NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Saturday Slam: Can LeBron James deliver a title to Los Angeles?


Like every summer, NBA free agency has been wild. Lots of unexpected moves have happened and I aim to address many of these moves in the coming weeks. If there's one move that I need to first address, it's LeBron James' decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers on a four-year, $154M deal. Joining James in Los Angeles will be former adversary Lance Stephenson and journeyman point guard Rajon Rondo, who both agreed to free agent deals with the Lakers shortly after James.

James' decision to leave Cleveland for Los Angeles could produce the most interesting chapter of his career, but only if he wins a championship. James cannot finish his career in Los Angeles without winning a ring if he wants any hope of improving his legacy. He knows this and seems up to the challenge.

The biggest hurdle standing in James' way is the Golden State Warriors, who appear poised to win the NBA championship for the next three years. The Warriors have a proven championship formula in place while the Lakers have a lot of question marks outside of James. Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson are both curious additions to say the least. While both guys are talented, I could easily see them not producing the desired results that James hopes they will. They both have a history of creating some friction in NBA locker rooms and have only really found success in one environment, Rondo in Boston and Stephenson in Indiana. While adding both Rondo and Stephenson, the Lakers lost Julius Randle to the New Orleans Pelicans, a guy who many felt had the chance to be a key piece for the franchise going forward.

                                          (David Richard-USA TODAY Sports) 

Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram are both talented pieces who should promise to get better over the coming seasons. While there are rumors of the Lakers possibly moving Ingram and/or Ball in order to get Kawhi Leonard, I personally think it would be wise for them to keep both of those guys around. They shouldn't make the mistake the Cleveland Cavaliers made, which was to trade a young promising player (Andrew Wiggins) for a more established veteran (Kevin Love). With those two guys learning from James, the Lakers can be assured that they'll be in good hands after his departure.

While there are still a lot of pieces that need to fall into place, I personally believe LeBron James can deliver a title to Los Angeles. As we saw in Cleveland, he doesn't need much around him to make things competitive and with a better cast around him, it would be foolish to rule out his chances. He's too talented to dismiss and given that he has four years to make it happen, I think there are good odds he'll strike it rich at least once.

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Saturday Slam: Winners, losers, and surprises from 2018 NBA Draft

                                          (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports) 


The 2018 NBA Draft took place on Thursday night. The Phoenix Suns selected Deandre Ayton with the #1 overall pick while the Sacramento Kings took Marvin Bagley III with the #2 overall pick. Like every draft, it was an exciting event with some winners, losers, and surprises. For complete draft results, check out the results on NBADraft.net here. For more detailed analysis on each prospect, check out the NBALord.com mock draft here.

Winners

Phoenix Suns stock up on talent: Like most teams that pick number one, the Phoenix Suns were the big winners of the NBA Draft. Deandre Ayton projects to be a cornerstone piece for them to build around for the next decade, giving them a chance to finally make some noise in the NBA playoffs. In addition to Ayton, the Suns also added some other quality players like Mikal Bridges, Elie Okobo, and George King. The Suns should feel very optimistic about their future after this draft.

Denver Nuggets snag Michael Porter, Jr: Michael Porter, Jr. has the potential to be the best prospect in this draft if he stays healthy. However, due to concerns over his health, mainly his back, he fell right into the Denver Nuggets' lap at #14. If you are the Nuggets, you have to be thrilled with this pick. To get perhaps the best prospect in the draft at #14 is huge. Even if Porter doesn't pan out, drafting him is still worth the gamble.

Sacramento Kings draft a franchise big man: While Deandre Ayton deserved to go #1, it's not like the gap between him and Marvin Bagley III is huge. Bagley is a fantastic prospect and has just as good of a chance to become an elite NBA player. The Kings need a franchise centerpiece and Bagley projects to be just that. After wallowing in the wilderness for a few years, the Kings appear to finally have something to point them in the right direction.

Dallas Mavericks snag Luka Doncic: Lots of NBA scouts feel Luka Doncic is the best prospect in this entire draft. The Dallas Mavericks have to feel excited to get Doncic, especially since they came into the draft picking 5th. They were able to move up to the 3rd spot to get him, a move that was definitely worth it.

Atlanta Hawks swoop up Trae Young: The Hawks dealt the 3rd pick to the Mavericks for the 5th overall pick and a future first round pick. This was a shrewd move since Trae Young was the guy they wanted all along. Trae Young gets compared to Stephen Curry for his lights out shooting and sensational ball handling. If Young can be anything close to Curry, the Hawks should be competitive for a long time.

College seniors: Duke senior Grayson Allen went #21 to Utah, Boise State senior Chandler Hutchison went #22 to Chicago, West Virginia senior Jevon Carter went #32 to Memphis, Kansas senior Devonte Graham went #34 to Atlanta, Kansas senior Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk went #47 to the Los Angeles Lakers, Missouri State senior Alize Johnson went #50 to Indiana, Purdue senior Vince Edwards went #52 to Houston, Virginia senior Devon Hall went #53 to Oklahoma City, Texas Arlington senior Kevin Hervey went #57 to Oklahoma City, UCLA senior Thomas Welsh went #58 to Denver, and Colorado senior George King went #59 to Phoenix. You hear that if you want to make it to the NBA, you better play one or two years of college basketball or else you'll be considered too old. These dudes all showed that if you work on your game for four years and keep getting better, there's a home for you in the NBA.

