NBA summer league

Stop making a big deal about NBA Summer League

NBA fans are still continuing to find ways to get their fix of NBA action despite the fact the league is in its offseason.

There have been many big storylines so far. There has been a lot of noise made in free agency with signings like Gordon Hayward moving to the Boston Celtics. There have been many big trades like Chris Paul to the Rockets and Paul George to the Thunder. There have also been big extensions like James Harden’s new deal.

All the big contenders are looking to improve and give the Warriors and Cavaliers a run for their money.

The 2017 NBA Draft also drew a lot of attention. This new class of rookies is expected to be the most talented since the 2003 class that consisted of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Names like Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson and Lonzo Ball are expected to dominate the league for years to come.

Speaking of Lonzo Ball, he has also continued to stay in the league’s headlines since the draft. This is nothing new for the former UCLA point guard as his father Lavar has said plenty of insane comments about his son to put him in the spotlight.

However, Lonzo has been in the headlines recently not because of things his dad has said, but because of the numbers he is putting up in the NBA’s Summer League. He has already put up a triple-double and been looking like the star his dad claims he will be. There has even been talk about what type of shoes he performs best in. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Summer league means nothing

This is not a “hate on Lonzo Ball” article. I love the guy. I like his attitude and his style of play. He’s a good kid with a lot of potential.

What this article is really about is the summer league. NBA fans are so hungry for action that they are sitting around watching rookies and players from the D-League duke it out in what is basically a scrimmage.

Baseball junkies do this with spring training. NFL junkies do this with the preseason. They have waited so long to see their favorite sport in action that they are willing to watch scrimmages between backups and guys that are fighting for a spot on the team.

I’m also not hating on fans that watch spring training games or preseason football. You do you. What I am trying to point out is that you can’t make any assumptions or predictions based on what you see in preseason.

NBA summer league

Lonzo Ball has been looking like the player his dad says he is, but it is still just summer league. (Image by Getty Images)

In preseason sports, the starters hardly play. The backups dominate and sometimes fight for starting roles. There are undrafted players who are just hoping to earn a spot on the team. The competition is there since they are fighting for spots on the team, but the talent and skill sets aren’t.

The NBA’s Summer League is no exception. This is an opportunity for rookies from this year’s class to learn the NBA’s style of play. It is their chance to work with their coaches and learn about the offensive and defensive schemes.

It is also an opportunity for guys from the D-League to come up and show what they can do. There are also a handful of undrafted players fighting for a spot on the team, or at least a D-League roster.

This is the competition Lonzo Ball is playing. He is facing other guys he played against in college, guys that will hardly play in the NBA and guys that may never play in the NBA.

If Ball is even a tenth as good as his dad claims he is, then he surely should be dominating this competition. Shouldn’t he be able to handle the likes of Kay Felder? There is no LeBron James to face, no Steph Curry to worry about, no Russell Westbrook to guard and no James Harden to slow down. I also don’t hear anybody making noise about Bryn Forbes averaging 26 points per game for the Spurs.

Conclusion

Keep in mind what the summer league is all about. You can’t make any conclusions on rookies like Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum or even Ball. They aren’t playing any competition yet.

Why then does ESPN keep putting Ball’s stats in their top stories? I don’t know. My guess is because LaVar has captured the media’s attention and they are always going to continue to report on him, even when it is something as meaningless as summer league.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be going around bragging about the 40 points I put up in an intramural basketball game I played in at college. That is basically what preseason sports stats are like, especially summer league when no stars or even starters or sixth men can be found. So let’s cool it on the hype over Ball and wait and see what the kid does once the real competition comes his way.

 

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Carmelo Anthony Hall of Fame

Carmelo Anthony Hall of Fame: Will he make it?

Carmelo Anthony is rumored to be on the move this offseason. The Knicks forward and 10-time All-Star finished this past season with 22.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. The Rockets and Cavaliers have been the teams supposedly working to acquire him.

At 33 years old, Melo is reaching the end of his career. He has had a great career in the NBA despite all of the criticism he has received over the years. Throughout his time in the league, he has been known for his incredible ability to score.

But will it all be enough to earn him a spot in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame when it is all said and done? You bet. Carmelo Anthony may not be the complete player LeBron James is or have all the titles that Michael Jordan has, but this is why Melo will be remembered as one of the greatest to play the game of basketball.

It is the “basketball” Hall of Fame

When it comes to debating whether or not a player should be in the Hall of Fame, you need to look at everything they accomplished in the game of basketball.

It is not the NBA Hall of Fame, it’s the Basketball Hall of Fame. That is why not just NBA players, but ABA players, WNBA players, coaches and more appear in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Carmelo Anthony Hall of Fame

Anthony’s numbers speak for themselves. (Photo by ELSA/GETTY IMAGES)

Because of this, you can’t just look at NBA accomplishments, although Anthony has a nice resume for himself in terms of the NBA. As stated before, Anthony has played in 10 All-Star games. He has been All-NBA six times. He has 24,156 career points as of now, which ranks 25th all time.

If Anthony keeps up his pace of scoring, he will be the eighth player in NBA history to reach 30,000 career points, assuming LeBron James becomes the seventh. That is quite an accomplishment and every player that has done so already has been elected to the Hall of Fame (except for Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki, but they will also be elected).

