With the 2014 NBA draft less than 24 hours away, the rumors continues to swirl around the Association about potential free agents, prospects and draft-day trades.
The recent news surrounding Joel Embiid's foot injury and LeBron James' decision to opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat has completely shaken up the draft. Now, teams are changing up their strategies either because of Embiid's likely drop from a potential No. 1 selection or to convince LeBron to join their respective teams.
While teams begin making their final preparations for the draft, here are some of the latest rumors going around the association.
Zach LaVine a Lock at No. 13 Overall?
Many scouts felt that Zach LaVine made a mistake declaring for the NBA so early after just one season at UCLA, but it might not matter for the 19-year-old, as it looks like he could be a top-15 selection.
With a number of teams looking for talented shooting guards, Alex Kennedy from Basketball Insiders tweeted that the Minnesota Timberwolves have reportedly promised to draft LaVine with the No. 13 overall pick if he's available.
The numbers weren't great for LaVine at UCLA, averaging 9.4 points, 25 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game with a 44.1 field-goal percentage. Of course, at just 19, LaVine still has a ton of potential, and he wants to prove that he's the best once he hits the NBA.
"I want them to say that Zach came out as the best player," LaVine told Marc J. Spears from Yahoo! Sports. "I want them to say, 'He might have been a sleeper, but we definitely see his talent now.' I want them to think that [I am] one of the better young players coming up in the NBA."
Along with a solid 6'5'', 205-pound frame, LaVine is an athlete athlete with tons of potential. That athleticism was on display during a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers, when he posted a 46-inch vertical.
With Kevin Love likely gone in the near future, the Timberwolves need talent, especially at shooting guard. While LaVine may need some time before reaching his full potential, the idea of having him and Ricky Rubio in the backcourt could give the Timberwolves some pieces to work with as they prepare to rebuild without Love.
Zach Randolph May Become a Free Agent
During his time with the Memphis Grizzlies, Zach Randolph has been one of the more productive power forwards in the NBA, but at 32 years old, it appears that he may be ready to part ways with the team with the two struggling to agree on the terms for a new contract.
Randolph currently has a player option worth $16.5 million for next year, but according to Adrian Wojnarowski from Yahoo! Sports, the 32-year-old is considering using his early termination option and becoming a free agent, saying:
Randolph's agent, Raymond Brothers, has been in steady talks with general manager Chris Wallace and Grizzlies ownership for several weeks, but the sides have dug in recently and have been unable to find common ground – specifically on the length and money of the deal, sources said.
A two-time All-Star with the Grizzlies, Randolph was still a valuable player last season, averaging 17.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, shooting 46.7 percent. He's been a solid defender as well, posting 8.2 defensive win shares over the past two seasons according to Basketball-Reference.
If Randolph ends up leaving Memphis, he'll likely be hearing plenty of offers, especially from teams in desperate need of a power forward with the cap space to afford his services. There aren't a ton of teams that meet that criteria, but someone like the Los Angeles Lakers with plenty of cap space and few returning players could make a push for him.
Heat Pushing to Move Up in Draft
With the entire roster up in the air for the 2014-15 season, the Heat are likely trying to make a splash in order to convince LeBron to return. With plenty of cap space, they'll likely be looking at some high-profile free agents, but they're also apparently interested in trading up from the No. 26 overall selection.
ESPN's Chad Ford tweeted that the Heat are actively trying to move up in the draft in hopes to take former Connecticut point guard and AAC Player of the Year Shabazz Napier.
While only 6'1'', Napier proved himself as a legitimate scoring threat during his time with the Huskies while filling up the stat sheet, averaging 18 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He was especially dominant during the team's national title run in the NCAA tournament, averaging 21.2 points per game while shooting 46.5 percent from behind the arc.
As Ford pointed out, LeBron loves Napier as a point guard, and he even tweeted that he felt the 22-year-old should be the first player at his position taken in the draft.
While he's constantly knocked for his height, Napier is a proven point guard. He has NBA-caliber range, does a great job of creating his own shot or finding open teammates but is also an active defender.
Considering Mario Chalmers is now a free agent and Norris Cole is the only player on the roster with a guaranteed contract, drafting Napier isn't a bad idea, especially if LeBron comes back. His ability to light up the scoreboard will take some pressure off of the stars, and even provide a spark off the bench if that's what he needs to do.
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