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NBA PM: The Latest Draft Rumblings

The Boston Celtics have a lot of assets and could end up turning them into Kevin Love… More on that and the latest NBA rumors.

Yannis Koutroupis

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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.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

Sources: Gregg Popovich, Kawhi Leonard Held Meeting on Tuesday

Basketball Insiders

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San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard met with coach Gregg Popovich on Tuesday in San Diego, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The meeting between the two faces of the Spurs’ franchise was done professionally and confidentially, league sources said.

Source: Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports

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NBA Daily: Lots Of NBA Draft Chatter

With the 2018 NBA Draft less than 50 hours away, Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler digs into the last from around the NBA.

Steve Kyler

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Lots Of NBA Draft Chatter

With the 2018 NBA Draft on Thursday, things in NBA circles are getting interesting, specifically on the trade front.

The final 2018 Consensus Mock Draft will drop tomorrow, just after the media availabilities in New York, from there we’ll be tracking the minute to minute news, trades and rumors in the 2018 NBA Draft Diary.

So, with that in mind, let’s dig into what we know some 50 hours until the draft gets underway.

Kawhi Watch In Full Swing

With the news last week that San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard may no longer want to be a Spur breaking, there is still a sense in NBA circles that the Spurs are not going to listen to trade offers until the hear from Kawhi directly.

If you know anything about the Spurs organization, you know that we won’t hear the details of this situation in a minute by minute way like we do from some organizations, especially considering the Spurs have never had to deal with a scenario quite like this.

The interesting part of this story is how split the “sourcing” is on what’s real. There have been reports from several different reporters suggesting that the situation isn’t as dire as initially reported and that the Spurs and Leonard have had dialogue, but not the face-to-face meeting the Spurs covet.

It’s unclear why there hasn’t been a meeting, and that is what has some in NBA circles believing the Spurs will open up the phones on Wednesday and see what they can extract for Leonard if only to do their due diligence.

One league source commented that it might be tough for the Spurs to get value out of Leonard mainly because of his injury situation and the idea that he’d only re-sign with the Lakers. The same source doubted that Leonard’s camp would fence themselves inmto just the Lakers because that would make getting him traded extremely difficult, especially if the Lakers wouldn’t offer value to San Antonio.

The sense today is the Spurs are standing their ground. The thing to know is that this situation still seems very fluid, and that face-to-face conversation (or lack of one) could swing this thing in either direction. It is clear several teams would have interest if the Spurs decide to listen to offers, even if it just a rental for the upcoming season.

Trades At The Top Still Viable

It a typical NBA draft there is chatter about top tier picks being traded, but usually, it dies off the week for the draft as teams look in on who they ultimately want to draft.

This year, and unlike previous years there is a sense that several of the picks at the top of the board could be had, especially if it returns draft picks later in the draft and solid veterans.

The Sacramento Kings seem to be leaning towards keeping their pick at number two, and it’s looking more and more likely that Marvin Bagley III is their guy. The Kings took a very long look at Michael Porter Jr, and as of this weekend there was a sense they were OK with where Porter Jr is at medically, but he may lose out to the less risky Bagley. League sources continue to doubt the Kings grab Euro sensation Luke Dončić, so we’ll see if that holds true as we get to draft day.

The Atlanta Hawks have had the third overall pick on the market from almost the moment they landed it. The Hawks seem ready to use the pick but are said to still be exploring their options. The prevailing thought this week is it’s down to Bagley, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Trae Young for the Hawks, with more and more league sources believing the Hawks will draft Young at three. While the notion of grabbing Young at three may seem high, the Hawks have had eyes on Young from the start of the process, and not much seems to have changed. The Hawks have made it clear they would take on contract money in exchange for additional draft assets, so it seems likely the Hawks will be active, even if it’s not moving the third pick.

Things start to get interesting with Memphis at number four. There have been numerous reports that the Grizzlies have dangled the fourth pick in an attempt to shed the contract of Chandler Parsons. Sources close to the situation say the Grizzlies have had some offers, and most of them involve the Grizz picking up expiring contracts and additional draft assets lower in the draft. It’s unclear if the Grizzlies will pull the trigger, but they seem to have deals if they want one.

