NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Friday, June 30, 2017

Fadeaway Friday: A new era begins with the NBA Gatorade League


In case you haven't heard already, the NBA's minor league system is no longer known as the "NBA Development League (D-League)." The league has taken on a fresh identity as the "NBA Gatorade League (G League)" in an attempt to rebrand itself and further enhance the product that they are putting out on the floor.

Kareem Copeland of The Associated Press provided some more details about what is coming with this rebranding:

"The NBA Development League is changing its name starting next season to the NBA Gatorade League, a deal that will include a rebranding that will affect the league logo, basketballs, jerseys, on-court signage and digital properties.

Long viewed as a proving and testing ground of sorts for the NBA, what has been known as the D-League will also get to take advantage of Gatorade's Sports Science Institute - a resource that many elite athletes, including Dwyane Wade and Cam Newton, have used in recent years for testing and evaluation of what exactly their bodies need during competition.

"This isn't about slapping a name on a league," NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said. "This is much, much deeper than that."

Tatum said this is not the first step toward a name change for the NBA, and declined to detail the length or financial terms of the deal. But he said the part of the deal including GSSI will provide "knowledge to enhance player performance in our game" through nutrition, training and other advances. Gatorade will also incorporate its most recent products and equipment throughout the league." 

The bottom line is that by partnering its minor league system with Gatorade and its Sports Science Institute, the NBA will get a chance to see whether or not such a partnership is beneficial to the players and teams in the league. If such a partnership proves to be successful, there are good odds a similar type of partnership between the NBA and Gatorade will be agreed upon in a future CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement).

Personally, I think this is a great move by the NBA. They are always looking for ways to improve their product and I see nothing but pure upside with this partnership. This benefits the athletes by giving them more information about how to best stay fit, this benefits the owners by putting a better product on the floor for their customers, and it benefits the fans because they'll get to see their favorite athletes perform at an even higher level.

Note: Fadeaway Friday is a weekly piece that focuses on the NBA Gatorade League. 

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Triple-Threat Thursday: What will Markelle Fultz bring to the Philadelphia 76ers?


For the past few years, Philadelphia 76ers fans have been told to patiently "Trust the Process", turning the phrase into their team motto. It's become almost a joke of sorts, implying that there is no process and that the team is just tanking with the blind hope of something good coming out of it. It's kind of like the Big Bang theory. It doesn't make any sense, but we just trust that it works.

Markelle Fultz, a 6'4", 195 pound freshman point guard out of Washington, is the second consecutive #1 overall pick the Philadelphia 76ers have drafted, following Ben Simmons, a 6'10" 240 pound small forward out of LSU. The 76ers are hoping that with Fultz and Simmons paired together, the foundation for a championship level team is finally in place.

The only action that Simmons saw last season for the 76ers was in Summer League, suffering a foot injury that kept him out for the whole season. In a way, the 76ers are actually adding two number one picks to their squad at the same time. Both Fultz and Simmons have played in zero NBA games, which means they will be going through the same learning curve together.

Between the two, Simmons is considered to be the better prospect, drawing comparisons to a young LeBron James due to his combination of size, athleticism, and all-around skill. In regards to Fultz, he has the potential to be a dynamic point guard that can score, facilitate, and defend both point guards and shooting guards. In today's NBA, you need to have an elite point guard to contend for a championship, which is why point guards often go #1 in the draft. If both Simmons and Fultz live up to their potential, the 76ers will really be cooking with gas, possessing the next great point guard in the NBA in addition to the next LeBron James.

What's scary about the 76ers is that neither Simmons nor Fultz are considered their top talent. That distinction goes to Joel Embiid, a 7'0", 250 pound big man who went #3 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. After missing a couple of seasons due to injury, Embiid had a breakout first season in the NBA, averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game on 78.3% shooting from the foul line. Embiid only played in 31 games last season, but his presence was definitely felt every time he stepped on the floor, drawing comparisons to a young Hakeem Olajuwon.

The big question mark for this 76ers team is whether or not Fultz, Simmons, and Embiid can all stay on the floor together and avoid injury. If they can beat the injury bug, the sky is truly the limit for them. If on the other hand they are constantly dealing with one or two of these guys on the sidelines in a suit and tie, we'll never see them live up to their potential.

Note: Triple-Threat Thursday is a weekly piece that focuses on Rookies/NBA Draft. 

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wednesday Windmill: Is Gordon Hayward the missing piece for the Boston Celtics?

There has been lots of chatter about Gordon Hayward leaving the Utah Jazz for the Boston Celtics due to his ability to opt out of his contract and connections to Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. The 6'8", 225 pound small forward is coming off his first all-star season in the NBA and is just starting to enter his prime at 27 years of age. After watching the Eastern Conference Finals, it is clear that the Celtics are in need of a major addition to leap frog the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. While Gordon Hayward is one of the best young talents in the league, is he the missing ingredient to a Boston Celtics championship run?

At the moment, the top player on the Celtics is Isaiah Thomas, who averaged 28.9 points and 5.9 assists per game last season. Thomas led the NBA in fourth quarter points and should have been a much more serious MVP candidate than he was. While he is blossoming into an elite player in the NBA, he can't carry this Celtics team on his shoulders. He needs someone else to help him carry the load and Al Horford so far is not looking like that kind of player.