Anthony has been criticized for not caring, being a bad teammate and lazy defensive play. He also has never made it to the NBA Finals and has missed the playoffs the last four seasons.

There may be some truth to those statements, but let’s look at some other players who are in the Hall of Fame with similar resumes to Anthony’s. Elgin Baylor never won a title despite playing in eight. Dominique Wilkins, Pete Maravich and Alex English never made the Finals. That did not stop them from being elected to the Hall. You don’t have to be the greatest of all time to be a Hall of Famer, just one of the greats.

Basketball accomplishments

Carmelo Anthony Hall of Fame

Anthony has three olympic gold medals, the most among men’s basketball players. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Anthony also has other accomplishments in his basketball career that make him worthy. He lead the Syracuse Orange to a national title back when he played college ball. He has also played on four Olympic teams and won a gold medal on three of them. Nobody has won more gold medals in men’s basketball than Anthony.

Yes, Olympic gold medals are not really considered when disputing the greatness of players. Nobody brings up the gold medal count when debating whether LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan. Nobody brings up NCAA national championships when debating whether Magic Johnson was better than Larry Bird.

What these medals do is add to Anthony’s basketball resume. Remember, this is the Basketball Hall of Fame, not the NBA Hall of Fame. It is not just NBA accomplishments.

If it were just NBA accomplishments, Yao Ming would not be in the Hall of Fame. Their time in the NBA was not very eventful and it was short.

What made Yao a Hall of Famer is what he accomplished outside the NBA. He came over from China and helped globalize the NBA. He also was quite the stud over in the Chinese Basketball Association.

Manu Ginolbli will also most likely end up in the Hall of Fame some day despite being a 6th man for most of his career. It is what he accomplished for the NBA globally that is really going to push him in. Not to mention, he also has some NBA titles and All-Star appearances.

Again, there are also coaches, commentators, WNBA players and more in the basketball hall of fame. Don’t look at a player through the NBA scope when determining if they are hall of fame worthy.

 

Featured Image by AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

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NBA max contracts

NBA max contracts should be expelled from the association

LeBron James hit one of the NBA’s biggest problems head on with his tweet over the weekend about Steph Curry. Curry recently signed a five-year, $201 million deal, which is the highest average annual value in the United States’ major sports. However, James thinks Curry should be making even more.

The NBA, for whatever reason, has a max contract in place. Out of the three big sports leagues in North America (NFL, MLB and NBA), they are the only league that puts a cap on how much a player can make.

The NFL is a free market. The teams decide how much a player is worth and pay them accordingly.

The MLB does the same thing. In fact, they don’t even have a salary cap. This allows the richest teams to buy even more great players, but those still aren’t always the best teams.

Because the NFL and MLB have a free market, the league’s talent pool is more evenly spread out.

The NFL and MLB get this concept. That is why players like Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins are making over $300 million and Derek Carr just signed the NFL’s richest contract ever. If the Marlins and Raiders think those guys are worth that money, they should be able to pay it. If another team wants to try and persuade those guys to come play for them by offering more money, they also should be able to do that.

NBA max contracts

Why should Mike Conley be able to make just as much money as Kevin Durant? (Photo by Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports)

The NBA doesn’t do this and therefore super teams form. Putting a max on a team salary and player salary allows teams to easily put together a big three. There is no way the Golden State Warriors should be able to afford both Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, but since the max contract is in place, it is possible.

Also, why should a player like Mike Conley be able to make just as much money as a player like Kevin Durant? Yes, Conley is a great player. He is a proven veteran. He is smart with the ball, and leads his Memphis Grizzlies well.

No disrespect to Conley, but he is miles and miles away from Durant. Durant is an eight-time All-Star and five-time All-NBA first team selection. He also has one MVP and two Finals appearances. Conley has played in zero All-Star games, has never made All-NBA first, second or third team, never won an MVP, and never made it past the conference finals in the postseason.

There is no way Conley and Durant should be paid equally. The accolades and numbers prove that they play on different levels.

As it stands now, any proven veteran can make the same amount of money on any team, except their own, which can pay a little bit more. It was recently changed that the player’s current team could pay them the most money to try and encourage them to stay with their current team, but that has not worked. Kevin Durant left OKC and more money to make a super team in Golden State.

Now LeBron said Curry should be making $400 million on his new contract because that is what he is worth. That just seems like an astronomical amount to be honest. But honestly, it is not.

NBA max contracts

Kevin Durant and Steph Curry should be able to make as much as the free market determines. (Photo by AP)

The NBA makes a lot of money and needs to spend it somehow. The most obvious way is on the players. Just like every other item you buy like gas or milk, the market decides the price. Gas goes up when oil goes up and also during holidays when people are traveling around. It is all about supply and demand.

As the NBA continues to go in this era of super teams, one thing for Adam Silver to consider is the way players are paid. The way the league stands now has allowed the Cavs and Warriors to make the NBA Finals the last three years and also for the next several.

We don’t know who is going to make the World Series in the MLB each season. We also don’t know which teams in the NFL will be playing in the Super Bowl. But we all know who will be playing in the Finals in the NBA.

