Category Archives: NBA

Nickeil Alexander-Walker NBA Draft: Latest Mocks & Projections

Virginia Tech Hokies guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker has impressed throughout the 2018-19 college basketball season. He’s played a huge role in the team’s success and helping the Hokie land a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament. The sophomore guard’s play has also resulted in his 2019 NBA Draft stock increasing quite a bit as well, and he’s currently a first-round pick in the eyes of many analysts.After a freshman season in which Alexander-Walker averaged 10.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists, he’s improved across the board. The 6-foot-5 guard has posted marks of 16.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists while shooting 47.8 percent from the field. He’s also showcased his ability to step out and knock down shots beyond the arc, shooting 38.6 percent over his first 66 collegiate games.We’re going to breakdown the latest mock drafts and projections for the Virginia Tech guard as the draft draws closer.Nickeil Alexander-Walker NBA Draft Projections & MocksThere are a number of interesting current mock drafts, but one specifically gives a decent amount of love to Alexander-Walker. The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie has him off the board at No. 16 to thee Detroit Pistons, ahead of a few big names in UNC’s Nassir Little (No. 17), Kentucky’s PJ Washington (19) and fellow guard in Duke’s Tre Jones (24).Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo has Walker-Alexander coming off the board at No. 20 to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He details the belief that the Virginia Tech guard would play well alongside Thunders tar Russell Westbrook.Most have come to realize that Alexander-Walker profiles best as a two who can play off of a downhill-oriented playmaking ballhandler. With that in mind, he’d be a nice fit playing off of Russell Westbrook, which would create opportunities for him to attack defenses off ball rotation and remove the pressure to anchor possessions.A first-round outlook is realistic, and make a lot of sense based on his ability to do a bit of everything. Beyond that, Alexander-Walker’s size should transition well to the NBA level.Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s NBA Draft Big Board OutlookWith Alexander-Walker flirting with the potential to become a lottery pick, ESPN’s “best available” pegs him slightly lower than the above mock drafts. While they have the Hokies standout as one of the top-25 prospects, he comes in at No. 22. ESPN has him pegged behind Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura (No. 18), Kentucky’s Tyler Herro (20) and UNC’s Cameron Johnson (21), among other interesting names.On the opposite end of the spectrum, NBADraft.net offers one of the most up-to-date big boards and has given Alexander-Walker an impressive outlook. They currently have the guard pushing for a spot in the top-10 and currently sitting at No. 12 while trending upwards.READ NEXT: Tacko Fall NBA Draft: Latest Mocks & Projections for UCF Center


Corey Davis Jr. NBA Draft Profile: Mocks & Projections for Houston Guard

The Houston Cougars have rolled through the 2019 college basketball season and it’s been thanks to a mixture of exceptional guard play and great defense. One name who’s stood out is senior guard Corey Davis Jr., who’s been red-hot through the latter part of the season. In turn, he’s put his name in the mix as someone to watch in the build-up to the 2019 NBA Draft.While Davis averaged 17.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, each of those numbers are an increase from last season. The 6-foot-1 guard is a tough player to gauge, as he’s actually attempted far more 3-pointers (8.0 per game) than shots inside the paint (4.9). In turn, this drives his overall shooting percentage down, but when looking at the two numbers on their own, neither is bad.From inside the arc this season, Davis has shot 49.4 percent while he’s knocked down 38.1 percent from deep. He’s showcased his ability to work inside the 3-point line as of late, which could be big for his draft outlook.Corey Davis Jr. NBA Draft Projections & MocksDavis comes in as the always fun/confusing player who simply wasn’t getting much attention on the NBA front prior to the 2019 NCAA Tournament. In turn, most big boards and mock drafts have left the Houston star off their list currently. Obviously, there’s a good chance that could change after the tournament wraps up, especially considering he’s been elite.Through the first two tournament games, Davis scored 47 combined points with 13 rebounds, eight assists and four steals. He’s knocked down 10-of-26 shots from beyond the arc while making seven in the opener against Georgia State.Davis is the type of player who could use the pre-draft process as a way to bolster his stock even more. Beyond that, there are a few areas of his game which need improvement, but many of them aren’t things that can’t be tweaked at the NBA level.Corey Davis Jr. NBA Draft ProfileThere’s no denying that when the Cougars guard gets hot, he can change games quickly. He’s an excellent shooter from outside, has shown the ability to finish around the room with decent consistency. Davis has the “it” factor teams look for, and only averages 1.4 turnovers per game through the first 36 games of the 2018-19 season.Davis has also improved as a free throw shooter and began getting to the line more in the current season. After making 80.8 percent from the charity stripe in the 2017-18 season, that number jumped to 87.3 percent this year.The concerns about Davis’ game may stem from the fact that he’s not necessarily a prototypical NBA point guard. He’s averaged 2.4 and 2.8 assists per game in the two years at Houston so his ability as a passer could become a question. As far as how his defensive skills will transition to the next level, that’s going to be a talking point. He weighs 190 pounds and plays strong, but would likely face guards who have a size advantage on him in the NBA.Overall, Davis has a realistic chance to push into the second round, especially for a guard-needy team or someone who wants to let him grow on their G League roster. He possesses plenty of upside and should be a “riser” throughout the pre-draft process.READ NEXT: Tacko Fall NBA Draft: Latest Mocks & Projections for UCF Center


