2017-18 season preview: Top five NBA front courts

 

The NBA has shifted to a more perimeter-oriented league, yet strong, versatile front courts can be the engine to a good team. When the playoffs roll around, having a front court that can consistently score is vital.

Here is where the top five NBA front courts of the 2017-18 season will rank.

Number Five: New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis: 28.0 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 2.1 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 27.6.
Demarcus Cousins: 24.4 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 3.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 23.3.
Solomon Hill: 7.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 9.1

Two tremendous big men with different playing styles teamed up mid-season and hit the ground running together. Solomon Hill has helped take pressure off both big men with solid wing contribution offensively and defensively.

Davis and Cousins get most of the attention here however. The numbers speak for themselves but Davis and Cousins will need to be the leaders in order for the Pelicans to be playoff bound this upcoming season.

Rondo and Holiday will provide a solid balance to give Davis and Cousins a lot of easy looks around the rim.

Number Four: Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA Frontcourts

Karl Anthony Towns guarded by Gorgui Dieng, Photo Courtesy of USA today.

Karl Anthony-Towns: 25.1 ppg, 12.3 rpg 2.7 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 26.0.
Gorgui Dieng: 10.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 14.2.
Jimmy Butler: 23.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.5 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 25.2.

The Timberwolves are obviously a team in question. Yes they have put together a great roster heading into the 2017-18 season, but games aren’t played on paper.

Butler is in the prime of his career, Towns is blossoming into one of the best young big men and Dieng is a double-double big man who plays great around the rim defense. If all three play great basketball, they would be higher on this list, but there is a lot of uncertainty with the new look T-wolves.

Dieng and Towns are both young enough that they could scuffle and pass first guard Ricky Rubio is no longer in town. The numbers of the three don’t lie, but Butler has never played a game with them, so we can’t get too ahead of ourselves.

Number Three: San Antonio Spurs

Lamarcus Aldridge: 17.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 18.7.
Pau Gasol: 12.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.8 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 20.2.
Kawhi Leonard: 25.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.5 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 27.6.

Possibly the best two-way player teamed up with two players who fit in the Spurs’ system and have provided solid output. Leonard has been an MVP-type player at almost all times for the Spurs and helps make Aldridge and Gasol better when he’s on the floor.

Kawhi is obviously the engine on this team and both Gasol and Aldridge provide a complementary role for him. With the back court pretty uncertain, the Spurs are going to lean on the front court for more production than normal.

Aldridge had one of his worst statistical years last year and some of that can be attributed to injuries of his teammates and just flat out Popovich’s system. He will be poised for a bounce back year that could help drive the Spurs deep into the playoffs.

Number Two: Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA Frontcourts

The Cavaliers front court, Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

Tristan Thompson: 8.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.0 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 15.3.
Kevin Love: 19.0 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 1.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 21.2.
LeBron James: 26.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 8.7 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 27.1.

Seventeen All-Star appearances between this front court and they are still number two. The Cavaliers have gotten great return from these three, however Thompson and Love have struggled at times in the playoffs.

The Cavaliers are only as good as their front court output. Thompson is the x-factor in nearly every playoff series because if he plays the way that he has shown flashes of, the Cavaliers are nearly unstoppable.

LeBron is always going to stuff the stat sheet and Love has continued to prove his value as both a rebounder and streaky knock down shooter. However, more often than not, Tristan Thompson has gone missing when they need him most. If the Cavaliers want to beat the Warriors in the NBA Finals, the front court needs to be the catalyst.

Number One: Golden State Warriors

Zaza Pachulia: 6.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 16.1.
Draymond Green: 10.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.0 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 16.5.
Kevin Durant: 25.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.8 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 27.7.

The Kevin Durant experienced worked exactly as well as the Warriors would have hoped. Durant hit the ground running despite an injury mid-season and was the NBA Finals MVP. Durant proved his value as a two-way player in the Finals and came up clutch time after time.

Hate him or like him Draymond Green is a fantastic defender. He can guard all five positions and continues to stuff stat sheets. The Warriors are loaded and are the team to beat in the NBA, and the front court contributes heavily to that.

Realistically the Warriors should start Javale McGee, as he is a jolt of energy who provides much more both offensively and defensively than Pachulia. It ultimately doesn’t matter all that much when you have the best team in basketball.

Summary

Versatile wings are becoming increasingly more valuable in today’s NBA. Some of the best wings help contribute to the best front courts and it just so happens that some of the best wings find themselves on this list.

Each of the top five front courts are over 60.0 in player efficiency and contribute over 40 points and 20 rebounds at the very minimum.

Front court players are vital to postseason success, and we will see just how far the top five NBA front courts can take their teams in the 2017-2018 season.

 

Featured Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

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NBA Draft picks by school

Which school is really putting out the most NBA talent?

This new draft class is full of high expectations and has been called the most stacked class since 2003. It is full of exciting players like Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox. Most of these top picks all came from dominating schools with the exception of Fultz, who won just nine games at Washington last season.

Tatum is from Duke. Fox is from Kentucky. These schools have been putting out a lot of draft picks the last several drafts. Kentucky has had 26 players drafted since 2011. Duke has had 19. These schools put out a lot of prospects, but how are those prospects doing? Let’s take a closer look at how the players drafted from 2011-15 are doing.

