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NBA PM: Another Look At The NBA Draft Lottery

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Let’s Look At The Lottery:  With most NBA teams having less than 20 games remaining on their schedule, the playoffs are coming into focus for some franchises, while for the others the 2014 NBA Draft and the upcoming NCAA Tournament will take center stage. Here is a mock draft for the projected lottery portion of the draft, based on standings as of games played through 3/10/14:


The Traded Lottery Picks:  Here are the current traded pick scenarios effecting the lottery portion of the draft. Keep in mind that all non-playoff teams make up the NBA Draft lottery pool with the actual random selection for the draft lottery order scheduled for May 20.

#9 = Charlotte Bobcats: Receives Detroit Pistons 2014 first-round pick (1-8 protected in 2014, top 1 protected in 2015, unprotected in 2016) via Ben Gordon trade on 6/26/12.

#10 = Denver Nuggets: Receives New York Knicks 2014 first-round pick via Carmelo Anthony trade on 02/22/11.

#11 = Philadelphia 76ers: Receives New Orleans Pelicans 2014 first-round pick (1-5 protected in 2014-2020. 2020 second-round pick afterwards) via Jrue Holiday trade on 7/10/13.

#12 = Orlando Magic: Receives less favorable of Denver Nuggets/New York Knicks 2014 first-round pick via Dwight Howard trade on 8/10/12.

»In Related: The Complete List of Draft Picks Owed .

The Good News, Bad News On Joel Embiid:  Yesterday in this space we covered the reports that Kansas big man Joel Embiid, who has missed the last two Jayhawk games, was seeking a second opinion on his bothersome back. The second opinion revealed what Kansas already knew: Embiid has a stress fracture in his back.

The typical recovery time on this kind of injury is anywhere from 4-6 weeks, which Kansas coach Bill Self said Embiid is about halfway through.

In a statement released by the team, Self ruled Embiid out of this week’s Big 12 Tournament and that Embiid was an extreme long-shot for the opening week of the March Madness Tournament.

“This weekend is out,” Self said. “Next weekend, we feel like is a long shot, but the doctors are hopeful that if Joel works hard in rehab and progresses that it is possible that he could play in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament if our team is fortunate enough to advance.”

Embiid sought a second opinion at the urging of his family as there was clearly concern about the full scope and recovery of this kind of injury.

Embiid is considered one of the top prospects in the 2014 NBA Draft, and while there has been speculation that he might forego the draft this year, sources close to the situation surrounding Embiid indicated that staying in school for another year would be a last resort move if he cannot get healthy.

»In Related:The Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects powered by DraftExpress.

The most common form of back stress fractures in athletes is called lumbar spondylolysis and is caused by overuse and repetitive bending. Rest and muscular rehab is the usual course of treatment and most stress reactions clear up over time.

In severe cases treatment can last up to 12 weeks, so Embiid’s status is still very much up in the air.

A quick text message survey of a handful of NBA executives yesterday revealed that Embiid’s draft stock likely wouldn’t take a huge hit, mainly because most NBA teams viewed him as a long-term project player to begin with. A couple of executives commented that Embiid likely would have to undergo a lot more medical testing in the draft process as a result of not only his back issues, but his problematic knee. Those executives said that was happening regardless given concerns over his overall durability.

If it were deemed Embiid would require surgery at any point, he might see the floor come out from under him much like Boston’s Jared Sullinger saw in 2012, but that does not seem to be the case with this injury.

If the injury is genuinely lumbar spondylolysis, the likely impact on the draft is low. However, if Embiid is unable to play in the tournament, he could get overshadowed by his peers at the top of the draft board such as teammate Andrew Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker or Kentucky’s Julius Randle.

Most of the teams projected to draft in the top five have seen Kansas live more than a handful of times, though, so that might not as big an impact, but it’s clear that doubt about Embiid as the top overall pick grows if he can not play.

Fun With Frank:  The New York Daily News’ Frank Isola offered up an interesting update on the Phil Jackson to the New York Knicks situation. Here are some of the bullet points:

“It is entirely conceivable that Jackson is leveraging the Knicks to score a gig with the Los Angeles Lakers, where his long-time girlfriend Jeanie Buss holds a management position. It is also entirely conceivable that the Hall of Fame coach is doing his due diligence to determine whether he can work with Dolan and risk tarnishing his pristine legacy with a failed marriage in New York.”

More than one league source cautioned that while the Knicks are way out in front on Phil Jackson publicly, they are not the only team with Jackson’s ear on a possible front office job. The Detroit Pistons are said to be very much in the mix and the Cleveland Cavaliers have at least reached out, although their interest is somewhat muddied at this point. Jackson did some unpaid consulting for Pistons owner Tom Gores last summer, and the two have become somewhat close according to sources. Current Pistons president Joe Dumars is in the final year of his contract and sources close to the situation say it is unlikely that Dumars remains with the Pistons beyond this season.

As much as everyone tries to link Jackson back to the Lakers, sources near that situation say Jackson returning to oversee the rebuild is highly unlikely.

“In his second tour with the Knicks, [GM Steve] Mills again played by Dolan’s rules and in the end he could be out of job faster than you can say “Larry Brown.”

