Early season review: the ACC is loaded

Preview:

Well college basketball just kicked off and the Atlantic Coast Conference is shaping up to be one of if not the toughest in college basketball. Currently there are five top 15 teams, four undefeated teams and every team in the conference is .500 or above.

The conference overall is 95-21 and won the ACC vs Big Ten: 11-2. Although that is no feat for the ACC because they have won the last 10 meetings of that challenge, it shows the strength of the conference. They are 6-4 as a whole against top 25 teams, 5-2 if you don’t count Michigan State who has beaten Notre Dame and UNC.

The conference also holds 10 of the 50 Wooden Watch players this season. So just how good is the ACC and will they prove to be top heavy as the season goes on?

Ranked:

Atlantic Coast Conference

Matt Farrell, (Usa Today Sports).

Duke: Duke has struggled at times on the defensive end. They had to take a Texas team to overtime and looked defeated on the road at Indiana. They have an unbelievable offense with tons of weapons, but defensively they have let teams score on them at high rates. The Blue Devils seem to lock down on defense when it matters, but they are allowing lesser teams to hang around with them in the early going.

Miami: Miami beat Minnesota pretty handily in their own place and have looked extremely balanced. As of right now it looks like they need another potent scorer. They allow just the fourth most points against in the country and look to have a winning formula moving forward.

Notre Dame: The Irish are interesting. Matt Farrell, Tj Gibbs and Bonzie Colson lead the charge for the Fighting Irish. They are a relatively undersized team that can shoot the ball at all positions. If one of the three listed above struggle to score the Irish struggle. They do have a strong win against Wichita State which makes up for their somewhat blowout loss against Michigan State.

North Carolina: Speaking of blowout losses to Michigan State, the Tar Heels have been led by Luke Maye who has three Double- Doubles and is dominating the glass. They are the seventh best rebounding team in the country which has made up for their struggles from behind the arch.

Virginia: The Cavaliers win their games like they always do, in low scoring fashion. Opponents are scoring 50.6 points per game which is the lowest against any team in all of Division 1 basketball. Unfortunately like most Virginia teams in years past they struggle to score. Thus, giving opponents opportunities to hang around in games late.

The Middle Tier with Potential:

Florida State: The undefeated Seminoles haven’t played a very hard schedule thus far. Their toughest game is a road win at Rutgers who hasn’t been very good in recent years. They are in the top 20 in points per game and have many different scorers who can hit you in waves. They have five players who average 11 point a game or more and are led by Terance Mann.

Clemson: The Tigers have been playing solid basketball. They have a great win against Ohio State on the road. They are a much better defensive team then they are on offense but are very athletic and can beat teams out in transition if you let them.

Virginia Tech: Justin Bibbs helps lead the way for Buzz Wiliams and the Hokies. The Hokies are the opposite of the Tigers. They average 97 points a game and have five guys that are above 10 points per game. They aren’t extremely efficient on defense and struggle rebounding the ball. Making it tough for them to hold off teams with bigger front courts.

Syracuse: Well the final contestant is the Orange. Defense wins championships and the Orange have rebounded and defended at a high level this season. They are in the top 24 in both of those categories and have proven that the zone can lock down. The length in the zone will cause problems for teams like North Carolina who haven’t shot the ball as well to kick off the season.

Prediction:

9-10 teams have the potential to make the NCAA tournament. As of right now it is safe to assume 6 of them get in. With the strength in conference being so high, ACC teams have a chance to make it come March.

There are quite a few teams in this conference with deep run potential and I would even be surprised if Duke ran the table. Only time will tell but for now, what we do know? The ACC is the deepest conference in college basketball.

 

Featured Image ESPN.com.

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Duke Basketball

This Duke team is scary good

I know what you’re going to say. How can you judge a prestigious team like Duke when they play schools like Elon and Utah Valley? Of course they are supposed to blow them out because they are the Duke Blue Devils with one of the best coaches in the history of the sport and a top recruiting class year after year.

However, with just two games under their belt, this team looks poised for a National Championship.

How are these Blue Devils different from last year’s team?

Although Duke became the first ACC team to win four games in four days on their way to winning the ACC Tournament, the season was a disappointment, as they fell to South Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Duke basketball

As talented as the 2016-17 Duke team was, the season was a disappointment (Photo from News and Observer)

Going into the year, according to ESPN.com, Duke had the No. 2 recruiting class, highlighted by players like Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Frank Jackson, who were all drafted in this past NBA Draft. They also returned Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson.

Despite these big names, injuries and lack of consistency haunted this Duke team throughout the season. Allen was constantly in the headlines for tripping people, and Harry Giles was never able to be a real factor.

Fast forward to this season and in walks a fresh new breed of elite talent. Because of the one-and-done era, the best players attend a school for one season before departing to the NBA. If you watched the first two games, make sure to not fall in love with some of the players because a few of their names will be called in next year’s NBA Draft.

 

Big Men on Campus

According to ESPN’s Top 100, a list that complies the top 100 incoming freshmen for this season, Duke owns the first, fifth, sixth and eighth ranked players. The No. 1 ranked player, Marvin Bagley III, is a 6-foot-11, athletic freak. Bagley, who is originally from Phoenix, reclassified this August so that he could graduate high school and attend Duke this fall.

Duke basketball

The possible first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Marvin Bagley III (Zagsblog)

This past season for Sierra Canyon High School, Bagley averaged 24.9 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. This kid can do it all, and NBA stars like Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, and Lamar Odom had a front-row seat to his dominance, as they all attended Sierra Canyon games while Bagley was playing.

Over the summer, Bagley spent time in the Drew League, competing against players like DeMar DeRozan, JaVale McGee, Julius Randle and Baron Davis. In a game against a team led by DeRozan, Bagley erupted for 32 points and 11 boards. He also participated in the league’s All-Star game, knocking down 18 points and corralled 20 rebounds.

In his first two collegiate games, Bagley has been nothing short of impressive. His 49 points are tied with Jabari Parker for most points by a freshman over the first two games of their Duke career. He is also averaging 10 rebounds a game. Bagley has a real shot to be the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Another big man, Wendell Carter Jr., the fifth ranked player in his recruiting class, is projected to be a top-10 pick in the draft. Because of Bagley, Carter’s talent may be swept under the rug in the public eye, but Duke knows the 6-foot-10, 260 pound freshman is a stud. Carter is a mobile big man, who can score with both hands in traffic and has no problem going hard to draw fouls. He is an exceptional rebounder, as he has tallied up 13 boards in his two games.

Exceptional Guard Play

The other two big names in this recruiting class, Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval, have both found immediate success at the collegiate level. Trent Jr. is the son of former NBA player, Gary Trent. He appears to be lights out from deep, as he has started the season 7-for-13 from three. Through two games, Trent Jr. is averaging 17 points per game.

Duke basketball

Tricky Tre! (Photo from KSL.com)

The reason for Duke’s struggles last season was mostly due to the fact that they were without a true ball handler. If you think back to their past two championships, both teams had a dominant ball handler. They had Nolan Smith in 2010 and Tyus Jones in 2015. Insert “Tricky” Trevon Duval.