I decided not to include the 2016 draft because those players have just experienced one season and still have a lot of work to do and potential to grow. The 2017 draft hasn’t played an NBA game yet. I started back in 2011 because those guys have all played six years and it creates a nice-sized pool of players to look at. Here is what I found.

Kentucky

Out of the 26 players drafted from 2011-15, only three of them have been successful. Those players are Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker.

NBA Draft picks by school

Anthony Davis is dominating the NBA, but Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hasn’t exactly panned out as the No. 2 pick in the draft. (Photo from BoomsBeat)

Davis and Towns were both first overall picks while Booker was a 13th pick. Davis is known as one of the top players in the league today. In his five seasons with New Orleans, he has been selected to four All-Star games, two All-NBA teams and two All-Defensive teams. He has also averaged 22.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game over that stretch.

Towns has had a hot start to his career. The 2016 Rookie of the Year has averaged 21.7 points 11.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in his first two seasons with the Timberwolves. Booker’s future is also looking bright as he averaged 22.1 points per game in his second season.

Players that just did not live up to the hype include Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Julius Randle and James Young. For the amount of players they put in the draft and that one-and-done culture, you’d expect Kentucky to have more stars in the NBA.

Duke

Duke really only has Kyrie Irving and possibly Jabari Parker if it weren’t for his injuries. Irving was a No. 1 pick and Parker was a second pick.

Irving got to work right away in Cleveland, winning Rookie of the Year and hitting the game-winning shot in the 2016 NBA Finals to help the Cavs beat Golden State. He also has been named to four All-Star games and one All-NBA team while averaging 21.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.

Parker played just 25 games during his rookie season, but bounced back his sophomore season with 76. He then only played in 51 games this past year. Injuries have bothered the 22-year-old forward.

When he has played, he has averaged 15.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He just finished his best season statistically with 20.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Hopefully for the Bucks, Parker does not become an injury prone and can help Giannis Antetokounmpo take the Bucks to a deep postseason run.

Notable Duke flops include Austin Rivers, Miles and Mason Plumlee and Kyle Singler.

Kansas

Kansas always been a good basketball program and has put out two stars in the 2014 draft with Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid.

NBA Draft picks by school

Andrew Wiggins has proven he can score in the NBA, but Joel Embiid is still trying to prove he can stay healthy. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Wiggins is developing into a good scorer with the Timberwolves. He won 2015 Rookie of the Year and has also averaged 20.4 points per game over three seasons.

Embiid played great in the 31 games he was able to this past season. He didn’t get to play until this past year due to injuries and was again halted by an injury. If he can ever stay healthy, look out for this man.

Kansas has had other stars in the past like Thomas Robinson and Ben McLemore that did not pan out, but Kansas is not known as an NBA factory like Kentucky and Duke either.

North Carolina

The Tar Heels dominate college hoops, but haven’t put out a star in the NBA in years. Harrison Barnes is the best player they have put out between 2011-15. Barnes still has an empty NBA resume with the exception of his title he won with Golden State. However, this past season as a top offensive option in Dallas, he averaged 19.1 points and five rebounds per game.

Tony Bradley Jr. is the first one-and-done player the Tar Heels have put out in over a decade. Brandon Wright was the last player before Bradley and his NBA career was below average. Hopefully for the Jazz, Bradley’s career is more eventful than Wright’s.

Summary

Other stars from this draft period include Kemba Walker from UConn, Kawhi Leonard from San Diego State, Jimmy Butler from Marquette and Isaiah Thomas from Washington. And that was just from 2011.

The point is just because all these schools like Duke and Kentucky are making noise with their recruiting doesn’t mean that will translate to NBA stardom. NBA talent comes from everywhere. Stars can come from little schools or big schools.

This statement may seem obvious, but the media can really make it look like Kentucky and Duke are the NCAA’s NBA factories. By the amount of draft picks, it surely looks like they should be. But when it comes to NBA talent, that is a different story.

 

Featured Image by Getty Images

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3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

The Olympics are always one of the most captivating sporting events in the world. World-class athletes compete for their name, honor, eternal glory and country. One of the reasons the Olympics are so special is because they take place every four years. There are a large majority people who think many of the events are old and outdated. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has taken a major step in adapting the summer Olympics to grasp the attention of younger fans. The IOC has officially added 3-on-3 Olympic basketball as an event starting in 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. There are many questions as to how this will work and how players will be selected to participate. First, let’s take a look at the rules of this new event.

Rules

3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

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

All official rules for the event can be found here but these rules are the most notable.

First, the court will be 15 meters wide and 11 meters long but a traditional basketball court may be used as well.

Each team will consist of four players, three who play on the court and one available substitute.

The first possession of the game will be determined by a coin flip. Scoring will consist of traditional “playground” rules meaning anything inside the arc will count as one point and all “three pointers” will count as two points.

Teams can also score points from the free throw line. A team will enter the penalty after six team fouls and a player can not foul out.

The game will last 10 minutes unless a team reaches 21 points before time runs out. If the court has a shot clock then the team will have 12 seconds to shoot the ball.

Most of these rules are pretty common to anyone who has played pickup basketball games at a park or recreation center.

