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Morning Shootaround — June 22


VIDEO: The Starters discuss the chances of Dwyane Wade leaving Miami

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Wade and Kobe united in Los Angeles?| Confident Okafor made for the NBA game | Nets finally paying toll for trading Draft picks | Trading No. 14 pick a possibility for Thunder

No. 1: Wade and Kobe united in Los Angeles — We’ve had more preposterous rumors come true in free agency. Miami’s Big 3 of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh didn’t seem like anything more than a pipe dream until those (in)famous words came out of LeBron’s mouth during “The Decision.” So now that there are rumblings that Wade and the Los Angeles Lakers might have mutual interest in one another in free agency this summer, isn’t it worth taking seriously? With all of the obvious indicators (the Lakers being desperate for immediate, veteran help for Kobe Bryant, Wade’s Hollywood wife/Gabrielle Union connection, etc.) pointing in the direction of legitimate interest between the two, now would be the time for Heat fans to worry that they could realistically lose LeBron and D-Wade in successive offseasons. Our John Schuhmann weighed in on this somewhat startling development:

The Los Angeles Lakers might not pose much of a threat to contend for a championship (or even a playoff berth in the Western Conference) next year. The two guys on their roster with real talent – Kobe Bryant and Julius Randle – are both recovering from major injuries, and one of them will be 37 years old and taking up almost 40 percent of the salary cap.

But the Lakers, with their sunshine, 16 championships and as much as $27.8 million in cap space, offer leverage for any potential free agents looking to get a raise from their own team or a lucrative offer elsewhere.

Dwyane Wade could be one of those free agents. Wade has a player option this summer and there’s already been some scuttlebutt about Wade and the Miami Heat not seeing eye to eye about the size of a new contract.

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix linked Wade and the Lakers with a pair of tweets on Sunday.

At 33, Wade wouldn’t take the Lakers much beyond the Kobe era, which is set to end next April. But he would make things a little more interesting in L.A. and help the Lakers regain their status as a national TV draw.

The Heat could be one of the league’s most improved teams next season if they can bring back Wade, Luol Deng and Goran Dragic, who all have player options. But new and pricey contracts for all three would erase most of their 2016 cap space.

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No. 2: Confident Okafor made for the NBA game — The consensus for Thursday’s NBA Draft suggests Karl-Anthony Towns is a lock to go No. 1 overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves. But that hasn’t stopped Duke’s Jahlil Okafor from dreaming about the immediate impact he could have as a rookie, were he to go No. 1 overall or No. 2 to the Lakers. The throwback big man has a game that is tailor-made for the NBA, something that intrigues Minnesota coach and team president Flip Saunders, according to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune:

Okafor last season became the first freshman to win ACC Player of the Year in the same league where [Tim] Duncan, Michael Jordan, Ralph Sampson, James Worthy and David Thompson, among many others, once played. Wolves basketball boss Flip Saunders admired Okafor’s unique skills all season and has contemplated whether Okafor might be the kind of generational player who will dominate the NBA even more than he did in college because of the pro game’s open spaces.

“Questions remain about his defensive ability and determination as well as his free-throw shooting. He calls his 51 percent average last season a mental block and an aberration and said he is working daily to improve it.

“I’m getting better on both sides of the ball,” Okafor said. “My defense is a criticism, but we won a national championship at Duke, so it wasn’t that bad. Coach K was fine with the way I played defense.”

But what he does, he does very well in a game that doesn’t produce his kind of low-post scorer anymore. Is he a player who could become indefensible 1-on-1 in the NBA, who some scouts predict could average 20 points a game straightaway?

“I would like to believe that,” Okafor said. “I feel like I can score when there’s one guy guarding me. That’s not too far-fetched from my imagination.”

Capel coached former No. 1 overall draft pick Blake Griffin at Oklahoma and said he predicted Griffin would be even better in the NBA. He says the same about Okafor, who Capel said wasn’t quite the same last season after he sprained his ankle in February. Towns began to emerge as the favorite for No. 1 pick shortly thereafter.

“I always say this to Coach K: There is nothing the kid can’t do on the court, nothing,” Capel said. “He has to be engaged all the time. He has all the talent. The game comes so easy to him, at times it may look like he’s not playing hard. To be honest, he maybe got bored a little bit at times. With someone so gifted, that sometimes is just human nature.”

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No. 3: Nets finally paying toll for trading Draft picks — They knew this day was coming, eventually. When you mortgage your future to go chase championships in the present, a toll will be paid at some point. But when you mortgage that future (and those Draft picks) and don’t come close to sniffing the conference finals, let alone the championship round, toll day can be a painful experience. This entire week will require an extreme amount of pain tolerance for the Brooklyn Nets and their fans. The glory they’ve chased in recent seasons requires a debt that must be paid now. Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News explains:

It is a sign of success under different circumstances, a streak shared only with NBA elites Memphis and San Antonio.

For a fifth straight year, the Nets, a team that finished six games under .500 last season, enter a draft without a top-20 pick. It’s hard to imagine when they’ll have a high pick again, considering they don’t control their own first-rounder until 2019, or when the next U.S. president is revving up his or her re-election campaign.

“They are probably in the worst situation of any NBA team right now,” Stan Van Gundy said in the beginning of last year, before Brooklyn’s situation further deteriorated with the departures of Jason Kidd, Paul Pierce and most of Deron Williams’ abilities.

This is what happens when a franchise plays loose with its draft picks, when the future is ignored and invested in players who dwell in their middle 30s by the time their enormous contracts expire. It happens when a five-year plan, established by an impatient owner, goes up in flames. GM Billy King was hired by Mikhail Prokhorov in 2010 with a directive to make moves, and what followed is a series of shortsighted trades and eight-figure salaries.

It reverberates depressingly on draft nights.

