TrueHoop: Draft Reports

Is Nerlens Noel worth the No. 1 pick?

June, 26, 2013
6/26/13
11:49
PM ET
By Peter Newmann and Dean Oliver, ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
NoelESPN Comparing Nerlens Noel to similar players from earlier drafts could indicate his career path.
The short answer is yes. But you’re not here for the short answer.

At 6-foot-11 and a feathery 201 pounds, Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel has stats and physical characteristics that compare to four players: Tyrus Thomas, Derrick Favors, Greg Oden and Chris Bosh.

Part of the reason is age. All of these players were younger than 20 years old when they were drafted. Another reason is that they were all drafted in the top five.

A detailed look at the stats, though, suggests that Noel comes up a little short on most offensive metrics. He was a role player in college with limited skills, taking only 15 percent of Kentucky’s shots when on the floor. Looking at his statistical comparisons in the NBA, Tyrus Thomas hasn’t developed an offensive game, Derrick Favors is still a work in progress, Greg Oden never had a chance to develop, and Bosh serves as the main offensive star among the group – and he still gets criticized. Noel’s effective field goal percentage, offensive rebound percentage, and limited shot use all point at a player who won’t immediately make an impact on the offensive end in the NBA.

On the defensive end, Noel posted some special numbers in college. His block rate was 13 percent higher in college than any of those four players. His steal rate was 70 percent higher. And his defensive rebound rate was higher than Favors or Bosh. All of this while committing not even three fouls per game.

What this means is that Noel should be an immediate ball hawk on defense. He’ll force turnovers and alter shots. He’ll rebound at a high level. He may be the best defensive player to come out of college in years. As NBA teams emphasize more and more to play defense without fouling, having a defensive big who won’t get into foul trouble and can stay on the court is very important.

As to staying on the court – one obvious red flag is the torn ACL that ended Noel’s freshman season and has limited his workouts. It is expensive for teams to acquire players who will miss significant time. How much did it cost Portland to have Greg Oden on the bench for so many years? How much did it cost Philadelphia to have Andrew Bynum on the bench? This is a cost not only in dollars, but in the jobs of coaches and management. Cleveland GM Chris Grant is absolutely checking to make sure his pension is funded before taking an injury-prone big man with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

In conclusion, there is major risk in selecting Nerlens Noel with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. Fortunately, this is risk with potentially great reward. Noel’s defensive prowess can be hugely valuable in the NBA, where protecting the paint is so important. If he is selected No. 1, that paint protection is what is being banked on. If he drops, it’s his offense, his injuries, and the job security of GMs that cost him.