If Silver wants to create a better NBA, he needs to get rid of max contracts. This will let the free market decide how much players are paid. It will spread the talent around the league. It will eliminate super teams and make the NBA more competitive again. It is basic business.

 

Featured Image by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Free Agency

What it will take for the Cavs to beat the Warriors

If the Cleveland Cavs keep the same team they have going into the future, nothing is going to change for them. They will continue to make the NBA Finals because of how great LeBron James is, but will keep losing to the Golden State Warriors.

The team they have in place simply is not good enough to take on all of Golden State’s star power. The addition of Kevin Durant made it that much more difficult to beat the team who previously won 73 games in the regular season.

Durant was the obvious x-factor and MVP of the Finals and there was nothing Cleveland could do to stop him. It took a record night for the Cavs to steal one game against the Warriors when they won 137-116.

Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Free Agency

Kevin Durant has made it nearly impossible for the Cavs to compete in the NBA Finals. (Photo by USA Today Sports/Kyle Terada)

Golden State put up scores of 113, 132, 118, 116 and 129. Durant averaged 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists in the series while shooting 55.6 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from behind the arc. The Cavs’ defense had no answer for Golden State’s offense.

This makes it absolutely necessary for Cleveland to make a splash in this offseason. They need to get younger and more talented, which is crazy to think considering all the talent they already have between James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

The Cavs have to face reality. James is 32. J.R. Smith is 31. Richard Jefferson is 36. Channing Frye is 33. They aren’t getting any younger.

This class of free agents is loaded with talent. It features names like Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Gordon Hayward, Kyle Lowry and Paul Millsap. The only problem is that all of those guys are going to be seeking max contracts, and Cleveland has almost no money to spend. Their free agents are Dahntay Jones, James Jones, Kyle Korver, Deron Williams and Derrick Williams. That does not free up a ton of cap space to make the splash they need.

Not all of those guys will fit in with Cleveland either. Griffin is injury prone. Curry will stay with Golden State. They don’t need any of the other point guards either because Irving is already ball-dominant as it is. Moving him to the other guard and not getting the ball in his hands would hurt him and the team.

James is going to have to convince some guys to come to Cleveland for cheap. Either that or the Cavs will have to make a big trade. They were in talks to get Jimmy Butler, but he got moved to Minnesota.

Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Free Agency

Paul George can help the Cavs get past Golden State. (Photo by Robert Scheer/IndyStar)

They have also been in talks about getting Paul George. With George becoming a free agent soon, there is some risk involved in getting him. Indiana isn’t going to just give their face of the franchise away either. The Cavs are going to have to make it a sweet deal that will most likely have Kevin Love involved. The Cavs really don’t want to lose stars like Love either though.

It has been reported that Indiana does not want Love anyway. They are looking for young players and draft picks, which is something Cleveland can’t offer.

Not having David Griffin in the front office is going to hurt the team as well. He was so good at making trades. The Cavs won almost every deal he made. Not having Griffin to work his magic is going to make a trade for a star a little tougher.

It was reported that Cleveland was in a blockbuster trade that would send George and Carmelo Anthony their way. However, none of the teams involved wanted Kevin Love.

George may be Cleveland’s best bet. If they are going to bring him to Cleveland, they need to find a third team who would be willing to take Love and give Indiana draft picks and young players. After they trade Love, they will need to sign another free agent so they have four stars to compare to Golden State’s four stars.

Trading for George and signing another star is going to be what it takes to beat Golden State. Otherwise, Cleveland will continue to lose in the finals.

I know what you’re thinking. Why does LeBron James need another superstar? Super teams are hurting the NBA. Why doesn’t the NBA do something about this new era?

Well, this is reality. James is facing far better competition than Michael Jordan ever faced in the Finals. To win titles, you have to do what it takes to win. This is simply what it takes to win in this era of the NBA. If you aren’t a super team, you have no chance. Cleveland and Golden State is also a rivalry that could be comparable to the Celtics and Lakers when it is all said and done.

How the NBA can fix its super team problem is another story for another day though. But the bottom line is the Cavs need to get better and younger if they want to compete with Golden State in the upcoming years.

 

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New Orleans Pelicans NBA draft

New Orleans Pelicans 2017 NBA Draft profile

Day 24 of NBA draftmas features the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans made a big splash at the trade deadline this past season, but the season did not end the way most of us thought. Let’s look at the Pelicans season.

Summary

After the Pelicans made the trade for DeMarcus Cousins, it seemed that they had the talent to move up to the eighth seed in the playoffs.

Anthony Davis (Photo by: usatoday.com)

Cousins and Anthony Davis are the most talented frontcourt in the NBA. They average a combined 55 points, 22.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game. It still was not good enough to get the Pelicans in the postseason.

The Pelicans as a team did not score much other than Cousins and Davis. They averaged 104.3 points per game, which ranked just 18th in the league. They shot only 45 percent from the floor, which ranked 20th. Their defense was also below average, allowing 106.4 points per game, good for 17th.

They also ranked 13th in rebounds (43.7), 12th in assists (22.8) and had the fifth fewest turnovers per game (12.3).

Most teams don’t have a dominant frontcourt like New Orleans. As the NBA continues to change, most teams are getting faster and better at shooting from behind the arc. Cousins definitely slows the team down and the team does not shoot 3-pointers well, evidenced by the 19th-ranked 35 percent shooting from down town.