Zion Williamson NBA Draft Projections: Chances Knicks Land Duke Star

There’s little argument about the fact that Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson is the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The big question becomes who he’ll play for at the next level, and that will, of course, be decided by the NBA draft lottery. In turn, the door is open for a number of teams to have a chance at him, but the New York Knicks remain a top option to monitor.Although nothing has been openly stated about the Knicks’ draft plans, the chatter will begin to pick up in a big way after the lottery. But as things stand, there’s a silver lining in the team’s tough 2018-19 season, which is that they’re among the favorites to wind up with the first overall selection.We’re going to take a dive into the current NBA draft outlook and the latest chances for the Knicks to wind up with Zion on their roster heading into the 2019-20 season.Knicks’ Chances at No. 1 NBA Draft Pick, Zion WilliamsonThe lottery features a structure which will give the teams with the three worst records equal chances to land the No. 1 pick and also to wind up with a top-four selection. At the time this is being written, the Knicks hold the worst record in the NBA at 14-61, a mark which is 2.5 games worse than the next-closest team.As Tankathon shows in their latest NBA draft lottery breakdown, New York is incredibly close to being a lock for the bottom three. This means they would hold a 14.0 percent chance at the No. 1 pick and a 52.1 percent chance to wind up with a pick between one-to-four.Here’s a look at the standings for the 10 teams who have the best chance at a top choice, how many games back they are and their chances at the No. 1 pick.
No. 1 New York Knicks, 0.0 games back: 14.0 percent chance
No. 2 Phoenix Suns, 2.5 games back: 14.0 percent chance
No. 3 Cleveland Cavaliers, 4.5 games back: 14.0 percent chance
No. 4 Chicago Bulls, 6.5 games back: 12.5 percent chance
No. 5 Atlanta Hawks, 13 games back: 10.5 percent chance
No. 6 Atlanta Hawks from DAL, 15 games back: 9.0 percent chance
No. 7 Memphis Grizzlies, 16 games back: 7.5 percent chance
No. 8 Washington Wizards, 16.5 games back: 6.0 percent chance
No. 9 New Orleans Pelicans, 17 games back: 4.5 percent chance
No. 10 Los Angeles Lakers, 19 games back: 3.0 percent chance
Knicks’ Current Outlook for NBA DraftThe positive news following this NBA season is that the Knicks are primed with their best possible chance to land Williamson. Unfortunately, two other teams, likely the Suns and Cavaliers, are going to have the exact same chances, even though Cleveland has won five more games than the Knicks.Beyond that, the Bulls and Hawks holding chances justs lightly lower at 12.5 and 10.5 percent will make things even more interesting. Obviously, it’s just a matter of New York getting a bit lucky and having the ping pong balls fall the right way. Of every team listed above, it’s hard to envision any except a major point guard-needy team like the Phoenix Suns taking Ja Morant over Zion.If by some chance the Suns are sold on drafting the Murray State star and wind up with the top pick, the Knicks could make a play by attempting to trade into that No. 1 spot.READ NEXT: Ja Morant Over Zion Williamson NBA Draft Argument Goes Beyond Stats


