For two decades, Gabrielle Union has been entertaining us with her acting in over 70 films and television shows. Recently, she has also found her way into our homes through social media, developing a huge following on Instagram (6.5 million followers), Twitter (3.12 million followers) and Snapchat, where she gives daily glimpses of her life to a similarly large audience.
Union is currently starring in Being Mary Jane, a hit show about a television news anchor and all aspects of her life. For her role as Mary Jane Paul, Union won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special. She is also set to appear in upcoming films such as The Birth of a Nation, Almost Christmas and Sleepless.
Despite her impressive success, Union might be best known among NBA fans as the wife of perennial All-Star Dwyane Wade. Union is a huge sports fan – she grew up in a family that was obsessed with Nebraska Cornhuskers football – and she shares her opinions on social media quite often. Now, in addition to focusing on her busy career, Union will be moving to the Windy City as Wade makes the transition from the Miami Heat to the Chicago Bulls.
Basketball Insiders recently caught up with Union to discuss her career, activism, social media dominance, the move to Chicago, her reaction to Wade leaving Miami and much more.
Alex Kennedy: You earned a degree in sociology and did a number of things before turning to acting. When did you realize that you wanted to be an actor and start looking at that as a full-time career?
Gabrielle Union: “When I made money (laughs). It wasn’t for the love of it initially, it seemed like a great way to delay adulthood for a while. I started while I was still in college. I kind of always looked at it like, ‘Well, I could always go to law school.’ That was my plan back then. But I was making $6.60 as the book buy back supervisor at UCLA, so I thought, ‘Let’s see if I can make more than that!’ And pretty quickly, I was like, ‘Ah, I can make a living doing this.’ So I never looked back. But even in the back of my mind, I always had that thought of, ‘If I don’t love this or I’m broke, I can still go to law school and carry out the rest of my initial plan.’”
Kennedy: Growing up, who were some of your favorite actors? Since you weren’t in love with acting at a young age or thinking of pursuing that career, I’m sure you weren’t looking up to certain actors or studying them or anything. But still, who were some actors you enjoyed when you were younger?
Union: “Yeah, I definitely wasn’t looking at acting like, ‘I love Meryl Streep. As a child, I watched Helen Mirren and took notes.’ I never looked at it that deep. I’d probably say Eddie Murphy because I liked his movies (laughs). Oh, and Vivica Fox had a guest-starring role on 90210 and that was big for black girls who wanted to see themselves reflected onscreen. Having Vivica on my favorite show was huge. But I definitely wasn’t looking at acting or actors like, ‘Wow, that was a great scene!’ (laughs) I just wasn’t looking at movies or shows in that kind of way.”
Kennedy: Who are some of the actors that have mentored you and helped you improve your craft?
Union: “Jennifer Lewis, right off the bat. Jennifer has been amazing. She just wasn’t interested in watching me, or any of the other actresses she’s mentored over the years, fail. In our town, it can be a little cutthroat and some people take joy in other people failing. But she’s just not one of those people. Tisha Campbell and Tichina Arnold have been really helpful and not just on the acting side, but also on the business of Hollywood and how it can kind of take an emotional toll on you. If people aren’t looking out for you, you can kind of lose your way in a number of different ways. Regina King is awesome. Having her directing episodes of Being Mary Jane now is great because we’ve been friends for a long time and she has looked out for me for so many years. I’ve been lucky to have those ladies.”
Kennedy: Speaking of Being Mary Jane, it has become a huge success. Congratulations on that. What has it been like to dive into that role and how rewarding has it been to see it take off the way it has?
Union: “Normally, we don’t see characters where we get to see 360 degrees of their life. You see them at work or you see them at home with their friends or spouse. But it’s rare that you get to see every angle of their life. What I love about Being Mary Jane is that you see her at work being that boss bitch. Then, you see her on the toilet. I like the fact that you see her masturbating and sexually free. I love that she doesn’t have the best, easiest relationship with her family. The family dynamic is complicated. She’s just so interesting and she’s definitely someone I would want to know. I’d want to sit next to her at a bar or sit next to at the airport during a delay. She fascinates me and I enjoy her. And I’m glad other people enjoy her as well.”
Kennedy: I think with your activism, positivity and the way you use your platform, you’ve become a role model for a lot of people. What is it like to have that kind of support and know you could be positively influencing the next generation?
Union: “Hmm. Well, it’s nice to have a voice. For so long, women have been silenced. Black women, women of color, have been silenced. It’s nice to have the respect of people and be respected because you opt to use your voice in a positive kind of way. It just feels nice and it’s humbling. But it’s sort of doing the right thing and being patted on the back for it. I feel like, ‘We’re all supposed to be doing this, but thank you! I appreciate it!’ Some say ‘role model,’ some would say ‘decent human being.’ But I’ll take either (laughs).”
