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NBA AM: Should The Lakers Deal Their Pick?

The Lakers seem open to trading the No. 2 pick. What would it take to get a deal done? … The Pelicans are swinging for the fence with Jeff Van Gundy… Is this LeBron James’ best season?

Steve Kyler profile picture
Updated 10 months ago on
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To Deal Or Not To Deal? The Los Angeles Lakers find themselves with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft and, while the player available to the Lakers with that pick could be a franchise-changing addition, the team has made it clear they would explore the trade value of that selection.

Now, it’s highly unlikely that the Lakers make a deal involving the number two pick, but one of the things they are doing is making it clear that they would rather have a proven veteran then a rookie. This is especially true if that veteran is a big enough star to help jump-start the rebuild, and there are a few scenarios worth watching.

The biggest situation to watch is what happens with the Sacramento Kings and DeMarcus Cousins. Should the Kings decide they want out of the Cousins business, the Lakers could be a viable trading partner. Sources close to the Kings’ process say that they are not ready to pull the trigger on a Cousins deal just yet. However, if the Lakers make a hard push with the number two pick as a centerpiece, that might be a temptation too good to pass on.

Another possible target for the Lakers would be Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson. While Lawson alone obviously isn’t worth the number two pick, Denver does have some other trade chips that could interest the Lakers and help them improve fairly quickly, especially if the Nuggets are willing to move Kenneth Faried or finally pull the trigger on a Wilson Chandler deal. The Nuggets also hold the seventh pick, which could yield a solid player too. Denver seems far more willing to deal at this point than Sacramento and they are said to be weighing the virtue of a complete rebuild, something the second pick could make more plausible.

The narrative coming out of the Lakers is that they would entertain a deal for the number two if it would significantly improve the team. They are not likely to entertain moving the number two for just any type of package – it would require a bona fide All-Star to come back in the transaction.

The Lakers are not the only team dangling their high-level draft pick to gauge value. The New York Knicks at number four and the Orlando Magic at number five are also said to be exploring what their pick could return in trade. That’s simply the due diligence of the draft.

It’s important to point out that every year the teams in the top four or five explore what kind of veterans their draft pick could return in a trade, but it’s rare for one of these blockbuster-type deals to actually happen.

There is little doubt if someone wants to part with a significant All-Star-caliber player, a couple of teams, especially those sitting at the top, would rather have a proven player to build around then rolling the dice on the draft – even with the talent sitting at the top of the 2015 NBA draft class.

Van Gundy And The Pelicans?  As reports trickled out yesterday that the New Orleans Pelicans had interviewed Jeff Van Gundy, there continues to be doubt that Van Gundy is an obtainable option for the Pelicans.

The fact that Van Gundy was willing to interview says a lot about the appeal of the New Orleans job, but what it would take to actually hire Van Gundy may be more than the Pelicans are willing to offer.

Van Gundy’s brother Stan landed a sweetheart deal with the Detroit Pistons that gave him complete control over the franchise. League sources expect that Jeff would require something similar to hang up his headset and return to the sidelines.

It is interesting to point out that the Pelicans not only reached out to Van Gundy for an interview, they also interviewed Golden State Warriors assistant coach Alvin Gentry and reached out to Kentucky’s John Calipari and Arizona’s Sean Miller. While neither Calipari or Miller got to the interview stage, it does seem that the Pelicans are swinging for the fences on this next hire and considering a lot of options rather than just aiming at re-treads and low-cost options.

The Pelicans continue to be linked to Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and there is a growing sense that the Bulls may pull the trigger on firing Thibodeau, which could add him to the mix in New Orleans as well.

Sources close to the Thibodeau situation say that he is unwilling to meet with or discuss new coaching jobs while still under contract with the Bulls. Chicago was hoping to extract value out of Thibodeau and avoid paying the remaining two years and $9 million left on his contract, but if Thibodeau won’t agree to talk to teams, the Bulls can’t get value or avoid the contract payment.

With both sides unwilling to budge, Thibodeau’s status is still very much up in the air. However, if the Bulls pull the trigger quickly, Thibodeau could get in the hunt in New Orleans and could be a viable candidate if compensation to Chicago is not a factor.

Sources close to the Pelicans’ process say there is no artificial deadline in making a decision and they could interview several more candidates.

As things stand today, Gentry seems to be the front-runner. There have been suggestions that Gentry has already started talking to would-be assistant coaches about joining him in New Orleans should he get the job. While that in and of itself means very little, the fact that Gentry could be prepared to move quickly and that he fits into what New Orleans already has in place is likely why he is considered the front-runner at this point.

Van Gundy does represent an interesting wrinkle because not only could he bring stability and competitiveness to New Orleans immediately, he might also be a big enough name to ensure Anthony Davis signs a max contract early this summer. That clearly has to weigh in to the Pelicans’ thought process too.

LeBron’s Best Season Yet? What Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors have done this season is impressive. They have been dominant on both ends of the floor, been commanding on their home court, played well as a team and are easily the favorite to win the 2015 NBA championship.

With that said, what LeBron James has done throughout this campaign may be his best season as a pro. While his individual statistics are not as good as in previous seasons, what he did personally this year is beyond impressive.

Making the decision to leave Miami was not easy – that decision was about family, lifestyle, commitment and his future after basketball. While there was promise in Cleveland when he made that commitment, it wasn’t an easy climb to say the least.

LeBron inherited a coach who had never coached in the NBA and a young roster that struggled to play well together. He had to recruit veterans and at times even play the de-facto GM role in helping the Cavs consummate the Kevin Love trade, acting as middleman between Cleveland and Love.

It wasn’t easy nor was it sunshine, especially in the opening month of the season. Cleveland was bad on both ends of the floor early on, and it was clear there was dysfunction surrounding the team and that LeBron himself wasn’t right physically. The fact that James was able to get his body right physically, bring the team together, bridge the gaps,  integrate new players and find a way to make this team successful is arguably his most impressive work as a player.

Throughout the postseason, we have seen the very best version of LeBron as a teammate, a facilitator and a catalyst on defense. He has been as consistent as he’s been at any point in his career. While enduring injuries, changes in the lineup and the ebbs and flows of the postseason, James has proven to be not only the best player in the NBA but arguably the best player in the postseason, and that’s saying a lot considering what Stephen Curry, James Harden, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin did over the last two months.

With the Cavaliers’ ticket punched to the NBA Finals and James having another shot at a championship ring, this season more than any other may be a LeBron’s best as a pro and that too is saying a lot considering what he’s done so far in his career.

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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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