Duval, a super athletic point guard, has exceptional handles and is as quick as they come. “Tricky” looks like a a combination of John Wall and Russell Westbrook, as he flies around the floor and has already shown his freakish athleticism. Duval does not shy away from contact, and defends well. His 20 assists in his first two games is the new Duke freshman record, eclipsing Chris Duhon’s 12 from the 2001 season. Duval has also only turned the ball over just one time.

The four freshman scored 58 of Duke’s 97 points against Elon. In their last matchup against Utah Valley, Duke’s first 40 points were scored by freshmen, as well as every single point during their 27-8 run in the middle of the first half.

 

What about the rest?

Somehow, we have managed to go this far into an article without mentioning the great Grayson Allen. Allen, who had somewhat of a down season last year, is determined to put up big numbers in his senior year. In the home opener, Allen lit it up, scoring 22 points, including 6-for-9 from deep. He kept the momentum going against Utah Valley, scoring 18 on 7-for-11 shooting.

In 2009-10, seniors Jon Scheyer, Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas all played crucial parts in the championship run. In 2014-15, we saw Quinn Cook show exceptional leadership, as he kept the team focused on their way to the title. Allen, who played a pivotal part in the 2015 National Championship, is ready to lead this young group of stars.

This team reminds me a lot of the 2014-15 team. That team, led by the three exceptional freshmen, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones, was a young, talented team like this year’s squad. Based off the first two games, this Duke freshman class could be the best we have ever seen.

Players like Javin DeLaurier, Alex O’Connell, Marques Bolden and Jordan Goldwire will all play vital roles in helping this team accomplish their goals.

Tonight, Duke will square off against No. 2 Michigan State in Chicago in the Champions Classic.

 

Featured image by Naples Herald

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College basketball Tuesday

Previewing the first Tuesday of college basketball

College basketball is back and not a moment too soon. The first Tuesday of the season has four of the top five teams in the country squaring off. Many see the Duke and Michigan State game as a possible National Championship preview.

The second game features Kentucky and Kansas, who are almost always title contenders. All four of these teams are looking at this season as a championship or bust.

Duke and Michigan State

This first matchup is the one that everyone wants to see. Coach K’s Duke Blue Devils take on Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans in Chicago on Tuesday night. This is a matchup between the two best college basketball teams as of right now. This features two of the greatest coaches that college basketball has to offer, as well as four of the best players in college basketball this season.

College basketball Tuesday

Tom Izzo (Photo from Sportingnews.com)

Miles Bridges, Jaren Jackson, Grayson Allen and Marvin Bagley are all players who are on the Wooden watch list. More than likely, two of them will matchup against each other head-to-head. Both Bridges and Allen have been stars throughout their college careers, and Bagley and Jackson come in as some of the hottest freshmen in the sport. Bridges and Bagley will probably draw a matchup in which everyone wants to see on opening night.

Ultimately, this will be a battle of youth (and Allen) against the strong Spartan sophomore class. Duke has the best freshman class, maybe in the history of college basketball. However, Michigan State is getting Jaren Jackson as well as bringing back their entire sophomore class that was one of the best recruiting classes last season.

This also spotlights a great coaching matchup. Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo are two tremendous coaches. Even though the season just started, I’m sure there are still sets they want to run and matchups they are looking to exploit.

I think that Michigan State comes out with a seven-point win here. Duke is extremely young and has only gotten to mesh for two games. The majority of Michigan State’s players were together last season, so they are more familiar with each other. Duke hasn’t experienced a game like this yet as a whole.

Either way, this will be a very entertaining game, and one that many of us college basketball fans are looking to see come early April.

Kansas and Kentucky

This is another great game. Kansas and Kentucky are always in the hunt for a National Championship every year. This season is no different. Both teams are extremely young and look to be led in different ways.

Kansas is led by Devonte’ Graham and Lagerald Vick, who are both returning guards. Both can shoot the basketball and are versatile defenders.

Kentucky doesn’t really have a ton of experience. They bring back Wenyen Gabriel, but are extremely young from a production category. They have been led by freshman guard Hamidou Diallo and don’t have a single senior on their roster. Kentucky’s youth probably doesn’t surprise you if you’ve watched them the last several seasons, but they are young and talented.

I think this one is similar to the first game. Kentucky always seems to struggle right out of the gates just enough for every analyst to say that they aren’t a team that will mesh well, and then they turn it on in mid-February and make some serious noise in March. I think this Kentucky team as of now lacks a leader, and that’s the only thing separating Kentucky from the other teams.

In the end, I have the Jayhawks over big blue by 11. Why double digits? I really think that the key to winning in college basketball is having multiple scorers and strong guard play. At this point, Kansas for a fact has that. Kentucky does as well, but it’s not as certain. Kentucky’s guards are also freshmen who don’t have big game experience. Devonte’ Graham, their primary ball handler, has dealt with power conference guards for the past few seasons.

Experience trumps youth to start the season almost always, and I think this season is more the same.

 

Featured Image from USAtoday.com.

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Why Duke is the Best College Basketball Program

To no surprise, the Duke Blue Devils’ head into the 2017-18 season as one of the top ranked teams. You would think losing four players, three in the first round, to this year’s NBA draft would have hurt them. Instead, the Blue Devils brought in three of the top seven players among the Top 100 prospect list, as well as kept Grayson Allen for his senior year.

Barring injury, it looks like another National Championship banner could be headed to Durham. With all of Duke’s recent success, it got us thinking… do the Blue Devils have the best program in the NCAA?

Just going by the numbers, it is clear that no team in the modern era is even close to accomplishing what Duke has done, on and off the court.

To start off, let’s take a look at the five-time champions basketball résumé.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI & DUKE’S WINNING TRADITIONS

Before everyone freaks out about Duke being named a better program than UCLA, who won 10 titles from 1964 to 1975, let’s take a look back at the rules and regulations of that era. In nine of their 10 titles, UCLA only had to win four games during the NCAA Tournament. One thing that should also be noted, freshman weren’t even allowed to play varsity basketball until the 1972-73 season. In this past NBA draft, nine of the first ten selections were freshman. Imagine playing in a time in which some of the best players could not even step on the court? Players could not dunk the ball from 1968-1976. Not to mention the three-point shot wasn’t even introduced until 1986.

Let me say that one more time.

The three-point shot was not apart of the NCAA until 1986, thus proving that the game was much different, and not comparable to the one we see today.

Now that it’s clear the game really became official in 1986, let’s see how Duke compares to other major programs.

