Yet it’s worth noting that inevitable rumbles of Lakers interest would not merely emanate from Simmons’ status as a Paul client like LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Word is that the Lakers, on top of their well-chronicled need for more shooting, covet one more difference-making playmaker who would allow James and Davis to spend more time at power forward and center.
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Expect to eventually hear of them searching for potential pathways, however obstacle-strewn they would be, to reacquiring restricted free agent-to-be Lonzo Ball for that reason.
Lonzo Ball. Status: Restricted free agent. Odds he returns: 40-50 percent I’ve been torn when it comes to Ball’s future in New Orleans. I still believe he could be a great fit with the Pelicans because of his shooting, activity on defense and the special connection he’s developed with Williamson.
I also can understand why some people are iffy about paying a point guard like Ball $20 million per year when his shooting can be highly inconsistent, and the other parts of his game aren’t developed enough to make up for his poor shooting nights.
Griffin and his front office were listening to trade offers for Ball throughout the season, and I would expect them to continue pursuing other options to see what’s out there.
If I had to choose one way or the other, I would say the Pels get aggressive in their attempt to reshape the backcourt and move on from Ball. Once you hear a guy involved in as many trade rumors as Ball was, it’s only a matter of time before he’s sent elsewhere. But I’ll probably end up changing my mind once every other week before the deal finally gets done.
Ball was involved in trade discussions with several teams before last month’s trade deadline, with the LA Clippers, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Hawks among the teams showing interest, sources said. Some executives came away from those talks with the belief that Ball might be available in a sign-and-trade in the offseason as a restricted free agent.
Teams in need of a point guard are preparing for Ball in free agency even with the Pelicans owning matching rights. New Orleans has only $91 million on its books for next season, giving the team cap space and plenty of room under the tax line. But Josh Hart, who has also been proficient playing alongside Williamson, will also be a restricted free agent — and likely will be a more cost-efficient option than Ball. Attempts to move Eric Bledsoe, who is owed $18 million next year, haven’t been successful.
“Unless they can trade Bledsoe, they will probably be hard-pressed to re-sign both Lonzo and Hart,” a rival league executive said. “They don’t pay the [luxury] tax.”
On Friday, Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin addressed the team’s decision to retain Ball. “He’s a guy that can do some spectacular things,” he said. “What we’ve seen him do is be as hard a worker as we have, improve his shooting as much as you possibly can, be diligent in the weight room. He loves his teammates. He’s made it very clear personally, 1-to-1, that he wants to be here. And yet, what you will read ‘This is a player who doesn’t want to be here. He’s clearly not in our plans so you should trade him for a ham sandwich.’ Well, that doesn’t make any sense when we know the actual real story behind Lonzo Ball.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: No Lonzo Ball trade, sources tell ESPN. He’s staying in New Orleans.
NBA Central: The Knicks have remained engaged with the New Orleans Pelicans regarding a potential Lonzo Ball trade, per @Ian Begley pic.twitter.com/9yPR2le80Q
KC Johnson: With 2 hours until deadline, asking price for Lonzo Ball remains more than just Lauri Markkanen. Bulls’ draft capital depleted from Vucevic trade and expiring Porter salary makes expanding deal difficult. Fluid situation.
KC Johnson: Word around the league is that the Bulls aren’t necessarily done. Not only are they still engaged on Lonzo Ball, they’re fielding calls on Lauri Markkanen.
Joe Cowley: Was told that New Orleans really wanted draft compensation this year included in a Ball package, so get creative or get a different point guard in the crosshairs if you’re the Bulls. That 21 pick is gone.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Here’s the deal: The Bulls land Nikola Vucevic and Al Farouq Aminu for Otto Porter, Wendell Carter Jr., and two first-round picks. Huge addition for Chicago, who remains in pursuit of Lonzo Ball. The Magic are moving toward a rebuild now with Aaron Gordon deal on deck.
KC Johnson: As of this AM, acquiring Lonzo Ball would take more than just an offer of Lauri Markkanen. Don’t know if sweetener would be first-round pick, as word around league was earlier this week, or expanding deal to take larger contract off Pels’ hands for expiring contract.