USA Selection

It is going to be challenging to predict how the USA Basketball Federation will select its players. Some speculate they will select college players but fans want to see the United State’s best basketball players playing in this event. NBA players have created massive buzz by playing pick up games during the NBA offseason and they have dominated them with spectacular plays.

Who wouldn’t want to see players like Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, John Wall, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and others play basketball with so much space?

Selecting the traditional basketball team is already difficult. There are so many great players in the NBA who don’t make the roster. The 3-on-3 roster will be made up of players who are capable of dominating with their iso skills. The team should consist of a dominant ball handler, an exception wing and a rebounding beast although there may be other strategies to assembling this team.

Possible USA Teams in 2020

Here are three possible combinations that could dominate for team USA in 2020.

Team 1:

3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

(Photo Credit: http://ftw.usatoday.com)

Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie will be 28 years old in 2020 and just entering his prime. This 3-on-3 competition is perfect for a player like Kyrie. He is one of the greatest ball handlers of all time and it is near impossible for anybody in the NBA to guard him one on one. In this competition, Kyrie would have so much space to cross up anybody the world can throw at him. Kyrie also can make the most insane layups through traffic so doing it with all this open space should be a piece of cake.

Kevin Durant, SF, Golden State Warriors: Age is important to look at for these events and Durant will be 31 at the time of the 2020 Olympics. He will still be one of the best scorers in the world. Pairing Durant with Kyrie would create nightmares for the rest of the world. Without adding the third player this team is already the best in the world. At 6-foot-10, Durant can shoot over anyone they put in front of him. He is a great ball-handler as well. If Kyrie can’t get to the rim during a game, Durant sure can but either way both of these players would be unstoppable.

Anthony Davis, PF, New Orleans Pelicans: Durant will be the old man compared to Anthony Davis. During the 2020 Olympics, Davis will be the ripe young age of 27. The Brow, as Davis is known, is already considered to be the next big superstar of the NBA. In his first five seasons, Davis has career averages of 22.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Davis is capable of doing anything on the court but in this competition, all he will need to do is defend and rebound.

Reserve

Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Antonio Spurs: Kawhi would be the clap god of this competition. His defense would shut down almost everyone in the world. In 2020, he will just begin to enter his prime at the age of 28. Kawhi has developed into a world-class player and if he continues to develop further, he may even become the best player in the world. It would be fun to see what other skills Leonard would display in this competition

Team 2:

3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

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

Steph Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors: The baby-faced assassin would be 32 at the time of the 2020 Olympics but shooting is the last thing to go for basketball players. Curry is one of the best dribblers in the world and with all the space in 3-on-3, he could pull jumpers from anywhere. If Kyrie didn’t want to play, Steph would be the next best option.

Jimmy Butler, SG, Chicago Bulls: Jimmy Buckets is one of the best two-way players in the NBA. His ability to defend one-on-one is top notch. Butler is known as a hard worker who does the right things. 3-on-3 would allow  Butler to showcase skills that most people don’t know he has. Jimmy Buckets would be a great option for the 3-on-3 Olympics.

Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Minnesota Timberwolves: Towns will be only 24 years old in 2020 for the Tokyo Olympics. There is a chance by that time Towns is a top three player in the world. This is why it will be hard for the committee to narrow it down to just four players. Towns was recently showing off impressive handles in a 3-on-3 tournament in Denmark. He is on his way to becoming a dominant player and would be awesome in this competition.

Reserve

Draymond Green, PF, Golden State Warriors: Draymond Green is passionate and emotional. His trash talk alone may destroy some of the competition. Draymond does it all on the court, he can pass, shoot, rebound and defend. Other basketball players seem to love playing with Draymond and this competition would be no different.

Team 3:

3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

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

Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA: A 6-foot-6 point guard who is on his way to superstardom. It is almost impossible to go a day without hearing about Lonzo Ball, his father or the rest of the Ball family. Ball is going to be a top three pick and a franchise centerpiece. His passing ability is phenomenal and he was a game changer for UCLA. In 2020, Ball is going to be just 22 years old and possibly one of the best point guards in the world. He would be a possible option when it is time to make this selection.

Gordon Hayward, SF, Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward is one of the most underrated players in the NBA and was named to his first All-Star Game this season. Hayward averaged 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists this season. He is a very skilled forward and would shine in this event.

DeMarcus Cousins, C, New Orleans Pelicans: Cousins is considered the best center in the NBA. He is able to handle the ball and shoot from anywhere on the court. Not many players in the world can defend him and defense becomes harder with more space. Cousins will be in contention for selection, but his bad reputation may be his Achilles heel.

Reserve

John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards: Everybody do the John Wall. Wall was so big at Kentucky he got his own song and is finally entering his prime in the NBA. He is one of the fastest point guards on the planet. Wall plays both sides of the ball extremely well and many NBA fans would love to see what he could do in this competition.

World’s Best Teams

Spain:

3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

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

Ricky Rubio, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio is a talented passer who would be the pick for the Spanish national team. Rubio has experience in the NBA against the world’s best players and in this 3-on-3 tournament, he could hold his own.

Nikola Mirotic, PF, Chicago Bulls: In the 2014-2015 season, Nikola Mirotic finished second for rookie of the year behind Andrew Wiggins. Mirotic has a career average of 10.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Just like Rubio, Mirotic has much needed NBA experience to compete at a high level and in 2020 will be in his prime.