Losers 

Mikal Bridges' mom doesn't get her wish: When Villanova junior Mikal Bridges was picked 10th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers, it seemed too good to be true. He's a Philly native and his mom works for the 76ers organization. Well, it turns out it was in fact too good to be true. Bridges was shortly shipped to the Suns in exchange for the #16 overall pick Zhaire Smith and a future first round pick.

Michael Porter, Jr. falls to #14: While the Nuggets are major winners, Michael Porter, Jr. is a loser for falling all the way to #14. Few people saw him slipping past the #9 overall pick, making his fall to #14 all the more surprising and unfortunate. The only way there's a happy ending here is if he lives up to the hype and proves all the teams that passed on him to be foolish.

Brandon McCoy goes undrafted: Brandon McCoy was a McDonald's All-American in 2017 and a consensus 5-star recruit, choosing UNLV over several Pac-12 schools. The 7'1", 250 pound big man has all the pieces to have a really good NBA career, making it all the more disappointing that he failed to get drafted. He has since signed with the Milwaukee Bucks, so he too will get a chance to prove his doubters wrong.

Surprises 

Michael Porter, Jr. falls to #14: As I said above, few people saw Michael Porter, Jr. slipping past the #9 overall pick. Him falling to Denver at #14 was definitely the big surprise of the night.

Grayson Allen worked his way into the first round: Despite all of his antics and controversies at Duke, Grayson Allen found a way to get drafted in the first round, going #21 overall to the Utah Jazz. Most had him getting drafted in the first round come draft day, but a month ago, he was projected to be a second round pick. Him convincing a team that he can control himself on the court and be a good locker room guy was definitely a surprise. Especially since that team was the Utah Jazz, a team that is known for placing a premium on character.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

2018 NBA Mock Draft


The 2018 NBA Draft will commence on Thursday, June 21st at 7:00 PM EST on ESPN. Below is the NBALord.com mock draft with analysis provided for each pick. Enjoy!          

