Are The L.A. Lakers In The Hunt For Kevin Love?
A report over the weekend pegged the L.A. Lakers as the potential front runners for Minnesota’s Kevin Love. On the surface it seems like the Lakers wouldn’t have the assets to acquire a player like Love in trade, especially with teams like Boston and Golden State offering real value in return. However, there continues to be a sense among NBA executives that the Lakers are very much in the hunt. Last week, the Lakers were linked to a potential deal with the Philadelphia 76ers that would have involved sending the number seven pick and Steve Nash to the Sixers in exchange for Michael Carter-Williams and Thaddeus Young; at the time, that deal seemed somewhat lopsided in the Lakers’ favor. However, some are saying that the deal was potentially part of a three-way trade that would be consummated around the draft and get finished in July, when the Lakers could absorb salary.
While this time of year is filled with speculation and certainly filled with rumors that don’t come true, the Lakers have been extremely busy. The Lakers have been contacting the Golden State Warriors trying to pry loose Klay Thompson. Despite reports, sources say a Thompson deal was never seriously considered by the Warriors, but was more about the Warriors looking for additional assets to land Love for themselves. At this point it seems Minnesota is holding firm with no real deal on the horizon. That could change before Thursday’s NBA Draft, but the Wolves’ stance has been if they’re not going to get what they want they’re not moving Love.
One other aspect of the Lakers’ pursuit of Love is the fact that they still hold the rights to Pau Gasol. The Wolves have been linked to Gasol a number of times over the past two years and it appears that they would be willing to take on Gasol in a sign-and-trade. Given that Gasol and Wolves guard Ricky Rubio have a long history together and with Rubio up for an extension, obtaining Gasol might be what gets Rubio re-signed if Love indeed has to be traded.
League sources say the Lakers are one of many teams at the table trying to obtain Love but the list of suitors is significant. The Celtics, Warriors, Rockets and Bulls are considered the prime suitors. There are several other teams willing to get involved as well, especially if a third-team scenario surfaces, including the Cavaliers, who hold the number one overall pick and have a roster loaded with young, emerging talent.
When it’s all said and done, it’s doubtful Love ends up with the Lakers, as they simply don’t have the assets to pull off this kind of a deal. There is a sense among NBA executives the Love being traded to the Lakers is not a farfetched idea and that they are very much in the hunt; it’s just unclear what assets they would be able to obtain between now and July in order to obtain a player like Love.
Equally Love’s stances has been that he wants to be with an organization that can win this year and if the Lakers empty the cupboard to go get Love, what will they have to put on the floor other than Kobe Bryant? The Lakers clearly are going to have cap space to become a much more attractive situation with Bryant and Love on the roster, however is Love really going to be happy with a Laker team that’s clearly rebuilding? There have been reports that Love’s interest in the Lakers has been massively overstated, but it’s pretty clear the Lakers have interest Love and are not sitting this one out.
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Embiid Still In The Top Five?
The biggest unknown in Thursday’s NBA draft is Kansas big man Joel Embiid. The choice to have surgery last week was a smart one, but the fact that he had two screws inserted in his broken navicular bone has thrown up even more red flags for several organizations. Pegging where his draft stock is ultimately going to land is still a massive unknown. With that said, basketball operations people are still very high on Embiid as a long-term prospect. That bodes well for Embiid to still be drafted high, depending on how each team handles the medical issues. Most organizations require draft picks to be medically cleared by the team’s medical staff and a number of NBA team’s medical staffs are scared of what Embiid’s medical history really looks like.
This is where skipping the Draft Combine is going to haunt Embiid. During the annual combine, prospects undergo a massive amount of medical testing including MRI’s, blood testing, heart and genetic testing. Without this volume of information, and knowing only what Embiid’s agent is releasing to them, there is more risk that normal and that is ruling some teams out of the discussion.
The sense is with some teams is that Embiid will make a full recovery and that might happen inside his rookie season. Even if he doesn’t play next season there are a number of teams that see his upside as far too appealing to pass, especially in the top 10. There is a sense of the Philadelphia 76ers at number three would look seriously at Embiid and that might be his floor. The Orlando Magic at number four are said to be exploring what’s going on with his health situation, however the Magic historically have steered away from players with injury problems and red flags.
The Magic turned away Brook Lopez from the Brooklyn Nets as part of a Dwight Howard package and also steered away from Andrew Bynum in the deal they eventually did for Howard. The Magic certainly have a roster that would allow them to be patient with Embiid, given the fact they’ve got Nic Vucevic on the roster. If the Magic’s goal is to get the best player possible, Embiid certainly fits the bill. There is considerable risk, especially given the nature of his recent injury, but it seems several teams are weighing the risk versus reward on what could be a once in a generation big man.
The other part of Embiid’s injury history to consider isn’t just a fractured foot or even his problematic back from last season; it’s the fact that he had a similar back injury in high school. There was also some concern among NBA scouts about his knee all season at Kansas. Given the small sample size Embiid has as a top-tier basketball player, having only played the game for just a few years added to the unknown of his medical history there is a lot of risk associated with Embiid. Even with the amount of risk present, there are still a number of teams that view him as a top-10 prospect even with the mystery surrounding his health. There is a sense Embiid will not get past the Boston Celtics at six and that he’s a serious candidate at number five to the Utah Jazz . There is little doubt that Embiid is going to get drafted, the question becomes what will his NBA future look like especially given how much unknown surrounds his medical history?
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Could Aaron Gordon Be The Dark Horse?
Lost in the hype of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and even Dante Exum is Arizona’s Aaron Gordon. Gordon was highly thought of at the start of the draft process, especially early in the college basketball season. A number of teams were enamored with him early and he was one of the more heavily scouted prospects at the top of the draft.
As the draft process got underway in April, Gordon started to slide down the proverbial board with a lot of insiders pegging him as potentially Boston’s pick at number six. However in recent weeks, especially after strong workouts, Gordon’s stock is on the rise. There has been talk to Gordon could go as high as number four to the Orlando Magic or number five to the Utah Jazz.
There has been a sense that Gordon is a tweener at the next level, lacking the body to be a power forward and lacking the shooting to be a small forward. Gordon has sort of changed his image in workouts, having shot the ball well and showing the ability to play against bigger players. Teams that have taken a long look at Gordon really like what they seen. There is a sense that Gordon could go significantly higher than projected. It’s fairly common in the NBA draft process for the players to get locked into a specific pick range in the media, and that a player can’t go higher or lower based on some artificial ranking. NBA teams, specifically teams in the top 10, are very high on Gordon and there is a chance that he could go significantly higher than he’s been projected.
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