NBA Playoff Races

NBA Playoff Races

There is only a month remaining in the NBA season, and the NBA playoff races are heating up. There are so many questions left to answer. Who will get the one seed in the West? Who will be the eighth seeds in both the East and West? There are so many seeds undecided and positioning is going to very important in who will make deep postseason runs. Here is what to watch for in the final four weeks of the season.

Western Conference: First Seed

NBA Playoff Races

(Photo Credit: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)

There is still much to be decided in the West. The race for the first seed has really picked up since Kevin Durant got injured. The Warriors lead has vastly shrunk.

Their lead for the first seed is down to just a game and a half over the Spurs with 14 games remaining. This is an important race for the path to the conference finals and then having home-court in the conference finals.

Neither team has to worry about their first round matchup as both should win in short, easy series. The team who gets the second seed would likely see a tough series versus Houston in the second round. That is what both San Antonio and Golden State want to avoid. Both teams want to go into the conference finals as rested as possible.

Golden State and San Antonio will meet on March 29. It will be a huge game in deciding who wins the number one seed.

The Spurs and Warriors both have nine home games remaining. San Antonio has six away games while the Warriors have five. Both teams’ remaining opponents have a win percentage of 53 percent.

It will be a close finish and will come down to the final days of the season. Golden State will hold on to that number one seed as the season ends.

Western Conference Race for 8th

The Denver Nuggets currently hold the spot for the eighth seed in the West with a record of 33-35. Portland (30-37), Dallas (29-38) and Minnesota (28-39) all still have a shot to get the eighth seed.

This four team race is really close to becoming a two-team race between Denver and Portland. Denver has been playing much better lately and looks like a playoff team. They only have five home games remaining and that could be the factor that costs them that playoff spot.

Portland, on the other hand, has 10 games remaining at home and their remaining opponents have a combined winning percentage of 49 percent. The Trailblazers will end up getting the eighth seed in the Western Conference with all those home games remaining against subpar teams.

The Rest of the West

NBA Playoff Races

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

Golden State and San Antonio are fighting for first and second. Denver or Portland will get the eighth seed. That leaves seeds three through seven.

The third seed is pretty much locked into Houston. Utah, Los Angeles (Clippers), Oklahoma City and Memphis mathematically can catch them, but it would take a total collapse by Houston to do so. Utah is the current four seed, but only four games separate Utah, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City and Memphis.

Russell Westbrook is close to breaking the single-season triple-double record and the Thunder are 29-6 when Westbrook gets a triple-double. Predicting he breaks the record means the Thunder will win at least eight more games. If that happens the Thunder will end up in the four or five spot.

Utah will get the spot the Thunder do not get, meaning they will also be the fourth or fifth seed. The Clippers will finish with the sixth seed and Memphis will remain as the seventh seed.

The East’s Top Half

The Eastern Conference is divided in half in terms of playoff seeding. Teams seeded one through four can end up in any one of those spots while teams five through eight will end up in the bottom half of the seeding.

The Cavaliers are in the top spot with a record of 45-22. The Celtics are two and a half back, the Wizards are three and a half back and Toronto is six and a half games back of the top spot. There should be a few changes in the top four seeds in the final weeks.

The Celtics remaining opponents have a win percentage of just 44 percent. They also have nine home games remaining while the Cavaliers have nine road games remaining. it is safe to predict the Celtics being only two and a half back will finish as the first seed and the Cavs will finish as the second seed.

The Wizards have 10 road games remaining and all that travel will catch up with them. The Raptors remaining opponents have a win percentage of just 47 percent. The top of the east will finish as follows: First Boston, second Cleveland, third Toronto, and fourth Washington.

The Rest of the East

NBA Playoff Races

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

Teams seeded fifth through 10th are separated by just five games. There are four spots for six teams.

Currently, it stands as Atlanta as the fifth seed with a record of 37-31. They will make the playoffs without question.  The Pacers are 35-33 and being above a .500 win percentage will be enough to get in as well.

That leaves Milwaukee, Detroit, Miami and Chicago fighting for the seventh and eighth seeds. Chicago has lost Dwayne Wade for the remainder of the year with an elbow injury. They were struggling with Wade and won’t be able to win enough games without him in the final month to make the playoffs.

Milwaukee is an exciting team with a star in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will lead them to a playoff appearance this season. Their remaining opponents have a win percentage of just 49 percent.

That leaves Miami who is 33-35 and Detroit who is 33-36. Both are fighting for the final remaining playoff spot. Miami started the season 10-31 and has since been on fire. No pun intended, but they have been heating up.

