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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Who Can Knock Off Golden State

Who Can Knock Off Golden State?

There seems to be a consensus that the Warriors and Cavaliers will be meeting in the NBA Finals. Whether it is actual analysis or just what people want to see, it is hard to find fans who believe it will be anyone else. Why would it be anybody other than those two teams? They have played against one another in back to back finals. Both teams have gotten even better this season. Most fans also want to see the grudge match considering both teams have beaten the other once. On paper, everything looks nice but basketball isn’t played on paper and there are teams who can upset the world and make it to the finals. This first edition will look at who in the west can upset the Warriors in the playoffs.

San Antonio Spurs

Who Can Knock Off Golden State

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

This isn’t really going out on a limb. The Spurs are the most obvious answer to who can beat the Warriors in the playoffs although they seem to be forgotten when it comes to finals talk. The Spurs are an amazing 45-13 and only four and a half games back of the Warriors. Mathematically they could even get the number one seed still. San Antonio also leads the season series 1-0 and there are still two more games to play against the Warriors.

Gregg Popovich will have this team ready come playoff time, and everyone in that locker room believes they can win the title. The Spurs have the second-best defense in the NBA holding teams to just 98.3 points per game. They also hold opponents to 44 percent shooting. It is going to take a good defensive team to beat the Warriors. What the Spurs do defending the three-point line is what gives them the best opportunity to win. San Antonio holds opponents to 34 percent shooting behind the arc. Keeping Klay Thompson and Steph Curry off the arc is the key to beating the Warriors.

The Spurs are extremely experienced in the playoffs. Their players know what it takes to win and have the mentality that they are overlooked and underappreciated. Kawhi Leonard may need to be legendary during their playoff run but they are one of the teams that can upset Golden State.

Houston Rockets

Who Can Knock Off Golden State

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The Rockets are an interesting team. They played the Warriors in the playoffs last year as an eighth seed but only won one game in the series. As crazy as this sounds, the formula the Rockets have for beating the Warriors is trying to outscore them. They are probably the only team in the league who is comfortable playing the Warriors shot for shot. They have also split the season series each beating the other once with the Rockets winning the most recent contest.

Mike D’Antoni’s philosophy has been tremendous for Harden and the Rockets, as they are averaging 115.2 points per game this season. James Harden will need to play out of his mind for the Rockets to do pull off the upset, but he is capable of doing so. If the Warriors go cold Houston can shoot them out of the gym. It will take a group effort to beat Golden State but Houston has a team capable, even if it isn’t likely.

Utah Jazz

Who Can Knock Off Golden State

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

The Jazz are one team nobody really talks about. Most talk about the West involves the Warriors, Spurs, Rockets and Clippers. Interesting enough the Jazz sit at fourth in the Western Conference. Utah isn’t a high scoring team, they average about 100 points per game, but they shoot a high percentage. The Jazz rank 10th in field goal percentage shooting 46.4 percent per game.

What makes the Jazz good is that they are the best defensive team in the NBA. They hold teams to an average of 95.6 points per game. They are third best in defensive field goal percentage (43.8 percent) and 13th in defensive three-point percentage (35.7 percent). The Jazz play great defense and can slow the game down. In a series against the Warriors, they would need to play their best defense of the year and hope the Warriors go cold for one or two games. If they do that the Jazz could find themselves upsetting Golden State in a seven game series.

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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 NBA Five Years From Now

The NBA is a constantly changing league. Besides the San Antonio Spurs, the NBA hierarchy has been nothing if not fluid.

Just four years ago, the Heat and Pacers dominated the Eastern Conference. Four years before that, the Cavaliers, Magic, Pistons and Celtics were the class of the conference. The Western conference has been similarly volatile despite the Spurs’ constant success. The Lakers dominated the West during Kobe’s prime before the Warriors took over as the most dominate force on the Pacific Coast.

It’s likely that we will see a similar shift in power over the next few years. Five years from now, the league will likely have changed considerably.

Eastern Conference

In five years, Lebron James will be 37 years old. There’s no ruling out that he’ll still be dominating the league into his late thirties. Most likely, however, his days as a world-beater will be done. The power vacuum in the East could be filled by a number of teams, but these teams have the best chance at rising to the top.

Cleveland Cavaliers: 

Future of NBA

(courtesy of Grantland)

The Cavaliers have set themselves up well for the next few years. LeBron won’t stay at this level forever, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love can keep them a contender into the future. Kyrie will be in his prime in five years and will most likely still be one of the best point guards in the game. He can be the best guy on a championship team.