First Cup: Wednesday

April, 3, 2013
4/03/13
4:36
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Al Iannazzone of Newsday: Carmelo Anthony didn't have to deal with LeBron James on either end of the floor Tuesday night. It made his night much easier and infinitely more difficult for the Heat. Anthony shredded the Heat's defense and matched his career high with 50 points and led the Knicks to a 102-90 victory over the defending champs, who were without James and Dwyane Wade because of injuries. Late in the game, some Knicks fans at American Airlines Arena chanted "MVP" as Anthony attempted foul shots. He was the MVP this night as he carried the Knicks to their ninth straight win -- their longest since the 1993-94 season. … Anthony didn't do much wrong or miss many shots. Noted defender Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem could do nothing to stop Anthony. He finished 18-for-26 from the field, including 7-for-10 from three, and became the first Knick to score 50 since Jamal Crawford had 52 against Miami six years ago.
  • Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: The maintenance program has officially started. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers sat out Tuesday night’s game against the Knicks at AmericanAirlines Arena. It was the second game in a row the three starters have rested with minor injuries. James, Wade and Chalmers also did not play Sunday against the Spurs. Officially, James skipped the season finale with the Knicks due to “tightness” in his right hamstring, according to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, and Wade was out of action due a variety of minor injuries. Chalmers missed his third game in a row due to a sprained ankle. “These are minor nicks and knacks that happen during the course of a season,” Spoelstra said. Of course, not every team in the league has the luxury of sitting its best players due to minor ailments this time of year. The Knicks, for example, hurried center Tyson Chandler back into the starting lineup for Tuesday’s game after missing 10 games with a bulging disk in his neck. The Knicks were a game behind the Pacers in the loss column for second place in the Eastern Conference standings entering Tuesday night.
  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: Shaquille O'Neal dominated the Staples Center court one more time Tuesday, in a halftime jersey retirement ceremony that perfectly mirrored his Lakers career. It was booming. It was poignant. It was funny. It had thousands of fans chanting and cheering. And Kobe Bryant appeared to blow him off. "Can ... you … dig … it?" asked O'Neal, repeating his trademark championship chant for a sellout Staples Center crowd that screamed its affirmation. Bryant apparently couldn't, as he chose to record only a brief video tribute that ran on the scoreboard at the start of the ceremony. It was as if he were in Russia instead of just 45 steps away in the locker room during halftime of the Lakers' eventual 101-81 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. "I would like to have been out there but I couldn't do it, this was just too big of a game," Bryant said afterward. "I had to stay back here [in the locker room] stretching and getting ready for the second half. Bryant laughed and added, "I appreciate you guys trying to start some stuff for old times' sake." Bryant briefly hugged O'Neal in the privacy of the tunnel at the halftime break before O'Neal took the court, but then the men parted ways, just as they did nine years ago to mark the end of one of the Lakers' championship eras. It's a shame Bryant couldn't have later walked those 45 steps and publicly congratulated O'Neal in front of the world, if only for a moment before returning to work. It was a long halftime. Together, as the best duo in basketball history, they won a lot of games. If Bryant is going to end his career as the face of the Lakers, then he needed to publicly, if briefly, represent them in this important connection with their history.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: If this was the end, and it had all the telltale signs, the Mavericks provided one more night of evidence that they simply are not playoff material this season. Mathematically, they remain alive. But after the Los Angeles Lakers controlled them all night for a 101-81 victory, the Mavericks must face the grim reality that their playoff hopes bit the dust at Staples Center. “We knew we were behind the 8-ball all season,” said Dirk Nowitzki. “This was a game we needed to have if we really wanted to make it interesting.” … The Mavericks lost the season series to the Lakers 3-1 and fell to 36-38, 2 games behind the Lakers and Utah Jazz, who are tied for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With only eight games left, passing both the Lakers and Jazz is virtually impossible. Dallas has already lost the tiebreaker against both teams. The postgame locker room was despondent, to say the least. The Mavericks now find themselves needing a miraculous finish.
  • Mike Wise of The Washington Post: The best teams often compromise the integrity of the product to rest and protect their players with the express reason of being fresh for the postseason — see San Antonio and Miami. The worst teams sometimes don’t play their stars simply because they don’t want to miss out on the possibility of moving one slot ahead of another team in the draft for a significantly better player. Wittman and the Wizards could get away with sitting Nene or Wall the next two weeks. Lord knows the organization, headed for the lottery for the fifth straight time, has not always done what’s right for the game the past five seasons. But finishing the job, making the league and themselves believe they have something here much better than 4-28, became important. Did they cost themselves a better player the last few months? Probably, but that’s okay. The last thing the Wizards needed was another 20-something, doe-eyed kid trying to figure his game and his new environment out at the same time. They need a piece or two to be a playoff team next season. One of those pieces became showing purpose and passion this season, right up until Game No. 82. Going all out for ninth place doesn’t sound very noble, does it? But from whence the Wizards came this season, it’s a building block for next year. After all the wrong, it’s doing the right by the game. And in the dog days of another lost season that’s something, no?
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: With just nine games remaining, the Bulls are being conservative with Joakim Noah, whose plantar fasciitis sidelined him for the sixth straight game, andMarco Belinelli, out for the fifth straight time. "They both have the type of injury where you don't want it to linger," coach Tom Thibodeau said. Belinelli, who has an abdominal strain, said he felt pain Monday when he tried to increase running. "This injury is the worst," he said. "You can play like five minutes and it can be worse than before. At least it's better than last week." The goal is to get them in game conditioning and rhythm before the playoffs start. Richard Hamilton and Derrick Rose remain out indefinitely.