1.    Phoenix Suns –Arizona freshman PF DeAndre Ayton: Listed at 7’1”, 250 pounds, DeAndre Ayton has a killer physical profile and is very skilled for a player of his size and stage of development, averaging 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game during his time with the Wildcats. Given he played college ball down the road in Tucson and has so much upside, the Suns would be crazy not to take him. Click here to check out my analysis of Ayton on NBADraft.net.  
2.    Sacramento Kings-Real Madrid SF Luka Doncic: Listed at 6’8”, 225 pounds, Luka Doncic has a very polished game for being only 19 years of age. He’s sort of your classic European prospect in that he has a really nice shot, can handle the ball, and has good court vision. Given that the Kings have Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic calling the shots in the front office, it’s hard to see them passing on a Euro player with so much upside. They would have no problem connecting with Doncic and selling him on the Sacramento Kings experience.
3.    Atlanta Hawks-Duke freshman PF Marvin Bagley III: Marvin Bagley III has numbers very similar to DeAndre Ayton, averaging 21.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, and almost 1 block per game. On top of that he too won player of the year honors in his conference. The Hawks need a guy to build their franchise around and Marvin Bagley III definitely has the potential to be that kind of guy for them.
4.    Memphis Grizzlies –Texas freshman C Mohamed Bamba: At 6’11”, 225 pounds, Mohamed Bamba averaged 12.9 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks per game during his freshman year. Bamba is a freak athlete that has the potential to be an excellent rim protector in the NBA. The Grizzlies could use a rim protector and a big man to follow in the footsteps of Marc Gasol, making Bamba a logical pick for them.
5.    Dallas Mavericks-Michigan State freshman PF Jaren Jackson, Jr.: At 6’11”, 242 pounds, Jaren Jackson, Jr. has tons of upside, averaging 10.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game during his freshman year. His athleticism is what has the NBA scouts salivating over him. As an added bonus, he’s the son of former NBA player Jaren Jackson, so he’s definitely got the bloodlines. The Mavericks will look for best player available at this stage, making Jaren Jackson, Jr. the right pick for them.
6.    Orlando Magic-Oklahoma freshman point guard Trae Young: During his freshman year, Trae Young averaged 27.4 points per game on 36.0% shooting from 3-point range, 42.2% shooting from the field, and 86.1% shooting from the foul line. Due to his 6’2”, 180 pound build and ability to “get buckets”, Young is drawing comparisons to Stephen Curry. If he lives up to that hype, one could argue he’s the top prospect in the draft. If he’s available at #6, the Orlando Magic will definitely take him.
7.    Chicago Bulls-Missouri freshman small forward Michael Porter, Jr.: Due to a back injury, Michael Porter, Jr. missed all of the regular season during his lone year at Missouri and only saw a little bit of postseason action in the NCAA Tournament. When he committed to Missouri, there was a ton of buzz around him given that he was a 5-star recruit and a McDonald’s All-American. The big question is how far will he fall as a result of his back injury? The talent to be the #1 or #2 pick in the draft is definitely there, which is why I have a hard time seeing him fall past the Bulls at #7. If he’s still on the board at this point, they’ll take him without a doubt.
8.    Cleveland Cavaliers –Alabama freshman point guard Collin Sexton: Regardless of whether or not LeBron James sticks around, the Cavaliers need another playmaker on offense. Collin Sexton would provide the Cavaliers with such a playmaker, averaging 19.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game last season for the Crimson Tide. He’s got the potential to fill the void left by Kyrie Irving.
9.    New York Knicks –Texas Tech freshman shooting guard Zhaire Smith: At 6’5”, 195 pounds, Zhaire Smith has tremendous upside due to his explosive athleticism. He averaged 11.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game last season for the Red Raiders. If he can continue to polish his game and hone his craft, he could be an absolute steal at this point of the draft. The Knicks need an elite playmaker at the wing, making Smith a logical choice for them.
10. Philadelphia 76ers –Villanova junior small forward Mikal Bridges: Mikal Bridges really burst onto the scene in his junior year, averaging 17.7 points per game after averaging 9.8 points per game in his sophomore year. He’s a really good shooter, shooting 43.5% from 3-point range, 51.4% from the field, and 85.1% from the foul line last season. He already comes in as a guy who can make an impact from day one and on top of that there’s good reason to think he’ll continue to get better. He’d be a nice fit for a Philly team that is looking to make an even deeper run in the playoffs next season.
11. Charlotte Hornets –Duke freshman center Wendell Carter, Jr.: Listed at 6’10”, 259 pounds, Wendell Carter, Jr. is a very talented big man, who possesses nice moves in the post and the ability to bang inside (9.1 rebounds per game). He averaged 13.5 points per game in his freshman year and shot 41.3% from 3-point range on 1.2 attempts per game. On top of that, he’s a stellar defender (2.1 blocks) and a high IQ player, considering Harvard before eventually deciding to go to Duke. He’d give the Hornets a post presence that they sorely need.
12. Los Angeles Clippers-Kentucky freshman power forward Kevin Knox: There’s a lot to like about Kevin Knox. He averaged 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in his freshman year on 34.1% shooting from 3-point range and 77.4% shooting from the foul line. At 6’9”, 215 pounds, he has prototypical power forward size and possesses both the athleticism and quickness to play small forward if needed. He’d be a fun player to watch in a Clippers uniform.
13.  Los Angeles Clippers –Kentucky freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: The Clippers have back-to-back picks in the first round. After using their first pick on an athletic power forward, I see them using their next pick on a talented young point guard in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. At 6’6”, 180 pounds, he has great size for the point guard position and knows how to get others involved (14.4 points and 5.1 assists per game). He’d be a great guy to pair with Kevin Knox.