Serge Ibaka, PF, Toronto Raptors: Serge Ibaka would be the rebounder and rim defender for the Spanish 3-on-3 national team. He has played Olympic basketball and plenty of other important NBA games in his career. The stage would not be too bright for him and he could help anchor Spain as one of the best teams in the world.

Greece:

Tyler Dorsey, PG, Oregon: Not many people know that Tyler Dorsey has played for the Greek national team. This past season he helped lead Oregon to the Final Four while averaging 14.6 points per game and shot 42.3 percent from the three-point line. Dorsey is going to be the best guard option for Greece.

Alex Antetokounmpo, F, Dominican High School: Alex Antentokounmpo is the youngest of all the Antentokounmpo brothers. He is just 15 years old but Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antentokounmpo says he is the best of all the Greek Freaks. Alex will be 18 years old in 2020 and if Giannis is right then he has to be one of the players chosen for the 3-on-3 team.

Giannis Antentokounmpo, SF, Milwaukee Bucks: The original Greek Freak is going to win a league MVP one day. His historic season put him on a list by himself of players who finished in the top 20 in the NBA with points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. Greece will have one of the best 3-on-3 teams solely because of Giannis. Greece will be exciting to watch in the 2020 Olympics.

Australia:

3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

(Photo Credit: https://clutchpoints.com)

Patty Mills, PG, San Antonio Spurs: Patty Mills is a backup point guard in the NBA but the best option for the Australian national team. Mills would provide tons of experience and leadership to the team along with solid outside shooting.

Dante Exum, PG, Utah Jazz: Dante Exum hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations he had when he was drafted fifth overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. That is mostly due to injury but as he gets older and healthier Exum should become a much better player. At 6-foot-6 Exum has excellent size as a guard and would be a superb option for the Austrailian national team.

Joe Ingles, SF, Utah Jazz: Ingles is a solid rotation player for the Jazz. He averaged 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game last season. Ingles shot 44.1 percent from the arc this year as well. Australia wouldn’t have much size but lots of NBA experience to be competitive.

France:

Frank Ntilikina, PG, SIG Strasbourg: Frank Ntilikina is going to be a lottery pick in this year’s draft due to his amazing potential. At just 18 years old, he has been named the French League Best Young Player twice. Ntilikina is a pass first point guard with a high I.Q. He is going to be an exciting player and huge French star.

Nicolas Batum, SF, Charlotte Hornets: Batum is one of the best players from France. He is a good defender and like many international players has a lot of NBA experience. If France had to pick it’s best 3-on-3 Olympic team then Batum would be an easy pick.

Rudy Gobert, C, Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert had somewhat of a breakout season. He is one of the best rim defenders in the world and a great rebounder as well. Gobert is the best French basketball player and for the 3-on-3 tournament, he would be a lock.

Canada:

3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

(Photo Credit: Sam Forencich/Getty Images)

Jamal Murray, PG, Denver Nuggets: Jamal Murray is a young, exciting Canadian player in the NBA. The Nuggets rookie was selected seventh overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. Murray started 10 games and averaged 9.9 points and 2.1 assists this season.

Andrew Wiggins, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves: Andrew Wiggins is expected to become the best Canadian basketball player ever. He would have to become better than Steve Nash to do so but the potential is there. Wiggins is super athletic and in a 3-on-3 tournament he could put on an exciting show. Andrew Wiggins would only be 25 years old in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and still on the cusp of entering his prime.

Tristian Thompson, PF, Cleveland Cavaliers: Tristian Thompson is an NBA champion and one of the best offensive rebounders in the world. Canada would pick Thompson to be the big man on their 3-on-3 roster. He already has a role in which he isn’t expected to score so this would be a familiar and comfortable role on this team.

Conclusion

The 3-on-3 Olympic Basketball event could become one of the most popular Olympic events. Traditional basketball is already one of the most popular but the 3-on-3 format opens up the court and allows players to truly display some exceptional skills. The United States will have dozens of possibilities when forming the roster and no matter who they decide to select will be the favorites to win the gold. Countries like Canada, Spain, France and others will be extremely talented as well and could challenge the United States for 3-on-3 supremacy.

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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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Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves 2017 NBA Draft profile

Day seven of our 2017 NBA Draftmas special is here and it is time to look at one of the most promising young teams in the league: the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Summary

Minnesota

Even with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, the Timberwolves still finished second to last in league attendance in 2016-17. (Photo by Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

The Timberwolves have failed to reach the .500 mark since the 2004-05 season. Since then, the team has changed head coaches ten times, eventually landing former Bulls’ head coach and Boston Celtic’s assistant Tom Thibodeau. In his first season with Minnesota, Thibodeau lead the team a 31-51 record, while being ranked 10th in offense and 27th in defense.

An interesting predicament for the Timberwolves is attracting fans, as they had the league’s second worst attendance record during the 2016-17 season. They even have two first overall picks in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns on the roster.

Wiggins is the team’s main scoring option on the wing, as he averaged 23.6 points on 19.1 field goal attempts per game. The 2014-15 Rookie of the Year has significantly improved in each of his three seasons, and is a major piece of the Timberwolves’ puzzle moving forward.