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: With his contract set to expire at the end of June, Lon Babby agreed to a two-year contract extension to remain at the helm of the Suns in what was an unconventional NBA front office format when he was hired in 2010. Babby, 62, tabbed Lance Blanks, who has one contract year remaining, to be his general manager and basketball expert while Babby was charged with remaining competitive for Steve Nash’s final two years and then transitioning to a new era this season. “I’ve had a wonderful career and I view this was a wonderful opportunity,” Babby said. “I knew it was an extraordinary challenge. Not every day is simple. It can be painful and difficult. I didn’t want to leave it at this stage. I may be like Moses. I’m on a journey to get to the promised land of a championship. I didn’t want to leave at the start of the walk through the desert. “... We’ve done a lot of heavy lifting. It doesn’t feel right to leave if Robert and the organization have faith in me when I feel like we’re about to start the climb up the mountain.” The Suns have gone 96-126 (.422) during Babby’s tenure. With the franchise’s second worst record ever this year, the Suns will miss the playoffs for a third consecutive season for the first time since 1986-88.
  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: By last fall, there were whispers Michael Heisley, who had decided to sell the Memphis Grizzlies, had more than a passing interest in joining forces with Kohl. Some NBA officials and insiders even contended Heisley would be part of the Bucks’ ownership group sooner rather than later, perhaps even this season. The scenario painted by some individuals was that Heisley intended on first becoming a Bucks minority owner with Kohl still in charge. Then, after approximately three years, Heisley would have the option of becoming the majority owner. According to some people close to Heisley and Kohl, though, the latter got cold feet and balked at the idea of relinquishing his franchise, just like he did in the summer of 2003 when it appeared he was on the brink of selling the Bucks to a consortium headed by Michael Jordan. Kohl, who purchased the Bucks in 1985 from Jim Fitzgerald for approximately $19 million, is apparently still receptive to bringing on an additional business partner. The possibility of the 76-year-old Heisley re-entering the Bucks’ picture is highly unlikely. Heisley suffered a debilitating stroke in February and remains in a Chicago-area hospital. I’ve been told he’s been in a coma for more than a month and the prospects of a recovery are extremely bleak.
  • Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times In a Manhattan hotel on Wednesday, the months-long battle over the fate of the Sacramento Kings will turn into a daylong debate. It looms as the most critical date yet in this saga. Representatives of a Seattle group hoping to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle and a Sacramento contingent attempting to keep the team there will take turns making their cases to a combined NBA relocation and finance committee. Each side will present its plan, and likely poke holes in the other city's efforts. The relocation/finance committee will talk afterward, then send a recommendation to the NBA's Board of Governors. The board will cast a final vote on the matter when it meets in New York April 18-19. "This is one of the biggest days of my life and a seminal moment for our city," wrote Chris Hansen, who will lead the Seattle contingent, in a note onsonicsarena.com Tuesday afternoon. Hansen also wrote that 44,000 Sonics fans put their names on a priority ticket waitlist established three weeks ago, including 32,000 in the first 24 hours. He said 268 put their names on a list for suites, and 983 businesses expressed interest in sponsorship opportunities. Those figures will be part of Seattle's presentation by a group that will include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, mayor Mike McGinn and King County executive Dow Constantine.
  • Dale Kasler and Tony Bizjak of The Sacramento Bee: Dueling teams of billionaires and mayors are heading to New York for a pivotal Wednesday showdown over the future of the Sacramento Kings. Before an elite committee of NBA owners, delegations from Sacramento and Seattle will present their arguments on the issue that's been making headlines for weeks: Should the Kings stay put or be allowed to move to the Pacific Northwest? The meeting, to be held at a Manhattan hotel, comes a week after the Sacramento City Council approved a non-binding term sheet for a new $448 million arena at Downtown Plaza - a crucial piece in the city's attempt to keep the team. The committee is likely to make a recommendation sometime this month. A final decision is expected April 18 or 19, when the league's Board of Governors, consisting of all the team owners, convenes in New York. … [Mayor Kevin] Johnson is also expected to be accompanied by three of the investors who are bidding for the Kings on Sacramento's behalf - Vivek Ranadive, Mark Mastrov and Ron Burkle. Lobbyist Darius Anderson, who was instrumental in pulling the group together, also will attend.
  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: I've heard NBA scouts complain for months that this year's draft will be weak at the top, which is one reason why Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel might be the No. 1 pick despite suffering a torn ACL during the college season. The 2014 draft should be different, thanks to a loaded group of incoming college freshmen. All of the top players are scheduled to play in Wednesday's McDonalds All-American Game at the United Center. Basically, this game could be a 2014 lottery-pick preview. Topping the list is 6-8 Andrew Wiggins, who grew up in Toronto and attended Huntington (W.V.) Prep. He's smooth, athletic with guard skills. I've seen him compared to many NBA superstars, but Tracy McGrady might be the best match. He's undecided for college, reportedly considering North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas and Florida State. Then there's 6-9 Julius Randle from Texas. He's the main guy in Kentucky's loaded recruiting class, which also features twins Andrew (6-5 point guard) and Aaron (6-6 shooting guard) Harrison, 6-6 James Young, 6-10 Marcus Lee and 6-11 Dakari Johnson. Another player with draft potential is 6-8 Aaron Gordon from San Jose. He's also undeclared, but might be headed to Arizona. Analysts love comparing him to Blake Griffin and it does seem justified.