What makes Hayward such an attractive option for the Celtics is the fact that he could easily slide into their starting lineup without disrupting what they already have. He averaged 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season, better numbers than everyone else on the Celtics aside from Isaiah Thomas. Hayward would instantly become the #2 scoring option on the Celtics and give them an elite wing, something that every championship contending team needs to have.

The big question that is on everyone's minds is whether or not Hayward will stay in Utah or leave for greener pastures in Boston. A lot of that comes down to whether or not Boston is in fact "greener pastures." While Boston does offer Hayward the chance to be the next major star of a storied franchise, that may not be something that he is looking for. The pressure to deliver in Boston is enormous, especially when you are playing for the Celtics.

                                        (Credit: Trent Nelson. The Salt Lake Tribune) 

As for Utah, there is much less pressure there and it is also a much more family friendly environment. Hayward is married with a young child, something that is sure to factor into his decision. He may feel that Utah is a better place for him to raise his family and that he doesn't want to put them through the pressures that come with playing in Boston.

Plus, it's not like the Utah Jazz are chopped liver. They won a playoff series last season and are one of the up and coming teams in the NBA. Hayward has good reason to feel that Utah is the best place for him from a competitive standpoint as well.

While we are yet to know where Gordon Hayward will be playing next season, the Boston Celtics better hope he suits up for them. They need an elite wing that can put up points and take the pressure off of Isaiah Thomas. By landing him, the Celtics would put themselves in a great position to reach the NBA Finals and dethrone the Cleveland Cavaliers as the champions of the Eastern Conference.

Note: Wednesday Windmill is a weekly post focusing on the Eastern Conference. This article also appears on my Utah Jazz blog. Click here to check it out. 

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tomahawk Tuesday: What does the future hold for the Los Angeles Clippers?

Chris Paul ($24.4M) and Blake Griffin ($21.4M) have both decided to exercise the Early Termination Option on their contracts, which means that they will be unrestricted free agents come July 1st. For both Paul and Griffin, re-signing with the Clippers is the financially smart move to make. The Clippers can re-sign Paul for five years and approximately $200M while other teams can sign him for four years and $150M. As for Griffin, he can re-up with the Clippers for five years and approximately $180M while other teams can offer four years, $130M.

Still, even with the advantage of being able to offer more money, it's no guarantee Paul and Griffin stay with the Clippers. Both guys have made more than enough money and are at a point of their careers where winning a ring is the focus. Especially Paul, who has been in the NBA since 2005. In order for the Clippers to lock up Paul and Griffin for another five years, they'll have to do a good job selling them on their chances of winning championship in Clipperland. Otherwise, both guys might bolt for a change of scenery and better championship odds.

The advantage that both Paul and Griffin have is that they can literally go wherever they want. There has been talk of Chris Paul possibly joining the Spurs while Blake Griffin has been linked to the Celtics. Of course, these are all rumors at this point, but the fact remains that it is no slam dunk they re-sign. Something that should worry the Clippers.

There are four scenarios that can happen here. Each with its own pros and cons.

                                          (Credit: Keith Allison. Click here for source).     

Scenario #1-Both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin stay: It's entirely possible that both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin decide to re-sign and get back to work on winning a title for the Los Angeles Clippers. They've become the faces of Los Angeles and with a new owner in place, they can feel much more optimistic about the future. For the Clippers, this appears to be the best possible outcome. By keeping Paul and Griffin, they would remain competitive for the short term and continue to be the better team in Los Angeles. There's also the hope that with a few more moves, maybe they can finally get it right and add the pieces necessary to make a serious championship run.

Scenario #2-Chris Paul stays and Blake Griffin goes: There's also the possibility that the Clippers only hang on to one of their two major stars. If it's Paul who stays and Griffin who leaves, this wouldn't be terrible, but not all that great, either. Basically, it would keep the Clippers competitive for the short term, but not as competitive as they've been. They'd become a team that is a 6th or 7th seed in the Western Conference at best and possibly even an 8th seed. With Chris Paul getting older, the Clippers would already have to start thinking about ways to rebuild with Griffin no longer around as their centerpiece for the future.

Scenario #3-Blake Griffin stays and Chris Paul leaves: If the Clippers only hang on to one of these two guys, I think it's more likely that Griffin would be the one to stick around. Paul is in a more desperate situation considering his age, making the lure of going elsewhere stronger for him. With Paul gone, it would firmly become Griffin's team, which wouldn't be a bad thing. By being younger (Rookie class of 2010), Griffin is a better guy to build around for the future. He has five more years on him, creating more time for the Clippers to finally get it right and build a true title contender around him.

Scenario #4-Both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin leave: This is a nightmare scenario that the Clippers have to be prepared to address. The bottom line is that so far, the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin duo has not produced a championship. Doc Rivers hasn't gotten out of them what we all thought and at the end of the day, it just doesn't seem to be working. While they are making the playoffs every year as members of the Clippers, Paul and Griffin are guys who want to win championships and so far, they don't appear to be on track to do so in Los Angeles.