“It was one of those stories of a get-rich-quick scheme,” Gerald Wallace, whom the Nets regrettably acquired in 2012 for a first-round pick, told me last season. “They took a gamble. It backfired.”

With again no cap space heading into free agency, the Nets are slated to pick 29th at Thursday’s draft in their home arena, a consequence of the trade for Joe Johnson three years ago that triggered a 2015 pick swap with Atlanta.

In other words, the Nets squeaked into the playoffs, lost in the first round to a top-seeded Atlanta team, and then gave their first-round pick (15th overall) to that team. For further context, the Nets have traded or conceded swap rights to 13 first- and second-round picks during the five-year King/Prokhorov era, producing just two players (Johnson and Williams) who remain on the roster (and who are both on the trading block).

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No. 4: Trading No. 14 pick a possibility for Thunder — The Thunder have not had to rely on the maximization of the value of a lottery pick in years. But that could change by Thursday night. The Thunder have to find a way to turn their Draft pick(s) into an impact asset, which means moving up or down the Draft order, depending on how things play out in the coming day, could be the preferred method for Thunder boss Sam Presti. Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman provides some context for what Presti and the Thunder are facing in the lead up to Thursday night’s Draft:

When Sam Presti talks about his team’s position in the upcoming NBA Draft, the Thunder general manager spends more time talking about vague scenarios and possibilities than actual prospects or team needs.

He makes it a point to remind that there are a lot of options and opportunities, and that his job is to consider everything.

“I think we probably have to look at how to add the most value to the organization with the draft pick, and that can come a lot of different ways,” Presti said.

One of those ways is via trade.

Oklahoma City could attempt to maximize the 14th overall selection Thursday night by packaging it and trying to move up in the draft.

Several teams slotted in front of the Thunder — New York at No. 4, Sacramento at No. 6, Detroit at No. 8 and Charlotte at No. 9 — reportedly have interest in moving back.

In addition to the 14th pick, the Thunder also has the 48th overall selection in this year’s draft, as well as players such as Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, Steve Novak and possibly Dion Waiters to offer in trade talks, although the team isn’t believed to be interested in trading Waiters.

Combined, however, those assets might not be enough to move the Thunder up to ninth. Forget moving up to four.

“History shows that it’s not an easy proposition to move up, into the lottery period, just to get to the place where we’re currently anchored,” Presti said. “To penetrate into the top 10 becomes a little bit more challenging. But it always comes down, like in any situation when you’re making a transaction with another team, (to) finding another partner that you have aligned interests with.”

OKC certainly could have reason to try to rise.

At 14, the Thunder could be too low to have a crack at promising perimeter players such as Arizona swingman Stanley Johnson, Murray State point guard Cameron Payne and Kentucky sharpshooter Devin Booker.

But there’s another potential hurdle in the Thunder moving up. In addition to not having many attractive assets to entice a team to trade back, the Thunder also has other teams ahead of it, like Denver at No. 7 and Indiana at No. 11, that reportedly could be looking to trade up as well. And both the Nuggets and the Pacers could potentially offer better packages than the Thunder in that pursuit.

Moving back, albeit unlikely, also could be the route OKC takes.

Boston, for example, reportedly is interested in moving up in the draft, and the Celtics are armed with the 16th, 28th and 33rd selections. With that mix, however, the Celtics might be able to slide slightly higher than the Thunder. With OKC short on roster spaces, there’s also no real need to amass more selections this year.

There’s one other possibility that can’t be ruled out: the Thunder trading out.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Four years after being a Draft darling himself, Jimmer Fredette is still searching for the right fit in the NBA  … The always cheery George Karl admits the Kings are “not likely” to find a difference-maker with the No. 6 pick in Thursday’s Draft … The KIA MVP and the starting quarterback for the 49ers showed up at a boxing match over the weekend in Oakland, you can guess who got booed … “Intrigue” of Porzingis continues to fuel the Latvian big man’s pre-Draft hype … The Indiana Pacers could go in any number of directions with the 11th pick in Thursday’s Draft, and we’re talking literally any number of directions …

5 Comments

  1. jake s. says:

    Thunder must trade out. They are in win now mode, and no player at number 14 will be Thunder-ready. Trade out and go grab a 25 year old wing player with defensive fundamentals and the ability to shoot. i.e. a non-vegtable Kyle Singler.

  2. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    Lakers and Wade, i like it Wade said he wants 20 mill a season and i’m not mad at him he has been the man in Miami and let Lebron and Bosh get paid and now Dragic about to get paid. The Lakers have the money to offer him a max, or a contract that’s really nice contract, and Butler wants a short term deal, Lakers might be able to pull Wade and Butler, I like it, and next year the 2016 league cable deal and the luxury tax goes up and the Lakers all ready the riches team with the Knicks in the league will be able to sign three players to max deals… The Pacers are right were they are every year in the draft and have built there team on them draft picks, i expect that to remain the same, but i would like for them to get a free agent to go along with PG..

    • jake s. says:

      Wade and Kobe will both surely sit a combined 2/3 of the games. It will be Nash/Kobe all over again. Lakers are swinging for the fences. At least they don’t have it as bad as New York.

  3. mars says:

    Celtics dont have enough to move up..most teams in top end of draft need that talent and whom are they gonna get with those late picks to make an impact,..i see celtics and thunder and these teams not getting deals to move up..lets say orlando was offered to move back from #5, well you would have to offer two first round picks and them both being between #6 to # 13….or its just of no value or benefit for that team to move back at all..

  4. harriethehawk says:

    What has happened to the Brooklyn Nets is just sorry. I can’t believe they have no significant draft picks and still have the biggest jokers (bums) in the NBA on their team: Derron Williams and Joe Joe Johnson. I hate reading articles about this team.


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