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NBA AM: Nuggets And Magic Still Waiting

The Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets continue to be patient with hiring their next head coach… Big changes for the NBA Draft Combine… Chandler Parsons turns GM and starts recruiting.

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The Waiting Game:  While the Oklahoma City Thunder wasted little time in naming their next head coach, hiring Billy Donovan roughly eight days after firing long-time head coach Scott Brooks, both the Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic seem to be in a holding pattern on their next hire.

Source close to the process say that both teams have been doing background on candidates and have had small informal talks, but formal interviews are not expected to take place anytime soon and both teams are expected to do more talking during the 2015 NBA Draft Combine in Chicago next week.

The Magic are said to be very high on the idea of Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau should he be made available by the Bulls, who have been rumored to be looking at a change once their season ends. The runner-up candidate, according to sources, is recently fired Thunder coach Scott Brooks, with Golden State Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry said to be in the mix as well if Thibodeau doesn’t pan out. Thibodeau signed a four-year extension back in 2012, which added four years after the 2012-2013 option the Bulls had already picked up. It’s believed the Bulls would seek some level of compensation for letting Thibodeau out of the balance of his deal; however, given where things stand with the front office, that compensation may not be as hefty as some others have nabbed.

The nature of that compensation is what may push Orlando out of the process, assuming the Bulls follow through with a coaching change.

The Denver Nuggets are said to have a similar list of guys they hope to talk with, but they also continue to be linked to former Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni. As much criticism as D’Antoni has gotten in his last two coaching stops – with the Lakers and New York Knicks – there is a sense around the league that the trend in the NBA toward a more up and down pace with volume three-point shooting could get D’Antoni another shot, especially if he is open to bringing in a solid defensive assistant to anchor the defensive side of the ball.

Neither team seems overly ready to begin the interview process on their next head coach, but that may change around the combine when so much of the NBA is in one place for an extended period of time.

Both teams have said their current interim head coaches would be part of the process of picking the next head coach, however neither is considered to be a front runner to keep the job.

Changing The Combine:  The NBA will be changing a significant number of details regarding the annual Draft Combine, which kicks off on May 13 in Chicago. The biggest being the return of five-on-five game play. Sources close to the process say that players who are generally ranked as inside the top 20 by a panel of NBA talent evaluators will be designated as “interviews and medical only” players. They will be welcome to play in the five-on-five; however, they will not be required to play. Players ranked outside the top 20 will have to commit to playing in the five-on-five or they will not be permitted to interview or undergo the unified medical testing or participate in any of the combine-related activities.

This is a huge change in the process that had developed into glorified drills, which showcased almost nothing that teams or scouts valued. The new five-on-five mandate will give scouts more to consume in a real game setting.

The biggest value of the combine has been the face to face interviews. Players can meet with up to 18 teams across three days of interviews. This becomes meaningful for teams looking to trade up or trade down – as they can sit with a player they likely wouldn’t get a workout with.

There are reports that Emmanuel Mudiay has already declined to attend the combine, and it’s believed that Karl-Anthony Towns may follow suit in favor of holding his own private workout a little later in May.

Sources close to Mudiay said that he hasn’t decided if he’ll attend the combine or not, stating that the reason he may miss it is because his brother (who played a big role in his life) is graduating from college and he wants to be there. If the schedule works out, Mudiay may attend the combine for a day or two.

Last year top picks Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid all skipped the combine entirely, which did not meaningfully impact any of the players’ draft stock.

League sources say the overall value of the combine isn’t nearly what it was 10 years ago, mainly because NBA teams commit so much time, money and resources to scouting themselves, so private workouts where they can control all aspects of the process are now valued just as much (if not more) than the combine.

Basketball Insiders will be on the ground in Chicago starting May 13 and will be posting news, notes, videos and stories from the combine throughout the week.

Parsons Shifts into GM Mode: Two summers ago, Chandler Parsons played a role in recruiting Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets. Parsons befriended the free-agent center, along with James Harden, and talked to him on a daily basis. He answered any questions that Howard had about the city and franchise, and made it clear that the Rockets could be a legitimate contender with the big man on board.

Now, Parsons is a member of the Dallas Mavericks and hopes to use his recruiting skills once again. The 26-year-old small forward said that he will “shift into GM mode” now that the offseason is here.

Parsons takes this role seriously. He recently needed knee surgery, going down in the Mavs’ first-round series against the Rockets, and he got the procedure done as soon as possible so he’d be okay to travel for recruiting pitches on July.

“I think it’s kind of like a known thing that I’d like to do that,” Parsons said of recruiting players, according to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. “I have a lot of good relationships with a lot of guys. Obviously now with the season just ended, I haven’t talked with them about who or what or whatever, but we’ll take a look here soon. I’ll be in Dallas pretty much all summer, so I’m sure we’ll have those conversations when the time comes.”

Mavericks president Donnie Nelson is planning to use Parsons, who averaged 15.7 points and 4.9 rebounds in his first season with Dallas.

“We’re hopeful to be successful again in the free-agent market,” Nelson said. “And yes, Chandler Parsons will be front and center.”

When asked what his recruiting pitch would be to this summer’s free agents, Parsons rattled off a number of things that he believes separates Dallas from other teams.

“We have a great organization,” Parsons said. “We have high expectations. We have the best owner in sports. We’re definitely moving in the right direction, and we have a lot of pieces that would fit well with the free agents out there right now. And we have a great coach, so I think we’re moving in the right direction.

“We’re a championship-caliber team. We’ve just got to get the right pieces. I have great relationships with a lot of guys that are out there.”

This summer’s free-agent pool could include LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, Jimmy Butler (restricted), Kevin Love (player option), Kawhi Leonard (restricted), DeAndre Jordan, Draymond Green (restricted), Goran Dragic, Paul Millsap, Brook Lopez (player option), Greg Monroe, Tobias Harris (restricted) and Roy Hibbert (player option) among others.

For a complete list of the 2015 free agents, click here.

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

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