Now is the time for them to get out while they still can. Paul has four to five good years left in him while Griffin could remain an effective power forward for another 10 years. Both guys still have plenty of time to win rings elsewhere. As for what this would mean for the Clippers, this would be devastating. To lose your star duo right as you get new ownership would be nothing short of a major setback. DeAndre Jordan would suddenly be the man and they'd have to scramble to find some quality pieces in free agency to avoid a complete rebuilding season.

When looking at all four of these scenarios, it's clear that July 1st will be a big day for the Los Angeles Clippers. They have to be ready for whatever scenario presents itself and do all they can to not lose the positive momentum that they have been building during these past few years.

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On this week's episode of the Podcast, Brandon Condron joins me to break down the 2017 NBA Draft. Click here to listen to the podcast.

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Skyhook Sunday: What does landing Jimmy Butler mean for the Minnesota Timberwolves?

The Minnesota Timberwolves stole the show on draft night by landing Jimmy Butler in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. The Timberwolves traded Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and the #7 pick (Lauri Markkanen) for Jimmy Butler and the #16 pick (Justin Patton). Butler has already arrived in Minnesota and appears to be very excited to begin this new chapter of his career, reuniting with Tom Thibodeau.

Butler joins a talented core in Minnesota that consists of Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng, and Karl-Anthony Towns. The Timberwolves have been building a talented young group for the past few seasons, but they have lacked an established superstar that can take them to that next level. By trading for Butler, they appear to finally have such a superstar.

A lot of people are scratching their heads about what the Chicago Bulls were thinking to make this trade happen. Butler is coming off his best season in the league, averaging 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. He turns 28 next season and will be entering his seventh season in the NBA. He is just starting to enter his prime. To trade him away for a point guard coming off a torn ACL, a point guard who is looking like a bust, and a rookie looks to be very foolish.

In addition to being a superstar, what makes Jimmy Butler a great fit for the Timberwolves is how easily he slides into their lineup. He can play at the shooting guard position alongside Andrew Wiggins at small forward, creating a deadly one-two punch out on the wing. His presence doesn't affect the minutes of any of their core players, enhancing what they already have.

The Timberwolves have suddenly gone from a team that might make the playoffs in a couple of seasons to a team that could make the playoffs next year. They are no longer a team that you need to worry about in the future, they are a team that you need to worry about right now.

Also, with a team like the Utah Jazz potentially on the cusp of losing one of their biggest pieces to free agency (Gordon Hayward), we could see a significant shake up in the Western Conference. While I don't see the Timberwolves contending for a championship next season, I do see them approaching that territory. They've accelerated their rebuilding process by at least two and maybe even three years.

After an arduous rebuilding process and more than a decade of losing basketball, the Minnesota Timberwolves finally have a roster that the Twin Cities can get excited about. The talent is there, the experience is there, and the motivation is there. They just need to go out and get it done.

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday Slam: Breaking down the 2017 NBA Draft


With the 2017 NBA Draft now in the books, it is time for me to provide my annual (starting this year) break down of the draft. I will break it down into three categories that will be listed below. If you missed the draft and want to see all 60 of the picks, click here.

Biggest Winners: When looking at the biggest winners of the 2017 NBA Draft, the first team that comes to mind is the Minnesota Timberwolves, who traded the #7 pick (Lauri Markkanen), Kris Dunn, and Zach LaVine to the Chicago Bulls for the #16 pick (Justin Patton) and Jimmy Butler. The Timberwolves have been in need of a veteran superstar for a while and they have found their man in Butler, who averaged 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.9 steals per game last season.

Another winner is the Sacramento Kings, who landed De'Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, and Frank Mason III.  Fox has all the tools to be an elite level point guard in the NBA while the other three guys have the potential to become quality role players in the near future. The Kings need someone to build their team around and Fox appears ready to take on such a role.

Biggest Losers: The biggest loser in this draft is clearly the Brooklyn Nets, who would have had the #1 pick in the draft if it weren't for some boneheaded trade with the Boston Celtics. The Nets desperately need a franchise player and this would have been a great draft to find such a player. Instead, the best they could do is pick #22 (Jarrett Allen) and #57 (Aleksandar Vezenkov).

As far as players go, the biggest loser in the draft is clearly Arizona freshman point guard Kobi Simmons, who went undrafted. The feedback he got from the NBA Combine was that he wasn't ready for the NBA and rather than listening to the scouts and returning to school, he opted to stay in the draft and found himself without a team after the 60th pick. The Kobi Simmons story is a cautionary tale. If you leave before you are ready, the NBA won't do you a solid and draft you anyways. Simmons has since been picked up by the Memphis Grizzlies as an undrafted free agent.

Another player who shouldn't have come out is BYU sophomore center Eric Mika, who likewise went undrafted. Lots of people feel like Mika was forced to come out due to his age (22), but I don't think that's a good enough reason to declare for the draft. We've seen guys enter the NBA as rookies older than that and find success in the league. The bottom line for Mika is that he should have stayed in school for at least one more year and then declared after his junior year. He went out a year too early and it came back to hurt him.

