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NBA Daily: Should the Philadelphia 76ers Trade For Kawhi Leonard?

Simon Hannig explores whether the 76ers should pony up the required assets for Kawhi Leonard.

Simon Hannig

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The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the teams that have been mentioned as a possible trade partner to acquire superstar Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs.

The Sixers need to take advantage now and trade for Leonard.

The Sixers have assets the Spurs will possibly like. If the Sixers want to contend for a shot at going to the NBA Finals next season, Leonard may just be the one to push them over the edge.

Can you imagine a core of Ben Simmons-Joel Embiid-Kawhi Leonard in the East? I don’t even think a healthy Boston team could beat them.

The window of opportunity for the Sixers is right now. They have a ton of assets, especially young players the Spurs would love to have. Even without assurances from Leonard, the Sixers need to take an opportunity like this and jump at it. Having a player of this caliber like Leonard on the trade market does not happen all that often. Let’s look and see what type of trades these two teams can make.

Trade A: Spurs receive: Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, Timothy Luwawu-Cabarrot, Jerryd Bayless, a 2019 first round pick and 2021 first round pick (via Miami).
Sixers receive: Kawhi Leonard.

Trade B: Spurs receive: Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, Timothy Luwawu-Cabarrot, Robert Covington, Furkan Korkmaz, Zhaire Smith (draft rights) a 2019 first round pick and 2021 first round pick (via Miami).
Sixers receive: Kawhi Leonard and Pau Gasol.

Trade B could happen for a couple of reasons. The Spurs get rid of a bad contract in Gasol, and even though they take on Covington and his contract, the Spurs still save $5.8 million in the deal. The Spurs land former number one overall pick in Fultz. They also get a rookie in Smith who they can develop along with Lonnie Walker IV. Plus, they get two first round picks. The 2021 first round pick (via Miami) is a pick the Spurs should covet in any trade.

And of course, the Sixers land Leonard.

Who knows how that Miami team will look in three years from now. They could be in a rebuilding project and the pick could end up very valuable for the Spurs.

The time for the Sixers to cash in on the assets they have is right now, and they need to go all-in with their pursuit of Leonard from the Spurs.

The core of Simmons-Leonard-Embiid and whoever else they add to the team in free agency is a title contender right away. For the Sixers, you have a chance to sell Leonard on staying in Philadelphia for the long haul. Yes, Leonard may want to go and play for the Lakers, but the Sixers would have a golden opportunity to sell Leonard on the team being a championship contending team, with an excellent front office and coaching staff and great ownership.

This all can happen next season if the Sixers acquire Leonard. Plus, Leonard may find it easier to get to the NBA Finals in the East than the West because he does not have to face the likes of the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets in the playoffs. The East is an easier path to the NBA Finals.

The Sixers need to take the risk right now and cash in on their assets. This trade will take the Sixers to the place they need to be as a franchise and as a team. This is a golden opportunity to show Simmons and Embiid of how serious you are about winning and contending right now. Not only does it show Simmons and Embiid of how serious you are about winning a title, it also tells the fans you are serious.

Philadelphia, take the risk. It’ll be worth it.

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NBA Daily: Antonio Blakeney Hoping For A Big 2nd Year

After an impressive rookie stint, Antonio Blakeney gives us a tale of hope and potential.

David Yapkowitz

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The Chicago Bulls are in the midst of a rebuilding project. This summer, they held on to one of their key young players in Zach LaVine and drafted two guys in Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchinson whom they’re hoping can be part of that rebuild.

But there might be one player on the roster already who could play a big role in the team’s future. A year ago, Antonio Blakeney used a big summer league performance in Las Vegas to earn a two-way contract with the Bulls.

This time around, with his NBA future a little more secure, he’s working on becoming more familiar with the team.

“Just learning and getting better,” Blakeney told Basketball Insiders his goals are. “Obviously being able to play through my mistakes, go out here and learn and get familiar with the coaching staff. Keep building our relationship with the coaches and stuff.”

Blakeney went undrafted last summer after declaring for the draft following two years at LSU. He lit up Las Vegas to the tune of 16.8 points in four games before the Bulls signed him. Under the two-way contract, he split time between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, their G-League affiliate.

His summer success carried over to the G-League where he exploded on the scene averaging 32 points per game and being named the G-League Rookie of the Year. Being shuffled back and forth between leagues was a bit of an adjustment for Blakeney, but it was an experience he ended up learning a lot from.

“It was an up and down roller coaster from the NBA to the G-League and stuff like that. Starting in summer league, going to the big team, going to camp, preseason games and going to the G-League. It was an up and down experience,” Blakeney said.

