With Victor Wembanyama projected at No. 1, uncertainty hangs over the rest of the top 10

Next Monday, just under two weeks before the NBA draft on June 22, scores of scouts and other team personnel will be heading to their organization’s headquarters for front-office meetings and planning sessions at the big board, and that’s when most of the legitimate offseason chatter will start to buzz. The trade calls between the teams will have more weight and substance as opposed to the general sensations that have taken place since the Draft Combine. Many league executives are anticipating quite a bit of movement throughout the first round, starting with the No. 3 pick since Portland jumped there in the Draft Lottery in Chicago.

As the Trail Blazers signaled an opening to move that No. 3 pick – general manager Joe Cronin told Yahoo Sports in May that his team was “trying to win and trying to max out Damian [Lillard’s] timeline” – rival teams are skeptical Portland will find a suitable trade partner for this coveted selection before the Blazers hit the clock. There’s no simple answer to what Charlotte will decide at No. 2 with numerous mock drafts pinning Alabama rookie Brandon Miller as the Hornets’ likely direction as a perceived best fit next to the All-Star point guard. LaMelo Ball instead of G League Ignite guards Scoot Henderson. Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports has predicted Henderson to become No. 2. This level of uncertainty could present a challenge for any team hoping to move up to the third pick without having a clear idea of ​​which prospects will still be on the board until those five. minutes begin. time is counted.

Charlotte plans to welcome Overtime Elite twins Amen and Ausar Thompson on Friday, league sources tell Yahoo Sports, before welcoming Henderson to its facilities on Sunday, followed by Miller next Tuesday. The Hornets generally rank among the league’s annual leaders in pre-draft workouts. And with Charlotte also holding the No. 27 pick, plus three picks in the top half of the second round, the Hornets’ gymnasium have fielded dozens of prospects in the past few weeks since the combination, with no goal of slowing player numbers. town tour.

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard steps onto the court during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns in Portland, Ore., Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)
The Portland Trail Blazers, who have the third overall selection in the June 22 NBA Draft, are adamant they want to build and improve around guard Damian Lillard. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

There’s plenty of additional context hanging in the background of Charlotte’s first draft positioning, once the San Antonio Spurs selected French sensation Victor Wembanyama with the No. 1 pick as expected. The looming possibility of the sale of the Hornets from majority owner Michael Jordan to minority partner Gabe Plotkin and Hawks investor Rick Schnall is an unusual circumstance that clouds the critical decision-making in the franchise that accompanies a first draft pick.

There has already been a lot of speculation among team personnel regarding potential replacements for general manager Mitch Kupchak and head coach Steve Clifford, who both have one more year guaranteed on their contracts for the 2023-24 season, sources said, for whenever possible a new management structure is taking shape in Charlotte. Choosing between Henderson and Miller, or perhaps one of the Thompson twins, then overseeing a possible contract extension for Ball and perhaps a new contract for striker Miles Bridges – who sat out last season at the following ugly domestic violence charges – are huge responsibilities for any team. long-term team building strategy, particularly if key front office voices are not guaranteed to be involved in the planning process beyond this offseason.

There’s nothing promised about Portland’s future either at this point. But one detail emerged from early trade conversations around the league: Trail Blazers officials left curious teams with the impression that Shaedon Sharpe, the No. 7 pick in last year’s draft, is barred from any dialogue regarding choice #3.

The Rockets are also commercially interested in the No. 4 overall selection. It’s hard to lock a team into the top 10 as a strong bet to stay where it’s been predicted since those ping pong balls bounced off the Smartplay machine at McCormick Place.

Detroit is known to have plans for improvement next season, having signed Monty Williams to the richest coaching contract in NBA history and then luring in former Houston head coach Stephen Silas as as Williams’ associate head coach — despite Boston’s known overtures for Silas.

The Magic at No. 6 are also armed with the No. 11 pick, thanks to the 2021 trade deadline deal that sent Nikola Vučević to Chicago, which may be enough capital to move up a few positions. Indiana, with the seventh pick plus picks Nos. 26 and 29, was very active in seeking answers initially before the February trade deadline, sources said, and made no secret of the pursuit of these efforts this summer.

The Wizards have three new top executives in president Michael Winger, general manager Will Dawkins and vice president of player personnel Travis Schlenk leading the selection process at No. 8.

Utah has plenty of future draft ammunition, in addition to the No. 9 pick, where the Jazz can consider a variety of options to improve on a restructured roster if they intend to move closer to the playoffs.

Dallas is widely known to be evaluating trade possibilities with the 10th pick to bring reinforcements to Luka Dončić, as well as All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, who will become an unrestricted free agent.

News of Irving’s apparent attempts to lure LeBron James from Los Angeles to Dallas, as reported by The Athletic and Bleacher Report, certainly grabbed headlines on Monday. A reunion for former Cavaliers teammates has been a juicy talking point since Irving seriously considered turning down his player option with Brooklyn for the 2022-23 season, sources told Yahoo Sports, only to later join James at Los Angeles with a significant pay cut. Alas, Irving returned to the Nets and demanded a trade when negotiations for a long-term contract extension broke down with the Brooklyn Brass before the February deadline, which has since left Dallas and Irving the strongest. incentive to strike a new deal before the 2023-24 campaign begins. However, the cap mechanics required to land James, not to mention the difficulty of filling a roster around three heavyweight contracts under the league’s new collective bargaining agreement, as well as Dallas’ depleted stash of business assets, making all of James’ Photoshops stand alongside his former running mate in a Mavericks jersey looks like nothing more than a fantasy.

It remains to be seen what other options Irving has outside of Dallas. There are few teams that should hold the maximum salary space that Irving would like. The Rockets’ port plans to invest in winning additions to Houston’s three-year rebuild, but has so far only been linked to former franchise All-Star center James Harden. as well as other potential veteran newcomers who could stand alongside Harden, should he reject Philadelphia in the open market. Would the Rockets watch Irving if they didn’t land Harden? Would Phoenix try to reunite Irving and Durant again?

While Bucks guard Khris Middleton has been mentioned by league staff as a possible target for Houston in free agency, Middleton’s inclusion during meetings with Milwaukee’s latest candidates to replace former head coach Mike Budenholzer strongly signaled a mutual interest in keeping the All-Star guard next to Giannis Antetokounpo. And there is a growing feeling among league executives that Middleton will return to the Bucks on a long-term deal. However, another key Milwaukee starter, sharp shooting center Brook Lopez, is a veteran free agent on Houston’s radar, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.

There will be no shortage of players in the market connected to the Rockets by the time free agency opens on June 30. Houston is expected to hold the most cap space in the NBA — more than $60 million in wiggle room — with expectations to spend and improve. No agent could manufacture a better landing spot than Houston, either for a client’s salary or as potential leverage on other teams hoping to secure that client’s services. The Rockets, however, are prioritizing the addition of a proven point guard and then looking to acquire upgrades at the wing and center, sources said. And for that, should Harden ultimately stay with the 76ers, Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet has often been linked to Houston as a secondary option who could perhaps slot into the team’s primary role in handling the game. ball.

On the wing, the Rockets have an interest in sniper Cam Johnson, sources say, though Brooklyn staff have outlined the Nets’ plan to match any realistic offer sheet for the free agent. restricted, which was part of the franchise’s return for Kevin Durant. Dillons Brooks, last seen as Memphis’ starting small forward, is another Rockets target, sources told Yahoo Sports, and appears to be a more realistic candidate to join Houston this summer.

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