 

SCHOOL # OF CHAMPIONSHIPS SINCE 1986
DUKE 5
UNC 4
UCONN 4
KENTUCKY 3
SCHOOL # OF NCAA TOURNAMENT WINS SINCE 1986
DUKE 90
UNC 85
KANSAS 79
KENTUCKY 76
CONNECTICUT 55
ARIZONA 54
MICHIGAN STATE 54

ADDITIONAL FACTS

  • Duke has had 11 National Player of the Years
  • Duke has made the National Championship 11 total times
  • Duke has made 16 Final Fours
  • Duke has made 20 Elite Eights
  • Duke has made 29 Sweet Sixteens
  • Duke has had 71 McDonalds All-Americans (Most in NCAA)
  • Duke has the Most Consecutive APR Awards (Most in NCAA)

Next Level

  • Duke has had 23 Lottery Picks (MOST in NCAA)
  • Duke has had 32 First Round Picks (MOST in NCAA)
  • Duke has had 10 Top Three Picks since 1992 (MOST in NCAA)
  • Duke has had Multiple 1st Round Picks in five out of the last seven years

So how does one school stay on top, year after year? The answer: Krzyzewski.

The winningest coach in NCAA men’s basketball history, Mike Krzyzewski is clearly the most important piece to this storied university. His ability to lead, coach, and teach his players has made Duke a hot destination for upcoming freshman, year after year.

PAST FRESHMAN CLASSES

YEAR PLAYER(S) in Top 30 of ESPN Top 100
2017 Wendell Carter (#4), Trevon Duval (#5), Gary Trent Jr (#7)
2016 Harry Giles (#1), Jayson Tatum (#3), Frank Jackson (#10), Marques Bolden (#16)
2015 Brandon Ingram (#3), Chase Jeter (#11), Derryck Thornton (#17), Luke Kennard (#24)
2014 Jahlil Okafor (#1), Tyus Jones (#4), Justise Winslow (#15), Grayson Allen (#21)

What makes coach K so special? He tries not to focus too much on the x’s and o’s. Krzyzewski builds relationships with all of his players. He constantly asks them about their goals, both on the floor and off. Coach K focuses on the “we” concept, which is vital in creating a championship team. When recruiting, he doesn’t just look at talent. In an interview with Entrepreneur.com, coach explained how “academic ability and character” are two major evaluation areas for all incoming recruits.

Photo Courtesy of (nytimes.com)

When a relationship is established, it is very easy to gain trust. “Without trust, you have nothing” says Krzyzewski in an interview with Championship Coaches Network. His .755 winning percentage in March can be credited to the type of environment he creates for his team. In that same interview, when asked about culture and how he deals with players failing, Coach K exclaims how it is essential to “create an environment where people can make mistakes without worrying about it too much.” He would go on to say that, in order to successfully lead a program, one must “empower your assistants and the leadership on your team (like the captains) to speak and express themselves.” Coach K trusts his players and gives them confidence, which creates his winning culture.

Another significant advantage is the fact that Krzyzewski has been the head coach of the USA men’s basketball team since 2005. In that span, he has gone on to win Olympic Gold medals in each of the past three Olympics (2008, 2012, 2016). As a high school kid, whose dream is reaching the NBA, there is no better coach to play under than the guy who has spent countless summers with the best players in the world. Not only does Coach K offer great leadership and mentoring to the pros, but he is also able to pick up on how they train, and what they do to be successful. This information is then transferred over to his boys, which is a clear advantage for the talented young men.

Off the court, Krzyzewski remains nothing short of spectacular. Each semester, he keeps copies of everyone’s syllabi, and is alerted each week on how the team is doing. He constantly checks in with his players and asks them about upcoming papers and tests, making sure they feel just as confident in the classroom, as they do on the court.

This type of leadership has done wonders for the boys in the classroom. For instance, it is nearly impossible to find a year in which multiple Duke basketball players did not make the All-ACC Academic Team. In order to qualify for this team,  “a student-athlete must have earned a 3.00 grade point average for the previous semester and maintained a 3.00 cumulative average during his academic career” (theacc.com).

In the Classroom

As we know, academics is a huge part of the university itself. Duke University holds a 9% acceptance rate, one of the top 10 schools with the lowest acceptance rates.

What does that mean?

It means that one of Coach K’s roles is to ensure that his players can obtain the education at the university with no problems. By the looks of it, he has established great success regarding his players and their transcripts.

The last two years, the Blue Devils basketball team has posted a total of seven NCAA Academic ACC All Americans: Grayson Allen (2), Chase Jeter, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones, Amile Jefferson (2) and Marshall Plumlee. The highest amount among any ACC team. Not to mention that Grayson 

Duke Basketball Grads IG: (@dukembb)

Allen was named an NCAA Academic All American. 2016 marked Duke’s 22nd consecutive year with at-least one player on the ACC all-academic team. To add, Duke holds a historical list of 91 total players on the ACC All Academic team. UNC stands in second place with only 57 players. 

With that being said, Duke produces talent on the basketball court, and definitely in the classroom.  Unfortunately, there are a plethora of other NCAA men’s basketball programs in which players are openly admitting to their tutors writing their papers, as well as constantly skipping out on classes. For example, in an interview with ESPN, Rashad McCants from UNC’s 2004-05 National Title team, he publicly announced his academic secrets by saying “he rarely went to class…and took bogus classes designed to keep athletes academically eligible” showing that his time was centrally focused on basketball. Or how about when Derrick Rose never took the SAT, instead having a friend take the test under Rose’s name. Rose went on to play at the University of Memphis, where John Calipari was coaching at the time. Now coaching at Kentucky, who knows what Calipari is allowing in his classrooms.

Let’s close the books and head back to the court. Cameron Indoor Stadium, home of the Duke Blue Devils, and the biggest homecourt advantage in all of college hoops. What gives Duke such an advantage? The Cameron Crazies. 

“The Cameron Crazies”

Cameron Indoor Stadium: the wildest stadium among any NCAA basketball stadiums, and home to “The Cameron Crazies”. It’s safe to say, the Cameron Crazies affect each and every home-game. Their ability to remain standing the entire game with the same antics play-by-play gives Duke the full advantage.

“The rowdiest…best-organized college basketball fans in the land” Says ESPN.

Photo Courtesy of (syracuse.com)

A major leap from other college basketball programs is Krzyzewskiville, also known as “K-Ville”. For those unaware of this, “K-Ville” is one of the homes to the Cameron Crazies besides the stadium itself. It stands as a spot designated for the “Crazies” to camp out before games. Yes, camp out. They set up tents, move their dorm furniture in, and live there until game-time. Something unlike any college basketball fan-base. The “K-Ville” is the rowdiest during the UNC rival game. Students camp out for days, waiting for the tip-off of the biggest college rivalry matchup.

During the last eight seasons, the Duke basketball team has lost only eight total games at home. Can you guess how many they have won?

125 games.

Yes, this team holds a 125-8 record at home, during the last eight seasons. Four of the last eight seasons, the Blue Devils recorded undefeated home records.

Its obvious that this team exceeds at their home stadium. I mean, who wouldn’t with a fan-base like the “Cameron Crazies”? They have been known for their antics to rattle the opposite-team. In the past, they have thrown Twinkies at players who were considered overweight. They have also said “you’ll work for us one-day”, exhibiting the academic levels at Duke compared to other schools.

Senior Grayson Allen calls them “The Best Fans in the World”. 

It’s no surprise that Duke will have yet another successful season. The history shows what this program is capable of doing.

This piece was a collaboration by Shane Leary and Jeremy Bhandari. You can Like The Game Haus on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter for more esports and sports coverage.