Hawks resisting interest in Smith for now

June, 28, 2012
6/28/12
2:15
PM ET
Stein By Marc Stein
ESPN.com
Archive
Teams have been calling the Atlanta Hawks all week to register trade interest in swingman Josh Smith, according to sources close to the situation.

And one of those teams, sources said, is the Orlando Magic, who know that Smith ranks as one of Dwight Howard's closest friends.

But new Hawks general manager Danny Ferry apparently isn't ready to part with Smith right away.

Boston, Houston and the Los Angeles Lakers -- with Pau Gasol as the prime piece being offered in L.A.'s case -- have joined Orlando this week in making their interest in Smith known.

Yet as Ferry settles into the job, sources say he wants to take stock of things before deciding if he's prepared to go into next season without Smith, who is entering the final year of his contract at $13.2 million and has let it be known for some time that he'd welcome a trade.
By Chad Ford and Marc Stein
ESPN.com

For the past several years, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has been trying to package assets together to make a big deal on draft night. The 2012 draft is no different.

Sources say that Houston has discussed deals with several teams in the top 10 about moving up in the draft. And the Rockets might have found two willing partners.

Although sources stressed that no deal is imminent, Sacramento (No. 5) and Toronto (No. 8 ) have let Houston know that their top-10 selections are available. Sources say that the Rockets, in turn, have made both of their first-round picks available (No. 14 and No. 16), but the key to any trade going through could be point guard Kyle Lowry.

The Raptors have been especially fond of Lowry, who has been regarded for months as a borderline untouchable in Houston but more recently has publicly expressed his dissatisfaction with Rockets coach Kevin McHale. Whether the Rockets are indeed prepared to part with Lowry, as talks with the Kings, Raptors and other teams continue, figures to be one of the bigger stories of draft week.

What’s clear from the Rockets’ end, sources say, is the player they’re fondest of in the upper reaches of the draft: UConn big man Andre Drummond. Many scouts believe Drummond has the second highest upside of any player in the draft behind consensus No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis, but the 7-foot, 279-pounder would almost certainly still be available at No. 5.

Drummond, as the second youngest player in the draft at 18, registered an impressive 7-foot-6 wingspan at the NBA draft combine earlier this month. Personnel experts regard him as an elite athlete and shot-blocker who moves laterally especially well. But Drummond’s inconsistent play as a freshman, combined with questions about his passion for the game, have caused his draft stock to take a slight hit in recent weeks.

The tipoff that the Kings are likely to deal the No. 5 pick between now and Thursday night, sources say, is the handful of players they’ve brought in who are expected to be drafted in the middle of the first round. Sources say two of those players in particular -- North Carolina’s John Henson and St. John’s Moe Harkless -- are high on the Kings’ draft board.

Henson has already worked out for the Kings and Harkless is scheduled to work out on Monday. Sacramento has also tried to get several other candidates for the middle of the first round, including UConn’s Jeremy Lamb and Washington’s Terrence Ross, into town for 11th-hour workouts.

UPDATE (12:48 a.m. ET): Upon hearing of Sunday night's developments, one rival general manager told ESPN.com that he believes Houston's real aim is acquiring two top-10 picks this week to turn around quickly and offer both to the Orlando Magic as part of a considerable trade offer for Dwight Howard.

The Rockets' willingness to trade for Howard -- even without the All-Star center's signature on a contract extension -- is an open secret around the league. But it's believed that two top-eight picks, assuming Houston managed to complete trades with both Sacramento and Toronto, would seriously pique the interest of new Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, who could then quickly start following the same sort of roster-building blueprint relied on by his previous employers in Oklahoma City.

Acquiring those early lottery picks, though, only represents half of Houston's challenge if Howard is indeed the Rockets' target. The other hurdle is convincing Hennigan, who hasn't even been on the job for a week in Central Florida, to part with Howard so quickly. As much as he's been schooled in building through the draft while working alongside Thunder GM Sam Presti, Hennigan could opt to take a more measured approach, make one more run at trying to convince Howard to sign an extension before entering the final year of his contract and then trade him later in the summer if those efforts go nowhere.