Kennedy: One way that you reach that next generation is through social media. You have a huge following on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat among others. What’s been the key to building your social media following and how nice is it to have that huge platform to reach your fans?
Union: “I can only go based on comments and feedback, but I seem to be pretty cool (laughs). I just try to be entertaining. There are a lot of Snapchat [accounts] that I just scroll through where I’m like, ‘Okay, I can’t unfollow you because you’ll know when you try to chat me, but you’re just not that interesting.’ Like, me watching you lip sync isn’t that entertaining. I’d rather watch you sing badly. So I thought, ‘Maybe people would like to watch my bad singing!’ So I bad sing a lot. I joke with D [Dwyane Wade] a lot. I don’t know, I just try to be as normal as I can be, but interesting at the same time. If I can give me a chuckle, I’ll try to do that too. It seems like people have responded to that!”
Kennedy: You’ve done a ton of great work, but I’ve seen in interviews where you’ve said that Bring It On boosted your career to that next level and sort of made you a mainstream name. What was it like becoming a household name and having all of that attention come your way?
Union: “I think initially it just feels really good. Initially. Then, it can feel weird and I think everyone is changed by it in some kind of way. It’s a bizarre thing at times. Because sometimes I just want to sit in a sports bar and have a beer. And if someone is looking, in my head I’ll be thinking, ‘Why are they looking?’ I immediately think there’s a booger in my nose because why else would you be looking at me? (laughs) It doesn’t quite compute, at least for me and my friends in Hollywood. Once it gets to be normal, that’s when you know you’ve lost your mind. I’m glad for 20-plus years, it’s felt a little weird. But on the positive side, it just lets you know that people have seen your work and taken something away. And not all of the stares are positive. Provided that people respect your space and safety, it’s pretty cool.
“One time, I was with my girl who played a character that had some questionable things. We were in Miami in a club and this girl slapped the piss out of her. She yelled, ‘Why did you go with that white boy?’ And I know her boyfriend and I’m like, ‘Huh? I know her boyfriend and he’s a large black man.’ But she called her by the character’s name, and the character was dating interracially and this woman hated it. So she slapped the crapp out of her. That was like, ‘Oh my God.’ It makes you realize that there are some people who don’t know reality from fiction and that’s frightening. That was the first taste I’ve ever gotten where it was like, ‘Oh shit,’ and you see the downside of that attention. As much as I love playing questionable characters, some people take it to a scary point when they don’t realize it’s fantasy. A lot of people think you are your character. For years after Deliver Us from Eva, people would come up and be like, ‘Wow, I didn’t think you’d be nice! You play these bitchy characters so well!’ But they’re characters! Sometimes people forget that.”
Kennedy: Are there any actors that you haven’t worked with that you’d like to work alongside in the future?
Union: “There are many. Meryl Streep, Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster. Also, this new girl who was in Chi-Raq, Teyonah Parris – she is just super talented. Zoë Kravitz is another. I could just name a thousand because there are so many great actors. And now with cable and web series and things like that, there are so many avenues for people to express their art. You don’t have to wait for somebody to give you your big break; you can create your own. A lot more people are [getting] the opportunity to be seen. Also, there are a thousand actors I’d love to work with whose names I don’t know, but I love their work. I’m like that weirdo in L.A. who will creep up at them in CVS and be like, ‘I LOVED YOU IN RAY DONOVAN.’ I’m a creeper. But yeah, there are so many to name.”
Kennedy: In a 2008 interview, you talked about the lack of roles for black men and women and I think that’s a really important topic. Eight years later, do you feel like there has been progress made on that issue?
Union: “We’ve seen more progress in TV, for sure, and it’s hard to just focus on the roles for black women when there are so many women of color who are way worse off than I. So I’ll open [my quote] up to all opportunities for all women of color, in front of and behind the camera. It’s improving, but we’re nowhere close to being a real representation of the way the world looks. We just aren’t. I think the more inclusive the people who run the studios and networks – the people who greenlight projects – then the more inclusive the casts and directors and producers and writers will be. We need to think it holistically as opposed to just casting, because there are so many levels in which people of color are grossly underrepresented.”
Kennedy: I’m sure you’re used to criticism due to your career, but sports fans can be pretty insane. Maybe not slap-your-friend crazy, but I’m curious if you’ve had to deal with criticism from rival fans and crazy people online since marrying Dwyane?
Union: “Never in person. Ever. I’ve gone on the road a few times to games and you never know how opposing fans will be. But it’s really been kind of a lovefest in person. I think it goes to show that when people have the chance to say something to your face, they opt for kindness. Perhaps the anonymity of social media [lends itself to the negativity]. I mean, I rarely get criticism from people who use their own name in their Twitter handle. It’s usually an egg or some nonsensical name. Very rarely is it normal people like Allen Smith from Pittsburgh. No, it’s generally egg haters. And when I do get it, I retweet it with something funny attached. Or I’ll be like, ‘Mom, is this you?’ I don’t take online hate that seriously, unless it crosses a line. What I’ve seen my female sportswriter and sportscaster friends endure is not even sane. Nobody has threatened to rape me or kill me or both. I don’t get that kind of crazy negativity that a lot of women I know in sports get.”
