2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft V. 3.0 (Post-Lottery)

The lottery has finally passed and the draft order is now officially set. As the Finals approach, so does the draft season. All but the final four teams are focused solely on the draft, which means The Game Haus is too.

This mock draft will take a look at where players may go in late June. Also, if you loved Draftmas for the NFL draft, be on the lookout for the hardwood version of Draftmas coming soon here at The Game Haus.

For now, here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA mock draft, version three.

1: BOSTON CELTICS (VIA BROOKLYN): MARKELLE FULTZ PG WASHINGTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

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Boston is in great position after winning the lottery. It is also obvious the Celtics do not need a point guard. Isaiah Thomas has proven his worth time and time again in the NBA. Any player can be a bust out of college, but I.T. is a proven commodity. It is still unlikely that Fultz will be a bust, but he has not proven anything yet in the association.

Boston needs a second scoring option. They play great team defense and find themselves in trouble with Thomas being their only viable option on offense. Boston will take Fultz, but it could be because they plan on trading him for another scoring superstar. The pick here seems to clearly be Fultz, but it is unclear if he will ever play a game for Boston.

2: LOS ANGELES LAKERS: LONZO BALL PG UCLA

LaVar Ball and the rest of his family got exactly what they hoped for in the lottery. The Lakers came away with the second overall pick. LaVar has made it clear that he wants his son to be the next Laker great. He has even said that his son, Lonzo, will not work out for the Celtics. Lonzo is from L.A., and not only is it his dream, but he believes it’s his destiny, to rock purple and gold.

There are also rumors swirling that teams are putting together trade packages in hopes of acquiring D’Angelo Russell, who may be on his way to bigger things. You can read about how well he has actually progressed as a player here.

LaVar may be onto something when talking about how good his son can be. Sticking strictly to Lonzo and his basketball ability, it is clear that he is a consensus top-three prospect. Ball is a great playmaker and passer with a high basketball I.Q.

Ball will be a floor general capable of running an NBA team and becoming an on-court coach. He showed at UCLA that he can make everyone around him better and that will translate into the NBA.

Many scouts compare him to Jason Kidd, which is a pretty accurate comparison. Having a Kidd-like career would be an amazing accomplishment for anybody. The Lakers need a franchise player and that is exactly what Lonzo Ball will be. The Lakers have a difficult decision ahead of them, but pairing Ball with Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle could lead to more parades in Hollywood.

3: PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: MALIK MONK SG KENTUCKY

Trusting the process hit yet another bump in the road this season. Joel Embiid suffered another injury after appearing in just 31 games. If that wasn’t enough, last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, didn’t make his debut this year either. The 76ers still believe those pieces will result in playoff appearances and maybe even titles.

Reports came out that the Philadelphia brass believes Simmons will be the point guard. That is why they will use this pick on Malik Monk.

Monk has proven to be a flat-out scoring machine and that will translate to the NBA. Drafting Monk will allow the Sixers to develop Simmons as their point guard while putting a scorer in the backcourt beside him.

Creating a powerful backcourt could be the key to a deep postseason run. They already have a great frontcourt player in Embiid.

4: PHOENIX SUNS: JOSH JACKSON SF KANSAS

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Josh Jackson could prove to be a valuable wing alongside Devin Booker. Jackson averaged 16.3 points per game at Kansas. He is a two-way player capable of becoming a superstar. Jackson has a good feel for the game and is dangerous on offense. He can score both inside and out and is a very underrated passer.

Pairing him with a future superstar like Booker is only going to lead to success for Phoenix. Having a core of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Josh Jackson will make the Suns a threat in the West in two to three years.

Jackson doesn’t have to be a franchise player in Phoenix. He just has to be Robin to Batman, which makes him a perfect fit in the desert.

5: Sacramento Kings: JAYSON TATUM SF DUKE

The Kings need to start from scratch. Buddy Hield seems to be the guy that Sacramento will build this team around. It looks like Willie Cauley-Stein will be the man up front with DeMarcus Cousins now out of the picture.

Jayson Tatum could grow to be an NBA superstar. Tatum has a well-polished iso game that is NBA ready.  He can score anywhere on the floor due to his ability to create off the dribble.

One of his biggest weaknesses is his shot selection. Due to his height and ability to shoot over defenders, Tatum tends to settle for difficult shots. Shot selection will improve over time and he could become a nice addition to the team in Sacramento.

6: Orlando Magic: DE’AARON FOX PG KENTUCKY

The Magic seem to have an unclear direction. Orlando hasn’t made the playoffs for five straight years in a very weak Eastern Conference. Frank Vogel has improved the team, but they need more talent outside of Aaron Gordon. At this point, the best thing the Magic can do is pick the best available player, which in this position would be De’Aaron Fox.

Fox doesn’t get the hype that Fultz or Ball get, but is definitely going to be a force in the NBA. Fox did nothing but help his stock in the tournament, especially when he dropped 39 points against Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Sweet 16.

Fox is left handed, which is sometimes hard to defend because defenders are so used to right-handed players. He is also extremely quick, and defenders may have trouble keeping up with him. Fox will need to work on shooting with more consistency, but has proven he can control a game.

7: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: LAURI MARKKANEN PF ARIZONA

Minnesota has a franchise center and small forward in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. They have young guards in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. The Timberwolves need experience and veteran leadership more than anything, so it is tough to predict what they will do with this pick. Lauri Markkanen would be a perfect option for the Timberwolves.

Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to become a power forward like Dirk Nowitzki. He can stretch the floor or go inside.

Markkanen can also play the center position to spell Towns. Markkanen needs to add some weight, but could really help the Timberwolves become a playoff team.

8: New York Knicks: Dennis Smith JR PG N.C. State

2017 NBA Mock draft

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The Knicks badly need a franchise point guard to pair with Kristaps Porzingis. Dennis Smith is a top-five talent who will fall a bit due to some of the other needs teams have since not all are looking for a point guard.

The Knicks would get a player like Russell Westbrook by drafting Smith. He can score, pass and rebound with the best of them in college. He also has the insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

The Zen Master needs to make the most out of this pick to win back the love of the Knicks’ fan base, and Dennis Smith could bring that love to the Big Apple.

9: DALLAS MAVERICKS: ISAIAH HARTENSTEIN PF GERMANY

From one German to the next.  Isaiah Hartenstein would be a great fit in Dallas. He is a versatile, left-handed player who can score inside and outside. Hartenstein is a great passing big man with a high basketball I.Q.

The downside with Hartenstein is his immaturity and lack of experience against tough competition. However, his potential makes him a lottery pick.

Sitting him behind Dirk for a year would be the perfect step in developing Hartenstein. He could easily relate to Dirk. He could really learn how to become a great pro.

10: SACRAMENTO KINGS (VIA PELICANS): JONATHAN ISaAC PF FLORIDA STATE

Jonathan Isaac would be a great fit with this team. Isaac is a great rebounder and can run the floor well for a big man. He also shoots well from all areas of the floor. Isaac could play at small forward or power forward in today’s NBA. The Kings would find a great player with lots of potentials, who could grow into a solid NBA starter.

11.CHARLOTTE HORNETS: JUSTIN JACKSON SF NORTH CAROLINA

The G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan, loves him some Tar Heels. Justin Jackson would be a terrific fit in Charlotte. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has never lived up to the hype of a second overall pick. Jackson would be the piece to help get the Hornets back into the playoffs.

He has great length and can stretch the floor. Jackson played great for most of the tournament. He had a subpar performance in the title game, but can still become a good NBA starter.

Jackson needs to add weight, but is a versatile defender capable of guarding multiple positions. His mid-range jumper is well-polished. Charlotte would improve by drafting Jackson.

12: DETROIT PISTONS: HARRY GILES PF DUKE

Detroit needs a big man alongside Andre Drummond. Picking Harry Giles would be a shock here, but could be a huge steal. Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the No. 1 pick before he began having injury problems.

We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender.

13: DENVER NUGGETS: Zach Collins F Gonzaga

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)

Denver is really close to becoming a playoff team in the tough Western Conference. Their young guards just need more experience and will continue to develop.

Collins is a real good rebounder and shot blocker. Pairing him up with Nikola Jokic could create one of the most dangerous frontcourts in the NBA. Collins needs to mold his offensive skills, but because Jokic is so skilled offensively, Collins’ defensive skills would create a perfect combination.

14: MIAMI HEAT: T.J. LEAF PF UCLA

The Heat were amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need.

T.J. Leaf has a high motor and can play both inside and out. Miami would get a player who could be molded into a star by Erik Spoelstra.

15: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: JOHN COLLINS PF WAKE FOREST

John Collins could be a valuable piece around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Collins has a good offensive game that would help take pressure off their guards to score. He has a post-up game that most bigs don’t have. His impressive footwork allows him to beat even the best of defenders. If he develops his defense, he could become a top power forward in the NBA.

16: CHICAGO BULLS: JUSTIN PATTON C CREIGHTON

Building around Jimmy Butler seems to be the top priority for the Chicago Bulls. Robin Lopez is serviceable, but he is not a center that will help a team reach a title.

Justin Patton may be one. He is a 7-foot monster that averaged 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as a freshman at Creighton.

NBA coaching could turn Patton into a dominant center in an era of outside shooting. There will be few players capable of defending him once he grows into his own. The Bulls would be lucky to get Patton.

