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NBA AM: Fixing The Sacramento Kings’ Culture

The Kings are hoping that a change in culture can bring out the best in DeMarcus Cousins… Is J.R. Smith’s new deal in Cleveland simply a formality?

Steve Kyler

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Fixing The Kings’ Culture

As the world watches what a motivated and happy DeMarcus Cousins looks like on the USA Men’s National Team in Rio this week, the Sacramento Kings are also hoping they can make the kinds of chemistry changes to keep a good thing going.

The first part of that process was adding head coach Dave Joerger and a new coaching staff, and the next part was adding some motivated veterans. The last part is cleaning up the locker room.

For some time, the Kings have been active in the trade market trying not only to trade out awkward fitting pieces, but also trying to right the ship in terms of personalities that may not be totally bought into the plan.

For weeks, there has been talk that Kings forward Rudy Gay could be had in trade and that despite his ability to be an unrestricted free agent next summer, there are many around the league who believe the Kings will not only move Gay, but that it could happen before training camp starts.

The problem with trading Gay, who is owed $13.333 million this season, is that the Kings would have to take back some level of salary in the deal and find a team open to taking on Gay in what could be a one-year rental.

The next hurdle is value. League sources say while there are teams that have expressed interest in Gay – most notably the Houston Rockets – getting anything of real value back on what could be a one-year rental at Gay’s price tag is hard math to make work.

There is a sense among league insiders that the Kings are not looking for a ton in return for Gay, so that may make finding a deal a little easier even with all the issues surrounding a deal.

The Kings are also believed to be looking at deals involving big man Kostas Koufos, mainly because of the glut of frontcourt players the Kings have, but also because Koufos might actually return something meaningful like a backup point guard.

The Kings currently have 14 players with guaranteed contracts. That means there’s not really a lot of roster room left, so the bigger changes the team is believed to be seeking likely come in trade.

As Cousins and Team USA surge toward a gold medal in Rio, the Kings hope to have an environment in place to keep a good thing going. In order to get there, they seem like they are ready to make a deal. The question becomes, who will ultimately make a move and will that move really happen before training camp?

What To Make Of J.R. Smith?

While the Cleveland Cavaliers and J.R. Smith have not yet reached a free agent deal, there is a continued sense from league and Cavalier insiders that a new agreement is going to happen. It’s simply a case of figuring how long and how much, right?

Smith got married over the weekend and was surrounded by his Cavaliers teammates, who posted pictures all over social media.

League sources said that Smith and his camp were not overly concerned about reaching a deal, with a belief that the Cavs have put a multi-year offer in the $10 million per year neighborhood on the table weeks ago. They added that Smith and his advisors have been looking for a slightly bigger offer and that waiting things out was simply about leverage and trying to get a slightly better deal.

Cavaliers sources also point out that once Smith and teammate LeBron James sign, the team will be locked into luxury tax status – which would make trades or roster moves slightly more difficult.

The sense from sources close to all of this was that Smith and the Cavaliers will reach a new deal, it just might not happen until closer to camp once the Cavaliers are sure there isn’t another roster move to be made.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

#28 – Jacob Evans – Golden State Warriors

Jesse Blancarte

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With the 28th overall pick, the Golden State Warriors selected Cincinnati Junior Jacob Evans.

Evans represents a solid pick for nearly any NBA team. Evans fits in the mold of a potential 3-and-D role player. Evans improved in his time at Cincinnati, culminating in his junior year, where he scored 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Evans spent three seasons at Cincinnati and rounded himself into a versatile two-way player who can bring a lot of value at the NBA level.

Evans is a very cognitive player, especially on the defensive end. He has a better grasp of his limitations than most players at this stage of their respective careers and is able to maximize his individual defensive ability within a team concept. Evans generally makes the right rotations, double-teams at the right times and funnels his opponents to where his teammates are when he cannot contain the ball-handler on his own. With the right coaching, he could become a valuable defensive wing in an NBA rotation sooner than some anticipate.

Additionally, Evans is more than just a shooter. He led his team in assists last season and has some skill as a playmaker. Evans will be more of a shooter and finisher in the NBA, but the ability to make the right pass, swing the ball when he isn’t open and take the ball off the dribble when necessary make him an intriguing prospect. This is especially true when you consider how valuable a player like Khris Middleton has become over the years, adding layers to his 3-and-D skill set each season.

The Warriors aren’t in need of an influx of talent but are happy to add Evans regardless.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

#27 – Robert Williams III – Boston Celtics

With the 27th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics have selected Robert Williams III.

Ben Nadeau

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With the 27th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics have selected Robert Williams III.

Although there were early week rumors that the Celtics might try to trade up, they’ve ultimately elected to find a difference-maker at the end of the first round instead. For a team that nearly reached the NBA Finals despite debilitating injuries to Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, Boston’s roster didn’t need a wholesale change on draft night. But at No. 27, they’ll be more than happy to leave with the mysterious-but-talented Williams.

Last year, Williams was viewed as a potential first-rounder before he returned to Texas A&M for his sophomore year. In 2017-18, Williams averaged 10.4 points and 9.2 rebounds on 63.2 percent from the field, fueling the Aggies to a 22-13 record. During this current pre-draft process, Williams looked poised to become a mid-first-round selection once again — but his stock faded as the big night got closer. In fact, Williams even decided to watch the draft with his family, even though he was a green room invitee.

His stock has undoubtedly dropped as of late, but this may end up being the steal of the draft — naturally, he dropped right into general manager Danny Ainge’s lap. Williams, 6-foot-10, is a freak athlete that’ll bring a new look to an already fearsome defensive unit in Boston. At A&M, Williams won back-to-back SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors and averaged 2.5 blocks per game. Of course, he’ll get the opportunity to learn from the hard-nosed Al Horford, a five-time All-Star and the defensive linchpin for Boston — a win-win situation for all.

Williams, 20, joins an extremely young core in Boston that also includes Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum, among others.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

#26 – Landry Shamet – Philadelphia 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers select Landry Shamet with the 26th overall pick.

Dennis Chambers

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With the 26th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select guard Landry Shamet of Wichita State.

Shamet, if he is able to fulfill his potential, should provide the Sixers with some much-needed shooting, as their rotation was noticeably starved for another deadeye sniper.

A career 43.7 percent three-point shooter, Shamet sank 44.2 percent of his shots from downtown last season, and he did so while firing nearly six attempts from deep a game. Sliding Shamet at the guard position alongside franchise point guard Ben Simmons allows for another weapon at Simmons’ disposal.

Standing at 6-foot-5 and 21 years old, Shamet has the size to play either guard spot in the NBA (especially given Philadelphia’s lengthy and versatile lineup). Along with his shooting ability, Shamet also led the American Athletic Conference with 166 assists last season. With Markelle Fultz still a question mark for Philadelphia, Shamet provides a secondary ball-handler and playmaker, whether in the starting lineup or in the reserve unit.

The first round of the 2018 NBA Draft was a whirlwind for the Sixers, and they ultimately land two guards of very separate varieties: an upside-laden athlete in Zhaire Smith, and a skillful “veteran” rookie whose skillset is established.

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