Kennedy: It’s sickening. I’ve seen what women like Jessica Camerato, Kristen Ledlow, Rachel Nichols, Ramona Shelburne and others have to deal with in their mentions and it’s disturbing.
Union: “Cari Champion and Jemele Hill are good friends of mine and they’ll get everything all of the other women get plus a dose of racism as well. It’s the vilest shit I’ve ever seen or heard. It’s insane. So, no, I don’t get it to that degree. I don’t even get the same stuff that fans have given Ayesha Curry, which is vile and gross. It’s insane.”
Kennedy: You brought up Ayesha and that kind of leads to my next question about the wives of NBA players. What are some misconceptions about being an NBA player’s wife?
Union: “I think there are some stereotypes, but I mean some people live out those stereotypes (laughs). I do think there’s this idea that we’re all the same though. If one person opts to speak out, they’re a sinner; if one person opts to stay quiet, they’re a sinner. There’s the idea that everyone is a dim gold-digger who is just in it for a buck. Women who are married to professional athletes get a bad rap.”
Kennedy: It’s weird to me that you’re all grouped together and people make so many generalizations.
Union: “Right, it’s like saying, ‘All men are like this. All women are like that.’ There’s so much diversity within the wives of athletes. There’s just an enormous amount of diversity. I could go through so many stereotypes, but I’d just like for people to know that there are lovely, intelligent, amazing women who happen to be married to an athlete. And being married to an athlete isn’t the most interesting thing about them. You have to actually get to know people beyond, ‘Oh, this is Dwyane Wade……. and his wife.’ A lot of people will dismiss you, or act like just marrying this guy was some accomplishment. No, that’s not an accomplishment. Having a successful marriage is an accomplishment. I don’t liken getting down the aisle with graduating from UCLA (laughs). We didn’t luck out or hit the jackpot. D and I happen to be each other’s best friend, so we lucked out in that sense. But him being in the NBA or me having a job and my own money, that wasn’t a major selling point. Well, I guess you’d have to ask him (laughs). I’d like to think that it wasn’t a major selling point. There’s just a lot more to us than the stereotypes or the reality shows.
“Also, this idea that women can’t formulate their own ideas when it comes to sports is the biggest load of shit I’ve ever heard. If I tweet something about sports, sometimes people will say something like, ‘Okay, Dwyane can hand the phone back now.’ The thought that we aren’t watching the same games as everyone else, the thought we aren’t capable of having sports knowledge or having a high sports IQ is absurd. The idea that we’re somehow speaking for our husbands or saying things that they wish they could say is insane. If I’m at the game, then nobody is freaking telling me what to say, obviously. I’m from Nebraska, where if you don’t know Cornhuskers football, it’s preferred that you just don’t speak. I come from the kind of family where you have to know sports. So my opinions are based on facts, not just willy-nilly like, ‘Oh, I like this guy better than that guy or this team better than that team.’ I’m pretty honest and reasonable as it pertains to anything, including sports.
“And this idea that, ‘Women need to stay in their own lane’? Get the fuck out of here with that. My lane is whatever the fuck I want it to be. How about that? For myself – and I’d imagine any other wife of an NBA player – I’m watching at least 82 games each season. Even if I didn’t have any sports knowledge, by the end of 82 games, I probably would’ve developed an opinion! I probably would’ve been able to see patterns! I probably would’ve been able to spot tendencies. From that alone, I’d be able to put together a 140-character tweet!”
Kennedy: It pisses me off that you have to deal with that kind of stuff.
Union: “Yeah, and it pisses me off that [Stephen Curry’s wife] Ayesha has to deal with this stuff. And it pisses me off that people have ‘decided’ who [LeBron James’ wife] Savannah [Brinson] is just because she opts to not be heavily involved with social media. Whether or not you use social media doesn’t define your soul! You know what I mean? There are dope, cool, amazing mothers and businesswomen – let them live! But this idea that your tweets define who you are or that your lack of tweets define who are is insane. And for people who say that ‘a woman should know her place,’ stop it. Stop. It. My place is where I determine it to be. If I opt to use my voice, good! If I opt not to use my voice, that’s okay too!”
Kennedy: Dwyane obviously surprised people this offseason by joining the Bulls. How much are you looking forward to the move to Chicago and the new opportunity for Dwyane and the family?