Yes, the Pelicans love their young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Jaxson Hayes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, et. al. But if you’re wondering why Lonzo Ball’s name is coming up in trade talks, it’s in part due to New Orleans’ desire to move off some of its expensive, longer deals. While Ball’s deal is expiring (at about $11 million), Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams both have two full seasons left, for nearly $90 million. Ball could serve as a reward to a trade partner for taking on one of those contracts.
Several teams, including the Chicago Bulls and Denver Nuggets, have interest in trading for Ball, SNY sources confirm. ESPN reported that Philadelphia also has interest in trading for Ball.
I don’t know where the Knicks have landed on that question. The answers are probably varied. But people familiar with the situation said that, as of Tuesday afternoon, New York was still keeping an eye on the price that it would take to trade for Ball.
Given that, it seems reasonable to think that if the Knicks are comfortable with the price to trade for Ball, they would make an offer to New Orleans. But, as noted earlier this week, the Knicks have been wary of disrupting the chemistry established by the current team. Trading for Ball would, presumably, disrupt that chemistry.
KC Johnson: As of Tuesday night, based on conversations I had with various league types, the Pelicans were asking for at least a first-round pick in any Ball deal. This new regime doesn’t appear to me to be the type to be sacrificing first-round draft capital, particularly on the front end of a large project to rework the roster. But I’ve been wrong before.
The Clippers, as noted earlier this week, need point guard help, and it’s expected L.A. will zero in on Lonzo Ball and Ricky Rubio over the next two days. Ball, who is not in New Orleans’s long term plans, is likely to be moved somewhere before the deadline.
Ball would be an interesting fit with the Denver Nuggets. The Pelicans’ appetite for moving Ball ahead of his restricted free agency this summer has been murkier since Ball’s surge in the past month, but the sense among league sources is they would be open to a deal if the offer is strong enough. Teams with cap room to sign Ball this summer have some incentive to pony up now, since the Pelicans will have the right to match any offer for Ball in free agency.
Kevin Connor on Lonzo Ball: Everything I’ve heard is that the Pelicans are split on whether what to do here.
Jordan Schultz: Lonzo Ball is another name to watch before the deadline. Teams are intrigued by his special defensive ability/capacity to play both guard spots. Ball is converting a career-best 38.5% from 3 and is still just 23 years old. I’m told the #Pelicans have “listened to trade offers.”
Sacramento’s Bjelica, Oklahoma City’s George Hill, Detroit’s Wayne Ellington, Miami’s Olynyk, Indiana’s Aaron Holiday and the Orlando duo of Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross are all prime contenders to be moved. Hill and Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio have been mentioned frequently as secondary targets for the Clippers, after Ball.
Mike Mazzeo: In potential talks about pending Pelicans RFA PG Lonzo Ball, Knicks have been trying to find a third team to take Eric Bledsoe’s remaining deal, source says. Unclear if anything occurs before Thursday’s deadline. JJ Redick has also been linked to Knicks (w/ Nets buyout possible)
The Knicks and Bulls have also expressed interest in New Orleans’ starting point guard, sources said, although the Pelicans, as we previously reported, do not appear as motivated to move Ball as they once did. There were early discussions centered around swapping Lauri Markkanen for Ball, sources said, yet those talks have not yet seemed close to substantial.
Another team expected to show interest in Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball: The Hawks, sources said. The Pelicans have a price point on Ball to reach for any deal.
Despite LaVar’s bold remarks on Los Angeles radio, The Post has learned Lonzo doesn’t feel the same way about being dealt Thursday. The Pelicans have had a disappointing season — 18-24, in 11th place in the West. However, Ball’s preference is to fight for a playoff berth with New Orleans and put his focus on his first free agency, one NBA source said.
The Post reported last week Ball would have the Knicks high on his free-agent radar. As far as putting together a package now for Ball, league sources believes the Knicks would tend to be reluctant knowing they can have Ball for free this summer.
There’s skepticism around the league that the Pelicans will move Lonzo Ball ahead of the deadline, but that won’t stop teams from trying. League sources say the Bulls and Hawks are both in pursuit. Chicago has offered Tomas Satoransky and second-round picks, but New Orleans is asking for at least one good first-round pick or a young player. Talks with Atlanta have revolved around Cam Reddish.
Marc Stein: The Clippers, with a well-chronicled need for a playmaking upgrade, are exploring trade routes to acquiring New Orleans’ Lonzo Ball before next Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, league sources say.