These teams have one more meeting against each other and that could be the deciding factor. The Pistons do have the easier remaining schedule of the two teams. This race is hard to predict, but in the second half of the season, the Heat have been the much better team.

The Heat will end up making the playoffs and Detroit will be the odd team out in the Eastern Conference Playoff race.

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2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft 1.0 (Pre-Lottery)

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

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

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

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Allen Kee / ESPN Images)

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

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

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

2: Los Angeles Lakers: Markelle Fultz pG Washington

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

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

3: Phoenix suns: Jayson Tatum Sf duke

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

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

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

4: Orlando Magic: Lonzo Ball Pg UCLA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

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

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

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

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

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

5: Philadelphia 76ers: Malik Monk Sg Kentucky

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

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

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

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

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

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: William Howard/Icon Sportswire)

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

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

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

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

7: Sacramento Kings: Jonathan Issac PF Florida State

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

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

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

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

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

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

9: Dallas Mavericks: Lauri Markkanen PF Arizona

2017 NBA Draft

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

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

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

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

10: Minnesota Timberwolves: Harry Giles PF Duke

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

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

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

11: Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges SF Michigan St.

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13: Miami Heat: Isaiah Hartenstein PF Germany

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

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

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

14: Chicago Bulls: Frank Ntilikina Pg France

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: https://hardwoodhoudini.com

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

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

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

15: Denver Nuggets: John Collins Pf Wake Forest

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

16: Milwaukee Bucks: Justin Patton C Creighton

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

17: Detroit Pistons: Ivan Rabb C Cal

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

18: Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard SG Duke

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

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

19: Atlanta hawks: TJ Leaf PF UCLA

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

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

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

21: Oklahoma City: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports)

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

22: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

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

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

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

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

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP)

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

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

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

26: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

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

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

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

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

2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: By Pat McDonogh, The CJ)

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

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

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

30: SAN ANTONIO SPURS: THOMAS BRYANT C INDIANA

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

 

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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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The Battle For the Eight-Seed In the West

As of now, it looks like the top seven seeds in the Western Conference are set. The Oklahoma City Thunder currently sit in the seven seed. They have seven more wins than the Denver Nuggets, who currently hold the eighth seed.

The seven top seeds in the West also are the only Western Conference teams with positive point differentials this year. It seems like the top seven seeds in the West will be, in some order, the Warriors, Spurs, Rockets, Jazz, Clippers, Grizzlies and Thunder.

That leaves one spot up for grabs in the playoffs this year. This is already an unusual position for teams to be in in the Western Conference. According to Tom Haberstroh on Twitter, the projected record of the eight seed in the West would be the worst since 1997.

So with a plethora of teams fighting for that final spot, what teams have the potential to make a strong push in the final months of the season?

The Contenders

The Denver Nuggets currently hold the eighth spot. Although their lead is still slim, they have a good chance of keeping that spot in the final few months.

(courtesy of Denver Stiffs)

For starters, Nikola Jokic has been on a tear recently. In his last 10 games Jokic has put up 22.6 points, 9.9 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game. Those are elite numbers coming from the young big men. The emergence of Jokic as a truly elite big man put the Nuggets in good position to keep their playoff hopes alive this spring.

Their deep bench has also been a huge asset this season. The young backcourt of Emmanuel Mudiay and Jamal Murray has been performing well so far this season. Murray or Mudiay have been featured in four out of the five most efficient lineups for the Nuggets. Their young talent has given them depth off of the bench that could make them a threat down the stretch.

Their trade earlier this week makes it clear that they are trying to make the playoffs this year. Mason Plumlee will be a big help for the Nuggets and has been having a great season so far. They also eliminate the somewhat redundant skill-sets of Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic that has been plaguing them all season. The Nuggets have to be the favorite to take the eighth seed at this point.

The Sacramento Kings could also contend for that final spot. The Kings have one thing that the Nuggets lack. They put one of the top players in the league onto the court every night.

(courtesy of Deadspin)

Demarcus Cousins has been having yet another great season for the Kings this year. He is averaging 27.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, and has improved his three point shot significantly. The injury to Rudy Gay will make it difficult to win enough games down the stretch however. They have been keeping their head above water without Gay, but his scoring threat is dearly missed on the team.

If the Kings are able to make a deal at the deadline that brings them more scoring, they have a shot at making the playoffs. Otherwise, the playoffs may be a pipe dream. With their supreme lack of talent outside of Cousins, it may be better to have a lottery pick this season anyways.

The Portland Trailblazers have been somewhat of a disappointment this season, but remain in contention for the eight seed. The Blazers are another team that desperately needs a trade before the deadline if they want to contend.