14. Denver Nuggets –Michigan State sophomore small forward Miles Bridges: At 6’7”, 230 pounds, Miles Bridges is an explosive athlete that knows how to throw it down in traffic. Due to his freakish athleticism and strength, he’s able to play the power forward position if needed. He averaged 17.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in his sophomore year, doing a good job of leading the Spartans. With Kenneth Faried no longer what he used to be, Bridges would be a welcomed addition in Denver.
15. Washington Wizards- Villanova sophomore shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo: Donte DiVincenzo had the game of his life in the national championship game, scoring 31 points to lead Villanova past Michigan. In that game, DiVincenzo boosted his draft stock up by a ton, putting himself in the mix to be a lottery pick. The Wizards could use a guy who can shoot from deep, making DiVincenzo a good guy for them to roll the dice on.
16. Phoenix Suns-Boston College junior shooting guard Jerome Robinson: At 6’7”, 181 pounds, Jerome Robinson has the ability to shoot the leather off the ball, averaging 20.7 points per game last season on 40.9% shooting from 3-point range and 83.0% from the foul line. The Suns need more guys who can put the ball in the hole. It can’t just be Devin Booker carrying the load. With a guy like Robinson by his side, Booker would feel less pressure and be allowed to play more freely.
17. Milwaukee Bucks- USA center Mitchell Robinson: Mitchell Robinson is a bit of a mystery player given that he was committed to Western Kentucky and then was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules. That whole incident could scare some teams away, but there’s just too much talent here for Mitchell to fall too far. At 7’1”, 225 pounds, Robinson has really good shot blocking instincts and is an all around freak athlete. Adding Robinson to the Bucks would make them even more athletic than they already are, which is a frightening thought. 
18.  San Antonio Spurs-Miami freshman shooting guard Lonnie Walker: If you are looking for a guy who could be this draft’s Donovan Mitchell, Lonnie Walker could be your guy. He’s got a similar frame at 6’4”, 192 pounds and has a similar mentality. He loves to attack the rim and isn’t afraid to take the big shot. He’d be a fantastic addition to a Spurs team that is in sore need of some new blood.
19.  Atlanta Hawks-Texas A&M sophomore power forward Robert Williams: At 6’9”, 240 pounds, Robert Williams has great physical tools to work with, sporting a wingspan close to 7’6”. He needs to polish his offensive game, but his rebounding (9.2 rebounds) and rim protecting (2.6 blocks) make him a guy who adds instant value. He’d be a nice guy to have paired with Marvin Bagley III down on the block.  
20. Minnesota Timberwolves-Oregon freshman small forward Troy Brown, Jr.: Thanks to my job covering Cal basketball for Rivals.com, I was able to cover Troy Brown, Jr. during his high school career. He was always really nice to me and very professional. Great kid. As far as his basketball skills go, Brown has a really intriguing package to work with. He’s listed at 6’7”, 215 pounds and has the potential to evolve into a point guard down the line given that’s the position he identified with in high school. For the time being, he’ll have to play as a wing and he’s well suited to do that, averaging 11.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game with the Ducks.
21. Utah Jazz –Maryland sophomore shooting guard Kevin Huerter: At 6’7”, 190 pounds, Kevin Huerter knows how to score (14.8 points) and rebound (5.0 rebounds), shooting 41.7% from 3-point range and 75.8% from the foul line in his sophomore campaign.  With Gordon Hayward gone, the Jazz could use another playmaker at the small forward spot, making Huerter a good fit for them.
22. Chicago Bulls-Duke freshman shooting guard Gary Trent, Jr.: Playing with Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter, Jr. helped make Gary Trent, Jr. a better player. At the same time, it made him get less attention than he would have gotten at other programs. Trent had a very solid freshman year for the Blue Devils, averaging 14.5 points per game on 40.2% shooting from 3-point range and 87.6% from the foul line. The Bulls need a shooting guard who can actually shoot, making Trent a no brainer pick for them at this juncture.
23. Indiana Pacers –USA PG Anfernee Simmons: At 6’3”, 185 pounds, Anfernee Simmons has the potential to evolve into a really good point guard in the NBA. The key will be for a team to be patient with him and let him develop. Picking him in the first round might be a bit of a gamble, but it’s a gamble worth taking if you are a team like the Pacers, who already has a playoff ready roster in place.
24. Portland Trail Blazers-Villanova freshman power forward Omari Spellman: Omari Spellman is a 6’9”, 260 pound dude who can shoot from 3-point range (43.3%) and rebound (8.0 rebounds). He’d be a really nice fit in Portland, giving them another shooter and rebounder inside. They could kill two birds with one stone by drafting him.
25. Los Angeles Lakers –Boise State senior shooting guard Chandler Hutchison: It took him four years of college, but now that he’s in the NBA Draft, Chandler Hutchison is catching the attention of NBA teams due to his ability to score (20.0 points) and rebound (7.7 rebounds) as a 6’7”, 190 pound guard. Originally from Mission Viejo, going to the Lakers would be a homecoming of sorts for Hutchinson.
26. Philadelphia 76ers –UCLA junior point guard Aaron Holiday: At 6’1”, 185 pounds, Aaron Holiday is one of the most NBA ready players in this draft. His older brothers Jrue and Justin both are holding their own in the league, so the pedigree is definitely there.  He has the ability to both run an offense and create his own shot. He’s also a solid defender. Click here to check out my analysis of Holiday on NBADraft.net.
27. Boston Celtics-France point guard Elie Okobo: The Celtics would benefit from having a backup point guard of sorts that could give Terry Rozier and Kyrie Irving a bit of a break. At 6’2”, 180 pounds, Elie Okobo is pretty athletic and has the potential to be a solid playmaker in the league. He’d be a pretty safe pick for the Celtics.  