5 Best Kentucky Players Currently in the NBA

Kentucky under John Calipari has produced more rostered NBA players compared to any other team as of the start of the 2018-2019. A factory for elite recruits and one and done superstars, Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats produce some of the strongest teams in the nation year in, year out. With yet another loaded roster this season featuring five players projected to get drafted in 2019, including three in the first round alone. PJ Washington, Keldon Johnson, and Tyler Herro are all expected to off the board early and should be able to provide quality minutes at the NBA level right away. That leads us to the five best Kentucky players currently in the NBA.5 Best Kentucky Players Currently in the NBA5. Devin Booker, SG

Devin Booker continues his 🔥 scoring with 30 PTS in the first half!
📱💻: https://t.co/cb8TXyNer6 pic.twitter.com/lUMfH1Loy9
— NBA (@NBA) March 28, 2019
The youngest member of this list, Booker wasn’t the highest touted recruit out of Kentucky and ended up falling down to the 13th pick as his playing time was limited on Kentucky’s infamous 2014-2015 season. With so much raw talent on the roster, Calipari implemented a platoon system featuring two separate units. Booker functions best as a high volume scorer and once he reached the NBA level and was allowed that freedom began to excel.
4. DeMarcus Cousins, C
It pains me to put Boogie so far down this list given the fact that he has the skillset to be a top 10 player in the league. Unfortunately, Cousins was slowed down considerably by an Achilles injury while playing alongside fellow Wildcat Anthony Davis down the New Orleans. While Cousins has looked strong in his return so far, there is quite a bit of rust he still needs to shake off as he doesn’t look like the dominant all-around force he once was.
3. John Wall, PG
Despite suffering from a season-ending injury on the year, that doesn’t necessarily knock down Wall’s ranking on the list considering the two players above him are some of the most talented young stars the league has ever seen. Once known for his elite speed and breakneck pace of play, Wall has slowed down a bit in his older years but is still able to effectively run an offense while putting up huge point and assist totals. With his play trending down in recent years, it will be interesting to see how Wall returns and if he’s the same level of player that landed him on this list.
2. Karl-Anthony Towns, C

The @Timberwolves pick up the W in LA behind 27 PTS, 12 REB, 5 AST from @KarlTowns! #AllEyesNorth pic.twitter.com/hWsM79IBjX
— NBA (@NBA) January 25, 2019
Devin Booker’s one and done teammate on the 2014-2015 Kentucky team, Towns was so talented that he was taken first overall despite only playing 21 minutes per game in a timeshare with Willie Cauley-Stein. While stuck in a poor situation in Minnesota to start his career, Towns has steadily put up a steady stream of double-doubles while showing deadly shooting from deep. Towns gave the basketball world a taste of what he could do after Jimmy Butler and Tom Thibodeau left town and could be primed for some even bigger years moving forward.
1. Anthony Davis, PF
It is simply impossible to put anyone besides Anthony Davis at the top of his list. If not hampered by injuries and the whole “trade me to LA” deal, Davis would almost certainly be putting together an MVP caliber stat line in New Orleans. While he will most likely be gone this offseason, what Davis has accomplished in his short career is nothing short of spectacular and somehow he continues to get better each and every year. As good as Towns is and high his upside may be, Davis offers just a bit more.


LeBron James Reacts to Carmelo Anthony’s Standing Ovation at MSG

Carmelo Anthony was in attendance Sunday night at Madison Square Garden for the Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks game. While he was there to watch close friend Dwyane Wade in one of his final two games in the arena, the Knicks made sure to give Anthony some love as well.
Not only was there a video played of Carmelo’s 62-point performance, but he was shown on the jumbotron after the memorable moment in history. As you can see in the video posted by ESPN’s Ian Begley, the former Knicks star received a huge ovation from the fanbase.

Here’s the reception Carmelo Anthony received at Madison Square Garden when he was shown on the Jumbotron during Knicks-Heat: pic.twitter.com/v0LUDiKeaW
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) January 28, 2019

Later in the evening, current Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James had a message about both the video and Anthony, tweeting that it was well-deserved for his friend.

Well deserved!!! 👏🏾🙏🏾‼️‼️‼️‼️@carmeloanthony https://t.co/awReCCl6ZF
— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 28, 2019

Anthony was recently traded from the Houston Rockets to the Chicago Bulls. He played just 10 games for the Rockets prior to the team opting to go in another direction. It’s expected that he will either be traded or waived before the upcoming deadline.