Towns, who also won the Rookie of the Year (2015-16), is beginning to emerge into a superstar. The 21-year-old averaged 25 points on 18 field goal attempts per game, while also pulling down 12.3 boards and dishing out 2.7 assists. The Timberwolves have an extremely bright future with the tandem of Wiggins and Towns.

Their glaring weakness is defense, although this should naturally get better as the team grows and chemistry improves. Also, Coach Thibodeau is known for being a defensive guru, which bodes well for their chances to improve in this area of the game.

Picks & Needs

The Timberwolves have a great core of young players. With a top 10 pick, they will have plenty of options moving forward.

First Round: No. 7

Rumor has it that Thibodeau has no interest in adding a rookie, as he believes this team’s major need is a veteran presence. If the Timberwolves were to add a player through the draft, it seems their most glaring need is at the power forward position.

Targets & Thoughts

Minnesota

Jonathan Isaac is sky rocketing up draft boards. (Photo by NCAA.com)

Pick #7: Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State University

Jonathan Isaac is a true freshman that has been sky rocketing up teams draft boards. He has drawn comparisons to the likes of Kevin Durant because of his lanky 6-foot-10, 210-pound frame and his lethal shooting ability.

Durant averaged almost 26 points per game in his freshman year, whereas Isaac only averaged 12. However, they both possess similar skill sets. Isaac shot 50.1 percent from the field on eight field goal attempts per game and 34.8 percent from behind the arc on about three three-point field goal attempts. Durant had nearly double the amount of field goals and three pointers attempted, but had eerily similar shooting percentages of 47.3 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from three.

Isaac is lethal from mid-range and has no problem stepping out to hit a 3-pointer, which shows he can be a versatile scoring option at the next level. He is also an above-average defender and rebounder, as he recorded 7.8 rebounds and over one steal and block per game. His size and athleticism only increase his level of versatility, as he will be able to guard a multitude of different positions.

Conclusion

If the Timberwolves are lucky enough to land Isaac, they will have a perfect stretch big to pair with their dominant wing scorer Andrew Wiggins and superstar center Karl-Anthony Towns. Whether the team selects Isaac or not, Minnesota fans will have a lot to look forward to in the future.

Thanks for checking out the Minnesota Timberwolves 2017 NBA Draft profile and stay tuned today to see what the New York Knicks may do.

NBA Draftmas Day 6: Orlando Magic

NBA Draftmas Day 5: Sacramento Kings

Featured Image by the Pioneer Press

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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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Kentucky Basketball: The Manufacturer of NBA Players

Coach John Calipari has the top-ranked recruiting class of 2017. This isn’t a surprise, considering the nature of his program. Coach Cal had the second-ranked recruiting class in the nation last year that included Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo.

These three players have declared for the 2017 NBA Draft and are forgoing the rest of their college eligibility. They also led the team statistically in many areas and were the reason for a lot of the team’s success. This isn’t a new trend, and Kentucky will continue this process with the 2017 recruiting class.

Looking back

In six of the past seven years, the Wildcats have had at least two players go in the first round of the draft. Three out of those seven years, a Wildcat was the No. 1 overall pick. Those players were John Wall, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns.

The statistics speak for themselves. Kentucky knows how to manufacture NBA players. Whether this process is moral or not, isn’t what I want to discuss. I just want to look at why it happens and how it impacts college basketball as a whole.

Kentucky Basketball Manufactures Players for NBA Draft

Karl-Anthony Towns who previously played for Kentucky Wildcats (Photo by en.yibada.com)

More specifically, I’d like to discuss the amount of freshmen that are one-and-done. In 2015, Skal Labissiere and Jamal Murray played their freshman year and were both drafted in the first round.

The same applied for 2014, as Towns, Trey Lyles and Devin Booker were drafted after their freshman season. Towns was also the No. 1 pick as previously noted.

If you don’t see the trend yet, take a look at 2013. Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin were two additional freshmen that declared for the draft after their first year. Goodwin was the leading scorer for the Wildcats that year, as well as Freshman All-SEC.

This is all to make the point that Kentucky brings in top-notch recruits and sends them to the NBA.

SEC and NCaa tournament success

The Wildcats are a powerhouse, and this is why they draw in so many high-caliber recruits. It’s inevitable that everyone will talk about the morality of one and done. Kentucky is the team that takes advantage and has produced a winning program that attracts these players. Duke is another school that takes part in this type of recruiting, but not as much.

The Wildcats took first in the SEC with big production from their freshmen this year. Malik Monk lead the team, averaging 19.8 points per game. De’Aaron Fox lead the team in assists per game with 4.6. Finally, Bam Adebayo had the top field goal percentage of 59.9 percent and averaged over 30 minutes per game for the Wildcats. These three players led the charge for Kentucky.

Malik Monk, freshman at Kentucky who recently declared for 2017 NBA Draft (Photo by CBSsports.com)

However, a program that relies solely on freshmen is bound to have some problems. Leadership is evident but not prevalent.

These guys are 18-20 years old and haven’t played in big-time games yet, but their team still relies on them. This leads to uncharacteristic losses like the loss to Indiana in the second round in 2016. However, once these true freshmen get to play on the big stage, they usually don’t look back.