17: MILWAUKEE BUCKS: BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

The Milwaukee Bucks are building something special. Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking like a future MVP and Khris Middleton is a stud. Drafting Adebayo will give Milwaukee a presence inside to make the Bucks even more dangerous.

18: INDIANA PACERS: FRANK NTILIKINA PG FRANCE

2017 NBA Mock Draft

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One thing is clear in the NBA: teams need a franchise point guard. The Pacers have Jeff Teague, but he has not really proven to be a franchise point guard.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a high I.Q. He has developed a mid-range game and excellent floater, but is a really inconsistent shooter. Ntilikina also has great lateral quickness that makes him an elite defender.

All the skills are there for Ntilikina to become a franchise point guard.

19: ATLANTA HAWKS: IVAN RABB C CALIFORNIA

Dwight Howard is no longer a top center. Atlanta needs to think about the future, and Ivan Rabb is the future at center.

He has lots of potential to grow offensively. Rabb is already a good defender, and even though he only averaged about one block per game in his career, he altered plenty of shots. His inconsistency at Cal is what hurts him, but he has shown flashes of brilliance.

20: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA MEMPHIS): TYLER LYDON PF SYRACUSE

Tyler Lydon has improved vastly from his freshman season to sophomore season. Lydon improved his points, rebounds, assists and free throw percentage. At 6-foot-9, Lydon can stretch the floor and he would be a great fit in Portland.

21: OKLAHOMA CITY: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

It is clear that Russell Westbrook needs help. He is an animal but can’t do it on his own.

Dillon Brooks is one of the most underrated players in all of college basketball. Brooks is capable of being the second option to Westbrook and a true sidekick that Westbrook desperately needs. Filling the small forward spot is of utter importance to the Thunder.

22: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA WASHINGTON): LUKE KENNARD SG DUKE

Luke Kennard is a scoring machine. Brooklyn needs a lot of help, even though they played better late in the year.

Kennard isn’t going to be a guy who changes a franchise, but he can be a 20-point-per-game scorer in the NBA. Every team needs that type of player, and the Nets can’t get a franchise-changing player in the early 20s. They will have to settle for finding solid role players until they can get a franchise changing player.

23: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

If Kyle Lowry is truly leaving, then Toronto is going to need a point guard. At this point in the draft, there aren’t any point guards capable of starting.

The Raptors may have to let Cory Joseph be the guy and draft a wing player here. Bacon can come in and be a solid rotation player, allowing the Raptors to deepen their bench as they continue to chase a championship.

24: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

The Jazz are in almost as good of a position as the Celtics. They finished as the fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks.

Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench. Depth is what the best teams have, and that is what Utah is going to get in picking Swanigan.

25: ORLANDO MAGIC (VIA LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS): JOSH HART SG VILLANOVA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Josh Hart could bring a culture change to the franchise. He is a leader and a winner, and the Magic could use some of that in their locker room.

Hart improved his scoring each season at Villanova, and that should translate into the NBA. If they put together a backcourt with De’Aaron Fox and Josh Hart, the Magic could make the playoffs as early as next season.

26: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA CLEVELAND): RODIONS KURUCS SF LATVIA

Kurucs is a project, and Portland can afford to draft a developmental player this late in the first round, especially with it being their third pick in the first round. Kurucs is versatile and can be a valuable scoring option in the NBA off the bench. Anything more than being a role player would be a huge win for the Blazers.

27: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): JORDAN BELL PF OREGON

Jordan Bell was a second-round pick before the tournament. Bell was a huge reason Oregon reached their first Final Four since 1939. The Nets would get a solid rebounder who brings in a heavy motor and will give you everything he has. The Nets need these high energy type of players to change the culture in Brooklyn.

28: LOS ANGELES LAKERS (VIA HOUSTON): DONOVAN MITCHELL SG LOUISVILLE

The Lakers have youth on their side and drafting Mitchell will allow them to continue to build assets as trading blocks so that they can get superstars back in Hollywood. Mitchell is a solid shooting guard who can be a solid sixth man in the NBA.

29: SAN ANTONIO SPURS: Jarrett Allen C Texas

The Spurs are like the Patriots. They know what they are doing and you don’t question them.

LaMarcus Aldridge has been average at best since signing with the Spurs. With Kawhi Leonard being a two-way star, the Spurs need a big man who can play as Robin to Leonard. Jarrett Allen is a beast on the boards and has the potential to become a solid post-up big man.

30: UTAH JAZZ (VIA GOLDEN STATE): JOHNATHAN MOTLEY PF BAYLOR

Utah needs some frontcourt athleticism. Derrick Favors has only had one really productive season and looks to be on the decline. Motley’s offensive I.Q. makes him a perfect fit in Utah to be a solid role player on a solid playoff team. The Jazz continue to build depth at hopes of a deeper postseason run.

 

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Kyle Lowry Free Agency

Potential Destinations for Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry may have just had the best season of his career. The 31-year-old point guard finished this season with averages of 22.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and seven assists per game. He also shot a career-high 41.2 percent from 3-point range.

The three-time All Star announced earlier this week that he would be opting out of his deal with Toronto to become a free agent this summer. This has raised several questions of where Lowry will be playing next season.

Lowry said his biggest priority for the future is getting a ring, according to Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic. If that is the case, that narrows down the search to only a few possibilities.

Kyle Lowry Free Agency

Kyle Lowry just had a career year in Toronto. (Photo by Tip of the Tower)

Lowry was due to make $12 million next season, but with his opt out he can receive a max contract. That may have been another factor in his decision to opt out. The Raptors can offer him the biggest contract, approximately five years for $205 million. Anyone else can only offer him four years for about $152 million.

The biggest rumored destination for Lowry so far is the 76ers. Lowry went to high school in Philadelphia and stayed in the state of Pennsylvania by playing college ball at Villanova. 76ers’ president Bryan Colangelo also made the trade for Lowry from Houston when he was the Raptors general manager. Many have reported that Philly will offer him a huge contract this summer.

Based on Lowry’s comment about winning a ring, this move makes no sense. The Sixers are young and in a rebuilding process. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric are all young talent with plenty of potential. They also will be adding another lottery pick in the upcoming draft.

However, these guys are no match in the East. LeBron James and the Cavs are always the favorites. The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards serve as the biggest threats to the Cavs. If the young Philly core stays healthy with Lowry in the lead, they would most likely make the postseason as a low seed and be eliminated in the first round.

Lowry will also be 32 next season during the postseason, so he does not have much time to waste with a rebuilding process. However, no matter where Lowry goes, he is always going to have to deal with either Cleveland or Golden State.

The Spurs may be one of the best fits for Lowry. Lowry would be a great replacement to Tony Parker at point guard. Parker had surgery for a ruptured quadricep tendon and could be out up to eight months. With an injury like that at his age, he will most likely never be the same player he was.

Kyle Lowry Free Agency

Could Lowry be teaming up with Kawhi Leonard this summer? (Photo by Air Alamo)

The Spurs also have the best chance at challenging Golden State for a spot in the Finals. Since the 2010-11 season, the Spurs have finished first in the West three times, second three times and sixth just once. They are consistently contending and adding another All Star to their team would only help. Lowry along with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge would be a scary big three.

In order for the Spurs to make this work, they would need to clear a bit of cap room. They most likely wouldn’t be able to resign backup point guard Patty Mills and they would need to hope Pau Gasol declines his player option for next season. The team had to clear a lot of room to sign Aldridge back in 2015 and they made it work without losing a beat.

The Pelicans are another team that could be enticing to Lowry. New Orleans made noise at the trade deadline with their deal for DeMarcus Cousins, but things haven’t quite worked out the way they planned yet. The Pelicans finished the season 11-14 after acquiring Cousins after having postseason expectations.

Lowry could help get the Pelicans into the postseason. The status of their current point guard, Jrue Holiday, is still uncertain. Holiday is also a free agent and averaged 15.4 points and 7.3 assists per game this season. Lowry would be an upgrade from Holiday should they let him walk. Lowry also would provide veteran leadership to the younger Anthony Davis and Cousins.

Money is going to be another factor in this decision as well. Right now New Orleans is paying a lot to Davis and Cousins and does not have much cap space to pay Lowry. They could let some guys go of course to make room like San Antonio would have to. Lowry also may have to take a pay cut if he wants to go to a big contender in the West.

Kyle Lowry Free Agency

Lowry and DeRozan have made Toronto a winner. Will they actually split? (Photo by Toronto Star)

Lowry could also just stay in Toronto. Assuming he stays, they still have the potential to be a top-five team in the East. He also could make the most money with the Raptors. He would be making the max and playing for a playoff team. He helped make Toronto a winner along with fellow star DeMar DeRozan and is loved by the Raptors’ fan base.

However, that is all the Raptors will be: a playoff team. Not a big contender, not a Finals team and no threat to James and the Cavs.

Serge Ibaka is also another free agent Toronto will have to consider resigning. It is going to be tough for Toronto to pay them both. Losing Ibaka would hurt some, but losing Lowry would be a big blow to the team.

It will be interesting to say the least. This summer is going to be a huge for free agency with names like Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Lowry all potentially on the move.

If a ring is what Lowry truly wants, San Antonio or New Orleans may be his best bet. He may also have to be willing to take a pay cut. That is a price he must be willing to pay if he wants a championship.