Union: “It was shocking. There’s no way around that word. It takes some getting used to. We had just built our dream home in Miami and everyone sort of had their life in Miami so it’s big move for everyone. We all love Miami so much and Miami will still be one of our homes. For Chicago, I think the biggest thing for everyone was winter. There was the fear of winter. It was like Game of Thrones, ‘WINTER IS COMING!’ (laughs) Once we moved on from that, we just found our home and we got the boys in school, it was good. We were afraid because we were thinking, ‘Oh, the boys are about to start high school and how is that going to work?’ And they were, by far, the most eager [to move]. They’re like, ‘Ah! Cool, let’s go!’ As long as they got to keep their South Florida AAU team, they were cool with it. Everyone is just kind of jumping in. We can either dip our toe into the pool or cannon-ball and we’re cannon-balling. I think they like that they got to practice at the Bulls’ facility too. They love it, they’re excited. The first month was cool; hit me back later and we’ll see if they still love it (laughs). No, we’re all really excited.”
Kennedy: You mentioned the dream home in Miami and Dwyane obviously had a ton of history there. When did you start to realize that Dwyane leaving Miami was a possibility?
Union: “Even when we were on vacation, I think me and everyone just kind of assumed [we’d be back]. Like, ‘It looks kind of bleak right now, but they’ll work it out. They always work it out! They’ll work it out.’ It probably wasn’t until Denver’s offer came in that I realized. That offer was… a lot. Then there was another offer and another offer and another offer. And it was like, ‘Oh wait, hold on. Are you thinking about this?’ I mean, how can you not? When there’s an offer on the table that is, what, $13-15 million more than to stay home, it’s like, ‘Wow. Okay. Wow.’ But even still I thought, ‘I’m sure they’ll figure it out. They’ll figure it out!’ Really, even down to the hour that he made his decision, I just thought they’d work it out – like everyone else thought. But Chicago made the moves necessary to make his offer work. He didn’t go with the most money. Some people are saying it was just about money, but he would’ve taken Denver’s offer if that was the case. Denver’s offer was a lot, a lot – considerably more than even Chicago’s offer. It was just about finding a place where he’s comfortable, and he’s comfortable at home. Then, the rest of us had to get comfortable with it (laughs). It just seemed like after the season he had and then the postseason, he was just so excited – more so about his body and his health and that he was able to take his game to a different gear. Moving was the last thing on his mind, but yeah…”
Kennedy: You know Dwyane better than anyone. How determined is he to make this work in Chicago and silence his critics who are doubting him and the team?
Union: “I think more than making it work to silence the critics, he wants to put himself in a position physically, health-wise, to continue playing at a high level. That’s very important. Getting to know Jimmy [Butler] and [Rajon] Rondo is very important. But they haven’t even played together yet, so I don’t know where the criticism is coming from. You have Jimmy, who is an up-and-coming star and on the Olympic team. You have Rondo, who led the league in assists. I don’t know how a guy leads the league in assists and is an assist machine, but somehow gets no credit. You have my husband, who is already top five in shooting guards in the last two years in the NBA, but if you factor in what he accomplished and the amount of minutes he played, he’s one of the most efficient players in the league. What is there to criticize? But I get it. Everyone needs page views and things like that, and criticism does a lot better than raving endorsements so I get the business of criticism. But it’s kind of absurd. Now, if a few months in around the All-Star break it looks nuts, then, by all means, criticize! (laughs) But to criticize how it’ll work when these guys haven’t played together is just insane, in the same way that anointing the Warriors champions for adding KD. It’s like when the Big Three came together in Miami. Everyone was like, ‘Ugh, they’re going to win it all. Change the rules! We have to stopppp thissss!’ Cut to different teams winning championships. I mean, the Warriors have to get used to this because they haven’t all played together. Even in the Olympics, where you have three of them, it’s still not the whole team. They need time to get to know each other, to gel, to figure out the system and how it works with all of these moving parts.
“It’s all exciting though. I think the Warriors are exciting. Just like I think the trio of Jimmy, Rondo and D is exciting. I think Carmelo [Anthony] D-Rose, Joakim [Noah] and Kristaps [Porzingis] in New York is exciting. Seeing how the Spurs will do without Timmy [Duncan] is exciting. There are a lot of great storylines. To critique now is the lowest-hanging fruit. I’d rather err on the side of excitement.”
NBA Draft Watch: Storylines Heading into Thursday’s Draft
With the NBA Draft just one day away, there is plenty of uncertainty on how things will play out, writes Dennis Chambers.
From now until the conclusion of Thursday night’s NBA draft the landscape is subject to shift and evolve at a moment’s notice.
As of right now, the only thing that we can be most certain about is DeAndre Ayton going first overall to the Phoenix Suns. After that, it’s basically a crapshoot in regards to what might go down.
With media day commencing in New York City on Wednesday, the players that will be present during the draft’s greenroom got the chance to address the droves of media from all over the land about where they might end up, how they might fit in those places, and a few off-the-cuff questions thrown in here and there.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding the league and their selection extravaganza on Thursday night, many people who are usually in the know this time of year seem to be approaching the event erring on the side of caution, more so than in years past.
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer echoed that feeling Wednesday afternoon.