28. Golden State Warriors Creighton junior shooting guard Khyri Thomas: The Warriors could use more depth at the wing spot and they are expected to take the best shooting guard available. In my mock, the best wing available is Khyri Thomas, a 6’4”, 200-pound guard out of Creighton. Thomas averaged 15.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season on 41.1% shooting from 3-point range and 78.8% from the foul line. He’d give the Warriors another wing that can shoot the rock, capable of providing relief for Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry in stretches.
29. Brooklyn Nets Cincinnati junior shooting guard Jacob Evans: At 6’6”, 210 pounds, Jacob Evans has good size for the wing position and knows how to defend, averaging 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game last season with the Bearcats.  On top of his defense, he has potential on the offensive end as well, averaging 13.0 points per game on 42.7% shooting from the field, 37.0% shooting from 3-point range, and 75.4% shooting from the foul line.
30.  Atlanta Hawks-Villanova senior point guard Jalen Brunson: Jalen Brunson took home Big East Player of the Year, AP Player of the Year, and several other honors last season, leading Villanova to another national championship. As a two-time national champion, Brunson has plenty of experience playing in pressure moments. Having a guy with that type of experience would do wonders for the Hawks.
31.  Phoenix Suns-Wichita State junior shooting guard Landry Shamet: Landry Shamet has a nice blend of scoring and facilitating, averaging 14.9 points and 5.2 assists per game last season. Such versatility would be welcomed in the Suns’ backcourt.  
32. Memphis Grizzlies-Ohio State senior forward Keita Bates-Diop: As a 6’7”, 190 pound forward, Keita Bates-Diop has tremendous physical tools to work with, drawing comparisons to Luc Mbah a Moute. He really came out of his shell in his senior year, averaging 19.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game on 35.9% shooting from 3-point range and 79.4% shooting from the foul line. He has first round talent, so he’d be an absolute steal for the Grizzlies in the early second round.
33. Dallas Mavericks –Michigan junior power forward Moritz Wagner: If the Dallas Mavericks are looking for a guy who could be their next Dirk Nowitzki, Moritz Wagner wouldn’t be a bad rock for them to turn over. At 6’10”, 210 pounds, the player out of Germany averaged 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game during his junior year with the Wolverines on 39.4% shooting from 3-point range. Wagner has first round talent as well, making him another gem of a find in the second round.  
34. Atlanta Hawks –Georgia Tech sophomore shooting guard Josh Okogie: The Hawks should feel really happy if they can land Josh Okogie in the second round. At 6’4”, 207 pounds, he is a bit undersized for a shooting guard, but he proved he could score in college, averaging 18.2 points per game last season. On top of his scoring, he can rebound and defend, averaging 6.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1 block per game. He’s a pretty versatile dude that could help the Hawks out in a lot of ways.
35. Orlando Magic –Louisville junior power forward Raymond Spalding: At 6’10”, 210 pounds, Raymond Spalding is a bit of a late bloomer, increasing his scoring average from 5.9 points per game in his sophomore year to 12.3 points per game in his junior year. If he can make similar strides in his rookie year, he could be a major steal in this draft. There’s a lot to like about him given his rebounding (8.7 rebounds per game) and shot blocking (1.7 blocks per game) to go along with his scoring around the rim.
36. Sacramento Kings-Tulane junior shooting guard Melvin Frazier: At 6’6”, 200 pounds, Melvin Frazier can jump out of the gym, possessing tremendous athleticism. He improved his scoring average to 15.9 points per game and is finally starting to figure things out. Given his physical gifts, he’s a very safe pick at this point in the draft.
37. New York Knicks –Duke freshman point guard Trevon Duval: Trevon Duval had a disappointing freshman season, averaging 10.3 points and 5.6 assists per game last season. That said, he’s still a former 5-star recruit with tons of potential. If he figures things out next year, the Knicks could be looking at getting a first round pick for the price of a second rounder.  
38. Philadelphia 76ers-USC junior power forward Chimezie Metu: At 6’11”, 215 pounds, Chimezie Metu has tons of upside. He’s extremely athletic, can run the floor, and is capable of scoring from beyond the arc. He averaged 15.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game last season. He’s a first round talent that is falling into the second round because of concerns regarding his personality. If can overcome his character concerns, he’d be an absolute steal at this point of the draft. Click here to check out my analysis of Metu on NBADraft.net.
39. Philadelphia 76ers –Bosnia & Herzegovina small forward Dzanan Musa: Dzanan Musa is a 6’9”, 195-pound European dude who can shoot the rock. He’s only 19 years old, so he’s a possible draft and stash guy. Philly likes these kind of guys. I think they take him if he’s available.
40. Brooklyn Nets-UNLV freshman center Brandon McCoy: Brandon McCoy is the second player I’ve gotten to know a bit in this draft. I interviewed him once when Cal was looking at him. At 7’1”, 250 pounds, McCoy has great physical tools to work with, averaging 16.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in his freshman year. There are some concerns about his maturity and ability to be a professional, which is why his stock is falling. If he can shake that reputation and prove that he’s mentally ready for the NBA, he’ll be a guy we’ll look back on and ask how he didn’t go in the first round.  Click here to check out my analysis of McCoy on NBADraft.net
41. Orlando Magic-Kansas senior shooting guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk: Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is your classic college veteran with a polished game that doesn’t have much “upside.”  Sometimes those dudes do alright. Especially if they shoot 44.4% from 3-point range and 80.4% from the foul line.