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2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft 1.0 (Pre-Lottery)

This mock draft will factor in team needs heavily rather than who is the best player. The draft order won’t be set in stone until the lottery takes place, but the talk is already starting on who will go number one overall.

Many scouts and experts are picking Markelle Fultz to go first, but it depends on who wins the lottery. Right now these predictions will be based solely off current standings and will continue to be until the draft lottery takes place. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA mock draft.

1: Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Josh Jackson sG Kansas

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Allen Kee / ESPN Images)

The Boston Celtics do not need a point guard. Fultz may be the best player in the draft, but Isaiah Thomas isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Thomas is also a proven player while any player coming out of college is unproven.

Fultz may be the best player in the draft but doesn’t fit what the Celtics need. The Celtics play great team defense and need a scorer to take the load off of Thomas.

Josh Jackson could prove to be a valuable scoring option for Boston as he averages 16.7 points per game. Jackson in a two-way player capable of becoming a superstar. Boston would be smart to add him to their core.

2: Los Angeles Lakers: Markelle Fultz pG Washington

Picking what the Lakers will do is extremely difficult. They just spent the 2015 second overall pick on a point guard. The Lakers issue is veteran leadership. They have a core of young players who just need time to develop. L.A. could trade this pick for a star player, but if they do keep it expect them to take the best available player.

That would be Washington guard Markelle Fultz. Fultz is averaging 23.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and six assists per game. Fultz also has a player efficiency rating (PER) of 28.6 and is clearly the best player in the draft. The Lakers can not pass on that just to fill a position of need.

3: Phoenix suns: Jayson Tatum Sf duke

Jayson Tatum has a well-polished iso game that is NBA ready. The Suns have a star in the making with Devin Booker and need to find a player to grow alongside him.

Tatum could grow to be a solid second option in the NBA. He can score anywhere on the floor due to his ability to create off the dribble.

One of his biggest weaknesses is his shot selection. Due to his height and ability to shoot over defenders, Tatum tends to settle for difficult shots. Shot selection will improve over time and the Suns may be able to find a Robin for their Batman.

4: Orlando Magic: Lonzo Ball Pg UCLA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit:https://www.bostonglobe.com)

Everyone is talking about LaVar Ball’s opinions rather than the play of Lonzo Ball. Ball can ball. It is as simple as that.

His father may be onto something when talking about how good his son can be. However, talking so openly may hurt his son’s draft stock.

Sticking strictly to Lonzo and his basketball ability, it is clear that he is a top prospect. Ball is a great passer with a high basketball I.Q. In the NBA Ball will be a floor general capable of running the team from the court.

Many scouts compare him to Jason Kidd, which is a pretty accurate comparison. Having a Kidd-like career would be an amazing accomplishment for anybody. Orlando needs a franchise player and that is exactly what Lonzo Ball will be.

5: Philadelphia 76ers: Malik Monk Sg Kentucky

Trusting the process hit yet another bump in the road this season. Joel Embiid suffered another injury after appearing in just 31 games. If that wasn’t enough, last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, will not make his debut this year either. The 76ers still believe those pieces will result in playoff appearances and maybe even titles.

Interestingly enough, reports came out that Philadelphia brass believes Simmons will be the point guard. That is why they will use this top-five pick on Malik Monk.

Monk has proven to be a flat-out scoring machine and that will translate to the NBA. Drafting Monk will allow the Sixers to develop Simmons as their point guard while putting a scorer in the backcourt beside him.

Creating a powerful backcourt could be the key to a deep postseason run. They already have a great frontcourt player in Embiid.

6: New York Knicks: Dennis Smith Pg N.C. State

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: William Howard/Icon Sportswire)

The Knicks need a young explosive point guard who will grow alongside Kristaps Porzingis. Carmelo Anthony is on the back half of his career and will most likely be out of the picture soon. Derrick Rose has been very respectable in New York, but he is not the same player that won the league MVP.

Dennis Smith is a top-five talent who will fall a bit due to some of the other needs teams have. Not all are looking for a point guard.

The Knicks would get a Russell Westbrook type of player by drafting Smith. He can score, pass and rebound with the best of them in college. He also has insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

Smith would be a great pick here if the Knicks want to take steps towards becoming a playoff team.

7: Sacramento Kings: Jonathan Issac PF Florida State

The Kings need to start from scratch. Buddy Hield seems to be the guy that Sacramento will build this team around. It looks like Willie Cauley-Stein will be the man up front with DeMarcus Cousins now out of the picture.

Jonathan Issac would be a great fit with this team. Issac is a great rebounder and can run the floor well for a big man. He also shoots well from all areas of the floor. He could play at small forward or power forward in today’s NBA style. The Kings would find a great player with lots of potential.

8: Sacramento Kings (Via Pelicans): De’Aaron Fox PG Kentucky

The Kings can afford to be risky with one of their two top-10 picks. Buddy Hield will need a backcourt partner in crime, and Fox could fit that mold.

Fox is unique because he is left handed. It is sometimes hard to defend left-handed players because defenders are used to right handed defenders. He is also extremely quick and defenders may have trouble keeping up with him.

Fox will need to work on shooting with more consistency. With Hield alongside him, all Fox needs to do is run the offense.

9: Dallas Mavericks: Lauri Markkanen PF Arizona

2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu)

Dallas got their center when they traded for Nerlens Noel. The guard positions seem to be held down as well with the emergence of Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry. That makes Lauri Markkanen a perfect option for the Mavericks.

Dirk Nowitzki will be going into his final season and the Mavericks need to find his future replacement. Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to replace the greatest European player in NBA history.

Drafting Markkanen will allow him to develop in his first season before Dirk rides off into the sunset.

10: Minnesota Timberwolves: Harry Giles PF Duke

The Minnesota Timberwolves are right on the cusp of becoming a great NBA team. Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins are continuing to grow and will be one of the most dangerous duos in the NBA in the coming years. They have already begun to show signs of it. Point guard is not an issue as they have Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, and Kris Dunn. Picking Giles would be a shock here at number 10, but could be a huge steal.

Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the number one overall pick before he began having injury problems. We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender under Tom Thibodeau.

This pick could be a bust, but it will more likely create a young core in Minnesota capable of winning championships.

11: Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges SF Michigan St.

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

The Hornets need a solid wing player and Miles Bridges would be a good fit.

Bridges is a dunking machine and plays with an extremely high motor. One of Bridges’ weaknesses is that he has no true position. Shooting guard, small forward and power forward are all in play for Bridges. Charlotte would likely play him at small forward.

Bridges has also shown consistent improvement in his shooting since high school.

12: Portland Trailblazers: Robert Williams PF Texas A&M

Robert Williams can jump out of this world. He can put anyone on a poster and loves to do so. There are countless highlights of him dunking on opponents.

Williams has a 7-foot-5 wingspan, and he knows how to use it. That wingspan allows him to excel as a rebounder and shot blocker.

One thing going against Williams is that he is raw as a big man. He lacks consistency like many raw prospects. The better competition gave him trouble, but with development from NBA coaches, he can turn into a solid NBA starter.

13: Miami Heat: Isaiah Hartenstein PF Germany

The Heat have been amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need. The Heat need a power forward that can stretch the floor since Whiteside is the inside presence.

Isaiah Hartenstein would be a great fit in Miami. He is a versatile left-handed player who can not only score inside, but outside as well. Hartenstein is a great passing big man with a high basketball I.Q.

The downside with Hartenstein is his immaturity and lack of experience against tough competition. However, his potential makes him a lottery pick.

14: Chicago Bulls: Frank Ntilikina Pg France

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: https://hardwoodhoudini.com

One thing is clear in the NBA: teams need a franchise point guard. The Bulls do not have a franchise point guard on their roster and will be looking for one in this year’s draft. Drafting at the end of the lottery does not leave them with many options, but it will allow them to take Frank Ntilikina out of France.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a high I.Q. He has developed a mid-range game and excellent floater, but is a really inconsistent shooter. Ntilikina also has great lateral quickness that makes him an elite defender.

All the skills are there for Ntilikina to become the franchise point guard the Bulls desperately need.

15: Denver Nuggets: John Collins Pf Wake Forest

Denver has a lot of young talent, and Collins is a bit of a project. If the Nuggets take a year or two to develop Collins, then he can become a valuable asset.

16: Milwaukee Bucks: Justin Patton C Creighton

There have been a lot of problems with Greg Monroe in Milwaukee. The Bucks have found a star in Giannis Antetokounmpo and need a big man inside to feed off of him. Justin Patton from Creighton can be that guy.

17: Detroit Pistons: Ivan Rabb C Cal

There have been swirling rumors that Andre Drummond was going to be traded just before the deadline. That still may happen in the offseason, and the Pistons need to prepare for that. Ivan Rabb would be a great fit with Stan Van Gundy.

18: Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard SG Duke

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Kennard has been unbelievable in the second half of the season for Duke. Paul George is rumored to be on his way out of Indiana via trade or free agency in two years. Kennard may not become a franchise player, but will come into the NBA as a scoring machine.

19: Atlanta hawks: TJ Leaf PF UCLA

Drafting a power forward may not make sense with Paul Millsap around, but TJ Leaf is a bit of a project. Millsap will want to be on a contending team as his career unwinds. Everyone knows the Hawks are not winning a championship. Drafting Leaf now gives him time to develop until Millsap leaves.