The new look C’s: Boston Celtics 2018 Preview

As the NBA offseason cycles through, many basketball fans find it hard not to talk about the upcoming Boston Celtics. From trading rising star Avery Bradley and trading the first overall pick, we have just begun on the changes that Danny Ainge and his organization have made.

Gordon Hayward signs with the c’s

Gordon Hayward was one of the biggest free agents available this offseason, and had offers from Miami, Utah and of course, Boston.

Hayward poses in All Star Game gear (purpleandblues.com)

However, Boston had something that stood out more than their past legends, Larry Bird, Bill Russell and a franchise with 17 total NBA championships: Head coach Brad Stevens. For those who don’t know the reasoning behind Stevens, Gordon Hayward played for Brad Stevens at Butler University, where Stevens coached in the past.

Right away, that boosted the Celtics’ chances of capturing yet another NBA All-Star.

Days later, Gordon Hayward officially signed with Boston on a four-year, $127,829,970 contract, doubling his recent contract of four years, $62,965,420 with the Utah Jazz.

The only downside of signing the recent All-Star is dealing with the nonexistent cap space. Boston needed to free cap space to sign Hayward to his full contract, which led to Boston trading away Avery Bradley, a beloved player in the eyes of Boston fans.

Boston traded Bradley to the Detroit Pistons, receiving Marcus Morris. Many are against this trade, but don’t forget the fact that Bradley is a free agent next season, who inevitably will ask for more money. This is something the Celtics cannot afford after the signing of Gordon Hayward.

third overall pick: jayson tatum. sf (duke)

The Celtics drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in the draft.

Tatum poses with the Celtics Front Office (boston.cbslocal.com)

Arguably the best man in this year’s draft, Jayson Tatum will bring his talents to Boston this upcoming season, bringing nothing but excitement to the organization and fans.

At Duke, Jayson Tatum recorded a total of 488 points, averaging 16.8 points per game as well as 7.3 rebounds per game, and shot nearly 50 percent on field goals in his single season with the Blue Devils. Tatum was ranked No. 3 in the 2016 ESPN Top 100 going into Duke University.

By the looks of the media, it seems like Tatum has already built chemistry with this Celtics roster, especially with Jaylen Brown who was a third overall pick in the NBA Draft two drafts ago. The two stars have referred to themselves as “7/11, always open” indicating their jersey numbers and the fact that they both hold great abilities to create openness on the court and sinking any shot.

Jayson Tatum will be a great attribute to this particular Celtics team. Whatever role Stevens gives him, Tatum will exceed.

depth

In addition to Gordon Hayward and rookie Jayson Tatum, the Celtics welcome Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes to the team, as well as key new players like Shane Larkin, Semi Ojeleye and Ante Zizic.

The Celtics made big moves to create a roster that embarks on winning a NBA championship.

Celtics coach, Brad Stevens (bostonglobe.com)

According to ABC News, Celtics president Danny Ainge said “I feel like our team is in better position than last year.”

Not to mention that the Celtics were NBA Eastern Conference finalists last season. The C’s look to change that to NBA East Champions, and even NBA Champions. With these added players, this goal is fully achievable.

How will this be done? Last season, the Celtics finshed 27th out of 30 teams in total rebounds, yet still managed to win the Eastern Conference regular season title. Simply, the Celtics needed more big men.

After one offseason, they have introduced a 6-8 forward in Jayson Tatum, a 7-foot center in Ante Zizic, a 6-10 center inn Aron Baynes and a 6-9 forward in Marcus Morris. These are all solid players with great height.

Mix this height with stars like Isaiah Thomas, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, and you have a team with full potential to raise Boston’s 18th NBA Championship.

Brad Stevens will have a full roster with complete talent this upcoming season. With the new arrivals and established stars, the Celtics are trending up for next season.

 

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2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

The Golden State Warriors are the 2017 NBA champions. Now that the Finals are over, the entire basketball community will be focusing on the upcoming NBA Draft on June 22. This is a prime opportunity for teams to either deepen their roster or build playoff caliber teams. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0.

1: Boston Celtics: Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson/AP)

The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are working on a trade so that the 76ers can select Markelle Fultz. Even if the trade doesn’t get finalized Fultz will be the number one overall pick in this draft.

2: Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA

Los Angeles is not going to pass on a player who will make those around him better and has the star power that Lonzo Ball has. These rumors floating around about the Lakers falling out of love with Lonzo is all a smokescreen. The truth of the matter is that the first two picks have been decided and they are just trying to keep people interested and on their toes.

3: Philadelphia 76ers: Josh Jackson, SG/SF, Kansas

This pick is just like the first overall pick. It is likely going to be Boston drafting in the third position and they will take Josh Jackson. This is a sign that the Celtics may put all their faith in Isaiah Thomas as their point guard. Jackson can fit right into the culture they are building in Boston and he will help them get closer to compete for a championship.

4: Phoenix Suns: Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke

The Suns are just unlucky. Phoenix was supposed to have a top three pick but fell to fourth when the lottery took place. Now they are going to miss on Josh Jackson by one pick. Jayson Tatum is flying under the radar but will be a very good NBA player.

Tatum has a polished isolation game and can score from anywhere on the floor. Tatum will be a solid second option to Devin Booker.

5: Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: http://www.zimbio.com)

Reports coming out of Sacramento say that the Kings are absolutely in love with De’Aaron Fox and are even willing to trade both the fifth and tenth pick to move up just one spot to get him.

Fox should be around at five and the Kings can draft their franchise point guard. Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox would be a promising backcourt that would help the Kings get closer to the playoffs.

6: Orlando Magic: Johnathan Issac, F, Florida St.

Orlando has been terrible ever since Dwight Howard left. Johnathan Issac has been recently compared to Kevin Durant, but he is not the scorer that Durant is. Issac will bring tons of athleticism to the Magic. He has proven he can play an all-around game but has been very inconsistent. If developed correctly, Issac can become one of the best two-way players in the NBA and an All-Star.

7: Minnesota Timberwolves: Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky

The Timberwolves are already loaded with young talent and in a perfect world, Tom Thibodeau would like to acquire more veterans in the locker room. Minnesota might be looking to make a trade in the future and will take the best available player which will be Malik Monk. Monk is a scoring machine capable of going off at any moment. He is the best scorer to come out of college since Kevin Durant and will easily average 20 points per game in the NBA.

8: New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina, PG, France

New York has always been a city of immigrants. The Knicks are going to follow that mold it seems, as they already have Kristaps Porzingis and are in love with Frank Ntilikina.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5 and 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.

9: Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr., PG, NC State

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit:http://bleacherreport.com)

Dennis Smith is arguably a top five player in this class. The Mavericks have a chance to find their franchise point guard who can help lead them back into the playoffs. Smith can score, pass and rebound with the best of them while in college. He also has the insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

10: Sacramento Kings: Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona

The Kings currently have two core pieces in Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein. If they take Fox earlier in the draft then it becomes an even better core. Lauri Markkanen could then take this team to even better heights.

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 would fit alongside Cauley-Stein because he can stretch the floor.

Getting Fox and Markkanen would make the Kings one of the best young teams in the NBA.

11: Charlotte Hornets: Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville

Donovan Mitchell was projected to be a late-first round pick around a month ago but has lately been flying up draft boards. Teams who have worked Mitchell out have been really impressed by the 6-foot-3 shooting guard. Mitchell is a shot creator and that is something the Hornets need. Charlotte could create a dangerous backcourt by pairing Mitchell with Kemba Walker.

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.

Giles has had a lot of injuries but if he can get healthy he has the skill and potential to be the best player in this draft class.

13: Denver Nuggets: Zach Collins, PF/C, Gonzaga

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: http://www.zimbio.com)

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 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

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: Chris Machian- The World Harold)

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, C, 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. The talent they already have and can acquire with Adebayo will allow the Bucks to get closer to the Eastern Conference finals.

18: Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard, SG, Duke

Luke Kennard fits the new style of the NBA. He is a pure shooter and can be a valuable scorer in the NBA. Kennard isn’t going to be a guy who changes a franchise but as a sidekick to Paul George, he could thrive. George wants the Pacers to add talent so they can compete for a title adding Kennard would help go a long way in the Pacers effort to keep Paul George when he becomes a free agent.

19: Atlanta Hawks: Jarrett Allen, C, Texas

Dwight Howard is aging and no longer a top center in the NBA. The Hawks must prepare for the future and that could be in the form of Jarrett Allen. Allen is a beast on the boards and has the potential to become a solid post-up big man.

20: Portland Trailblazers: Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum need help and Justin Jackson would fit perfectly with this team. Jackson would be the piece to help get the Blazers 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.

21: Oklahoma City Thunder: OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit:http://hoosierstateofmind.com)

OG Anunoby will improve the Thunder on the defensive end of the floor immediately. In college, Anunoby was able to defend all five positions and that kind of versatility will make him a valuable player.

He also shot 36 percent from three in his career and will help take some pressure off of Russell Westbrook.

22: Brooklyn Nets: Ivan Rabb, C, California

The Nets will not be good for a long time which means they can be patient with the development of Ivan Rabb. 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 and that is what the Nets will try and bottle up and turn into a consistent output.

23: Toronto Raptors: Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Germany

Isaiah Hartenstein is a bit of an unknown but is an old school big man. He plays an extremely physical style and is a great rebounder. Hartenstein is also a great shot blocker and the Raptors really need an inside presence. He has very little experience but the success of Kristaps Porzingis helps Hartenstein.

Isaiah Hartenstein will need a lot of developing on his offensive game but with the Raptors current roster, he can fill the role of rebounder and rim protector without having to rush his offensive development.

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: Terrance Ferguson, SG, Australia

Terrance Ferguson has been very hyped up as of late. He attacks the basketball and can also be a spot up shooter. Ferguson will need to develop defensively but would be a good fit with the Magic who need some more scoring.

26: Portland Trailblazers: Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU

Semi Ojeleye is an athletic freak. Ojeleye can handle the ball, shoot threes, create his own shot and get to the rim. Semi Ojeleye is going somewhat underrated in this draft because of his lack of perimeter defense. The Blazers have enough picks to take a shot on Ojeleye to continue building the depth needed to compete in the West.

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

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: http://247sports.com)

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: Josh Hart, SG, Villanova

Josh Hart is a leader and a winner, and the Lakers could use some of that in their locker room.

Hart improved his scoring each season at Villanova, and that should translate into the NBA. Hart doesn’t have to be a starting shooting guard to make a big impact. Every team needs a bench scorer and Hart can fill that void for the Lakers as they continue to build towards a championship.

29: San Antonio Spurs: Thomas Bryant, C, Indiana

Any player that the Spurs take should celebrate as if they won the championship. The Spurs will develop Thomas Bryant into a solid NBA starter. Bryant is an excellent rebounder and has a knack for getting offensive boards. He has some decent low post moves and with Gregg Popovich coaching him up he can turn decent into dominant.

30: Utah Jazz: Tyler Lydon, F, 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 Utah as a solid role player.

Second Round

31: Atlanta Hawks: Dillon Brooks, SF, Oregon

32: Phoenix Suns: Dwayne Bacon, SF, Florida St.

33: Orlando Magic: Jawun Evans, PG, Oklahoma St.

34: Sacramento Kings: Rodions Kurucs, SF, Latvia

35: Orlando Magic: DJ Wilson, PF, Michigan

36: Philadelphia 76ers: Tyler Dorsey, G, Oregon

37: Boston Celtics: Johnathan Motley, PF, Baylor

38: Chicago Bulls: Devin Robinson, F, Florida

39: Philadelphia 76ers: Derrick White, G, Colorado

40: New Orleans Pelicans: Frank Mason III, PG, Kansas

41: Charlotte Hornets: Tony Bradley, C, North Carolina

42: Utah Jazz: Mathias Lessort, F/C, France

43: Houston Rockets: Kyle Kuzma, PF, Utah

44: New York Knicks: Frank Jackson, SG, Duke

45: Houston Rockets: Ike Anigbogu, C UCLA

46: Philadelphia 76ers: Anzejs Pasecniks, C, Latvia

47: Indiana Pacers: LJ Peak, SG Georgetown

48: Milwaukee Bucks: Alec Peters, PF, Valparaiso

49: Denver Nuggets: Jaron Blossomgame, F, Clemson

50: Philadelphia 76ers: Jonah Bolden, PF, Australia

51: Denver Nuggets: Alberto Abalde, SF, Spain

52: Washington Wizards: Cameron Oliver, PF, Nevada

53: Boston Celtics: PJ Dozier, SG, South Carolina

54: Phoenix Suns: Nigel Williams-Goss, PG, Gonzaga

55: Utah Jazz: Sindarius Thornwell, SG, South Carolina

56: Boston Celtics: Aleksandear Vezenkov, F, Bulgaria

57: Brooklyn Nets: Edmund Summer, PG, Xavier

58: New York Knicks: Sterling Brown, SG, SMU

59: San Antonio Spurs: Monte Morris, PG, Iowa St.

60: Atlanta Hawks: Wesley Iwundu, SG, Kansas State

 

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Raptors

Toronto Raptors 2017 NBA Draft Profile

Day 21 of our 2017 NBA Draftmas special focuses on the draft needs and targets of the Toronto Raptors.

Summary

Raptors

Kyle Lowry may throw a wrench in Toronto’s plan to compete for a title next season. (Photo by Nathan Denette of The Canadian Press)

The Raptors have remained one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference for the last four seasons. Their combined record during that time is 204-124. Under head coach Dwayne Casey, Toronto has a .548 winning percentage while ranking top 10 in points per game each year.

Their success has been overshadowed by the LeBron James era of basketball, as they have failed to reach the NBA finals despite finishing first in the Atlantic Division three out of the last four seasons. Due to the fact that overcoming the Cavaliers, as well as the super team in the west that shall remained unnamed, it seems as though Toronto’s championship window is slowly closing.

With star point guard Kyle Lowry, and newly acquired forwards Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker possibly leaving in free agency, the Raptors may have a multitude of needs to address in the draft.

Picks & Needs

First Round: No 23

With only one pick in the 2017 NBA draft, the Raptors will need to find a diamond in the ruff with their 23rd pick. If Kyle Lowry leaves, they will have a huge hole at the point guard position, although Corey Joseph and Delon Wright could be enough to keep them competitive. If Serge Ibaka or P.J. Tucker were to leave, there would be a severe hole at the forward position, as Ibaka and Tucker, along with center Jonas Valanciunas, were the heart and soul of their defense this season.

Targets & Thoughts

Raptors

Semi Ojeleye has been overlooked due to playing in the AAC. (Photo by Centraltrack.com)

Option 1

Pick #23: Semi Ojeleye, Forward, SMU

Ojeleye, a former Duke Blue Devil, is a freak athlete who carried his SMU team to the NCAA tournament. He averaged about 19 points and seven rebounds per game, which was good enough to award him with the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year award (AAC).

Ojeleye is flying under the radar as the AAC has been labeled as having lesser talented competition. Also, he is considered a bit undersized at 6-foot-6, but his 240-pound frame and rebounding ability suggest he is more than ready for the jump to the NBA. The junior would be a great fit in Toronto, as he is an inside-outside scoring threat who is also no slouch on defense.

The Junior’s basketball IQ sets him apart. He did a great job of limiting turnovers and playing to his strengths. Even as the best player on his team, he rarely forced the issue, and simply did his job. I believe Ojeleye can be one of the most impactful players in this draft class, as he is extremely versatile, smart, and can be used as a mismatch against almost every NBA team.

Option 2

Pick #23: Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, Power Forward/Center, Kentucky

Another freak athletic specimen, freshman Adebayo has gotten incredible praise from his coaches, teammates and opponents alike. Kentucky coach John Calipari said that he projects Adebayo to “be kind of like Karl (Towns) and even Anthony (Davis)”.

Like Towns and Davis, Adebayo’s per 40-minutes stat line consisted of over 17 points and 10 rebounds on over 56 percent from the field. Although I do not project him to be anywhere close to the offensive or defensive star that Towns or Davis have become, I do project him to be a highly skilled forward with plenty of room to grow.

He struggled defensively, as he only averaged 1.5 blocks per game with a defensive rebounding percentage of only 17.2 percent, which are a bit underwhelming for his 6-foot-10 250-pound frame. Both Towns and Davis managed to average over two blocks per game, with Davis averaging an astounding 4.7, while they both had a defensive rebounding percentage of over 22 percent.

Since Adebayo is only 19, he has plenty of time to develop his defense, rebounding and low post play. The transition to the NBA could be difficult, but if he is put in the right situation, he could develop into quite the two-way player.

Raptors

Ike Anigbogu is being severely overlooked due to not starting in a single game in his freshman season. (Photo via Twitter)

Option 3

Pick #23: Christopher Ike Anigbogu, Center, UCLA

Anigbogu has flown under the radar as he did not start a single game in his freshman season at UCLA. His incredible athleticism, defensive ability and strength has drawn interest from multiple NBA teams. His per 40-minutes stat line includes 14.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game.

Anigbogu has an incredible amount explosiveness for his 6-foot-10 250-pound frame. He managed to bring down 4.1 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes. His rebounding ability alone could be a huge asset to the Raptors who ranked 18th in the NBA in rebounding. His potential is through the roof as he is only 19-years-old. He has been a highly touted prospect since being ranked the number one high school center in California after averaging about 17 points and 10 rebounds in his senior season.

Conclusion

The Raptors have been one of the most successful teams over the last four seasons, although they clearly need to add a versatile difference maker in order to compete for a spot in the NBA Finals. If Kyle Lowry leaves, it will be interesting to see what the Raptors will do to fill the void, although with the assumption that he resigns, I expect the Raptors to add a versatile big man that can be an impact player off of the bench behind Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka.

Semi Ojeleye can impact a game very similarly to Ibaka, as he has a profound inside-outside offensive game, while also being an above average rebounder and defender. Bam Adebayo is a highly touted athletic freak who excels at facing up toward the basket on offense. Ike Anigbogu is another athletic freshman with tons of potential, who can immediately impact the game on the offensive and defensive boards.

 

Thanks for checking out the Toronto Raptors 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 22 of our NBA Draftmas special to see what the Utah Jazz may do.

 

NBA Draftmas Day 19: Oklahoma City Thunder

NBA Draftmas Day 20: Brooklyn Nets

 

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Luke Kennard is the Next Steph Curry

I’ll be honest. I am not as bold as Lavar Ball, who said his son, Lonzo, will be better than Steph Curry. What I will say is this, Duke’s Luke Kennard will mirror Steph Curry’s game in the NBA.

Background

Let’s start out with a little background on Luke Kennard. The soon to be 21-year-old, Kennard attended Franklin High School in Franklin, Ohio. As a junior and senior, Kennard was donned the Ohio Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year. Ohio is also, of course, where the great Lebron James played his high school basketball. Kennard, who averaged around 40 points a game during his senior year, finished ahead of Lebron, and second all-time on the Ohio High School Athletic Association career scoring list. Oh and by the way, he was also named the Division II State Offensive Player of the Year in 2013, but for football. As quarterback for Franklin High, Kennard threw for 2,331 yards with 26 passing and 4 rushing touchdowns. The craziest part is that he threw right handed, even though he is a left handed shooter. Yes, this dude is a total freak. The 6’6 athletic guard did not disappoint at the next level.

Kennard in High School during a game in which he dropped 59 points for Franklin High (wn.com)

While coming off the bench his freshman year, Kennard averaged 11.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game for the Blue Devils. Great numbers for a freshman off the bench, but Kennard had not been used to this type of role, as he has been the star player his whole life. After starting only six games during the regular season, Kennard started all of the ACC tournament, and NCAA tournament games. It was his past sophomore year that Kennard showed that his High School stats were no joke.

During his sophomore campaign, Kennard lead the Blue Devils in scoring at 19.5 points per game. He did this on 49% shooting, including 43.8% from deep. Not only did Kennard shoot the lights out, he also averaged 5 rebounds and 2.5 assists a game. These stats were good enough for Kennard to be named a consensus All American, as well as a unanimous selection for the All-ACC First Team. In three contests against the eventual NCAA champion, UNC Tar Heels, Kennard averaged 22.7 points, on 53.8% shooting, as well as grabbing 4 rebounds per game. His efficiency and ability to knock down shots are just two of the many reasons he will be a star in the NBA. Having coach Mike Krzyzewski for two seasons could have also helped a little.

Kennard vs. Curry

Now, back to the Steph Curry comparisons. One thing that must be noted is the fact that Steph Curry played at Davidson University, who have sent a total of five players to the NBA, none of course played with Steph. Kennard’s teammates, Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, and Franklin Jackson will all be selected in the first round of the upcoming NBA Draft on June 22nd. Not even named was Grayson Allen, who is staying for his senior year and will be a first round draft pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. My point is this, Steph had to be the guy or else his team would lose by 40. I am not taking anything away from him averaging 25 points a game over three years at Davidson, but during his junior year, Curry took 687 shots, which was over 200 more shots than Kennard had attempted this past year. Duke also plays in the ACC, which is far better competition that the Southern Conference, which Curry and Davidson competed in, before recently joining the Atlantic-10.

Curry during his time at Davidson University (Warriors World)

Surrounded by better teammates, and playing in a better conference, Kennard was able to match up very similar to Curry, who is arguably one of the best college basketball players of all time. Curry, who during his sophomore season averaged 26 points per game, shot 48.3% from the field, and 43.9% from three. The percentages almost identical to Kennard’s. They also both were able to shoot above 85% from the free throw line. I also believe Kennard will be a much better defender than Curry, mostly because of his quickness and the fact that he is 6’6”. All in all, both players can score at will. Kennard has shown he can get his shot off against anyone at any time because of his quick shot and athleticism, similar to Curry.

The Next Level

People might ask, what about the ball handling and ability to make plays like Curry? In a post draft workout interview with the Indiana Pacers, Kennard was asked if he thought he could be a playmaker at the next level. He responded with a confident “I do”, and why wouldn’t he? He has shown throughout his athletic career that he can virtually do anything.

In that same interview, Kennard also touched upon the spacing in the NBA and how the game has changed into more of a shooter’s league. To put it into perspective, the average amount of threes attempted in a game was 13 in the 1999-2000 season. This past year, it was 26 per game. We also saw the Houston Rockets break the record for most threes attempted in a season, as well as most threes made per game. This record will probably be broken as more and more teams have realized how valuable the 3-point shot truly is.

Not a bad league to enter if you are a sniper like Kennard, who shot over 44% from downtown. So where should he get picked?

Best Fit

In a league where teams are looking for guys who can stretch the floor and hit threes, Kennard is a perfect fit for essentially any team. Mock drafts have him at around 18th pick to the Indiana Pacers, which would be an absolute steal. If Kennard falls to the Pacers, it wouldn’t be the worst spot. The stadium is about two hours away from his hometown in Franklin, Ohio, and playing alongside Paul George would be extremely beneficial. Teams like Boston, Orlando, Dallas, Charlotte and Denver, who all have picks before Indiana, could really use a guy like Kennard. Not only can he be an immediate impact for these teams, but Kennard could thrive as all of the teams listed finished in the top half of the league in three point shots attempted during the 2016-17 campaign.

Of the top rated prospects, (Fultz, Ball, Jackson, Fox, Tatum, Smith, Monk), Kennard finished ahead of all of them in three-point percentage. Why draft a player who cannot shoot when teams are taking more deep shots than ever? In a league dominated by the three ball, Kennard is the obvious choice.

On June 22nd, we will most likely see a situation similar to when Johnny Flynn was drafted ahead of Steph Curry. With an already established shot, the confident and consistent Kennard will drop a lot lower than he should have. GM’s will be shaking their heads in the near future if they pass on Luke Kennard.

 

 

Featured image by Swarm and Sting.com

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Pacers

Indiana Pacers 2017 NBA Draft Profile

Day 17 of our 2017 NBA Draftmas special focuses on the draft needs and targets of the Indiana Pacers.

Summary

Pacers

The Pacers will go as far as Paul George and Myles Turner will take them. (Photo by Cluthpoints.com)

The Pacers are in a state of stagnation as they have been eliminated in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs for two straight seasons. Under new head coach Nate McMillan, the team ranked 15th in points per game and 16th in points allowed.

They are carried by superstar forward Paul George, who is a three time All-NBA and All-Defensive player. Many questioned whether George would be able to return to his All-Star caliber form after a gruesome leg injury in 2014, although he has proved doubters wrong by returning in better shape than ever. He has averaged upwards of 23 points, six rebounds and three assists per game in his last two seasons. With two years and a player option left on his contract, the Pacers window to win now is closing. With rumors swirling about the possibility of George opting out to join his home town Los Angeles Lakers, the Pacers must do whatever it takes, whether it is bringing in veterans, or drafting the proper rookies, in order to retain him.

The most talented young piece Indiana possess is center Myles Turner. The 21-year-old was selected with the 11th pick in the 2015 NBA draft and has proven himself as an impact player at the next level. He played and started in 81 games in which he averaged about 15 points, seven rebounds and two blocks per game on 51 percent shooting. Turner has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor as he can work the post just as well as he can hit the three ball. His offensive versatility will be key for the construction of the Pacers lineup moving forward.

Other key players include Glenn Robinson III and 10-year veteran Thad Young. Robinson III has emerged as one of the most explosive players in the NBA, although his jumper has flown under the radar as he shot about 47 percent from the field and most notably 39 percent from three. Young took a step back on the stat sheet after averaging 15 points and nine rebounds per game with the Brooklyn Nets in 2015-16 and only 11 points and six rebounds in 2016-17, although his field goal percentage rose significantly. His offensive role with Indiana has been diminished, but he is still an integral piece of the Pacers on both ends of the floor.

Notable free-agents include floor generals Jeff Teague and Aaron Brooks, sharpshooter C.J. Miles and physical big man Lavoy Allen. If the Pacers were to lose all four of these players, they would have some gaping holes to fill.

Picks & Needs

Indiana has two picks in this years’ NBA draft, including one in the first and one in the second round.

First round: No. 18

Second round: No. 47

If the Pacers were to lose both Teague and Brooks, they would be in desperate need of a point guard. With the loss of Miles, there is an opening for Robinson III to receive more minutes, although they will have lost a supreme three-point shooter in the process. Finally, if Indiana moves on from Lavoy Allen, they will seemingly put Al Jefferson, Kevin Seraphin or Rakeem Christmas in a more defined bench role.

Targets & Thoughts

Pacers

Luke Kennard is arguably the best pure scorer int he 2017 NBA draft. (Photo by SI.com)

Pick #18: Luke Kennard, Guard, Duke

Kennard would be a perfect fit at the two-guard position in Indiana. He can replace C.J. Miles as their go-to three-point specialist and Monta Ellis as their athletic slasher. Unlike Miles, Kennard can legitimately create his own shot. In his sophomore season, he averaged 13 field goal attempts per game while shooting 49 percent from the field and a miraculous 44 percent from three.

The all-time leading scorer in Ohio high school basketball history (yes he passed LeBron James) is a lethal scorer who can be the Robin to Paul George’s Batman. I’m extremely surprised that Kennard has not been mentioned among the top-10 picks in mock drafts, as he seems to be one of the most NBA ready players. He was ranked first in the ACC in minutes played, points produced, offensive rating, offensive plus minus and win shares in 2016-17. If the Pacers were lucky enough to land the consensus All American, their offensive ranking would surely jump into the top ten.

