With the draft and free agency rapidly approaching, it's decision time around the NBA.
By SAM AMICOFS Ohio
The latest buzz surrounding the NBA Draft as we approach Thursday's main event:
• No less than 10 teams have expressed interest in the Cleveland
Cavaliers’ No. 1 overall pick, with the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings being the most recent to call. According to one source, the
Cavs are seeking “a serious haul” in return.
• Numerous teams, including the Cavs, continue to talk with the Dallas Mavericks about the 13th pick. The Mavs are looking to get out of the first round and shed salary -- more specifically, the salary belonging to veteran small forward Shawn Marion.
• The Cavs continue to debate whether they want to take on money in any potential deal with Dallas. Both of the Cavs’ second-round picks (Nos. 31 and 33 overall) are in play in the talks, sources said.
• As for the rumors involving the Cavs, the Boston Celtics and Paul Pierce, sources confirmed the Cavs have indeed expressed an interest -- but the talks have yet to reach the level of seriousness conveyed by some reports. The Cavaliers are reportedly willing to give up both of their second-round picks for Pierce.
• Following the departure of coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Celtics are looking to gut the roster and shed salary, making Pierce and forward Kevin Garnett (and possibly even point guard Rajon Rondo) available. Word is, however, that Pierce wants to play for a contender, making the Cavs hesitant to be overly aggressive in their pursuit of the 14-year veteran.
• Still, some sources indicated the Celtics have until the 13th pick to decide whether to accept the Cavs’ offer for Pierce. If not, those sources said, the Cavs will pull the trigger on the potential deal with the Mavericks.
• Another source added the Cavs’ reported offer of both second-rounders for Pierce “isn’t the entire truth.”
• Chicago Bulls small forward Luol Deng is also said to be a target of the Cavs. League sources say the Cavs may have floated the idea of the No. 19 pick and a younger player, perhaps center Tyler Zeller.
• The Cavs supposedly have had several conversations with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are trying to move up from their No. 9 overall spot. Sources said the Cavs are intrigued, but “aren’t keen on” trading down to ninth. They would prefer to stay in the top five or six.
• With power forward Pau Gasol on the trading block, the Los Angeles Lakers are another team that has been fielding plenty of calls leading up to the draft. It should be noted the Cavs are said to have no interest in a Gasol deal.
• In the most-pressing Lakers news, league executives are beginning to strongly believe center Dwight Howard will sign with the Houston Rockets in free agency. That said, not one of those executives is certain of Howard’s actual plans, and he too appears to remain undecided.
• The Portland Trail Blazers are “sniffing around” about potentially moving up from their No. 10 overall spot, according to one source. But like most of these conversations, the ones involving the Blazers have largely been exploratory.
• Armed with the No. 15 pick and looming wiggle room under the salary cap, execs believe Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond is preparing to make a splash and reshape the roster. Apparently, rising big man Larry Sanders is the Bucks' lone untouchable.
• One team has inquired about Cavs center Anderson Varejao, said a team source. So far, the Cavs have not been too receptive.
• As of late Sunday night, Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, Maryland center Alex Len and Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore were said to be in the mix for the Cavs’ top pick. Sources added not to disregard Georgetown small forward Otto Porter and UNLV forward Anthony Bennett as possibilities. Bennett impressed the Cavs during his visit last week.
• Finally, the Sacramento Kings have quietly explored what might be the return for talented-but-sometimes-troubled center DeMarcus Cousins. The result: Not much.