20: Portland Trailblazers (Via Memphis): Justin Jackson SF North Carolina

Justin Jackson would be a great fit in Portland alongside Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The two guards can focus on the scoring and Jackson can be the team’s wing defender. Jackson is capable of guarding multiple positions and would be a solid pick by the Trailblazers.

21: Oklahoma City: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports)

It is clear that Russell Westbrook needs help. He is an animal but can’t do it on his own. Dillon Brooks is one of the most underrated players in all of college basketball. Brooks is capable of being the second option to Westbrook and a true sidekick that Westbrook desperately needs.

22: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

Toronto has one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Bacon can come in and be a solid rotation player allowing the Raptors to deepen their bench as they continue to chase a championship.

23: ORLANDO MAGIC (VIA LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS): TYLER LYDON PF SYRACUSE

Orlando is a tough team to gauge and need a lot. Lydon would be a head-scratching pick, but something they would do. Lydon won’t become an All-Star but will be a solid rotation player in the NBA.

24: Brooklyn Nets (via Washington): JOSH HART SG VILLANOVA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP)

Brooklyn needs anything and everything and is nowhere close to being a good NBA team. Josh Hart could bring a culture change to the franchise. He is a leader and a winner and the Nets could use some of that in their locker room.

25: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

Adding Bam Adebayo to pair up with Hart could be the start of turning things around. They won’t win many games, but the rebuild has to start somewhere. Adebayo is a solid prospect with lots of potential.

26: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

The Jazz are in as good of a position as the Celtics. They will finish as the fourth or fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks. Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench.

27: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA CLEVELAND): RODIONS KURUCS SF LATVIA

Kurucs is a project and Portland can afford to draft a developmental player this late in the first round. Kurucs is versatile and can be a valuable scoring option in the NBA.

28: LOS ANGELES LAKERS (VIA HOUSTON): DONOVAN MITCHELL SG LOUISVILLE

2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: By Pat McDonogh, The CJ)

The Lakers have youth on their side and drafting Mitchell will allow them to continue to build assets as trading blocks so that they can get superstars back in Hollywood. Mitchell is a solid shooting guard who can be a solid sixth man in the NBA.

29: UTAH JAZZ (VIA GOLDEN STATE): JOHNATHAN MOTLEY PF BAYLOR

Utah needs some frontcourt athleticism. Derrick Favors has only had one really productive season and looks to be on the decline. Motley’s offensive I.Q. makes him a perfect fit in Utah to be a solid role player on a solid playoff team.

30: SAN ANTONIO SPURS: THOMAS BRYANT C INDIANA

The Spurs are like the Patriots. They know what they are doing and you don’t question them. LaMarcus Aldridge’s future is in jeopardy due to health concerns. With Kawhi Leonard being a two-way star, the Spurs need a big man who can protect the paint.

 

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The Philadelphia 76ers Only Have Two Stars, But Maybe That’s OK

As the season progresses, it’s becoming more evident that the Philadelphia 76ers simply don’t have enough of a core to build around. With the trade deadline less than two months away, it’s time for the team to start focusing on tooling for the future.

The Sixers have spent the past five years stockpiling assets at the top of the draft lottery. The result has been a logjam in the front court, and one that needs a solution before the trade deadline.

Monday night’s game against the Sacramento Kings serves as a decent benchmark for where this team is headed for the future. Former #3 draft pick Joel Embiid scored 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds with a plus/minus of +3. Meanwhile, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor (fellow highly drafted big men) were rendered ineffective and the team was outscored when they were on the floor.

Throughout the game, Embiid flashed the talent that has made him one of the best young big men in the league. Defensively he guarded the paint and the perimeter, recording two steals and two blocks. In the post, he showed finesse and bullied Demarcus Cousins in the paint throughout the game. Outside the paint, he flashed his three point prowess and showed some breakaway speed on fast breaks. Better yet? He’s been doing it all season.

 

Joel Embiid Highlights from Dec. 26th 

 

Noel only played 3 minutes during the game, a testament to the pileup of big men in the roster. When Noel has seen the floor, he has struggled to score and rebound. He is a prominent defender who just can’t seem to put it together on this team.

Similarly, Okafor has also struggled throughout the season despite his promising rookie campaign last year. His post game remains impressive, but his inability to rebound and defend against many of the first units in the league would make it difficult to build a team around him.

Interestingly, his game compares well to a fellow third overall pick, Enes Kanter. Both big men are able to score well off the bench despite their inefficiency on the other end of the floor.

Many teams around the league could use a scoring presence like Okafor. Talent dry teams like the Brooklyn Nets could use his presence to help inject talented youth into their lineup. Teams like Portland and Boston could use him to build depth off of the bench.

The problem, however, is that Philadelphia has lost their leverage over the past few years. Nerlens Noel becomes a restricted free agent after this year and Okafor has only one more year left on his deal. The addition of Dario Saric and the impending return of Ben Simmons has created a need to clear space in the Philly frontcourt.

Realistically, Simmons and Embiid are the only future starters on this team and Simmons hasn’t even seen a minute in the NBA yet. Regardless, it’s hardly time to panic about the team’s future.

Saric, along with Robert Covington and Sergio Rodriguez, look like they could be a nice presence of the bench in the future. Hopefully, the team can capitalize off of Okafor and Noel before the deadline this year. Most importantly, the 2017 NBA draft approaches quickly.

This looks like yet another lost season for the Sixers in the “Trust the Process” era. Hope, however, lies in the draft.

This looks to be one of the most promising draft classes in years with a plethora of potential stars in the NCAA right now. Additionally, many of the highly ranked players are guards and wings which are holes the Sixers desperately need to fill. They will likely end up with two top ten picks this year and will no doubt be able to find playmaking and scoring at the top of the draft.

Another struggling season seems to be yet another embodiment of “The Process” for the woeful 76ers, but the future appears to be much brighter. A new year could bring a healthy Ben Simmons and a limitless Joel Embiid. February could open up the roster for more young stars. The Process just may be coming along.

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10 Things to Watch For in the NBA in 2017

2016 comes to a close as one of the most exciting basketball years in the history of the NBA. From Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan’s last seasons, to Russel Westbrook’s triple doubles, to the ridiculous Finals series, this year was full of memorable moments that will go down in NBA history. However, a new year brings new possibilities. Here are the ten best things to look forward to in the NBA in 2017.

10. Trust The Process?: Will Joel Embiid win Rookie of the Year? Can Ben Simmons make his long awaited return? Will the Sixers end up with two top ten picks? Can Dario Saric make the leap to consistent NBA starter? The New Year brings loads of questions for the NBA’s perennial doormat and not many clear answers. It will be interesting to see whether the 76ers will be able to escape the NBA’s cellar in 2017.

9. 2017 NBA Draft: This draft is considered to be one of the most talented ones in recent years. Markelle Fultz remains the prize at the top of the draft, and names like Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson highlight an unusually deep lottery pool. The lottery looks to be a mix of familiar teams (Philadelphia) and newcomers (Miami and Dallas) as teams try to find a future superstar. Summer league will no doubt be a spectacle this year as well.

8. 2017 Trade Deadline: The trade deadline this year will be full of stories, especially with the loaded draft coming up. Greg Monroe looks to be a possible big-name trade candidate. Portland, a team with a weakness in the frontcourt, may look to target Monroe or one of the big men from Philadelphia. Rudy Gay remains a big name for teams in need of a three-and-D wing presence. For teams with a need a guard, Goran Dragic and Will Barton look to be high end options on the market. With a talented draft class this year, teams may be less likely to part with picks. But the plethora of young talent around the league makes this deadline an especially interesting one.

7. MVP Race: This year brings one of the best MVP races we’ve seen in years. Right now, James Harden and Russell Westbrook look like the favorites. However, the award usually goes to a player on either the one seed or the two seed. Can the Rockets or Thunder grab that distinction? If not, voters may be compelled to look to former winners Lebron James and Kevin Durant, who have each put together noteworthy seasons. This MVP race is one of the most wide open in recent memory and looks to go down to the final weeks of the season.

6. The Greek Freak’s Takeover: Giannis Antetokounmpo has been incredible this year as his astronomical rise to stardom has continued. He’s taken the NBA by storm over the past calendar year by showing a Magic-esque ability to play every position on the court. He’s a freak athlete, a superb defender, and a great distributor. If he can develop a jump shot, the league better watch out. The Greek Freak’s continual rise to superstardom will no doubt be something to marvel at in the coming year.

5. Free Agency: This summer an exploding cap, combined with stars hitting the market, will make for an eventful free agency. Steph Curry is the biggest name as he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Gordon Hayward, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, and many other players have player options that they can exercise to become free agents this summer. Madness will no doubt ensue as free agency opens this summer and teams have a historic amount of money to spend. Watch for a shakeup of the power balance in the league.

4. New All-Stars: 2017’s NBA All Star Game could play host to a slew of first time All-Stars. Second year guys Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis look like they have a decent chance of making their first appearance. More established league stars such as Giannis, Kemba Walker, and Hassan Whiteside have a chance at making their debuts. All-Star weekend should be a blast to watch as some young guys get a shot at making their NBA All Star Game debut.

