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NBA PM: Will Paul George Return This Season?

Paul George spoke to the media for the first time since his injury, and he’s holding out hope for a 2015 return… Can Eric Bledsoe afford to take the qualifying offer like fellow restricted free agent Greg Monroe is reportedly doing?

Joel Brigham

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Paul George Hopes To Play in 2014-2015

Paul George met with the media in Indianapolis on Friday for the first time since suffering the gruesome injury that essentially saw the lower half of his leg snap in half. George, one of the most charismatic and confident young stars in the league, came out of the press conference determined to return to form, even intimating that if the rehab goes well he could be back on the court for Indiana by the end of this coming season.

“We don’t want to put a date or a time frame on [the recovery],” Paul said, adding that he’s “holding out a little hope” in terms of his possibly playing in the 2014-15 season.

Of course, Paul also said he is “very aware” that he could very easily miss all of this coming season. The rehab on the injury is expected to lean toward the longer end of nine to 12 months, and since he’s so young and being paid so much, it’s likely that Indiana will be very careful with him when the possibility of a return does start to become evident.

The plan is to begin the early stages of rehab in August, perhaps as early as next week. In the meantime, George is still processing what happened to him.

“I was in shock,” George said. “I couldn’t believe it was me that this happened to.”

He went on to complain that the criticism Team USA is taking for his injury is “unfair” and added that he has every intention of going out for the Olympic team in 2016.

“I plan on making a full recovery coming back from this,” he said.

Having only watched the tape of the accident once, George talked about how horrible the injury itself actually was.

“When I looked down and saw the bone, I knew it was bad. I had felt pain before, and this was a pain I had not felt,” George said. “It felt like gasoline was on my leg and someone set a match.”

Thankfully, he’s in nowhere near as much pain a couple of weeks later, and now he seems focused on the road to recovery, with his fingers crossed that an early return late next season could be possible. No one would be more grateful to see that happen than Pacers fans, who lined the streets to greet George on his way to the press conference.

“I just want to give a huge thanks to the fans who have been behind me,” George said.

They’ve been supportive, as have colleagues and opponents, but the road to recovery starts now. Is it possible for George to be back by the spring? It doesn’t seem likely, but that isn’t going to stop this talented young player from trying.

Eric Bledsoe to Follow Greg Monroe’s Lead?

It must be awful to be a restricted free agent. Okay, so not awful awful, since even in the worst of conditions these players are making more money in a single season than most of us will make in 20 years, but compared to the freedom experienced by unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents have it pretty hard.

This offseason, for example, two really good restricted free agents have had bad luck on the open market, but it’s hard to blame teams for instead chasing after players that don’t put millions of dollars in limbo for three days when their current employer is likely to match the contract anyway.

For Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe and Detroit’s Greg Monroe, for example, it was always an unspoken reality that the Suns and Pistons would match any offer tendered to them, so nobody made a substantial offer. Then the money dried up, and the home teams only had to bid against themselves. That, naturally, led to offers that neither Bledsoe nor Monroe loved, leaving them without the max contract offer they (and their agents) felt they deserved.

The players don’t really have a whole lot of control when things unfold the way they have. Bledsoe, for example, wants about $40 million more than the Suns are offering, but he’s not going to get that. Monroe was rumored to have been offered a five-year, $60 million deal, but he refuted those rumors himself on Twitter almost as quickly as they leaked out.

“Can’t reject anything that was not offered to me,” Monroe said on the social media site.

And he’s absolutely right. What he can do, however, is take the $5.5 million qualifying offer on the table, play out the 2014-15 season and then test unrestricted free agency next summer, where he’s likely to see a ton of offers for big money. Teams have been clearing space while the salary cap continues to rise. The money’s going to be there for him, especially since courting teams won’t have to worry about that three-day grace period. Monroe is reportedly leaning toward signing for the QO.

The question now is whether Bledsoe will have the gumption to follow Monroe’s lead on this. It is, after all, extremely rare for a player to take the QO rather than the guaranteed money that an extension would provide, but the path for Bledsoe is a little bit stickier. Not only is he less proven than Monroe, but he has a more checkered injury history, and that on its own is more than enough reason for him to cave and take the Kyle Lowry money he’s being offered by the Suns. Even Phoenix’s great training staff can’t guarantee the kid’s health. It’s hard to see him passing up the cash, though it’s certainly not unrealistic for him to take the same route as Monroe.

Only 14 first-round picks since 2003 have chosen to sign a qualifying offer, so to have two high-profile players do it in the same summer would be a pretty big deal.

Monroe is pretty unique in that he’s healthy, young and experienced; he’s also a big man, and all of that paints a very green picture for Monroe, even though he’s going to have to wait to see it painted.

Bledsoe, meanwhile, doesn’t have quite as much going for him. Now let’s see how good his poker face is.

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

NBA Daily: The Winners Of The NBA Draft

Simon Hannig breaks down the winners from Thursday’s 2018 NBA Draft.

