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NBA Today: June 21

  • Doc Rivers is leaning one way on whether he’ll return to coach the Celtics next season, but he’s not saying which.
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Teams to Watch in the Draft

The 2010 NBA Draft is coming up this Thursday, June 24. I’ve always thought that the lottery siphons much of the suspense surrounding the draft, but there is certainly still room for excitement, particularly in the mid to late first round and when teams make surprising selections.

While Kentucky’s John Wall is certainly the prize of this year’s field, there figure to be plenty of other first-round gems to be had. With that said, here are the teams that figure to make key additions via their selections on Thursday night.

New Jersey Nets (Picks 3, 27, and 31)

After a 12-70 season, the Nets have nowhere to go but up. Even though their falling to third in this year’s draft order and losing out on Wall was a disappointment, No. 3 should still provide a good pick. In contention for the pick are Georgia Tech’s Derrick Favors, Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins, and Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson. If Philadelphia elects to forgo Ohio State’s Evan Turner at No. 2 as a result of this week’s trade with the Sacramento Kings, the Nets could nab him, too.

With the combination of one or more talented free agents and the three draft picks over the course of the night, the Nets could definitely make a playoff push in 2011, especially in what seems to be a weak Eastern Conference.

Minnesota Timberwolves (Picks 4, 16, 23, 45, and 56)

The Timberwolves, like the Nets, had a terrible season in 2009-2010 in spite of a number of young, talented players. Finishing second to last in the entire league, they also have a ton of room to improve. With a bevy of selections in the draft (five in total), the T’Wolves can retool and try to become competitive. If they don’t find the players they want, they can always deal the picks or the prospects in a package to bring in a top-tier player. In addition, Ricky Rubio is waiting in the wings in Europe, so they have him to look forward to as well.

Los Angeles Clippers (Picks 8 and 54)

The Clippers have slogged through years of mediocrity last year despite continually boasting fairly impressive starting lineups. Their chemistry and leadership have always been the paramount issues. This year, with only five players under contract, they will start fresh. Finally joining the rotation is Blake Griffin, who missed the entirety of his rookie campaign with knee problems. With Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, and Chris Kaman also on the roster, small forward is clearly a need for the Clippers.

In this draft, LA is fortunate enough to have a number of candidates to choose from. At No. 8, Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson, Wake Forest’s Al-Farouq Aminu, Butler’s Gordon Hayward, and Nevada’s Luke Babbitt are all suitable selections, so the team will be able to plug a major hole in its roster.

Memphis Grizzlies (Picks 12, 25, and 28)

The Grizzlies put up a solid year in 2009-2010 even after the questionable acquisitions and Zach Randolph and Allen Iverson. Even though AI was a disaster, Randolph proved to be an offensive and defensive force in the paint, giving the team a great anchor down low to pair with budding center Marc Gasol. In addition, with OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay (who might flee via restricted free agency), they are rock solid at the wing positions, at least on offense.

With three picks in the first round, the Grizzlies have plenty of fodder to strengthen their rotation. Point guard Mike Conley hasn’t panned out as they would have liked, and neither has Hasheem Thabeet, so they can fortify both of those positions. Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton or Marshall’s Hassan Whiteside could fit the bill.

Oklahoma City Thunder (Picks 21, 26, 32, and 51)

The youngsters from Oklahoma City stunned the basketball world by coming relatively close to knocking off the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. They have a great roster already with Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Jeff Green, and Kevin Durant, of course, but their front court faces some questions. Their lack of length and height was a major deterring factor against the eventual champions, and they need to remedy that to hope to acquire the Larry O’Brien trophy in the near future.

The acquisition of BJ Mullens last year proved to be a waste, so they need to rethink how they’ll solidify the center position. Again, Orton and Whiteside are potential fits.

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Hollinger Ranks NBA Franchises

After the Los Angeles Lakers’ Finals win on Thursday, ESPN.com’s John Hollinger responds by ranking the 3o NBA franchises. The 2010 champions snag the top spot in the ranking:

Magic. Kareem. The Logo. Kobe. Shaq. When it comes to superstars, the Lakers are so far out in front of everybody else it’s not even funny — their all-time starting five would crush any other team’s; in fact, it might be better than that of the rest of the league’s put together. So star-studded is their legacy that I left Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor and George Mikan off my five-man team that opened this paragraph, also neglecting the likes of James Worthy, Bob McAdoo and Gail Goodrich.

And those big names won, too. Although the Celtics have more championships, the Lakers have more of everything else — wins, playoff wins, playoff series wins and conference titles. About the only thing that hurts L.A. in the all-time rankings is the penalty for relocating from Minnesota to Los Angeles in the 1950s.

See an introduction for how Hollinger came to his results here.