(courtesy of Hoops Habit)

The acquisition of Nurkic will certainly be helpful, but it’s unlikely that he is enough to turn the team around. Regardless, they now have three first round picks in the stacked 2017 draft. That removes any motivation for the team to tank down the stretch. That increased motivation may be enough to push them by their competition.

Additionally, they now have to make up for the lost production of Mason Plumlee. It’s hard to see the Blazers having an actual shot at the playoffs this season with the way things have gone. With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum anything is possible though, and they will continue to be a threat this year.

The rumors connecting the New Orleans Pelicans to Brook Lopez and Jahlil Okafor make the Pelicans a threat this spring. Okafor may not be enough to tip the scales on the Pelicans season, but the addition of Brook Lopez would certainly give this team a new breath of life.

(courtesy of Yibada)

Anthony Davis has been having a ludicrous season while averaging 28.0 points and 12.1 rebounds per game. Jrue Holiday has also been having a great season for the struggling Pelicans. The addition of Lopez would make them the favorite for getting the eighth seed.

Anthony Davis is one of the most talented players in the league. He has shown he is capable of dragging subpar teams to the playoffs as he did in 2015, and if he stays healthy this spring the Pelicans will remain contenders. He is just that good.

The Pretenders

Despite their recent success, the Dallas Mavericks won’t be making the playoffs this season. Harrison Barnes has been great this season, and Yogi Ferrell has been a revelation off of his 10-day contract. This team simply doesn’t have enough depth and talent to push them past some of the other Western Conference contenders.

(courtesy of NBA.com)

Their recent losses to Portland and Denver reinforce that position. The Mavericks are pretenders, and won’t be making the playoffs this year.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are an incredibly talented team. They have a ton of potential and young stars. This, however, is not their year. They’ve lost Zach Lavine for the rest of the year. It’s time for them to try and put themselves in the best position possible for the 2017 draft.

The Timberwolves also have the toughest remaining strength of schedule in the entire league. It will be too hard for them to overcome their injuries and tough schedule this year.

Finally, the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns have absolutely no chance at the playoffs. The Lakers need to be trying to lose as many games as possible this season, as they only keep their top pick if it falls in the top-three.

The Suns are simply terrible. They have only won six games in-conference this season, and have shown almost no signs of life this season. They have young pieces, but it is time for them to tank.

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Report: Minnesota looking to move Ricky Rubio to Detroit

Per ESPN’s Marc Stein, the front offices of the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Detroit Pistons are discussing a trade that would essentially be a point guard swap. Stein reports that Ricky Rubio of the Timberwolves and the Piston’s Reggie Jackson are the focal points of the talks, along with a few auxiliary pieces.

For young teams like Minnesota, chemistry is very important – Reggie Jackson has a history of not being a conduit for great chemistry. As for the on-court repercussions, Reggie is averaging right around his career high in usage – 28.6 for the year. Rubio has a 13% usage rate, very conducive for a team a lots of young talent who need the opportunity to develop. The immediate development of Kris Dunn would be the natural order of things if Minnesota were to move on from Rubio, adding Jackson would be the antithesis of that.

Via USA Today Sports Images

As for the Piston’s, they predicate their offense on having four shooters surround the paint presence of Andre Drummond. Rubio is not what one would call a shooter – shooting a putrid 24% from three this season. Although, the auxiliary pieces reported in the trade would presumably be that of players with a shooting touch. Stein details the deal,

The Wolves have been openly trying to move Rubio for some time and reportedly are willing to attach swingman Shabazz Muhammad to offers featuring the veteran Spanish point guard.

Although he’s in just the second year of a five-year, $80 million contract, Jackson is widely believed to be available via trade in the wake of Detroit’s recent 9-14 struggles. ‎The Pistons went 11-10 to start the season while Jackson was out with a left knee injury.

Rubio has two seasons left on his contract after this season — valued ‎at $29.2 million — compared to Jackson’s three remaining seasons.

However the deal unfolds, if at all, there will be a major period of adjustment as both teams would be inheriting players with veritable flaws. The fit for either player is questionable. In the NBA, teams leverage their assets in the form of trades to get better, this seems like two teams aiming to rid themselves of players that have outstayed their welcome.

 

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Seven Stats or Less: Minnesota Timberwolves

The series is back and this week the stats are coming in the flavor of Minnesota Timberwolves. With the hiring of Tom Thibodeau as head coach in the offseason, the thought was that he was right man to put the young, super-talented team over the top and have them in contention for a post-season spot. That – in short – has not happened. This season is, and should have always been, about progression and development.

