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Even with the conference finals going on Anthony Duclair Jersey , the NBA’s eyes turn to the future this week.

A future that, perhaps, will have less tanking.

The draft lottery – the last before changes come next year to dissuade tanking – is Tuesday night, and then about 70 players will partake in the draft combine that starts on Wednesday. Those events are both happening in Chicago, as are some various league meetings such as a gathering of NBA general managers and other front-office executives.

But the biggest news will be made by 14 pingpong balls that will decide who drafts No. 1 next month.

”We’ve got to see what happens in the lottery first and see where our position is,” Memphis executive vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger said. ”That’s going to dictate a lot of the decisions that come after that and how we use our time after that.”

Phoenix has a 25 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick, followed by Memphis (19.9 percent), Dallas (13.8 percent) and Atlanta (13.7 percent). The rest of the candidates for No. 1 are Orlando (8.8 percent), Chicago (5.3), Sacramento (5.3), Cleveland (2.8), New York (1.7), Philadelphia (1.1), Charlotte (0.8), Detroit (0.7), the Los Angeles Clippers (0.6) and Denver (0.5).

Many of those teams were at the center of tanking questions this season. Now they’ll see if it pays off.

”We did this year what we felt was in the long-term best interest of the Bulls,” Chicago vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said. ”It’s not a situation that any of us want to ever be in again. And it goes against everything as a competitive person that you believe in. But it’s the way the system’s set up.”

For now. The NBA is changing the system.

Starting in 2019, with the NBA hoping that teams have less incentive to strive for the worst record and therefore the best chance of winning the lottery, the odds will be changing. The three teams with the worst regular-season record will each have a 14 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick, the fourth-worst team will have a 12.5 percent chance and the fifth-worst 10.5 percent.

”My sense is we’re still going to have some work to do,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.

Tanking got plenty of attention this season, and a few minutes on Jan. 29 might have decided the race.

Phoenix and Memphis played that night. The Grizzlies scored 42 points in the second quarter – their only 40-point period all season – and forced the Suns into 10 consecutive misses in one stretch http://www.raidersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-brandon-parker-jersey , on the way to a 120-109 win.

The Suns finished one game worse than the Grizzlies. Flip that Jan. 29 outcome, and it would been the Grizzlies with the best chance at the No. 1 pick.

”The league has been beating us up right now,” said Phoenix guard Devin Booker, who hasn’t come even close to making the playoffs and is already on the fourth head coach of his three-year career now that the Suns have hired Igor Kokoskov. ”But I think it’s going to be motivational for us. I know for myself, working out, I think about that all the time. I never want to be in these situations again.”

The new lottery format isn’t the only looming change related to drafts. It seems likely that by 2020, the one-and-done rule – in place since 2006 – will be gone and players will be allowed to jump from high school directly to the NBA again.

If that was the case this season, the rights to draft phenoms like R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cameron Reddish would probably be decided by those pingpong balls in Chicago on Tuesday. Instead, they’re all going to Duke this fall.

So they won’t be at the combine, nor will the likely top two picks in the June 21 draft – Arizona’s Deandre Ayton, and Slovenia’s Luka Doncic. Ayton declined the invitation to participate in Chicago, and Doncic’s season in Europe isn’t over yet.

”We sort of expected this, that we might not see the top couple guys there,” Hollinger said. ”So we just have to adjust from that and get our information in other ways.”



Well, it turns out that maybe Panthers four-time All-Pro middle linebacker Luke Kuechly may have a minor flaw in his game.

Who knew?

The 27-year-old Kuechly, considered one of the best players in the league at his position, said after Sunday’s practice his pass rushing ability needs to improve ”by leaps and bounds.”

And Panthers coach Ron Rivera was quick to agree.

”Yes, he does” need to improve, Rivera said. ”Like Cam (Newton) likes to tell you, `Superman has his Kryptonite.”’

Kuechly has been akin to Superman for the Panthers defense over the past six seasons.

He has 818 tackles and 15 interceptions during that span, and has staked his claim as the most productive middle linebacker ever to play for the Panthers -with a realistic chance to go down as one of the NFL’s all-time bests along with Ray Lewis Authentic Oscar Lindberg Jersey , Jack Lambert, Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary.

Rivera has repeatedly said Kuechly is like having a coach on the field with his ability to call out an opponent’s play call to teammates before the ball is ever snapped. He’s seemingly always around the ball and his mistakes are few and far between.

Getting to the quarterback has rarely been one of Kuechly’s strengths.

He has 10 career sacks, including just one last season. By comparison, Seattle middle linebacker Bobby Wagner – whom Kuechly is often compared to in the NFC – has 15 sacks during that same span.

Kuechly is working with new linebackers coach Steve Russ to improve his explosiveness and ability to penetrate the line of scrimmage, a skillset that could potentially elevate the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year to a whole new level.

”Coach Russ has a planned attack for (improving) that and hopefully it will translate into a game,” Kuechly said.

Kuechly joked that he has to get better at pressuring the quarterback because his longtime buddy Thomas Davis, the team’s outside linebacker, ”beats me in that (category) every year – and I have to try to get him back.”

This may be Kuechly’s year to get the best of Davis, who will start the season serving a four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.

It’s not anything new for Kuechly to target an area to improve. For the past couple of years Kuechly spent extra energy working on his pass coverage skills, an area in which he has shown noticeable improvement.

Of course, the biggest concern for Kuechly will be avoiding another concussion. He has sustained a concussion in each of the past three seasons, causing him to miss 10 games.

The Panthers simply can’t afford to lose him.

His speed and ability to chase down ball carriers from sideline to sideline still amazes Rivera, who played linebacker for nine seasons for the Chicago Bears and won a Super Bowl in the 1985 season.

Rivera said he’s ”seen everything” from Kuechly, but pointed to a play he made last week in practice that caused the coach to pause the game film and replay it in slow motion several times. As Rivera describes it, Kuechly was chasing down a ball carrier to the outside when a blocker stepped in his way to cut him off.

But that didn’t keep Kuechly from making the play though.

”The position he was in, he should have been cut off,” Rivera said. ”But he made a step in and the blocker came down with him and he jumped around him and accelerated to the outside and made the play. It’s one of those where you just sit there and go, `Wow.”’

While the focus this summer will be on improving as a pass rusher, Rivera said Kuechly remains a special player.

”He has that kind of ability and I think a big part of it is just how smart he is as a football player,” Rivera said.



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