over him.

The Celtics tanked their way to a 15-67 record and traded Eric Montross to the Mavericks for another lottery pick. Boston had a 36% chance of getting the No. 1 pick and treated it as a likelihood.

Instead, the Spurs got the top pick and built a dynasty around Duncan. Boston settled for and made little use of the No. 3 pick (Chauncey Billups) and No. 6 pick (Ron Mercer).

2. 1985 (Patrick Ewing)

The NBA’s first lottery came just in time. Ewing looked like a generational prospect at Georgetown. Teams would have tanked hard for him.

At first, every lottery team had an equal chance at each pick in the lottery. So, this was an important experiment for determining how, and how not, to structure the drawing.

The Knicks won the lottery that sparked a thousand conspiracies, and Ewing manned the pivot in New York for a decade and a half. Every team saw the importance of getting a high pick – and just how fickle attempting to land one could be.

Ewing was the clear prize, but the next few picks – Wayman Tisdale, Benoit Benjamin, Xavier McDaniel, Jon Koncak – retroactively made clear the importance of getting No. 1 this year.

3. 2012 (Anthony Davis)

Davis was a special prospect, but at this point, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist also impressive. At least everyone was right about Davis, whom New Orleans got. (Kidd-Gilchrist went No. 2 to Charlotte).

In addition to the big name at the top, a couple protected picks had lasting ramifications.

The Warriors, with the No. 7 lottery seed and a top-seven-protected pick, stayed at No. 7. They used that pick on Harrison Barnes, who became a starter on their 2015 title team and 73-win team the following year.

On the other hand, the Nets stayed at No. 6 and conveyed their top-three-protected pick to the Trail Blazers. Portland took Damian Lillard and have since built a conference finalist around him. Brooklyn soon entered a dark period it’s now just escaping.

2003 (LeBron James)

LeBron was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in high school… as a junior. The hype was palpable, especially with his hometown team – the Cleveland Cavaliers – having the best odds of getting the No. 1 pick.

But by the time of the lottery, Darko Milicic and Carmelo Anthony had emerged as great consolation prizes. Chris Bosh was working his way into an impressive fourth prospect. The draft appeared to remain deep throughout the lottery with a strong group that’d later be headlined by Dwyane Wade. So, as coveted as LeBron was, it was also important just to have a pick in this lottery.

That’s why two protected selections loomed so large.

The Grizzlies kept their own pick only on the 6% chance they got No. 1. So, it was LeBron or bust. Memphis busted, though its conveyed pick – No. 2 to the Pistons, who took Darko – was also the rare bust in this draft.

The Hawks, the No. 8 seed in the lottery, owed the Bucks a top-three-protected first-rounder. Atlanta stayed at No. 8 and gave Milwaukee the pick used on T.J. Ford.

5. 2019 (Zion Williamson)

See here.

Honorable mention:

2007 (Greg Oden and Kevin Durant): With two projected superstars in the draft, it didn’t feel as essential to get the No. 1 pick over the No. 2 pick – slightly lowering the perceived importance of this lottery. Oops.

2009 (Blake Griffin): Griffin stood alone as the top prospect, but Ricky Rubio was a highly rated second prospect – who surprisingly fell to No. 5.

1987 (David Robinson): As great as Robinson was, there was too much uncertainty about when he’d jump to the NBA from Navy, including whether he’d actually join the team that drafted him in 1987.

1992 (Shaquille O’Neal): Shaq looked awesome and became the (correct) No. 1 pick, but eventual Nos. 2 and 3 picks Alonzo Mourning and Christian Laettner softened the blow of not landing the top pick, at least in the theory of the time.

Reports: Marc Gasol still expects trade despite Grizzlies-Hornets talks stalling

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The Grizzlies and Hornets were reportedly close on a Marc Gasol trade last night.

Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

But league sources told Sporting News that the Hornets and Grizzlies do not have an agreement in place, and that there is increasing skepticism on both sides that a trade can be brought to bear ahead of Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.

Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated:

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer:

The Grizzlies are in talks to send Marc Gasol to the Hornets for Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and a protected first-round pick, according to league sources. The holdup at this point is the protection on the pick, per a source

Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer:

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

When trade negotiations get leaked as “strong talks” – Charania’s characterization in the initial report – that’s usually a prelude to a completed deal. This trade obviously hasn’t fallen through, but there are more hiccups than usual.

A Gasol-to-Charlotte trade remains logical. The Hornets are trying to win now, and they’re a rare team that needs center help. Gasol would be a big upgrade. The Grizzlies are out of the playoff race and should at least look to move Gasol before he can leave in unrestricted free agency next summer. Memphis, especially if entering a rebuilding phase, also has a low enough payroll to take back some of Charlotte’s negative-value salary. Of course, the Grizzlies should get better young players and picks than just Gasol would fetch if also taking bad money.

But the teams must still agree to exact parameters. It’s uncertain whether that will happen.

Maybe Gasol knows something, though. Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking on his part. According to Zach Lowe of ESPN, Gasol wants to be traded – a factor that could push Memphis to finish a deal now that trade talks have become public.

Charlotte reportedly in “strong talks” to trade for Marc Gasol from Memphis

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Michael Jordan entered this season with two main goals for his Charlotte Hornets: 1) Make the playoffs; 2) Re-sign Kemba Walker in the offseason.

Charlotte, at 26-26, is currently the seven seed in the East, three games up on ninth-seeded Detroit. The Hornets look like a playoff team, but Jordan wants to both secure that and make the kind of move that tells Walker they are serious. Rumors of their interest in Memphis’ center Marc Gasol have bounced around the league since the Grizzlies said he was available.

Now, those appear to be more than rumors, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Adding to the “this feels real” sense about this trade.

Gasol would be an upgrade at center for Charlotte, who desperately missed Cody Zeller at the five when he was out injured. Gasol would improve the Hornets on both ends.

The question is who goes back to Memphis? Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, ($13 million this season and a player option for the same next season) has been rumored to be in it, and the Grizzlies might want promising young center Willy Hernangomez. After that maybe Malik Monk? Jeremy Lamb? The Grizzlies will listen to just about anything that doesn’t include Jaren Jackson Jr.

This has the feel of a trade that gets done.

Whether that is enough to keep Kemba in Charlotte next July is a question for another day.

Khris Middleton simultaneously blocked by most of the Hornets’ lineup

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Khris Middleton got blocked three times on one shot.

Only Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – not Marvin Williams or Jeremy Lamb – received credit, but all three Hornets got a hand on Middleton’s attempt in Charlotte’s win over the Bucks’ last night.

There was no doubt Kidd-Gilchrist deserved this chase-down block on Middleton a bit later: