NBA summary so far

NBA Preview:

Well every team has played from 10-12 games so far this season so it’s time to make some reflections on the start to the season.

Whether it’s championship caliber teams struggling, star players off to rough starts or rookies under performing here’s a look at the start of the 2017-2018 NBA season.

Eastern Conference:

I’m going to go out on limb and say no one had the Magic and Pistons in the top 3 in the east through 10+ games. The Pistons have benefited from Tobias Harris’ spectacular play on both ends.

Other teams have shocked the Eastern Conference with their struggles. Luckily for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the season doesn’t end today or they would be out of the playoffs. Not having a second scoring option to go with Lebron has hurt them.

The Milwaukee Bucks have struggled despite MVP level play from Giannis Antetokounmpo. With the addition of Eric Bledsoe, the team should turn it around moving forward.

The Celtics have rattled off 10 straight wins even without their second best player. Brad Stevens has put together great game plans and has transformed a roster full of youth into the best defensive team in the NBA.

Players Worth Noting:

NBA

Kyle Lowry, (Raptors Republic).

Ben Simmons has practically led the way for the Philadelphia 76ers. Once a front runner for the rookie of the year, Simmons has lived up to his anticipated hype. In his last 10 games, Simmons is nearly averaging a triple double. He has 17.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game as well as a 19.8 player efficiency rating. Simmons is leading a 76ers team through the point-forward position.

Kristaps Porzingis has been incredible for the New York Knicks. In his last 10, Porzingis is averaging 29.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. He is also at an astounding 29.2 for player efficiency rating which is one of the tops in the entire NBA.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the tops in the NBA in player efficiency as well. He sits at 32.7 and is averaging 32 points per game. Giannis is one of the only reasons that the Bucks have been competitive through 10 games.

Kyle Lowry is one of the players who has struggled out of the gates for the Raptors. Lowry is shooting 32 percent from three and 39 percent from the field. He is averaging 12.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists as the secondary option for the Raptors. All of those per game stats are well below his career averages.

Western Conference:

There isn’t too many surprises in the Western Conference. Some of the bigger ones have been the Thunder, Grizzlies and Clippers.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have struggled to win games. They are getting over 60 points per game from Westbrook, Anthony and George. They are 4-6 and have gotten great play from their big three.

One of the shocking things is how well the Memphis Grizzlies have played. They managed to knock off the Warriors and Rockets already and those two teams are the best in the Western Conference so far. They come out at 7-4 and have gotten help from a rested and ready Chandler Parsons who has just under a 17 player efficiency rating.

Even though the Clippers are 5-5, they have had glimpses of great play. They won their first four and have hit a skid as of late. Obviously their strength of schedule hasn’t been too heavy, but the Clippers are a fringe playoff team and they are only going to get better as the season moves forward.

Players Worth Noting:

Clint Capela has provided a low post threat and has been the second option for the Houston Rockets. Capela is averaging 12.7 points and 10.6 rebounds as well as 2 blocks and 2 assists. He is manning the middle for the Rockets and has helped them to a 8-3 record.

Lamarcus Aldridge has benefited from Kawhi Leonard being out. He is averaging 22.6 point and 8.3 rebounds and has helped a team without one of their stars jump out to a 7-4 record.

A final statistic that is interesting for the league as a whole so far is that Shabazz Muhammad is averaging 10.3 minutes in the seven games the Timberwolves have won this year. He is also averaging 22.3 minutes in the four losses they have this season.

 

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Timberwolves

To beat the Warriors: Timberwolves

Right now the NBA is seen as the Warriors, and everyone else. Despite a rather sluggish start, nobody thinks there will be a contest come playoffs time. Quite frankly, there are a lot of teams a move or two away from being able to compete, and these moves aren’t unrealistic. So here are a few moves that certain teams could make, to really be able to compete with the Warriors.

Minnesota Timberwolves

A lot of people would argue the Wolves are too young to really compete for a title; however, I look at the level of play to determine who can compete, rather than using lazy narratives such as ‘they need to learn how to win’. The fact of the matter is that the Wolves are looking scary, without a point guard who can really create. Jeff Teague is a very solid guard, but I think he would be most effective as a sixth-man, like Derrick Rose. The Wolves big three has been looking scary. While at the moment they are ranked 29th in fast break efficiency, with the way these guys have been able to run the floor, once they get used to each other, they could be one of the best teams on the break in the league. Tom Thibodeau’s magic has begun to work already, as the Wolves defensive rating is slowly climbing.

The reason I think the Timberwolves can compete with the Warriors, Karl Anthony-Towns, has not been as good as advertised. He isn’t scoring as often (21.8 PPG in 2017-18 compared to 25.1 PPG in 2016-17), which would be forgivable, considering the Wolves have more offensive options; However, he isn’t significantly more efficient (59.1 eFG% this season vs. 57.6 eFG% last season). My personal problem is when watching him he doesn’t look like the dominant center everyone was saying he would be. Of course, the season is still very young.

Assuming everything else comes together, they really only need a point who can defend, and create on the offensive end.

Trades:

The only person the Wolves should go after is Eric Bledsoe, as the Suns are basically forced to move him at this point, and there really are no other starting caliber point guards on the block.

Wolves receive:

PG Eric Bledsoe

2018 second round pick (via Toronto)

Suns receive:

C Cole Aldrich

PG Tyus Jones

SG Marcus Georges-Hunt

2018 first round pick (via Thunder)

Overall the Suns would probably feel pressured into making this deal; considering they would get a decent enough replacement guard in Tyus Jones, that has some potential. The pick is also a nice addition, and Cole Aldrich has shown potential to be a decent backup center and has a good amount of experience under his belt. The Suns would certainly lose on this deal. However, I’m not too sure what better offers they would really get.

The Wolves have one of the scariest young duos in the league in KAT and Andrew Wiggins, both are electric offensively, and have the tools and length to be dominant defensively. So even if they decide to wait and not try to compete with the Warriors, barring any sort of major front office collapse and/or heartbreaking injury, it’s likely the Wolves will be NBA champions within the next decade.


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Phoenix Suns NBA draft

Phoenix Suns 2017 NBA Draft profile

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

Summary

Phoenix Suns NBA draft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOENIX suns nba draft Picks & Needs

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

First Round: No. 4

Second Round: No. 32, No. 54

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

Targets & Thoughts

 Pick #4: Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas

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

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

Phoenix Suns NBA draft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

NBA Draftmas Day 3: Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Draftmas Day 2: Los Angeles Lakers

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Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers: Overrated

The NBA playoffs are leaving basketball fans bored. Aside from the hype surrounding the Warriors’ and Cavaliers’ third-straight finals matchup, there isn’t much going on to talk about. There is one hot topic most are afraid to admit that needs to be brought to light.

There is always an argument that when a team is good, or bad, the reason is the players or the coaches, and of course, it usually is a combination of both.

Doc Rivers won a title due to the future Hall of Famers he was coaching. Aside from those players he had in Boston, for most accounts, he has been average at best as an NBA coach yet people will constantly list him as a top tier coach.

Doc Rivers is the most overrated coach in the NBA.

Orlando Magic

Doc Rivers Overrated

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

Doc Rivers’ head coaching career started in Orlando. While the head coach of the Magic, Rivers had an overall record of 171-168. That is just a 50.4 winning percentage. In the playoffs with Orlando, he went 5-10, which is far from impressive.

Rivers had some really great players while in Orlando too. Players by the name of Tracy McGrady, Ben Wallace, Mike Miller, Grant Hill, Patrick Ewing, Horace Grant and Shawn Kemp. Wallace, Miller and Grant were all eventual champions. A few players on this list are even Hall of Famers.

To be fair, McGrady, Wallace and Miller were relatively young. Ewing, Grant and Kemp were at the very end of their careers. He also had to deal with these players getting injured frequently.

Even so, he finished only three games above .500 in the regular season with Orlando. There was no postseason success and in 2003, he was fired after a 1-10 start. His lack of success in both the regular season and playoffs with Orlando would force him to sit out of coaching until Boston came calling.

Boston celtics

Doc Rivers Overrated

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

Doc Rivers had the most success as a coach in Boston. Rivers amassed 416 wins with the Celtics. He also lost 305 games making his win percentage in Boston 57.7 percent. That percentage dropped to 55.7 in the playoffs with the Celtics as he went 59-47.

Until the Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to pair with Paul Pierce, many called for Rivers to be fired. All three of these core players will be in the Hall of Fame one day and that is the reason Rivers was able to lead the Celtics to two Finals appearances, capturing one championship.

Without this caliber of players, Rivers is just an average coach at best and even then he doesn’t win 60 percent of the games he coaches.

He also left Boston when it was time for a rebuild. Doc Rivers didn’t want to put in the work with young players and develop the team into a winner. He was looking for a team with star players to make his job as easy as possible which is why he waited for what he felt was the perfect opportunity.

Los Angeles Clippers

Doc Rivers Overrated

(Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/doc-rivers/)

Rivers’ ideal spot was with the Los Angeles Clippers after leaving Boston. Now, some may argue he was traded to L.A. and it wasn’t his choice but the trade was just so the Celtics could receive something in return because he truly loved the city and the organization. He had every intention of forcing his way to the Clippers.

Why would Doc Rivers want to go to a franchise that had only nine playoff appearances since 1970 and has never made it to a conference finals? The answer to that is a roster loaded with talent.

Their current core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan was already there. The roster also included the following: Eric Bledsoe, Chauncey Billups (five-time All-Star, Finals MVP, and NBA champion), Jamal Crawford (three-time Sixth Man of the Year), Caron Butler (two-time All-Star), Grant Hill (seven-time All-Star) and Lamar Odom (Sixth Man of the Year and two-time NBA Champion).

They were very deep and experienced before Rivers arrived. Vinny Del Negro led the Clippers to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons prior to Rivers arriving. Del Negro was taking the Clippers just as far as Doc has. He went 128-102 which was a winning percentage of 55.7 percent and can’t even find a job.

While Rivers has been in L.A., he has gone 217-111 in the regular season. He has underachieved in the playoffs going 18-22 with a team many considered one of the most talented in the NBA. The Clippers are the first team to blow series in five straight playoffs under Rivers. He isn’t succeeding because he is overrated and isn’t a top tier coach.

What This Means For the Los Angeles Clippers

Overall in Doc Rivers’ career, he is 804-584. His winning percentage is 57.9 and ranks ninth among active NBA coaches and 41st all-time. Despite having rosters constantly loaded with All-Stars, Hall of Fame caliber players, and in some cases, champions, he can’t win more than 58 percent of his games.

In the playoffs, he gets worse. He is 82-79 all-time, winning just 50.9 percent of the games he coaches. That is ninth among active coaches and 38th all-time.

Everyone wants to know why the Clippers can’t get over the hump. After another disappointing season, questions rose on what they should do with the roster and the core of the team.

The answer is rather simple. Doc Rivers is average at best and that is why the Clippers continue to remain average. The Clippers don’t have to blow up their roster yet, they just need a better coach.

 

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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

(Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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

(Photo Credit: WILLIAM HOWARD/ICON SPORTSWIRE)

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

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

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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