42.  Detroit Pistons –Germany power forward Isaac Bonga: At 6’9”, 200 pounds, Isaac Bonga has an NBA body on him and has the athleticism to hang with NBA players. On top of that, he can put the ball on the floor, attack the rim, and score from beyond the arc. He’s one of these guys that could have been a first round pick had he had more visibility. European guys have to really wow scouts to garner first round attention.
43. Denver Nuggets-Kentucky freshman small forward Jarred Vanderbilt: At 6’9”, 215 pounds, Jarred Vanderbilt has great physical tools to work with. He was a killer rebounder at Kentucky (18.5 rebounds per 40 minutes) and showed a lot of promise. Injuries have held him back and could prevent him from having an NBA career. Given his upside, he’s worth a gamble at this stage of the draft.
44. Washington Wizards-Missouri State senior power forward Alize Johnson: Alize Johnson averaged a double double during his junior and senior seasons at Missouri State (14.9 points and 11.1 rebounds). Guys who average double-doubles in college usually have pretty good track records for success. Paul Millsap anyone?
45. Charlotte Hornets (Pick originally belonging to Brooklyn Nets)-USC sophomore shooting guard De’Anthony Melton: De’Anthony Melton would be a huge gamble in the first round, but at this point of the draft, he’d be a smart guy to take. At 6’4”, 190 pounds, Melton has great size for a combo guard and he has the potential to be a really good defender (1.9 steals and 1 block per game). If he can get his assists numbers to improve from 3.5 per game, he’s got the chance to stick in the NBA. Click here to check out my analysis of Melton on NBADraft.net.  
46. Houston Rockets –Latvia small forward Rodions Kurucs: At 6’9”, 220 pounds, Rodions Kurucs is a really good athlete that is praised for his versatility. The Rockets like guys who are versatile and capable of playing multiple positions, making Kurucs a logical pick for them.
47. Los Angeles Lakers-Arizona sophomore shooting guard Rawle Alkins: At 6’5”, 220 pounds, Rawle Alkins has great size for an NBA guard. He attacks the rim well and projects to be a good defender in the NBA (1.3 steals per game). Given that the Lakers want to run a fast tempo system, Alkins would fit right in. Click here to check out my analysis of Alkins on NBADraft.net.
48. Minnesota Timberwolves-Miami sophomore shooting guard Bruce Brown: At 6’5”, 195 pounds, Bruce Brown rebounds really well for a guard (7.1 rebounds per game) and knows how to score (11.7 points per game) despite poor shooting percentages. If he can learn how to shoot, he’s got the chance to find a home in the NBA.
49. San Antonio Spurs-Texas Tech senior shooting guard Keenan Evans: Another really good four-year college player, who may not have much “upside” or room for growth. Keenan Evans averaged 17.6 points per game last season, showing he can score. The big concern is he’s only 6’3”. He’ll have to show he’s not a shooting guard trapped in a point guard’s body if he wants to stick in the NBA. The main thing he has going for him is experience and the ability to come in right away and help out a team.
50. Indiana Pacers-SMU junior shooting guard Shake Milton: Shake Milton has good size for an NBA guard at 6’5” and 195 pounds. He can score (18.0 points) and defend (1.4 steals). Not a bad guy to take at this stage of the draft.
51. New Orleans Pelicans –Duke senior shooting guard Grayson Allen: Grayson Allen has the pieces to have a quality NBA career from a skill set standpoint. He’s 6’4”, 195 pounds and has played in plenty of big games. The big question with him is whether or not he can keep his head straight and not be a headache for a team. His personality is what could cause him to sink in this draft. 
52. Utah Jazz –Illinois-Chicago junior small forward Dikembe Dixson: At 6’7”, 190 pounds, Dikembe Dixson is very athletic and was a pretty solid scorer in college, averaging 17.4 points per game for his career. If he can improve his 3-point percentage from 31.5%, he’s got a chance to maybe find a home in the NBA.
53. Oklahoma City Thunder –Xavier senior shooting guard JP Macura: JP Macura comes into the draft as an 82.1% foul shooter on top of being a 37.7% shooter from beyond the arc. His 12.9 points per game didn’t light the world on fire, but he did it on a competitive Xavier team. At this point of the draft, he would be worth a training camp invite.  
54. Dallas Mavericks-Texas Arlington senior power forward Kevin Hervey: At 6’7”, 210 pounds, Kevin Hervey averaged 20.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season, earning Sun Belt Player of the Year honors. Given he competed in a small conference, many are skeptical if his dominance can translate to the NBA. We’ve seen guys from small conferences exceed expectations before, so I wouldn’t be shocked if he exceeds his current projections.
55. Charlotte Hornets-West Virginia senior point guard Jevon Carter: Jevon Carter can ball. The young man averaged 17.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 6.6 assists last season. There’s a lot to like about his game. His size (6’2”, 185 pounds) is the major question mark. At this point in the draft, he’s worth rolling the dice on.
56. Philadelphia 76ers-Kentucky freshman shooting guard Hamidou Diallo: Rarely do you see a Kentucky freshman projected this low. Hamidou Diallo may have been wise to come back for another year or transfer. He’s got a lot of talent, but I’m not sure he’s NBA ready. He might be drafted, but if he is, it’ll be late.
57. Oklahoma City Thunder-Penn State sophomore point guard Tony Carr: Tony Carr had a really impressive sophomore year, averaging 19.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game. At 6’5”, 205 pounds, he’s got a good NBA body on him and can shoot it from deep (43.3%). Very safe pick at this stage. 
58. Denver Nuggets-Former Kansas freshman center Billy Preston: I will be the first to admit this one is a reach. Billy Preston has slipped off the radar after being ruled ineligible to play at Kansas. What makes me think he gets drafted is he’s a 6’10”, 222 pound 2017 McDonald’s All-American. At this point of the draft, why not roll the dice on a kid like this? The Nuggets would have nothing to lose drafting him at this stage. Nothing from nothing leaves nothing, ya know?
59. Phoenix Suns-Arizona junior shooting guard Allonzo Trier: Allonzo Trier can score the ball as a 6’4”, 190 pound guard, averaging 18.1 points per game last season. The big question is whether or not he’s too much of a defensive liability. Click here to check out my analysis of Trier on NBADraft.net.