First Cup: Friday

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
4:53
AM ET
  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: Russell Westbrook once again ruled the roost for the Thunder. So this doesn’t sound like a broken record, I try to ask a different teammate to share their thoughts on Westbrook whenever he turns in a superb performance, and Thursday night definitely qualified with 36 points, six assists, two steals and only one turnover. Tonight’s guest speaker on Westbrook is reserve center Nazr Mohammed: “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Russ. He’s been doing an unbelievable job trying to get the ball to guys, taking over the game. His pace of play, his leadership in the huddle, he’s just been off the charts these last 5-6 games.” ... Just in case there was any doubt, Perkins can’t stand Pau Gasol. Perk has said as much, which is why Perk was booed louder than any Thunder player all night, including pre-game introductions. Perk was called for his 12th technical foul of the season after he flared his elbows and was fouled by Gasol. The tech has a good chance of being rescinded. Remember, 13 techs bring a one-game suspension, as does every other tech thereafter.
  • Mark Whicker of The Orange County Register: As Oklahoma City basketballs kept bouncing off Lakers heads, it became clearer just why the Lakers traded Derek Fisher. It wasn't strategic. It was humanitarian. Fisher is currently closer to his sixth NBA championship ring than Kobe Bryant is to his sixth, or Ramon Sessions to his first. He has taken a detour to basketball heaven on his way to retirement or Congress or his final destination. Who knew the angels would fly so high in Oklahoma City? With Russell Westbrook scoring 36 and turning Staples Center into his own Hawthorne backyard, Oklahoma City drilled the Lakers with extreme prejudice, along with a dash of contempt, 102-93, on Thursday. And if Fisher really was dispatched to OKC because he could no longer restrict the West's best point guards, Sessions' handcuffs were just as rusty. Westbrook scored 18 points in the third quarter as the Thunder, now 39-12, played with unity and strut. Time and again they broke down the Lakers defense, lured help, and hit large open people under the basket. And, time and again, Westbrook displayed the best first step in basketball. He also has the best second and third.
  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: Roughly Roughly 90 minutes prior to Thursday's tip, Mark Cuban tried to enter through the door to the tunnel that passes the Heat locker room. The Mavericks owner wasn't trying to steal secrets; rather, apparently seeking a shortcut. Still, when a security guard stopped him, the casually-attired billionaire laughed and obliged, turning back the way he came. Once the game started, Heat players protected home court with the same purpose that the guard had protected their dressing quarters. In a continuation of one of the surprises of this strange season, Miami again looked like a much more determined and desperate squad at AmericanAirlines Arena than it has looked anywhere else. The 106-85 victory was the Heat's 15th straight in front of its fans. It doesn't seem to matter that the lower level doesn't fill until the second quarter. Nor does it matter that, since the Heat last lost here on Jan. 22 to the Bucks, Miami has dropped nine of its 19 games on the road -- including double-digit losses to Oklahoma City and Indiana in which coach Erik Spoelstra's squad appeared lethargic and lost. Nor does any of this make any sense to anyone who watched the Heat last season, as it won only two more games at home than on the road; this season, the splits are 21-2 and 14-11.
  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Unlike last June when they clinched their first NBA title with a Game 6 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena, this time there was no wild and crazy celebration by the Dallas Mavericks. Gone were the bubbly smiles -- and bubbly champagne -- that accompanied last year's championship season. That's what Thursday's 106-85 loss to the Miami Heat did to the Mavericks. LeBron James and Chris Bosh scored 19 points each, and the Heat used a suffocating defense to smother the Mavericks. "We had trouble getting the ball in the basket," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "Second-chance points hurt us, and then they hit a flurry of transition points at some inopportune times for us. "It was disappointing because our start to the third quarter was strong, and then they answered back. It was a tough loss."
  • Matt Calkins of The Columbian: Two minutes into the second quarter, Nicolas Batum, the Frenchman who has established himself as the Trail Blazers' premier outside shooter, passed up a wide open 3-pointer ... and fed the ball to Luke Babbitt. "I was already running back on defense when he shot it," Batum said. "I knew it was going in." Portland beating New Orleans 99-93 Thursday night is far from a compelling story on its own — especially considering the depleted Hornets' roster which listed just eight active players. But when you look at the stat sheet, and see that 16 of those 99 points came from Babbitt, the Blazer who just two hours earlier was best known for knocking down an otherwise meaningless 3-pointer that gave the fans free Chalupas two months ago — then it becomes a tale worth telling. Nearly two years ago, when Portland selected Babbitt with the 15th overall pick in the draft, an anonymous poll revealed that the University of Nevada product's peers considered him the best shooter from their draft class. But when Babbitt followed with a rookie season in which he shot 27.3 percent from the field, 18.8 percent from 3-point distance, and an absurd 33.3 percent from the foul line, it would be hard to argue he was one of the top 50 shooters from his draft class. It's a much more sound argument now.
  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: Another night on the road in a season winding down, and the Hornets found themselves again facing an opponent with similar unsettled storylines. And to make things more interesting for New Orleans, it had one less player than the night before. On Wednesday night in Oakland, New Orleans went against a team working through injuries and questions about whether it was coasting toward a more favorable lottery pick. Thursday night in The Rose Garden, the Hornets saw a Trail Blazers’ team that in the past two weeks fired its beloved coach Nate McMillan, named a 33-year-old interim replacement, and on Thursday afternoon faced news that it’s billionaire owner, Paul Allen, may be looking to sell the team. The 48-minute sanctuary on the court provided the Blazers with a 99-93 victory, but not without its scary moments against the thin Hornets. New Orleans played with just eight available players when it was determined less than 30 minutes before tip off that starting point guard Jarrett Jack would miss with a sprained right ankle.
  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: It’s a good thing Thursday’s game against the Washington Wizards wasn’t based on style points because it would have been a toss up on which team would have won the game. Danny Granger said it best about their victory over the Wizards, “Very ugly game,” We clawed and scraped and got the win, so that was huge. A win is a win. We have to keep winning as many games as possible.” The Pacers will take a victory any way they can get one after losing at New Jersey on Wednesday. The Wizards shouldn’t have been able to stick around for most of the game. But there they were, a John Wall turnover over from possibly tying the game with less than a minute left. ... The Pacers get a day off before they start another six-game in eigh-night stretch when they head to the Lone Star state and play San Antonio and Houston on Saturday and Sunday. So don’t be surprised if you see some more ugly basketball from the Pacers. It’s all about wins and losses for them these days.
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: In his 10th season, and back on a lottery team, Nene believes the Wizards (11-39) are going through similar growing pains as his team in Denver. And, after the Wizards lost, 93-89, on Thursday to the Indiana Pacers, Nene said he remained encouraged by how his new team is playing and drew a parallel to his challenging rookie season. “I learned,” Nene said. “This is a long process. It’s hard. I’m going to repeat this every time: This young team, a lot of second-year players, a lot of rookies. You need to learn. You need to get this type of game. See what you can learn from the loss and get better. To win, you need to learn from losing a game. It’s a big experience right now. We work, step by step, we’re improving in a lot of areas.” The Wizards have lost five in a row and are just 2-7 since acquiring Nene, but they have been a scrappier, more physical and more competitive team in defeat. And they have been staunch defensively. The Pacers became the seventh consecutive team that failed to score at least 100 points against the Wizards. The Wizards haven’t held seven straight teams below triple digits since December 2007.
  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: Before this year, college basketball players had until May 8 to evaluate their NBA options, then were given until one week before the June NBA draft to declare whether they were coming out for the draft or returning to school. This gave players several weeks to not only get feedback from the NBA, but go to the Orlando, Fla., pre-draft camp, work out for individual teams and get all the information necessary to make a smart decision. Here's the rule now: College players such as Indiana's Christian Watford have to declare they are looking into the NBA by April 3 and must declare or withdraw by April 10. Which, by the way, is one day before the spring signing period. According to the NCAA, this coach-inspired rule is being imposed "to help keep student-athletes focused on academics in the spring term and to give coaches a better idea of their roster for the coming year before the recruiting period is closed." Right. Academics. Truth is, it's all about the latter, all about protecting coaches and the college product. Also, those coaches want to go off and take vacation rather than talk to NBA scouts about their prospect. ... The NBA draft isn't until June 28. So why should kids have to rush into an important decision April 10? NCAA President Mark Emmert has said he wants to rid the organization of its dumbest rules, especially the ones that have a deleterious effect on athletes. Here's one that needs to be expunged.

