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Pistons eye Sixers' spot with blockbuster as bigger domino looms

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Pistons eye Sixers' spot with blockbuster as bigger domino looms

MILWAUKEE — The Pistons are making a long-term commitment to contend as they battle for a playoff spot this season against the Sixers and other teams in the Eastern Conference.

According to multiple reports Monday (first reported by ESPN), the Pistons will send Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, a first-round and a second-round pick to the Clippers in exchange for Blake Griffin, Brice Johnson and Willie Reed.

The Pistons (22-26) are currently one spot behind the Sixers (24-23) in a race for a playoff berth. The Sixers are 3-0 against the Pistons so far this season. They will face off again on April 4 in Detroit, a game that could have postseason implications.

Griffin scored 29 points with six rebounds and five assists in the Sixers’ November win over the Clippers this season.

The Pistons are shedding short-term contracts to lock in Griffin (22.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists this season) long term. Griffin signed a massive $171 million contract this past summer. He has three years guaranteed after this season and a player option for 2021-22. The contracts of Johnson and Reed expire this season.

The Pistons are willing to part ways with Harris, who is having the best season of his seven-year NBA career with 18.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists. Harris has two guaranteed years remaining ($16 million, $14.8 million), as does Marjanovic ($7 million per year).

The Pistons also are shedding Bradley’s expiring contract, a bargain by today’s market at $8.8 million. Bradley once again will play for Doc Rivers, who likely will tap into the guard’s defensive strengths as he did on the Celtics.

This may not be the only major move coming in the East. The Griffin trade could have an impact on the entire league during the summer. 

The New York Times' Marc Stein reported the Clippers feel they could be a team to lure LeBron James out of his player option with the Cavaliers this summer and will look for trade partners for DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams by this trade deadline (Feb. 8). If James leaves the Cavaliers, that would create a huge window of opportunity for teams like the Sixers to move up in the conference.

Haughton's 2018 Sixers mock draft 2.0: Kevin Knox now at No. 10

Haughton's 2018 Sixers mock draft 2.0: Kevin Knox now at No. 10

Now that NBA draft night is officially upon us, we take one final crack at what the Sixers might do with their selections. Here is Matt Haughton’s final Sixers mock draft.

First round (10th overall): Kevin Knox, SF/PF, 6-9/215, Kentucky
Brett Brown is new to this whole front office thing, so forgive him if the typical draft smoke screen scenario isn’t yet his forte. 

That means while reports keep circulating about the Sixers looking to move up for a top-five prospect, their actions have shown they’ve zeroed in on Knox. After all, Knox worked out in a group setting for the Sixers last Friday and was already back at their training facility for an individual session on Tuesday.

Knox made his mark during his lone season at Kentucky by averaging 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 32.4 minutes per game. The versatile forward proved he could contribute while at the same time just scratching the surface of his ability.

It’s that potential that I believe will make the Sixers pull the trigger on Knox. While there could certainly be more established commodities on the board at No. 10 such as Mikal Bridges or Miles Bridges, the fact that Knox is still just 18 years old and possesses a sky-high upside will be too much for the development-minded Brown to pass up.

First round (26th overall): Gary Trent Jr., SG, 6-6/209, Duke
With 11 players currently under contract and plans to chase big-name players in free agency, this pick could certainly be on its way out of town or devoted to a draft-and-stash prospect. 

If they do hang onto it, the Sixers obviously have eyes for Texas Tech high-flyer Zhaire Smith, who also worked out twice for the team. But he’s unlikely to make it to No. 26.

Instead, the Sixers opt for a Duke guard here, but perhaps not the one you were thinking (Grayson Allen). Trent has arguably the best shooting stroke in the entire 2018 class and has been trending up draft boards.

Trent, who averaged 14.5 points per game for the Blue Devils as a freshman, hit 40.2 percent of his shots from long range on a healthy 6.5 attempts per game.

With another former Duke guard potentially walking in free agency in JJ Redick, the Sixers could slip Trent in to help take on some of those dead-eye shooting duties.

Second round (38th overall): Elie Okobo, PG/SG, 6-2/180, France
The Sixers already started dealing off their stockpile of second-round picks on Wednesday when they reportedly shipped No. 39 to the Los Angeles Lakers for a 2019 second-rounder and cash.

Look for them to find a way to keep their final roster options open by selecting Okobo, who has even been getting some first-round consideration as of late. The Sixers hosted him for a workout a season ago before he removed his name from draft consideration and again during this pre-draft process.