Earlier in the season, there were reports of Thibs becoming impatient with the season and was looking to make a trade. Ricky Rubio has struggled, and fans began to clamor for his trade. That would have been unwise. A trade with the motive of “win-now” has derailed a many franchises a la the New Orleans Pelicans. On to the stats.

  1. The Minnesota Timberwolves are top ten in the league when it comes to points from the roll man in the pick and roll. Overall, they aren’t very effective in these sets, scoring less than a point per possession. Karl-Anthony Towns is an elite mid-range shooter, and an OK 3-point shooter. Additionally, he’s more than athletic enough to take his man to the hoop and throw one down. The Timberwolves should employ the pick and roll more with KAT to capitalize more on his talents. He’s currently third in the league in points scored as the roll man; that’s something Coach Thibodeau should assess going forward.
  2. The Wolves are 24th in the league in attempts in transition. At about 10 attempts per game, the Wolves have to find a way to get the easy scores when the defense can’t get stops. The team is bottom five in defensive efficiency and transition attempts go hand in hand with defense. Shore up the D and the transition opportunities should begin to make themselves known.
  3. Zach Lavine and Andrew Wiggins both sit in the top five in the league in minutes averaged per game. From his time in Chicago, Thibs was notorious for playing his players – especially his stars – heavy minutes and that’s what he’s continuing to do in Minnesota. The large minutes load isn’t translating into team success so far. So the question for the future becomes – will the load catch up to the young stars when the wins and potential become exclusive?
  4. KAT is fifth in the league in double-doubles with 20 double-doubles. Right now, per game, Towns is averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds. He’s still only 21 years old with so much left to add to his game. The future is bright for the young, second-year pup.
  5. Ricky Rubio, in the team’s last five games, is averaging almost 10 points and 9 assists per game. Rubio is also hitting the mark from deep at a 50% clip on about 3 attempts per game.
  6. In those games, the Wolves are 3-2 with quality wins over Atlanta and Chicago – both of those games on the road. Is it Rubio related? In wins this season, he averages 9 points and almost 9 assists. So, maybe? With only two of their next five opponents over .500, it’s important for them to play well and try to snatch a few morale-boosting wins.
  7. The lineup of Gorgui Dieng, Tyus Jones, Lavine, Towns, and Wiggins in 34 minutes played is one of the teams only plus lineups. It’s a little late in the season to use the “small sample size” disclaimer, but it might apply here. Jones averages less than 15 minutes a game – which is right about where he should be. Possibly, over playing the 2015 first round pick heavy minutes at this point might do more harm than good. However, in a season that should have been about development in the first place, and with lottery pick Kris Dunn underperforming, it might be best to some light tinkering with the lineups.

NBA Season Preview Series by Danny w/the J: Northwest Division

The 2016 NBA season is rapidly approaching and with the wild offseason over, the time has arrived for assessing the status of teams heading into training camp and predicting what fans can expect out of their respective teams. Disclaimer: We in no shape or form claim to know everything about basketball, but we do confess our love for the game and will make statements for each team built on sound arguments. With that in mind, let us begin…

Portland Trailblazers

  • Offseason: Having lost to the Warriors in the playoffs, the Blazers were busy in free agency and added some nice pieces. Evan Turner, ex-Warrior Festus Ezeli, and Shabazz Napier (via trade) were the biggest additions to the Portland squad. The team was also able to re-sign Allen Crabbe, Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard. Portland also acquired draft rights to Maryland SF Jake Layman from the Magic in the Napier trade.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: The Blazers look to repeat the result of last year’s regular season; a playoff berth. With the additions they have made, perhaps they won’t have to get hot towards the end of the season or put the onus Lillard and McCollum.
    USA-TODAY

    USA-TODAY

Jay:  The Portland Trailblazers are well-coached and play with a lot of heart. I expect them to make the playoffs in the 6-8th seed range. Napier will be a good backup to Lillard and Turner a good scorer off the bench so Aminu, Crabbe and others can focus on the defensive side of the ball.

Daniel: The Trailblazers may have played over their heads last season.  Its going to be tough to repeat last season’s success with teams having had all off-season to figure them out. A 37-45 season wouldn’t be much of a surprise. I say that with the utmost respect.

Denver Nuggets

  • Offseason: The Nuggets weren’t too busy in free agency, but they used their draft picks on Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley, Spanish import Juan Hernangomez, and French import Petr Cornelie. However, the Nuggets only have signed Jamal Murray at this point.
    via sircharlesincharge.com

    via sircharlesincharge.com

  • 2016-17 Outlook: The Nuggets were poor last year so the only way to go is up. Emmanuel Mudiay seemed much more mature in the NBA Summer League this past summer so it is assumed he will take another step in his development. Kenneth Faried has to look to erase last season’s poor performances and dominate with the energy and tenacity that he knows he possesses.