Lebron’s game will most likely adapt well as he loses athleticism. His vision and playmaking will withstand father time and compliment Kyrie perfectly. The powers of David Griffin will most likely keep the team contending well into the future.

Best Case: Kyrie turns into a superstar and Kevin Love turns into the Kevin Love of old. LeBron turns into a distributor and the Cavs continue to dominate the East year after year until his retirement.

Worst Case: Kyrie stays at the level he’s at now. Kevin Love regresses and loses some of his rebounding prowess. LeBron loses his midrange touch and struggles with injuries. The Cavs are a fringe playoff team.

Boston Celtics: 

Future of NBA

(courtesy of Boston Herald)

The Celtics are already a top three team in the East. Besides that, GM Danny Ainge has set them up for future success as well.

Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Al Horford will be 31,32 and 35 respectively. Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown will each entering their primes rounding out a solid five man rotation.

The picks they have stashed from Brooklyn will help round out their lineup as well. They look to have a couple of lottery picks over the next two years that should work as assets or turn into solid young talent.

Best Case: If they can land a superstar in the draft they could become a powerhouse and the top seed in the East. Similarly, If they trade some picks to land another superstar, they could elevate themselves into the top spot. Only time will tell, but they look to be a lock as a contender for the next couple of years.

Worst Case: They strike out on their lottery picks over the next two years. Their aging talent becomes injury prone and fails to produce at the same level. They stay a playoff threat, but drop to a five or six seed in the East.

Milwaukee Bucks:

Future of NBA

(courtesy of USA Today)

 To be a top team in the NBA, you need a superstar. It’s becoming more and more clear that the Bucks have that role filled. Giannis Antetokounmpo has emerged as one of the brightest stars in the NBA and looks ready to lead this team for the next decade.

The Bucks have a depth of other young stars as well. Jabari Parker and Malcolm Brogdon look like great pieces and Khris Middleton is set to return next year. The Bucks could be set to dominate the league for the next few years.

Best Case: The Greek Freak becomes the best player in the league. He, Parker and Middleton become a Big Three and they become a perennial championship team in the East.

Worst Case: The Greek Freak continues on his trajectory, but the pieces around him don’t develop. He becomes a good player on a bad team and they are exit the playoffs early.

Philadelphia 76ers: 

Future of NBA

(courtesy of Getty images)

The Sixers could be the biggest unknown in the NBA. They have made huge strides with Joel Embiid this year, but the team’s future is still up in the air.

Like the Bucks, the Sixers have the most important piece of the puzzle. If Joel Embiid can stay healthy he is going to be a star. The question is whether the Sixers can surround him with talent.

Hopefully, Ben Simmons can be another star for the team. And with two potential top ten picks this year, they could add more star power to their lineup. The Sixers have the potential to be a super-team, but also stay at the bottom of the East.

Best Case: They get two more stars in the draft this year. Ben Simmons turns out to be another star, and Joel Embiid turns into the best center in the league. The Sixers contend for the championship every year and dominate a strong Eastern conference.

Teams that will drop:

Toronto Raptors

Atlanta Hawks

Chicago Bulls

Verdict: The Bucks are the most likely team to rule the East in five years. With a few future superstars and proven role players, they are set up best for the future. The Sixers have the second best chance. With their injury risks domination is anything but definite, but they have too much talent to rule out. The Cavaliers and Celtics are dark horse candidates to remain on top of the conference as well.

Western Conference

Future of NBA

(courtesy of Bleacher Report)

Golden State Warriors: 

The rich get richer. The Warriors will most likely take a similar path to the Heat after they signed Lebron James. Although they lacked cap space in the first year, they added depth in James’ second year with the team. Although they lack depth this year, the Golden State Warriors will most likely continue to get better as their four stars hit their prime. They will most likely continue to be the class of the West.

Best Case: The Warriors gain depth to surround their stars. They remain the one seed for the next five years and win championships along the way.

Worst Case: The Warriors can’t retain their superstars. They’re stuck with a middling team that sits in the middle of the conference every year.

San Antonio Spurs: 

Future of NBA

(courtesy of Bleacher Report)

The Spurs have Kawhi Leonard, Lamarcus Aldridge and a knack for never missing on a free agent signing or draft pick. They will continue to build around Kawhi and remain at the top. As long as they have a star player and the best coach in the league they will continue to contend.

Best Case: They make a splash in free agency. With two superstars and a great supporting cast, Popovich continues to keep this team at the top of the West.