Pacers

Two-time Naismith Award winner Frank Mason will be a steal in the second round. (Photo by Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Pick #47: Frank Mason, Guard, Kansas

With the possible losses of both Teague and Brooks, point guard may be a severe need for the Pacers. Wooden Award winner Frank Mason has been projected as a mid-second round pick due to his lack of size and potential, as he is a 5-foot-11 23-year-old, although he would be a great fit in Indiana. His size failed to hold him back from becoming one of the elite point guards at the college level, and I don’t believe it will hold him back moving forward.

The two-time Naismith Award winner averaged about 21 points, five assists and four rebounds in his senior season. He also led Kansas to two straight Elite Eight appearances in the NCAA tournament. His leadership and offensive ability will make him an above average floor general at the next level.

 

Conclusion

The Pacers may need to replace point guards Jeff Teague and Aaron Brooks, making senior Frank Mason a perfect fit in the second round. Also, with the assumed departure of C.J. Miles, Indiana will need to add a three-point specialist, like Luke Kennard, to force the defense to spread the floor.

A guy like Kennard can create more floor space and passing options for Paul George on the drive and Myles Turner at the high post. If the Pacers land either of these two All-Americans, they will be in a great position moving forward, with or without George.

Thanks for checking out the Indiana Pacers 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 18 of NBA Draftmas to see what the Atlanta Hawks may do.

 

NBA Draftmas Day 15: Chicago Bulls

NBA Draftmas Day 16: Milwaukee Bucks

 

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Magic

Orlando Magic 2017 NBA Draft Profile

Day six of our 2017 NBA Draftmas special is here and it is time to look at the struggling Orlando Magic.

Summary

Magic

Aaron Gordon and the struggling Orlando Magic need to add a corner stone piece in the 2017 NBA draft. (Photo by KicksOnFire.com)

Expectations were fairly high for the Magic heading into the 2016-17 season, as they had acquired Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo at the beginning of the year. Under their new head coach Frank Vogel, the team finished with a 29-53 record, with an offense and defense both ranking outside of the top 20.

The Magic have yet to reach the playoffs since trading their star center Dwight Howard to the Lakers in August of 2012. In this trade, Orlando acquired six different players and a first-round draft pick, although the only player remaining on the roster from this deal is their starting center, Nikola Vucevic.

They moved on from Ibaka at the trade deadline this season, acquiring wing scorer Terrance Ross and a first-round pick from the Toronto Raptors. This move opened up playing time for the former fourth overall pick Aaron Gordon, who averaged 16 points, six rebounds and almost two assists per game after the All-Star break.

The Magic are a very poor team with an underwhelming roster. Their major pieces along with Gordon, Ross and Vucivic are guards Evan Fournier and Elfrid Payton.

Fournier is a good wing scorer who can shoot the mid-range and three at an above average clip, while Payton is a ball dominant point guard who excels at facilitating and crashing the glass. With this core, the Magic clearly lack an All-Star presence, although with a top ten pick in the upcoming draft, they may be able to add a perfect piece to their puzzle.

Picks & Needs

The Magic have two first and second-round picks, allowing them to add a multitude of talent to their budding young roster.

First Round: No. 6, No. 25 (From TOR)

Second Round: No. 33 (From LAL), No. 35

Orlando’s needs include a go-to scorer, a big man presence, and some versatility. With the abundance of picks they have, the Magic have a great chance to address the majority of their needs this offseason.

Targets & Thoughts

Magic

Jayson Tatum represented team USA’s U17 team in the 2014 FIBA World Championship. (Photo by TheDevilsDen.com)

Pick #6: Jayson Tatum, F, Duke

Tatum is one of the premier talents in the draft and has a real chance of falling to the sixth spot. Tatum lead the Blue Devils to a 28-9 record, while averaging 17 points and seven rebounds in his freshman season. The 6-foot-8 wing has incredible length that will allow him shoot over defenders, rebound and defend multiple positions at a high level.

His offensive skill set is primed for the NBA, as he can ball handle, pass and score from anywhere on the floor. One of the most important assets Tatum possess is his leadership ability. Along with senior Amile Jefferson, Tatum was the vocal leader for the Blue Devils in 2016-17. This will be integral for a Magic team that seems to lack a true leadership presence.

Tatum could stand to add some weight in order to bang bodies down low, although that is sure to come as he is only 19-years-old. He may have the highest potential of any player in the draft, and if he falls to Orlando at six, the franchise will have found their superstar.

Pick #25: Franklin Jackson, G, Duke

Franklin Jackson, to the surprise of many, decided to enter the 2017 draft despite being ranked as the 45th best prospect. He has yet to sign an agent, so he will be eligible to withdraw from the draft and return to Duke any time prior to the June 12th deadline. The freshman averaged 11 points, two and half rebounds and two assists per game.

Jackson is a 6-foot-3 combo guard who has shown a great ability to ball handle, drive the lane and shoot the jumper. He shot 54 percent from the field and 39 percent from three which shows he can be an efficient scorer. The majority of people look at Jackson as a point guard, although he is truly a scoring guard at heart.

I can see Jackson playing an integral role for the Magic, acting as a ball handler who can score from anywhere on the court. He, along with wings like Ross and Fournier could make the Magic a very successful and efficient scoring team.

Magic

Johnathan Motley is no stranger to creating posters. (Photo by CollegeBasketballTalk.com)

Pick #33: Johnathan Motley, F, Baylor

Motley is a versatile big man who can score inside and out. He averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per game in his junior season, while leading Baylor to a 27-8 record and a Regional Semi-Final appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Motley, standing 6-foot-9 and weighing 240 pounds, will add a needed size and strength that the Magic have lacked since trading Serge Ibaka. His size and athleticism will allow him to be a great defender and rebounder at the next level as well.

Motley can be a starter of the future, as he will be able to guard the three through five positions as he continues to develop. His offensive and defensive ability make him a prime target for the Magic.

Pick #35: Jonathan Jeanne, C, France

The 7-foot-2 center has flown under the radar as he is an international prospect playing overseas. Jeanne projects to be a solid rim protector and rebounder, although another season or two overseas would do wonders for the 20-year-old.

Jeanne would get bullied down low in the NBA at his current size, as he is barely 200 pounds, although a few years of development could turn him into an impact big of the future. His size and raw athleticism will eventually give him a huge advantage over the average center in the NBA.

With four draft picks, and only 15 roster spots, the Magic would be smart to use a pick on a player that they can stash away. Jeanne would be a viable replacement for Bismack Biyombo after a year or two of development overseas.

Conclusion

The Magic need to add as much talent as possible. By drafting Tatum, they will add a versatile wing who is a lethal scorer, above average defender and rebounder. With Franklin Jackson, the team can add a score first oriented guard, who can bring a different dynamic from current point guard Elfrid Payton. Jonathon Motley can add more size and versatility to a team in need of dynamic players. Finally, Jonathan Jeanne would make for a perfect draft-and-stash pick, as with four draft picks, the Magic may not have enough roster spots to add all four rookies to their roster in 2017.

Thanks for checking out the Orlando Magic 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day seven of NBA Draftmas to see what the Minnesota Timberwolves may do.

NBA Draftmas Day 5: Sacramento Kings

NBA Draftmas Day 4: Phoenix Suns

(Featured Image by Wikipedia.com)

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