Kentucky is quite successful in the tournament. The Wildcats have played in four Final Fours since 2011. They won the 2012 title back when Anthony Davis was a freshman and Doron Lamb ruled the court.

2017 Recruiting Class

Looking ahead, the trend should continue. Kevin Knox just announced his commitment to Kentucky for the 2017 season and he is the No. 9 prospect in the country. Knox joins P.J. Washington (No. 11), Nick Richards (No. 16), Jarred Vanderbilt (No. 18), Quade Green (No. 23), and Hamidou Diallo.

However, Diallo will not be playing on the college stage next year. He enrolled in January of this year and declared for the draft without playing in a true college game.

What does all of this mean? Unless the one-and-done rule changes anytime soon or Coach Calipari is involved in a major scandal, Kentucky will continue to dominate. That is, dominating the NBA through the amount of players they send after one year of college ball.

 

(Featured Image by Sportingnews.com)

 

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2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft 2.0 (Post Tournament)

Now that the NCAA Tournament is over, it is time to fully dive into the 2017 NBA mock draft. The NBA season is still unfolding, but many teams are starting to focus on the draft, especially the lottery teams.

The draft order won’t be set in stone until the lottery takes place, but the talk is already starting on who will go number one overall.

Many scouts and experts are picking Markelle Fultz to go first. He is the consensus number one pick. Right now these predictions will be based solely off current standings and will continue to be until the draft lottery takes place. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA mock draft 2.0.

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

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

It is 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. It is still unlikely that Fultz will be a bust, but he has not proven anything 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 a superstar. Fultz is the clear number one pick, but it is unclear if he will ever play a game for Boston.

2: PHOENIX SUNS: JOSH JACKSON SF KANSAS

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.

3: LOS ANGELES LAKERS: LONZO BALL PG UCLA

It is difficult to predict what the Lakers will do. They just spent the 2015 second overall pick on a point guard. The Lakers issue is a lack of veteran leadership. They have a core of young players who just need time to develop. L.A. could trade this pick for a star player. If they keep the pick, expect them to take the best available player, which would be Lonzo Ball.

Ball’s father 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 top three prospect. Ball is a great 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.

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. D’Angelo Russell is a great young player, but could you imagine a backcourt for the next 10 years of Russell and Ball? Sleep on that Hollywood.

4: ORLANDO MAGIC: JAYSON TATUM SF DUKE

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports)

The Magic seem to have an unclear direction. Orlando hasn’t made the playoffs for four straight years and that needs to change quickly. Frank Vogel has improved the team, but he needs more talent outside of Aaron Gordon.

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 the missing piece in Orlando.

5: PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: MALIK MONK SG KENTUCKY

Trusting the process hit yet another bump in the road this season. Joel Embiid suffered another injury after appearing in just 31 games. If that wasn’t enough, last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, 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.

6: NEW YORK KNICKS: DE’AARON FOX PG KENTUCKY

De’Aaron 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.

The Knicks badly need a franchise point guard to pair with Kristaps Porzingis. Fox would be the perfect fit in New York.

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. The Knicks need that more than ever.

7: SACRAMENTO KINGS: JONATHAN ISSAC PF FLORIDA STATE

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

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

8: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: LAURI MARKKANEN PF ARIZONA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

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

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 Dirk-like power forward. 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.

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 not only 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 relate to Dirk easily and due to Dirk being a legend, would really learn how to become a great pro.

10: SACRAMENTO KINGS (VIA PELICANS): DENNIS SMITH PG N.C. STATE

The Kings need a young explosive point guard. 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 Kings 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.

Smith would be a great pick if the Kings want to take steps towards becoming a playoff team while building around Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein.

11. 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 number one 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.

12: CHARLOTTE HORNETS: MILES BRIDGES SF MICHIGAN ST.

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

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

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

13: DENVER NUGGETS: JUSTIN JACKSON SF NORTH CAROLINA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(http://www.sportingnews.com)

Justin Jackson would be a great fit in Denver. Their young core is close to being a legitimate playoff contender, and Jackson would really help them.

He has great length and can stretch the floor. For most of the tournament, Jackson played great. 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 and Denver would instantly get better by drafting Jackson.

14: INDIANA PACERS: FRANK NTILIKINA PG FRANCE

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. Drafting at the end of the lottery does not leave them with many options, but it will allow them to take Frank Ntilikina out of France.

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

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

15: MIAMI HEAT: TJ LEAF PF UCLA

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

TJ 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.

16: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: JOHN COLLINS PF WAKE FOREST

John Collins is a bit of a project. If the Trailblazers take a year or two to develop Collins, then he can become a valuable asset to build around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

17: CHICAGO BULLS: IVAN RABB C California

Robin Lopez is an average NBA center at best. The Bulls need a young center who can come in as a defender. Rabb is a solid defender who needs time to develop a back to the basket game.

18: ATLANTA HAWKS: JUSTIN PATTON C CREIGHTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Eric Francis/Getty Images )

Dwight Howard is no longer a top center. Atlanta needs to think about the future and Patton would be a great pick. He is a seven-foot monster that averaged 12.9 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game and 1.4 blocks per game as a freshman at Creighton.

19: MILWAUKEE BUCKS: BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

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

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.

