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Rockets get 18th overall pick for Chase Budinger, Lior Eliyahu 06.26.12 at 1:50 pm ET
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The Rockets have acquired the 18th overall pick in the NBA draft from the Timberwolves in return for Chase Budinger and the rights to Lior Eliyahu according to multiple reports.

The deal gives the Rockets the 14th, 16th and 18th overall picks in Thursday’s draft, which gives them plenty of ammunition for more trades. The Rockets have been linked to a potential deal involving the Kings’ fifth overall pick in the draft, as well another deal involving the Raptors’ eighth overall pick.

The Rockets are reportedly using these trades to make a strong push towards acquiring Dwight Howard from the Magic despite the fact that Howard intends to become a free agent at the end of the season.

Budinger, who was the 44th overall pick in the 2009 draft, averaged 9.6 points in 22.4 minutes per game last season. The 6-foot-7 small forward shot 40.2 percent from three-point range last season and is likely to help a Timberwolves team that struggled to score from the wing. Eliyahu is a 6-foot-10, 232 pound forward who was originally  taken with the 44th overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Magic and plays professionally in Israel.

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Kevin Garnett: ‘I have nothing positive to say’ about Minnesota Timberwolves 03.30.12 at 2:36 pm ET
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On Friday night, the Celtics are shooting for their fourth straight victory and a sixth win in their last seven games when they travel to Minneapolis, the city Kevin Garnett called home for his first 12 NBA seasons.

Loyalty means everything to Garnett, and as we learned following Wednesday’s defeat of the Jazz, that devotion moved to Boston from Minnesota when the Timberwolves sent him to the Celtics in 2007 for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, cash considerations, their 2009 first-round draft pick and Minnesota’s 2009 first-round pick that they had traded to Boston in the Ricky Davis-Wally Szczerbiak deal.

“It’s always special to come back to true fans and sort of your foundation, but as far as that franchise, I have nothing positive to say, so I’ll just let it be that,” said Garnett. “I think Kevin Love is playing at a high level. I think he’s rejuvenated the city as far as basketball goes. Other than that, nothing else.”

To say Love is playing at a high level might be an understatement, as he’s averaging 37.3 points and 16.3 rebounds over his last four games and playing himself into the MVP discussion. There’s been plenty of comparisons between Garnett vs. Love, but recently Garnett has guarded opposing centers, so it will be interesting to see if the two actually square off head-to-head in Friday night’s matchup.

Speaking of Garnett at the five position, as colleague Paul Flannery noted, he could be the perfect fill-in for the Celtics at center for the next two or three years. That would allow the Celtics to remain competitive with Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and whoever else while maintaining some flexibility for the next round of superstar free agents in two or three years, when the C’s could make a run at someone like — you guessed it — Love.

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NBA Offseason Review: Northwest Division 12.20.11 at 7:43 pm ET
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Given the drama (and comedy) that was the NBA lockout, the ensuing free agency frenzy and the vetoed trade by a commissioner of a group of owners who was acting as the general manager of an individual team that is owned by that same group of owners, it’s easy to get confused about who landed where. This is the second of six daily division-by-division reviews leading up to opening day.

NBA Offseason Review: Pacific Division

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

2010-11 record: 17-65
2010-11 standing: 5th in Northwest Division
NBA draft picks: 2. Derrick Williams; 43. Malcolm Lee
Key additions: Ricky Rubio (Spain); J.J. Barea (free agent); Brad Miller (trade)
Key substractions: Jonny Flynn (trade); Lazar Hayward (trade)
2011-12 starters: PG Ricky Rubio; SG Wesley Johnson; SF Michael Beasley; PF Kevin Love; C Darko Milicic
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 15.5
2011-12 prediction: 21-45

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

2010-11 record: 48-34
2010-11 standing: 3rd in Northwest Division; lost Western Conference first round, 4-2
NBA draft picks: 21. Nolan Smith; 51. Jon Diebler; 57. Tanguy Ngombo
Key additions: Jamal Crawford (free agent) Raymond Felton (trade); Kurt Thomas (free agent)
Key substractions: Andre Miller (trade); Brandon Roy (retired); Patrick Mills (free agent)
2011-12 starters: PG Felton; SG Wesley Matthews; SF Gerald Wallace; PF LaMarcus Aldridge; C Marcus Camby
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 41.5
2011-12 prediction: 39-27

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NBA draft-day rumors: Josh Smith to Timberwolves for second-overall pick? 06.23.11 at 3:23 pm ET
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Josh Smith continues to jockey for the position of the MVP of the rumor mill.

The latest report, coming from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, has the Hawks trying to trade the high-flying forward to Minnesota for the second-overall pick in this year’s NBA draft. The Timberwolves were believed to be heavily considering Derrick Williams out of Arizona at that spot, and Wojnarowski didn’t mention the team as being interested in any deal involving Smith.