“Overall, it was great. I think I learned a lot in the G-League. A lot of rookies play in the G-League now. Going down there it’s kind of tough. For some guys, the travel is different. It’s just staying motivated and working hard.”

It’s no secret that Blakeney can put up points in a hurry, as he was the Tigers third-leading scorer his freshman year behind Ben Simmons and Keith Hornsby with 12.6 points per game. His sophomore year, he led the Tigers in scoring with 17.2 points.

He knows though that he’ll have to be able to do other things if he wants to stick in the NBA. While he’s been lighting up the stat sheet scoring wise this summer in Vegas, he’s been working on other aspects of his game. He’s been charged by the Bulls summer league coaching staff with initiating the offense.

“Obviously I got to be a combo. I got to be able to move over to the one and make plays and stuff like that. So just working on making that simple play,” Blakeney said. “Obviously, I’m a natural scorer so I’m not really a pass-first guy, but I’m more when the simple play presents itself, to make it.”

While his future may be more secure, the majority of the guys in summer league don’t have that luxury. The two-way contract Blakeney signed last summer was for two years and based on his play this summer, it would be shocking to see the Bulls let him go.

For his summer teammates who don’t have that security, he understands what they’re going through. Having been in that situation a year ago, he’s got plenty of advice for them.

“Just go work hard, learn from the veteran guys, but compete,” Blakeney said. “Go at the guys that’s supposed to be the best. If you think you’re that good, go at guys. Just compete, that’s the main thing I did, I just competed.”

And although nothing is ever guaranteed in the NBA, especially regular rotation minutes, Blakeney is confident that he can be a regular contributor. The league is filled with guys who come off the bench and provide instant offense. He knows if, given the opportunity, he can do that too.

“I think next season my goal is to try to crack the rotation and just be a guy who brings energy off the bench,” Blakeney said. “I can get buckets fast, get it going, bring energy and get buckets off the bench, just do my thing. That’s something that in my young career I’m trying to get in to.”

He’s certainly off to a good start.

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NBA Daily: Harry Giles, Just What the Doctor Ordered

It’s been a long time coming for Harry Giles, but judging by his showing in Las Vegas, he might be worth the wait.

Shane Rhodes

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It’s been a long time coming for Harry Giles. But, if his performance this summer is anything to go by, he will be well worth the wait for the Sacramento Kings.

The Kings knew they were taking a risk with Giles. After he was selected 20th overall in 2017, he missed the entire season due to injury concerns. Originally projected to return in January 2018, the Kings pushed his return back to this summer, giving Giles the opportunity to further rehab his knees, both of which have dealt with serious injuries since his time in high school.

But now, with his chance to finally show what he can do on the court, Giles has shown, in more ways than one, he is just what the doctor ordered for the Kings. He’s shown that he can be a and wants to be a leader as much as a dominant force on the court.

“Me being a little older, being a little more experienced, I’ve just got to go out there and lead by example,” Giles told Basketball Insiders during his stint at the Las Vegas Summer League.

Sacramento has desperately lacked a franchise leader for years. They haven’t topped 35 wins in a decade. They haven’t made the postseason in 12 years, the longest active drought in the NBA. Since shipping out DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento has done well to stockpile good, young players: De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Willy Cauley-Stein, Marvin Bagley III, Giles and others are all building toward the future, but no one has stepped up to fill that void. Every young team needs a leader, especially when they play in the brutal Western Conference.

And Giles has taken that role upon himself personally.

To start, Giles has been a force on the court for the Kings, both in the California Classic and the Las Vegas Summer League. Across seven games he has averaged 10.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals and shot 44.2 percent from the floor while playing hardnosed defense on the other end. The Kings ranked dead last in scoring last season, were 28th in rebounding and 22nd in field goal percentage, so his contributions will definitely be welcomed in all of those areas and more. He has been praised by coaches and fellow players alike as well.

“The coaches trust me to go out there and do what I’m supposed to do and I do a good job of not trying to overdo it, just play my spots and my position.”

“I’m starting to put myself together,” Giles said.

Giles also told Basketball Insiders that he feels like a leader “more and more each game” and that his job is “about making everyone feel comfortable” on the court. That, he noted, starts with talking to one another on the floor.

“I learned from my vets that you have to talk to get yourself comfortable,” Giles said. “You’ve got to let guys know that it’s okay to talk, it’s smart to talk, it helps to talk, it gets you comfortable.”

True to his words, Giles has been one of the more vocal Kings this summer, whether he be on the court or watching from the bench. That, combined with his maturity, cultivated during his time lost to injury, makes him one of the better candidates to become that guy for Sacramento, someone that can lead them back to contention.