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

Luke Kennard is a scoring machine. Brooklyn needs alot of help, even though they have been playing well since the beginning of March. 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.

23: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

2017 NBA Mock Draft

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

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

24: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

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

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

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. Josh Hart improved his scoring each season at Villanova, and that should translate into the NBA.

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.

27: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): Jordan Bell PF Oregon

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

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.

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: THOMAS BRYANT C INDIANA

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

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.

 

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D'Angelo Russell Future Star

D’Angelo Russell Future Star?

When young players enter the NBA, fans expect them to become stars immediately. If at 19,20 or 21 years old they aren’t dominating the game, many people start to think of them as busts. The fact is they need time to gain experience in the professional game. It requires patience that many fans don’t have.

Players must go through the long, draining NBA regular seasons that last from October to April. These players are still kids barely out of college and usually aren’t ready for full NBA seasons until they have experienced a few.

One of the players often mentioned as not living up to his potential has only been in the NBA two seasons. That player is Los Angeles Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell.

Laker Nation

D'Angelo Russell Future Star

(Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org)

The Lakers’ fanbase is one of the most impatient in all of sports, but for good reason. The Lakers franchise was founded back in 1947 in Minneapolis and moved to Los Angeles in 1960. In their franchise’s illustrious history, the Lakers have played in 31 NBA Finals and captured 16 championships, which is second most all-time.

Los Angeles is used to great players and winning teams. The team has had some of the most legendary players in the history of the game like Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

Winning is all the Lakers have ever known, which is why they have such an impatient fanbase. From the 1948-1949 season until the 2012-2013 season, the Lakers had only missed the playoffs five times. It is absolutely incredible to think about that level of consistency over six decades.

The recent Laker seasons have had nothing to do with winning. Over the past four seasons, including this one, the Lakers have gone 84-225. L.A. will miss the playoffs four consecutive seasons after this one. In their first 65 years, they missed the playoffs five times and are now about to miss the playoffs four straight. It is understandable that Laker fans are frustrated.

The departure of Kobe Bryant has left the Lakers searching for a star to carry the franchise. They do not have to look far for that star because they have already drafted him.

star Point Guards in their early years

D'Angelo Russell Future Star

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

D’Angelo Russell, also known as D-Lo, is already off to a great start to his young career. Russell is going to be constantly overshadowed by Karl Anthony-Towns, who was the first overall pick in the same draft class.

Towns has gotten most of the attention due to his unbelievable play so far. However, Russell’s first two seasons in the NBA are right on par with some of the NBA’s star point guards.

To really understand the projection Russell’s career should take, we must look at how he compares to these star guards in their first two seasons in the NBA.

The first comparison will be to Damian Lillard. Lillard averaged 19.9 points, 6.1 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 37.2 minutes per game in his first two seasons . Lillard is one of the best guards in the league now and was off to a great start due to the high minutes he was playing.

The next comparison is MVP candidate Russell Westbrook. After two seasons in the league, Westbrook averaged 15.7 points, 6.7 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. Just as Lillard averaged high minutes, so did Westbrook with 33.4 minutes per game.

The last guard for comparison will be Wizards star John Wall. Wall averaged 16.4 points, 8.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. Wall’s minutes were right on par with Lillard’s as he averaged 37 minutes per game.

These three guards are all considered top guards and leaders of their respective teams. How close is D’Angelo Russell to following in their footsteps?

D’Angelo Russell: The Future Star

The first thing noticeable about how Russell stacks up with these other guards is in minutes played. D’Angelo Russell is playing far fewer minutes than the other guards mentioned above. Russell has averaged just under 28 minutes a game (27.8) in his first two seasons. Compared to Wall and Lillard, that is 10 minutes less per game.

D'Angelo Russell Future Star

(Gif Credit: http://thedoublescreen.com)

Considering he is playing far fewer minutes, his stats are still pretty similar to theirs.

This season, Russell is averaging 14.9 points, 4.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. Per 36 minutes, those numbers jump to 19.7 points, 6.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds. If Russell was playing more, he would be averaging around the same numbers as these stars were in their second seasons.

Along with the solid numbers, Russell has proven he can hit big shots. He has made the saying “ice in my veins” famous all because he pointed to his arm when he hit a clutch 3-pointer as you can see in the gif to the left.

Russell not only has the pressure of living up to the hype of the second overall pick in the draft, but also has to follow the legendary Kobe Bryant. He is taking over a franchise that for the last 20 seasons was led by a man who won five NBA Championships.

There is a long list of stars to live up to in Hollywood, but Russell just needs more time. He is just 21 years old, but the future looks bright. The current star point guards in the NBA were once doing exactly what he is doing now so be patient and don’t worry Lake Show. D’Angelo is on his way to becoming the next Laker star.

 

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All Star Weekend 17

NBA All-Star Weekend 2017

NBA All-Star Weekend is finally upon us.  New Orleans will be hosting the annual event that captivates basketball fans all over the world. Friday’s events include the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on ESPN at 7 p.m. EST and the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge at 9 p.m. EST.

Saturday is the best day of events beginning with the D-League All-Star Game at 2:30 p.m. EST on NBATV. Later that night at 8 p.m. EST starts the three main events of the day. First is the Taco Bells Skills Challenge, followed by the JBL 3-Point contest, and finishing up with the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest.