Jay: Nuggets won’t make the playoffs but Mudiay and Faried will be something to keep an eye on throughout the season. I don’t expect Murray to do much this year as a rookie, but in the latter half of the season, he’ll be someone to look at and see where his development is heading.

Daniel: The Denver Nuggets, like a lot of teams in the league, are in a purgatory of sorts. They’re not good enough to make the playoffs or bad enough to compete for a high lottery pick. The only thing for them to do is make sure Mudiay continues his growth and development. Whether it be veteran players or playing time. It’d be in their best interest to also take the time and find an identity as a team as well. 30-52.

Minnesota Timberwolves 

USA-Today Sports

USA-Today Sports

  • Offseason: End of an era in Minnesota and the NBA; Kevin Garnett has retired along with Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant. But it is also the dawn of a new age in Minnesota. The Twolves hired Thom Thibideau and drafted point guard Kris Dunn out of Providence to add to the team’s young and talented roster.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: Thibs has a young and hungry team that has three first round picks on it. Granted, they are still young, but Thibideau is a coach that has proven to get the most out of his players and speed up their development. The wolves re face in the first round.

Jay: I like the Wolves this year. Playoffs is my expectation for the young team and everything else is a bonus.

Daniel: The playoffs would be overachieving I think. Young and talented are apt descriptions of the Wolves. Are they mature enough to handle the grind of competing for a spot in the playoffs? Probably not. That’s OK because I have faith that Thibideau will plant the right seeds, so that when their time comes they’ll be able to take full advantage.

Utah Jazz

  • Offseason: The Jazz were somewhat busy this offseason, acquiring Joe Johnson in free agency, Boris Diaw and George Hill via trade (separate trades), and rookie draftees Joel Bolomby, Marcus Paige, and Tyrone Wallace, although none of the draft picks have been signed yet. Trey Burke now plays for the Washington Wizards.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: The Jazz missed the playoffs barely last year but were respectable for a team that was eliminated from playoff contention on the last day of the season. They will be in a similar situation this year, pushing for playoff contention. Hard to say whether or not they will make it.

Jay: I don’t see the Jazz making the playoffs this season. Yes, they’re competitive, but they don’t have the players to make a run at or in the playoffs.

Daniel:  The additions of George Hill, and Joe Johnson will bring that veteran presence to this young, gifted squad. Hill also brings talent at the guard position to the table. The consensus is that the Jazz will be a top seed in the west and that’s a terribly presumptuous prediction.  However, they could indeed sneak in as a 7th to 8th seeded team.

USA-Today Sports

USA-Today Sports

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Offseason: The Oklahoma City Thunder made splashes this offseason, regardless of whether or not they were negative or positive, they made splashes. Durant went farther west, Ibaka was traded east for depth in Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and a young rookie draftee in Domantas Sabonis. The Thunder, however, also lost Dion Waiters to free agency. The Thunder also drafted shooting guard Daniel Hamilton. OKC has yet to sign either rookie, but has signed Russell Westbrook to a contract extension that gives them more time to appease the superstar into staying rather than leaving like his former partner in crime did.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: Westbrook is one of the favorites to win the MVP as he will most likely carry the Thunder to the playoffs, averaging near triple-double figures. Fans cannot expect the team to make a deep run in the playoffs however, due to the lack of talent.
    USA-Today Sports

    USA-Today Sports

Jay: Westbrook will be MVP, the Thunder will get in the playoffs as a 4 or 5 seed. The team and Russ will be fun to watch this season.

Daniel: Kevin Durant took his transcendence elsewhere, but in his wake he left Russell Westbrook and 14 other hungry and eager players. The goal of the season has to be trust. Trust has been a talking point for the team, but hardly practiced among the Thunder. The idea that Westbrook is going to run roughshod over the league is a fun one, but not ideal. Incorporating the talents of his teammates into a concrete scheme that is no doubt the better option. Although, this current Thunder squad is no doubt going to go through some changes going forward.

2016 NBA Off-season Summary

An Offseason to Remember

 

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

Players Getting Paid

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

KD to the Bay

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

The NBA Summer League Showcases

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

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

Biggest Winners of the NBA Offseason

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

Biggest Losers of the NBA Off-season

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

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

NBA Mock Draft 3.0

The deadline has passed for prospects to either remain eligible for the draft or go back to college. This mock draft is updated to account for those player’s decisions.