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NBA Today: June 19

  • Well, LeBron showed up for the rally in Akron — even if he came after the event had officially ended.
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Lakers Poised for Threepeat

The Los Angeles Lakers deserved their series win and their 16th title against the Boston Celtics. They played hard, overcoming an ominous 3-2 deficit, and eked out revenge with their east-coast rivals.

I don’t think the Lakers are done with their winning ways, though. As much as it pains me to say it, the Lakers seem ready to acquire a second threepeat in the span of a decade. Here’s why:

  1. They aren’t losing any talent. Kobe’s locked up for three years, Pau Gasol’s still around, Ron Artest is still around, and Andrew Bynum will still be around if he’s not dealt for someone even better (e.g., Chris Bosh). They will have the talent for several years to compete for a championship, and I don’t see how another year of regression for any of these players will bring in a decline in performance.
  2. They didn’t even play their best this year. This season was an interesting one for the Lakers, and even though they finished first, they could have done a lot better. They were merely above average on the road, and it seems like they’re going to improve away from the Staples Center next year. In addtion, they didn’t have Gasol for the whole regular season, and he appears to have drastically improved over the course of the playoffs, so he should be an even stronger post threat in 2010-2011.
  3. There will be a dilution of talent in the league next year. With all these top free agents available this summer, many of the competing teams this year are going to lose key cogs in their rosters or succumb to other pressures. In the West, Phoenix is likely to be without Amar’e Stoudemire. The Spurs will be another year older. The Mavericks may not not Dirk Nowitzki, and Jason Kidd’s effectiveness is waning. Elsewhere, LeBron might join a project team like the Knicks or Nets, Dwyane Wade might be stuck with no one in Miami, and it is doubtful Boston will be able to replicate this year’s effort, especially if Ray Allen dips in free agency.

While it would be nice to see a different team on top next year, the Lakers have to figure as being the favorites going in. They have too much talent and too much a thirst for winning to be considered any less. But if Phil Jackson decides to retire, that could be problematic.

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NBA Today: June 18

  • The Los Angeles Lakers are your 2010 NBA Champions for the 16th time in their storied history.
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Dalembert Dealt to Sacramento

After a poor season for both teams, the Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings agreed on a swap that sends center Samuel Dalembert out west and Andres Nocioni and Spencer Hawes back East. From the AP report:

PHILADELPHIA – Samuel Dalembert got his wish.

The Philadelphia 76ers traded Dalembert to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday for Andres Nocioni and Spencer Hawes.

Dalembert asked for a trade last year because he was unhappy with his role. Now, he got it.

“We are excited to add two players in Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni who will help us immediately and provide us with additional frontcourt depth,” Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski said in a statement. “Spencer is a young seven-footer who will provide us with versatility at the center position, while Andres will provide us with a tough veteran presence.”

Dalembert was Philadelphia’s longest-tenured player, but he played for seven different coaches and never developed into a dominant force after being drafted in the first round in 2001. The 6-foot-11 center averaged 8.1 points and 8.3 rebounds in eight seasons with the Sixers and often was mentioned in trade rumors.

He joins a team that was 25-57 and had the second-worst record in the Western Conference.

The Kings acquire a solid defensive presence and a mammoth expiring contract all in one, and they deal Hawes probably to make room for a big man in the draft like DeMarcus Cousins or Greg Monroe.

The Sixers continue the rebuilding process and get rid of their disgruntled center.

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Dalembert Dealt to Sacramento

After a poor season for both teams, the Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings agreed on a swap that sends center Samuel Dalembert out west and Andres Nocioni and Spencer Hawes back East. From the AP report:

PHILADELPHIA – Samuel Dalembert got his wish.

The Philadelphia 76ers traded Dalembert to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday for Andres Nocioni and Spencer Hawes.

Dalembert asked for a trade last year because he was unhappy with his role. Now, he got it.

“We are excited to add two players in Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni who will help us immediately and provide us with additional frontcourt depth,” Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski said in a statement. “Spencer is a young seven-footer who will provide us with versatility at the center position, while Andres will provide us with a tough veteran presence.”

Dalembert was Philadelphia’s longest-tenured player, but he played for seven different coaches and never developed into a dominant force after being drafted in the first round in 2001. The 6-foot-11 center averaged 8.1 points and 8.3 rebounds in eight seasons with the Sixers and often was mentioned in trade rumors.

He joins a team that was 25-57 and had the second-worst record in the Western Conference.

The Kings acquire a solid defensive presence and a mammoth expiring contract all in one, and they deal Hawes probably to make room for a big man in the draft like DeMarcus Cousins or Greg Monroe.

The Sixers continue the rebuilding process and get rid of their disgruntled center.