In a phone interview with Mason & Ireland on ESPN LA 710 ahead of LaMelo’s first game back in Los Angeles, LaVar was asked about Lonzo’s future with the Pelicans. And, well, he didn’t hold back. LaVar said, when asked if Lonzo should stay in New Orleans:“No! No, he can’t stay in New Orleans. Come on, man. Come on.”
LaVar Ball: “Lonzo’s always been a playmaker. Why are you trying to change him into a defensive specialist that stays in the corner and shoots 3s? And you’re trying to change Zion and Brandon Ingram who, all through their careers, have never been playmakers. Scorers! Now you want to put the ball in their hands and be playmakers?! … Go score the ball and do what you do and guess what? They’re gonna have a hard time trying to win every game if the playmaker ain’t making the right plays.”
He continued, when asked if he thought a trade would actually happen: “Oh, I don’t know what they’re gonna do. I don’t know what they’re gonna do. I hope he be traded though. Here’s the thing: I don’t like watching him play like that.”
While Houston’s combo guard Victor Oladipo is very available, Pelicans pass-first point guard Lonzo Ball is higher on Leon Rose’s list. However, the Pelicans have not tipped their hand on whether they’re ready to move their ever-improving playmaker, even though he is a restricted free agent this summer as his rookie contract expires.
Some league insiders wonder if he’s even still a candidate to be traded, though his restricted-free-agent status certainly complicates the situation. Agent Rich Paul will undoubtedly be looking for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft to be given a hefty deal somewhere, and it’s possible Griffin would prefer to move on and free up additional playing time for Lewis and Alexander-Walker, both of whom he drafted in the first round.
The other includes the names that have been bandied about by executives around the league for weeks now: Ball, Bledsoe and Redick. “They’re willing to move on from all of those guys,” said a West scout.
Trade talks involving Ball have fizzled for now, league sources say. Ball has been at times the Pelicans’ best defender, and he’s certainly their best playmaker in the backcourt. But New Orleans needs to consider the type of contract Ball will demand this offseason in restricted free agency, and whether giving it to him would limit future possibilities. Trading the 23-year-old will remain a possibility, especially since the Pelicans are expected to be active ahead of the trade deadline. Executives say they could be buyers or sellers, depending on what direction the trade winds blow.
Andrew Lopez: Lonzo was asked about building a future with Zion and BI in New Orleans. His answer: “For sure. I love playing with those guys. I’m also really cool with them off the floor as well. We’re all young. I think we can do some good things especially in the future coming up.”
“If you just let Lonzo be Lonzo and Zion be Zion, they’re gonna team up for 8, 10 points a night,” said one NBA coach. For now, it appears there’s little expectation New Orleans will move Ball before the March 25 trade deadline, sources said.
Among the teams that has interest in Lonzo Ball and could pursue him: The Bulls, sources said. The sides so far have not had dialogue, per sources.
Multiple league sources told Action Network that Chicago is (currently) the most likely landing spot for Ball. That’s based on multiple factors, including the preference of both Ball and his agent, Rich Paul, Chicago’s interest in making a roster move and the Pelicans’ openness to discussions.
And as Ball’s name flutters around a myriad of trade rumors, the Pelicans’ season somewhat hangs in the balance. As long as he’s still playing, the possibilities of him harnessing the full extents of his talent still exists. Therefore the chances of the Pelicans propelling back into the playoff race lingers in the realm of possibility. “I mean he knows his name is being involved with being traded and all of that, but the way he’s handled it is pretty good,” Ingram said. “He comes in forceful and ready to play the game of basketball and he’s there for all of his brothers on the basketball court.”
In conversations with executives, a few names repeatedly popped up as logical trade candidates over the next several weeks. The New Orleans Pelicans have already engaged teams on veteran guards Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick.
Brian Windhorst: One of the places that, in addition to Golden State that you could think of Lonzo, one of the places that you would think of Lonzo as a possibility and I’ve heard out there would be Chicago. If Chicago might have an interest there… But we’ll see about that.
Brian Windhorst: There have also been rumors about Kelly Oubre-Lonzo Ball trade. I mean that’s no secret, that’s sort of been out there. (…) The Pelicans have struggled, especially defensively. (…) They’ve shopped their guards. They’ve shopped Eric Bledsoe, Ball and JJ Redick.