Photo credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Photo credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

  1. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons F LSU: Some say the 76ers are stuck on who to pick and some say they are dead set on Simmons. I believe he will be the number one pick in the draft due to his potential and upside. He needs time to develop and grow, but will be a great player in the NBA. He is not as NBA ready as some of the other players, but over time may be the best player drafted in the past 10 years.
    (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

    (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

  2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram F Duke: Brandon Ingram is going to jump right into the NBA and start scoring. He will make a quicker impact than Ben Simmons does and has just as high of a ceiling. Ingram has the talent to go number one overall, but he will be available at number two. He will be an important part of the Lakers rebuild. He will be the best player in the draft.
    Photo: Ben Margot, Associated Press

    Photo: Ben Margot, Associated Press

  3. Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown F California: I still believe the Celtics will trade this pick, so whoever they draft won’t play for them. They are loaded with young talent and need to trade for a star to play with Isaiah Thomas. Whoever they trade with will have the rights to the player the Celtics draft and I believe it will be for Jaylen Brown. He spent time working out with Draymond Green, which will really help him become a good NBA player. He should turn into a very talented defender in the NBA. He has shown the ability to shoot, but is inconsistent.
    (Photo Noam Galai)

    (Photo Noam Galai)

  4. Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender F Croatia: The Suns need some front court help to go along with their talented guards. Dragan Bender is this year’s Kristaps Porzingis. He is a stretch four at 7’ 1”, whose stock is going to benefit from scouts being wrong on Porzingis. He has a decent three point shot and is getting strong. Being only 18 really helps him because he could mold into a good player.
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Harry How/Getty Images

  5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Buddy Hield G Oklahoma: Buddy can score from anywhere at anytime on the floor. He is deadly from behind the arc and has developed a great all around scoring game that will translate well into the NBA. Some say his size is going to hurt him, but if we looked at size to determine ability, Isaiah Thomas wouldn’t be an all star. The Timberwolves can continue to build a dominate core that will grow into a championship caliber roster by going with Buddy.
    Jan 12, 2016; Omaha, NE, USA; Providence Friars guard Kris Dunn (3) dribbles against the Creighton Bluejays during the first half at CenturyLink Center Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 12, 2016; Omaha, NE, USA; Providence Friars guard Kris Dunn (3) dribbles against the Creighton Bluejays during the first half at CenturyLink Center Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

  6. New Orleans Pelicans:Kris Dunn G Providence: I originally had the Pelicans taking Jamal Murray here but Kris Dunn at seven was just too low. I tried to find a spot for him in the top five but I couldn’t. A few years back Damian Lillard was drafted around the same point of the draft and I think Kris Dunn can have that kind of same success as Lillard. Anthony Davis is the franchise player but they need a dominate guard to push this team into the playoffs. Dunn is arguably the best point guard in the draft. He would be a great young fit with the Pelicans.
    (Lennie Mahler | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah center Jakob Poeltl high fives kids during warmups before a game against Southern Utah at the Huntsman Center, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015.

    (Lennie Mahler | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah center Jakob Poeltl high fives kids during warmups before a game against Southern Utah at the Huntsman Center, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015.

  7. Denver Nuggets: Jakob Poeltl C Utah: Denver has a lot of work cut out for them if they want to become a playoff team again. Poeltl would create a very solid front court alongside Kenneth Faried. Mudiay will continue to grow as a point guard, but Poeltl will give them a rim protector and a solid scoring option inside the post.hi-res-c4fadaabc17e0e88917b7c1602629b6f_crop_exact
  8. Sacramento Kings: Jamal Murray G Kentucky: Jamal Murray is one of the best players in this draft that is flying under the radar. He has superstar potential and is a very good three point shooter. He will be doing his bow and arrow celebration regularly in the NBA and the Kings are trying to create a new “era”. Murray can help lead the way.
    (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

    (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

  9. Toronto Raptors:Henry Ellenson F Marquette: One of the Raptors flaws in the playoffs was front court depth. Ellenson will be able to provide that, along with his ability to stretch the floor. He will take time adjusting to the NBA game, but would be a good stretch front court player, who could also develop into a good rebounder.
    Washington's Marquese Chriss stuffs a dunk vs. Penn @ 2ndHlf. Huskies win 104-67, improve to 3-0 @SeaTimesSports

    Washington’s Marquese Chriss stuffs a dunk vs. Penn @ 2ndHlf. Huskies win 104-67, improve to 3-0 @SeaTimesSports

  10. Milwaukee Bucks: Marquese Chriss F Washington: Marquese Chriss is shooting up draft boards due to his athleticism. Many scouts think Chriss could go in the top five, but I don’t think he will go that high. He is very athletic and will dunk on anyone. He has a good wingspan that may allow him to become a good defender. He needs a lot of time to develop.
    (Photo: Dave Wasinger/Lansing State Journal)