The Pelicans are going to have to play differently from the rest of the league. They are going to need to take advantage of the bigs they have and control the pace of the game.

Picks & Needs

After their trade with Sacramento to get Cousins, the Pelicans have just one pick in this draft, which is in the second round.

First round: none

Second round: No. 40

Jrue Holiday’s status is up in the air right now. If he leaves, New Orleans will be without a point guard. The team also does not have a first-round pick to use on a top point guard prospect.

The first round is generally used to address team needs and the second round is usually used on who the best available players are. The Pelicans might actually be able to do both with the 40th pick.

Targets & Thoughts

Pick #40: Frank Mason III, PG, Kansas

Frank Mason (Photo by: cbssports.com)

The 2017 Naismith Player of the Year might be the best pickup for New Orleans. In his senior season, Mason averaged 20.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game for the Jayhawks.

Mason shoots the ball very well, evidenced by his 47.1 3-point percentage on 4.8 attempts per game. He is also very athletic as he had a 41 inch max vertical leap at the NBA Combine, which was the fourth best. He is also quick, good in the pick and roll, and shoots with a quick release.

Mason is an undersized player, as he stands barely 6-foot with a wingspan just slightly longer. This will affect his ability to play defense in the league.

What he does not have in size he makes up for with his skill set. He is an experienced point guard with a great shot and athletic ability. He is a hard worker as well. It definitely would benefit Mason if he did not have to start right away in the league, but Cousins and Davis might be able to take some pressure off of him when he first starts.

Other possibilities would be Nigel Williams-Goss from Gonzaga and Edmond Sumner from Xavier. Williams-Goss is a strong, intelligent leader like Mason and a bigger player, but is not as quick. Sumner is even bigger than Williams-Goss. He is a slasher and great finisher at the rim, but isn’t a great shooter and has a history with knee injuries.

Conclusion

New Orleans needs a point guard that can involve Cousins and Davis while also contributing. Ideally they either resign Holiday or sign another starting point guard. If they can’t make that happen they need to address this in the draft. They also should consider drafting one if they do sign one so they have a good backup option.

Frank Mason III seems like the best overall pick at 40th, but Nigel Williams-Goss and Edmond Sumner are other guys to consider as well.

Thanks for checking out the New Orleans Pelicans’ 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 25 of NBA Draftmas to see what the Houston Rockets are going to do.

Day 23: San Antonio Spurs

Day 22: Utah Jazz

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Is Harry Giles worth the risk?

The 2017 NBA draft is set to take place on June 22. Fans will finally find out answers to questions like what Boston will do with their first pick and where Lonzo Ball is headed.

This draft class is loaded with talent. Names expected to be called early on are Fultz, Ball, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk. All of them are one-and-done freshman who expect to make an impact at the NBA level now.

One name from that class we thought would be going high a couple years ago is Harry Giles. Giles was the No. 1 recruit by ESPN coming out of high school. Many scouts projected him to be the No. 1 pick of the 2017 NBA draft.

However, injuries to both of his knees have caused a set back for Giles. He played limited minutes in his only season at Duke and has taken a dive in the mock drafts. NBA personnel just don’t want to use a high pick on a player with as rough an injury history as Giles.

Giles is projected to fall to the middle of the first round now. Whichever team takes him will be asking themselves this question: is Giles worth the risk?

The answer? You bet, and here is why.

Early Years

Giles was recognized at a young age as a talented athlete. However, his injuries caused him to miss a lot of his time in high school.

Giles suffered his first knee injury while playing with USA Basketball’s under 16 team in 2013. The 15-year-old Giles tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus in his left knee. He had surgery on it and sat out his entire sophomore season.

Harry Giles draft

Giles was the top player in one stacked recruiting class. (Photo by Jon Lopez/Nike)

Giles returned to competition in the summer and reminded everyone just how talented he is. He participated in EYBL’s Peach Jam event and with Team CP3.

During his junior year at Wesleyan Christian (N.C.) Academy, Giles lead the team to a 30-5 record and averaged 23 points, 11 rebounds and three assists per game.

He continued his success into that summer at the Peach Jam and the EYBL circuit. In 23 games, Giles averaged 18 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 blocks and also shot 54.4 percent from the floor.

The 17-year-old Giles also dominated with Team USA at the FIBA Under 19 World Championship in Crete. Giles averaged 14 points and 10.6 rebounds per game and won gold.

Giles transferred to Oak Hill Academy for his senior season, but would only play in one game. Giles tore the ACL in his right knee during the first game and sat out the rest of his senior year.

Giles had already shown the world what he could do with the time he had. He signed with Duke and was expected to be available at he start of his freshman season with the Blue Devils.

One and Done

Giles did not get to start playing at the beginning of the season as he hoped. Before the start of the season, Giles underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee, which is the one he injured first. There wasn’t an injury, but Giles wanted to have the procedure because he felt his progress had plateaued.

Harry Giles draft

Giles played limited minutes at Duke this past season. (Photo by AP Photo)

The surgery revealed a particle preventing Giles from progressing. Coach Mike Krzyzewski compared it to something like a drain clogging. Giles felt relief and was ready to continue his progress. However, the surgery forced Giles to miss the first 12 games of the season.