Draft decision not looking good for some

June, 24, 2011
6/24/11
2:05
AM ET
Katz By Andy Katz
ESPN.com
Archive
When will the underclassmen learn that there are only 60 spots in the draft and a number of those head overseas to players who are being stashed away for future consideration?

The potential lockout didn’t scare these Americans from leaving. Still, they bolted. And now they have been crushed.

The list:

• Stanford’s Jeremy Green. Green was ineligible for the spring quarter but was expected to be eligible for the fall, per coach Johnny Dawkins. Green now must find a home overseas or wait to see if he can get into a camp. That will be difficult considering that there is likely to be a lockout.

• Washington State’s DeAngelo Casto wasn’t going to go back to Pullman. So, he took a chance. It didn’t work out. Now he must find a home to play.

• Louisville’s Terrence Jennings was a surprise early-entrant. Too bad. Jennings would have seriously helped the Cardinals in their quest to win the Big East.

• Jereme Richmond had a chance to be an elite player at Illinois -- if he had stayed more than one season. He was a non-factor at the pre-draft combine in Chicago. And now he has nothing to show for his decision but a long road ahead. Once again, this was a poor choice by Richmond. He would have had a major role for the Illini next season.

• Fresno State’s Greg Smith could have shined for new coach Rodney Terry and assistant coach Jerry Wainwright. Smith would have been the most dominant player in the WAC in the Bulldogs’ final season in the league. Instead Smith will have to fend for himself.

• Notre Dame’s Carleton Scott stayed in the draft. But he had already graduated. He was done with the Irish. So, his decision isn’t a poor one.

• Tennessee’s Scotty Hopson never reached his potential with the Vols. Sure, there was a coaching change, but that shouldn’t have made his decision for him. Hopson could have been an anchor for new coach Cuonzo Martin. Instead, Hopson will have a hard time finding a home in professional basketball.

• Notre Dame senior Ben Hansbrough, who was the Big East player of the year, had an ankle injury during the draft process and wasn’t able to work out until eight days prior to the draft. That hurt his chances of being drafted. But his agent Jeff Schwartz said Hansbrough will have multiple offers to play overseas.