Carmelo Anthony’s Run With Knicks
Anthony, who’s 34 years old, was traded to the Knicks during the 2010-11 season from the Denver Nuggets. He spent seven seasons with the team, playing in 412 games and averaging 24.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Over the impressive stretch, Anthony shot 44.3 percent from the field and 36.9 percent from beyond the arc.
The Knicks made the NBA playoffs in each of Anthony’s first three seasons, with the best year coming in 2012-13. New York went 54-28 that season before losing in the Eastern Conference semifinals. That stretch also marked arguably the best of Anthony’s tenure with the team, as he averaged 28.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

Latest on Carmelo Anthony-Lakers Rumors
While the Bulls are expected to part ways with Anthony soon, it’s led to plenty of speculation that he could wind up with James on the Lakers. Although there have been various reports and rumors pointing to both sides of that, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski sounded off on it shortly after Anthony’s trade to Chicago.
As he reported, the Lakers have interest in Anthony but don’t want to waive a guaranteed contract.

Sources: The Lakers maintain interest in Anthony, but do not want to waive a guaranteed player to create a roster spot for him, league sources tell ESPN. If a roster spot eventually opens with LA, yes, the Lakers are a possible destination for Anthony.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 21, 2019

This isn’t all that surprising, as the Lakers remain focused on landing a second superstar to pair with James. The focus has primarily been on Anthony Davis, and the bulk of the team’s current guaranteed contracts have at least some amount of trade value and upside, making them tough to part with.
On the opposite side of the argument, Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports stated on the Nate Duncan podcast that the interest in Anthony may be more from James than the front office (per Clutch Points).
“Well, LeBron James is over there,” Haynes said on the Nate Duncan podcast. “And he’s made it quite clear that he would like to play with Carmelo Anthony. So if we’re going off of the past, LeBron typically has a strong voice and teams usually operate in a manner that’s going to appease him. So I will say that he definitely has interest.
“I don’t know necessarily that the Lakers brass is all that interested in bringing Carmelo Anthony on board.”
It’s an interesting situation and one that will be worth monitoring over the coming weeks. The Lakers could use depth at this point, specifically due to the injuries which have impacted the roster. Beyond that, if the team did swing a deal at the trade deadline, it could potentially open a roster spot for Anthony.
READ NEXT: 3 Anthony Davis Trades Involving Lakers’ Brandon Ingram


Blake Griffin Trade Talk: Lakers, Knicks Headline Top Packages

As the NBA trade deadline approaches, the chatter around potential deals is only going to continue heating up. While a few big names have already been linked as trade candidates, there have been a handful of additional players mentioned recently. One specifically that jumps out is Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin, although his scenario is a bit different than the others.
As Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson reported on Twitter, he believes Griffin has privately stated he wants to be moved. Robinson proceeds to cite the New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat as possible options.

If Blake Griffin is moved, look for New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets & Miami Heat as his preferred destinations. https://t.co/PSX9TEJZqP
— Brandon Robinson (@ScoopB) January 27, 2019

Although it’s unknown what stage this whole situation is at and whether the Pistons would actually move Griffin, who was acquired last season, it’s an interesting topic. Even without knowing an overwhelming amount on this trade chatter, there are still a few teams who can put together strong deals for the Pistons star.
Let’s check out a few potential trades that could make sense for both sides if Detroit does decide to put Griffin on the table as a candidate to be moved. We’ll start off with the Los Angeles Lakers and a major hypothetical on their approach moving forward.
*Note: All trades created with ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine and are only for enjoyment purposes.

Lakers Acquire Second Star in Blake Griffin
ESPN NBA Trade Machine
Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into this trade, specifically the fact that it would mean the Lakers trading two potential pieces of a deal for Anthony Davis. This deal stems from The Athletic’s Bill Oram reporting that Magic Johnson and company would consider a “blockbuster that lands the Lakers a second superstar.”
“The second is obviously the priority, even if it means parting with some combination of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma. Ideally, the Lakers would be able to land a second star in free agency and keep the core intact. However, with Anthony Davis unlikely to become available by the deadline, that particular dilemma may be a moot point this season.”
It’s an interesting scenario, and to be clear, I have no idea if Los Angeles would decide to avoid the risk of losing out on Davis during the offseason by acquiring Griffin instead. While the current Pistons star isn’t quite the caliber of player Davis is, he’s currently playing the best basketball of his career and would help right the ship immediately.
Personally, I think the Lakers are more likely to wait for Davis and make the push during the upcoming offseason, even with the risk. But if not, this deal for Griffin also provides outside shooting with Reggie Bullock.

