NBA Rumor: No. 1 pick

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No. 1 pick candidate Jalen Green: I want to live in Detroit

Before long, Jalen Green was the highlight of the G-League—the fastest player on the court, a multi-level scorer and apt defender, all the while delivering the same highlight reel, high-flying displays that made him famous on the internet. He’d write down goals on yellow sticky notes on his door and cross them off when he accomplished them. Before leaving that Walnut Creek apartment and relocating to LA, the only one left read, “Be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.” “Number one pick,” he tells me, “that would be a dream come true. I ain’t going to lie. That happens, I’m going to have a breakdown,” he laughs. And, naturally, he has preference in mind. “I want to live in Detroit.”

There’s rarely quiet around Jalen now: the buzz of a nearby phone, the clicking of cameras, the throngs of fans can be incessant. The unhinged Instagram comments on casual pictures with friends from people he doesn’t know, the constant judgements on his behavior, the cold shoulder when he comes back home to Fresno. “Fresno’s like a small city, so it’s real small minded. It’s like a crab bucket,” Jalen admits, dropping his head back underneath his hoodie. “You’ve got a bucket full of crabs. They all pull on you when you try to get out. You can fall into crime there, all that type of stuff. If you don’t have the right home, right surroundings, right people around you, that shit can lead you down the wrong path.”

“Number one pick,” he tells me, “that would be a dream come true. I ain’t going to lie. That happens, I’m going to have a breakdown,” he laughs. And, naturally, he has preference in mind. “I want to live in Detroit.” He feels that spot is important to his journey, a reward for his endurance. When I ask him as dinner ends what he wants out of his career, he offers a singular ambition. “I want my respect,” Jalen tells me. “As a person and a basketball player. What comes with this is that people don’t know what you’ve got to sacrifice and go through. Especially when you’re in a small city and basketball takes you down this road and everyone’s still in that small city. It’s personal. A lot of people talk about you on the side. It can get back to your family and everything. And they don’t know what you’ve been through, by yourself, while you’re on that journey.”

There’s a lot of group think at the top of this draft. Across the 14 different big boards I included, all but two had Cade Cunningham as the top prospect. Similarly, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, and Jalen Suggs are ranked in the top four in some order in the vast majority of big boards. I kind of expected there to be more diversity for the simple reason that there’s not really any penalty on the media side for being wrong about draft prospects — draft heads are still going to click and read draft content.

Pistons still open to all possibilities regarding No. 1 pick

The Pistons, their general manager said Tuesday afternoon, remain open to all possibilities a little more than 48 hours ahead of Thursday night’s NBA draft – with all eyes on the Pistons with the No. 1 pick. “I said it from the onset: We’re going to have a process and we’re going to turn over every stone,” Troy Weaver said. “That’s what we’re doing. Everybody’s made the pick but us. But we’re going to continue to do our work, turn over every stone and land where we’re going to land. We’re confident in our work and we’re enjoying the process.”

Thunder offered Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, No. 6 pick to Pistons for No. 1 pick?

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.

Pistons to work out Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs this week

The Detroit Pistons, owners of the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA draft, are conducting individual workouts with some of the top prospects in the draft pool this week, sources told ESPN. The Pistons hosted Cade Cunningham for a light workout in Detroit on Tuesday, and are slated to bring Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs in for private workouts in the coming days. The Pistons would like to bring Evan Mobley in, but have yet to schedule a visit, sources said.

However, reports have indicated that the Rockets have some interest in trading up with Detroit to acquire that pick. Other sources have said that Detroit isn’t a lock to pick Cunningham at the top, anyway, with G League Ignite guard Jalen Green also among the options. Here’s what O’Connor said Monday on The Bill Simmons Podcast: “I’m hearing the same thing as you. That the Rockets love Cade, that they would want to try and get him — whether it’s trading up, or hoping that Detroit passes on him at No. 1.”

Eastern Conference executive: Cade Cunningham is hard to pass on with No. 1 pick

The Pistons will take Cade Cunningham at No. 1 … right? Detroit’s brain trust said all the right things after winning the NBA Draft Lottery — that it wasn’t wedded to the do-everything Cunningham, the brilliant Oklahoma State playmaker, that the Pistons would give strong consideration to Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs or G-Leaguer Jalen Green with the top selection. They’ll no doubt do their due diligence on everyone else, including USC big Evan Mobley. But you can’t overthink No. 1. There’s no one making a true compelling argument against the obvious choice of Cunningham, a 6-foot-8 guard with a 7-1 wingspan, amazing passing ability and poise.

Eastern Conference executive 1: All worthy candidates to at least consider, but Cade is hard to pass on. Eastern Conference executive 2: Now, maybe (GM Troy Weaver) sees something in Mobley that nobody else sees. And that could be him. Troy knows how to pick ’em. So maybe he sees something in Evan that he doesn’t quite see in Cade — long term, for their team. The other part about Evan is Wasserman. Arn (Tellem, the former mega-agent, who is now the Pistons’ vice chairman) created Wasserman, so there could be a connection there.

Cade Cunningham a lock to go No. 1 at NBA draft?

But would the Pistons really pass on Cunningham if the draft were tonight? I still think the answer is no. I would put Cunningham as the overwhelming favorite to end up in Detroit at that spot still, which, by the way, I’ve been told he would be very excited about. The recent buzz about other options can be chalked up to a second-year GM doing his homework and trying to make sure he leaves no stone unturned with what might end up being the most valuable pick he ever has in his career.

