Rookie Rankings, Week 22: Not the Worst Draft Ever. Not Yet, Anyway

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Anthony BennettThere’s been some talk lately that the 2013 draft could be the worst in NBA history.

We could wait more than a year before jumping into the adjoining worlds of shortsightedness and hyperbole, couldn’t we?

Yes, this was a bad draft. We’ve said it ourselves several times. For the first time since 2001, the top pick is going to average less than five points per game. For the first time since 1988, the Rookie of the Year is probably going to be a double-digit selection.

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SH Blog: Kobe out for USA team, LeBron compliments Nets offseason moves

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Kobe BryantWhen Kobe Bryant infamously ruptured his Achilles tendon just before the start of the playoffs this past season, many wondered about the future of the superstar and whether he would ever regain his form. The assumption that he would likely have to miss at least the first couple months of the upcoming season was a foregone conclusion. It wasn’t even a matter of doubt. It was a simple matter of medical science and what is typically expected of players that suffer injuries of this magnitude.

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SH Blog: Raptors closing in on Ujiri; Howard warming on Rockets; Wolves like Oladipo, Shabazz

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IND_George_PaulEven though the Pacers lost Game 1, they had to have impressed many impartial observers. Maybe the Heat won’t have an easy path to the Finals after all. Or maybe the first game was an aberration and they’ll turn on the jets and roll over Indiana from here on out. We’ll see, I guess. For some analysis of what went wrong for Indy at the end of OT, check out Chris Sheridan’s column blaming Paul George.

And since we’re about to start another offseason, that means it’s Dwight Howard rumor season yet again. This time, though, he might just get to choose where he goes, and we can skip the whole process of putting together trade packages and then those deals falling through. We can hope. To get started on the next chapter of the Dwightmare, check out Peter May’s column advocating for the Rockets as Dwight’s next stop.

Now here’s all the latest news from around the NBA:

  • It’s looking like the Raptors might pull off a coup. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports writes: “The Denver Nuggets have granted the Toronto Raptors permission to speak to the NBA’s Executive of the Year, Masai Ujiri, and a meeting is expected to take place within the next 24 hours, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. Unless Denver responds soon with a market-value contract extension to keep its general manager, Ujiri is prepared to leave Denver for the chance to rebuild the Raptors organization, league sources said. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke is aggressively pursuing Ujiri to become the Raptors’ general manager and plans to present an offer that will pay him nearly $3 million annually over the course of a multiyear contract, league sources said.Denver has long been reluctant to pay its top front-office executives market value, and current contract extension talks with Ujiri are believed to include figures that are nowhere near the commitment that Toronto’s willing to make.”
  • That said, Ken Berger of CBS Sports notes that there are other names in the running: “The Toronto Raptors have asked permission to interview Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard to head up their basketball operations, league sources told CBSSports.com on Friday. As with similar requests from teams to speak with assistant coach Brian Shaw for head coaching vacancies, the Pacers have indicated that they prefer to wait until their season is over to grant permission for interviews. The Pacers trail the Heat 1-0 in the Eastern Conference finals, with Game 2 on Friday night in Miami. … The Raptors job is attractive to potential candidates because the team does well financially and is prepared to commit significant resources to restoring the team to prominence. Former Staples Center executive Tim Leiweke is in full command of the Raptors’ decision-making process and vision as president and CEO of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment. League sources told CBSSports.com that one of the possibilities that Leiweke has identified is teaming Pritchard with Oklahoma City assistant GM Troy Weaver, whose name has been attached to several front-office searches in the past two years. It is unclear whether the Raptors have reached out to the Thunder to ask permission to interview Weaver, though it is highly unlikely that Oklahoma City would grant permission for Weaver to entertain a lateral move.”

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SH Blog: Phil Jackson predicts Heat in 6, Sterling admits letting go of Del Negro was to keep his players happy

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Phil JacksonPhil Jackson has been all over the news over the past week. It all started when the details of his new book was revealed about how he compared Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. More importantly, people still want to know whether there is any chance of seeing the Zen Master back on the sidelines for any team. The answer to that question, unfortunately, appears to be a resounding no for the foreseeable future. Here is what he told Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles:

“I don’t see myself coaching again, I really don’t,” Jackson said. “When I discussed this with Jeanie Buss, she said, ‘Make sure you tell them that Jeanie still thinks you can coach even though you might say you’re not going to coach again.’ Jeanie still thinks I can coach, but I’m not going to go there.”

“The health issue is part of it,” Jackson said. “It’s an issue of getting back on the road and getting in at three in the morning and back-to-backs and playing four games in five nights at some point in the middle of the wintertime and not being there physically with the energy that you have to have to drive a team.”

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SH Blog: More on Riley vs. Ainge; Cody Zeller’s draft prospects; Tobias Harris rocks

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It’s Easter weekend, and the Jesuits still haven’t stopped partying. (Pope joke). A win today by Marquette might make ‘em party through the night and tell jokes in both Latin and Greek. It’s the second-most most important weekend in college sports, the weekend in which the Final Four is decided.

I’ve got Louisville, Michigan, Marquette, and Ohio State. Two of them were in my original Final Four. On the other hand, I picked three of the eight teams remaining to go out in the first round, so I guess that kind of mitigates the other thing.

We’ve got an interesting look at some past NCAA tournament stars, and Chris Sheridan’s take on Pat Riley blasting Danny Ainge. There’s a little more on that right below, so check that out and all the rest of the latest news from around the NBA. Also worth a read is this news item from guest columnist Rick Warner — there will not be a 20-10 player (points and rebounds) for the first time in NBA history.

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