The Latest NBA Draft Rumblings
With the 2013-14 NBA season in the books, the entire league’s focus is now solely on the upcoming draft, which set for June 26. The draft is one of the busiest times of the year as teams look to add the top incoming talent and also prepare for the start of free agency on July 1. The 2014 draft class is one of the most anticipated classes in recent memory and it happens to be the precursor for a potentially star-studded free agency class as well. That’s the formula for a lot of significant transactions; there are already a lot of rumors and rumblings right now and here’s a look at the latest coming across the wire:
Speculation that the Boston Celtics could make a strong run for Kevin Love have been running rampant for weeks now. Love’s vacation in Boston and positive comments about the franchise only added fuel to the fire, and now it’s looking like they could be one of the most serious potential suitors. Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge has a boatload of attractive assets to offer the Timberwolves, including the No. 6 and 17 picks in this year’s draft, all of their future first-round picks, young talent like Avery Bradley (who would have to be signed-and-traded), Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger and proven veterans like Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace, Brandon Bass and Joel Anthony. The latter two are expiring contracts, something the Wolves would likely prefer instead of long-term contracts so that they can have some financial flexibility as they start the rebuilding process.
It was some magnificent draft night wheeling and dealing that helped the Celtics become a championship contender again back in 2007, when Ainge turned some of the top young talent from a team that had one of the worst seasons in franchise history and their draft picks into Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. He’s in an eerily similar position right now, the big question is are the Wolves ready to deal one of the best power forwards in the league?
According to ESPN’s Chad Ford, Timberwolves president and head coach Flip Saunders is starting to come to the realization that it’s time to trade Love and that the Celtics may have the best offer. The Timberwolves could go into free agency in 2015 with only $12 million in guaranteed contracts on the books, making them a significant player if they simply decide to just let Love walk at the end of the season. However, they’ve always been the kind of franchise that drafts their stars, not sign them in free agency. It would be especially tough to land a top-tier free agent without Love. If the Timberwolves do decide to move him, Boston’s offer will warrant as much consideration as any.
Love has a little bit of control here with a player option for next season. Teams that can offer more than Boston could be dissuaded if Love makes it clear that he will still opt out and become a free agent at season’s end. However, the Celtics would likely be confident enough in their ability to re-sign him to make the move even without a commitment for next season.
Ford also reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers were blown away by Kansas big man Joel Embiid after bringing him in for a workout. However, he did acknowledge the reports that some medical red flags surfaced during the visit. It probably won’t be until draft night that we truly know what kind of impact Embiid’s physicals had on his draft stock, but the fact that he’s now had two solid workouts, one held by his agency and the other for the Cavs, leads us to believe that he’s not in a terrible place physically.
No team is paying more attention to what the Cavaliers are doing than the Philadelphia 76ers, who have reportedly tried to negotiate a trade with Cleveland for the top overall selection in order to take Kansas shooting guard Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins is one of three players being considered by the Cavaliers along with Duke’s Jabari Parker and the aforementioned Embiid. They wanted to give up the No. 3 pick and Thaddeus Young to move up, but with Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett already on the roster, that offer fell on deaf ears. The Cavaliers may be more interested if the 76ers included the No. 10 pick instead of Young, but that does not appear to be something they’re willing to do right now.
There’s still the possibility that the 76ers could have Wiggins fall to them on draft night without having to move up. If Embiid is indeed healthy, the Milwaukee Bucks could easily go with Parker or Australian point guard Dante Exum, who remains a strong dark horse candidate at No. 2, leaving Wiggins on board for the 76ers.
It’s hard not to raise an eyebrow at all of talk about how crazy the 76ers are for Wiggins, though. It’s rare that teams’ true intentions leak to the media in abundance like the Wiggins reports have. Perhaps it’s a smokescreen and their true target is one of the other top three prospects. 76ers GM Sam Hinkie has a history of playing his cards very close to his vest, like when he traded All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday on draft night last year much to the surprise of everyone. There was no talk or rumors of the trade prior.
In today’s NBA AM report, Steve Kyler revealed that the Utah Jazz are also interested in moving up in order to grab Parker, their top target. They’re willing to part with Alec Burks and the No. 5 selection in order to acquire him. The odds of Parker being there at five are virtually slim to none, so the Jazz are going to have to move up to land him. In the case that they are able to do so, that could likely spell the end of soon-to-be restricted free agent Gordon Hayward’s time in Utah. That’s no certainty, though, if the Jazz plan to use Parker at power forward and match whatever offer Hayward receives. They did try to come to terms with him on a contract negotiation prior to the October 31 deadline before the season, so there is at least some desire to keep him in the front office.
The Los Angeles Lakers brought in Julius Randle for a workout today and he impressed, showing off a near 40-inch running vertical leap and completely dismissing the belief that he’s going to need foot surgery soon. Randle said that one of the top foot physicians in the nation told him his foot is fine, but like Embiid we won’t know until draft night how teams truly view his health. He also said that he believes the injury rumors are coming from teams that want him to slide to them on draft, which is a possibility.
More From Around the League
Here’s some news of note from around the league not related to the draft:
The Houston Rockets are interested in bringing in former Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins to replace Kelvin Sampson as Kevin McHale’s lead assistant. Hollins recently told Basketball Insiders that he wants to be a head coach but would consider becoming an assistant if that was the only way that he could stay in the league. The Rockets opportunity would be an interesting one for Hollins, given their personnel and need to improve defensively. However, Hollins will likely pass on the opening until the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers fill their head coaching vacancies. Even then, he may still pass and wait to see if any positions become open in-season.
During his end of season media availability, Mario Chalmers said that he would like to return to the Miami HEAT despite falling out of the starting lineup in the Finals. The Big Three were predictably more tight lipped about their preferences, but ESPN’s Brian Windhorst put out that the HEAT could be looking to upgrade from Chalmers to Kyle Lowry at the point guard. Signing Lowry would require the Big Three opt out of their contracts and take a pay cut, something that may not make financial sense for all of them, but is a necessity if they’re going to get the necessary help they need to become champions again.