60. Philadelphia 76ers –Maryland sophomore small forward Justin Jackson: If Justin Jackson hadn’t missed most of his sophomore campaign with a shoulder injury, he’d likely be a mid second round pick or perhaps even a late first round pick. At 6’7”, 230 pounds, he has the physical gifts to play in the NBA. It’s just a question of whether or not his shoulder injury will get in the way.  


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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Saturday Slam: The Golden State Warriors built a dynasty the right way

                                          (Credit: The Associated Press)

On Friday, the Golden State Warriors completed their four-game sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers to win their third NBA championship in four years. Kevin Durant (28.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 7.5 assists) was NBA Finals MVP for a second consecutive year and the Warriors officially etched themselves into NBA history as a true dynasty. As phenomenal as LeBron James was in the NBA Finals (34.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 10.0 assists), the Warriors were the better team and it showed over the course of the series.

A lot of people like to taint the Warriors' championships by saying they are too stacked and that it's unfair they are this good. Such remarks are very shortsighted. A person who makes these remarks is only thinking of the addition of Kevin Durant, forgetting that this team won a championship and reached the NBA Finals twice before he got there. In order to attract a star of Kevin Durant's magnitude, you need to put a winning formula in place and to the Warriors' credit, they did just that, building through the draft, making smart trades, and bringing in quality free agents.

Starting with the draft, the Warriors' scouting department and front office has knocked it out of the park, drafting Stephen Curry with the 7th overall pick in 2009, Klay Thompson with the 11th overall pick in 2011, and Draymond Green with the 35th overall pick in 2012. Those three guys are the foundation of this team. They were together long before Kevin Durant got to Golden State.

If there is one moment that we can look back on that definitively marks the beginning of this new Warriors era, it would be the trade that sent Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks for Andrew Bogut. Monta Ellis doesn't get enough credit for how good he was and what he did for the Warriors' organization, but at the same time he wasn't a guy who you could build a championship team around. By moving Ellis for a big man that could anchor a championship caliber defense, the Warriors' front office showed they cared more about winning championships than getting on highlight reels. That trade is what officially put the Warriors on the trajectory that they are currently on.



Before the Warriors landed Kevin Durant in free agency, they landed another quality free agent in Andre Iguodala in the summer of 2013. Iguodala had been traded to the Denver Nuggets in the previous season from the Philadelphia 76ers and decided he didn't want to stay in Denver, opting to sign with the Warriors instead. Little did the Warriors know, but Iguodala would go on to be NBA Finals MVP in 2015, playing an integral role in their first of three championships in four seasons.

To cap everything off, the Warriors landed Kevin Durant in the summer of 2016, officially establishing themselves as an NBA juggernaut. The move sparked some controversy as the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead to the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals while the Thunder had also blown a 3-1 lead to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. To make the optics look even worse, the Warriors were coming off of a 73-9 season, the best regular season record in NBA history. It just looked like the rich getting richer while also acknowledging that they didn't have enough to beat LeBron James.

While it's certainly understandable for NBA fans to be upset at how this all unfolded, one certainly cannot blame the Warriors for making the moves that they did. If you have the cap space to add Kevin Durant to a roster that already consists of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala, you should do it. It's a no brainer decision.

Regardless of how you feel about the Warriors, one thing cannot be denied: They built their team the right way. They drafted and scouted well, made good trades, added quality free agents, and put themselves in a position to attract Kevin Durant. They took no short cuts and are being handsomely rewarded as a result.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Wednesday Windmill: Should we be comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan?

                                         (For The Win-USA TODAY Sports)

After putting up 35 points, 15 rebounds, and 9 assists in Sunday's 87-79 Game 7 win in Boston, LeBron James has now reached the NBA Finals in eight consecutive seasons. The first four seasons were with the Miami Heat while the last four have been with the Cleveland Cavaliers. During the first seven appearances, James has gone 3-4 in the NBA Finals, guiding the Heat to two titles and the Cavaliers to their first title in franchise history. As a result of his iron clad grip over the Eastern Conference, James is starting to evoke memories of Michael Jordan and the dominance that he had during his prime.

When comparing a player to Michael Jordan, one must be very careful. His Royal Airness won six NBA championships, six NBA Finals MVP awards, five NBA MVP awards, one Defensive Player of the Year award, and also Rookie of the Year honors in 1985 . On top of that, he's a 14x All-Star, 11x All-NBA Team member, 10x scoring champion, 9x All-Defensive Team member, and 3x steal champion, averaging 30.1 points (#1 all-time), 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.3 steals per game for his career.