Biggest Surprises: One major surprise is the fact that Nevada sophomore power forward Cam Oliver went undrafted. The dude draws comparisons to Kenneth Faried due to his freakish athleticism, size, strength, and all-around explosiveness. The dude dunks on 10-foot hoops like he's playing Nerf basketball. I'm very surprised nobody drafted him. He has since been picked up by the Houston Rockets as an undrafted free agent.

Another surprise is that the Golden State Warriors found a way to sneak into the draft. They landed the #38 pick and selected Oregon junior power forward Jordan Bell. Bell will greatly benefit from playing behind Draymond Green, who can show him how to be effective as an undersized power forward. This will wind up being a really good move by the Warriors if Bell lives up to his potential.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

2017 Mock Draft

            Below is the 2017 Mock Draft. Enjoy!

1.    Philadelphia 76ers-Washington freshman PG Markelle Fultz: The Philadelphia 76ers traded the #3 pick in the draft to the Boston Celtics so that they could land Markelle Fultz. At 6’4”, 190 pounds, Fultz is a gifted scorer with great athleticism (6’10” wingspan), capable of playing point guard and shooting guard.  He attacks the hole really well and has all the pieces to be an elite point guard in the NBA. The fact that he’s going to go #1 despite not even getting the Huskies to the NIT just shows you how much upside NBA GMs think he has.

2.    Los Angeles Lakers-UCLA freshman PG Lonzo Ball:  At 6’6”, 190 pounds, Lonzo Ball has great size for the point guard position. He handles the ball really well, has great court vision, and gets compared to Jason Kidd as a big, physical guard that can absolutely kill opponents in transition.  His shot is a little funky, but he did shoot 41.2% from three-point range last season, so there’s no reason to not think he can’t carry it over to the NBA. The Lakers could use an elite point guard to build around and with Markelle Fultz off the board, Lonzo Ball is the guy the Lakers have to pick at #2.

3.     Boston Celtics-Kentucky freshman PG De’Aaron Fox: At 6’3”, 170 pounds, De’Aaron Fox gets comparisons to John Wall due to his speed and shiftiness. Fox has a lot of tools in his tool kit. He can score around the basket in a wide variety of ways, possessing a nice floater, etc. The Celtics may not see Isaiah Thomas as part of their long-term plans and might want to explore trading him next season. Fox might be a better long-term option at point guard and allow the Celtics to use Thomas as a trade chip in the future.

4.     Phoenix Suns-Kansas freshman SF Josh Jackson: At 6’8”, 205 pounds, Josh Jackson is a prototypical wing. He has great athleticism, attacks the rim, and has all the tools to be an elite two-way player in the NBA.  He needs to improve his shooting if he wants to reach his full potential, but there’s good reason to think he can. The Suns missed out on Jaylen Brown last year, but I think they’ll get a crack at Josh Jackson this year. The Suns could use an elite wing to build around for the future, making Jackson a natural fit.

5.    Sacramento Kings- Florida State freshman SF Jonathan Isaac: Jonathan Isaac is a 6’10”, 210 pound wing that gets comparisons to Kevin Durant due to his combination of size, speed, ball-handling, and shooting touch. The sky is the limit for this kid and is a no-brainer selection for a Sacramento franchise in desperate need of a franchise player.

6.    Orlando Magic- Duke freshman small forward Jayson Tatum: At 6’8”, 205 pounds, Jayson Tatum has a very smooth game. He handles the ball well and can score at all three levels: inside, mid-range, and from beyond the arc.  He shot 50.4% inside the arc, 34.2% from beyond the arc, and 84.9% from the foul line.  He’d be a no-brainer get for the Magic.

7.    Minnesota Timberwolves- Arizona freshman power forward Lauri Markkanen: Lauri Markkanen gets comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki as a European 7-footer with a smooth shooting stroke with NBA three-point range. If Markkanen lives up to the Nowitzki hype, he’ll walk away as the best player in this draft. The Timberwolves would be foolish to pass on him. He would fit nicely playing alongside Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns as a stretch four.

8.    New York Knicks-Gonzaga freshman center Zach Collins: At 6’11”, 230 pounds, Zach Collins has great size for an NBA big man. He runs the floor well and is very light on his feet. He finishes well around the basket and has the potential to be a stretch big man with more development. Collins would be a nice big man playing alongside Kristaps Porzingis. 

9.    Dallas Mavericks-Kentucky freshman shooting guard Malik Monk: At 6’3”, 200 pounds, Malik Monk is a bit undersized for the shooting guard position, but he makes up for it with his athleticism and versatility. He can guard both shooting guards and point guards due to his quickness and thrives in the open floor, capable of throwing it down in transition. The Mavericks could use a young, athletic wing that plays hard on both ends of the floor, making Monk a perfect fit for this Mavericks team.

10. Sacramento Kings-NC State freshman point guard Dennis Smith: Listed at 6’2”, 195 pounds, Dennis Smith is an explosive point guard that can get to the rim and make plays.  He has great scoring instincts and has no problem finishing through contact. He projects to be a really good two-way player, who knows how to get steals and get out in transition. The Kings could really use a dynamic playmaker in the backcourt, which is why I think Dennis Smith would be a great fit for them.