Ball returned to action Friday night and played his best game of the season in a 131-126 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. Ball had a season-high 27 points (tying his high in a Pelicans uniform), matched a career high with seven 3-pointers and had his second-best assist output of the season with eight. “I just stay the course,” Ball said when asked if he had any extra motivation this week. “I’ve been playing basketball for a long time. I put a lot of work in and just try to play my game. That’s how I play. I just try to stay away from all the noise and just go out there and try to help my team win games.”
Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said he spoke with Ball earlier this week about being able to play through the noise and playing at a high level. “Nobody likes distractions, but you have distractions all the time,” Van Gundy told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s trade rumors, it’s COVID, it’s family, whatever it is. Other voices. There’s always distractions, and a big part of being successful in this league is being able to block out distractions and being able to do your job.”
In the offseason, the Knicks did their homework on the point guard situation in New Orleans. But the homework they did at that point wasn’t about Lonzo Ball. Now, two months from the 2021 trade deadline, some teams believe Ball will be available in trade scenarios for the right asking price, SNY sources say, confirming an Athletic report. One team monitoring the situation said the Pelicans value Ball and won’t deal him without getting a significant return.
Would the Knicks have interest? That’s unclear. But the emergence of rookie Immanuel Quickley could make New York less apt to trade for a young point guard. Entering the 2020 offseason, there had been support in some corners of Madison Square Garden for a trade to acquire Ball. But that support wasn’t strong enough for New York to complete a trade.
Feb. 6: most players who signed free-agent contracts in the offseason can begin to be traded. A team that is expected to be prominent in the trade market picture, rival teams expect: The New Orleans Pelicans. The franchise is off to an uneven 5-10 start to the season. New Orleans has been receiving calls about the availability of Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick and has shown an openness to discussing trades around both with interested teams, sources tell The Athletic. A move would create a clearer pathway for young guards Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis in the Pelicans’ rotation.
NBA Central: Jay Williams is hearing that Lonzo Ball may be used as a trading asset in New Orleans (🎥 Keyshawn, JWill And Zubin) pic.twitter.com/HPiUVhNLDa
Plus, people down in Orlando tell me Lonzo Ball looked like he’d checked out the whole time the Pels were there, and that they expect some significant roster adjustments in New Orleans before next season.
If the Pelicans do decide to make a few big moves at the trade deadline, Brian Windhorst of ESPN said that he’s gotten the impression that New Orleans would trade Ball if the right offer came along. “I think he’d be available,” Windhorst said on the latest Hoop Collective podcast.
The Los Angeles Lakers have acquired forward Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, the draft rights to De’Andre Hunter, two first round picks, a first-round pick swap right and cash. As part of the trade, the Lakers also sent Isaac Bonga, Jemerrio Jones, Moritz Wagner and a future second round draft pick to the Wizards, who in return, sent cash consideration to the Pelicans.
League sources told ESPN’s Bobby Marks that the Pelicans, Hawks and Wizards are expected to cooperate with the Lakers if Leonard is still undecided by noon on Saturday. The July 6 date was agreed upon initially in the Lakers’ and Pelicans’ deal sending Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks for Davis. The deal was based on the Lakers using the $32 million in cap space created on a max free agent like Leonard or on multiple free agents.
“I guarantee: Like I say again, it will be the worst move the Lakers ever did in their life and they will never win another championship,” LaVar Ball told ESPN while at the Drew League on Saturday to watch his son LaMelo play. “Guarantee it. “They’re going to regret it. I’m going to have fun with it. Because I told you all, it was crashing down. Now [the Lakers] completely crashed, but at least my son got off the boat before the thing exploded. I gave them a chance. You can rewind it and go back. I said if you get the three Ball brothers, you can survive this. You let him go, oh, it’s going to be a cold day in hell. Trust and believe that.”
The New Orleans Pelicans are interested in three of the Lakers’ young players — whether that’s Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma or Josh Hart — and the No. 4 pick in order to acquire Davis, according to people familiar with the trade discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly because of the fluidity of the situation. It’s possible New Orleans could use the No. 4 pick to acquire a player from a third team.