Knicks Begin Building for the Future
ESPN NBA Trade Machine
*Knicks also second 2020 first-round pick and 2022 second-round pick to Pistons
The New York Knicks are expected to be big players in free agency, and if they plan to make a run at someone like Kevin Durant, it could be helpful to have Griffin in town. There have been rumblings the Knicks want to move Enes Kanter, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Frank Ntilikina, so it’s tough to envision a better deal that accomplishes that than this one.
Draft picks would almost certainly have to be included here, and a 2020 protected first-rounder along with a second-round pick in the likely “double draft” in 2022 could get it done. The big aspects of this deal on the Pistons side are how the team feels about Hardaway and whether they believe Ntilikina has the upside to become their point guard of the future.

Luka Doncic Gets New Star Teammate With Mavericks
ESPN NBA Trade Machine
*Mavericks send protected first-round pick to Pistons
The Dallas Mavericks would be quite a fit for Griffin, and I’m not going to put it past Mark Cuban to figure out how to make this deal happen. What’s interesting is that it would reunite Griffin and former Los Angeles Clippers teammate DeAndre Jordan. That may or may not be a good thing, but regardless, Jordan is only under contract through this season.
In this scenario, Dallas moves Wesley Matthews’ contract and finds a perfect home for Dennis Smith Jr., who needs a fresh start. Smith could be the best part of this deal for the Pistons, although Harrison Barnes would be a solid addition as well. As Detroit searches for their potential point guard of the future, this is a low-risk, inexpensive opportunity to see what the former first-round pick in Smith can provide.
READ NEXT: Anthony Davis Trade Talk: Nets May Push Lakers, Celtics for Star?


Lakers Roster & Starting Lineup vs. Suns; Latest on Kyle Kuzma Injury

The Los Angeles Lakers will play at least one more game without LeBron James when they host the Phoenix Suns on Sunday. It seems they also may be without another go-to offensive weapon as well in forward Kyle Kuzma. With the Lakers playing the final few home games before a road stretch ahead of the All-Star break, they’ll look to snap a three-game losing skid against a struggling Suns group.
After falling in overtime against the Houston Rockets last Saturday, the team has since dropped games against the Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves, moving to 25-24 on the year. LeBron’s absence has been nearly impossible to overcome, and since the Christmas Day injury, the Lakers have posted a 5-10 record as they await the return of their star forward.
Before diving into the roster and starting lineup for the date with Devin Booker and company, let’s check out the latest on Kuzma’s injury which may hold him out Sunday.

Latest on Kyle Kuzma’s Injury
It seems Kuzma’s injury may not sideline him long, but there’s a chance he could sit this game out. The Lakers revealed that Kuzma missed practice on Saturday due to a hip strain and is currently listed as questionable.
Beyond that, Mike Trudell of the team’s official website revealed head coach Luke Walton said Kuzma “didn’t look right” against the Timberwolves. He was limited in that game and the injury has apparently been nagging him as of late.

Luke Walton said Kyle Kuzma, who’s been dealing with a sore hip, “didn’t look right” physically, and that Kuzma “truly loves to compete but wasn’t able to do what he wanted to.” Already down LeBron and Lonzo, it didn’t help to have Kuzma limited, though Minnesota was beat up too.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) January 25, 2019

If Kuzma is unable to go, it’ll be interesting to monitor how Walton and the coaching staff opt to approach the starting lineup. Fortunately, the Suns play a fairly small lineup so they may be able to get away with going even smaller than they have as of late.
UPDATE: Kuzma has been ruled out for Sunday’s game.

Lakers Roster & Starting Lineup vs. Suns

Position
Expected Starter
Backup

Center
Ivica Zubac
JaVale McGee
Tyson Chandler

Power Forward
Kyle Kuzma (Q)
Michael Beasley
Moritz Wagner

Small Forward
Brandon Ingram
Lance Stephenson

Shooting Guard
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Josh Hart
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk

Point Guard
Rajon Rondo

There’s a chance Michael Beasley or Moritz Wagner could start, but the option to re-insert Josh Hart in the lineup with Brandon Ingram at the forward spots is more realistic. The Suns are likely going to start Josh Jackson at the four here, so putting Ingram against him defensively makes sense.
The obvious hope is that Kuzma can play, but with an upcoming stretch of six-straight games against possible playoff teams, it may be wise for the Lakers to give him the night off. After this game, Los Angeles will host the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday.
READ NEXT: 3 Lakers Trades for Anthony Davis Involving Brandon Ingram


LeBron James Injury Update: Will Lakers Star Return vs. Sixers?