11. Charlotte Hornets-France shooting guard Frank Ntilikina: At 6’5”, 190 pounds, Frank Ntilikina has great tools for a shooting guard. He has a wingspan that is nearly 7-feet. He handles the ball really well and thrives in transition due to his athleticism and ability to handle the ball. He draws comparisons to Danté Exum, so in many ways he projects to be more of a point guard at the NBA level. While there is the presence of Kemba Walker at point guard, Ntilikina still makes sense because of his upside and potential to play alongside Walker at the shooting guard position. He’d be a great pickup for the Hornets. 

12. Detroit Pistons-Adelaide 36ers small forward Terrance Ferguson: Terrance Ferguson came out of high school as a 5-star talent and opted to spend one year overseas as opposed to one year in college. At 6’7” 185 pounds, he has the potential to be a jack-of-all-trades type of wing. He can facilitate, get to the rim, and score from beyond the arc as a catch and shoot type of guy. A combination of Kentavious Caldwell Pope and Terrance Ferguson out on the wing would be pretty tough to stop.

13. Denver Nuggets-Louisville shooting guard Donovan Mitchell: While being only 6’2”, Donovan Mitchell weighs 210 pounds and sports a very impressive 6’10” wingspan. He has great physical tools to work with and knows how to get to the basket. He absorbs contact well and has the potential to be a very versatile shooting guard. He’d be a nice fit alongside Emmanuel Mudiay in the backcourt.

14. Miami Heat-UCLA freshman power forward T.J. Leaf: At 6’10”, 225 pounds, T.J. Leaf moves very well for a player of his size. He handles the ball really well and can score in multiple ways. He can score from outside, he can score from inside, etc. He’s very athletic and can attack the rim for the hammer dunk. The Heat need a power forward and in my opinion, Leaf is the best power forward on the board at this point.

15. Portland Trail Blazers- Texas freshman center Jarrett Allen: At 6’10”, 235 pounds, Jarrett Allen is a physical freak (7’6” wingspan and 9’2” standing reach). He’s a very fluid athlete who runs the floor well with the potential to be a fantastic rim protector in addition to being an elite big man on offense. The physical tools are there, it’s just a matter of him developing and polishing his game.

16. Chicago Bulls-Kentucky freshman power forward/center Bam Adebayo:  At 6’10”, 245 pounds, Bam Adebayo is a load, possessing tremendous strength and athleticism. He attacks the offensive glass really well and projects to be a big man that provides a lot of energy. With Joakim Noah no longer on the team, the Bulls could use another big man like that.

17. Milwaukee Bucks-Utah junior power forward Kyle Kuzma: Kyle Kuzma is a very polished big man, at 6’9”, 225 pounds. He scores really well around the basket and has a lot of moves at his disposal: Jump hooks, up and unders, etc. While he doesn’t have as much long-term upside as others, he projects to be a guy who could come in and be a solid player from day one. The Bucks are a playoff team looking to get better right away, making Kuzma a good fit for their team.

18. Indiana Pacers-Duke freshman power forward Harry Giles: At 6’10”, 235 pounds, Harry Giles is an excellent athlete that projects to be a high-energy player on both ends of the floor. He’s torn the ACL in both of his knees and the MCL in his left knee, preventing him from going higher in the draft. But at this stage of the draft, he’s worth the gamble if you are a Pacers team looking for another big man to pair with Myles Turner.

19. Atlanta Hawks-Wake Forest sophomore power forward John Collins: With Dwight Howard traded to the Hornets and Paul Millsap’s future with the team uncertain, the Hornets could use an active big man like John Collins. Listed at 6’10”, 235 pounds, Collins runs the floor well for a big man and knows how to get it done down on the block (19 points and 10 rebounds per game last season). He’s a bit more one dimensional in that doesn’t isn’t a stretch four kind of player, but he still has tons of upside and pieces to work with.

20. Portland Trail Blazers-Creighton freshman center Justin Patton: Justin Patton is a legit 7-footer with a great physical profile weighing 235 pounds and possessing a standing reach in the neighborhood of 9’3”. He is very agile for his size and shows promise on the offensive end.  With three picks in the first round, the Trail Blazers can live a little and go after a second talented big man if they wish. I think he’d be worth rolling the dice on at this point.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder-Duke sophomore shooting guard Luke Kennard: The Oklahoma City Thunder could use a quality shooter to help take some of the pressure off of Russell Westbrook. Luke Kennard could be just what the doctor ordered as a 6’6”, 195 pound shooting guard who shot 43.8% from three-point range last season while averaging 19.5 points per game. If he’s available, the Thunder would be wise to take him.

22. Brooklyn Nets-UCLA freshman center Ike Anibogu: At 6’10”, 250 pounds, Ike Anibogu is a load down on the block. He has great physical tools to work with and has all the pieces to become an elite NBA big man. He needs a lot of development to reach his potential, but the Nets are a team that needs to draft with the long-view in mind. He’s worth a roll of the dice if you are the Nets.