Simon Hannig

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The 2018 NBA Draft has come and gone, and although many teams have improved coming out of this loaded draft, five teams seemed to have walked away as the biggest winners.

The Phoenix Suns Got Their Guy

The Suns made a couple of splashes in the draft, selecting DeAndre Ayton with the first overall pick.

The Suns then drafted Zhaire Smith, but later traded his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for Mikal Bridges.

In the second round of the draft, Phoenix selected Frenchman Elie Okobo and George King from Colorado, each of whom should be able to contribute right away. Ayton should be the starting center come opening night and Bridges could also start for the team immediately. If not, Bridges will be a valuable weapon coming off the bench for a team who is trying to win games and get back into the playoffs.

Does Mo Bamba Have The (Orlando) Magic?

The Orlando Magic got a stud in Mo Bamba, whom they surprisingly selected with the sixth overall pick in the draft. They later drafted Melvin Frazier in the second round. It was a bit surprising that the Tulane product lasted that long, but the Magic benefitted.

Orlando got a player who can contribute right away and could compete for a starting job. Frazier is a great rebounder and defender and could change the team’s defense all by himself. The club now has two young core pieces they can build around in Jonathan Isaac and Bamba and a young contributor in Frazier.

Although the team’s offense will likely be work in progress, they can be very scary on the defensive end.

Now, we’ll all wait to see if Bamba, the New York product, can carry the Magic back to respectability.

Atlanta Hawks Will Let It Fly

After drafting Luka Doncic with the third overall pick, the Hawks ended up sending him to Dallas in exchange for Trae Young and a future protected first round pick. The pick is top-five protected the next two years, top-three protected in 2021 and 2022 and unprotected in 2023, according to Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.

With their second first round pick, the Hawks took sharpshooter Kevin Huerter from Maryland and, with the 30th overall pick, selected Omari Spellman from Villanova.

Atlanta appears to building themselves in the way of the Warriors, getting sharpshooters in Young and Huerter. It is no surprise they are doing this as their current general manager, Travis Schlenk, worked with Golden State before taking the job with the Hawks.

The Rich Got Richer In Boston

The Celtics once again got a steal in the draft, as they were the beneficiaries as it relates to Robert Williams from Texas A&M. He is an athletic big man who plays great defense and rebounds the ball very well. Williams has lottery talent but ended up falling to the Celtics, who selected him with the 27th pick of the draft.

Williams averaged 2.5 blocks per game at Texas and should also be able to provide second chance opportunities for the team. Williams, as he averaged three offensive rebounds per game in college.

Luka Doncic Found A Good Home

The Dallas Mavericks walked away from the 2018 NBA Draft with two foundational pieces in tow, Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic. Their other moves were also tremendous, as they drafted Jalen Brunson from Villanova, acquired Ray Spalding from Louisville in a trade with the Sixers and drafted Kostas Antetokounmpo (Giannis’ younger brother) with the last piece in the draft.

For Mark Cuban, it may take time to develop the pieces, but if things could go well, the Mavs might have some productive years ahead.

Doncic was thought to be one of, if not the best player available in the draft, so getting him at the expense of a protected future first round pick seems like a fair trade. Depending on how ready he is to contribute at the NBA level, the sky could be the limit.

Of course, every year, there are surprises. Some good, and some bad. However, walking away from the 2018 NBA Draft, these five teams all appear to have improved themselves immensely.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

NBA Draft Night Trades

David Yapkowitz breaks down the trades that took place during the 2018 NBA Draft.

David Yapkowitz

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Another NBA Draft has come and gone. With rumors swirling all week about possible pick/player movement, the night remained relatively uneventful. There were a few trades that occurred, however. Here’s a quick breakdown of the movement that happened on draft night.

1. Atlanta Hawks/Dallas Mavericks

The Hawks and Mavericks completed the first trade of the night early on in the draft. Leading up to the draft, there were questions about how high Luka Doncic was going to be drafted. It was widely assumed that he wouldn’t slip past Dallas at No. 5. The Mavericks weren’t going to take that chance as the Hawks drafted Doncic with the intention of trading him to Dallas for Trae Young.

Both teams ultimately get what they need. It’s been reported that the Hawks might move on from Dennis Schroder this summer and they’ll need a point guard to replace him. Young is an explosive scorer who will fit in nicely with Atlanta’s rebuild. He can score from anywhere on the court and he’s a great playmaker as well.

For the Mavericks, they get a guy to add to their own young core with Dennis Smith Jr. and Harrison Barnes. Doncic has the size to play next to Smith in the backcourt. He’s quite possibly the best playmaker in the draft with a solid offensive game as well.

2. Charlotte Hornets/Los Angeles Clippers

The Hornets and Clippers consummated the second move the night by swapping their own draft picks. The Hornets took Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with the 11th pick and then immediately traded him to the Clippers for Miles Bridges, whom Los Angeles selected at No. 12.