Worst Case: The team struggles to contend, and Kawhi is the only star on the team.

Los Angeles Lakers: 

Future of NBA

(courtesy of USA Today)

The Lakers have a depth of budding superstars, led by Deangelo Russell and Brandon Ingram. The team is set for the future and have a great young coach in Luke Walton. Whether or not they can contend depends on the progression of Brandon Ingram, but if their stars pan out they could easily turn into one of the best teams in the West.

Best Case: Deangelo Russell and Brandon Ingram turn into superstars and lead the Lakers to championships over the next few years. Luke Walton becomes one of the best coaches in the league and they become the powerhouse of the West.

Worst Case: Brandon Ingram can’t put on weight. Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle don’t live up to their potential. The Lakers can’t execute their turnaround and remain a borderline playoff team.

Minnesota Timberwolves: 

Future of NBA

(courtesy of Sporting News)

The Timberwolves have a coach, two stars and a depth of pieces that can contribute or be traded. They will also most likely have a top pick in this year’s draft. Although their timetable has already been pushed back, it is matter of when not if they will be the class of the west.

Best Case: Towns and Wiggins become superstars at the level of Durant and Westbrook, but the team succeeds and wins championships. They become a perennial one seed.

Worst Case: The Wolves fall into a trap of becoming a great team, but never an elite team. They never develop the pieces around Towns and Wiggins, and stagnate around the 2 or 3 seed.

Teams that will drop: 

Houston Rockets

Los Angeles Clippers

Memphis Grizzlies

Verdict: The Timberwolves are the most likely team to dominate the West in five years. They have two future superstars in Wiggins and Towns, and they have the young pieces around them to build a great team. The Warriors are the second most likely, as they already have the proven stars, but their stars will be aging in five years. The Lakers and Spurs will be dark horse contenders because of their star power and their respective coaching prowess.

January NBA Playoff Predictions

As we head into the new year, here are the NBA playoff predictions for who will grab the 16 spots in the NBA playoffs this spring.

East

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavs will most likely rest their starters heading down the stretch. The Raptors will most likely make a push for the top spot, and could make it close. The easier schedule will let them grab the top seed in the East. Projected win total: 62

NBA Playoffs

DeMar DeRozan (Photo courtesy: chch.com)

2. Toronto Raptors: The superstar backcourt in Toronto, coupled with their depth, makes them almost a lock for one of the top two seeds. They’ll most likely push Cleveland for home field advantage towards the end of the year. The tough schedule down the stretch will have them fall into second. Projected win total: 58

3. Boston Celtics: Boston looks to be a prime candidate to make a big splash at the trade deadline. Either way, the streaking Celtics will grab the third seed and home court in the first round. As their young backcourt and wings continue to develop the team will only continue to improve. Projected win total: 52

4. Milwaukee Bucks: The rise of the Greek Freak and Jabari Parker will propel the Bucks passed the Hawks and Hornets and give them home court advantage in the first round. Their schedule gets easier as the season progresses as well. Look for them to grab a few key wins in the next few months. Projected win total: 44

5. Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks might be sellers at the deadline, but either way they look to rise up in the weak Eastern Conference. The Hawks backcourt may prove to be their downfall in the stretch run. If they can get some solid guard play at the deadline, they may rise even further up the conference. Projected win total: 42

6. New York Knicks: The Knicks will benefit from any easy schedule over the next few months. If Derrick Rose can continue to adapt to the offense and get Kristaps Porzingis more involved in the offense, this team can compete with anyone. Projected win total: 41

7. Charlotte Hornets: The Hornets will drop down the stretch as they face more Western Conference opponents. The pace of the Hornets is unsustainable and they will likely fall in the muddled East. There are so many average teams in the East that it could go any way, but the Hornets will drop down to 7th. Projected win total: 41

8. Washington Wizards: The Wizards will ride their trio of John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter to the last spot in the East. The Wizards bench may be one of the worst in the league right now. But the return of Ian Mahimi an the hopeful improvements of Trey Burke will help this team grab the last seed. The weak Eastern Conference will also help them sneak in with a sub-.500 record. Projected win total: 38

West

1. Golden State Warriors: The Golden State Warriors will remain the top seed in the West. They’ll face stiff competition from the two teams below them. But, ultimately, they are just too good. It’s hard to see the Warriors losing more than six or seven more games this year as they just don’t face enough tough competition. Projected win total: 70

NBA Playoffs

James Harden (Photo courtesy: nba.com)