The sense I get from chatting with executives and agents is there's far more uncertainty entering the NBA Draft than usual. So many teams are open to moving up, down or out. No consensus outside the lottery. It's gonna be absolute chaos. I'm pumped and jacked for it.
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) June 20, 2018
One of the large looming clouds heading into draft night is the Kawhi Leonard situation. As it stands, Leonard appears to want out of his relationship with the San Antonio Spurs and would prefer to wind up in Los Angeles, with an emphasis on the Lakers being his new employer.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard met with Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich on Tuesday night in order to discuss the situation between San Antonio and their franchise player.
While Wojnarowski has also reported that the Spurs are in no rush to move Leonard, draft night could potentially serve as a motivator in the opposite direction should Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford receive a tempting offer that involves some draft capital. With the likes of the Philadelphia 76ers reportedly interested in acquiring Leonard, on the clock with the 10th overall pick, perhaps they can entice the Spurs into sending their star forward packing.
Regardless of if Leonard is traded Thursday night or not, there were certainly be many eyes on his situation over the next 24-plus hours.
Up until about the time a player is selected by their new club, the situation for drafting remains fairly fluid. When the basketball community congregates to New York the day before the event, rumors and confirmation of shifting ideals begin to flourish.
With a lot of the players in this year’s lottery surounded by reasonable question marks, we may see last-minute rising and falling of the prospected hierarchy in prospects. Michael Porter Jr., with questions surrounding his health, and Trae Young having questions about his slight frame and defensive capability, seem to be two subjects of that shuffling just a day before the Thursday night festivities.
Latest buzz: Hearing Michael Porter and Trae Young are both falling, and that even Knicks could pass on Young at 9. Meanwhile Wendell Carter is gaining steam, strong candidate to go in 4-7 range.
— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) June 20, 2018
Conversely, the final moments leading up to the time to make a selection, teams can shuffle their opinion based off of their need to bring in star power possibilities — especially high up in the lottery.
Real Madrid star Luka Doncic has been the subject for criticism throughout this year’s draft process. While the 19-year-old has posted some of the best numbers for a player his age in the ACB and Euroleague, NBA evaluators are rightfully questioning if his athleticism can hold up in the league.
Originally figured to slip past the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks, who hold the second and third overall picks, respectively, Doncic appears to be gaining last-minute steam within the ranks of the Georgia-based basketball club.
Luka Doncic has moved to forefront of Atlanta's internal conversation on the third overall pick in Thursday's NBA Draft, league sources tell ESPN. Michigan State's Jaren Jackson and Duke's Marvin Bagley (if Kings pass on Bagley at No. 2) remain in contention for No. 3.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 20, 2018
Even though prospects are surfacing Wednesday in the Big Apple to meet and greet with reporters, and get settled for their big moment on Thursday night, some teams and correlating players are having final sit-downs to profess their admiration for each other.
More specifically, New York native and projected high-end lottery pick, Mo Bamba, reportedly met with his hometown Knicks on Wednesday. Corresponding reports tell the story that the Knicks are exploring the option to trade up in the draft, in hopes to acquire a franchise-caliber center to put alongside Kristaps Porzingis.
Members of the Knicks organization met in-person with Texas’ Mohamed Bamba in New York today, team sources told ESPN. The meeting is an indication that the Knicks are considering trading up from the No. 9 pick. Bamba is projected as the fifth pick in ESPN's latest mock draft.
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) June 20, 2018
DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony added context to further confirm the Knicks’ hope of scoring their first franchise center since Patrick Ewing roamed Madison Square Garden.
Ian's report is accurate. The Knicks are reportedly exploring the option of trading up to the #4 spot in the draft, currently owned by Memphis. The Grizzlies have been adamant about shedding Chandler Parsons' contract in any deal. https://t.co/z4Yp0w6hfq
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 20, 2018
Whatever does wind up happening Thursday night, those watching can be assured that this year’s NBA Draft will contain the necessary amount of chaos to continue the conversation throughout the league while free agency quickly approaches.
Although, if you were anticipating being able to see those draft picks come in a few minutes early on Twitter like in years past, think again.
A source tells AA that ESPN, Turner Sports and Yahoo reporters all won't tip picks at Thursday's NBA Draft. The NBA says they expressed a no-pick-tipping "preference" to their media partners, but claims each organization made its own call. https://t.co/rySL02Nig1
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) June 20, 2018
It looks like those draft night Wojbombs will be reserved for any unforeseen trades, and not who your favorite team will be picking 10 minutes later.
Either way, embrace the insanity. Draft night is upon us.
NBA Daily: What is Cleveland’s Next Move?
Plenty has been made about where LeBron goes this summer, but not much has been made about what Cleveland will do if he leaves.
Usually, when you make the NBA Finals, it’s a good thing. Especially if it was the fourth consecutive time you’ve made it.