Still, Giles reiterated that a leader must lead by example and that that is what he’s tried to do all summer.

“You really can’t be a leader unless you lead by example,” Giles said. “You’ve got to show to prove, and that’s what I try to go out there and do.

The Kings hope Giles can do just that, for this season and for many others. He’ll have to if Sacramento wants to return to the postseason.

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NBA Daily: Jackson and Ayton give Phoenix hope

After years of dwelling in mediocrity, Josh Jackson and Deandre Ayton give the Suns their first glimmer of promise since the Steve Nash era.

Matt John

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Since ending the Steve Nash era back in 2012, the Phoenix Suns have struggled to find a clear direction to go.

In the last six years, the Suns have been on an unpredictably wild ride to put it delicately. There’s been rebuilding, there’s been overachieving, there’s been re-tooling, there’s been bridge burning, and then there’s been trading that valuable Lakers pick for $70 million of Brandon Knight.

At the height of their wild ride has been their recent draft history.

Following a season in which they were tanking, the Suns whiffed when they took Alex Len with the fifth overall pick in 2013. Two years later, following a season in which they were not tanking, the Suns struck gold when they took Devin Booker with the 13th pick.

Their other picks leading up to 2017 have ranged from solid (TJ Warren) to highly questionable (Marquese Chriss) to long-term project (Dragan Bender). While not bad, it’s fair to say that, up until recently, the Suns’ drafting hasn’t exactly gotten them out of the mess they’ve created since Nash left.

However, their recent lottery picks—Josh Jackson and DeAndre Ayton—have given the team reason to believe that the new glorious new era they’ve been waiting for post-Nash has finally arrived.

This of course started the second Ayton was drafted by the Suns on draft night, but the hype has only grown stronger since the summer league began.

That starts with Jackson. The fourth overall pick from 2017 did not have the best start to his rookie season, but as he got more reps, his numbers vastly improved across the board, indicating that there should be plenty of optimism surrounding what next season holds for the sophomore.

His numbers have not been very pretty so far in the summer league, but Jackson continues to show more and more glimpses of the all-around player that scouts pegged him to be coming into the league, highlighted by his “Welcome to the league” swat of Marvin Bagley during the team’s second game against the Kings.

Even with his struggles, Jackson believes that there has been a notable difference playing in this year’s summer league compared to last year’s for him.

“I’m a lot more comfortable,” Jackson said. “Coming in this year, I feel more like a leader, like I’m more knowledgeable about how things are supposed to go out there so I’ve been trying to be a little bit more vocal with the guys out there, trying to make sure that they are in the right position on offensive and defensive sets.”

Jackson also noted that, since being in the summer league, that his biggest lesson he’s taken is to consistently work hard on the parquet floor.

“The biggest thing I learned is to come out and play with effort,” Jackson said. “Each and every time you step out there, you gotta come with it, or the guy across from you will get the best of you.”

Jackson’s skills have been on display in the summer league, but all eyes have been on this years’ first overall pick in the draft, DeAndre Ayton. Expectations are sky high for the young big as he entered the league. Hence, he wasted no time showing the big leagues what he could do. In only 22 minutes of action against the Dallas Mavericks, Ayton put up an efficient stat line of 10 points and eight rebounds in his first game in the summer league.

Ayton later capitalized on his promising start in his next game against the Kings. The University of Arizona alum made it look too easy out there as he put up a stat line of 21 points and 12 rebounds in just 29 minutes of action. Ayton has continued his electric play since and has looked every bit the player Phoenix believed he could be when they took him.

As far as first impressions go, Deandre Ayton could not have started his career off any better in the Las Vegas Summer League. Though he has met (or arguably even exceeded) expectations so far, Ayton has taken the note of the differences between college ball and NBA ball.

“Transitioning from college to the NBA, everybody is physical,” Ayton said. “Some dudes might not look strong, but they are pretty strong.”

As impressive as he has been, Ayton prefers to remain humble in regards to his performance as he continues to get more experience under his belt as a pro.

“I could do better, but overall I thought I did alright,” Ayton said. “I just think forgetting one or two plays and not really staying vocal with the fatigue, I gotta work on those, but I thought I did alright.”

The Suns have struggled to figure out their identity since they went for the rebuild six years ago. With Jackson and Ayton leading the way among their other youngsters on the roster, the Suns now have a great foundation of youth to work with for the next decade.

For their sake, these young gun Suns will hopefully lead the Suns to more success than the Steve Nash era, but that’s easier said than done.

Much easier.

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