2.  Houston Rockets: The Rockets have weathered through their tough schedule this far. In the second half, their schedule gets even easier. The Rockets will spend much of the next two months beating up on the weak Eastern Conference teams before holding on to grab the two seed. The Rockets will also pursue the 2nd seed more aggressively than the Spurs will. Projected win total: 62

3. San Antonio Spurs: Greg Popovich will most likely rest some of his starters down the stretch. The seeding doesn’t really matter for these yearly powerhouses. They are just too good to slip much past the 3rd seed though. Projected win total: 58

4. Utah Jazz: Look for the Jazz to make some small moves at the deadline. Home field advantage will be more important to the Jazz as well. Their depth will allow them to chase the four seed more aggressively. Projected win total: 52

5. LA Clippers: The Clippers look to be potential players at the trade deadline. But, their health will make it tough for them to keep up in the second half of the year. Hopefully when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are back on the same floor they will be able to push back up the standings. Projected win total: 50

6. Oklahoma City Thunder: No doubt, Russell Westbrook’s push for averaging a triple-double will allow the Thunder to win enough game down the stretch. Also, after these six teams there is a severe drop-off in talent in the west. The combination of Westbrook, Steve Adams, Victor Oladipo and Damontis Sabonis will lead the Thunder to the 6th seed. Projected win total: 48

7. Memphis Grizzlies: Memphis has the firepower to compete with anyone, but injuries will make it tough for them to compete with the better teams in the East. Look for them to slump down the stretch as they try to get healthy for the playoffs. Projected win total: 44

8. Denver Nuggets: The 8th seed in the West is a mess. Currently, Denver, New Orleans, Sacramento, Portland and Los Angeles are fighting for it. Denver, ultimately, will grab the last seed in the West assuming one thing. They need to grab a piece at the trade deadline. Denver has to be the biggest player at the trade deadline. They must deal one of their big men to give this team the final push it needs to become a playoff team. If they do, they will get the 8th seed. Projected win total: 36

 

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A Mid-Summer Dream: Watch the NBA Summer League

 

Courtesy of USA Today Sports

Courtesy of USA Today Sports

After the confetti has fallen and the champagne showers have completed it’s on to the NBA draft. The Woj bombs, the draft day trades, and the “anticipation” of the number one overall pick keeps us engaged for about 30 minutes of the two-hour showcase.

The free agency frenzy can be entertaining. Everyone is glued to Twitter and the ESPN affiliates just to find out what sources has to say next.

But the real summertime gem is the NBA Summer League. This is usually reserved for basketball junkies to have something to chew on. It takes a certain amount of convincing to get a casual fan to tune in. Here are five reasons that you should.

Ummm, It’s Still Basketball

The summer league allows the uber basketball fan to enjoy some competition. The games usually lack sustenance. And the games at times can be unpalatable. However, what the games lack in nuance they make up for in enjoyment. There’s something about watching otherwise unknown NBA players sense their opportunity and having the desire and competitive drive to go out and take it. Oklahoma City Thunder Guard Cameron Payne is far from an unknown. Hitting a game-winner in this fashion is sure to boost his confidence. This wasn’t just a lucky shot after a last minute heave. That was a shot that was beget from sublime execution in crunch time from the players. To a basketball puritan there is nothing greater. Exciting right?

First Look at Special Potential 

The NBA Draft Lottery is always an intriguing part of the draft. Days, even weeks before the draft each pick is scrutinized and debated. The expectation of course is on the top picks, but there are some later lottery picks that can steal the show. Whether it’s a record setting three-point barrage or a total obliteration of the competition, summer league is your first chance to see a player present the prologue to his career. Last year in the Las Vegas Summer League, 14th overall pick Devin Booker put on an absolute show with 31 points and nine rebounds. His well-documented shooting ability was on full display. Once he got his chance during the regular season, all that witnessed his breakout had no choice but to think back to that performance.

Exciting Finishes

Per NBA.com, the rules of Summer League are as follows: Two minute overtime period, each team is allowed one timeout, each team is allowed one advance, penalty begins on the second team foul, the second overtime period is sudden death (first team to score a point wins). Sudden Death.

Can this be moved to the NBA? The very idea of Stephen Curry or Damian Lillard with the ball in their hands in such a situation is something hoop-heads can only dream of. Watching it play out in Summer League is the next best thing, and it doesn’t take way from the excitement.

Close-knit Environment
One of the best things about summer league is the intimacy of the event, specifically the Orlando Summer League. It’s just pure unadulterated basketball. The pomp and circumstance of a regular season NBA game is amazing, but the setup of summer league matches the time of year.