    (Photo: Dave Wasinger/Lansing State Journal)

  11. Orlando Magic: Denzel Valentine F Michigan State: Many scouts want to compare Valentine to Draymond Green and that is understandable. He has proven to be a good leader and a talented perimeter shooter but he lacks the quickness to be a higher pick. If he turns into the player he was in college, the Magic will have a great player for a long time.
    (Photo: Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports)

    (Photo: Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports)

  12. Utah Jazz: Domantas Sabonis F/C Gonzaga: It is hard to predict what Utah will do. I think they will look to add depth and talent to their front court. Domantas Sabonis reminds me of a more offensively talented Joakim Noah:A good rebounder with tons of energy and passion. He will give you everything he’s got, 100% of the time.
     (USATSI)

    (USATSI)

  13. Phoenix Suns: Cheick Diallo F Kansas: I originally did not have Diallo in my mock draft, but many scouts believe he will go in the lottery. The Suns have three first round picks and can afford to try and hit a home run with one of them. He will be a developmental project, but has a lot of upside and has a good motor.
    (Jan. 1, 2016 - Source: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

    (Jan. 1, 2016 – Source: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

  14. Chicago Bulls: Skal Labissiere F Kentucky: Skal has the talent to be a top three pick, but had an underwhelming season at Kentucky. He has a good shot, but needs to get stronger for the NBA game. The Bulls will most likely let go of Noah, and possibly Gasol, so they will need help in the front court. Labissiere would also be a good fit for Fred Hoiberg’s system.
    Tarih: Temmuz 23, 2015Kategori: Milli TakımYorum Yok

    Tarih: Temmuz 23, 2015Kategori: Milli TakımYorum Yok

  15. Denver Nuggets: Furkan Korkmaz: G Turkey: International players are always tough to judge because of the level of competition they play against, but Furkan Korkmaz is a natural born scorer. He is 6’7”, so he may even be able to play some small forward as well as shooting guard. His offensive game is completely well-rounded and because he is so good offensively, his defensive game is behind. He may be a bit of a developmental project, but has a lot of upside. Denver has the time to wait for this pick to develop.
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

  16. Boston Celtics: Stephen Zimmerman JR C UNLV: Zimmerman is a very talented seven footer. He has above average handling ability for his size and has a very consistent mid-range jumper. He was plagued with injuries throughout the year that did not allow him to become a dominant player. He needs to hit the weights because he is skinny and will get pushed around in the NBA. With all that being said, he’s only 19 years old and could develop into a potential all star in the right system, with the right coaches.
    (Photo: Travis Register, 247Sports)

    (Photo: Travis Register, 247Sports)

  17. Memphis Grizzlies: Malik Beasley G Florida State: Memphis is a team that grinds out games and plays a tough, physical defensive style. They usually struggle with having a go-to scorer. Beasley would provide an excellent scoring option for the Grizzlies. Some scouts say his weakness is creating for others, but with Mike Conley Jr. at the point, he would not have to create shots for others. He would be a perfect fit with the Grizzlies.
    ALEX GOODLET/GETTY IMAGES

    ALEX GOODLET/GETTY IMAGES

  18.  Detroit Pistons:Caris LeVert G Michigan: The Pistons took a big step under Stan Van Gundy this year by making the playoffs. Now they need to add depth to take another step in the playoffs. LaVert would be a viable option off the bench and could develop into a long-time starter.
    (Mike Mulholland | MLive.com)

    (Mike Mulholland | MLive.com)

  19. Denver Nuggets: Deyonta Davis F Michigan State: This would be Denver’s third pick of the first round. It is possible they use all three picks to trade up, but if they decide to keep all three of the picks, they would try to take the best player available, Devonta Davis. Davis is big and has been molded by Tom Izzo. His game may grow in the NBA, but as of now he is an offensive liability. Time will tell if he can develop his offensive game, but he is NBA ready on the defensive end.
     Sean Rayford AP

    Sean Rayford AP

  20. Indiana Pacers: Tyler Ulis G Kentucky: Paul George is a superstar and Myles Turner has shown brilliant flashes. For the Pacers to take the next step they need to find a solid point guard and drafting Ulis would give them that. The common knock on Ulis is that he is too small. If you watched any Kentucky games you know he made up for his size in his ability to create for his teammates and score. He is a gritty team leader and Indiana would get a quality player if they drafted Ulis
    Denny Medley / USA TODAY Sports