Marc Stein: The Lakers’ ability to seal a deal for Anthony Davis likely hinges on what the No. 4 pick can fetch. If the No. 4 pick can land a player to excite New Orleans, on top of Ingram and Ball, then the teams are headed for an agreement in principle before draft night next Thursday
Marc Stein: The Lakers have made Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and the No. 4 pick in the June 20 draft available in trade talks with the Pelicans, league sources say. New Orleans has made it known it hope to assemble a three-teams-or-more deal before surrendering Anthony Davis
The Phoenix Suns have already told other NBA front offices that their No. 6 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft is on the table for a potential trade if “the right veteran guard is available,” according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. What constitutes “right” and “veteran,” of course, is hard to say. On Saturday, 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s John Gambadoro shot down a rumor that Phoenix might be willing to deal the No. 6 overall selection for Los Angeles Lakers third-year point guard Lonzo Ball.
John Gambadoro: There is NO truth to this – Suns not offering #6 for Lonzo
And on an appearance on ESPN LA’s “Mason & Ireland,” Pelicans beat writer Andrew Lopez gave the Los Angeles Lakers a bit of good news. He reported that, while the Lakers are still trailing the Boston Celtics, Pelicans Head Coach Alvin Gentry is very interested in Lonzo Ball (h/t Christian Rivas of Lonzo Wire). “It’s probably Boston first and then I’d put the Lakers second,” Lopez said. “The Lakers do have good assets that people in the Pelicans’ organization value. For instance, Alvin Gentry loves the idea of having a Lonzo Ball-Jrue Holiday backckourt. LaVar Ball does not love the idea of a Lonzo Ball-Jrue Holiday backcourt, so that makes things a little bit complicated. They like some of the guys higher in the draft.”
If there’s a deal with the Lakers, most sources would want Ball involved regardless of any parent distractions from his attention-seeking father, Lavar. “People just don’t grasp how good he is,” a source said.
Ball intrigues the Bulls as a pass-first, defensive-minded point guard with positional size who can best maximize the talents of Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Wendell Carter Jr.
According to one NBA executive, the Bulls and Lakers did start initial conversations on point guard Lonzo Ball shortly after the Ball camp made it public that the Bulls would be one of his desired destinations if Los Angeles were to move him.
Ball understands this summer presents the chance at a positive step for the opportunity of self-improvement — no matter what happens. “At the end of the day, you can only control the things that you can control,” Ball told The Athletic. “If I get traded, then I get traded. But I’m going to be ready to go. The goal is to be the best player I can for whichever team.”
Duane Rankin: On eve of Thursday’s #NBA trade deadline, Josh Jackson and TJ Warren aren’t on trading block, and #Suns haven’t reached out to #Lakers and #Pelicans about a potential deal related to Lonzo Ball, league sources have told @azcentral
If New Orleans wants more than that, there are also rumblings that the Suns could emerge as a third team for Ball—much to his father’s delight—possibly with T.J. Warren and a young player going to the Pelicans. However, a source with knowledge of the trade discussions said the Ball family’s desires have no bearing on how the Lakers or Pelicans will approach negotiations.
Late Monday night, the Lakers changed their offer at the request of the Pelicans, two people said. The Lakers had agreed to send their entire young core of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Ivica Zubac to the Pelicans, as well as veteran guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the people said. The Lakers were also winning to also send the Pelicans two first-round draft picks.
In a radio interview with Phoenix station Arizona Sports 98.7, Ball called out Luke Walton and the Lakers both, blaming the franchise and the head coach for holding his son back. The Lakers gave my boy that losing attitude…Luke Walton was the worst coach ever for Lonzo. He’s been losing for three years.
Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and Pelicans general manager Dell Demps re-opened their dialogue Monday about working together on an Anthony Davis trade. The Lakers increased their offer to include everything the Pelicans desire: six players, two first-round draft picks and a willingness to take back an undesirable contract. The Lakers’ most recent offer to the Pelicans, according to people with knowledge of the situation, includes Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and two first-round picks in exchange for Davis and Solomon Hill, who is set to make $13 million next season.
Upon learning of that offer, Ball’s camp expressesd concern about the 6-6 point guard winding up in New Orleans if traded. One team with which there was mutual interest was the Phoenix Suns, according to two people unauthorized to speak publicly. Phoenix is a team filled with young players that is desperate for a point guard, but the Suns could only make that work if it were added to the deal as a third team.