Devin Booker (1) put on a show in the 2015 Las Vegas Summer League. Courtesy of USA Today Sports

Devin Booker (1) put on a show in the 2015 Las Vegas Summer League. Courtesy of USA Today Sports

The exceptionally low-key environment augments that the focus is all on the players and the action of the game. When the ball-handler calls out an offensive set, you can almost see the wheels turning as the players are trying their best to execute. The audibility of defensive coverages gives you an inside track of sorts.  You can’t get much closer to the game than in summer league.

Even if they lose, Teams still have a chance at the Championship 

The Summer League at its heart is still a competition. Each player on a team is competing for, not only a roster spot, but also a championship. The two previous champions have been the Sacramento Kings in 2014 and the San Antonio Spurs in 2015 of the Las Vegas Summer League.

Each team has the opportunity to accrue points as the tournament goes along. There are 8 points available from each game. Four points for winning the game, and 1 point for each individual quarter won. The two teams that have accumulated the most points will play in the championship game. This adds to the drama of the tournament in nail-biting fashion. Winning a matchup doesn’t guarantee a place in the championship game.

All in all the Summer League is the biggest basketball event of the summer outside of USA Basketball. It’s something to look forward to when the headliner games run dry. But I’m sure you don’t need much convincing by now.

Dwight Howard and the Celtics need each other

Courtesy of USA-Today Sports

    Courtesy of USA-Today Sports

Free agency means about the same amount to teams and their front offices as it does to the players. This is the time to fill a need or multiple needs if the cap space allows. Whether there is a 3 and D wing player on the market or a point guard who can run an offense, if the price is right GMs will most assuredly have no issues getting out the checkbooks. Players can also enjoy the feeling of being courted and having the option to choose between a team that can aid them in revitalizing their respective careers or have a chance to finally compete for that elusive NBA title.

For Dwight Howard the answer is simple. The Boston Celtics, according to ESPN reports, could be a potential landing spot. Should such an event occur, it wouldn’t be a bad move for either party.

The Boston Celtics could add some rim protection and frontcourt depth to their guard-centric roster. While giving Howard an opportunity to prove he can be mature enough to provide not only his physical gifts but, also veteran leadership to a team that still might be a couple of years away from true contention.

 

Courtesy of USA Today Sports

Courtesy of USA Today Sports

If the Celtics want to take a jump past the Atlanta Hawks and maybe even the Toronto Raptors it wouldn’t hurt to give Howard a chance. The center position is still an important one even in the days of pace and space. The Oklahoma City Thunder took down the 67-win San Antonio Spurs in the conference semifinals. This was in part to their fantastic frontcourt play from Enes Kanter and Steven Adams. While he isn’t as young and spry as those players, Howard still has the experience and desire to play at a high level.

Last season Howard averaged 13.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and shot 62% from the field. He also pitched in 1.6 blocks. The 13 points were among the lowest of his now 12 year career. Even in 2011 where he only played 54 games due to back injuries and subsequently back surgery, he averaged 20 points a game. Howard’s rebounds were also among the lowest outputs of his career.

Some of this can be attributed to his diminished role in Houston, particularly on offense (he averaged only 8 shot attempts, the lowest since his rookie season). The bulk of which played out in the media. His low rebounding numbers can probably be a sign of athletic regression. This is common among players his age that play such an unforgiving  and punishing position.

With all of that said, Boston still shouldn’t feel hesitant to pay him. He still very much provides what they need from an interior player standpoint. The Celtics ranked 22nd in blocks per game last season. Conversely, the Houston Rockets were middle of the pack ranking 13th. However, Howard’s 1.6 blocks a game are more than team leading shot blocker Amir Johnson at barely over 1 a game.

While his defensive impact wasn’t felt a whole lot in Houston, his 3.1 Defensive Win Shares (DWS) would rank tops on the team, 2nd to only Jared Sullinger.  For the Celtic’s, who had 4th best defense in the league last year, Howard’s presence shouldn’t hurt it all. In fact, the way head coach Brad Stevens has his team playing defense, Dwight should have more of an opportunity to be an above average rim protector. This is true even in a year where he’ll be on the wrong side of 30.

Dwight Howard should take this free agency and look at teams that can give him a couple more years of contention. Danny Ainge should use the same period of time to convince Howard that Boston can give him a taste of what winning, and winning with a smile, feels like again. It’s a win-win for both.

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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