23. Toronto Raptors-North Carolina junior small forward Justin Jackson: Justin Jackson is a 6’8”, 200 pound small forward that averaged 18.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game last season on 37.0% shooting from the field and 74.8% shooting from the foul line. The Raptors don’t need another Bruno Caboclo. They need a guy who can come in right away and contribute. Justin Jackson projects to be that kind of rookie.

24. Utah Jazz-California sophomore power forward Ivan Rabb: I cover Cal for, so I’m very familiar with Ivan Rabb’s game. He can shoot from beyond the arc, he can score down on the block, and he rebounds very well.  At 6’10”, 220 pounds Rabb has good physical tools to work with and should be able to fill out in time. The Jazz are expected to part ways with Derrick Favors and I think Rabb has what it takes to be a nice replacement for him.

25. Orlando Magic-Michigan junior power forward DJ Wilson: At 6’10”, 235 pounds, there’s a lot to like about D.J. Wilson. He’s very quick and knows how to move without the basketball as a cutter. He can shoot from three-point range and knows how to kill opponents in transition. He has the potential to play small forward and act almost as a stretch-four type of guy. He’d be a nice fit for an Orlando Magic team that has multiple needs.

26. Portland Trail Blazers-Kansas State senior shooting guard Wesley Iwundu: At 6’7”, 195 pounds, Wesley Iwundu can do a lot of things. He shoots the ball well from beyond the arc (37.6%) and is also a very explosive athlete who knows how to attack the rim. He averaged 16.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per 40 minutes and projects to be a good defender at the next level. Plus, he’s got a lot of experience as a senior and should be able to contribute right away. The Trail Blazers would benefit from an athletic two-way wing with his abilities.

27. Los Angeles Lakers-South Carolina sophomore point guard P.J. Dozier: At 6’6”, 200 pounds, P.J. Dozier has great athleticism and is getting more comfortable running the point guard position. He has great physical tools with a 7-foot wingspan and could wind up being a major steal at this point in the draft. He needs to improve his shooting and ball-handling to maximize his potential.  He could be a nice backup point guard for Lonzo Ball in the future.

28. Los Angeles Lakers-Oregon junior power forward Jordan Bell: Jordan Bell is a high-energy big man who attacks the glass and knows how to hold his own down low. At 6’8”, 225 pounds, he is an absolute bull inside. He is one of the most physical players in this draft. The Lakers could use more toughness down low, making Bell a good fit.

29. San Antonio Spurs-Purdue sophomore center Caleb Swanigan: At 6’9”, 250 pounds, Caleb Swanigan has great physical tools to work with. He is massive and can do more than just score down on the block. He can shoot from three-point range and has the pieces to be used as a stretch four, though he is still best down on the block. If he gets a chance to work with the Spurs, he could walk away being one of the best players in this whole draft when it is all said and done.

30. Utah Jazz-Florida State sophomore shooting guard Dwayne Bacon: Dwayne Bacon is a prototypical NBA wing. At 6’6”, 200 pounds he can shoot from NBA range, he can attack the rim, he can defend multiple positions, has great athleticism, etc. He’s a very safe pick at this point of the draft.

31. Charlotte Hornets-Syracuse sophomore power forward Tyler Lydon: Tyler Lydon is a 6’9” 215 pound stretch-four who shot approximately 40% from three-point range in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. He sports a 7’0” wingspan and has the tools to hold his own down on the block, averaging 8.6 rebounds per game in his sophomore season. Lydon would be an interesting fit on the Hornets given his unique skillsets. Cody Zeller is a traditional center and Frank Kaminsky is a7-foot stretch four. Adding Lydon to the mix could be interesting.

32. Phoenix Suns-Duke freshman point guard Frank Jackson: Given that he was a 5-star talent coming out of high school with big expectations, Frank Jackson has tons of upside for a second-round pick. He’s kind of an anomaly in that way. He’s a kid who may have been wise to come back to Duke for his sophomore year so as to boost his draft stock. Jackson would give the Suns more depth in the backcourt and another guy who can score (40% from three-point range last season). He’s got great athleticism and really is a first-round level talent. He’d be an absolute steal for the Suns at this point of the draft. If he reaches his maximum potential, he could make either Eric Bledsoe or Brandon Knight expendable, allowing the Suns to build a more well-rounded roster. 

33. Orlando Magic- BC Zalgiris center Isaiah Hartenstein: At 7’0”, 250 pounds, Isaiah Hartenstein has great physical tools to work with, sporting a 7’2” wingspan. He runs the floor well and is a great athlete. He’s got great pick and roll potential as well as pick and pop, which is where you pop out for the three after the screen as opposed to rolling to the basket. There’s a lot to like about Isaiah Hartenstein. The Magic would be very tempted to take him if he became available.

34. Sacramento Kings-Xavier sophomore point guard Edmond Sumner: At 6’5”, 175 pounds, Edmond Sumner has tons of upside. He’s extremely quick and knows how to get to the hole with ease. Offensively, he has the potential to be both an elite point guard and slashing shooting guard. With a 6’8” wingspan to go along with his quickness, he can guard both point guards and shooting guards. The Kings could use a dynamic scorer in the backcourt, making Sumner an attractive selection.