King James in comparison has won three NBA championships, three NBA Finals MVP awards, four NBA MVP awards, and Rookie of the Year honors in 2004. On top of that, he's a 14x All-Star, 13x All-NBA Team member, 6x All-Defensive Team member, and 2007-08 scoring champion (30.0 points per game), averaging 27.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 1.6 steals per game for his career.

While James' career is not yet over, if the goal is to have a resume that closely mirrors that of Jordan, he has some catching up to do. For starters, he's only halfway to having the same amount of championship rings. Even if the Cavaliers win the title this year, James will still need to win two more titles to have six championship rings. Given that championship rings are the primary measuring stick for basketball greatness, it will be hard for James to be considered the greatest of all-time if he falls short of six rings.

As far as the other accolades are concerned, Jordan also possesses three more NBA Finals MVP awards, one more regular season MVP award, nine more scoring titles, and three more All-Defensive Team honors. Jordan also led the league in steals three times, a category that James has never led the league in. So, in the accolades department, Jordan has James beat as well. Especially on the defensive end.

With this all being said, that doesn't mean we can't compare James to Jordan or that Jordan is automatically the better player. There are things that James has going for him in this debate.

The first thing that really stands out is the raw number of NBA Finals appearances that James has, which is nine. While Jordan went a perfect 6-0 in the NBA Finals, he has three fewer NBA Finals appearances under his belt. It would be silly to say that in order for James to be considered the greatest of all-time, he'd have to be 9-0 in the NBA Finals. The fact that James has led his team to more NBA Finals appearances than Jordan is not something to ignore. Especially if he keeps finding ways to do it for the next couple of seasons.

The second thing that James has going for him is his raw consistency. Jordan won three straight NBA titles, retired from basketball for almost two seasons, and then won three straight NBA titles again, giving him six titles in eight seasons. While it's utterly phenomenal that Jordan came back and won three more titles, it's perhaps even more remarkable that James has reached the NBA Finals in eight consecutive seasons without taking a break or going on a hiatus of any kind. Night in and night out, James has shown up for the last eight years and found himself playing into June in each of those years. James' ability to take that beating and get back to the NBA Finals each time is astounding. Jordan may have six rings in eight seasons, but he can't say that he reached the NBA Finals more than three times in a row.

                                          (Getty Images) 

The third thing that James has going for him is the fact that he's had to deal with more pressure over the course of his career and he has pretty much lived up to the expectations that were set for him. When he was a junior in high school, James was already getting compared to Jordan and by the time he was drafted out of high school as the #1 overall pick to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, he was proclaimed to be the seconding coming of Jordan. Most human beings would fold under such pressure, but James instead thrived and embraced those expectations. Jordan in contrast played three years in college and got to grow into his status as the greatest of all-time. He had much more time to slowly develop while James was thrust into the spotlight before he even finished high school.

The last thing and perhaps the most important thing that James has going for him is that when watching him play, it's hard to say there's anyone in NBA history you would rather have on your team. As a 6'8", 250 pound small forward, James has the size and athleticism of Karl Malone coupled with the quickness and court vision of John Stockton. That's a frightening combination. Considering that he can play every position on the floor and do virtually everything on the court at an elite level, it's hard to automatically pick Jordan over him.

When looking at the full scope of everything, it's really difficult for me to pick who the greatest of all-time is between Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Both guys have incredible resumes and if there is anyone who seriously challenges Air Jordan for the top spot on the all-time list, it would be King James.

That all said, if I have to pick between the two, I'm going to go with Michael Jordan. The reason why is he was a better defensive player and he channeled his killer instinct with much more regularity. As good as Jordan's offense was, his defense was just as good. He could shut down the best players in the game, doing a phenomenal job of reading passing lanes and getting steals. If you want to know the real secret to Jordan's championship success, look at his defense. That's where it all started.

The iconic moment of Jordan's career is the shot he hit to beat Utah in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals. Everyone remembers how he pushed off of Bryon Russell to nail that shot and while that was a crafty move, nobody seems to talk about the steal he had on the other end of the floor in which he stripped the ball out of the hands of Karl Malone. It was the steal that was just as important as the shot and yet it's only the shot that we remember.

                                          (Thefrontofficenews.com) 
                     
As for the killer instinct, this is what separated Jordan from the rest of the pack. Nobody has been more of an assassin on the court than him. While James is starting to channel that same instinct now, he had to learn how to do it as opposed to Jordan, who had it caked into his DNA. Jordan wanted to rip out the throat of his opponents each and every time he stepped on the court, possessing an almost demon-like viciousness.

That mentality is why Michael Jordan never lost in the NBA Finals and why he was never even taken to a Game 7. Once Jordan figured it out, I don't think anyone, not even LeBron James, could stop him. That's why he'll always be the greatest of all time. Truth be told, if there's anyone who can give Jordan a run for his money in the GOAT department, it's Tiger Woods, but that's a topic for a different day.

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