    Denny Medley / USA TODAY Sports

  21. Atlanta Hawks: Taurean Prince: F Baylor: Atlanta needs a player who can defend against other teams’ best players in the playoffs. With Teague, Horford and Millsap the Hawks have plenty of scoring. In reality, they need someone to slow down LeBron if they want to get further in the playoffs. Prince has great length and good defensive instincts. He would be a great fit with the Hawks.
    North Carolina's Brice Johnson celebrates after a basket against Notre Dame during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the championship of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Saturday, March 14, 2015, in Greensboro, N.C. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

    North Carolina’s Brice Johnson celebrates after a basket against Notre Dame during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the championship of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Saturday, March 14, 2015, in Greensboro, N.C. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

  22. Charlotte Hornets: Brice Johnson F North Carolina: Brice Johnson had a tremendous year for North Carolina. He is very athletic and is a high percentage shooter. He needs to bulk up some for the NBA, but that should happen over time. Brice Johnson could be the piece the Hornets need to make a deeper playoff run next season.
    (Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports Images)

    (Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports Images)

  23. Boston Celtics: Thon Maker F/C Australia: This would be the third pick for the Celtics and they could afford to take a risk. The Celtics may trade, but if they don’t, I see them taking a very talented, yet unknown, Thon Maker. He is a freak athlete at 7’1”, who has great handles for his size. He could turn out to be the best player in the draft, or the worst. Only time will tell.
    (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  24. Philadelphia 76ers: Patrick McCaw G UNLV: McCaw was UNLV’s leading scorer and at 6’7” he has great size for the NBA. He can play on the ball and off the ball. His versatility and athleticism is what will intrigue teams. He is also good for at least one steal that leads to a breakaway dunk per game, as he did it regularly while at UNLV.
    Demetrius Jackson celebrates a three-pointer in the first half against North Carolina in the NCAA tournament's Midwest Region final at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Philadelphia. (Elsa / Getty Images)

    Demetrius Jackson celebrates a three-pointer in the first half against North Carolina in the NCAA tournament’s Midwest Region final at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Philadelphia. (Elsa / Getty Images)

  25. Los Angeles Clippers: Demetrius Jackson G Notre Dame: Jackson has a nice burst of explosion and has a great assist to turnover ratio. He is polished, developed and will be one of the older players drafted. Because of his age you expect to get a more mature player who is capable of dictating an offense. The Clippers will look to add depth and Jackson would be a good second option to have behind Chris Paul.
    http://aba-liga.com/news/tabid/86/id/35663/p/15/enjoy-the-best-actions-from-november.aspx

    http://aba-liga.com/news/tabid/86/id/35663/p/15/enjoy-the-best-actions-from-november.aspx

  26. Philadelphia 76ers:Timothe Luwawu G France: There is a chance the Sixers package picks 24 and 26 to move up for a better guard, but if they keep both picks look for them to take Timonthe Luwawu who is a bit of an unknown from France. He stands at 6’7” which is great for a guard. He is quick off the dribble and a good three point shooter.
    Photo: AP

    Photo: AP

  27. Toronto Raptors: Malachi Richardson G Syracuse: A lot of teams have started to fall in love with Richardson. He has the ability to create shots, but needs to develop other parts of his game. This pick may take a while to develop but they may need him sooner if Demar DeRozan leaves this summer.
    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 16: DeAndre Bembry #43 of the Saint Joseph's Hawks handles the ball against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the Championship game of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 16, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

    NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 16: DeAndre Bembry #43 of the Saint Joseph’s Hawks handles the ball against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the Championship game of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 16, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

  28. Phoenix Suns: DeAndre Bembry G St Joesph’s: The Suns may not have a huge need for another guard, but they have three first round picks. Bembry can score from any part of the floor and would be a good option for anyone needing some scoring.
    Oregon State's Malcolm Duvivier goes up for a shot against Auburn during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

    Oregon State’s Malcolm Duvivier goes up for a shot against Auburn during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

  29. San Antonio Spurs: Gary Payton II G Oregon State: Tony Parker isn’t getting any younger and the Spurs need to look at developing his replacement. Payton is just like his dad when it comes to getting his hands on the ball defensively and  Gregg Popovich will love that. He is also very explosive and athletic and he could be a great piece to go along with LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard.
    Vanderbilt center Damian Jones (30) dunks the ball over Florida guard Kasey Hill (0) and forward Jon Horford (21) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

    Vanderbilt center Damian Jones (30) dunks the ball over Florida guard Kasey Hill (0) and forward Jon Horford (21) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

  30. Golden State Warriors: Damian Jones F/C Vanderbilt: Damian Jones is a very athletic seven footer who was instrumental in the success of Vanderbilt. Drafting Jones would create a deeper front court for the Warriors.
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