Giles made his debut December 19 against Tennessee State, playing just four minutes with nothing to add to the stat sheet. His minutes progressed over the next several games. However, Giles only broke 20 minutes once, as Duke did not want to overwork him and risk another injury.

Due to the limited playing time, we really don’t have any substantial numbers of film to look at. Giles best games was perhaps his 10 points and 12 rebounds in 17 minutes in a blowout win over Georgia Tech. His season averages of 3.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 0.7 blocks certainly don’t reflect his talent. His per 40 minutes averages of 13.6 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks better reflect his talent.

After his freshman season, Giles declared for the draft.

NBA Potential

Giles definitely has the size for the NBA. Giles measured in at 6-foot-11 and 232 pounds at the draft combine. He has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, standing reach of 9-foot-1 and boasts the biggest hands in the whole class.

Harry Giles draft

Giles injury history is definitely a concern amongst NBA personnel. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

The big question continues to swarm around Giles: can he stay healthy? Let’s take a look at some players who have been in a similar situation and how they panned out.

Fellow Duke Blue Devil Kyrie Irving missed significant time his freshman year due to a toe injury. Despite the small sample size scouts got to see, Irving still ended up being the No. 1 pick in the draft and won rookie of the year. He is also playing in his third straight NBA Finals and making significant contributions to his team.

Joel Embiid also suffered back and knee injuries in college. He was taken third overall by the 76ers, but didn’t play a game until his third season because of injuries suffered in his first two years. His season this year was also cut short due to an injury.

No one has had quite as rough of an injury history as Giles though, making it tough to find a perfect comparison. We have seen guys like Greg Oden struggle to stay healthy who had no injury history in college or high school. Former No. 1 pick Derrick rose has also struggled with injuries. His health also didn’t become a problem until he got to the NBA.

Brandon Roy, a young promising NBA talent, had to retire after five seasons due to multiple knee injuries. He tried to make a comeback a year later, but only played in a five games due to another knee injury. Not everyone has a success story after nasty knee injuries.

However, Shaun Livingston does. Livingston had one of the worst knee injuries you can imagine. After a nasty fall years ago, Livingston tore his ACL, PCL and lateral meniscus, sprained his MCL and dislocated his patella and tibio-fibular joint. Livingston is obviously back to playing since then and has been a key contributor for the Golden State Warriors. He is not the most talented player in the league, but he still overcame an awful injury. 

The Verdict on Giles

The injuries definitely bring up a legitimate question mark. Why risk a pick on a guy with injury history when you can draft a perfectly healthy player?

Giles will most likely fall to the middle or later part of the first round. There are multiple teams with more than one first-round pick. One of them can spare one on a player like Giles.

If Giles does stay healthy, he could be the biggest steal of the draft. He is a top five talent that will be available in the middle of the draft. He was at the top of this class coming out of high school. The talent and size are there. The guy can ball.

Any general manager who has a second or third pick in the first round should strongly consider taking Giles. The reward is so high that it outweighs the risk.

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Portland Trail Blazers 2017 NBA Draft profile

Day 14 of NBA Draftmas features the Portland Trail Blazers. This team has one of the best backcourts in the NBA, but that is about all they have. Let’s take a look at how their season went.

summary

Portland has made the playoffs four straight years now. However, their win total has dropped in each of those seasons.

In the 2013-14 season, they finished fifth in the West with a 54-28 record and lost to the Spurs in the conference semifinals. This past season they finished 41-41, which was good for eighth in the conference and lost in the first round to the Warriors.

Portland Trail Blazers NBA draft

Portland has a strong backcourt, but weak frontcourt and defense. (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

Key players from the 2013-14 squad like LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews are no longer on the team. Losing that much talent will definitely hurt a team.

Guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum remain as the team’s top stars. They helped Portland average 107.9 points per game, good for eighth in the NBA. Lillard averaged 27 and McCollum averaged 23.

What really hurt Portland was their defense. They allowed 108.5 points per game, which ranked 25th in the league. That left the Blazers with a -0.6 point differential, which ranked 18th in the league. They also only ranked 23rd in forced turnovers at just 12.4 per game.

Portland needs defensive help. They also need to strengthen their frontcourt. Maurice Harkless and Noah Vonleh are not starting-caliber players. A defensive-focused big man who can help chip in some points would be a great addition for Portland.

picks & needs

Portland has three first-round picks in this draft and none in the second.

First round: No. 15, No. 20 (from Memphis), No. 26 (from Cleveland)

Second round: none

Portland has a great opportunity to improve their defense and frontcourt. With three first-round picks, surely they can get some guys who can help the team get more wins and a higher seed in the playoffs next season.

targets & thoughts

Pick #15: Jarrett Allen, C, Texas

Portland Trail Blazers NBA draft

Jarrett Allen will boost Portland’s frontcourt and defense. (Photo by Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

Jarrett Allen was one of the few bright spots on a struggling Texas Longhorns’ roster.

The Longhorns finished 11-22 overall, including 4-14 in the Big 12. Despite the awful season, Allen stood out with averages of 13.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.