• Best story in the first round is Marquette’s Jimmy Butler. Butler deserved a first-round selection and got one with Chicago taking him at No. 30. Butler was kicked out of his home by his mother at 13, found a new home with friends in Tomball, Texas, and is a great success story.

• Boston seems committed to sticking with the Purdue tandem of JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore. If that happens that’s a fine continuation for two players who never had a shot for a national title because of Robbie Hummel’s knee injuries.

• Josh Selby stayed in the draft and landed at No. 49 Memphis. That can’t be what he thought would occur.

• I’m surprised Cory Joseph of Texas got selected in the first round by San Antonio at No. 29. Joseph appeared to be making a mistake. He can justify his decision now.

• Boston College’s Reggie Jackson was shut down due to a “knee injury” but had a promise all along from Oklahoma City. Maybe that’s the new trend. Don’t do anything and land in the first round at No. 24. Well, probably not.

• Denver did quite well to land Kenneth Faried at No. 22. He will rebound for the Nuggets.

• Iman Shumpert wasn’t a big winner for Georgia Tech. Let’s see if he can win for New York.

• Kemba Walker went to Charlotte and Jimmer Fredette to Sacramento. So, in the end, everything worked out quite well for the two biggest names in the draft. They told me that those were two locales that they would be pleased to play in next season.

• I was never sold on UCLA’s Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee or Georgia’s Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie staying in the draft. All four of them went in the second round and will have to earn roster spots in a more difficult manner.

• Darius Morris could have led Michigan toward a possible Big Ten title. Now he’ll have a hard time sticking with the Lakers.

• Washington had quite a night. The Wizards got Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack. Mack had played in consecutive national title games. There’s not much more he could do at Butler. He’ll stick with the Wizards.

• Duke’s Kyle Singler will follow the path of former Blue Devils Carlos Boozer and Chris Duhon and stick out of the second round. Singler went to Detroit.

• Maryland’s Jordan Williams has a real chance to stay with New Jersey. So, not bad for him.

• Josh Harrellson may be the biggest success story in recent memory in college basketball to go from not playing much at all for the Wildcats two seasons ago, to only playing last season because Enes Kanter wasn’t eligible to being a second-round pick that ultimately went to the Knicks.


Less than an hour before draft

June, 23, 2011
6/23/11
7:04
PM ET
Ford By Chad Ford
ESPN.com
Archive
The Cavaliers have told both Kyrie Irving’s and Derrick Williams’ agents that they won't tip their hand on whom they are drafting, so we do have some real drama going into the No. 1 pick.

I’m continuing to hear both Bismack Biyombo and Brandon Knight at No. 5. Jan Vesley looks like a lock at No. 6. It looks like Tristan Thompson or Bismack Biyombo at No. 7 to the Bobcats.

The Pistons will likely take who is available among Thompson and Biyombo, with Thompson preferred.

Will it be Kawhi Leonard or Chris Singleton at No. 9 to the Bobcats?

Will it be Jimmer Fredette or Kemba Walker at No. 10 to the Kings?

Kemba Walker or Alec Burks at No. 12 to the Jazz? Markieff Morris, Kemba Walker or Iman Shumpert at No. 13 to the Suns?

Alec Burks or Markieff Morris at No. 15 to the Pacers?

Read the full story here.

Sources: Bucks-Bobcats-Kings 3-way deal

June, 23, 2011
6/23/11
4:56
PM ET
Ford By Chad Ford
ESPN.com
Archive
The Milwaukee Bucks have agreed in principle to a three-team trade with the Sacramento Kings and the Charlotte Bobcats, multiple sources said Thursday.

The Bucks will get Sacramento's Beno Udrih, Charlotte's Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston and the 19th pick from the Bobcats in Thursday night's draft, while Charlotte obtains the No. 7 pick from Sacramento and forward Corey Maggette from Milwaukee.

The Kings will get guard John Salmons from Milwaukee and the 10th pick in the draft. Charlotte will keep the No. 9 pick.

Read the full story here.

Kemba to Knicks? It's possible

June, 23, 2011
6/23/11
3:12
PM ET
Katz By Andy Katz
ESPN.com
Archive
UConn's Kemba Walker continues to be in play from No. 7 to No. 17, with the New York Knicks as the apparent backstop after what might be a slide out of the lottery.

'Divided' situation for Jimmer

June, 23, 2011
6/23/11
3:09
PM ET
Katz By Andy Katz
ESPN.com
Archive
Utah general manager Kevin O'Connor relayed to Jimmer Fredette's camp Thursday that the Jazz are "terribly divided" on Fredette and whether to select him at No. 12, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Fredette's camp doesn't believe he will go to Sacramento at No. 7.

They are confident that if Utah passes on Fredette, he will go to either Phoenix at No. 13 or Indiana at No. 15.