35. Orlando Magic-Oklahoma State sophomore point guard Jawun Evans: The Orlando Magic have a lot of draft picks to use in this draft. Spending a pick on a quick point guard that is a crafty scorer around the rim wouldn’t be a bad move. Jawun Evans would be an intriguing selection for the Magic.

36. Philadelphia 76ers- South Carolina senior shooting guard Sindarius Thornwell: At 6’5”, 212 pounds, Sindarius Thornwell does a lot of things well. Last season he shot 39.2% from three-point range and averaged 24.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.5 steals per 40 minutes. With four picks in the second round, he’d be a nice pickup for the 76ers.

37. Boston Celtics-Nevada sophomore power forward Cam Oliver: At 6’8”, 240 pounds, Cam Oliver is a very explosive athlete. He throws it down with ease like he’s playing in a video game. He runs the floor really well and handles the ball well for a big man. He’s very active on the glass and plays with a lot of energy. He can shoot from three-point range and has stretch four potential. He’s sort of a jack-of-all-trades type of power forward with a high motor.

38. Chicago Bulls-North Carolina freshman center Tony Bradley:  At 6’10”, 250 pounds, Tony Bradley has a very good body on him. He has a 7’4” wingspan and should have no problem holding his own against NBA bigs. He isn’t an explosive athlete like other big men in this draft, but he projects to be a solid off the bench big man that can get you some rebounds, block some shots, and points in the paint. He’s a pretty safe pick at this point of the draft.

39. Philadelphia 76ers-Indiana sophomore power forward OG Anunoby: At 6’7”, 235 pounds, OG Anunoby really prides himself on his defense and has the tools to be an elite defender in the NBA. If he improves his offense and figures out more ways to score, he could stick in the league due to his defensive potential. He’d be nice pickup for Philly at this stage of the draft.

40. New Orleans Pelicans- Colorado senior point guard Derrick White: Derrick White has gone from a Division II basketball player to an NBA prospect. Very impressive stuff. He’s a versatile scorer that can play the point guard or shooting guard position. He’d be a nice addition to the Pelicans’ backcourt.

41. Atlanta Hawks-Oregon sophomore shooting guard Tyler Dorsey: Tyler Dorsey’s main strength is his ability to score. He was a big-time player in the NCAA Tournament and helped lead the Ducks to the Final Four. He could be one of those guys that we look back on and ask why he didn’t go in the first round. He could be a nice steal for a Hawks team in need of some young talent.

42. Utah Jazz-Oregon junior small forward Dillon Brooks: Like his former Oregon teammate Tyler Dorsey, Dillon Brooks has killer scoring instincts and has no problem taking the big shot. He’s another guy who I think is a first round level talent due to his mentality and ability to score. He’d be an absolute steal for the Jazz at #42.

43. Houston Rockets-SMU junior small forward Semi Ojeleye: At 6’7”, 235 pounds, Semi Ojeleye is a multi-faceted player that can do a lot of things. He can act as a stretch-four due to his three-point shooting, he handles the ball well for a forward, and has some upside on defense. He projects to be a guy who could make an impact right away and help out a playoff team like the Houston Rockets.

44. New York Knicks-Villanova senior shooting guard Josh Hart: At 6’5”, 205 pounds, Josh Hart has good size for an NBA shooting guard. He averaged 18.7 points per game on 51.0% shooting from the field and 40.4% shooting from three-point range. He took home Big East Player of the Year honors and established himself as one of the top players in the country. His age is why he isn’t projected to go higher, but on the flip side he should be an instant contributor. He’d be a nice fit with a Knicks team that could use some help right away as well as better three-point shooting.

45. Houston Rockets- France power forward Matthias Lessort: At 6’9”, 235 pounds, Matthias Lessort has great athleticism and can really elevate above the rim. Elite level athlete. He is very active on the boards and has the potential to be a really good defender in the paint. Another guy who could come in and help the Rockets right away.

46. Philadelphia 76ers-Houston senior shooting guard Damyean Dotson: Damyean Dotson has good size for an NBA wing at 6’6”, 205 pounds and has the athleticism to hang with NBA wings sporting a 38-inch max vertical leap. He shot 44.3% from three-point range last season, shot 83.0% from the foul line, and averaged 17.4 points per game to go along with 6.9 rebounds. He’s got the tools to be a very good two-way wing in the NBA.

47. Indiana Pacers-Latvia center Anzejs Pasecniks: At 7’1”, 220 pounds, Anzejs Pasecniks has great size for an NBA center. He needs to put on a little bit more weight and get stronger. If he can get better on defense, he could be a gem of a find given his potential to be a nice finisher in the pick and roll.  Plus, you can’t teach height.

48. Milwaukee Bucks-Valparaiso senior power forward Alec Peters: At 6’8”, 235 pounds, Alec Peters can shoot it from deep. He’s a legit stretch four who compares to Matt Bonner. If he’s going to stay in the league he’s going to have to really prove his worth as a knockdown shooter because athleticism isn’t his calling card. I think a stretch four like him would be a nice fit in Milwaukee. He’d add another dimension to their offense.