Allen has tremendous size and length. He stands 6-foot-11 with a wingspan of 7-foot-5 and a standing reach of 9-foot-1. He weighs in at 235 pounds, but should fill out over time.

There is plenty of defensive potential for Allen, who showed flashes of that at Texas. He is a rim protector and a great finisher off pick and roll.

His offensive game still needs work. However, Lillard and McCollum should be able to take care of the points for the time being as they have already. Allen’s size and defensive ability make him a great pickup for Portland. Overtime he can work on his offense and add some muscle.

Pick #20: Harry Giles, PF, Duke

I know Portland does not want another potential Greg Oden situation, but hear me out.

Portland Trail Blazers NBA draft

Harry Giles is a risky pick, but has such a high reward. (Photo by Andrew Dye/Winston-Salem Journal)

Giles was the No. 1 recruit in his class. He definitely has some talent to him. If it were not for two torn ACL injuries, he would be a projected top five pick no doubt. The injuries caused him to take a hit in the amount of action he got last season, so we don’t know what Giles is fully capable of. His 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game certainly don’t reflect his level of talent.

Portland can definitely afford to take a chance with one of their first-round picks since they have three of them. Giles is light on his feet, agile and has incredible length and size. He is 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and 9-foot-1 standing reach.

Giles is a Joel Embiid type of talent that is going to fall to the middle of the first round. The only question, like Embiid, is can he stay healthy? If he can, Giles could be the steal of the draft. Portland should take a chance on Giles.

Pick #26: P.J. Dozier, SG, South Carolina

Dozier is a guy that can come in and give Lillard and McCollum a break in the backcourt. The former Gamecock averaged 13.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game.

Portland Trail Blazers NBA draft

P.J. Dozier also would improve Portland’s defense and provide a break for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. (Photo by Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports)

Dozier has all the tools to be a great defender. His 6-foot-11 wingspan will smother most guards. He is also super athletic, evidenced by his performance at the NBA Combine. Dozier finished in the top 10 in the no-step vertical (34 inches), max vertical (39 inches) and court sprint (3.15 3/4 seconds).

Offensively, Dozier has some work to do. His outside shot is below average and he shot an atrocious 59.7 percent from the free throw line. His 2.2 turnovers per game also make his assist to turnover ratio unimpressive.

Dozier has some work to do in order to become a consistent offensive weapon. His defensive ability still makes him a good pickup for Portland.

conclusion

Portland needs to improve defensively, and they can do so with their three first-round picks. Jarrett Allen has tremendous size and defensive upside. Harry Giles is a risky pick that could lead to a high reward if he stays healthy. P.J. Dozier can also come in and give Lillard and McCollum a break when they need it and also brings defensive presence.

Thanks for checking out the Portland Trail Blazers 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 15 of NBA Draftmas to see what the Chicago Bulls are going to do.

Day 13: Miami Heat

Day 12: Denver Nuggets

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Charlotte Hornets NBA draft

Charlotte Hornets 2017 NBA Draft profile

Day 10 of NBA Draftmas features the Charlotte Hornets. This team started the season hot, but went cold in the second half of the season and missed the playoffs. Let’s take a closer look at the Hornets.

summary

The Hornets enjoyed success at the beginning of the season, with a 19-15 record at the end of December. However, by the end of January they fell below .500 and stayed there for the rest of the season, finishing with a record of 36-46.

Charlotte Hornets NBA draft

Kemba Walker needs help at the offensive end. (Photo by Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Charlotte’s numbers were average. They ranked 16th in points per game (104.9) and 13th in points allowed (104.7). They also only shot 44.2 percent from the field, which ranked 26th.

One highlight from Charlotte was that they had the fewest turnovers in the league, averaging only 11 per game. They also sported the second highest assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.1. Charlotte took care of the ball when they had it and had good ball movement.

Charlotte lacks star power. Kemba Walker is the only player on the roster who has been an All-Star. Walker averaged 23.2 points and 5.5 assists per game. Nicolas Batum was the team’s second-highest scorer at a career-high 15.1 points and also lead the team in assists per game at 5.9.

Former first-round pick Frank Kaminsky showed improvement from his first season, but the team is lacking talent and star power. It is going to be tough for Charlotte to get a big-time player at the 11th pick. They will need to find a diamond in the rough that can help Walker and Batum.

picks & needs

Charlotte has two picks, one in the first round and one in the second.

First round: No. 11

Second round: No. 41

Charlotte can get by with their backcourt of Walker and Batum with Jeremy Lamb and Marco Belinelli coming off the bench. Their frontcourt has some holes in it though. Kaminsky is still developing, but Charlotte needs to do better than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller.

The first pick should be used on someone to help strengthen the frontcourt. The second pick can be used on a player that can keep the backcourt playing solid in the future.

picks & thoughts

Pick #11: Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina

Justin Jackson just helped the Tar Heels to their sixth title in school history. Why not keep Jackson and his winning ways in the state of North Carolina?

The 6-foot-8 forward posted averages of 18.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game while shooting 44.3 percent from the floor and 37 percent from behind the arc. At 22 years old, Jackson has experience, maturity and a high basketball IQ.