The much-anticipated return of Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James may be near. Or, maybe we should hold off on the excitement just a bit at this moment. It’s tough to gauge exactly what the outlook of the future Hall-of-Famer is when it comes to his groin injury. But one thing that’s certain is that he won’t suit up for Sunday’s game against the Phoenix Suns.
While James is trending in the right direction, he took a huge step forward in his recovery on Saturday. As the Lakers revealed (with pictures, which was a nice bonus), LeBron returned to full contact defensive drills during the most recent practice.

LeBron James returned to full contact defensive drills for the first time since his injury, but won't play Sunday against the Suns. pic.twitter.com/e8y9z8kbI8
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 26, 2019

The importance of this can’t be understated, as there were talks that James had done some non-contact work prior, but the fact he’s in the mix at practice points to a return being near. There is yet to be a return date set, but the outlook improves with this news and we’re going to take a look forward at when he could realistically suit up.

Will LeBron James Return vs. Philadelphia 76ers?
For the first time since LeBron’s injury, there is a real reason to believe he may return in an upcoming game. There are currently eight games remaining (including Sunday) before the All-Star break, and there have been no signs pointing to James missing the festivities that weekend. In turn, expecting him to get back in the lineup sooner than later makes sense, but doing so against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday would be beneficial for a few reasons.
The Lakers are obviously being cautious with James, which is the right move, and even when he returns it’ll almost certainly be with a minutes restriction. Tuesday’s game against the Sixers marks the team’s final “home” game (they play the Los Angeles Clippers two days later) before the All-Star break. After the Clippers matchup, they have five-straight games away from home, and it’s a stretch where the star will desperately be needed.
This run includes dates with the Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics, Sixers, and Atlanta Hawks. While playing the Sixers in Los Angeles on Tuesday will be a tough matchup, giving James one game at home to log some minutes before this stretch could be key.

Hopeful of James’ Return for Tough Stretch
With the Lakers sitting at 25-24 currently, facing the first four teams listed on that road stretch, as well as the Sixers and Clippers prior to it, could leave them in a tough spot. James returning won’t completely keep that from happening, but it’s a starting point, even if he’s only able to play on a minutes restriction.
The Athletic’s Bill Oram cited that many had circled the game against the Suns as a possible return date for James. With that being the case, signs do point to him suiting up soon, and Tuesday is a decent spot to keep an eye on.
If you assume the Lakers defeat the Suns and move to 26-24 with five games they could easily lose waiting ahead, the idea of going into the break at 28-29 or 29-28 is far less than ideal. Even with their star back in a restricted fashion, it would at least give Los Angeles a chance to push a few of the top-tier teams that lie ahead.
READ NEXT: 3 Anthony Davis Trades Involving Lakers’ Brandon Ingram


Rockets Trade Talk: Enes Kanter, Robin Lopez Deals to Bolster Depth

The Houston Rockets are slowly but surely working towards getting healthy once again. With Eric Gordon recently returning from injury and Chris Paul set to return Sunday, it essentially covers the backcourt depth. But the Rockets could use an extra body in the frontcourt, even with the signing/emergence of Kenneth Faried.
The injury to center Clint Capela will leave him out through the All-Star break more than likely, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski revealed in mid-January that he had suffered a thumb injury. Unfortunately, it proved to be worse than originally thought, as Capela’s MRI showed ligament damage.
At this point, the addition of Faried could be enough to hold the Rockets over until Capela’s return, but adding another legitimate center to the mix makes sense. The key is that Houston almost certainly won’t want to give much up in a potential trade. Fortunately, two options in New York Knicks center Enes Kanter and Chicago Bulls big man Robin Lopez could come at a low cost to the team.
Let’s look at two potential deals, one for both players, which wouldn’t leave the Rockets shorthanded and will allow them to bolster their frontcourt prior to the homestretch of the year.
*All trades courtesy of ESPN NBA Trade Machine.