3. Golden State Warriors in the Playoffs: The new-look Warriors are capable of putting out a lineup that looks seemingly impossible to stop. Meanwhile, their Western conference foes seem to have taken a step back compared to last year. This Warriors team lacks rim protection and depth, and it’s fair to wonder whether that will come back to haunt them in the playoffs. The Warriors will need their superstars to step up if they want to make it through to the Finals again this year.

2. Russell Westbrook Chases History: Russell Westbrook is currently averaging a triple double, a feat nobody has accomplished in over 40 years. Can the Oklahoma City star continue his dominance in 2017? With a motor that seems to never stop, the answer could be yes. A triple-double season may even be enough to secure the MVP on a low-seeded playoff team. Westbrook has truly been something to behold, and his dominance of the NBA will be something to watch in 2017.

1. The Cavaliers Title Defense: Lebron James and Kyrie Irving kicked it up a notch on Christmas Day. They outperformed the Warriors in the stretch and buried them on a Kyrie buzzer beater. Is the trio of Lebron, Kyrie and Kevin Love enough to beat the juggernaut in Golden State? Well, having the best player in the world doesn’t hurt. The NBA playoffs will no doubt be a appointment television as Lebron tries to win his fourth title for Cleveland.

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Who Should Be Considered For The Postseason AP All-American Teams?

There is a lot of talent dispersed throughout the NCAA this year. Knowing that, it is difficult to call anyone a “snub” for not making the AP Preseason All-American team. The guys that did not make it are simply non-selections.  Composed of Grayson Allen, Ivan Rabb, Josh Hart, Monte Morris and Dillon Brooks there is not much room to debate the merit of these picks. There are still plenty of players out there that could be All-Americans by season’s end.  The AP will name a 2nd and 3rd team at the end of the year leaving space for ten more players.  So who will make those teams? Which players have the possibility of slipping into the first team, replacing one of the current five?

London Perrantes, Virginia, (G)

London Perrantes is a very complete ball player.  He is the perfect guy to be at the helm for Tony Bennett’s Cavalier squad. Perrantes is the only returning double digit scorer from the 2015-16 Elite Eight team. While there were notable losses, Austin Nichols is an excellent gain. He provides some scoring while being the defensive specialist that is key to Bennett’s teams. He was 6th in the AAC in defensive rating in 2014-15 before sitting out last season as a transfer.

Being a deep threat is just one of the things that London Perrantes brings to the table. (Photo courtesy of cbssports.com)

Being a deep threat is just one of the things that London Perrantes brings to the table. (Photo courtesy of cbssports.com)

Nichols and the rest of the Cavalier roster is full of talented rebounders and defenders meaning that yet again they will only need to score 65 points to win a game. Perrantes went from 6.4 points per game to 11.0 in 2015-16. Additionally his PER escalated from 12.3 in his first two seasons to 18.2, so he can be quite efficient. Without any other returning elite scorers there should be another jump in the scoring element of his game. That is not all that Perrantes does for his team, however. He also provides 4.4 assists per game coupled with 3.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals and a three point average of nearly 49%. Between his efficiency, magnitude of importance on his team and his all-around ability the senior is a lock for a great season.

Melo Trimble, Maryland (G)

Melo Trimble is Coach Mark Turgeon’s guy this year.  The junior is the one saving grace from the mass exodus of Terp talent. He needs to prove that he has NBA ability so it behooved him to remain at school. Trimble’s numbers dropped across the board. Especially prevalent was a 10% decrease in his three point shooting mark from 41% to 31%. This is just a pure lack of precision but his overall field goal percentage dropped as well. Some of that can be attributed to the additional talent on the team inside meaning some of his easy baskets were taken away in favor of Diamond Stone. However his usage percentage was nearly identical to his freshman mark of 25%, but his win shares dropped, mirroring the drop in efficiency seen across the board.

This year, he is the big man on campus and must show that he is worthy of a first round pick. That is exactly why he should be on the All-American watch list: that is what his team needs him to be. He can accomplish this by creating shots for himself, actually hitting those shots that he creates and by assisting others in opportunities for scoring. The Terrapins have a five player freshman class coming in including marksman Kevin Huerter. Huerter’s deep threat should open up the spacing on the floor for Trimble to create for himself or he can run some pick-and-roll in a two man game with Damonte Dodd. Trimble was good last year, but with improved efficiency he can catapult himself into the All-American race.

Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson (F)

Jaron Blossomgame decided to return for his senior campaign at Clemson. (Photo courtesy of tigernet.com)

Jaron Blossomgame decided to return for his senior campaign at Clemson. (Photo courtesy of tigernet.com)

The Clemson Tigers did not experience much roster change this offseason. The three leading scorers and three of the top four rebounders are returning. As it so happens, Jaron Blossomgame led the team in both categories and was rumored to skip his senior season to go pro.

At 18.7 points per game and 6.7 rebounds (which was actually a lower number than previous years), Blossomgame was statistically near the top of the ACC in several categories. He was third in the conference in scoring, shooting 51% from the field, he hit a 27.1 PER, good for second in the conference, showing his ability to be efficient with his touches.

Blossomgame finished the year with 5.6 win shares in the 31 games that Clemson played. His presence is critical to his team and will be the deciding factor in Clemson’s season. Blossomgame’s talent will shine through and put him on a fast track to cracking the All-American team.

Moses Kingsley, Arkansas (F)

The senior tripled his minutes for the Razorbacks last year. Simply put: he filled the stat sheet. Nearly averaging a double-double with 15.9 points per game and 9.3 rebounds, Kingsley showed a multi-faceted attack. He also tacked on a steal and an assist per game. He was third in the SEC in PER with a whopping 27.4 in 2015-16.

Despite all the offensive numbers, Kingsley actually is also statistically efficient on the defensive end. He rebounded on 23.3% of the opportunities he had on defense which was good enough to be third in the conference. Kingsley also was fourth in the SEC in defensive box plus minus and eighth in defensive rating, allowing 97.1 points per 100 possessions. It is also no small detail that his 76 blocks were good enough for second in the conference.

As a junior, his program asked him to step up and he did just that. This year should be no exception for the stat-stuffer.

Freshman Candidates

An interesting factor this year is age. Even with a very talented freshman class, there are still plenty of players that made the decision to remain at school. Despite the overwhelming amount of talented upperclassmen, the freshman star power cannot be ignored. In past years, the end of season team has featured freshman. 2015-16 saw only Ben Simmons (2nd) and Jamal Murray (3rd). The AP selected two freshman, Jahlil Okafor and D’Angelo Russell, to the first team in 2014-15. Karl Anthony-Towns earned second team honors. Since 2006-07 a freshman has made either the AP voted a freshman to either the first or second team. Between their prevalence in the past and the depth of this class we really should consider them as a legitimate threat to overtake the upperclassmen on these lists.

There is a plethora of guys that could make this list: Josh Jackson is the best player in the class in the eyes of some and a freak athlete. Lonzo Ball is a prolific passer and can score the ball well. Harry Giles Jr., if healthy, could put up both scoring and rebounding numbers. D’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk are both freakish athletes for Kentucky. Markelle Fultz is a player that seems to be moving up scouts and analysts draft boards. He is a good lead ball-handler and can create his own shot. Fultz is an NBA talent and will likely be one of the best players in college, undoubtedly considered for the All-American team.

 

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Why Choosing a School Does not Affect NBA Aspriations

Ben Simmons took a lot of heat for his decision to attend LSU for his mandatory year of service after high school. He pledged himself early and the promise was solidified with the hiring of his godfather as an assosciate head coach. Due to the NBA regulation, one-and-done situations like that of Simmons, have become common for top recruits. Frequently, players are committing to schools that would not be considered among the best in the nation. The 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes are no exception. Washington has grabbed two 5-stars in those classes and Western Kentucky landed 5-Star Center Mitchell Robinson. Analysts have criticized players like Simmons for making the decision to go to a non-powerhouse basketball program. The truth is that it does not matter what people say, the results matter.

The main goal of almost any athlete in basketball is to reach the pinnacle of the sport: the NBA. Any decision that a player makes could be an impact one. In any other career path where you choose to attend school can certainly make all the difference. Are young men in the sport making a poor decision by choosing a less than spectacular program? While it is a big decision, the fact is that a player’s college choice is not as impactful as we make it out to be in terms of professional progression.

Past NBA Examples

There have been dozens of precedents for players coming from smaller schools and programs being successful in the NBA. Their success is one piece of evidence that college is not the leading factor in professional development in the sport.

One of the better examples would be four time all-star and four time Defensive Player of the Year, Ben Wallace. Wallace went undrafted out of Division II Virginia Union, and previously was at Cuyahoga Community College. Ben Wallace had an NBA aspirations, NBA drive and NBA talent. Players in his situation slip through the cracks for being extremely raw at recruitment time or undersized for their position.  He went from being a 6 foot 9 under recruited center to one of the leaders on the 2004 Detroit Pistons NBA Finals squad.

There are plenty of examples like that of Wallace from the past: Steve Nash (drafted 15th overall, Santa Clara), Karl Malone (dafted 13th overall, Louisiana Tech), John Stockton (drafted 16th overall, Gonzaga), and many others.  These are not role players in the Association. Rather, these are current or future Hall of Famers. However the league has changed over even the past decade. With a dilution of talent, does this assertion hold up currently?

Current NBA Examples

While the league is, in fact, filled with may players from powerhouse schools, some of the league’s best have come from small, mid-major, and power conference schools not exactly well known for their NBA talent production.