Brad Turner: Landed in Indy; update on Lakers-Pelicans talks. Magic Johnson, Dell Demps talked twice today, per source. Lakers willing to give Pelicans cap relief for Anthony Davis by taking Solomon Hill for Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Ingram, Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Beasley, 2 1st round picks.
As the Los Angeles Lakers pursue New Orleans Pelicans All-NBA center Anthony Davis ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline, the initial offers have been underwhelming, including the Lakers’ first offer of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo, Michael Beasley and a first-round pick, league sources told ESPN.
Adrian Wojnarowski: in the Lakers first offer to the Pelicans for Anthony Davis, LA offered Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo, Michael Beasley and a first-round pick, league sources tell ESPN.
Shams Charania: Sources: The Lakers have offered the Pelicans two of their talented young players — among Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, Josh Hart — with Rondo or Stephenson as core parts of a deal. For Pelicans, these have not been remotely serious offers.
Tania Ganguli: After learning of the Lakers’ offers to the Pelicans, Lonzo Ball’s camp maintains that New Orleans isn’t the desired destination. Phoenix makes the most basketball sense if Ball were to be traded and according to two sources there is mutual interest.
Brad Turner: Sources: Lakers let Demps know one of trade scenarios would include Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac, No. 1 pick, per source. Eric Pincus: Trying to parse BT’s language – if Lakers have discussed multiple scenarios that include all of the listed players – doesn’t mean one specific scenario includes all of the players. Tania Ganguli: actually, no. this is one of the options. all together.
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July 26, 2021 | 10:15 pm EDT Update
Shams Charania: Portland Trail Blazers forward Derrick Jones Jr. will pick up his $9.7 million player option for the 2021-22 season, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.
Darren Wolfson: Talked w/ #Timberwolves POBO Rosas. Asked him if we can read into the posted pics of Bolmaro’s recent MN trip being a sign he’s coming this summer. “I think it’s fair.” On Ant rehab, “Things are positive.” 1 more: “Way we build this team will be through trade this offseason.”
Anthony Slater: James Bouknight on the Warriors: “I’d fit right in. Playing with Steph, Klay and Draymond, (I’m) someone who can play off the ball and maybe relieve some tension. Then coming in as a reserve, me and Jordan Poole can be a great 1-2 punch off the bench, great scoring combo.” pic.twitter.com/zgrbDfQyCE
July 26, 2021 | 7:35 pm EDT Update
Cade Cunningham has been the public favorite to go No. 1 to the Detroit Pistons since the lottery. While Detroit is surely doing its due diligence, is there any reason to doubt that Cunningham will be the first name we hear on Thursday night? Matt Babcock: I expect Cade Cunningham to be the top overall pick in this draft, selected by the Detroit Pistons. However, I’ve been told that the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder have been knocking the Pistons’ door down. Rumor has it that the Thunder offered the No. 6 pick and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in exchange for No. 1 — the Pistons declined. If the Pistons receive an offer better than that one, they may need to seriously consider it.
Scottie Barnes has moved up to No. 4 in your latest mock draft, breaking through what is generally considered to be a four-player top tier of Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs. What inspired you to make that change? Babcock: Scottie Barnes’ draft stock seems to be at an all-time high. There’s a lot of buzz swirling around that he’ll be going to either the Toronto Raptors at No. 4 or Orlando Magic at No. 5. I’m not completely convinced that Barnes will end up in Toronto at No. 4; however, it’s what I decided to go with for now. Another thing worth noting is that I’ve heard Toronto is very high on Evan Mobley, who I do not think will be available at No. 4. I could see a trade between Toronto and either Houston or the Cleveland Cavaliers making sense.
Five teams (Oklahoma City, Orlando, Golden State, New York and Houston) currently own multiple first-round picks. Do you expect movement from any of these squads? Babcock: There has been so much trade chatter this year among those teams, but most of the other teams, too. I fully expect there to be a ton of movement prior to, or during, this year’s draft.
However, two other names also are swirling around. Moses Moody has been someone league sources have said the Grizzlies are very interested in. He’s one of the most intriguing 3-and-D guys in the draft. In his one year at Arkansas, he made 35.8 percent of his 3-pointers, and nearly 50 percent of his shots came from beyond the arc. Nobody is blown away by 35.8 percent, but scouts/executives believe in his shot and are encouraged by the 81.2 percent he shot from the free throw line. Free-throw percentage is often an indicator of someone discovering long-distance accuracy.