The prevailing thought in NBA circles is the Grizzlies are the first real landing spot for Dončić. There is also talk of Wendell Carter Jr., and Mo Bamba landing at four.

The Dallas Mavericks at five seem open to taking on contract dollars and could be the landing spot for the fourth pick and Chandler Parsons, but league sources say the Mavericks would not give up the fifth pick unless it returned an All-Star or would-be All-Star.

There are a few other situations to watch as several teams have expressed interest in moving up. The Clippers hold two pretty solid selections and 12 and 13 and seem willing to combine them to move into the top 5. The Denver Nuggets have also expressed some interest in moving to the top five.

The Lakers and Celtics have expressed similar interest at points in the process, but both seem reluctant at this point to part with future assets to pay the price to jump to the top of the draft.

Porter Still A Possibility

The Michael Porter Jr. situation is murky. After two visits from NBA teams, the word on Porter is mixed. NBA teams have seen his MRIs and his medical, and select teams were allowed to bring their doctors and trainers to his most recent “workout.”

The worst case from one team that’s not considering him is that he may require an additional surgery down the line. This same team said their doctors didn’t think anything going on with Porter would jeopardize his career, but they felt like he’d have to be on a program and has a ways to go before they’d deem him a 100 percent.

The upside case, from a team with Porter squarely on their board, is that there wasn’t anything going on they didn’t expect and that their staff felt fairly positive they could not only manage his situation, but they felt they could get him right fairly quickly.

Amusingly, the narrative around Porter is that he could be the next Kevin Durant-type scorer in the NBA (Porter clearly isn’t as long and lanky as Durant) – but he does possess the ability to get his offense against almost anyone.

As one executive whose team wasn’t considering Porter joked, you could get Durant or you could get Greg Oden, hinting at the injury-riddled career of the former top pick back in 2007.

Where Does Luka Go?

There isn’t a more polarizing NBA Draft prospect than Real Madrid’s Luke Dončić. You would be hard-pressed to find an NBA executive who didn’t think Dončić could be special in the NBA. But you might also be hard-pressed to find one willing to bet their job on it.

Throughout this process, more than a couple of executives have expressed they are hopeful Dončić goes high, mainly because it would give them cover in future drafts to do the same thing, which is draft what appears to be the most NBA ready player in the class, despite his flaws.

The problem is if Dončić isn’t special or struggles like some have concerns he might, not only would a team leave a potential franchise cornerstone on the board to in passing on uber-talented collegiate prospects, it might cost the lead executive their jobs.

While that seems somewhat short-sighted, think about the executives drafting in the top six. How many are not under pressure to turn their franchises around? And would a huge draft miss seal their fate?

Atlanta’s Travis Schlenk at three seems pretty secure. Dallas’ Donnie Nelson at five seems pretty secure. Orlando’s Jeff Weltman and John Hammond at six seem fairly secure, but it gets dicey elsewhere in the top 10.

As we’ve seen in previous drafts, NBA executives can and often do outthink themselves, which why every draft has quality impact guys falling later in the process.

There is little doubt Dončić is going in the top 10; it would be pretty surprising if he got past Dallas at five.

Sexton Over Young?

The Orlando Magic seems to be dialing in on what’s there for them at six, assuming they don’t trade up, which they have explored with both Atlanta and Memphis. The prevailing thought among fans is that if Trae Young is there at six, the Magic will pounce.

Early on in the process, though, the Magic seemed to be seriously interested in Collin Sexton, and word is that be might the Magic’s guy at six. The Magic ultimately will catch what falls to them, and if Dončić, Bagley or Jackson are there, things get interesting. However, if the draft goes as scripted, Orlando seems more likely to go, Sexton, Bamba, Carter or Knox than Young – at least at this point.

The draft is a fluid domino effect process, so at six the Magic have to cover a lot of bases, and it seems they have with their individual workouts.

The Magic desperately covet an impact player, so don’t be surprised if the Magic pull the trigger on a move-up deal, especially as we get closer and closer to the moment of truth.

Bamba Could Slide

You won’t find many NBA executives who don’t find Texas big man Mo Bamba intriguing. The problem for Bamba if there are some many super talented bigs in the 2018 NBA draft he is caught in a numbers game.