Kawhii Leonard was a 4-star recruit before selecting San Diego State.  Granted he did have Steve Fisher as his guide through the years, the results of his career thus far have been astounding. After being selected 15th overall by the Indiana Pacers and traded to the San Antonio Spurs he became Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016. All-NBA First team and NBA Finals MVP also rank among the best of his accomplishments thus far.

Paul Millsap’s combination of power and finesse led to him being drafted out of Louisiana Tech. (Photo Courtesy of draftexpress.com)

Paul Millsap has put together an overwhelming NBA career. He was not a highly touted recruit. He did shine at Louisiana Tech, but was still only drafted in the middle of the second round. Millsap is a three time NBA All-Star.

Damian Lillard is one of the best examples out there. He was a 3-star recruit and was not even ranked among the top 50 point guards of his class. Portland took him 6th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. After a stellar first season with the Trailblazers he became the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2013. The two time All-Star shows much promise for the years to come in his career.

The league contains a plethora of other examples. Two play on the same team in Stephen Curry (drafted 7th overall, Davidson) and Klay Thompson (drafted 11th overall, Washington State). Paul George (drafted 10th overall, Fresno State), James Harden (drafted 3rd overall, Arizona State) and C.J. McCollum (drafted 10th overall, Lehigh) also all went to smaller schools or non-traditional basketball powers.

The 2016 NBA All-Star Rosters fully embody the notion presented here.  The East Roster has 14 members, with Chris Bosh and Jimmy Butler unable to play due to injury.  50% of the East’s roster went to non-traditional basketball powers or smaller schools (Fresno State, USC, Louisiana Tech, Washington, Georgia Tech, and two from Marquette). Marquette made the Final Four with Dwayne Wade, but that actually proves the point further.  Wade made that run for the school, along with help of course, and did not end up at a more traditional basketball power.  He is now a perennial All-Star.

The West All-Star roster mimics the trends of the East.  58.3% of the West’s roster attended a smaller school or non-traditional power (Davidson, San Diego State, Arizona State, Wake Forest, and two from Texas). Some would argue that Texas and Wake Forest players do not belong in this category, however, neither school has a championship and Kentucky has more Final Fours this decade than either program has in its history.  They are hardly basketball powerhouses. However, the All-Star rosters indicate that players do choose these schools and still end up amazing professional talents. Therefore, a trip to UK, UCLA, Duke or North Carolina is not the only path to NBA excellence.

Schools that Guarantee a Draft Spot

Granted that all eligible UK players in the past year entered their names in the draft, there is plenty of proof that powerhouse schools do not guarantee being drafted or NBA success. There is a laundry list of players that enrolled at big schools with their sights set on the pros yet did not blossom for one reason or another.

Marquis Teague is a prime example, being the top point guard in his class in 2011. Teague played a roll in Kentucky’s 2012 National Championship run. Since entering the league in 2012, he averages less than ten minutes per game. Accruing a pedestrian stat line of 2.3 points per and 1.4 assists, he is leagues from the promise that his recruitment showed.

Cheik Diallo did not fill the promise that he had coming into Kansas. (Photo Courtesy of kusports.com)

Even though he has not debuted in the NBA yet, Cheik Diallo (Kansas) is another example. Coming in as a top ten recruit, scouts and coaches thought only the best for him. In his one season at Kansas he averaged a whopping 3.0 points per game in 7.5 minutes of floor time per game. The Pelicans selected Diallo in the 2016 NBA Draft, but it was not until the second round of the draft.

Dozens of other names fit the criteria of players enrolling at a big school that did not work out for one reason or another. Cliff Alexander (Kansas) had academic issues, but did not even come close to expectations. Rasheed Sulaimon (Maryland) was a top 15 recruit but Duke dismissed him and after that no team drafted him. The list goes on and on. Top recruits just do not get a guaranteed pass for attending basketball powerhouses.

The Reality behind the Myth

So why does it not always work? Why do guys come in highly touted with all of the promise in the world but exit without fulfilling expectations? The simple answer would be that players are just overrated as recruits. There is more to it thank that, though.

To begin, NBA talent is NBA talent.  This may seem like a simple assertion, but it has broad consequences. Some players do come in raw and due to their college experience, develop into NBA greats. Even then, that usually has little to do with what school they select. Occasionally a coach takes on a protege and turns them into something that they were not before. This is extremely rare and does not come without the player putting in the effort anyway. Most times a player’s work ethic is what ultimately turns them into a star, if they come in with untapped potential.

Additionally, players’ talent can be diluted in programs where there are many a star. At a program with less talent, there is less keeping a player from standing out head and shoulders above the competition as a superstar. At a bigger program, players can take a back seat post injury or to new blood. The next man up mentality is much easier to believe in when there is another five star recruit to fill a void.

So there are several reasons why going to a powerhouse can actually hinder a player from their NBA dreams. In fact, perhaps the best thing for them to do to enter a league full of isolation play is to isolate themselves from other stars.

How SEC Basketball is on the Rise

SEC basketball is not held in high esteem, but it should be and will be soon. Right now when people hear the letters SEC they think two things: bone-crushing football and Kentucky basketball. There is not much thought given to the basketball league that has not finished higher than fifth in conference RPI since 2011-12.

However, conference RPI is not always the best indicator of league strength from top to bottom. The PAC-12 proved this in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. The PAC-12 was second in conference RPI but went 2-5 in the round of 64. By percentage the AAC was the only conference worse in overall tournament record. This means that there is more to a conference’s power than the RPI. So even though the SEC is weak in that perspective, there are other things to rate them on.

The truth is that SEC basketball is subtly moving toward relevancy at more than a Big Blue Nation perspective. It will not happen overnight, but the tools are in place and all indications are that the SEC will have a heavy handed affect on March Madness for years to come.

Where it starts: Coaching

John Calipari is the best recruiter in the SEC and one of the best in the nation. (Photo courtesy of espn.com)

Coaches control everything. They are in charge of the program’s recruiting success or failure, in game management and tactics of their teams and the integrity of their programs. The SEC is exemplary in this category starting at the top. John Calipari is the best coach in the SEC, no argument there. While before it seemed he was the only one that mattered, he is no longer the only relevant coach in the conference. Other coaches with storied careers are beginning to make waves.

Ben Howland was the architect behind the three straight UCLA Final Four appearances. After a brief hiatus from basketball, he carries a 413-225 career record into his second season at Mississippi State. Bruce Pearl (257-139) finds himself in a similar situation. The difference is that his was more than just a brief hiatus, and he went from one SEC school to another. After three years off, the coach that formerly led the Tennessee Vols to the Elite Eight. Furthermore, there is Rick Barnes (619-333) who now coaches at Pearl’s former school. He once led Texas to 14 straight NCAA tournaments, including a Final Four, two Elite Eight appearances and two Sweet Sixteens.

There is more to add to the list including Frank Martin at South Carolina, Billy Kennedy at Texas A&M and Andy Kennedy at Ole Miss, among other notable names. In reality, had Billy Donovan not left for the Oklahoma City Thunder and the ACC not have four of the greatest coaches in the game (Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Roy Williams and Rick Patino), the SEC would be have the best coaching arsenal in the NCAA. Regardless, there is an overabundance of elite coaches and that is where growth begins.

Where it leads: The Recruits

High profile coaches bring in high profile recruits. High profile recruits lead to better classes. Better classes lead to better teams. It is a very linear and logical progression. Year in and year out big programs replace their losses without skipping a beat. Thankfully the best example, Kentucky, is in the SEC. They are proof that this strategy can and does work. The SEC has not always been the most prolific in this category, but that is changing.

Obviously the main source of recruits is Kentucky and this year is no exception. They have been top two in recruiting every year since 2009. The program has been keeping the SEC afloat in the pool of relevancy for quite a while. However, there are indications that other schools will join the party.

Surely no one has already forgotten the mania that was Ben Simmons nine month vacation at LSU. Last year the Tigers also grabbed Antonio Blankley, another top 25 recruit. Malik Newman, even though he has now transferred to Kansas, was a great grab by Mississippi State as part of a stellar 2015 class.

The 2016 class was no exception for Kentucky, but there are other SEC schools rising. Mississippi State had a second straight top 25 class with Ben Howland at the helm. Also in the top 50 are Texas A&M, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee. Alabama even squeezed in aftergrabbing two 4-stars thanks to Avery Johnson.

In addition Bruce Pearl was able to elevate his 2016 class by getting to work as soon as his show-cause ban lifted. Auburn ranks 25th this year, but it is the 2017 class that should have everyone murmuring about SEC basketball. The Auburn Tigers currently hold the top spot. Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M made the top 25 while LSU is sitting pretty at 26.

The way the conference is headed right now, players will continue to flock to these schools.  The coaches that everyone want to play for are there.  They can help develop young men into NBA stars. The only thing that remains is seeing if success will be found. While not every coach in the SEC is grabbing top 100 prospects left and right, their resumes make it much easier to get any players that they may desire.

Where it ends: Results Tested and Made in March

NCAA Tournament success is the paramount of all measurements. Even just an appearance or several straight appearances can lead to a school being viewed in a more positive light. Now, the SEC has not had the most amazing tournament record over the past decade, but there are some positives to look at.