For the Hornets, they get a guy who can play both forward positions. Bridges is more of a small forward but in small ball lineups, he can slide over to the four. Offensively he is at his best when he puts the ball on the floor and attacks the rim. He’s a decent shooter too.

The Clippers get a point guard who was rumored to climbing up many draft boards as the night approached. Gilgeous-Alexander is a solid pick for them provided both Patrick Beverly and Milos Teodosic’ injury history. He can also play off the ball if need be. He’s got the physical tools to be a very good defender at the NBA level. It’s not at all far-fetched to imagine him as the future long-term starting point guard for the Clippers.

The Hornets also got two future second-round picks from the Clippers.

3. Philadelphia 76ers/Phoenix Suns

The Sixers and the Suns had the next move of draft night, also swapping their picks. The Sixers selected hometown hero Mikal Bridges with the No. 10 pick and later traded him to the Suns for the No. 16 pick, Zhaire Smith.

Bridges made a lot of sense for the Sixers. Not only is he a local guy, but his mother works for the team as well. He was a talented player who fit their team. He gave a post-draft press conference raving about being a Sixer all the while he had been traded already. But such is life in the NBA. Instead, Phoenix gets a guy that’s ready to contribute in the NBA right away. He’s the prototypical 3&D type guy.

For the Sixers, Zhaire Smith is another guy who was steadily climbing the boards in the days leading up to the draft. He’s a very athletic prospect with good defensive instincts. He probably won’t play much right away, but he does have the potential to end up being one of the better rotation players in this draft.

The Sixers also get a 2021 first-round pick from the Suns via the Miami Heat. It’s highly likely this ends up being a lottery pick and thus giving the Sixers the chance to add a high-end talent to an already potent group.

4. Second-Round moves

There are a few second-round moves that were made as well.

For one, the Hawks selected Devonte Graham with the 34th pick and traded him to the Hornets for two future second-round picks. Graham is another NBA ready guy who can come in and immediately contend for backup point guard minutes behind Kemba Walker.

The Sixers were involved in another deal sending the No. 38 pick Khyri Thomas to the Detroit Pistons for two future second-round picks. Thomas is a player that many projected to go in the first round. For a team that didn’t have a first-round pick coming into the night, the Pistons essentially picked one up. It’s possible he turns out better than Detroit’s most recent first-rounders Henry Ellenson and Luke Kennard.

The Sacramento Kings drafted Gary Trent Jr. with the 37th pick only to trade him to the Portland Trail Blazers for two future second-round picks. Trent was one of the better shooters in the draft and that’s what he projects to the be in the NBA. He’s probably a few years away from earning a spot in the rotation but he was also a possible first-round pick. He’s more NBA ready than Anfernee Simons who the Blazers took in the first-round.

The Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets swapped second-round picks with the Magic sending the No. 41 pick Jarred Vanderbilt to the Nuggets for the No. 43 pick Justin Jackson and a future second-round pick. Vanderbilt is a project in every sense of the word. He’s extremely raw and probably needed more time in college. But he’s got long-term potential and could pay off in the future. Jackson, on the other hand, was possibly a first-round talent had he entered the draft last year. He’s going to have to make the roster but could be a 3&D guy.

In the final move of the night, the Hornets traded the No. 45 pick Hamidou Diallo to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Diallo is a guy that had he come out last year, probably would’ve been a first-round guy. In any case, he is also very raw and will need seasoning in the G-League. He’s got all the physical tools and skill to be a good rotation NBA player.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

#28 – Jacob Evans – Golden State Warriors

Jesse Blancarte

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With the 28th overall pick, the Golden State Warriors selected Cincinnati Junior Jacob Evans.

Evans represents a solid pick for nearly any NBA team. Evans fits in the mold of a potential 3-and-D role player. Evans improved in his time at Cincinnati, culminating in his junior year, where he scored 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Evans spent three seasons at Cincinnati and rounded himself into a versatile two-way player who can bring a lot of value at the NBA level.

Evans is a very cognitive player, especially on the defensive end. He has a better grasp of his limitations than most players at this stage of their respective careers and is able to maximize his individual defensive ability within a team concept. Evans generally makes the right rotations, double-teams at the right times and funnels his opponents to where his teammates are when he cannot contain the ball-handler on his own. With the right coaching, he could become a valuable defensive wing in an NBA rotation sooner than some anticipate.

Additionally, Evans is more than just a shooter. He led his team in assists last season and has some skill as a playmaker. Evans will be more of a shooter and finisher in the NBA, but the ability to make the right pass, swing the ball when he isn’t open and take the ball off the dribble when necessary make him an intriguing prospect. This is especially true when you consider how valuable a player like Khris Middleton has become over the years, adding layers to his 3-and-D skill set each season.

The Warriors aren’t in need of an influx of talent but are happy to add Evans regardless.

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