League sources said recently that Bamba is in the mix at two to the Kings, four to Grizzlies, five to Mavericks, six to the Magic and seven to the Bulls. The problem is he doesn’t seem to be the first or second option to any of those teams at this point.

According to league sources there continues to be questions about how his offensive game fits into the modern NBA, and with more versatile guys sitting at the top of the draft, Bamba is looking more like the consolation prize later in the draft. You will be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t think Bamba will be a monster defensively in the NBA, but the question remains which team is drafting defense at the top of the board?

If there is a player outside of the top five that could tumble a little, it might be Bamba, especially if the Mavericks pass at five.

Over the next few days, we’ll be posting all of the draft-related news, notes, rumors and trades in the 2018 NBA Draft Day Diary, so if you want a one-stop shop for all things NBA Draft, bookmark it.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, @MattJohnNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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NBA Daily: Kaiser Gates Determined To Silence His Doubters

He may not be listed on some draft boards or seen as an impact player by certain individuals, but Kaiser Gates knows what he’s made of.

Spencer Davies

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If you’re looking to further your career at the next level but coming out of college as a prospect on the fringe, you’d better be willing to work twice as hard to draw attention from the basketball world.

Attending the Preparation Pro Day in Miami with team representatives and scouts watching, Kaiser Gates wanted to show everybody who was there that the chip on his shoulder would drive him to silence his doubters.

“I feel like I have a lot to prove,” Gates said in Miami. “I feel like a lot of the guys in the draft this year, I’m just as good if not better than (them), so I gotta show that.”

After three years at Xavier University, the 22-year-old decided it was time to move on from the program and passed on his senior year to enter the NBA Draft. The news came as a surprise to many, considering he might’ve gotten the opportunity to earn an even more expanded role next season with the departure of Musketeer favorites Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura.

The numbers across the board weren’t exactly eye-catching. Primarily a wing, Gates knocked down 37.8 percent of his threes as a junior. He averaged 7.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in almost 24 minutes per game.

Looking at conference play in the Big East, those figures took a dip. Gates shot less than 30 percent from deep and really struggled to contribute offensively for Xavier against tougher opponents.

There was an incredible discrepancy in shot selection over his three-year collegiate career. Astoundingly enough, 300 of his 409 career attempts came outside of the arc. The other 109 tries were twos, which he converted at a 54.1 percent rate.

It’s hard to ignore statistical evidence when it comes to evaluating players, but misuse and fit could have been more prominent factors in this case. It’s something that happens quite a bit at school programs with prospects, and Gates believes that he could be added to that list of mishandled talent.

“I don’t think I’m inconsistent at all,” Gates said. “At Xavier, I know my stats showed that I was inconsistent. Playing at that school it was a great experience—great guys, great coaches.

“Just kinda like my situation and the way I was playing at that school didn’t really allow me to showcase my full talents, and with that being said, it’s kinda hard to stay consistent not doing something I’m used to doing.”

Furthering the point, it’s not easy to be judged off that information, which some use as the only indication of what you’ll bring to the pros. Gates plans on using that as motivation whenever he meets with different teams.

“I would come in and people would just assume like, ‘Oh he could shoot a little bit, play defense, a little athletic.’ But I know on the flip side, I know what I can really do and like, my full potential.

“So when I know that and see what teams already think, already have in their head, just now it’s up to me to prove to them what I can do and show them what I can do.”

So what does that exactly entail?

“My first few years or so, I’ll probably be more of a three-and-D guy—stretch the floor, play defense make hustle plays, rebound the ball, things like that,” Gates said. “But as I’mma grow, (I’ll) look to expand on my game. Maybe work out the pick-and-roll a little bit and expand from there.”

Thus far, the 6-foot-8, 228-pounder has reportedly worked out for multiple organizations, including the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls. He is enjoying the draft process and his growth as a player since it started.

He may not be listed on some draft boards or seen as an impact player by certain individuals, but Gates knows what he’s made of. And if he can attract the right set of eyes, he’ll be in good shape.

“You could get 30 workouts and that one team could fall in love with you,” Gates said.

“That’s what [my agent] Aaron Turner’s always talking to me about. He’s always said, ‘It only takes one team.’”

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