Mills, who is restricted from speaking to the media, was dispatched to offer Jackson the chance to hold the same title Jackson’s mentor, Red Holzman, once held. Jackson declined and that’s when things took a turn for the worse — for Mills, that is.

“The meeting was a disaster,” said a person close to Mills. “Phil doesn’t want to work with Mills. It is a mess.”

There has been some speculation about what role Jackson would play with Mills still on the job. If Isola is right, and he usually is, Mills being asked to hire his replacement would be such a James Dolan kind of move.

Jackson has made it clear he does not want to coach again and as much as the Knicks might want that from him, Jackson’s goal is to lead a team and assemble his own front office and coaching staff. If that is indeed the case, that means Mills, along with Knicks executives Allan Houston and Mark Warkentien could be on notice.

”For months, [Knick coach Mike] Woodson’s camp has indicated that the head coach doesn’t really trust Mills and to some extent Allan Houston. Apparently, Woodson’s instincts were right, since the Knicks made a play to replace him.”

This is not the first report of unrest between Woodson and the Knicks front office. Mills has traveled with the team for large chunks of the season and has sat in on coaches meetings and practices in a very public way. Knicks sources said this was simply a new GM taking stock of the situation and getting up to speed on what’s working and what’s not. However, Woodson’s camp viewed it as meddling in the process and casting doubt on his job from the jump. It hard to imagine anyone would blame the Knicks’ coaching struggles on Mills, but it is clear that some of the doubt and uncertainty surrounding Woodson hasn’t been quelled by the front office.

“If Jackson joins the Knicks, the next to go could be Carmelo Anthony, the team’s best player and free agent in waiting. George Karl, Anthony’s former coach in Denver, said on ESPN radio Monday that Melo is not Jackson’s “type of player.” Jackson, it should be noted, is not represented by CAA.

The fact that Melo hasn’t been kept abreast of a potential major front office shakeup speaks volumes. Dolan and Carmelo were once joined at the hip. Now it seems as if Dolan is treating Melo like he is a member of the media. Okay, maybe not that bad, but close.”

This one is interesting, mainly because it’s a commonly asked question when mentioning Jackson running the Knicks. Would he and Carmelo Anthony fit? The short answer is Jackson might be exactly what Anthony needs to reach his full potential. Equally having a star player is always easier than obtaining a star player, especially if that star player walks away for nothing in return.

If Anthony opts out of his existing agreement as he is expected to do, losing him without anything in return simply hampers the situation in New York next season, especially given how much they gave up to obtain him from Denver in 2011.

However, not having Anthony and what would be roughly a $24.86 million salary cap hit in July of 2015 might be more meaningful for a total rebuild in New York. As things stand today, assuming the Knicks cannot offload any ugly contracts, the team has $17 million in likely salary on the books for the summer of 2015. Said another way, without Anthony taking up some $24 million in space, the Knick could get to a useable salary cap figure of $45 to $50 million to go after a free agent class that could feature Miami’s LeBron James if he doesn’t opt out this offseason, Boston’s Rajon Rondo and Minnesota’s Kevin Love to name a few.

»In Related: The New York Knicks Team Salary

“Jackson is destined to bring in his own people, starting with a general manager to handle the day-to-day operations while he splits his time between the beach, his Montana ranch and New York. In that order.

The next Knicks head coach could be Byron Scott or maybe Kurt Rambis. A person close to Jackson raised an interesting candidate: Steve Kerr, the former Suns GM turned TNT broadcaster. Kerr played for Jackson but has no head coaching experience.”

This one has a whole lot of legs. Kerr, who was the General Manager in Phoenix for a couple of years, not only has a desire to get back into the operations side of things, he does have a genuine interest in coaching.

Adding Kerr to a Jackson-led staff not only would give him a coach that he knows and trusts. It would also give him an on-the-ground resource to help bridge the day-to-day of managing a team. It is doubtful Kerr would be coach and general manager, but if Jackson is going to run the team remotely having a coach that understands the front office side too, might be smart and helpful.

Sources close to the situation with Kerr have said for a while that Kerr wants to explore coaching and with Jackson he could get an interesting runway especially if the name of the game for the Knicks is tear it down first to rebuild in a better way. Kerr could get a nice honeymoon year next season and have his feet completely on the ground for 2015 when a rebuild could take place.

Its highly likely Jackson taps a true front office guy to run the day to day for him, much like Larry Bird has Kevin Pritchard running things in Indiana. If Jackson nabs Kerr as his coach, watch for Cleveland interim GM David Griffin to surface as a candidate for GM. He and Kerr have some history from their days in Phoenix and Griffin has a reputation for being a smart and savvy solider that’s willing to do the leg work that Jackson is unlikely to have a lot of interest in. A Jackson-Griffin-Kerr tandem would be extremely credible on a lot of fronts.

»In Related: This Week’s NBA Power Rankings.

The Knicks were expecting an answer from Jackson yesterday and he continues to hold the line. There are lots of conflicting reports. The Knicks side of things continues to say that Jackson is leaning towards the Knicks. Outside of New York, the story is somewhat different, with more and more people talking about Jackson leveraging the Knicks interest to land a better gig elsewhere, with most assuming the Lakers are the Jackson’s front runner.

Stay tuned to Basketball Insiders, we’ll keep you updated as this continues to play out.

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About Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler

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