For Cleveland though, this season, which would have been deemed a success in any other case, was overshadowed by what can only be compared to a hostage situation. Many speculated that this season was going to be LeBron James’ last as a Cavalier, as rumor had it since last summer that he already has his eyes on his next team.
So the pressure was on in Cleveland, to say the least. They did everything to accommodate LeBron given how shaky the circumstances were. From shipping disgruntled star Kyrie Irving out of town to trading half the team mid-season, this past season has been a bumpy ride. In spite of all the hardship, Cleveland managed to make it to the Finals anyway.
Still, it wasn’t enough. For Cleveland to have a realistic chance at re-signing LeBron this summer, they had to beat Golden State, which wasn’t in the cards. The Cavs may have gotten to the Finals, but the Warriors predictably took them out all too quickly.
All in all, the Cavaliers were so close, and yet so far.
That brings us to now. LeBron’s going to test the free agency waters again. Cleveland will certainly do what they can to bring the King back for another season, and for all we know, LeBron could return to Cleveland, but the odds aren’t in their favor.
Cleveland has to deal with the very real possibility that LeBron will leave this summer, because if and when he does, that leaves the current roster in a flux. Without LeBron, Captain Obvious says that Cleveland’s not going anywhere near the Finals and could also see themselves on the outside of the playoff picture. All signs point to it being time to rebuild, but how exactly do they approach the re-building stage?
It all starts with the Nets pick.
No matter what you think of how Cleveland did when they shuffled half their roster around at the trade deadline, one thing should be universally agreed upon: They made the right move not trading the Nets pick they acquired from the Celtics for Kyrie Irving.
It’s true that the Nets pick this season didn’t pan out as well for the Cavaliers as it had for the Celtics over the last two seasons, but it still wound up being the eighth overall pick in a loaded draft. A valuable asset like that should only be traded for someone who puts you over the top and going to stay long-term. With all apologies to any star who was rumored to be on the market back in February, the Cavs didn’t have that option.
So now, Cleveland has the eighth overall pick, and it’s clear who they should take: The best player available. No matter who that is, the best player available for a team that is most likely starting from scratch is the best option.
Of course, the simpler way of getting young talent is by getting it through the lottery. Getting that Brooklyn pick in the Kyrie Irving deal was a great failsafe for if and when LeBron skips town.
Next is addressing who should be traded.
Cleveland’s uncertain draft pick situation from now until 2020 should also push them towards a rebuild. The team traded their first-round pick this year to the Lakers at the deadline when they acquired Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. Next year, they will have to forfeit their first-round pick to the Hawks if they finish outside of the bottom ten. Those protections will roll over to the next year if the Cavs finish in the bottom ten.
Given that the roster isn’t all that impressive outside of LeBron, that would be the best way to go. While the Cavaliers aren’t going to get any value out of Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, and Jordan Clarkson, there are two players who definitely could: Kevin Love and George Hill.
Let’s start with Love. Love will not get back the same value that Cleveland gave up to acquire him, but he’s still a proven commodity at 29 years old who should fetch something back if Cleveland decides to trade him. Love has made the All-Star team over his last two seasons and has done all that Cleveland has asked of him since being traded to the team back in 2014, like him or not.
How much he can fetch back is another story. Rumor has it that the Cavs have dangled Love along with the Nets pick for a star, but no one has bitten on it. Love won’t fetch a star, but he could fetch young assets from a team looking to make a win-now move. He won’t bring back a King’s ransom, but he can bring back something.
Then there’s Hill. If Hill has any interested parties this summer, it may stem from his contract rather than his services. Hill will be on the books for $19 million next season, but the following season, his contract is only guaranteed for $1 million. Now, Cleveland could just wait until next year then waive him, and no one would fault them for that. It would heavily reduce the payroll for a team that, even without LeBron James, is playing with fire with the luxury tax this summer.
Or, they could get an asset(s) out of him. Teams that may want to avoid the luxury tax next year or go after a marquee free agent would salivate for a contract like Hill’s. If the Cavs play their cards right, they could sell Hill’s contract to the highest bidder.
Whether or not they keep Hill will all depend on how Cleveland sees its roster’s future. The team still has Rodney Hood’s restricted free agency this summer, and the team reportedly hopes to keep Nance Jr long-term. If avoiding the luxury tax is what they want more than anything during the rebuild, then keeping Hill is the best option.
That transitions to the final aspect of Cleveland’s potential rebuild: Organizing the roster for the foreseeable future. Cleveland is not completely devoid of youth. They have Hood, Nance Jr., Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, and even Clarkson, all of whom are young and may have their best days ahead of them. Hood and Clarkson did not pan out well in their half-season in Cleveland, but perhaps that could change if they’re put in the right situation.
It all starts with coaching. Tyronn Lue has done what he can since taking over as head coach in 2016. However, Lue was made head coach because that’s who LeBron wanted running the show. With the King out of the picture, perhaps it might be best to replace Lue with a coach better-suited to nurture youth.