Teams including Cleveland, Houston, New Orleans and Oklahoma City are among those making overtures to evaluate what it would take to move up to the No. 1 slot, sources say, but those talks are at an early stage, and any trade is unlikely to be consummated until much closer to the draft, if at all. From all accounts, Detroit is comfortable standing pat at No. 1 and taking Cunningham but will be active in exploring the possibility of trading down and obtaining additional assets, with Mobley a potential target if something gets done.

Pistons very high on Jalen Green?

After the lottery, I got texts from multiple sources that said the Pistons are also thought to be fans of Jalen Green. So look, I’m mocking Cunningham here. Pistons fans who want Cunningham shouldn’t have a meltdown based off this. But this isn’t like 2019 when Zion Williamson was a done deal and everyone in the basketball industry knew it. Cunningham is considered the likely choice here. He’s the overwhelming favorite. But everyone seems to be acting like this is unequivocally a done deal, and I’m not totally convinced of that as of right now, an hour after the lottery.

Pistons considering several options for No. 1 pick

Based on some of the chatter I heard over the course of this season, there was enough love for Cade Cunningham atop the draft that he felt easy to pencil in, regardless of who won the lottery. That no longer appears to be the case. In addition to Cunningham, league sources expect USC’s Evan Mobley and G League Ignite’s Jalen Green to receive serious consideration from the Pistons’ front office, led by general manager Troy Weaver. The strong sense I’ve gotten is that Detroit will explore all its options before committing one way or another, and that the decision on who to take is far from a done deal.

Cunningham knows the work is just beginning. The Texas native has already been thinking of ways to improve before the July 29 draft. “Throughout the season, I was just adding things on in my head,” he said. “We don’t have as much time to just get in the gym and work. I definitely want to get my fluidity and my movement better, whether that’s yoga and things like that. Just getting my range of motion and things a lot better. I still want to focus on tightening my handle, shooting the ball better, just getting more consistent at a lot of the things that I do now.”

And yet Fraschilla wasn’t sure he saw the No. 1 pick in the draft. That’s how spectacular the 2021 NBA Draft is shaping up and Knicks fans should pay attention. Knicks executives changed plans, showed patience and ultimately punted on 2020 free agency, putting them in No. 1 lottery seed contention. “You know how much I love the draft,’’ Fraschilla told The Post via phone after calling the game. “All these guys do the mock drafts. Honestly, they really don’t know what they’re doing. If you’re an NBA GM, this is going to be a very deep draft at the top. Seven-to-10 kids I believe, late in the college basketball season, we’ll be discussing as who will the league taken as the No. 1 pick.”

“2021 is loaded,’’ said VandeGarde. “Loaded.” VandeGarde said Cunningham, Green, Kuminga and Mobley would’ve certainly been the No. 1 pick in last week’s 2020 NBA Draft if high schoolers were eligible. “Could (Cade) be the No. 1 pick?,’’ Fraschilla, the former St. John’s and Manhattan coach, said. “Absolutely. He’s going to be a very good pro. Does he do things beyond his years? Absolutely. What he’ll be is a potential triple-double guy in the NBA in a 48-minute game. But I don’t want to say after seeing after one college game, ‘yeah, it’s over. He’s No. 1.’”

Minnesota Timberwolves prefer trading out of No. 1 pick

According to league sources, as of Tuesday night, the Timberwolves were still calling other teams and attempting to trade this pick. At this point, that would seem to be Minnesota’s clear preference. Interest in the top pick has mostly been tempered going into draft day, but there’s little time left for teams to put their cards on the table, and any real offers will come into play today. Minnesota has pulled out the stops to market this pick and will surely keep trying as long as it can, but the expectation around the NBA on the eve of the draft was that the Wolves would still make this pick and go with Edwards.

I’m told Minnesota’s asking price has been a stumbling block in talks to this point. But there’s still a chance something could materialize for the Wolves, and Obi Toppin would be a strong option if they move back. The Timberwolves were dealt a difficult hand: None of the consensus top three prospects are neat fits for their roster, nor are they ready to aid Minnesota in what they still hope can be an immediate push for a playoff spot.

Sources have told The Athletic that the Wolves have not made a decision yet on what they’re going to do at No. 1. The players in the mix here are LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards if they keep the pick. James Wiseman seems much less likely as the team is worried about the pairing with Karl-Anthony Towns. Over the last 24 hours, the tide has shifted a bit to where I think Edwards is a bit more likely than Ball. Essentially, the conversations boil down to this: do they take the guy who fits better on this roster in Edwards, who can clearly slide into the 2-guard spot? Or do they take Ball, who probably has a bit more upside? One thing worth noting: this front office led by Gersson Rosas will absolutely consider the idea of which player they believe will retain trade value best going forward as they develop this roster around Towns and D’Angelo Russell.

But if it were up to Edwards, bring on the winter coat and the honor of being selected No. 1 by the Minnesota Timberwolves. “Being the top pick would be exceptionally cool,” Edwards, 19, told The Undefeated in a phone interview. “Who doesn’t want to be the No. 1 pick? That’d be cooler than anything. … It would be a dream come true to be No. 1. But if that’s not a team that wants me, or if I’m not wanted there, then wherever I’m wanted, I’m happy with that. … “I don’t really care where I get drafted to. If you want to draft me and you are ready to take a chance on me, then I’m ready to give you my all.”
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