Robin Lopez Finally Gets Moved
ESPN NBA Trade Machine
*Note: Houston adds a second-round draft pick.
The Chicago Bulls seem to have little interest in buying out Lopez, although that may happen if the deadline gets closer and no deal happens. But instead of risking watching Lopez go elsewhere, the Rockets could offer up Brandon Knight for contract reasons and a second-round pick to make the deal happen.
The worst-case scenario for Houston is if they wait out the Bulls release of the big man and then he chooses to head to another team. With that said, the options are all on the table for the Bulls, but a deal with the Rockets makes sense for Lopez as an opportunity to see a solid workload and contend for a title.

Enes Kanter Traded to Rockets

*Note: Deal includes a second-round pick from Houston.
Things between the New York Knicks and Enes Kanter have taken an ugly turn. The big man can’t seem to find his way onto the floor at this point, even with starter Luke Kornet sidelined due to injury. And after a recent game, Kanter essentially asked for a trade out of town, as The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov revealed.
“What they’re doing to me is pretty messed up. I deserve better.”

“You either play me or let me play.” Kanter said, according to Vorkunov.
I can’t envision a world where the Knicks opt not to deal Kanter before the deadline. The problem is since head coach David Fizdale won’t play him and it’s known the team wants to trade him, Kanter’s value isn’t all that high. Plus, he’s on an expiring deal, so it makes little sense for the Knicks to stick him on the bench for the rest of the year.
READ NEXT: 3 Anthony Davis Trades Involving Lakers’ Brandon Ingram


Bucks Trade Talk: Grizzlies’ Mike Conley Pegged as Ideal Target

The Mike Conley sweepstakes are likely to ramp up in the coming weeks. With the news that the Memphis Grizzlies are open to trading their star point guard, it’s led to plenty of speculation and various rumors. Although it’s unknown whether a deal will actually happen involving the 31-year-old point guard, one thing that’s certain is that there are interested suitors.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Grizzlies are open to moving Conley as well as center Marc Gasol, who have been cornerstones of the franchise for 12 seasons.
“Memphis ownership and management have decided that they’ve reached an organizational crossroads and are preparing to weigh deal scenarios on one or both of their cornerstone veterans between now and the Feb. 7 trade deadline — and perhaps into the offseason, league sources said.” Wojarnowski revealed.
There’s an obvious chance the Grizzlies could opt to keep both players, but that comes down to the potential offers which come their way. Conley, specifically, has been an interesting name to monitor. While he’s been linked to a variety of teams, there was a pitch made about a pairing with the Milwaukee Bucks which makes a lot of sense.

Mike Conley Pegged as Great Fit for Bucks
In an interesting segment on ESPN’s First Take, Max Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith both addressed the Conley situation. Surprisingly, the duo agreed when Kellerman pitched the idea of Milwaukee swinging a deal for the guard.
“A team like Milwaukee, if you could turn the job that [Eric] Bledsoe does, if Conley could that job … and also he can’t go anywhere next year or the year after? All the sudden, it’s like whoa, you’ve gotta watch out for Milwaukee.” Kellerman said.
Smith took Kellerman’s point and ran with it, citing the thought of Conley playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
“I like that suggestion, no question about it. Because I like Conley with the Greek Freak and Middleton and those boys that they have in Milwaukee, particularly being coached by a guy like Budenholzer, who can utilize him effectively.” Smith stated.
It’s an interesting thought, and if the Bucks move Bledsoe, who’s on a one-year deal, it gives them a player in Conley to star alongside Antetokounmpo for the foreseeable future. It would almost certainly cost the Bucks a bit more than just Bledsoe for this deal to work, but they do have a few young, intriguing pieces.

How Bucks Trade for Mike Conley Could Look
For the Bucks to strike a deal for Conley, there would have to be some additional cap moved along with Bledsoe’s $15 million number. While evaluating trade scenarios with ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine, the idea of a trade putting him with Thon Maker and Tony Snell could get the job done.
ESPN NBA Trade Machine
There’s a chance this would require possibly a second-round pick or even a protected first-rounder to make it happen. While the Grizzlies have made it known they’re open to moving Conley, they have little reason to make a deal unless it includes a decent return. But if they’re looking to open up cap space with potential Conley/Gasol trades, Bledsoe coming off the books after the year gives Memphis flexibility on how to approach their future.
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