In 2015 there were five bids by SEC teams. That is a stark improvement from the three per year of the past several seasons. The horizon brings a few more bright hopes. Currently, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has four squads in the 2017 NCAA Tournament (Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida and Texas A&M). That is not very many, but he has Mississippi State in the first four out.

The Aggies may have found some stability for their program. (Photo courtesy of ncaa.com)

Texas A&M also looks to be on its way to being a tournament regular, and had they not met a talented Oklahoma team last year, they may have been the Final Four participant from the region. Additionally, there are some teams not there who could find a way to sneak in. LSU, Auburn and Arkansas all could find themselves with a bid.  If any of those teams, plus Mississippi State find their way in, then the SEC could put six schools in for the first time since 2008.

 

The most exciting thing about the SEC right now is the potential. There are potential tournament regulars outside of just Kentucky now. SEC basketball is no longer a joke.

2016 NBA Off-season Summary

An Offseason to Remember

 

The summer of 2016 introduced the new NBA salary cap, which in turn paid loads of money to multiple NBA players. This offseason also created a Hall-of-Fame caliber team with Kevin Durant making the fantasy move to the Golden State Warriors. And as per usual, in the Summer Leagues, unproven NBA rookies showcased their talents and gave the basketball community a progress report on where they’re at in their development.

Players Getting Paid

People may not have liked some of the events in this offseason, but it set a precedent for what fans should expect next season when the salary cap increases again. This free agency period paved the way for the NBA’s elite to earn twice as much as they were getting paid with role and bench players, like Timofey Mozgov, Matthew Dellavedova and Mike Conley Jr., all cashing in on their newly increased value. Mike Conley’s signing drew a more significant uproar among free agents not named Kevin Durant. Conley, who averaged 15 points (on 42% shooting), 6 assists, and 3 rebounds in the 2015-16 NBA season (only played 56 of the 82 regular season games), didn’t exactly post All-Star caliber numbers, and yet, by the previous salary cap’s standards, will be making the most money per year since Michael Jordan at around $30.6 million dollars for the next 5 years; that is more than just All-Star money, it’s global icon money. But with the new, larger salary cap in place, and an even larger cap next off-season, fans should expect the ridiculous looking deals to keep on coming, especially when Steph Curry becomes a free agent next year. Also, some food for thought: free agent LeBron James has yet to sign a new deal with the Cavaliers under this new salary cap. One can surmise it will be at least around the $28 million per year mark like Kevin Durant will be making with the Warriors this upcoming season. Speaking of which….

KD to the Bay

No doubt the most noticeable move in the NBA since LeBron famously took his talents to South Beach, Kevin Durant dropped the proverbial bomb on the basketball community (not just in OKC) this off-season by signing with the defending Western Conference Champion, Golden State Warriors. Durant going to the Warriors shook the NBA in a similar, if not more severe, way than when LeBron went to the Heat. The Bay Area will now house the best three shooters on the planet. The Warriors may look invincible on the offensive end, but signing KD meant they had to blow up a good portion of their depth and start over. Their center and rim protector, Andrew Bogut, had to be traded to the Dallas Mavericks along with now fellow-ex Warrior and small forward Harrison Barnes, who signed Dallas’ offer sheet as a restricted free agent since the Warriors couldn’t match the offer to keep Barnes while adding Durant. The Warriors also lost Marreese Speights to the Clippers, Festus Ezeli to the Trailblazers, Brandon Rush to the Timberwolves and Leandro Barbosa to the Suns. The Warriors were able to retain Ian Clark, Anderson Varejao and James Michael McAdoo and also added veterans Zaza Pachulia, David West and rookie draftees Patrick McCaw and Damian Jones. Simply put, their interior defense will come into question against a good team, but as of now in the off-season, no team looks like they can handle the onslaught of perimeter shooting that Golden State possesses for that to be a problem.

The NBA Summer League Showcases

Going into the NBA summer leagues, a few names were on everyone’s mind. Heading out of the summer leagues, a few more names were added to that mental list. Ben Simmons was probably the most common name coming out of the draft and into the summer league. Being the first overall pick of the draft by the 76ers, Simmons didn’t disappoint his expectations, showcasing the as-advertised court vision college scouts were raving about and seeing why fans and fellow rookie Denzel Valentine were comparing him to 4-time MVP LeBron James. I echo that comparison based on his passing ability, hard drives to the basket, and unwillingness to shoot a pull up jumper at that age due to lack of efficiency at it; hopefully we will continue to get better at it. Ben Simmons was definitely the right choice for the 76ers to make with the first pick and I expect he will have a much greater impact on a game than former first round picks Okafor and Noel have in Simmons’ rookie year; the 76ers will be better this year, if only by a handful of games, they will be better.

Other names on everyone lips were those of NBA sophomores like Emanuel Mudiay, Larry Nance Jr. and DeAngelo Russell. The trio showed a maturity and confidence on the court against NBA rookies knowing what pace and intensity they had to play with at times. The biggest stride, I thought, was made by DeAngelo Russell, who was the best player on the Lakers’ summer league team, not the lottery pick, Brandon Ingram, who looked like he needs to gain about 20 pounds or so in order to not be pushed around so easily by the better competition; granted Ingram is able to create his own shot, but putting on some weight will help him. Overall, the summer league always hints at what we can expect in years to come from the crop of rookies and sophomores.

Biggest Winners of the NBA Offseason

  • Warriors. They got KD. Even though they had to get rid of key bench players to do it, they got the big free agent to form the super team. Clear winner. They also added David West who will contribute a much needed interior toughness to a depleted bench.
  • Timberwolves. Minnesota hired former Bulls head coach and defensive specialist Tom Thibodeau as head coach to lead this young core of talent into a new era without Garnett (even though he is still with the team) and without Love. The T-wolves also drafted the versatile guard Kris Dunn out of Providence which only adds to the team’s potential.
  • 76ers. I know right? Why on earth would the 76ers be winners here? They got rid of their GM and drafted the clear number one pick of the NBA draft. I believe Simmons makes the 76ers that much better to call them a winner in the offseason. The regular season, however…. Eh maybe not yet.
  • Bucks. Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon add similar potential to that of the T-wolves; summer league showed me they are on pace to be at the very least, quality NBA players. Jason Kidd ought to lead the Bucks to the playoffs this year and hopefully make the Eastern Conference more interesting.
  • Knicks. Despite not having any draft pick in this year’s draft, Phil Jackson did make some moves. Trading for Derrick Rose, who’s on the last year of his contract, was a good move since it got rid of an aging Jose Caulderon, an unproven Jerian Grant and Robin Lopez. The Knicks put themselves in a good position next off-season for other free agents and a draft pick or two, all awhile making themselves a team to keep an eye on with the additions of Brandon Jennings and Joakim Noah. I’m not saying they’ll be winners and get to the postseason, but they are not losers in the off-season.

Biggest Losers of the NBA Off-season

  • Kings. They draft and trade for two big men when they already have three, and one of the three is an NBA All-Star named Demarcus Cousins. What is Divac doing?
  • Bulls. They sign Rajon Rondo and Dwayne Wade. Two guards that can’t hit perimeter shots and prefer to have the ball in their hands in order to create offense. Add that to a budding star in Jimmy Butler who practically ran Derrick Rose out of the organization and who also can’t hit consistent perimeter shots and you have a very isolation oriented offense. Did I forget to mention that coach Fred Hoiberg didn’t really command the team well in his first season?
  • Rockets. Hiring Mike D’Antoni was the Rockets first mistake in the offseason; D’Antoni is notorious for not employing any type of high level defense, if any defense at all. The Rockets were already one of the worst defensive teams in the league last year, so this isn’t a good move at all. The Rockets next mistake was letting their best defender and rim protector in Dwight Howard go in free agency. Then they added shooters like Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon. Defense will be the team’s downfall.
  • Heat. Miami failed to keep Dwayne Wade, the franchise’s most valuable player in its history. Seeing him leave South Beach will take some time getting used to. They managed to keep Whiteside, but couldn’t land Durant. The Heat also let Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire and Luol Deng go. Miami should now be in full rebuild mode. Pat Riley needs to hope that Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow become players the Heat can market closer to the levels that Minnesota and Milwaukee are presenting themselves at; young, hungry and talented.

With NBA news now going quiet until LeBron announces his new deal with Cleveland, baseball season in full swing and football preseason preparing to kickoff, the NBA won’t be short of any story-lines when the season starts in October. I can’t wait to sit back and watch it all unfold.

2016 NBA Mock Draft June 23

1) Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons SF/PF LSU

LSU may have underachieved this season, but Ben Simmons showed that he is the real deal. The 6’10 Australian averaged 19.2 points and 11.9 rebounds per game, and showed some of the best passing in the country. Simmons was criticized for not being assertive enough at times, but the fact is he’s the best athlete in the class, and is perfect for a 76ers team that desperately needs a spark.

2) Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram SF Duke

The post-Kobe Lakers need a star to pair with D’Angelo Russell as they look to rebuild in the brutal West. Enter Ingram, the lanky and athletic forward from Duke who was a match-up nightmare in the ACC. The 6’9 freshman showed a knack for creating his own shot, particularly off the pick and roll, and shot 41% from behind the arc. He will need to add strength, which will help him defensively, but Ingram is the clear number two pick here.