The Hawks would most likely take center Enes Kanter, who has drawn the eye of Hawks GM Rick Sund, with the second pick if they were able to acquire it.

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Danny Ainge: 2012 NBA Draft ‘will be better’ 06.22.11 at 3:49 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Danny Ainge has crafted a reputation as a GM who isn’t afraid to wheel and deal. Just don’t expect it Thursday night. So, in other words Celtics fans, be patient.

The Celtics president of basketball operations said Wednesday that he doesn’t foresee trading his two draft picks on Thursday to move up for an elite position in the NBA Draft. The Celtics are currently slotted to select at position 25 in the first round and 55th overall in the second round.

“We don’t want to move next year’s pick to [move up] in this year’s draft because the picks we have aren’t good enough to get to the very, very top of the draft and we think next year’s draft will be better,” Ainge said.

The Celtics will get a 2012 first-round pick via their Feb. 24 trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder for Kendrick Perkins. It will be the less favorable pick from either the Minnesota Timberwolves or Los Angeles Clippers, and is “Top-10″ protected.

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NBA mock draft: Celtics eye next Jordan? 05.24.11 at 10:11 pm ET
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Kyrie Irving is turning pro after one injury-shortened season at Duke. (AP)

With only four teams still competing in the postseason, the majority of fans are counting down the days until June 23 and the NBA draft. This year’s class is not expected to be strong, but there is a slew of European talent, a handful of hit or miss “project” players and more Morrises than you can shake a stick at.

Duke freshman Kyrie Irving appears to be the consensus No. 1 pick despite playing just 11 games for the Blue Devils. Arizona’s Derrick Williams likely will be taken second, but by whom? Timberwolves general manager David Kahn is expected to shop that selection.

Kentucky’s Enes Kanter measures at a monstrous 6-foot-11, 261 pounds. However, he has yet to play in the United States as the NCAA declared him permanently ineligible, citing benefits from his Turkish Basketball League team.

Who will take the risk and select BYU sharpshooter Jimmer Fredette? Who will be Sacramento’s potential last first-round pick? Who will the Celtics select? All that and more in our first NBA mock draft.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving, Duke, Fr., PG, 6-2, 180

The Cavs finally won something. It’s a shame there are no players of LeBron James’ caliber in this draft class. Irving has arguably the highest ceiling talent-wise, and he fits Cleveland’s needs for speed and ball-handling much better than the only other reasonable candidate, Derrick Williams.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves

Derrick Williams, Arizona, So., SF/PF, 6-9, 241

An athletic high-flier, Williams is more than just a powerful dunker. He has great basket awareness and finishes at the rim as well as anyone in this class. The T-Wolves frontcourt is already packed with Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Darko Milicic. However, Williams is simply too good to pass up at the No. 2 spot whether it’s by the Wolves or a trade partner.

3. Utah Jazz

Brandon Knight, Kentucky, Fr., PG/SG, 6-3, 185

With Deron Williams shipped off to New Jersey and Irving off the board, Knight is the obvious selection. A well-rounded offensive player, Knight is able to get to the rim at will, knock down mid-range jumpers, and extend his range beyond the arc. He’s a capable rebounder and creative passer, whose st0ck rose with his performance in the NCAA tournament. The Jazz have a veteran point guard with a similar skill set in Devin Harris for Knight to learn under.

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Ricky Rubio reportedly has interest in Celtics 01.23.11 at 7:39 pm ET
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Ricky Rubio was drafted by the Timberwolves in 2009, but the Spanish guard has yet to sign a contract and come to the NBA. Rubio faces an interesting choice this summer. If he signs before June 30, his contract would be on the current rookie scale. If he waits and stays in Europe for another season he could negotiate a deal that isn’t bound by the rookie scale.

Complicating the matter further is the pending lockout, which could go into effect on June 30 once the current collective bargaining agreement ends and would muddle his options further.

But Rubio has never shown an interest in playing for Minnesota, and in a piece in The New York Times, one of his representatives is quoted as saying that Rubio would rather play for an East Coast team, citing New York, Miami and Boston as his preferred destinations.

The takeaway from Rubio’s interest isn’t that he wants to come to Boston so much as it appears that he doesn’t want to go to Minnesota. It’s not really his choice right now because Rubio doesn’t have a lot of leverage. The Timberwolves own his rights, regardless of how long it takes for him to sign a contract. Even if he did want to play for the Celtics, they are already set at point guard with Rajon Rondo, who is in the first year of a five-year, $65 million contract.

While it is interesting that he has Boston on his list, the specter of a work stoppage and a new collective bargaining agreement makes any future plans impossible to predict. That’s one of the reasons the Celtics went all-in for this season. Their future is an open question as the only players signed beyond next season are Rondo and Paul Pierce. (Rookies Avery Bradley, Semih Erden and Luke Harangody also are more or less bound to the team.)

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