Sources: Cavs seeking third lottery pick

June, 23, 2011
6/23/11
11:53
AM ET
Ford By Chad Ford
ESPN.com
Archive
The Cleveland Cavaliers have the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the draft. But will they also snag another lottery pick?

Sources say the Cavs have been very actively trying to do just that, with a massive $14.5 million trade exception as the device. The offer? Give us your pick and we'll take back a bad contract into our trade exception, which permits the Cavs to take back salary of more than $14 million.

In that scenario, the Sacramento Kings and the Detroit Pistons look like the most intriguing potential partners. Would the Kings be willing to give up the No. 7 pick if the Cavs gave them Ramon Sessions and took back Francisco Garcia? The Kings are already under the salary cap, but Garcia has $12 million over two years on his contract, and Sacramento would love to move him.

Or if it's Detroit at No. 8, Cleveland could swallow an even bigger contract, such as that belonging to Richard Hamilton ($12.5 million next season) or Charlie Villanueva (three years, $24 million remaining).

The Cavs would love to get Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Jonas Valanciunas in the lottery. Or they could also make a stab at getting Minnesota's No. 2 pick for, let's say, the No. 4 and No. 7 (or No. 8) picks.

To see dozens of NBA rumors, check out NBA Rumor Central Insider

Boston Celtics open to trading No. 25 pick?

June, 23, 2011
6/23/11
11:32
AM ET
Ford By Chad Ford
ESPN.com
Archive
The Boston Celtics are taking a hard look at Marquette's Jimmy Butler and Boston College's Reggie Jackson with the 25th pick in the draft. But there's another potential option for Boston.

The Celtics are open to moving out of the draft altogether if they can trade their pick for a young player. The Celtics have a $2.4 million trade exception that would allow them to take back a young player without having to send anything in return other than the 25th pick.

To see dozens of NBA rumors, check out NBA Rumor Central Insider

Biyombo to Raptors? Knight to Kings?

June, 23, 2011
6/23/11
10:44
AM ET
Ford By Chad Ford
ESPN.com
Archive
The Raptors love Brandon Knight, but would they take Bismack Biyombo even if Knight is on the board at No. 5? I'm hearing it's a real possibility.

If Knight doesn't go fifth, there's almost no chance he gets past Sacramento at No. 7. If that's the case, then Kemba Walker could be in for that Jimmer-Kemba showdown in Utah at No. 12.

To see dozens of NBA rumors, check out NBA Rumor Central Insider

Cavs No. 4: Thompson vs. Valanciunas

June, 23, 2011
6/23/11
10:39
AM ET
Ford By Chad Ford
ESPN.com
Archive
The Cavs have some serious stat guys on their staff. That may explain why they are so high on Tristan Thompson, who John Hollinger has rated third in his Draft Rater.

If the Cavs take Thompson at No. 4, I'm hearing Jonas Valanciunas, who I currently have in the 4 spot in Mock Draft 7.0, probably goes No. 8 to the Pistons.

To see dozens of NBA rumors, check out NBA Rumor Central Insider

Who wins Jimmer-Kemba faceoff in Utah?

June, 23, 2011
6/23/11
10:15
AM ET
Ford By Chad Ford
ESPN.com
Archive
We just published our Mock Draft 7.0, where a number of areas are still a bit hazy. Although I'm feeling pretty solid on picks 1-3, the Cavs are still trying to decide between Jonas Valanciunas and Tristan Thompson at No. 4. They had both players in town this week to meet with owner Dan Gilbert.

Picks 5 and 6 also feel very solid right now depending on what happens at the top. The Raptors have been high on Brandon Knight for weeks, and the Wizards have been high on Jan Vesely for months.

To me, the biggest wild card right now is with the Kings at No. 7. I don't think they are in love with anyone on the board. Not Kemba Walker. Not Kawhi Leonard. Not Jimmer Fredette. They're clearly talking to a number of teams about a trade. Walker is our default pick right now, but there's a good chance he won't be the pick.

If Walker doesn't go No. 7, he could slide ... but how far? The Bobcats will look at him at No. 9. But to me, the most intriguing scenario of the entire draft will happen if Walker and Fredette are both on the board for the Jazz at No. 12. If the Jazz take Enes Kanter at No. 3, they are likely to go with a guard here.

There will be enormous pressure on Utah to draft Fredette here and good reasons to do so. But would the Jazz really pass on Walker, a guy whom they seriously considered at No. 3, to take the hometown hero? I don't think so. I think if both players are on the board, the Jazz would take Kemba. It wouldn't be a hugely popular decision in Utah, but Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor isn't afraid to do the unpopular thing.

To see dozens of NBA rumors, check out NBA Rumor Central Insider

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