The French combo guard increased his production virtually across for France Pro A squad Elan Bearnais Pau-Lacq-Orthez this past season as he recorded 12.9 points on 47.6 percent field goal shooting and 39.4 three-point shooting to go along with 4.7 assists and 2.7 boards a game.

Second round (56th overall): Arnoldas Kulboka, SF, 6-10/220, Lithuania​
In another decision to keep roster slots fluid, the Sixers go the international route again with Kulboka.

The wing has tremendous size for the position and is just beginning to see his potential. Kulboka made his first foray into Italy’s second division league, Serie A2 Basket, this past season. He played for Orlandina Basket and posted 9.0 points on 39.0 percent field goal shooting and 37.4 percent from distance. He added 4.0 rebounds in 26.7 minutes a contest.

Kulboka definitely needs to bulk up and add some more seasoning against a higher level of competition, but if he develops, he could be a steal at this point in the draft.

Second round (60th overall): Trade
There are always teams that jump up with a trade offer at the last minute in an attempt to get a coveted player in those final few slots. Expect that to happen here and the Sixers to oblige.

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NBA draft profile: Duke G Grayson Allen

NBA draft profile: Duke G Grayson Allen

Grayson Allen

Position: Guard

Height: 6-4

Weight: 195

School: Duke

For a good chunk of NBA players, their first professional season is all about adjustments. Adapting to a new city/teammates, the speed/physicality of the game, increased travel, etc.

Another major change is going from being mostly revered in any arena you step inside to instantly becoming a target of fans’ abuse away from home.

That won’t be a problem for Duke product Grayson Allen. He was the subject of just about every taunt imaginable during his four years as a Blue Devil. And while a lot of the criticism he brought on himself, Allen has matured and now simply lets his game do the talking.

Strengths
Allen’s biggest asset is that he’s a chameleon on the court. 

You need him to provide a spark on a team full of stars? He becomes the energizing sixth man like his freshman season when Duke won a national title. Want him to be your go-to scorer? He turns up the offense such as his sophomore campaign when he averaged 21.6 points a game on 46.6 percent shooting. Need him to run the show? Allen morphs into a primary playmaker similar to his senior year when he recorded a career-high 4.6 assists.

In all, Allen posted 14.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steal a night during his collegiate career. He also proved to be a capable long-range shooter as he connected on 38.0 percent of his three-pointers.

Not bad for a guy that was under constant scrutiny because …

Weaknesses
… Allen couldn’t control his emotions on the floor.

There were the well-documented tripping incidents and ensuing suspension. Allen also was known to lose his cool on the bench when things weren’t going his way between the lines.

“It’s something that comes from my competitiveness,” Allen said to reporters at the combine. “Competitiveness that I’ve had as a player, competitiveness that was pointed in the wrong direction and went over the line. It’s obviously something that I needed to work on.”

And while the Jacksonville, Florida, native was able to finally get his emotions under control, he’s only going to be tested even more at the next level by trash-talking players and fans.

In addition, the fact that Allen stayed at Duke for all four years is viewed as a bit of a knock in the NBA. While he tested the waters multiple times, his decision to remain in Durham is seen in some circles that the now-22-year-old was never fully comfortable making the leap in competition.

NBA comparison
A hated Duke player that plays the shooting guard position? Has to be JJ Redick, right? 

While there are certainly some comparable experiences between Allen and Redick, that’s not an actual basketball link we’re ready to make. Instead, Allen is much more in the mold of Miami guard Tyler Johnson. Both players have sneaky athleticism, can handle the ball and stretch their jumpers out to the three-point line well enough for opposing defenses to respect their range.

How he’d fit with Sixers
The Sixers hosted Allen for a private workout earlier this month under the watchful eye of then-president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo. While Colangelo has since resigned, the team’s interest in Allen still makes sense.

He would be able to spot up alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to knock down open shots, while also being able to take on the burden of ball-handling duties when asked. 

He may struggle to stay in front of some of the quicker players in the NBA, but he does have the explosion at the basket to make up for it and one of the best rim protecters in the game in Embiid if he gets completely beaten by his man.

Draft projection
Allen’s name can be found popping up for teams selecting anywhere from the early 20s to early in the second round. If his name is still on the board at No. 26 and the Sixers are still holding onto that pick, they will give some consideration to choosing the versatile guard.

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