3) Boston Celtics: Jamal Murray SG Kentucky

This might not fill Boston’s biggest need, but Danny Ainge has made it clear he is looking for the best player available with this lottery pick acquired from the Nets. Murray is one of the best pure shooters in the class, shown by his 40% three-point mark and his workout where he made 79 out of 100 threes. The Canadian may not be the most athletic guard, but his scoring ability should translate well to the next level.

4) Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender PF Maccabi Tel Aviv

The top international prospect, Bender fills an immediate need for Phoenix. The 7’1 Croatian is quick and effective in transition, and also has exceptional passing skills for a big man. He will need to add strength and continue to improve his outside shooting, but Bender certainly looks the part of a solid NBA stretch four.

5) Minnesota Timberwolves: Buddy Hield SG Oklahoma

The reigning Naismith College Player of the Year would provide instant offense for a struggling Minnesota team. Hield hit 147 three pointers this season, the most in college basketball since Stephen Curry, at an incredibly efficient 46% rate. The senior also showed great improvements with his ball handling, which will help him create shots at the next level.

6) New Orleans Pelicans: Kris Dunn PG Providence

The Pelicans desperately need a backcourt star to pair with Anthony Davis, and Dunn would fill that need. The Big East Player of the Year is great on the pick and roll, but will need to cut down on his turnover rate. He is a great athlete who can defend and get to the rim, and would provide a big boost to New Orleans’ playoff hopes.

7) Denver Nuggets: Marquese Chriss PF Washington

One of the biggest boom or bust picks in the draft, Chriss is a freak athlete who plays with a lot of intensity. He has exceptional speed and quickness, which makes him especially effective in transition. However, his fundamentals need a lot of work, particularly rebounding. Chriss is only 19 and has plenty of time to develop, making his potential worth a top 10 pick.

8) Sacramento Kings: Domantas Sabonis PF/C Gonzaga

Sacramento would probably like to add a guard, but Sabonis is the best value here. The Lithuanian will become a fan favorite wherever he goes because of his high energy and passion. Sabonis has great low post scoring and defense, and is very effective at both getting to the line and making his free throws. He plays a little underneath the rim, which will likely prevent him from being a superstar, but Sabonis should be a high impact big from day one.

9) Toronto Raptors: Jacob Poeltl C Utah

The Raptors need help inside, and will find it with the 7’1 Austrian. Poeltl runs the court very well for a big man, and has good agility which leads to solid pick and roll defense. He will need to add more of a low post game, but does show a good touch around the basket.

10) Milwaukee Bucks: Jaylen Brown SG/SF California

Physically, Brown has everything you look for in a lottery pick. He is very strong and very athletic, and uses these attributes to get to the basket and finish. Brown is a beast in transition, with a highlight reel of monster dunks. However, he does turn the ball over too often and needs to find more consistency with his jump shot. If Brown can clean up these aspects of his game, he could be a superstar.

11) Orlando Magic: Skal Labissiere C Kentucky

Despite an underwhelming freshman campaign, the seven foot Haitian is an intriguing prospect. Labissiere is long and athletic, and defends the rim very well. However, he needs to add strength and toughness to become an NBA caliber player. He is definitely a prospect, but Frank Vogel has a solid track record of developing big men, and could do wonders with Labissiere.

12) Atlanta Hawks: Malachi Richardson SG Syracuse

A big and athletic guard, Richardson is one of the best slashers in the draft. He is very effective getting to the rim, and has the ability to finish in traffic. Richardson still needs work on his jump shot and has a tendency to force plays, but he could provide an offensive spark to Atlanta.

13) Phoenix Suns: Deyonta Davis PF Michigan St

Phoenix takes a second big man here to add depth inside. Davis is an elite defender, capable both defending the rim and guarding the pick and roll. His offensive game is still raw, but athletic bigs who defend as well as Davis don’t grow on trees. These attributes should lead to a lottery selection.

14) Chicago Bulls: Henry Ellenson PF/C Marquette

The Bulls look to add depth to their frontcourt as it appears Joakim Noah will be leaving. Marquette’s Ellenson has a solid array of post moves and rebounds at a very high level. His ceiling is limited by his marginal athleticism, but Ellenson has good enough skills to contribute right away.

15) Denver Nuggets: Furkan Korkmaz SG Anadolu Efes Istanbul

The Nuggets have three first round picks and can afford to draft and stash here. Korkmaz, a Turkish wing is a high level scorer who can shoot from anywhere on the court and create his own shot. He is a big guard at 6’7 who can handle the ball and has experience playing in the Euroleague at 17. The only liability for Korkmaz is his defense, but with his size and quickness he will have plenty of potential for improvement.

16) Boston Celtics: Ivica Zubac C Mega Leks

Zubac, a 7’1 Croatian, is one of the best rebounders in the draft. He also has some decent post moves, and shows good offensive awareness, moving without the ball well. His biggest downside is his limited athleticism, which should keep him out of the lottery.

17) Memphis Grizzlies: Dejounte Murray PG/SG Washington

The Grizzlies need someone to help out Mike Conley Jr in the backcourt. Murray is an athletic combo guard with great ball handling ability. Like many other young guards, he could work on cutting down turnovers and shooting more consistently, but Murray will be able to score in the NBA.

18) Detroit Pistons: Wade Baldwin PG/SG Vanderbilt

Another big combo guard who can attack the rim, Baldwin is an aggressive scorer with good shooting numbers. There are questions about his ability to play the point, as his ball handling looks shaky at times, but Baldwin should at least be a “three and D” player off the bench in the NBA.

19) Denver Nuggets: Ante Zizic C Cibona Zagreb

The second of two possible first round Croatians, Zizic doesn’t quite have the size of his countryman, but he is long and plays above the rim. He also runs the pick and roll very well and has a knack for getting to the free throw line. At just 19, Zizic has plenty of time to bulk up and improve his offensive game before making an impact.

20) Indiana Pacers: Brice Johnson PF North Carolina

Indiana adds frontcourt depth here by adding Johnson, an incredibly productive rebounder who averaged a double double for the Tar Heels. He is also an efficient scorer and one of the best leapers in the draft. Johnson does have a wiry frame that could lead to him getting pushed around by stronger players, but he should be able to play right away due to his rebounding ability.

21) Atlanta Hawks: Timothe Luwawu SG/SF Mega Leks

An athletic wingman from France, Luwawu has a very natural scoring ability. He is particularly effective with his pull up off the dribble. Like most young international players, Luwawu will need to add strength and improve defensively. He is still very raw, but his scoring ability is intriguing enough to warrant a first round pick.

22) Charlotte Hornets: Denzel Valentine SG/SF Michigan St

Concerns about a knee injury will likely push Valentine out of the lottery, but he is a really good value here. As a senior, Valentine doesn’t have the upside of some players in the draft, but he has no real weaknesses, and is a great leader and locker room presence. As long as Valentine physically is alright, he will have a positive impact on whatever team drafts him.

23) Boston Celtics: Cheick Diallo PF/C Kansas

Diallo is a classic project pick who needs a few years of seasoning. At 6’9, Diallo is a little short to play down low in the NBA, but he makes up for it with his length and leaping ability. The Mali native has elite shot blocking skills and can rebound well, but still needs to develop an offensive game. His physical traits will be intriguing to teams drafting late in the first round though.

24) Philadelphia 76ers: DeAndre Bembry SG/SF St Joe’s

A flashy playmaker who played his college ball in Philly, Bembry was a human highlight reel at St Joe’s. He is confident and aggressive with the ball, and a very underrated passer. Bembry was a volume shooter in college, and not incredibly efficient, and will need to improve his shot selection at the next level.

25) Los Angeles Clippers: Malik Beasley SG Florida St

Beasley is one of the best catch and shoot players in the class, and also has shown the ability to create his own shot. He is athletic and plays with a lot of energy, but does not have great size for the NBA. It should be more than enough to land him a spot on an NBA roster, though.

26) Philadelphia 76ers: Thon Maker PF/C Athlete Institute

With three first round picks, Philly can afford to roll the dice on Maker. He is 7’1 with remarkable ball handling and shooting skills which are intriguing to any NBA team. However, he is completely unproven and is far from being physically mature enough to play right now. This makes Maker one of the biggest unknowns, but possibly the player with the highest ceiling in the draft.

27) Toronto Raptors: Diamond Stone C Maryland

A McDonalds All American, Stone’s size, strength and low post moves will interest any NBA team. He has a good shooting form, and his range will likely increase as he gets older. However, Stone was inconsistent in college and took too many players off, which often showed in his rebounding. He is a player with a lot of potential if he can put it all together, though.

28) Phoenix Suns: Demetrius Jackson PG Notre Dame

A tough but undersized guard, Jackson is very efficient with a ball and has great playmaking skills. He also has quick hands and is an above average defender. Unfortunately, due to Jackson’s size and age (22), he likely won’t go until late in the first round.

29) San Antonio Spurs: Taurean Prince SF Baylor

Born and raised in San Antonio, Prince is an excellent defender and physically able to play in the NBA right now. He is athletic, can defend and can shoot threes which will translate well at the next level.

30) Golden State Warriors: Juan Hernangomez PF Asefa Estudiantes

The 6’9 Spanish big man is excellent in the pick and roll, and is consistent with his midrange shot. He has a lot of work to do with his low post game, but is young enough to see plenty of improvement down the road.

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