Sunday will of course feature the 66th NBA All-Star Game.

NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Pintrest)

This year the celebrity coaches will be ESPN’s Michael Smith and Jemele Hill. Smith’s team has the following celebrities: Miles Brown, Tom Cavanagh, Mark Cuban, Baron Davis, Andy Grammer, Jiang Jinfu, Anthony Mackie, Romeo Miller, Hasan Minhaj, Master P, Candace Parker and Aaron Sanchez.

Jemele Hill’s team includes the following celebrities: Brandon Armstrong, Win Butler, Nick Cannon, Rachel DeMita, Ansel Elgort, Marc Lasry, Caleb McLaughlin, Peter Rosenberg, Oscar Schmidt, Lindsay Whalen, Jason Williams and Kris Wu.

Both teams seem evenly matched and this year’s game doesn’t seem to have as big of names as past years. Rachel DeMita will surprise some people, but most people will be looking forward to seeing former NBA players Baron Davis and Jason Williams.

MVP Prediction: Jason Williams

Winning Team Prediction: Jemele Hill’s

 

Rising Stars Challenge

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

This annual Friday night game features first and second year NBA players and can be seen on TNT at 9 p.m. EST. It is a United States versus World format in which 10 players for each team were selected by NBA assistant coaches.

The U.S. team features Devin Booker (Suns), Malcolm Brogdon (Bucks), Marquese Chriss (Suns), Brandon Ingram (Lakers), Frank Kaminsky (Hornets), Jahlil Okafor (76ers), D’Angelo Russell (Lakers), Jonathon Simmons (Spurs), Karl Anthony-Towns (Timberwolves) and Myles Turner (Pacers)

The World team has Alex Abrines (Thunder), Dante Exum (Jazz), Buddy Hield (Pelicans), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Trey Lyles (Jazz), Jamal Murray (Nuggets), Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Domantas Sabonis (Thunder) and Dario Saric (76ers).

Last year the U.S. won the game 157-154. The United States team is even more talented this year and will look to get another victory.

MVP Prediction: Devin Booker

Winning Team Prediction: United States

 

Skills Challenge

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The skills challenge is always an exciting event to get the fans ready for the 3-point competition. Last season a big man won: Karl Anthony-Towns. Unfortunately he won’t be defending his crown.

This year’s participants are Devin Booker (Suns), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Gordon Hayward (Jazz), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Isaiah Thomas (Celtics) and John Wall (Wizards).

These competitions are hard to predict, but what makes them fun is seeing lightning quick guards go up against some of the more skilled big men.

This event would have been more entertaining if Joel Embiid didn’t have to pull out, but the big men in this competition are still talented, just not talented enough to win it. This year will be the year of the guard.

Prediction Winner: Isaiah Thomas 

 

3-Point Contest

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit:Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports)

In this competition, last year’s winner will be defending his crown. Klay Thompson should be the favorite again this year, but is in for some tough competition. The 2013 champion Kyrie Irving will also be on the court. The remaining participants include Eric Gordon (Rockets), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Wes Matthews (Mavericks), C.J. McCollum (Blazers), Kemba Walker (Hornets) and Nick Young (Lakers).

The final three participants will most likely be Thompson, McCollum and Walker. Klay’s experience will really help him, but it won’t be enough to repeat.

Prediction Winner: C.J. McCollum

 

 

 

 

Slam Dunk Contest

The dunk contest is usually the most exciting and most popular event of the entire All-Star weekend. Nobody wants to be that one person who missed an epic dunk. There was a short period where fans and journalists believed the dunk contest was lacking in excitement. Thanks to Aaron Gordon and Zach Lavine’s showdown last year, the hype is real again.

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: www.draftexpress.com)

Lavine won’t be defending his crown, by runner-up Aaron Gordon is looking to capture the title against an interesting field of competitors. Also competing against Gordon are DeAndre Jordan (Clippers), Glenn Robinson III (Pacers) and Derrick Jones Jr. (Suns).

Derrick Jones Jr. is the most controversial participant this year. Jones is a rookie out of UNLV, who has played in the D-League this season and has little experience in the NBA. Some people believe he shouldn’t be allowed to participate.

When they see the show he puts on during the competition, they will soon forget that. Jones can jump out of the gym and is a real threat to win this competition.

Prediction Winner: Derrick Jones Jr.

 

66th NBA All-Star Game

The main event of the weekend is the All-Star Game. The Eastern Conference starters are DeMar DeRozan (Raptors), Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Jimmy Butler (Bulls), LeBron James (Cavaliers), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks).

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The Western Conference starters are Steph Curry (Warriors), James Harden (Rockets), Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), Kevin Durant (Warriors), and Anthony Davis (Pelicans).

One of the biggest storylines of the game is that Russell Westbrook was not named a starter and how he will handle being on the same team as Durant and the rest of the Warriors after what transpired this summer. Their recent match-up was heated and lots of words were exchanged. It should make for an extremely intriguing and exciting contest.

The West has won the last two games and five of the last seven. The West is considered the tougher and deeper conference, which is why they are going to be the favorites in this game.

MVP Prediction: Russell Westbrook

Prediction Winner: West 176-170

 

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