One such name that comes to mind is David Blatt, who has worked with Zizic. Blatt was originally hired in 2014 because of his reputation as a developmental coach, but once LeBron came back, he and Blatt’s tense relationship led to Blatt’s firing half-way through his second season. If LeBron doesn’t return to the team, Blatt could use the strategy he planned to implement when he first arrived.
That is just one idea. The Cavs could keep Lue or they could look at other options, but Blatt would be intriguing. Skeptics would question why Cleveland would bring him back after such a bitter break-up not too long ago, but consider this: The Cavs hired Mike Brown back three years after firing him following the end of LeBron’s first run in Cleveland, so anything is possible.
Re-building is a bridge that Cleveland will have to cross when they come to it. Koby Altman must have known that it was a possibility when he took the reins as general manager last year. The situation he’s found himself in isn’t as hopeless as many have pegged it out to be, but the young GM will have plenty of work to do this summer.
2018 NBA Consensus Mock Draft – Final
For the last eight weeks, four of Basketball Insiders’ experts have offered up their views on the 2018 NBA Draft, here is their Final 60-pick Consensus.
For the last eight weeks, four of Basketball Insiders’ experts have offered up their views on the 2018 NBA Draft, here is their Final Consensus, with notebooks to follow:
Benny’s Notebook: It’s finally here — whew.
This is our last set of mocks and mine is mostly the same over the first 30 picks. One week after dropping Luka Dončić down, I’m moving him back up to No. 2 with Sacramento. Obviously, Marvin Bagley III appears to be the popular favorite here, but Dončić has just continued to impress during his never-ending season with Real Madrid. Truthfully, the Kings can’t really go wrong here — but Dončić is the type of do-it-all prospect that the franchise could really use moving forward. For now, the jury is out on Willie Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield, and Skal Labissiere but pairing Dončić with De’Aaron Fox feels incredibly shrewd.
Elsewhere, Jerome Robinson has been a late riser and will head into the draft night as a hot topic. The Hawks own three first round picks and walking away with Bagley, Robinson, and Grayson Allen would be a no-doubt success. They’ll have plenty of intriguing options in each slot, so watching how they mix-and-match their selections by position and current roster talent may be one of the draft’s most interesting narratives.
Another team with picks to shuffle around are the Brooklyn Nets — current holders of No. 29, No. 40 and No. 45. While reports have indicated that the Nets would like to move up, it’s tough to see them giving up any future picks after finally leaving the Billy King era behind. Some combination of those picks could see them snag a higher selection, but nominally at best. No matter what picks they end up with, look for general manager Sean Marks to swing for the fences as usual.
Ultimately, a full 60-pick mock will come with some second-round guesswork — but I feel confident about those names included here. As I mentioned last weekend, international players will almost certainly get selected, and I’ve included five of them here: Rodions Kurucs, Isaac Bonga, Issuf Sanon, Arnoldas Kulboka and Tryggvi Hlinason. Embrace the overseas journey!
Moke’s Notebook: We’ve finally arrived at the final mock draft, and there are a few poorly-kept secrets that we can relay with some confidence on the day before the 2018 NBA Draft. First, unless there is a late change of heart, the Phoenix Suns will draft DeAndre Ayton. We have a similar amount of certainty in the Sacramento Kings’ love with Marvin Bagley III, but the draft will basically have two completely separate permutations based on what the Atlanta Hawks opt to do with the third pick. The word on the street is that the Hawks like Trae Young, but are reluctant to take the risk on him at third with so many “can’t miss” prospects available in the top five. Aside from the Hawks infatuation with Young, we also have been led to believe that both the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies covet Luka Doncic. Considering the fact that the Grizzlies have been rumored to be open to trading back, though, it suggests that there isn’t really one prospect for whom they’re head over heels, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Grizzlies actually walk away with Mo Bamba. That second permutation of the draft will likely come to fruition if the Mavs do leapfrog the Grizzlies for Doncic after executing a deal with the Hawks…
Aside from that drama right at the top of the draft, we’ve known for several weeks that the Knicks covet Michael Porter, Jr., and I’ve been led to believe that he and Kevin Knox are the two prospects most likely to wind up as Knicks with Collin Sexton sitting at third on the depth chart.
What’s important to understand about the pre-draft process and the mock drafts that we do is that the entire monthlong process between the Combine and the draft is a period of discovery where teams (as well as us) are consistently getting new information that changes our predictions. And at the end of the day, that’s all these are—predictions. So while we do have a high degree of certainty with respect to which prospects are coveted by which team, one player being drafted much higher than initially thought (keep an eye on Kevin Huerter and Wendell Carter, each of whom have lottery-busting potential) or one slipping (I’ve heard that Trae Young or Michael Porter could fall to the backend of the lottery) could literally change everything.