49. Denver Nuggets-Clemson senior small forward Jaron Blossomgame: At 6’7”, 215 pounds, Jaron Blossomgame is an elite level athlete that is very explosive. He is tough to handle in transition and has all the tools to be a really good two-way player in the NBA. He’s just a reminder that in order to be a high pick in the NBA Draft you need to be more than just a freak athlete. He averaged 17.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season, but most of his scoring was around the basket (25.5% shooting from three-point range). I do think he’s a guy who could wind up being a major steal just given his physical tools. Plus, his 71.3% foul shooting indicates he’s got some potential as a shooter.  He’s a low-risk, high-reward type pick at this stage.

50. Philadelphia 76ers-Baylor junior power forward Johnathan Motley: At 6’9”, 240 pounds, Johnathan Motley has great physical tools to work with, sporting a 7’3.5” wingspan and 9’3” standing reach. He has great athleticism and can score the rock both around the rim and from the mid-range. If he can extend his range to the NBA three, he could have a legitimate career in the NBA. He’s definitely worth inviting to camp if you are the 76ers.

51. Denver Nuggets-Indiana sophomore center Thomas Bryant: Thomas Bryant is a 6’11”, 250 pound big man with a 7’5” wingspan and 9’3.5” standing reach. He’s also no slouch athletically. He’s got the potential to be a solid two-way big man in the NBA.

52. New Orleans Pelicans-Georgetown junior shooting guard L.J. Peak: L.J. Peak is a bit undersized for a shooting guard at 6’4”, 215 pounds, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an NBA future. The most impressive thing about Peak is how he has improved ever year since his freshman year at Georgetown. He went from 7.9 points per game as a freshman on 24.6% shooting from three-point range to 12.3 points per game on 40.9% shooting from three-point range as a sophomore to 16.2 points per game on 32.7% shooting from three-point range as a junior. He keeps getting better, which is why he’s worth taking a chance on this late in the draft. Note: This pick previously belonged to the Washington Wizards, who traded it to the New Orleans Pelicans for Tim Frazier. 

53. Boston Celtics- Slovak Republic center Michael Fusek: Michael Fusek is 7’5” and weighs only 215 pounds. He needs to put on a lot more weight and fill out in order to reach his max potential. He’s definitely a project, but you can’t teach that kind of height and physical package. His 9’8” standing reach exceeds the 9’7” standing reach that Rudy Gobert had coming into the NBA. A physical freak like this is worth taking a chance on.

54. Phoenix Suns-Bulgaria small forward Aleksandar Vezenkov: At 6’9”, 225 pounds, Aleksandar Vezenkov is a stretch-four that can shoot from beyond the arc. He’s a bit one dimensional in that he really does rely on his shooting ability and size, but at this point in the draft, finding a guy with a specialized skillset is really nice. The Suns should take this guy if he’s available.

55. Utah Jazz-Notre Dame senior small forward V.J. Beachem: At 6’8”, 200 pounds, V.J. Beachem has good size for a small forward and is a capable shooter, averaging 14.5 points per game in his senior season on 36.1% shooting from three-point range and 83.6% shooting from the foul line. The Jazz could use another stretch-four type of guy.

56. Boston Celtics-Kansas senior point guard Frank Mason III: It took Frank Mason III four years to really blow up, but when he did he was really really good. He won National Player of the Year honors from multiple news outlets including the Associated Press. He averaged 20.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game as a senior. The Celtics could use an instant contributor as they look to get to the NBA Finals.

57. Brooklyn Nets-Gonzaga senior point guard Nigel Williams-Goss: The Nets could use a guy who knows how to win and Nigel Williams-Goss knows how to do just that, leading Gonzaga to a WCC title and NCAA title game appearance. At 6’3”, 185 pounds, he has good size for a point guard and he’s a proven scorer (16.8 points per game). He makes sense for the Nets at this stage.

58. New York Knicks-Arizona freshman point guard Kobi Simmons: At 6’4”, 175 pounds, Kobi Simmons has good size for an NBA point guard. He’s very quick and has the potential to become a very good pass-first point guard in the NBA. He didn’t demonstrate this like he would have liked at Arizona, but given his youth, there’s good reason to think he can improve in this area.  It’s hard to find guys as young as him at this point in the draft. He’s worth the gamble.

59. San Antonio Spurs-Dayton senior shooting guard Charles Cooke:  The Spurs could use another shooter and Charles Cooke did this very well in college, shooting 39.8% from three-point range and 70.2% from the foul line. He averaged 15.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, so he can do other things as well.

60. Atlanta Hawks-California senior shooting guard Jabari Bird: At 6’6”, 200 pounds, Jabari Bird has NBA level athleticism and was at one point considered a lottery-level talent when he was just starting his freshman season at Cal. Injuries hampered his college career, but when healthy he looked like a legit NBA prospect. I can say this as one who has covered him in college. He’s a lethal shooter from beyond the arc and has the ability to be an instant contributor due to his maturity and honed in skillset as a quality shooting wing. The Hawks need a wing that can shoot, which perfectly describes Jabari Bird.

Note: I want to give a shout out to and for their excellent NBA Draft coverage. This mock draft would not have been possible without using them as a resource.

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