Charlotte Hornets NBa draft

Justin Jackson brings experience, length and great shooting to the table. (Photo by Chuck Burton/Associated Press)

Jackson is an effective shooter with range and a beautiful floater. He makes smart passes and is not a ball-dominant player. He is quick and active while on the court. His 6-foot-11 wingspan help him on the defensive end as well.

Despite his length, his weight and strength are not there yet. At 210 pounds, Jackson can struggle against guys that play physical. It also can cause him to settle for more difficult shots because he can’t take too much contact inside.

Jackson can fix some of these problems himself with more time in the weight room. If he can get better at driving and drawing contact, he could thrive in the league.

Overall, his length, IQ, passing and shooting ability make him a great pick for Charlotte. He can help Walker and Batum get Charlotte to the postseason.

Pick #41: Josh Hart, SG, Villanova

Josh Hart, like Jackson, also brings experience and a winning attitude to the table. He is a worker and a smart player. He averaged 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game in his senior season.

Hart is an efficient scorer with a field goal percentage of 51 and a 3-point percentage of 40.4. He is also a slasher and a great finisher at the rim.

One thing Hart lacks is speed. He is not very explosive, which could hurt his ability to create separation in the NBA.

However, his shooting ability makes him worth drafting. Hart can be successful as a spot-up shooter in the league.

conclusion

Charlotte could use an upgrade in their front court. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller have been underwhelming. Justin Jackson is a guy that can come in and help Kemba Walker score some points.

Josh Hart is also an experienced winner like Jackson. Hart can be a spot-up shooter off the bench and give Walker and Batum a break when they need it.

Thanks for checking out the Charlotte Hornets 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 11 of NBA Draftmas to see what the Detroit Pistons are going to do.

Day 9: Dallas Mavericks

Day 8: New York Knicks

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New York Knicks NBA draft

New York Knicks 2017 NBA Draft profile

Day eight of 2017 NBA Draftmas features the New York Knicks. The Knicks had high expectations for this past season, but fell short of the playoffs. Let’s take a look at the Knicks’ season and their biggest draft needs.

Summary

New York Knicks NBA draft

With Carmelo Anthony’s future up in the air, New York needs to prepare for their future. (Photo by Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

The Knicks have missed the playoffs four straight years now. No one seems to know what Phil Jackson is doing with the team. Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis seem to be at odds with the team. Bringing in Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah also did not go as planned.

The Knicks as a team finished in the bottom half of the league in points, averaging 104.3 to tie for 18th in the league with the Pelicans. They shot 44.7 percent from the field (23rd) and 34.8 percent from behind the arc (21st). The defense was also below average, allowing 108 points per game, which ranked 23rd in the league.

What New York did well was rebound. They ranked fifth in the league at 45.2 rebounds per game.

Trade rumors swarm around Anthony. Porzingis at the moment is the team’s future. If Jackson wants to keep Porzingis happy and in New York, he needs to give him some playmakers to work with.

New York Knicks Draft Picks & Needs

New York has three picks in this draft, one in the first round and two in the second.

First Round: No. 8

Second Round: No. 44 (from Chicago), No. 58 (from Houston).

The Derrick Rose experiment was far from successful. The Knicks should use their first pick on a point guard to team up with Porzingis and use the second-round picks to get some key role players.

Targets & Thoughts

Pick #8: Dennis Smith Jr., PG, N.C. State

This draft is loaded with point guards. If it were not for Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox, Smith might be going earlier in the draft. This makes him a steal at the eighth pick in a way.

New York Knicks NBA draft

Dennis Smith Jr. can be the franchise point guard New York needs. (Photo by AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Smith didn’t enjoy team success at N.C. State as they finished with a 15-17 record. However, the freshman still had a fantastic individual season with averages of 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Smith is a playmaker who can score and make plays for his teammates.

Smith is the point guard New York needs. He is someone who will be able to contribute points while also helping create opportunities for Porzingis.

Smith is a streaky shooter, but posted a respectable field goal percentage of 45.5 and also shot 35.9 percent from behind the arc. He also tended to be a ball-stopper sometimes, picking up his dribble too early and settling for difficult shots.

All of this can be improved over time though. New York would be lucky to have a point guard like Smith.

Pick #44: Dillon Brooks, F, Oregon Ducks

The PAC-12 Player of the Year helped lead the Ducks to another successful season with averages of 16.1 points 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He also shot 40.1 percent from the 3-point line.

The 6-foot-7 forward is strong and can provide a boost for the Knicks off the bench. His offensive versatility will help him beat his man in multiple ways.

Brooks still needs to work on his decision making, as he can be ball-dominant and play too much iso. If he can improve on moving the ball around, he could be a stud off the bench.

Pick #58: L.J. Peak, SG, Georgetown

The junior guard improved his numbers over each of his three seasons at Georgetown. Last year he finished with averages of 16.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

Peak shot the 3-pointer really well his sophomore year at 40.9 percent, but fell down to 32.7 percent this season. Guards have to be able to hit the 3-pointer in today’s game.

However, Peak can score in other ways. He is a slasher and a good defender. His playing style has been compared to Dwyane Wade. If he can get his outside shooting back to where it used to be, Peak could be a great pickup for the Knicks.

Conclusion

The Knicks won’t become contenders overnight, but they can get in the right direction. Dennis Smith Jr. is the franchise point guard they need. He can score and create opportunities for Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony.