At the end of the day, the Clippers are going to walk away with a player that would have gone top 10 in a lesser-talented class. Aaron Holiday, Keita Bates-Diop and Moritz Wagner are the mid-to-late first rounders that I think will have fruitless careers.
It all ends tomorrow night, and I can’t wait.
Jesse’s Notebook: The 2018 NBA Draft is almost here! We enter the draft with a lot of open questions and some uncertainty. As of yesterday, the Atlanta Hawks are now leaning toward drafting Luka Dončić if he is still on the board at No. 3. Some reports suggest that Michael Porter Jr. has a generally good medical outlook, though that does not seem to be a consensus opinion. Porter Jr. is in play to go No. 2 overall but also could slip a bit as well. I still have the sense that big trades could throw off the projections and create significant chaos. I am keeping an eye on the Los Angeles Clippers, who have the 12th and 13th overall picks. They could try to trade up for a top prospect (they have been linked to Luka Dončić in some reporting), but could ultimately stand pat. The Clippers should be positioned to add two talented players that can bring added youth and talent to positions of need.
The Kawhi Leonard situation continues to be a factor that certain teams have to consider in every move they make. Leonard reportedly met with Gregg Popovich last night and seemingly has not changed his insistence in being dealt out of San Antonio. It’s not clear this will have any impact on how teams go about their business on draft night, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Steve’s Notebook: With draft day upon us, there seem to be some answers at the top of the draft board, and a lot more questions in the middle, so let’s start with the top overall pick to the Phoenix Suns. Sources close to the process said last night that the overwhelming belief is the Suns will draft DeAndre Ayton number one. This isn’t a huge shock, but it seems it would take something earth-shattering for him not to be the top pick.
The Sacramento Kings at number two are still a little bit of wild card; the word is that several members of the Kings front office believe strongly that Michael Porter Jr will be an elite player in the NBA and that while he has questions surrounding his back, its worth the risk. It’s unclear if that will win out in the room, but Porter Jr is still firmly in the mix in Sacramento at number two. The conventional wisdom says the Kings will pass on the risk, which puts their next guy on the board in Marvin Bagley III in a Kings draft hat on Thursday.
The Atlanta Hawks seem to be tipping their hand that Euro sensation Luka Dončić is moving into the top spot on their draft board with the Hawks having done some aggressive background on Luka recently and may be ready to take him number three overall. The Hawks are said to be equally high on Bagley and Michigan State big man Jaren Jackson Jr. The Hawks seem to have moved off Trae Young despite weeks of signals that he was their guy. The Hawks are still considered a team to watch in trade down situations, but it’s looking more likely they will use the third pick, and Dončić could be their guy if Bagley is off the board at number two.
The fourth pick is said to be very much in play with the Grizzlies continuing to explore deals to shed contract money (Chandler Parsons) and picking up rookie scale talent or picks later in the draft. The Grizzlies struggled to get top level players to come in for visits and workouts, and many believe they’d rather trade down than draft a player that may not want to be there. If the Grizzlies keep the pick, the belief is it will be Jackson, although his camp has reportedly refused to provide medical information to the Grizzlies and that’s a huge red flag.
The Dallas Mavericks at five have a few options with both Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba being the likely targets. There is a scenario in which Dallas grabs not only the Grizzlies pick at four but retains their own pick at five and takes on Parson who they have a history with. The Mavericks have explored deals all over the place to leverage their existing cap room to obtain talent and assets.
The Orlando Magic at six seem to be all over the place; there were reports that the Magic may have Collin Sexton higher on their board than fan favorite Trae Young, which would line up with commentary that started around the team in early April. The Magic have kept their process somewhat quiet, but there is a real chance the Magic grab Sexton at six if the draft plays out as currently scripted.
The Chicago Bulls at seven could catch a lot of interesting options including both Porter and Bamba. The Bulls were the first team to see Porter and their medical staff did the physical that was circulated to teams. While the upside on Porter is very real, there isn’t a sense the Bulls are ready to pull the trigger despite what Bulls fans may want so that it could be an interesting scenario to watch.
The Cleveland Cavaliers at eight could find themselves with a lot to choose from. The Cavaliers had a last-minute clandestine workout with Trae Young this week and have been rumored to be very high on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. If the draft plays out as scripted the Cavs could have their choice of Young, Porter or Bamba and that would be a massive win for the Cavs.
On the trade front league source have pegged Orlando, Charlotte, Dallas, and Miami as teams to watch on the trade front, all of them seem to be willing to make big moves if deals present themselves.
There were reports last night that the San Antonio Spurs and disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard were able to meet face to face. There still is not a sense that the Spurs will pull the trigger on a trade, expect that to take shape today if they decide to open the phones on Leonard.
The Basketball Insider NBA Draft Diary is up: http://www.basketballinsiders.com/2018-nba-draft-diary/ – it will have all the latest news, rumors and trades as they are happening, so it you want to see everything going on in one place, bookmark the Diary and hit it early and often.
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