They also have an opportunity to find some diamonds in the rough with Dillon Brooks and L.J. Peak. Both can develop into key role players in the future and provide a boost off the bench.

Thanks for checking out the New York Knicks 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day nine of NBA Draftmas to see what the Dallas Mavericks are going to do.

Day 7: Minnesota Timberwolves

Day 6: Orlando Magic

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Phoenix Suns NBA draft

Phoenix Suns 2017 NBA Draft profile

Day four of 2017 NBA Draftmas discusses the Phoenix Suns. Let’s break down the Sun’s season and what their draft needs are.

Summary

Phoenix Suns NBA draft

Devin Booker lead a high-powered offense in Phoenix, but defense still needs a lot of work. (Photo: Jennifer Stewart/USA TODAY Sports)

It has been a rough several years for the Suns. The last time they made the postseason was 2010 when the team was led by Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire.

The last time Phoenix finished with a winning record was during the 2013-14 season when they went 48-34 and still managed to miss the playoffs due to an extremely competitive Western Conference.

This season, Phoenix finished with the second-worst record in the NBA. There haven’t been too many exciting things happening in Phoenix lately, except for the offense, which is lead by its young backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker.

The offense this season was solid. Phoenix ranked ninth in the NBA in points per game at 107.7. Booker averaged 22.1 per game and Bledsoe averaged 21.1. T.J. Warren, Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss also chipped in a combined 34.6 points per game. Phoenix can definitely put the ball in the basket.

The problem in Phoenix was defense. Phoenix ranked dead last in opponent points per game at 113.3, giving them a point differential of -5.6. In fact, Phoenix has not had a positive point differential since their last postseason birth in 2010. This simply cannot continue.

If Phoenix is ever going to turn its franchise around, they need to improve defensively. That negative point differential has gone on too long.

PHOENIX suns nba draft Picks & Needs

 The Suns have three picks in this draft, one in the first round and two in the second.

First Round: No. 4

Second Round: No. 32, No. 54

Phoenix seems set on offense. They need to address their defensive issue in this draft. Their first-round pick will be used on a two-way talent, while the second round can be used on guys to help cut down on the amount of points the Suns allow.

Targets & Thoughts

 Pick #4: Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas

Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball seem to be a sure thing at picks one and two. The 76ers will most likely add to their backcourt as their frontcourt seems set with Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Jahlil Okafor. That leaves Jackson available at the fourth pick, and Phoenix should most definitely take advantage.

Jackson is a two-way talent that could thrive in Phoenix. In his one year at Kansas he averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and three assists per game.

Phoenix Suns NBA draft

Josh Jackson might be the best two-way player in this draft. (Photo: Getty Images)

The main concern about Jackson is his shooting, despite his field goal percentage being 51.3 percent and his 3-point percentage at 37.8. His form and mechanics are all odd, similar to Lonzo Ball. Not to mention his free-throw percentage is an atrocious 56.6 percent. The shooting definitely needs some work.

Luckily for Jackson, he won’t have to worry about being a primary scorer as Booker and Bledsoe will take care of that. Jackson is not ball-dominant anyway, evidenced by his 12.3 field goal attempts per game while managing to average 16 points.

Jackson plays with energy, which is going to help Phoenix on the defensive side of the ball. Jackson has drawn comparisons to Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard due to his offensive and defensive talent. Jackson is a guy who will dive for loose balls and draw charges. He also had 2.2 steels and 1.4 blocks per 40 minutes.

Jackson is a great fit in Phoenix. He should be able to develop his shot over time. His defensive skills can help the Suns cut down on their points allowed as well. The Suns won’t regret taking Jackson.

Pick #32: D.J. Wilson, PF, Michigan

Wilson was a late bloomer at Michigan. The junior forward went from 6.6 minutes per game last year to 30.4 this year. He averaged 11 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, but really boosted his stock during the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.

In those seven games, the 6-foot-10, 240 pound forward averaged 15.6 points, five rebounds and two blocks per game. Wilson’s size and athleticism help his defensive versatility as he can guard multiple positions on the court.

Wilson also has the potential to be a stretch forward. His season field goal percentage was 53.8 and his 3-point percentage was 37.3.

Wilson needs to improve his strength and post-up game, and his lack of experience also makes him a question mark. However, as a second-round pick, Phoenix only needs him to be a role player. Wilson won’t face too much pressure if that is the case and Phoenix could benefit from his versatility.

Pick #54: Kennedy Meeks, PF/C, North Carolina

Meeks just closed his four-year career at North Carolina with his best season yet. Meeks finished with averages of 12.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.

Meeks is mostly known for his rebounding and defensive skills. It is unclear if Meeks will get drafted at this point, but if he is available at pick 54, he might be worth taking a chance on.

Conclusion

 The Suns need defense. They need to address this in the draft, as well as the offseason. Josh Jackson is the best option at the fourth pick. D.J. Wilson and Kennedy Meeks would be other good options to consider in the second round.

Thanks for checking out the Phoenix Suns 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day five of NBA Draftmas to see what the Sacramento Kings are going to do.

NBA Draftmas Day 3: Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Draftmas Day 2: Los Angeles Lakers

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